Creating a Timeless Portrait – Part 1


Planning the best decorative investment you’ll ever make…an investment in yourself and your family’s heritage.

About clothing, colour, tone and style
When more than one person is to appear in the portrait, or when a special stylistic effect is desired, clothing and prop choices can make or break a portrait.

Skin tone considerations
Whether working with light ir dark complexions, the objective is for the face to dominate the portrait. Accordingly, skin highlights must be the lightest or brightest, most intense areas of the portrait. So, when a medium to dark background is used, all subjects photograph best in medium to dark tones, whatever the skin tone.

Clothing for small groups
Couples or small groups should choose simple garments within the same tonal ranges. When subjects appear in a mixture of light and dark tones together, there is a visual confusion – as the light colour comes forward and the dark colours recede. When this happens (e.g.) one person dominates and appears heavier than in reality.

Clothing for families
In a family group, proper clothing consideration is critical. When decorating a home a major consideration is to coordinate the colours and tones of the walls, carpets, drapes and furniture. Similar coordination is necessary when selecting clothing for a group portrait. Choose clothing in the same tonal ranges so that no single member of the family stands out because the clothing is too light or bright as compared to the rest of the group.

Proper clothing selection makes the difference between a portrait that appears to be a group of seemingly unrelated individuals and one in which every member of the family “belongs” to the group. Casual clothing compliments portraits made in outdoor environments.

Creating style and personality
Your goal is to create portraiture as individual as the subjects we photograph. Tools include various styles, techniques and settings that make each portrait a unique artwork.


The Plain Truth?

It is not often that an image maker will be brave enough to show you the ‘before and afters’ together on a shoot but I wanted to simply chat about a subject that vexes me at the moment, particularly in the heat of the raging debates that go on about ‘Wedding PJ’ or ‘Reportage’. In another article I will chat more about what has been recently described to me as ‘Documentary Wedding Photography’. What a superb description that aptly fits the bill!

But today, my burning  subject is one of enhancement and retouching in Wedding and Portrait Photography, primarily for Competitions and ‘Qualifications’.  For a while now I have listened to quite a number of people wittering on about ‘purism’, that is the craft of capturing images in camera only and outputting in whatever form without any ‘treatment’ whatsoever. This is often put as the heart, soul and marrow of being a ‘real’ photographer but I simply cannot and will not subscribe to that belief. And why? Well its simply because in my 35 ‘brief’ years in photography starting in the depths of darkrooms surrounded by a myriad of chemistries, I don’t think I have seen any images that have not been improved with a little help from a skilful printer, tranny dabber (retoucher of transparencies and not something else!), neg retoucher armed with dyes and graphite or latterly the acknowledged digital retouching expert.

From the dawn of imaging photographers have sought to get the best out of their ‘negatives’, the only difference now is we deal with ‘digital negatives’ rather than their celluloid cousins. Even the decision as to the mode of capture affects the end result. Be it the ‘lossy’ method of JPEG to the powerful ‘RAW’ file, each has its own particular attributes. I will certainly do dwell on the RAW vs JPEG debate here but leave that for another rainy day when I’m sat in yet another airport lounge and bored out of my tiny mind. As for the ‘truths’ of Histograms, well, I think I’ll leave that one too. In fact why not have a good chat with my dear friend and colleague Lorenzo Gasperini of Sekonic and Pocket Wizard fame and I’m sure he’ll give you his opinions on that one!

There are some disciplines where only the most minimal form of manipulation is permissible and one in particular is the world of wildlife photography. Levels and curves, dust removal and that is about it! But even that constitutes some level of intervention by the author. The subject rages deepest in the area of social photography but is this area truly about maintaining a degree of truth? After all without the maxim that our sole mission as image makers of people in both Portraiture and Weddings that there is an endless quest for ‘flattery of the subject’, surely we are dead in the water? Do people really want to see themselves as they truly are? How many times have we heard, even in jest, “I don’t suppose you could slim me down a bit and lose some of those lines?”. Well all I can say is thank God for Photoshop, the liquefy tool and ‘Dynamic Skin Softener’ in Nik Color Efex 4.0!!!

Of course ‘enhancement’ need not be drastic and in some instances a simply tidying of the image will suffice. The more inexperienced photographers will often miss those distractions that at time of capture are thrown into the background of perception as there is a natural tendency to be overtaken by the aesthetics of the subject in the foreground. Only when we have time to review our captures do we say, “Oh my! I wish I had seen that carrier bag in the background!” or even worse, “I cannot believe I didn’t move that candlestick! It looks like it is growing out of her head!”. But miss these things we do and just a little simple cloning and patching can easily restore the image with a minimum of fuss. For if we don’t, you can be sure the client will notice it sooner or later. So much for purism then!

Himu on location in Paris

Himu on location in Paris

International Judging and Scoring Systems in Photography – Part 13 – “Lighting”

6. On Lighting…

Lighting is a subject upon which numerous tomes have been written and I will try to expand upon it here. Suffice it to say that as an International Judge and Juror, you are expected to be what could best be described as a “Master of Light”.

So, where should we look to gain inspiration and instruction on photographic lighting? Photography exhibitions and awards? Books? Magazine articles? How about the internet and, dare I say it? YouTube! How about an art gallery for a start! To learn the art of lighting, for it is most definitely an art based upon aesthetics and how we ‘beautify’ our subjects then surely our inspirations should be those true ‘Masters of Light’, the Renaissance artists. Who could fail to be awestruck at the use of single directional lights in the ‘Tenebrist’ works of Caravaggio or the pure ‘Chiaroscuro’ mastery of Raphael and more latterly and familiarly, Rembrandt?

Our world is rich in art history and a visit to London’s National Gallery or the Uffizi in Firenze, or even the majesty of the Louvre in Paris would be an invaluable investment on your journey of discovery. Recently I had the incredible pleasure of walking a talented photographer through the Renaissance and Baroque collections in the National Gallery in London and delighted in pointing out the use of directional light on top of a perfect lesson in subject posing and composition that you will not learn from any photographic source material! My advice? Learn to see and absorb and not just to look and walk on by.

For those of you that may be interested I will be arranging a few ‘walk through’s’ in London and possibly elsewhere in Europe for those who wish to truly become “Masters of Light’. These will be combined with a session to learn to ‘Shoot like a Renaissance Master’. Please contact me if you’re interested. Availability will be strictly limited.

Taken during a session to explore the Victorian fascination between beauty and the macabre at the ancient ruin of Guys Cliffe House in Warwickshire

Taken during a session to explore the Victorian fascination between beauty and the macabre at the ancient ruin of Guys Cliffe House in Warwickshire

Martin’s ‘Renaissance’

Having had a deep and meaningful love for Art since my youth I am reminded of the stories of Salvador Dali and his wife & muse, Gala. Throughout their lives he continued to paint her as a key figure in so many of his most famous works. Not an obsession but a passion. I now find myself sharing such a passion with my very own ‘muse’.

So, these images are inspired by the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. Shot on my trusty Nikon D700 with my favourite 105mm f2 DC lens, Lit with a single iLux RD 300 Parabolic Octabox augmented with two strategically placed reflector panels, processed in a combination of Adobe Photoshop CC and Nik Software. Two versions for my enjoyment. My deliberate journey and re-kindled love affair has begun again…

My Lilith in Colour

My Lilith in Colour

My Lilith in Sepia blend

My Lilith in Sepia blend