Category Archives: Techniques

Covering photography tips, studio lighting set ups, new gear that is used in the studio.

Notes app on iPhone for collecting ideas

Erotic Pregnancy Shoot – turning concepts into photographs

Initial discussion

I did a shoot with ERosanne recently, who is in the Third Trimester in her pregnancy and she wanted some erotic pregnant photographs taken. ERosanne is an experienced model who has many contacts and photographer friends, so when we discussed the type of shots she wanted, she mentioned she already had some typical pregnancy shots and wanted something a little more conceptual and erotic. In her words, ‘I have some lovely ‘mumsy’ type shots already and was looking for something a little different’. She mentioned that she wanted to do something with eggs and milk but had not turned those concepts into photographic ideas; her underlying concept was a woman is more than an egg carrier and milk producing machine.

How to turn concepts into photographs

Thankfully I had a couple of weeks to think about the shoot and turn those concepts into photographs. When faced with this problem I let the idea circulate around and look for connections in the props, in this case eggs and milk. There are obvious links to the fertilised egg and breast milk, lactating that sort of thing, but I wanted to tie the idea into a stronger theme.

I use my iPhone at lot at times like these, I create a new Note with the idea or theme as the heading and I jot things down as they come to me, often these ideas are triggered by other events, conversations or just by an idea popping in to my head. I guess subconsciously your brain is still working on the idea, even if you are focusing on something else. I do use brainstorming techniques, or ‘Thought Clouds’ as they are now know in these politically correct times we live in, I’ll cover brainstorming techniques in another blog article.

Over the following days I added a number of entries on the Notes app on my iPhone which I’ve reproduced (no pun intended) below. These are just random thoughts as they come into my head, the important thing is everything I think of in relation to the idea gets noted down no matter how obscure, obtuse or seemingly irrelevant it is.

Notes app on iPhone for collecting ideas

Notes app on iPhone for collecting ideas

Refining the ideas

When it gets nearer to the shoot date then I will review the list and decide which ideas to expand upon and remove the others. The ones I remove get moved to another Note which I use for a general ongoing list of thoughts and ideas, nothing gets deleted.

The final ideas list is arrived at by a deciding which ideas I want to shoot, which of those ideas will suit this model and will be enhanced by their posing ability, facial expressions, modelling levels, their own creativity and so on. The important point is that for each entry on the list above I have an idea of how I want to shoot it and light it. I think through the idea and consider what would look best. To help you to understand my thought process [best of luck] I’ve detailed the process on how I arrived at the Pregnancy Triptych show below.

Pregnancy Triptych

Pregnancy Triptych

The Pregnancy Triptych shots is derived from idea three on the list:

  • holding eggs one side of tummy, baby in middle, bottle of milk

I wanted to depict the passage of time, the 9 months of pregnancy in a time-line which can be difficult to depict in a single shot, so the idea of two or more images came into my head. I could visualise the eggs in the model’s hand to start with as the first image, the early stage of pregnancy and the fertilisation of the egg. When we came to shoot the idea we also tried some shots with ERosanne holding a dildo in the same hand as the eggs, but that didn’t really look right as it tended to look like a dildo with a massive pair of testicles attached to it. I wanted to keep the first items of the idea on the left-hand side of the frame to help portray the passage of time across the frames, so didn’t want to use ERosanne’s left-hand for the dildo, so we settled on the glass of milk which depicted the change in the woman’s body and the start of milk generation. I understand that one of the earliest clues you’re pregnant is the woman’s tender, swollen breasts, caused by hormones surging through her body. Notice also that we started with two eggs in ERosanne’s hand and then swapped to a single egg for the remaining shots which is intended to show the percentage success rates involved with getting pregnant during ovulation.

In the next image I wanted to show the idea of the egg multiplying and we decided that breaking the egg was the best way to show this as it demonstrated the contents expanding and growing. I asked ERosanne to break the egg in her hand, but it proved rather more difficult, try it, it was quite difficult to crush an egg in your palm with one hand. In the end I pushed my thumbnail into the egg to crack the shell. We also tipped the milk glass more to show the build up of milk and the fact it was almost lactating.

In the end I settled on three images as I wanted the milk dribbling out of the glass on the final shot, so a Triptych it ended up as. The final shot was the egg was dripping more form ERosanne’s hand while she poured milk from the glass in her other hand. Notice too the slight change in hand position, the milk hand is higher, showing a higher milk yeild, whilst the egg hand is lower, showing the turning and dropping of the baby before birth. The last stage was to combine the three images into a single image which was done in Photoshop.

