‘Jessica’ by Richard Amor Allan
The only way to get better at something is to practice. Surround yourself with people who also want to get better, and practice. Read books, read articles, go to workshops, watch videos, and practice. People learn best by doing, by rolling up their sleeves, getting their hands dirty, and doing. Try something out, if it works then you’ve learned something. If it doesn’t work, then you’ve learned something. Practice is the key.
This portrait was a part of practicing.
Every few months, diary permitting, I’ll book some time in a studio space, and invite some people to join me and practice. I’ll bring along my lights, we set up, and away we go. On this particular shoot I was working with three up and coming models and a very talented young make up artist. Various ideas, outfits and concepts had been tried out, the lighting set up had been changed numerous times, and we were all practicing with varying degrees of success. Sometimes the light isn’t quite right, sometimes the pose is a little off, sometimes the make up needs retouching – but when you’re shooting digital you have the advantage of being able to review results straight away, so adjustments can be made and the shot retaken. Practice, practice, practice.
We were about three hours into shooting when this shot was taken. Jessica, the model, has piercing blue-grey eyes, and so I asked the make up artist to paint in a black band across her eyes to make them stand out even further. Olivia the make up artist took the concept of a straight edged black band, and planned it out. She decided it might look a little too harsh on the edges, and came up with the idea of feathering the edges to make the black band look more like a mask. She also painted multiple shades of paint onto Jessica’s lips to give a more textured appearance, and ruffled her hair into a frame around the face. The outfit was a black top under a black leather jacket, so as not to draw the viewer’s eye away from the face.
The lighting was a single studio flash head with a softbox diffuser positioned above and slightly to the left of camera, triggered by a remote control on the the camera’s hot shoe. The background is wallpaper applied to a large plywood board, resting against the studio wall. 1/160th of a second at f14, 200 ISO on a Nikon D90 with a 35mm lens. A little bit of vignetting in Photoshop to make the light fall off towards the right of the background, and voila.
The result is one of the shots that I’m most proud of.
Model: Jessica Walsh
Make Up: Olivia Fairbrother
- Richard’s Portfolio
- Willfield Camera Club at the Potteries Museum
- The Taylor Wessing Portrait Prize Exhibition at the Potteries Museum