Masterclass Lighting Workshop – 23rd April – Leamington Spa

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This  inaugural Masterclass Workshop 23rd April at Victoria House, 59 Willes Road, Royal Leamington Spa, CV32 4PT is designed to examine and implement ‘best practice’ in professional portrait studio lighting. The course will cover ‘Low Key’, ‘Mid Key’, ‘High Key’ and a glance at ‘Beauty Lighting’ for good measure. How often have we been told to simply place your lights at position ‘X’ and at forty-five degrees and it will be OK? What does this mean and why? I will take the myth and legend out of studio portrait lighting and cut to the chase with a common sense, practical approach that will be understood and above all, a workable solution.

Who should attend and why? 
This is an ideal course for those wanting to firmly establish and understand lighting techniques for consistency and profit in a successful professional business. The term ‘Studio’ can mean any location in which we set up a controlled lighting scenario so this will work particularly well for those who work in clients homes or other non-permanent situations. This is the ideal “Pop Up Studio’ scenario.
The Workshop will run from 9.30am until 5pm. The day will be split into 4 sessions with Q&A to finish. Every delegate will have access to educational materials at no extra charge.
Workshop Fee: £60.00
A light lunch and refreshments are included.
To book your place simply email: with your request and we will take it from there.

Photographic Studio for Hire – Leamington Spa


I am pleased to announce that the Studio here at Victoria House, Leamington Spa, England, UK will be available for hire at extremely competitive rates from next week. So if you’re looking for a place to develop your photography, look no further and contact me on 07854 249710. If you need help, my Mentoring services are also available.




Keep it simple and start the right way with Studio Lighting

It’s high time I put together a post on getting started with lighting in studio and the simple principles to help you along. On the premise that ‘less is more’ my studio flash heads of choice are the extremely well engineered and constructed iLux range available from Photomart. Starting with the 150’s to the popular 300 & 500 RD powered heads and culminating in the new 600 Summit Cordless, there is really a unt for every purpose. In a subsequent post I’ll chat more about the cordless range and its versatility.You really can’t go wrong with the superb RD 300’s that I have in everyday use in my Leamington Spa training studio. But, what is also critical to me is the choice of light modifier or softbox.


Photomart have a healthy number of kits on offer at prices that are extremely affordable, but they will also help you put together a kit to suit your personal needs and I’m always here to give advice. Just send me a message and I’ll be pleased to help.

I must admit I’m not a huge fan of umbrellas as I’m a total lighting geek who wants to exercise maximum control in the emulation of directional, natural light. After all, the most gifted of Renaissance painters had just that to work with, hence my plea to keep it simple.

As yet I have not had the opportunity to play with the iLux 150’s but would say quite clearly, that for any newcomer to Studio Portraiture that they have a great build quality for such an inexpensive unit and with individual heads at around the £80 plus VAT mark and kits starting at £237 plus VAT they represent excellent value. In forthcoming post I’m join to look at lighting starting with just one head complete with simple lighting diagrams and examples. So, get online and order your starter kit now. You won’t regret it, I promise!

Simple portrait with a single studio head, modified with a soft box, flagged in the foreground and filled with a simple reflector only.

Simple portrait with a single studio head, modified with a soft box, flagged in the foreground and filled with a simple reflector only.


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 12 – “Centre of Interest”

Welcome to Part 12 of International Judging and Scoring Systems in Photography  – “Centre of Interest”

The message should be so clear within any given image that the Judges are immediately drawn to the centre of interest. Here we go back to ‘Combination Elements’ that conspire to achieve the artists aim in securing the Judges undivided attention. Therefore it is clear that powerful composition combined with a strong message, or as it is referred to here, “Narrative”, must draw us to the ‘Centre of Interest’. It really is as simple as that!

International Judging and Scoring Systems in Photography – Part 11 – “Image or Print Presentation”

Welcome to the next part of my treatise on International Judging and Scoring Systems. In this episode I’d like to cover Presentation both for print and digital submissions…

In the case of a Print submission, presentation is essential to the success of any image. Not only choosing the right surface or texture of the medium chosen for output, but to the main subject placement on the paper, the addition of a Matte or indeed the type of board it is bonded too. Other factors such as surface lamination, spraying and retouching must all be undertaken with extreme care and finesse. The paper surface can make or break an image. As an example, what may be deemed to be a ‘Fine Art’ image should be presented on a Fine Art medium. Be mindful that in such cases the colour gamut of Giclee far outstrips traditional photographic printing and the perception of texture can be a strong factor in increasing a score.

When submitting digital images for projection is essential that the artist has taken every care to achieve the best possible file at the prescribed resolution with the widest possible contrast range commensurate with the subject matter to attempt to make some allowances for the deficiencies of digital projection.

International Judging and Scoring Systems in Photography – Part 10 – “Composition”

PART 10 – On the subject of Composition – Geometry, Symmetry and Perfect Proportion…

3. Composition

So, what are the visual elements that make a great composition? My contention is that our pre conditioning as human beings makes us deeply receptive to all of the elements of geometry that surround us in our daily lives. It is how we bring together elements within a photographic image that makes it either pleasing or displeasing. The phrase, “What’s the point?” springs to mind. For if the compositional elements fail to draw the viewer to the critical viewpoint, or more familiarly, the point of the image, then it has in truth, failed.

