Lastolite Collapsable Backdrops

Those of you who follow my blog and twitter feed, see me using Lastolite Collapsable Backdrops on the majority of my Portrait Sittings. As a travelling portraitist collapsible backgrounds are a quick and easy solution. They take seconds to set up and pack away making them equally convenient to pop-open in offices & clients homes.

Harry Groener Rory Lewis Photographer

Harry Groener Rory Lewis Photographer

I enjoy shooting portraits with the collapsible backdrops. As a one man band, I can easily accomplish the background set-ups by myself since they fold and unfold like a giant reflector. They are easy to carry on public transport, which is a blessing. The majority of my sittings take place in London. As a regular passinger on the London Underground they are easy to stow in a large suitcase.

 

As well as single sided backdrops, Lastolite offer reversible backdrops giving you more options. The backdrops I most frequently us are the Black/White, White/Light Gray. I also utilise the dyed/muslin backdrops Wyoming/MississippiVirginia /Kentucky. Muslin backdrops give you the choice of colours and patterns.

Left (Virginia Dyed) Capt Reilly Royal Irish Regiment, Right (Wyoming Dyed) Actor Brent Spiner

Left (Virginia Dyed) Capt Reilly Royal Irish Regiment, Right (Wyoming Dyed) Actor Brent Spiner

What are Dyed/Muslin backdrops you may ask; well they date back to the 17th century. They where mostly used in dressmaking back then, as it’s a breathable fabric that drapes niceley. But it also holds dye and paint very well, which moved it into the world of theater, and, eventually, photography. I know what you are thinking, your mind is going back to your days at school, when the school photographer would capture your portrait against an awful dyed backdrop. I thought the same thing, but after looking at the work of the portrait artists of old, Muslins where widely used. Utilising the right lighting and mood these backdrops can help unleash your creativity.

Lastolite Black/White Left Actress Helen Bench, Right Actor William Shatner

Lastolite Black/White Left Actress Helen Bench, Right Actor William Shatner

I mostly use the Black/White Collapsible, I love shooting on black so much and this makes my life very easy. The black is especially handy for when I want a completely dark background that has no light reflection. Most of the locations I shoot in are not ideal, sometimes their is a little too much daylight I can’t block out! I find the backdrop absorbs light from the strobe far better than seamless backdrop paper which in my experience seems to catch the light.

 

Lastolite Urban BackdropsLastolite also offer a selection of Urban Backgrounds bringing the outdoor look, indoors; with a wide selection available. Urban Backgrounds help to save time and costs especially when you trying to find the right location for you portrait photoshoot. (Left Lastolite Urban Collapsible 1.5 x 2.1m Tarnished Metal/Container) The uncontrollable weather and the risk of distractions in the background no longer present challenges. Whether in a studio, or a client’s home, you can create the outdoor look in any location. In conclusion, I couldn’t imagine going back to the days of carrying roles of seamless backdrop paper around, or hunting for a suitable location and in turn praying for good weather.

 

It is also worth mentioning if you are going to invest in Lastolite Collapsable backdrop system. Make sure you purchase the Magnetic Background Support Kit. The Kit enables photographers to quickly and easily attach any collapsible backgrounds with a steel rim to a traditional lighting stand. The background can be attached to the support at a comfortable height. It is also quick and easy to switch backgrounds; simply pull one off and snap another on.

 

Intermediate Portrait Lighting

This week I have put together a collection of helpful portrait lighting diagrams; along with all the equipment used to capture them. Choosing the right equipment for your photoshoots can make your life much easier.  Don’t forget a good light meter is essential, you will be surprised, I have taught a great deal of budding photographers in my workshops, and many have never used a light meter. I recommend the Sekonic L-308S , it’s simple to use and will ensure accuracy in your metering.

 

Black Backdrop Rim Lighting:

Rim Lighting Portrait London Portrait Photographer Rory Lewis

Equipment List:

Camera Fuji XT1 & 18-135mm Lens Kit 

Lighting X3 Bowens 400 RX Strobes

Backdrop Black 2.72M Seamless Backdrop Paper

X2 Strip 100 Softboxes 

x1 21″ White Beauty Dish

X2 Matthews Flags 18×24″


Location Portrait:

Location Portrait Lighting Rory Lewis London Portrait Photographer

Equipment List:

