Dean O'Brien's Blog

Back in the studio….Its all good

with 18 comments

Well as I have just completed my first year at University its time to crack on with some personal projects and improve in areas where I am not so skilled.  One area where I do need to improve is with studio lighting.  Although I may know more than the average rookie, I still battle trying to light a crisp white background.  However, if its one thing that I have learnt whilst being at University it is not to be backwards in coming forward.  So if there is something which I am not sure about I need to address this and find the answer.  I’m surrounded by people who have knowledge in this area so will be calling in a few favours shortly..

This may sound geeky but I’m a great believer in ‘lists’.  I have made a list of what areas of photography I need to improve in.  There are plenty, but I know that only by recognising my weak areas can I begin to make them strong.  Studio lighting is up there near the top so I’m arranging to do a few more shoots.

I am also starting to shoot with film again.  In the studio, although I shoot digital I also tend to shoot a few rolls of medium format film.  This helps me with composition and makes me pre-visualise my images more.

As you may guess from the shot below I am very much influenced by the sixties and models such as Twiggy.  The texture and colour from the tights compliments the hair and skin tones well.  I’m not into cheesy smiles on models so I believe the expression on the models face also plays a part in making the image work.

As per usual, constructive comments gratefully received.  Also, any studio lighting experts in or around Coventry who want to give me the wealth of their knowledge please feel free to get in touch.  To be honest I’m not a million miles off getting it right but I do still need some pointers and I could maybe trade studio time for training?


Written by Dean O'Brien

July 7, 2010 at 9:12 am

18 Responses

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  1. Excellent Dean

    yes very 60,s indeed

    Rick Medlock

    July 7, 2010 at 10:31 am

  2. This is a beautiful shot, so glad you are back in the studio…looking forward to more!


    July 7, 2010 at 2:47 pm

  3. Nout wrong with lists.

    Not bad image too…


    July 7, 2010 at 11:43 pm

  4. Hello, dean this is Chris yet again. I have a spare bedroom which I could convert into a studio. I was wondering what do you use to trigger the studio lights? Is it cables, infrared or radio. Also what studio lights are you using in your studio. What type of watt power? Did it cost much? I don’t want to waste money & make expensive mistakes.

    I’ve looked at your portfolio and this is my own opinion.
    The minimalist photos remind me of my own abstract images I took with my nikon 105mm macro but a lot more close up. I ended up going to 8 times life size.

    I was watching an episode of doctor who with tom baker in and most of the story was in low key, lots of detail in shadows and this made me think have you thought about trying another lighting style like low key with the models? The model portraits are technically perfect.

    Chris Alford

    September 8, 2010 at 12:20 pm

  5. Hi Chris

    Regarding studio lights I started with an Elinchrom D-Lite 2 set. These are 200 watt. They are a great beginners set and come complete with brollies and soft boxes etc…They are all pack away together in there own storage cases as well. Brilliant for doing portraits at home etc… Once I got the studio I purchased a pair of Elinchrom BXRi 500’s as I need the extra power. I still use the D-lite 200’s to light the rear backdrop. I trigger them with an Elinchrom skyport. Superb and well recommended.

    Glad you like my portfolio. I enjoyed doing the minimalist images and it was something new for me to try for a University project.

    Dean O'Brien

    September 8, 2010 at 12:29 pm

  6. Hello, Dean I have looked at the flash lights. Do you use one transmitter and then separate Receiver on each individual studio light? So if you have 4 lights you use Receivers?

    I have found a Tokyo photographer called Irwin Wong who in his blogs gives load of useful advice on studio lights. Also look at which has videos showing different lighting set ups and other interesting stuff.

    Chris Alford

    September 8, 2010 at 2:16 pm

  7. Well Chris the BXRi 500 lights have built in receivers so when they go off they trigger the D-lite 200’s as well. I think the new D-Lite 200’s have a built in receiver now. You only need one receiver anyway as like I said before it will trigger all the lights to fire.

