How I got the Shot – Pink & Red

How I got the Shot – Pink & Red

Shooting for yourself is something I talk about a lot, I talk about it a lot but I have struggled to do over the last 12 months.

In 2016 I shot maybe 20-30 shoots which were for myself to try new skills, develop my work and give myself a break for the paid work I was doing.

In 2017 I did only 4 shoots like this. Now a little of that is because I was a victim of my own success, my commercial work grew massively and became my biggest photography year on earnings and hours worked. This meant my own personal work had to take a little bit of a back seat. Well not a little, it wasn’t even in the back seat, it was left at home in a cupboard which was locked and nailed shut!

Although I don’t really care for new years resolutions I wanted to make 2018 the year that I got a better balance on this. 2016 was too much shooting for myself, 2017 was not enough, 2018 needs to be just right.

So I got in touch with the team. Steph my hair stylist (well not my hair stylist I’m bald) and Rachel my MUA.



Planning the shoot

I’ve probably got 40 Pinterest boards full of ideas for shoots which have never made it beyond the planning stage for one reason or another. None of those ideals really tickled my fancy for this shoot. I needed something new, something that I could create relatively easy with quite an impactful result.


I turned the source I often do when I need inspiration. Not Google. The Wife.

She’s an avid follower up fashion and makeup trends, and when I asked for an idea she came up with it very quickly. It was simple. It was bold and it was relatively easy to put together; Pink & Red.


Shopping for girls clothes

Clothing was quite important on this shoot, I would say it was make or break. If the clothing didn’t compliment the colour and the feel of the shoot it would have let it down.

I didn’t have a huge budget for the clothing so I had to use a couple of different tactics. ASOS’ returns policy and the hope that Primarni had something that fit with the theme.

I don’t have a great experience in shopping for female clothing, but the fact that I was looking for just two colours made it a whole load easier to search for what I wanted.

Add to that the ability to search by price on ASOS, it meant I could get the selection down from thousands of items to just a few.


I ordered two outfits from ASOS before heading out into what felt like the abyss in Primark looking for items that would work.

Now just like searching online by colour, it became much easier to do this in the shop too, pretty much just tuning in my eyes to the colours I was looking for enabled me to cut out all of the noise and just head to the colours that would work for me. It was a relatively painless 10 minutes. Although it took longer for the wife to find slippers for our son…. that’s another story though.

I added a few accessories with ear rings that would help add to the overall feel and style but stopped short of purchasing bags and coats. If I was shooting for a client it would be a different matter as I could pass on these costs, but when shooting for myself it didn’t make that much sense to add this extra expense at this stage.


The Set Up

Keeping with the simple but effective theme, I had a look in my head on what I wanted to create with the background. Block colour was the main thing in my head, no patterns, no complications, just two block colours. Pink and Red.

I already had some Red paper from Creativity Backgrounds (Cherry Red) which I know photographs well. Its deep, it’s not too cheesy and I knew it would compliment what I wanted from the soft Carnation Pink paper roll.

Now having these paper rolls wasn’t enough, I didn’t just want to shoot against block colour, one at a time. Its boring, it doesn’t push me and it doesn’t really do anything for the viewer.

So I used a couple of old diffuser frames which are fairly large and lined them with the paper, one in each colour. This then gave me shapes to use, if they stood up it was a tall frame, if laid down it was a step, if stood on its side it was a base of a wall. Using something like this meant I could change the look of each set with minimal effort and time.


I also used some off-cuts of red paper to use as a “challenge prop” for the models. Harriotte even used it as an awe in a rowing boat while trying to think of ways to use it.

The only other prop I used were some apple crates I bought recently, to help break up the colour a tiny bit but also add a little size context to the scene and to put a little texture back.



Lighting wise I already had the general idea of what I wanted from the shots and how I wanted to light it. Being a creature of simplicity I didn’t want a huge set up, and baring in mind the majority of shots would be taken around the same sort of place, I wanted a fairly static set up.

I opted for my key light being a Pixapro CITI600 with a 90cm Deep Para Box with the outer diffusion removed. This meant that I was getting a slightly harder and more contrasting light rather than using the two diffusion panels and getting a softer light. I did this because I wanted the skin to pop and wanted a little more shadow in the back of the image behind the subject. I used a Pixapro CITI600 and a Pixapro 170cm Octabox as my fill light so soften those shadows ever so slightly and also fill some of the shadows on the models face, although I wanted punch, I didn’t want a lot of shadow on the face.

In terms of the light powers, they were both set to the same power, because the outer diffuser was removed on the Deep Para I gained a little more output on that light and with the 170cm Octa being such a big surface area, it spread the light out a lot more so was less powerful so filled the shadows just the right amount.