Camera Mamiya Leaf Credo 40 Digital back with Mamiya 645DF

Backdrop Lastolite 5′ x 6′ (1.5mx1.8m) Collapsible Backdrop Grey/White 

Lighting Profoto B2 250 AirTTL To-Go Kit 

Profoto Off Camera Flash Softbox 2″ Octa (60 cm) 

Profoto 80cm Reflector – Black/White

Profoto 80cm Reflector – White/Silver


Contour Lighting

Body Contour Portrait Lighting

Equipment List:

Camera Nikon D750 Digital SLR Camera with 24-120mm f/4G ED VR

Backdrop Mandarin 2.72m x 11m Seamless 

Lighting x3 Bowens Gemini 500 Pro Flash Heads

x1 21″ White Beauty Dish

x2 Bowens 100 Lumiair Softboxes  x2 Egg Crates

 

Making the Cut

A Portrait Photographer has a toolkit of skills that need to be in tip top condition in order to produce excellent work. One of the most important skills is learning how to transform a huge number of images in to a concise collection that tells the story you wish to deliver. This is more than just Quality Control. Selection is key to the editing process, and it is essential to make the right cut.

 

Whether your client is a private individual or an editorial journalist, no one has the time or inclination to sift through hundreds of frames. However, if you deliver too few and the story becomes patchy, the message becomes disjointed, and the result is a service that ends up poor value for money. Send too many and your overall quality can look mediocre by including poor quality images. It’s a fine line to tread and takes experience and skill to navigate.

Brent Spiner Photoshoot  Rory Lewis Photographer

Brent Spiner Photoshoot Rory Lewis Photographer

Brent Spiner Rory Lewis Portrait PhotographerEfficiency is key. Back in the days of film processing, Photographers had no choice but to be more selective with their frames from the moment the sitting commenced. However, now Photographers are in the digital age, it’s easy to get trigger-happy and shoot a continuous set of frames, making the Edit an incredibly important part of the process. Of course, with digital photography has come excellent processing software that can help. Photoshop Bridge and Adobe Lightroom can help us make speedy assessments of images as well as including tools to support different styles of working.

 

Throughout the editing process, the essence is to capture and convey the message of the shoot. The task starts off simply enough, with two metaphoric piles of love and hate, but as the process goes on it gets harder and harder. Keep or reject? The project is continually balancing on your answer to that question.

 

For your own personal projects things are made simpler as you can listen to your heart. But when you are working for a client you need to get inside their shoes and their mind set to ensure they get what they desire from the sitting. The client’s needs must come before your own vanity. It can be difficult to let go of an image you love because it doesn’t have a place on the storyboard of this particular brief; it doesn’t tell the story your client is looking for.

Making the Cut Cutting Down Photoshoot Images

Making the Cut Cutting Down Photoshoot Images

A way to make headway is to recall elements from the photoshoot itself. Drawing on an attentive memory from the sitting, recalling the key moments, seeing and feeling again what you did then can help immeasurably. What I tend to look out for at first are those images that I remember shooting with the most clarity.

Once the images are loaded into Lightroom I commence a labelling process with my first impressions. From here I produce print contact sheets of these selected prints and physically place them on the desk in front of me. This enables me to see how they work together and how they flow with the narrative of the story I am trying to tell. This is particularly important for editorial assignments, even at this point asking for the opinions of the journalists involved.

 

The more experienced Photographer realises that this stage is such a crucial part of a successful shoot, and your skills here can make or break a sitting’s success, can make or break who you are as a Photographer. As you grow and adapt as a Photographer you can see this by going back to old shoots and discovering hidden gems that you once overlooked.

 

Therefore, much can be gained from taking the time to go back over old shoots and producing new edits and variations. Time and distance no doubt also helps this process. I believe you begin to notice more about the people you have photographed and can therefore pat greater attention to subtleties and complexities of their personalities and expressions.

 

This whole realisation makes Editing in itself an art form that mustn’t be neglected. There are photographers, myself included, who are guilty of putting too many images in to a project, letting the easier road of indecisiveness rule the day. However, I think one of my best pieces of editing was for my book Expressive, where I successfully narrowed down 1000 images from 30 portrait sittings to just 38 images to be featured in the book. Making these tough choices added to the clarity of the story behind the actors whose faces make up the final book.

 

Of course, there will be times when you need to be more ruthless than you like. Aim not to give your client more than one view of a particular shot or pose unless they have specifically asked for variation. Get in to their shoes and ask yourself, which image will they value most? And don’t be afraid to get a fresh pair of eyes to have a look in order to help you decide.