    As long as one light has a receiver thats all you need.

    Dean O'Brien

    September 8, 2010 at 2:28 pm

  8. Hello, Dean I’ve got some books on studio lighting to recommend.
    They are: Posing and Lighting Techniques for studio portrait photography by ‘J.J Allen, Master lighting guide for portrait photography by Christopher Grey’, ‘The lighting cookbook by Jenni Bidner’, ‘Lighting for portait photography by steve bavister, photographing people by Rotovision’. I ppersonally think the book by Steve Bavister & Rotovision because they have excellent terminology for the different lighting equipment like softboxes, umbrellas, and snoots and easy to copy diagrams of different lighting set ups.

    I read a lot like you. I’ve read over 50 books in the last 12 months on photography.

    Chris Alford

    September 10, 2010 at 4:30 pm

  9. Thanks Chris. I have a few books on lighting in the studio. I am constantly adding to my collection….Will check them out when I get the chance

    Dean O'Brien

    September 10, 2010 at 4:36 pm

  10. Hello, Dean you said you rent out a studio in Earlsdon. Are you renting it one day a week or 24/7 everyday and how much is it costing you?

    The reason I ask is because I have been thinking about using my spare room. However it is small being only 3.3 meters by 2.4 meteres and I have read on forums that it can be difficult to get rid of shadows using studio lights in a small room like mine.

    I am reading a book at the moment which I think you might find interesting but I don’t want to write about it until I finished reading it from cover to cover.

    Chris Alford

    September 27, 2010 at 7:32 pm

  11. I rent the studio permanently. Don’t really want to say how much but its reasonable.

    Yes shadows can be a problem in a small area. Just practice and see what results you get. Plenty of people get around it.

    Look forward to the book review

    Dean O'Brien

    September 27, 2010 at 7:35 pm

  12. Hi Chris

    I use my back bedroom as a small studio on occasions and yes it can be a problem with shadows. However, one just has to adapt to the space you are in. I have some very interesting results with a combination of natural light and flash and a little cleaning up in photoshop. As an example this was shot with one flash off the roof, metering for the ambient light in the kitchen and outside the window and compromising with flash to get a near enough reading as the available light outside. Then just a bit of cleaning up in photoshop. Hope this helps

    rick medlock

    September 27, 2010 at 7:53 pm

  13. Hello, Dean I have decided not to go to the open day on 26th October as I will not be applying this year but the following year
    and if I went to the open day I would just get frustrated.
    I have paid off my Mac Pro and have brought the following lenses:
    Nikon 20mm f3.5 ais, 85mm f.4 ais, 50mm f1.2 ais, 200mm f4 ai
    20mm f2.8D, 105mm macro f2.8D, 180mm f2.8D, 24-70mm af-s 2.8, 70-200mm af-s 2.8. I will have them paid off within 8 months after which I will have building work done in back room so it can be used for studion photography. Not sure yet which lights I will buy but plenty of time to think.

    Chris Alford

    October 17, 2010 at 9:27 am

    • Well just do what you feel is right for you Chris. Uni was a good move for me thats for sure.

      Dean O'Brien

      October 17, 2010 at 10:15 am

  14. Hello, Dean I’ve been comparing 3 brands of studio lights.
    Bowens, Elinchrom and Broncolor.

    Broncolor I will not buy because they make Bowens and Elinchrom look dirt cheap. 1 small (60 x 60cm) broncolor softbox is the same as a large bowens softbox and is about £4,000 for 2 studio lights with one powerpack.

    Bowens and Elinchrom seem as good as each other. Bowens have cheaper large softboxes but the bowens studio lights are more heavier than elinchrom and have no built in transmitter.

    I think weight of studio lights is overlooked as what if you want to use something like a light boom, then you have to think how much a studio light weights with a large softbox as even heavy duty stands have a max load.

    Chris Alford

    October 17, 2010 at 9:22 pm

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