How I Prepared For The Photo Shoot: 1940’s RAF

Written by: Glyn Dewis

Published: February 3, 2018

Category: Photography

The latest photo shoot for the project was this week when I was in the studio at The Flash Centre in Birmingham photographing the first RAF addition and it’s this photo shoot I thought I’d cover to go give you an idea of not just how I came up with the concept but also sourced the clothing, props and all.

Lewis RAF

If you’re been following this blog for at least a year you’ll likely be aware that I have an ongoing Personal Project that I working on based on the 1940’s. Originally this started out as being based around the Home Guard but as it’s grown, what I’m now including has grown too incorporating not just Military but also Civilian Life.

1940 Civilian Life

I’ve been asked quite a few times since starting this project, how many images I intend to add into it and the simple answer there is, as many as I can because I don’t intend to stop. I have such a fascination in the 1940’s and the events of World War 2 both on the Military and Civilian side; it actually feels like a project I have to do…if that makes sense?!?!

The Concept / Inspiration

Having recently seen Chris Nolan’s Dunkirk movie I just had to include an RAF themed photo shoot into the project asap but then it was a case of what to do.

As always I headed over to Pinterest to see what kind of images there were already out there from back in the day. At some point when the weather improves I’ll be looking to do an outdoor on location shoot with a model dressed in authentic clothing and with a Spitfire but for this particular shoot as it was going to be an indoors I wanted to go for something where the subject would have been sat at a table, maybe reading a newspaper and smoking a cigarette.

I got this idea too from having watched the Battle of Britain movie (for the xxth time)


A couple of weeks prior to the photo shoot I’d been presenting at a 3 day event in London for Elinchrom and The Flash Centre and photographing make model Lewis Thompson. Spoke with him about the RAF shoot at the event discussing ideas I had for the final picture and he was instantly onboard, so then it was a matter of sourcing an authentic 1940’s RAF uniform.

Sourcing the Clothing / Uniform

Starting this project has been a real eye opener to what is available out there and quite often right on your doorstep as a dear friend of mine, Anthony Crothers who has helped me on many shoots before found that there were a number of suppliers to the TV and Film Industry based in Wales. One in particular was Marigold and we’ve used them a few times now and will undoubtedly be calling there again due to the huge amount of clothing and props they have available for all manner of era and genre.

As this photo shoot was going to be held in Birmingham I needed to source a supplier a little closer to home and this was as easy as using Google, typing in 1940 Uniform Hire and voilà.

Having looked at some of the websites I opted to go with a supplier who not only offered a great range of authentic uniforms but an extremely good price  for a weeks hire and delivered to the door. With Lewis having given me all his measurements (Height, Chest, Waist, Inside Leg, Shoe Size, Hat Size) I called and spoke to the owner who clearly had a copious amount of knowledge of the 40’s and who guided me through what I needed, placed the order and it arrived the following morning…


One thing I did (and I’m so glad I did) was order a size bigger in the jacket as back in the 40’s folks generally weren’t quite so built so to allow for Lewis’ shoulders and width of back the extra size meant it was a perfect fit.

When placing orders for clothing such as this it’s essential that you hire authentic clothing because although there are a lot of suppliers, a lot of them produce clothing / uniform that is more suited for fancy dress and will likely not have the correct buttons, decor and so on. It’s attention to detail like this that will make a huge difference to your final result because let’s face it, a great model with great lighting and great post production will be ruined if there’s a glaringly obvious mistake, so it’s always best to check with folks in the know that what you are getting is correct for that era. Make sense?

Sourcing the Props

I still can’t believe my luck when it came to the props. My wife Anne mentioned about an Antiques Centre she’d been to recently and so convinced I’d find what I needed there we headed off. It was only a short drive away, 20 minutes or so which again goes to show that when you start projects it’s amazing what you’ll discover on your doorstep.

The table, chair, tankard and ashtray … all for £55! That’s a Bargain! The newspapers aren’t originals but were replicas that I ordered off Amazon (is there anything you can’t get off Amazon?!?!) and they cost around £3 each.

Oh and because the chair had been re-upholstered the material looked way too clean and new so (Anne’s idea) rub it over with old tea to give it the aged effect and it worked a treat!

RAF 1940

There were other props used in the shoot too but these were ones that I already owned beforehand, namely a cigarette case, match case and hip flask; I’ve got a growing collection of memorabilia that I’ve got on my bookshelf in my office and intend to grow over the coming months / years. Oh and of course there were the cigarettes which being a non smoker I had to buy … geez how expensive were they!?!?!?

1940 Props

The Studio Set Up – K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple Silly)

Now obviously as I said this is forming part of my ongoing 1940’s Personal Project with a view, amongst other plans, of holding my first exhibition at the end of this year, I am opting for a classical Rembrandt style of lighting. Inspiration for the mood and feel came from a mixture of places: by looking at photographs from the era but also looking at photographs of two of my favourite Photographers, Yousuf Karsh and Annie Leibovitz.

I’ve written about this style of lighting that I’m currently favouring a few times and have also recorded a few videos covering it (see below). Here though you can see some frames from some video footage taken during this RAF photo shoot using my iPhone and the DJI Osmo Mobile gimble:


Aside from the camera and lens, the main set up for this entire shoot consisted of:

  • Light / Studio Head: Elinchrom ELC Pro HD 1000
  • Light Modifier: Elinchrom Rotalux 135cm (50″) Octa Softbox
  • Background: Canvas Background (one I had made by Gravity Backdrops for about £130-ish)

All my kit you can check out over on my Kit List page HERE

Here’s the video taking you through the process of Rembrandt Lighting; you can watch it all or jump forward to xx


Pictures That Didn’t Make The Cut

Next week (Tuesday 6th February 2018 at 8pm UK time) I’m going to be hosting another LIVE Broadcast over on my YouTube Channel where I’ll be going through the details of this photo shoot, taking questions but also going through some of the shots that didn’t make the final cut and going through why that was. Good idea?

 Glyn Dewis

Well to be honest I think that’s all I’ve got for you in this post. Mind you if there was anything I’d add it would be to have a project; have a project you can keep working on and adding to over time rather than constantly trying to think of the next shoot and the shoot after that. Projects are without doubt THE thing that made the difference and continue to make the difference for me and my Photography, Lighting and Post Production.

As always if you have any questions or comments feel free to make use of the comments section below.
Thanks for reading through and I’ll catch you next time,

Lewis RAF

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  1. Daniel Sandberg

    Awesome tips Sir. And ad always, your work is excellent. Thank you for inspiring others around the world.

    • Glyn

      Daniel, thanks so much for checking out the blog post and for your kind words.
      Very much appreciated.
      Best wishes

  2. derek

    have you sourced old coinage from the era too?just the wee things that can help sometimes?

    • Glyn

      Derek…haven’t just yet but when a shoot comes along needing that I definitely will…cheers

  3. Craig

    Brilliant and VERY informative.

    • Glyn

      Thanks Craig

  4. Jackie Meredith

    Your attention to detail is second to none. Thank you for sharing your knowledge and expertise.
    A true inspiration and master of light.

    • Glyn

      Thank you so much for your kind words Jackie

  5. pavan koya

    so much to learn . Your youtube videos are amazing and very helpful . Thanks for doing this .

    • Glyn

      Thanks Pavan…very kind


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