Whenever working on shoots like this, especially with a big team involved I try to shoot Tethered wherever I can, onto a large monitor. This means the full team can see what it looks like, if we need to adjust hair and makeup or change an outfit. It also makes it much easier to communicate with the model because they can see exactly what I see from the image.



The majority of the shoot was to take place within the width of the pink backdrop which meant there was minimal movement of lighting and the tethering equipment, which made it a whole lot easier to go between outfits and looks.

The two models, Kandace and Harriotte, took it in turns to be shot in each of their outfits. I changed each set up very subtly in order to still convey the look I wanted but to have enough variation to create an interesting set up images. Things like adding in boxes, taking out screens, etc.


If you’ve followed my work before you’ll know I don’t use light meters, so setting the exposure for the scene was very much a manual process of Test shot > Adjust >Test shot > Accept.

The images were shot at F8 1/160sec ISO 100 – just to save anyone asking.

When we’d finished shooting the full length shots we moved to another area where I’d also hand-made another background. I used an 8ft x 4ft V Flat and stuck dark red sheets of paper so it, so that I had a different colour background but also a little texture through the edges of the paper.

The lighting for this set up was very simple. I added the front diffusion panel back to the front of the Deep Para Box and set it up about 1ft above the subject, 45degrees to the camera left. This helped to create some nice soft deep shadows on our models.

Post Production 

Editing wise I had an idea in my head on what I wanted to create but wasn’t 100% sure on the route I wanted to take. The problem with shooting against large blocks of paper is that there is no texture so it can look a little plan and can sometimes lead to banding in the file.

Due to the outfits the models were wearing, I knew an older film edit would work quite well to slightly desaturate the colours and also add in some texture through the grain of the film.

I don’t often use Lightroom to edit anything, but I have some VSCO presets saved in there. I took the images through to Photoshop to tidy them up, remove any creases in the paper and do a minimal retouch on the models before taking it back into Lightroom to apply the preset.

I settled on the Kodak Portra 800 ++ preset, this gave me a level of desaturation I was after but still maintained a richness to the skin. It also put a level of grain into the image that I was happy with.

Straight out of Camera Vs Kodak Portra 800 ++ Preset
Notice the difference in the grain


So there you have it, a bit of a breakdown of just what goes into the planning and production of a shoot like this.


Watch out on my social media over the next few weeks as this shoot will be featured in an American Fashion Magazine.


Thanks for reading and don’t forget to subscribe to the newsletter to see more behind the scenes like this.


How I got the Shot – Commercial Food Photography

How I got the Shot – Commercial Food Photography


I was recently booked to capture images for a North East food retailer who have a specialist butchery within their store. In total I had 150 items to capture over a two-day period.


First and foremost as with any commission its important to plan and prepare for the shoot ahead.

I had an idea on what I wanted the set up to look like, simple, sleek and a slightly modern feel to it. Although the images were to be used for their e-commerce website; I didn’t want them to be plain white background shots. I was shooting Raw Meat products, they needed to look appetising and make the consumer want to buy them.

As with most things when I’m doing research, I turned to google for ideas and inspiration. There was a significant lack of images of this type on google with maybe only two or three available for reference. My idea in my head was still the same before I googled it so that meant I could continue on the same route.

The room I was go shoot in wasn’t the biggest, maybe 2m x 2m in total. There was no natural light, no windows and it was cold. That actually played to my benefit.



As I said above I had a specific look in mind for this shoot, and while I didn’t want to make it really obvious that I’d used props in this shoot, I needed something to help fill the frame for some of the smaller meat items as well as something of texture to shoot on.

The first and most important part in my mind was a chopping board. It needed to be sealed so that the juice/blood from the meat didn’t immediately seep into it and give a “wet look”. I googled a few different suppliers, looked on Amazon and visited some cooking retailers, none of which had what I wanted.



If Ikea don’t sell it, it ain’t available. I had a quick look on their website and found the perfect board. Small wood grain, sealed, shallow and relatively cheap too. It meant that the pattern wasn’t so strong that it took the eye away from the product on top of it.

I bought quite a few of these to take to the job.


I also purchased small jars with the idea of adding spices, herbs, salt etc to them to help give the impression of a kitchen.

Although I was shooting on a chopping board, I still needed a table or bench. I didn’t want to use a traditional butchers metal countertop as it would have reflected the light too much and taken away from the shot.

I have a few different types of textured laminate flooring that I tend to buy on trips to B&Q. If you can find a split pack with a couple missing its even better as they’ll knock a couple of quid off too.

I added the flooring to the frame with the grain running toward the camera rather than away so that the light wasn’t creating shadows on the joints. I also added one of my favourite textures. Hessian. In fact it was a sandbag that cost me £1 from B&Q, it’s barely visible in the frame of the finished shots but helps to break up the background that tiny little bit.


Set Up

With jobs like this it’s always batter to take too much stuff than not take enough as by the time you get set up you may want to change modifiers, add lights and change set ups.

