Photo Shoot & Technique: Danny Bartlett

Written by: Glyn Dewis

Published: March 22, 2010

Category: General

As promised here’s a selection of images from the recent studio photo shoot with male model Danny Bartlett when we were working on his promotional test shots and also some more material for the InSight Workbook. As usual I’ve also included some lighting diagrams and a little explanation to give you a bit of a ‘behind the scenes’ look at how I set each picture up with regards to the lighting, what modifiers were used, camera settings and so on…

Although I’m generally someone who prefers to photograph out ‘on location’ from time to time it does make quite a nice change to work in the studio, if not just to keep out of the cold and rain as seems to be the usual weather when I’m out and about (not that I’m paranoid or anything you understand).

Working in the studio allows for a much more comfortable working environment and there’s a number of things I’ll always make sure I have or do to help towards that:

1. Music: Having music playing in the background I find always helps, so I’ll always bring with me a portable dock and just drop in my iPhone. I then either play a selection of tracks I’ve put into a playlist or use an iPhone App such as where you can type in a genre of music or band and continuous uninterrupted music streams directly to the phone.

2. Refreshements: Tea, coffee, fruit juice, water and a selection of nibbles are always on hand, and I’ll also speak to the client/model before the shoot to find out if there’s anything in particular that they’d like to have available to snack on. In the case of Danny’s shoot I knew he’d been dieting quite hard for a number of weeks beforehand to get into condition so having an experience of dieting from bodybuilding competitions I’d entered in the past, I generally knew the kind of snacks that would be beneficial to help him look his best.

3. Regular Breaks: These are essential and something I have to be very conscious of because I do tend to get carried away and involved in what I’m doing and before I know it a couple of hours have gone by. Now don’t get me wrong, if you’re ‘in the zone’ and probably more importantly so is your model then keep going with it but still be conscious of the time. Taking regular breaks is also great for helping everyone to relax and also promotes more conversation and personally speaking, it’s at those times when there’s not a camera between me and my client/model that we come up with more ideas.

Technical Info:
Ok first off, throughout the entire shoot I only used the white seamless background in the studio. Why? Because I have the option depending on how and where I position my lights to take the white background all the way from being white through shades of grey to eventually going completely black; reason being the less light that falls on the white background the darker it will become and vice verse.

Also I used Nikon SB800 speedlights as opposed to purpose built indoor studio lights and the reason for this was that I knew I was only going to be using very low power levels as I wanted to use shallow depths of field in the photographs. The lights in the studio weren’t able to go as low as I wanted so the SB800’s were ideal. Using the SB800’s meant I could also use the Nikon Creative Lighting System (CLS) to trigger the lights and control them very easily from the camera using the SU800 Commander Unit.

Technique 1:
For this shot a Nikon SB800 Speedlight was fitted into a Lastolite 60cm Ezybox and then mounted onto a boom stand. This was then raised up so that it was about 2ft above Danny who was stood slightly back from it so that it wasn’t directly over the top of him. Also Danny was roughly 6ft infront of the white background. Had the Ezybox been placed directly above Danny, very little light if any would have got into his eye sockets and the result of which would have been what’s commonly referred to as ‘Panda eyes’. Having the Ezybox above and slightly to the front of Danny, plus getting him to tilt his head back slightly meant that just the right amount of light filled his eye sockets; also tilting the head back gave Danny a bit more attitude which was ideal for look we were going for. As you can see from the final picture the white background has been turned to quite a dark grey and this is simply because of the Nikon Speedlight’s position.

Technique 2:
The set up for this shot was identical to that of Technique 1 but for one little addition, and that was another Nikon SB800 Speedlight on a boom aimed at a Silver Lastolite Reflector on the floor infront of Danny. This additional Speedlight and silver reflector combination was used to add a little extra light to the front of Danny and into his face as he had his head tilted down. Without it Danny’s face would have been in shadow and from around the waist downwards his body and clothing would have become very dark.

Technique 3:
For all of the shots where Danny was seated on a stool wearing the trilby style hat, just one Nikon SB800 Speedlight and Lastolite Ezybox was used. The Ezybox was positioned to the front of Danny in the direction Danny he was facing on a light stand, and the bottom of it was roughly level with his nose. A really simple shot this one and again Danny was roughly 6ft away from the white background which accounts for it being turned to a dark grey. This shot could have quite easily been made using one of my trusty umbrellas and the only reason it wasn’t was because the Ezybox was already set up from the earlier shots. There’s no problem controlling the direction of light coming out from an umbrella because they can be used ‘closed down’; a technique I describe in the Invisible Black Backdrop Tutorial.

In the next few days I’ll be writing a ‘post’ to give you a breakdown of what editing was done in both Lightroom and Photoshop to give the final look to the images; editing incidentally which will take you no more than 1 minute per photo.

If you have any questions or comments I’d love to ‘hear’ them so I encourage you to please feel free to make use of the comments section below.
Also, if you’re a photographer who uses a studio from time to time what sort of things do you make sure you do or have to make the shoot run smoothly? What advice can you pass on? … again, I’d love to ‘hear’.

In the meantime,
Enjoy 🙂

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  1. Jürgen

    Hi Glyn, This is excellent advice. It also happens to me to be carried away and not putting enough breaks into the session. I like the nice and simple lighting setup.

    • Glyn

      Thanks Jurgen, glad you like the post.
      In the past I did set the alarm to go off on my iPhone at regular intervals but soon put a stop to that as it always seem to ‘go off’ at the wrong moment.

      Thanks again ;o)

  2. Keith

    another good write up Glyn along with great pictures, i tried to reverse engineer the lighting before looking at the diagrammes, got 2 out of 3, i missed the reflector in pic 2. I assume you have planned light settings for each shot, do you change the settings each way and chimp during the shoot untill you get the look your after. I’m ordering an softbox and beauty dish later in the week as i want to try some lit portraits. Looking forward to the post on editing

    • Glyn

      Hi Keith, thanks for commenting.
      I generally go into a shoot knowing the looks we’re going to be working on so because of that, the lighting set ups are worked out too. It’s during the ‘breaks’ however that we come up with other ideas.

      Re the use of the reflector, that wasn’t planned for but after working on Shot 1 I could see it was going to be needed by how the light drops off from Danny’s waist downwards; a real simple technique that I saw Joe McNally demonstrate during a workshop.

      Thanks again for dropping by and taking the time to comment; I really appreciate it.

      Oh, and I’ll be posting the editing walk through in a couple of days or so.

  3. Rick Wenner

    Love the photos Glyn. Great work as always. I particularly like the third photo of him sitting and looking downwards. You don’t always need to have the eyes in the photo for a great image and this one proves it. I do have a question though…where do you find those great lighting diagrams??? 🙂

    • Glyn

      Hi Rick, thanks for dropping by and for the comments; glad you like the photos. Totally with you about not having to have the model with eyes to camera for every shot; adds a little more ‘mood’ to a picture I always feel.

      Now, as for the lighting diagrams they seem to be a bit of a trademark; not sure if that’s a good thing though…lol


  4. Andy Cuadra

    Excellent entry Glyn- thank you for sharing!

    • Glyn

      Cheers Andy, and thanks for commenting.

      Hope all is well with you ;o)



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