Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Strobist fun!


The other day I shot the picture for Home Plus Scotland’s ‘Designer profile’ article again.  I’ve shot the last few of these and it’s always an enjoyable challenge because we like to try for something a little bit ‘edgy’, especially for a homes and interiors type magazine.  I also had the pleasure of Tom’s company along on this shoot.  It’s great to have someone to bounce ideas off of and Tom’s knowledge of photography is awesome. If you haven’t read his blog then you really should.

Small flashes are just made for this kind of thing and thanks mostly to David Hobby of ‘Strobist’ fame I love using them!  This job was to photograph Brian Hinnigan who is one side of the husband and wife team of Hinnigan Fabrics.  They are based in the Scottish borders and produce all sorts of really contemporary fabrics and we had the opportunity to shoot this picture in the old mill where the fabrics are created.

It was fairly dark with lots of cool looking machinery (well, cool looking to a daft photographer like me who would probably lose a hand in ten seconds if he was left alone in there!).  When you’re using small flashes like this then the low ambient is perfect.  The shot above is the main shot that the editor has chosen for the full page image which is the usual format for this article.

The shot uses two flashes, one through a softbox fairly high to camera left, while the second is on the floor to camera right.  The softbox is lighting Brian while the floor flash is lighting the threads.  I kind of wish I’d added a third behind just for a blip of rim light but I do like the slightly ‘dark’ look of it.

I did use a third flash in the image below to light the background a bit.  It was shot through a brolly for a bit of diffusion. I also moved Brian along a bit mainly to get more string but also to avoid the pole that was running right through the middle of the shot.  In the end, I had to clone it out as we wanted to go with the picture above.


At the time I quite liked the string shadows across Brian’s face but after living with the images for a few days I definitely preferred the top one.  Here’s another couple from the shoot.


You can see on the photograph above we moved the brolly to the right a touch to feather the light off because it looked a bit too strong.


This photo was shot with a softbox cam right quite high which gave enough light onto the background fabric as well.  I was standing on a (rather rickety) step ladder.

And lastly this one which was actually the first composition we tried…


I loved the look of this machine and as soon as we went in I knew I had to try for this shot.  It’s just a bit of a shame that all the spools of thread are on the other side.  There’s a few red ones there too but the composition wouldn’t have worked from that side.  We lit this one with the softbox cam right again, another flash camera left pointing through the machine to light up the spools and we did use a third to light the drum at the back but I can’t actually remember if we used it in this photo, doh!

I shot mainly portrait shape because the usual format is for a full page portrait and questions on the other page, like this.   But I was also thinking of a double page spread (DPS) possibility so I always shoot a few of both, just in case.  The shot above might work as a DPS but we’d have to add a faded black panel over the left page to fit the text on.  I might try it and see how it looks.  Worst thing about working with your own images in layouts is that you can endlessly tweak them to death.

Thanks for reading!
Ian :)


  1. Nice post Ian and thanks for the link :)

  2. Great use of the enviroment to make a top quality portrait. Exellent lighting!