Rory Recommends (Must Have Portrait Photography Gear)

Choosing the right equipment for your photoshoots can make your life much easier. Welcome to Rory Recommends a Bi-Weekly Blog Post in which I’ll share my equipment recommendations for Portrait Photography.  For myself portability is key, with more than half of my Portrait Sittings taking place on location, at clients offices or in their homes. Collapsable and easy to carry equipment is essential for my work.

On a recent Portrait Photoshoot Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry. I took advantage  of the latest portable equipment. Lets start with the backdrop. Lastolite supply a wonderful selection of Collapsable/Reversible Backdrops. For the portrait photographer on the move they are an ideal solution, folding down to a manageable size. For the sittings I utilised the Black/Grey Reversible. Don’t forget to pickup the Magnetic Backdrop Stand

As the photographer on the move, the ProFoto kit combines durability with portability and power. For the sittings I used the Pro Foto B2-250 kit which includes the AirTTL Power Pack. The power pack is made for the photographer on the road, and weights just less than 1kg with its Li-Ion battery.

The B2’s twin outlets have a dedicated thumbwheel that allows the package 250Ws of power to be distributed asymmetrically over a 9-stop range in full or 1/10 steps. At 0.7kg, the sturdily-built B2 Off-Camera Flash Heads measure 10.2cm long, and have a 9.9cm diameter fitting into the palm of your hand. A barely-visible umbrella channel runs through the top of the head. My chosen modifiers a pair of Air TTL OCTA’s producing wonderful soft lighting.


To finish 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, its simple to use and will ensure accuracy in your metering.


Shotkit Book Collaboration

I’m delighted to announce a collaboration with Shotkit’s Mark Condon who have published a collection of my work in the Shotkit Book Volume II. If you are looking for inspiration, tips, tricks and ever wondered what’s in the camera bags of some of the world’s most established photographers. Mirrorless, Medium Format, Film, dSLR, smart phone… if it takes a photo, it’s in the Shotkit Book! Discover the cameras, lenses, flashes and all other equipment world-class photographers from a variety of disciplines use to make their jobs easier.

Shotkit Volume II Rory Lewis Photographer

Shotkit Volume II Rory Lewis Photographer

Shotkit Volume II Rory Lewis Photographer

Shotkit Volume II Rory Lewis Photographer

Weekend Portrait Masterclass Feedback

Thank you to everyone who attended Weekend Portrait Masterclass over the bank holiday. It was wonderful to welcome everyone to my Liverpool Photography Studio. The course was a wonderful success, if you would like to book a place, I will be holding four more Weekend Portrait Masterclasses this year in Liverpool, London, Edinburgh & Dublin.

Work with Professional Models Test using State of the Art Equipment

Morning of the first day delegates enjoyed a talk on the medium of portraiture, then after coffee and refreshments it was time to learn low key lighting with our first model Alexandra. After lunch (provided) we moved on to beauty portraiture, learning high key lighting techniques. Into the afternoon delegates worked with our Second Model, Actor and Martial Arts Expert Kru Lundy. Learning how to direct a male subject and use reflectors & softboxes.

Work with Professional Models Test using State of the Art Equipment

On the second day delegates had a full schedule ahead of them. Starting with a fashion portrait photoshoot featuring our first model Alexandra, learning how to use gels to create a vivid portrait. After lunch (provided) delegates worked with a real soldier Major John Melville to create an epic low key portrait in the style of the renaissance artists. Finishing off the second day delegates expanded on high key lighting techniques with our third model Peter Adediran.


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.



“Portraitist”, Out Now!

Two years in the making my Book “Portraitist” is now on-sale. Portraitist, brings together a retrospective of portraits; along with a comprehensive guide, including diagrams on how to create stunning portraiture of your own.


Portraitist passes on years of expertise, working with some of the worlds most famous acting talent, such as Sir Ian McKellen, Sir Patrick Stewart, David Warner and many more.


Portraitist is available on Amazon £15.99 and available at all good book stores.

Portraitist by Rory Lewis Photographer, learn lighting setups & all the secrets behind the shoots, view unseen portraits.

Rory Lewis Photographer Book

Portraitist by Rory Lewis Photographer, learn lighting setups & all the secrets behind the shoots, view unseen portraits.


Portraitist by Rory Lewis Photographer, learn lighting setups & all the secrets behind the shoots, view unseen portraits.