 

Editing is such a vital skill, one that is as subjective as shooting and retouching. It is an equally valuable part of the shooting process, a key link to holistically make a shoot successful. It’s much more than simple quality control – it’s the essence of the story. Don’t let the digital age overwhelm you and bog you down, hone your editing skills so that the product you deliver is concise and true to your aims.

 

 

Fix Prime Lenses vs Zoom Lenses

Fixed Prime Lens vs Zoom Rory Lewis Portrait PhotographerThis question torments a great deal of lens buyers- Should I purchase a zoom lens or a fixed prime lens? When it comes to versatility  and convenience, zoom lenses deliver a wide range of focal lengths at the flick of your wrist; without having to constantly change lenses. Quickly enabling you to frame and capture a moment with the appropriate focal length. This is a advantage for zoom lenses but also their biggest weakness. Their is a compromise in image quality. Complex arrangements of large groups of elements inside the lens moving back and forth to enable the zoom, reduce the optical quality of your images.

 

Despite their versatility Zoom lenses can cause a several issues with your photography. The Sharpness of your images is the first victim, barrel and pin cushion distortions can often appear at the wide-angle and telephoto ends of your lens zoom range. Zoom lenses can also cause vignetting, a reduction of an image’s brightness or saturation. You can also expect an increase in chromatic aberration (known as colour fringing around high-contrast edges in a scene). This effect is most commonly seen when you’re using large apertures at the wide-angle end. Zoom lenses are also more susceptible to ghosting and flare.

If  you choose a high-quality prime lens, distortion and vignetting will be much less noticeable. Their are fewer moving parts; prime lenses are optimised to a specific focal length or purpose. Which means optical performance is generally better and lenses an be made with larger apertures. The Sharpness of your images  will also be unparalleled, so you can really make the most of the high-resolution sensors fitted to current digital cameras.

Ian McKellenAnother advantage of using prime lenses is that they’re generally ‘faster’. Which means they have a larger maximum aperture, which enables faster shutter speeds. For example, a typical 18-55mm zoom lens has a maximum aperture of roughly f/4 at the wide-angle end, shrinking to a mere f/5.6 at about 50mm. If you Switch to a 50mm f/1.4 prime lens the largest available aperture is four stops faster. In low light you’d be limited to a shutter speed of, say, 1/15 sec with a typical zoom (unless you increase your ISO setting). However, an f/1.4 lens will enable a much faster shutter speed of 1/250 sec. An f/1.8 lens is 3.3 stops faster than an f/5.6 lens, and even an f/2.8 model is two stops faster.

 

One more big advantage is that you can get a much concentrated depth of field, enabling you to isolate the main point of interest in a shot by blurring the background. It’s common practice in portraiture, especially when the background is cluttered and would otherwise be a distraction.

An important factor to consider when you’re buying a prime lens is which focal length to choose. Back in the old days of 35mm film, a 50mm prime was considered a ‘standard’ lens. That’s because it gives the same perspective as viewing a scene with the human eye, without the magnification of a telephoto lens or the shrinkage a wide-angle lens uses to squeeze more into the frame. I would recommend the following lenses, for landscapes the, 18mm or 21mm, full body fashion/editorial shots 35mm, for portraiture half length a 50mm is great but for tightly framed head and shoulders an 80mm, 85mm, 100mm or 110mm is best. As a professional portrait photographer, currently in my bag I wield an 80mm F2.8 and 110mm F2.8, these are the best two portrait prime options. The 80mm great for editorial portrait photography, capturing the person and some of the setting, and the 110mm for closely framed head-shots.

Fuji 56mm F1.2 Portraits

Fujifilm Fujinon XF 56mm F1.2 Fujinon Lens Portrait TestAt the Beginning of November Fuji, supplied me with a test model of their new XT1 and 56mm F1.2 Portrait Lens I have been itching to try the 56mm Lens and as a Professional Portrait Photographer I favour Fixed Prime Lenses for all my Sittings using the Hasselblad 100mm F2.2 Lens £3088.00 (Calumet Photographic) a great deal. However, the Fuji 56mm is an outstanding piece of glass comparable with its’ Medium Format and Full Frame Counterparts.

 

Julian Glover Actor Portrait XT1+56mm F1.2A user of the Fuji X System from the beginning, I originally invested in the X20 then later purchasing the XPro 1. Fuji just seems to be going from Strength to Strength with its X Series Lenses. The 56mm is a high quality short telephoto prime, it delivers equivalent coverage of 84mm, which is both flattering for portrait photography and also useful for capturing tighter views than a standard lens. Meanwhile the bright f1.2 focal ratio gathers twice as much light as a lens at f1.8, making it ideal in low light situations, while also delivering shallower depth of field effects, again perfect for portrait work or isolating any subject against a blurred background.

