Adventures in Portrait Lighting — March 2018

This is one of my fave photos, my face is obscured in the shadows, but the stance is awesome! Photo by Bruce M. Walker

My partner, Bruce Walker, is a photographer. He is always learning new ways to do things, and lately, portrait lighting has been his thing.

Recently he wanted to try some new lighting gear for portraits. I like having my picture taken so was invited to be the test subject. We invited our friend Araina Nespiak (Makeup artist/model/photographer) along to help style and pose me, and add makeup where needed.

I had a number of outfits along so we would be able to change the look, Araina and I had fun deciding on which combination to use for each shot.

Our first outfit was plain black slacks with a drapey purple blouse. Bruce wanted to try out a purple backdrop and this combo would be interesting. As it turned out, in this seated series, the background colour shows subtly.

Portrait 1 - Purple blouse and black slacks and a rather superior expression! Photo by Bruce M. Walker

For our second look, we decided on a gray fluffy sweater, with a pearl beaded grey beret, and the black slacks again.

In this grey sweater shot, the purple background is again rather subtle.

Portrait 2 — Sweater Girl. Photo by Bruce M. Walker

This time the purple background shows quite strongly.

Portrait 3 — The power stance. Photo by Bruce M. Walker

Our next costume change was to a lacy black skirt (from Just2Girls)and polka dot top with impossibly high heels. And a now a backdrop change to grey.

Portrait 4 — I demonstrate my first phase of Fandango! Photo by Bruce M. Walker

We were running out of time now (it’s amazing how quickly 5 hours zip by), so we had to pick one last outfit. Araina and I chose the slinky black dress (from Just2Girls) with the uber plunging neck (we decided a camisole should be used here because of my rather generous upper structure!) and body hugging lines. We also brought out the vintage black hat with the feathers (donated by one of my garden clients). Lastly we decided on a wig in a classic long bob style which turned out to not work that well for me. I actually did not like the effect of the whole costume once I saw the photos. Our bad! Well maybe I’ll get to do this another time …and get a better dress.

Portrait 5 — A classic pose, they say! Photo by Bruce M. Walker

Here are some special notes from Bruce Walker for all you photographers out there.


The camera I used thoughout was my Pentax 645Z medium
format digital camera with the 55mm f/2.8 lens (aperture
f/5.6, 1/125th sec shutter, 100 ISO).
— For lights, I used one or two Paul C Buff Einstein 640
watt-second studio strobes, triggered by a CyberSync

why lighting

I intended to create many different looks for variety and
interest to better showcase Louise’ styling. I wanted an
overall clean, contrasty look, so I did not shy away from
using harder light in some cases. And I wanted to
experiment and test new ideas so I brought along a new to
me Fresnel lens attachment.

how lighting

I really like the look I get from a large light turned 90
degrees (ie feathered) to my subject to give a soft but
contoured light, so I put a five foot octagonal softbox
to camera-left and just ahead of Louise, slightly above
her tilted down. In some shots I added fill light from
the right — which reduced the contrast slightly — by
positioning a large white reflector facing the light
source on the other side of Louise. To prevent background
light from leaking forward and messing up the main light,
and also to improve the edge contrast on my subject, I
placed two large black reflectors to either side of her
so she was in a sort of black tunnel.

In some of the more dramatic shots I replaced the large
octagonal softbox with a five inch fresnel spot modifier.
This creates a small focussed circle of light that
illuminated Louise’ head and shoulders while leaving the
rest of her dark, forming a silhouette.

I had a minor problem keeping light from the octabox from spilling onto the seamless paper backdrop too much. I usually attach a fabric grid to the main light to keep it more tightly directed, but I didn’t have a grid handy. I shifted all the gear forward to increase the distance to the background but I thought it was still a little too brightly lit. I decided to switch the paper to violet and the small amount of light falling on it gave a subtle tinted glow behind Louise in those shots which I quite like.

One of the lighting grids that Bruce uses is seen reflected in the window in this photo at another shoot.

why poses/stances

In all the shots I stooped down low or sat on the floor
and shot upward to emphasize an idea of a powerful,
strong woman that Louise is. I enlisted Araina’s help as
a full-time professional model to coach and strengthen
Louise’ poses.

Araina demonstrates Photo by Bruce M. Walker

the pics

1 — Portrait Seated in a Rose Chair

— Just one light here.
— Main: 5 foot octagonal softbox, camera left
— Fill light from camera right from 4x8 foot white

2 — Sweater girl

— Main: 5 foot octagonal softbox, camera left
— Hair: 8 inch reflector with 30 degree grid overhead
— Fill light from camera right from 4x8 foot white

3 — Louise with beret

— Main: 5" Fresnel spot; aimed at Louise’ head and
— Background: 8 inch reflector with 30 degree grid
overhead-behind creating vignette on violet bg paper

4 — Lace skirt

— Main: 5" Fresnel spot; aimed at Louise’ head and
— Background: 8 inch reflector with 30 degree grid
overhead-behind creating vignette on grey bg paper
— I toned the image (colour grading) in post production.

5 — Louise with a feathered hat

— Main: 5 foot octagonal softbox, camera left
— Background: 8 inch reflector with 30 degree grid
overhead-behind creating vignette on grey bg paper
— Fill light from camera right from 4x8 foot white
— Additional fill light from silver reflector near
floor handheld by our assistant, Araina.
— I converted this shot to black and white in post

Bruce Walker and Louise Peacock. Photo by Araina Nespiak

Notes, Credits and Outtakes

I did my own basic makeup for the first part of the shoot, as we changed to more glamorous outfits, Araina Nespiak, who is a professional model/make-upartist and photographer enhanced my makeup.

Araina enhances my makeup. Photo by Bruce M. Walker
Here is Araina Nespiak in her guise of professional model. Photos by Bruce M. Walker

I styled my own hair. My hair is notoriously difficult to tame and I know it better than anyone. A few finger waves pressed into place with John Frieda Luscious Volume styling mousse, and I was set for the shoot.

Finger waves. Photo by Bruce M. Walker


Here are some shots Araina took that I liked as outtakes.

Bruce in action. Photos by Araina Nespiak
Araina snuck around taking candid shots.

Here are some shots that Bruce took which I thought were funny.

Photos by Bruce M. Walker




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Louise Peacock

Louise Peacock

Louise Peacock is a writer, garden designer, Reiki practitioner, singer-songwriter & animal activist. Favorite insult “Eat cake & choke” On Medium since 2016.

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