Finally, below is a gallery of the edited shots from that 2 hour session, note the gallery only shows two of the three images used


Time-lapse with camera movement

My friend Taner and I will be having a play over Christmas and the New Year with some Time Lapse photography. We’ve both done time-lapse before with a static camera on a tripod but we wanted to include some camera movement to add another dimension and give added interest to the final short film. Taner has adapted his slider to incorporate a motor and geared belt drive which is manually controlled to speed-up or slow-down the camera as it tracks along the glide track.

We have set aside a whole day to eat cake and test out the new rig and see what results we get. We both have ‘old’ spare cameras that we will be using as time-lapse does put heavy wear and tear on the shutter mechanism and you don’t need a massive mega pixel camera as the product is usually destined for a website.

We plan to run two cameras and two laptops to make best use of the time, this will allow one set up to record whilst the other laptop is rendering and organising the clips from the previously recorded time-lapse session. I’ll post in a couple of days on how we got on.

Model is KatyCee

Suspension & partial suspension the story so far

It’s been a while since my bondage tuition sessions with Rod and Clover and I thought it was worth re-visiting some of the partial and full suspensions I’d done since then. I’m still learning and improving my techniques and the speed of my rigging. I’ve still got a long way to go until I’m able to say I’m a confident and experienced rigger, but with each new rigging session I learn new things and add to my skills and repertoire. Below are a range of different ties I’ve been doing with various models, they are shown in no particular order.

I’d like to thank all the models who have put their trust in me and my rigging, thankfully my approach to safety is the most important thing and model safety and comfort is  paramount. Comfort is an interesting concept that I’ve come to learn more about when dealing with bondage and suspension work.  It is interesting to experience people’s different thresholds of discomfort and pain. During all my bondage work the model is the one who calls the shots so to speak, no photograph or rigging is worth injuring someone for or subjecting them to a bad experience.

Lit by 2 Elinchrom softboxes

Implied can be sexy

I set myself a little challenge the other day. I booked a model called Roxy whose maximum levels are implied nude. So armed with this information I wanted to see if I could still shoot around my normal style and still create some erotic, sensual and provocative images. I hope you’ll agree we managed to do this and we had a great session. Most of the images are taken using 1 or 2 Elinchrom softboxes fitted with soft egg crates from Lightools in Canada. Others were taken using ARRI 300 head with a fresnel lens fitted.

ERosanne Pregnant

20 ways to develop creativity

20 ways to develop creativity and inspiration

We are all creative; it can be developed, amplified and honed because we all have the ability to be creative. Some practise it more than others so find it easier to be creative. Below is a list of 20 things you can do to develop and encourage your creativity. Don’t do them all at once, pick a couple at a time, then add more as you progress.

  1. Believe that you are creative
    Everyone has the potential to be creative, the difference is that some actually believe it.  Pay attention to self–commentary, “I’m just not creative.” Years of this, becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
  2. Do new things – create stimulus opportunities
    Is this you?
    Do you do the same things every day? Take the same route to work, read the same newspaper and listen to the same radio station? You rarely go out of your way to try new things, meet new people or go to new places?
  3. Break habits
    If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got. Our own habits often keep us from being more creative, the more you follow a set pattern the less opportunities you have to improvise. You are responsible for your own experience.
  4. Make time to be creative
    Grow your creativity; sleep on ideas, take time out from work, home or your busy schedule to allow yourself to be creative.
  5. Create the right environment
    Quite, noisy, busy, peaceful find out what works best for you to stimulate ideas and your imagination.
  6. Stretch your comfort zone regularly and deliberately
    Push your limits and your personal development.
  7. Observe what’s around you
    Look at marketing campaigns, other photographers, model’s work, buy magazines on high fashion or house and gardens or similar high end magazines to stimulate your thoughts and ideas.
  8. Experiment
    Try new photographic techniques, if you do glamour mostly, try some still life; read up about it, research it. There’s many ideas that come from cross-pollination.
  9. Have an open mind
    Don’t dismiss things or think negatively, it’s self-defeating and infectious. Surround yourself with positive people, distance yourself from negative people.
  10. Learn from failures
    Why did it fail, what aspects did work, why did they work. What could be improved, adapted, changed to make it better? Wrong is a step closer towards the right.
  11. Be collaborative with other creative people
    Creativity is infectious; surround yourself with like minded people.
  12. Make things fun
    Shoots should be relaxed and fun, put on music, make time for chat, inspiration and ideas come from a fun and stress free environment.
  13. Find a mentor
    Find someone you admire and/or is good at what they do, whatever their chosen field.
  14. Be reflective
    What’s working well with your photography, what needs improving? What’s working well with other people’s photography, what needs improving?
  15. Enrol on courses, workshops, self-development
    Study not only the things you like, challenge yourself to discover things about subjects you don’t want to photography. I hate photographing weddings, so I go and learn about weddings, it’s surprising what tips, hints and ideas you pick up.
  16. Don’t follow the rules
    Tear down the often arbitrary rules that others impose, such as don’t chop off tops of people’s heads, the rule of thirds, set the white balance to the light source.
  17. Find a new prop every week
    Car boot sales are the king of props! Very soon you’ll be doing your own car boot sale to sell back all the props you’ve purchased and used.
  18. Impose a self-limit or theme
    Set yourself a theme or limit. Walk 5 steps and shoot a single frame, walk another 5 steps, shoot another frame and so on. Look for a chosen colour and shoot it wherever you see it, choose a shape and shoot it.
  19. Write things down
    Carry a notepad and pen or something to capture your thoughts and ideas. I use the notes facility on my iPhone and then email them to myself from my phone to pick up at home later.
  20. Start a scrapbook
    Create an ideas file, either electronically or on paper. Review it regularly and combine ideas, styles and themes to evolve new ones.
  • Adopt at least two or three of the ideas from the list above and put them into practise, then adopt a couple more and so on until they become habits.


