Saturday, 1 August 2009



Had a great shoot with a really cool artist up in Dundee on friday.  I was taking the picture for a piece that Home Plus Scotland magazine are running on Lyken, an artist who has a background in graffiti (no pun intended lol).  While Lyken’s weapon of choice these days is canvas he’s still involved with the graffiti scene.  He’s away to Belfast this weekend to take part in an organised cross community event on the Shankill Road.

Usually when a graffiti artist gets their picture taken they have their faces covered for obvious reasons, and while Lyken’s creations are all legal he still likes to do something a bit quirky as a kind of nod to this tradition.  Hence the cool 3d glasses :)  He also wears them because he doesn’t take himself too seriously which is something I can totally identify with!!

The main graffiti on all three walls on these pics are Lyken’s work and they look great, it’s such a cool location.  The shot above wasn’t meant as a set-up shot as I actually wanted the lights in the frame but it also shows off the place quite well, and I think it’s quite a cool shot :)  It’s obviously a three flash setup.  The third is on the floor behind Lyken pointed at the wall.

As well as his 3d glasses he has this really smart belt buckle that’s in the shape of his name.  I saw it on a picture that he’d sent to us and I knew I wanted to do something with it.  After a couple of test shots I realised we’d have to light the reflection rather than light the silver itself.  So I pointed the softbox at the bright orange and green graffiti you can see behind Lyken on the shot above and had him stand sideways to it…


I love this shot.  Like my last post about taking detail shots in house shoots and how that can give you more of a flavour of the house than an all-encompassing 10mm wide shot can, this shot for me says it all.  You don’t need his face in the frame :)

Another shot I thought turned out well was this one…


But as Lyken pointed out it’s not clear that the colours are a reflection.  It almost looks like a psychedelic buckle.   If I’m honest, I’d wear one like that but he has much better taste than me :)

This next shot is one I took specifically with a double page spread (DPS) in mind…


The piece is going to be two pages and I knew we’d have some nice colourful backgrounds so the idea was to try and get a possible full dps background shot.  The orange is pretty bright though so there would have to be either a dark gradient added or a faded black box over most of the right hand page.  Might not run like that but regardless, I really like this shot.  It’s a two light shot with the softbox off to camera right and a bare flash just out of frame camera right really close to the wall.  Once Home Plus is out I’ll post up a tear sheet.

I wanted the texture of the wall to show so I had it raking across the wall at an extreme angle.  I thought about using the snoot like I’ve done before with graffiti but it would have been too extreme as I didn’t have much working room.  Looking at it now though I wish I’d tried a tight beam shooting up from the bottom right corner.  Next time :)

Next shot I wanted was one of Lyken standing against the wall with a hard light projecting his shadow over his artwork.  I decided I’d use some on-axis fill since Mr Hobby himself has been really talking this up recently.  I set up the shot without the fill first to get the shadow right…


This is just one flash obviously off to camera right.  I actually really like this shot without the fill light in it but once I added the fill light it just brought out the colours…


I’d be really interested in hearing other opinions about these shots.  I like both and can’t make up my mind which is better.  Perhaps I went ott with the fill and somewhere in between?  Anyway, the fill is the softbox right above me.  I was half crouching underneath it.

The last option I wanted to give the mag was a lighting setup I’ve seen used quite often for sportsmen.  Basically it’s just two lights, one at either side of the subject (setup same as the first pic posted).  I added a third to the background…


Again, pretty happy with this shot.  I had thought I might need a reflector for a bit of fill in front but I was happy without it.  Interestingly, the background light was my vivitar 285 which occasionally doesn’t fire and I got a couple of shots without light on the background which I kinda like…


Again, I’d love to hear any opinions on which one people prefer.  I like both!  The one without the background light makes me think it’s been taken in a street somewhere with streetlights on either side.  No idea why!

Here’s a full length version I took of this same setup which we thought looked like something out of ‘Heroes’ :)  I think it’s a cool pose and the floor looks great.  It’s just that white strip at the top that slightly bothers me.


Lastly I took a couple of shots at the end while experimenting with the lights…


For this shot I had three flashes set up.  A bare flash just out of frame camera left but pointed right at the lens for a bit of flare (most of which I took out in post doh!) and highlights on his hair, and the softbox also cam left but obviously in front of Lyken.  The third was pointed at the background and it also bounced a little fill back to the shadow side.

The last shot was a similar setup but without the flare.


The shoot was good fun and Lyken’s a great guy so hopefully will shoot him again in the future.  I’m also uploading these to my flickr so if anyone’s interested they can probably see them bigger there.

Ian :)


  1. Ian, totally gutted i couldn't make it to Dundee with you for these :(

    Comments -

    Love the first shot, think it would maybe lookatad better witha softbox at both sides, at the moment it feels a bit one sided but istill like it.

    The belt is awesome :)

    Ilike the on axis fill - the one without the front fill is good, maybe a step to his left would have helped, the shadow seems to melt into the dark painting, or same shot on the orange background might have worked better?

    Love the sportsman look when the vivitar didn't fire, i like the darker edge it has to it.

    Really like the 'heroes' shot.

  2. Thanks for the comments Tom. When I saw the location I even said to Lyken that you would have loved it :( Next time def though!

    Totally agree with your comments. I only have the one softbox and didn't want to use the brollies but if I'd taken the box off and used two bare flashes that would have balanced it out.

    I prefer the colours on the on-axis fill one too. I think the composition is a bit better too so it's a bit more pleasing on the eye.

    That dark sportsman one was a fluke. I'd never have thought of not lighting the background. Vivitar should have used that in their marketing and they might not have gone bust, "unintentional creativity built in". Sounds better than 'Doesn't always fire'!

  3. Excellent set, Ian. But how the hell did you find this location you lucky .... Tom'll be haunting it soon :)

    The first shot - lights n' all is awesome; a real movie-set moment with sharp contrasts, and I love how the blues stand out.

    I think the shadow works best in the 1st of the 'shadow' shots, though I think the second shot - with fill - is probably more aesthetically 'fitting' with respect to publishing.

    I prefer the 3rd of the 'sidelit' shots - the full length; an excellent composition and it's definitely the most dramatic.

    Finally, the final pic of the series - the portrait - is again, for me, a great composition and is also very dramatic. I also think it's the shot where the 3D glasses best play a part in the story.

    Excellent series though, you should be well chuffed :)

  4. Thanks Duncan really glad you like em :) I am pretty chuffed with how they came out. Re the location, all the graffiti is Lyken's own work so he took me to the place :) It's only about an hour and a half drive away and there's a few different buildings there, it's quite cool.

    And another vote for the 'heroes' shot. That one's a definite option for the full page if we go down that route.