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“This is ME” Portraits

A Modern Portrait – The Don

by | Oct 16, 2020 | Modern Portraiture

My modern portrait series began with “The Don” earlier in the year.   This was the first session in my newly opened studio and it was Don’s first time in a professional photoshoot.  He really enjoyed it and brought some great energy to the session, although he admitted he was a little nervous to begin with!  I gently put him at ease by asking him about the type of images he liked and got him talking about things he was interested in.  Giving some occasional suggestions for movement and posing, it wasn’t long before the nerves were gone.  Directing him after that was fluid!

This shoot gives a nice insight into the variety I feature in my studio portrait collections.  We shot on four different backdrops, with different light setups.  Usually, a client can switch through up to five different wardrobe changes, but Don brought just two.  Still, we made good use of them and in the edits, I had a play with the tones and enhanced the shadows which gave us some really strong images.


Don's arrival in his jacket and intense shadow against a copper painted back drop
A change with Don against the copper wall laughing and then looking intently to camera
Sidelighting against a black backdrop with Don side profile with his face to camera in the studio launch shoot
Sidelit Don with an darker feel. Sidelights highlight his fitness definition
A switch to a hanging canvas with Don ready for his closeup, one light, one ladder stool
One light to the right of Don who is ready for his first shot of the launch shoot
Don with one light, in the studio launch shoot wearing a purple suit against a white backdrop. Sitting on a red chair he has a thinking pose to camera
Don looking to camera in a suit on a red statement chair, serious and solo
Don laughing to camera has he gears up for his boss man pose
In close, a close up of Don from the Studio Launch session
The Portrait Masters Bronze award image of Don, having a good old chuckle in front of the camera, holding his chest, bearing his teeth, eyes closed

Modern Portraits – For Photographers – Studio Flash

Some photographers find using studio flash in studio, a challenge.  I really like it though, as I find, that it puts you as a photographer ‘in control’.  Manipulating and creating your desired light, is something that can then be used, outside, indoors, hotels, venues etc,.  Additionally, being able to switch up your backgrounds in the studio is an open door to so many creative possibilities.

The rusty metallic backdrop used here for the first set was actually an idea my wife Jay had.  We found these old wooden panels at a local wood mill.  After painting them with some Johnstones Feature Wall copper paint, the panels came alive!  I have two of them and subsequently, made a corner out of them, and then brought in my parabolic to feather my light on Don with some movement of the flash head in between shots.

Studio Portraits – 1-3-1

The one strip light shot used in the opening image was shot against an old brown couture canvas I bought a while back.  Simple and untidy, I liked the fact this is shot wide, with the light stands and wires on display, as well as the edges of the canvas.

Using the black seamless I then put together a three-light setup, with two sidelights and a strobe overhead.  Don, jumped off the black backdrop!  Now this is not really a modern portrait technique for separating a subject off the background, but an old portrait staple.  I was able to do some sculpturing of Don’s arms using just the two sidelights, while turning off the overhead.  I know Don really liked this darker shot.  My camera settings, were F8, ISO100 1/200sec with both strip lights on low.

After a wardrobe change, I  shot Don with one light against a white background, with a shadow drop off behind him.  I love this harsh light, fashion type, of shot.  In fact, recently I saw something like this used for some Hollywood portraits. It’s a simple but effective light setup and draws you in to focus on the subject.   I used a Bowens Narrow Beam Reflector which is great at pushing a load of light in any direction you point it, with a good depth of shadow, which you can graduate in post.

A little play with a ring light and overhead umbrella, shooting in close, finished off the session.


The Key? Relaxed and Real

The final image was captured from that sidelighting and overhead set, winning a Bronze Award in The Portrait Masters series for Autumn 2020.   I really like this image as it shows Don in a real genuine moment with a big ole, teet-bearing smile!  I love images like this, and always aim to have my subjects relaxed and real in front of the camera.  Succeeding in that, is possibly half the job of crafting a great image.

You can find out about my Portrait Collections or even purchase a gift card of a portrait shoot for a friend or loved one using the Portrait link in the menu.


Female subject posing to camera in colourful once piece - raphael lionel photography

This is ME – Alison E

Couple post in front of Digbeth Graffiti for their Wedding anniversary Birmingham

Shakiel and Hannah

A still from the Raphael Lionel Photography shooting male portraits, an action shot of a male subject, leaning up against a wall, turning to the camera

Male Portraits – Shaun Lakha 

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