“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist after growing up.”
– Pablo Picasso

“Innovate don’t imitate.”
– John Tisbury

Interior with manfrotto paper roll system

Small group workshop 23rd July 2011

Update 02th July 20:31 – now fully booked

There is one place left on my the next small group workshop. These sessions are for up to 4 photographers allowing plenty of time for shooting, reviewing and getting to know everyone – as well as learning and having fun. Our model for the day will be KatyCee, one of the UK’s top full-time professional models. Katy and I will be on hand to help you learn and ensure you get the most of the day.

The workshop details:

  • Saturday 23rd July 2011
  • 10.00am – 5.00pm
  • Professional model – KatyCee
  • Location, my studio, Rushden, Northamptonshire, UK
  • Lunch & refreshments included
  • £250

We will cover the following topics during the session:

  • Studio flash
  • Constant lighting
  • Different Lighting setups
  • Working with a single light
  • Working with multiple lights
  • Working with models
  • Directing models
  • Creative ideas

Review and set activities will form part of the day to ensure that when you leave you can put the things you’ve learnt into practise. My sessions are informal yet structured and allow time for questions and discussion.

Some of the equipment available to use is:

  • Elinchrom studio flash heads x 6
  • Broncolor ring flash x 1
  • ARRI constant lighting heads x 5
  • Broncolor Mobil 2 kit x 1
  • Elinchrom 6 foot Octa Softbox x 1
  • Elinchrom 5 foot Recta Softboxes x 2
  • Elinchrom 130cm x 50cm Softboxes x 2
  • Lighttools soft egg grids for 130cm softbox x 2
  • Flats, reflectors (various)
  • Grids, barndoors (various)
  • Umbrellas, snoots (various)
  • Backdrop system with vinyl and paper rolls
  • Plenty of props, accessories and clothes

The style covered during the session will be art-nude and erotic mainly but we will be also be doing some portraits.

More details on how to reserve the last place on this workshop, or put your name down for a future session, can be found on my website at the following page:


Small group studio lighting workshop

In June I ran another ever popular small group workshop, these sessions cater for a maximum of 4 delegates and are held in my studio. Our model for the day was KatyCee, who is a fabulous and experienced full-time model. Jill, my wife, looked after the catering side of things which she does with much panache and skill.

The session takes delegates through various lighting set-ups and styles with the aim to show different lighting setups but more importantly for the delegates to be able to re-create the setups next time they are in a studio or at home. For this session we also got the opportunity to use my new Lighttools Soft Egg Crates with their stretch frames which had just arrived from Canada. Below I’ve included some of my images from the session with an explanation of how each of them was lit and what equipment was used. Finally, I’ve added a gallery at the end of this post to showcase the images submitted by the delegates who attended the session.