It took me four trips to the car to carry all the equipment in before I realised there was an abundance of flat-bed trolleys that I could have used to carry it in one. Next time.

So I started to get the set up in place. Luckily there was a small dining table in the room I was using (I think it was a staff room ) so this was the perfect height to shoot at. I pulled that to one side, set up two stands and a background bar with a white PVC background from Pixapro to use if I needed to bounce a little extra light in.

Photo 25-01-2018, 08 53 27

I added the flooring to the table running towards camera, and clamped it to the table to ensure I didn’t knock it while setting up. I clamped the hessian sand bag to one corner and placed the chopping board in the sort of position I wanted it.

Photo 26-01-2018, 09 14 11



As I’ve already mentioned, there was no natural light in this room whatsoever, so, I had to create my own window light.

The look I wanted was light and airy as if on the bench next to a large natural light source. This is where the Pixapro 170cm Octabox came in.

Photo 25-01-2018, 08 53 27Photo 25-01-2018, 09 44 01


Positioned at the end of the table on the opposite side to the camera it was placed on a Pixapro CITI600 strobe, battery-powered which meant I didn’t have to mess about with cables and extension leads.

So with the back light in place, I then needed a fill light. I used another CITI600 with a 90cm Octabox to the camera left, touching the table.

As you can see from the images both of these lights are very close to the product, this was to give the softest light possible. The further away from the product the harsher and deeper the shadows would be and it would look much more obvious that I had used artificial lighting on them.

Photo 26-01-2018, 09 14 00

One of the most important parts of the lighting set up was probably the cheapest too. Foam Board. I used two A4 Foam boards just out of frame on the right of camera to bounce the tiniest bit of light back into the product to lift the shadows ever so slightly. It didn’t need much but it made a huge difference when we had it compared to when we didn’t.

Left With Foam Board – – – Right Without Foam Board

The Shoot

So the scene is set so to speak (that a lot of S’s) and I’m ready for the product to come in. Before it does though there are a couple of aspects I need to ensure. Having already set the light powers (1/16th on the key light and 1/32nd on the fill) I need to give myself the best chance of viewing the images I capture in the most detail. The easiest way to do that is to shoot tethered.

I set up my MacBook with a TetherPro Cable to show the images directly in Lightroom. This meant both the client and I could see the images, I could check for exposure and composition and they could let me know if they like them or if changes are needed.


Now some of the items were fairly simple to identify, even some of the more specialist items like chicken feet and pig trotters. But, there were 15 different types of Sausages and a lot of them looked the same. As part of my job, I needed to ensure that these sorts of items were labelled correctly in the metadata to allow the web designer to input them correctly into the website. The easiest way to do that…. a bit of paper of course. Then when it comes to editing I can rename each type appropriately.

Geordie Bangers

It was hard to estimate to the client just how long this shoot would take. It wasn’t just the shooting time but it was also the cleaning down after each product, changing chopping boards, making sure the links of sausages fell in an aesthetically pleasing way. There was a lot to it.

Cleaning definitely took the most time. I would have loved to have used an assistant to help me set up each shot, but there just wasn’t the space to have someone with me. So, I had to set up and place each item of meat product on the set, clean my hands and then capture the images.

“Could you have worn gloves?”

Well yes but I would have had to change between each type of product, and would have still had to take them off to operate the camera. So I found this to be the easiest way. I went through a bumper pack of Kitchen roll within two hours on the first day just drying my hands!

It’s not often I use a Macro lens, but I opted for a 100mm Canon Macro for this shoot. I needed the detail that a lens like this gives you. I was shooting up at F11 (which is alien for someone like me who shoots wide open most of the time) and this allowed me to get a lot of detail into the shots, showing the texture of the meat and give lots of opportunity to crop in when required.

Photo 25-01-2018, 09 57 16



Getting everything right in camera was essential on a job like this, I wanted minimal work in post. So I had to be very pedantic about drops of blood/juice showing on the board, no matter how small, any residue left behind after adjusting the position of the meat and even the placement of the props around the frame which were changed every couple of items to give a big variation.

With that all in mind the post production was more about adjusting crops to make sure I wasn’t catching the edges of the flooring or foam board and to take out any tiny bits of dust or salt that I spilt.

I used a custom edit to get the finish I wanted to the shot and very slightly desaturate the image, but not so much that it made the meat look too pale.

Before and After Edit


So all in all this was a challenging but interesting shoot to be a part of. I learnt a lot about Sausage and my Wife now knows how well I can actually clean the kitchen…

In all of the shoots I do, I always look back and think what could I do differently, and with this shoot there probably isn’t a great deal I would change. I’d probably try to use a bigger room as it felt very cramped once the lights and tripod was set up, my standing space was about 2ft x 2ft and I’m a size 12 so that ain’t a lot of room!


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