 

The chance came to put the Lens to test, with two Portraiture Sittings in London, featuring Game of Thrones, Stars Julian Glover above and Iain Glen Below. Both where taken in a Studio using the XT1, 56mm F1.2 and Pro Foto B1’s. As you can see the quality of the 56mm is comparable with its Full Frame and Medium Format Counterparts. The Lens is extremely sharp even at Low Apertures and delivers high quality images. Fuji’s X Series Camera’s and Lenses are well worth a look at even if you are considering a Professional Portrait Camera.

Iain Glen (born 24 June 1961) is a Scottish film, television, and stage actor.[1] Glen is best known for his roles in the Resident Evil films and for portraying Ser Jorah Mormont on Game of Thrones. (Rory Lewis)

 

 

Liverpool Echo ‘Northerners’ Interview

Thank You to Liverpool Echo for interviewing me on my upcoming ‘Northerners’ Exhibition. It was unusual to see myself in-front of the camera rather than behind it! Check out the interview below and on the Echo Newspaper Website.

July 18th 2014 Liverpool Echo July 18th 2014 Liverpool Echo 2

Working With Actors

I am a Portrait Photographer, though I can’t afford to market myself solely as a Portrait Photographer I must shoot a wide variety of work from Models to Product Photography & Interiors.

 

Don’t get me wrong I enjoy being a general photographer every assignment is unique and exciting. However, I am a huge fan of Stage & Film. When I shoot people who aren’t Actors  I don’t enjoy it as much.

 

Actors in my opinion make the best models. Actors take direction effortlessly on camera, when I shoot an actor I try to bring their true character into the picture. I like to take the time to have a conversation getting to know the actor helping them feel at ease.

If i’m shooting an established actor I like to do my research. Some of the famous people I’ve photographed i’ve not know much about. I didn’t know a great deal about Emma Rigby, so before our shoot I watched some clips on Youtube and read some articles.

The Two RonniesAnother exciting opportunity presented to me was a shoot with Matt Littler & Darren Jeffries. Formally from Hollyoakes and Now Presenters for T4. Their Agent approached me to shoot them for a promotional portfolio update. Again I applied some research and looked at similar duo presenters like Ant & Dec and even the Two Ronnies who inspired the shot below. The shot really brings out the quirkiness of the guys.

It was film & stage that inspired me to become a photographer in the first place, and I strive each day as a professional photographer to shoot more & more exciting projects with Film & Stage Actors.

 

Recently Devon Beigan, young actress & recent Star of Casualty, arranged her first ever Headshot Session. It was fun to show the fun and serious side of her personality, shooting a broad variety of expressions to illustrate all aspects of Devon’s Character.

Devon Beigan © Rory Lewis 2012

In 2014, I will be holding my 2nd Exhibition and I will be approaching stars of stage & film to pose in several projects to help raise money for UNICEF. Last year’s 2012 Exhibition helped to raise £400 for Macmillan Cancer Support I hope to beat last years total and raise over £1000 for UNICEF. It is an amazing feeling to raise money for a good cause while doing something you enjoy.

 

If you are an Actor or Actress looking for headshots please take a look at my Comprehensive Package. Based in Liverpool and able to shoot in Manchester and Leeds & London.  A Photographer who can create headshots to make you stand out with casting directors. Proper Actors Headshots, that will illustrate your character and ability as an Actor.

 

Featured Live Preston Magazine

I’m incredibly honoured to see my work published this month in Live Preston Magazine. This months wedding bumper issue was shot in the Harris Museum and Art Gallery. Its amazing to see my work on the front cover of the magazine and I will be mounting this issue on my office wall.

Live Preston Rory Lewis Photographer-1

Anouska Bolton Lee Photoshoot

Anouska Bolton Lee is a wonderful model and actress I met her on a fashion shoot in London a few weeks ago and was very impressed with her. I decided to arrange a test in Manchester. Nik Lloyd stylist did a great job fashion styling Anouska and Cheryl Brierley Duff Makeup artist did a fine job. We shot at the Circle Club in Manchester a venue only comparable to a classical French Night Spot from the 1940′s.

 (Rory Lewis) (Rory Lewis)