1. KatyCee was lit by two 130cm x 50cm Elinchrom softboxes each fitted with Lighttools 30 degree soft egg crates. Powered by two 400BX Elinchrom heads. A very simple yet effective setup that gives pleasing shadows to add contouring, shape and form to Katy. The softlight from the softbox remains controllable due to the egg crates allowing you to control the direction of the light as well as spill.


2. The control you can get with the egg crates is superb, in the short time I’ve used them they have allowed me to review and re-appraise my lighting approach of how I light my subjects giving me more tools to light subjects with.

3. Another setup used the grey painted wall in my studio which we lit with Lee coloured gels. In the example below we used two lights set behind KatyCee, each fitted with a pink gel pointing at the grey wall.  You can experiment with the fall off from the colour to grey and either increase of decrease the vignette effect by moving the lights closer or further away from the back wall, as well as changing the direct to which they are pointing. The main front light is a large Elinchrom softbox with a soft egg crate fitted.


4. This next setup uses the ARRI 300w continuous light which comes fitted with a fresnel lens (prouncouned fray-nel). The Fresnel lens was invented by French physicist Augustin-Jean Fresnel originally for lighthouses. In the diagram below, the Fresnel lens 1. is compared to a conventional lens 2. For cinematography and photography the Fresnel lens provides a wonderful light that is very bright and focused but with a very soft-edged beam, so it’s often used as a wash light. In the making of motion pictures, or photography it’s also useful because of its ability to focus the beam brighter than a typical lens, but also because the light is a relatively consistent intensity across the entire width of the beam of light. I’ve provided a link to a short 5 minute science video on the differences between the two types of lens and the advantages of the Fresnel lens over a traditional lens for lighthouse application:


5. and 6. show a setup that I don’t use too often but does bring wonderful results for body landscapes and art nude. Two lights fitted with wide angle reflectors are positioned directed onto the white backdrop. They are adjusted to F9 – F11 but no more, we are shooting at F8 on the camera. Then around the model is placed black bounces they they bounce black onto the skin. It’s a simple setup and a similar approach is often used in commercial photography when photographing and lighting glassware or spectacles. It gives a black edge or rim to the glass making it stand out against the background. This setup can be a little more challenging to shoot and I often find it gives better results if you shoot tight and close-up rather than trying to go for a three-quarter or full-length shot.



A few comments from the delegates on this last session:

Thank you very much for yesterday’s course which I thoroughly enjoyed. Katie is a stunning model with loads of personality. Also thanks to your wife for an excellent lunch. David

I wanted to thank you for an awesome session at the weekend. …Although I was not as experienced as the other guys! I did, however, pick up loads of info to get me properly started in Studio photography so thank you so much for that! …and could you please pass on my thanks to Jill also for the wonderful food. Rik

It has been a week now since the workshop, it was a fantastic day and the knowledge and your advice has been slowly but surely filtering in, and still is. Thanks again for a tremendous day, I had a great shoot the next day thanks to the encouragement and enthusiasm I got from the day with a master. Look forward to working again with you one day in the future. Please convey my thanks and appreciation to your fabulous model. Roy

Gallery of images from the delegates attending the workshop, more to come as they edit and send them through to me.



A collaboration shoot

Don’t you just love it when people pull together and everyone puts in some of their time and effort for the benefit of all involved. Well that’s exactly what happened last weekend when we did a collaboration shoot.  One photographer, one make-up artist and hair stylist and two models. The session came about because Jo who I use for all my MUA and hair styling jobs wanted some new shots for her website. I suggested doing a collaboration session and asking a couple of models so we can all get some new shots for our portfolios and Jo gets some images she can use on her new website.

During the session one model was having their hair and make-up done whilst I was photographing the other one and that’s how it went on for the whole session. We ended up working our way through three different make-up and hair styling looks and about 5 different lighting setups. Below are pictures of our two models EmmaB and Roxyanna.

The shots below have been placed in the order that they were taken, so starting off with a light natural looking make-up and hair style, and then moving onto more of an evening make-up look and changing the hair style to add more volume and curls. Jo wanted all the shots to be photographed in a very similar style for her website, so apart from a couple, they have all been taken landscape format and very centrally placed in the frame.


Bondage tuition – 2nd session

Session two

The second day of my bondage tutorial was to cover how to suspend someone, this is often seen as the pinnacle of bondage work and like many other people I wanted to know how to do it – but safely and with the correct background knowledge. If you missed part one you can find it here

I’d purposely left a whole month in between the first and second tuition session for two reasons, firstly so I had time to practise what I’d learnt in the first session. The old adage of ‘use it or lose it’ is so true with new learning and I felt I needed to put into practise what we had gone through. I’m glad I did as I realised I’d forgotten some of the more complex ties, and I noted those down to review them during the next session with Rod. The other reason for the month gap was to replace the current anchor points in the studio as Rod felt, and I agreed with him, that they did not appear too strong.