To briefly examine the compositional elements and tools I will refer to a useful and ancient text. A point. The first mark an artist makes on his canvas? The point of view? The critical point of interest?. It is undoubtedly the beginning and the end of an image, the ‘whole point’ if you like. In progression, once the artist has made his first mark this often extends into a line.

Lines are like railroad tracks or Motorways. They take you from point ‘A’ to point ‘B’ where you know point ‘B’ exists even if you cannot see it!. This is manifested in many ways in an image as a ‘Vanishing Point’ or simply a line that leads us directly to where we as artists, wish the viewer to arrive at the critical point. A careful use of ‘Leading Lines’ within an image makes for a very powerful composition indeed.

Lines when joined together in a two dimensional form become surfaces or ‘superficie’ and surfaces in turn, when joined together in a geometric manner become solids perceptually when directional light is applied thereby resulting in a graphic two dimensional form emerging into a three dimensional vision. Therefore, directional light combined with strong lines, surfaces and points have become the essential elements of any composition. That is the beauty of Geometry, Symmetry and Perfect Proportion. Nothing new. Nothing uniquely photographic. Just the knowledge of the “Ancients” continuing to play its part in the 21st Century.

Martin Grahame-Dunn’s ‘Freefall’ CPD Mentoring Programme

‘Freefall Continuous Professional Development Photographic Mentoring Programme’


“A wise and trusted counselor or teacher. An influential senior sponsor or supporter. A person’s ’mentor’ is someone who gives them help and advice over a period of time”
The Preamble
This is a continuous professional development mentoring programme designed to meet the needs of every aspiring photographer no matter what their current skill level. From my vast experience in the industry, much of it in the Commercial, Advertising and Fashion sector where the maxim was, “If its in front of your lens, deal with it!”, my task is to prepare you to do just that by nurturing a significant increase in key photographic skills.
I am applying the term “Freefall” just as in parachuting, where you jump out of an aircraft, bravely, into the great blue yonder and perform feats that you could only dream of doing before making a safe landing then, on your feet, with confidence, set to do it all again!
Every participants personal agenda will differ, perhaps significantly from another. However, the ‘Common Skills’ are essential to all no matter what you shoot! Things you may have taken for granted will be revisited and examined in depth. In your One2One Skype Sessions you will be able to discuss with me, in private, your own personal development. There are no such things as stupid questions. Rarely is there any such thing as a bad student either, but there are bad teachers! All I ask is that you participate with an open mind and rule out no possibilities to widen your experience and create a healthy business.
The Mechanics
Monthly 1 Hour One2One Skype Sessions
Bi-Monthly Team Development Days – At least 2 per year of the 6 at my Leamington base and the remainder at members studios (where possible) or on specific locations
Dedicated Team Facebook Page
Reasonable Telephone access to your Mentor
Subjects Covered
  • Camera Craft
  • Lenses
  • Gadgets & Accessories
  • Natural Lighting
  • Natural Lighting with Reflectors
  • Studio Flash
  • Off Camera Flash on Location
  • Balanced Lighting Techniques (OCF and Ambient)
  • Continuous Lighting
  • Ice Light
  • Balancing Interior Light with Supplementary Light for Mood
  • Basic Compositional Skills
  • Advanced Compositional Skills
  • Designing an Image
  • Basics of Posing
  • Advanced Posing Techniques
  • Command and Control Techniques
  • Creative & Art Direction
  • Angles and Curves
  • Advanced Visual Choreography
  • International Judging & Scoring Systems
  • The Art of Self Appraisal
  • Practical Judging Experiences
  • Preparing Images for Qualifications
  • Preparing Images for Awards
  • Simple Retouching Techniques
  • Working with Nik Software
  • onOne Software
  • Image Compositing
  • Introduction to Photokey 6 Professional
  • Introduction to Hit Film Pro for Video
  • Layers & Textures
  • Photographing Babies & New Borns
  • Photographing Children
  • Family Portraiture
  • Environmental Portraiture
  • Grunge Portraiture
  • Tweens & Teens
  • American Style High School Seniors
  • Proms & Events
  • Chromakey Portraiture
  • Fairies & Ragamuffins
  • Cosplay & Steampunk
  • Corporate Portraits in the Studio
  • Corporate Portraits on Location
  • Sports and Hero Portraits
  • Basics of Efficient Wedding Photography
  • Advanced Wedding Photography
  • Post Wedding Portraiture & Location Shooting
  • The Basics of Scripting
  • Shooting Simple Rushes
  • Light & Sound
  • Basics of Video Editing with iMovie
  • Creating your own Promotional Movies
  • The Basics of a Photography Business
  • Business Plans
  • Market research
  • Creating a Price List
  • Marketing & Promotion
  • Branding
The Costs
Price on Application.
Payable in a variety of ways including monthly and bi-monthly instalments.
To discuss YOUR personal programme or to secure your valuable place please email me at:-

FMPA, FRSA,Hon.FMPA, ABIPP, QEP, Hon.Master Photo-dk, Cr.Photog.PPofAmerica, MPP MPofCanada, etc

Worldwide Ambassador for HIPA & Chairman of Judges CBRE Urban Photographer of the Year

Past National President of the United Kingdom Master Photographers Association
Past Chairman of the Admissions & Qualifications Board
Past Federation of European Professional Photographers (FEP) Director of Education
International Committee Member & Recipient of the Warren Motts International Award of Professional Photographers of America
Member of ‘Team Nik International’
“Friend” of onOne Software
Wacom European Evangelist & Past Nikon UK Trainer and Evangelist