Wrong brackets

I placed an order for some custom fabricated brackets with my friends at Bound4bondage who were only too pleased to help. I drew up a detailed plan of the 3 brackets I needed and they set to work in making them – and what a super job they did. The 3 brackets duly arrived and once I’d un-wrapped them I knew straight away they were too small. It was such a shame because the brackets were beautifully made with a stove enamelled finished. Hmm, I consulted my drawing and noticed that I’d given the wrong dimensions to Mel for the width of the bracket. So a quick email with an apology. Mel replied to say that they would be able to make them again to the new size – I felt rather stupid and kicked myself for not double-checking the dimensions that I’d transferred to my drawing. A replacement set of brackets arrived in good time for the second tutorial session and this time they fitted – hurrah.

Anchor point bracket

One of the 2 new brackets installed – the old bracket can also be seen here

Day two started with a quick re-cap on day one and what I’d been doing in between the two sessions. My tutor Rod and Clover our rope bunny talked about the safety side of things, like asking the subject if they have any injuries, broken bones, medical conditions. We talked about the need for having something to eat beforehand as suspension can make people dizzy and light-headed so it’s best to eat something – but not a full English just beforehand!

Demonstration and practise

The session was structured around Rod showing and talking through a tie, stopping a key points to allow me to take photographs for reference. Then once he had demonstrated the tie, it would be my go to do the same tie, with guidance and correction by Rod as and when needed. It was great to have him there to expand on points and correct me when I went wrong. I became faster with some aspects of ties, but I was still fingers and thumbs in other areas. Often Rod would suggest an alternative way to hold the rope or approach a tie as he would see that I’d perhaps not taken the easiest method of doing the tie.  As the day progressed it soon became apparent that I was making progress, but as with all things I still need more practise to improve my speed and knowledge. I often get stuck in what comes next in terms of where to take the rope, but I guess that’s just practise and experience.

More pictures

I made a conscious decision to take more pictures this time as during the last session I’d taken some reference shots, but not from all sides. This proved a little frustrating when I started to practise the ties and whilst I had a great shot of the front of a tie, what was happening around the back was a complete mystery!

I’ve included some of the shots from the 2nd session below, do bare in mind that these are only for reference and ‘quick & dirty’ shots rather than carefully crafted lighting set-ups and backgrounds. They are intended for my reference purposes only, but I though you might like to see them so you can get an idea of the types of ties we rigged. I need to practise these ties and techniques and improve on my rope skills and neatness.

Finally, I’d like to thank Rod for his patience, skills and knowledge and the same goes to Clover, who endured being tied up twice each time. Both Rod and Clover were a joy to work with and it was great to work with experienced people who knew what they were doing – thanks again guys.

Mirrors at the opposite the shooting area

Mirrors in the studio

Models and photographers alike, often comment on the two 6’x3′ mirrors that I have installed at one end of my studio, these are typically behind me when I’m shooting. The idea came about after a conversation with Page 3 model Abigail Toyne, who said that when she was being photographed for The Sun newspaper the photographer always had a full-length mirror behind her so the models could see what they were doing. This was in the days of film where it was not possible to show the images on the back of the camera. I thought this was a great idea and installed two large mirrors on one wall opposite the shooting area that I normally use. The mirrors are used by every model to review their poses, tweak them according to my lighting before I take the shot. They have saved so much time, as it’s easier if both parties can see what’s happening and then act on that feedback. Sometimes when I’m shooting private commissions, I have to remind my customers to look at the camera, rather than at their reflection – but that’s a small price to pay for the added confidence it gives the.

I’m pleased to pass on this idea as it’s saved me countless hours and missed opporunities as I don’t have to spend so much time fine-tuning a model’s pose. Once I’ve explained hte concept and the lighting set-up all they do is look in the mirror and confirm their pose is right before then directing their attention back to the camera. If they need to be tweaked, I just have to say, I need some light on your <insert body part> and they can move to let the light fall onto that just by looking at their reflection.

The shots below are from when the studio was just finished, so it looks a little sparse!

Mirrors at the opposite the shooting area

Two Velux roof windows and mirrors