Sitting in the conservatory, watching Jeremy (our pet tortoise) slowly stroll across the garden eating all the dandelions in his path an image formed in my mind. Golden hills and a lonely figure standing in the sparse landscape. Inspiration hit me quickly and I knew this was going to be the concept for my upcoming self portrait for the Self Portrait Project. A week of sunshine but filled to the brim with other activities, I knew I was going to have to wait till next week to take the photographs.
I pictured the lighting for the images to be golden so I planned to take the photos on the upcoming Monday evening. A week of gorgeous sunshine I thought was going to last for a bit longer. Monday came and so did the rain. So I thought I’d leave it to the next day. Tuesday came and so did the rain. Maybe I’ll wait to Wednesday. More rain. Thursday? I have plans to go to a gig. Thursday won’t work. Friday, then? More rain. Saturday arrived and I was sick of the rain at this point. I turned to Aaron and said “Screw it! I’m going to take my self portraits today and I’ll just have to get soggy!”. Aaron came with me so that he could protect my camera from the rain. He also helped me with location hunting and posing. He’s such a gent!
The look itself was easy to come up with. I wanted to be the figure that came to me in my minds eye, dressed in black from head to toe. I adore western fashion, and already have a number of clothes I could put together to create my anti hero alter ego. I previously bought a cowboy style hat for my “A Close Watch” shoot with Arleya and Rebecca, so I used this with a long black skirt with side slit, one of Aaron’s black shirts, my leather jacket and a string choker with silver drop details. I also put on my Doc Martins with white knee length socks for extra coolness!!! The make up was my favourite part. I used Urban Decay eye shadow palettes, using their darkest shades to create a heavy smokey eye. I kept my lips nude so that the attention was on my eyes. I gave myself a middle parting, plaited sections of my hair to add texture. I was anticipating that the rain was going to mess up my hair, but I wanted this to make the photos seem raw and authentic. A cowgirl isn’t gonna care about her messy hair, am I right? The outfit made me feel really powerful and strong as soon as I put it on. I felt like a new person.
We ventured out in the cold rain and took the photos in a field close to my house. A location which has been one my favourites for self portraits for about 10 years! As this field is intended for new houses, they have moved a lot of the earth into tall mounds and pits to do whatever tests are necessary. This was perfect for what I initially intended. The area where I live is very flat, so these man made mounds were great for creating the illusion of a hilly location. We took the photos from an array of different heights to suggest that this is a hilly location. The rain made it difficult to be outside for a long time, we were probably outside for about 45 minutes. It was so cold that our hands were turning pink and seizing up (something I had to retouch in Photoshop), our noses were running and we were becoming a little bit grouchy (we went to McDonalds afterwards so that cheered us up!). The rain made it difficult for me to open my eyes, as it was clingy and getting in my face. Luckily squinting my eyes helped to make me look more menacing. So I guess we have to be grateful for the rain for that! I think the rain also helped to make the setting look more dreary and miserable, perhaps helping to make my character look more like an outcast.
Editing these photos was lots of fun! I had to completely transform the bright green location into something that resembles a valley/desert/wild wild west! I used both Lightroom and Photoshop to get the desired golden, reddish tones. In Lightroom I made the location warmer and golden. In Photoshop I increased the red, magenta and yellow to get it to the colour I wanted using Selective Colour and Gradient Maps. I tried to keep myself looking as pale as possible to make me stand out and contrast the location. I want people to be drawn in by the character first and then scout the location for more information. Below are some before and after images of my edits.
These photos are my favourite from the Self Portrait Project so far. We are only four months in, so I’m really excited about what’s going to inspire me over the upcoming months. Keep your eyes peeled!
I met up with the gorgeous Laura Stafford Smith last Saturday to take photos for her blog and Instagram. We met on Rose Lane and wandered to one of Norwich’s secret gardens. I was introduced to this garden many years ago when my boyfriend and I were first dating. He took me there and we sat on a bench eating ice cream. Pretty cute, huh?! It is a quirky community garden where the local residents can grow all sorts of plants. It is filled with really interesting garden furniture including a row of painted bath tubs filled with plants.
For a small location there is a lot crammed in! This willow tree arch (I think it’s a willow tree.. I helped to make one of these at my primary school and remember them calling it a willow tree. Whatever it is called, it sure is pretty!) caught Laura’s eye so we set up there first. We both agreed her blue dress and blonde hair made her look like Alice In Wonderland leaving the rabbit hole, or in this case the willow tree arch. I tried to get three key shots in this area; the establishing shot, a mid shot and a close up. These three shot types help to tell the story. The establishing shot shows the location and Laura’s full outfit. The mid shots bring the focus more on Laura. The close up shows the details of Laura’s outfit and make-up. Depending on the location, I try to use these three type of shots as much as I can.
This location was filled to the brim with character, so choosing a spot for each shot was pretty easy. We were spoilt for choice! I keep certain things in mind when looking for an area to shoot. I look for..
- Good lighting (ideally so that it looks even and natural, or lighting that adds interest and shape).
- Interesting textures and colours.
- Leading lines to frame the subject and direct the eye towards them.
A lot of photographers consider these things important to composing images well. Some photographers have their own way of using and manipulating them to suit their own style.
You may have noticed, I have a thing for placing people in the centre of the frame. I am really inspired by symmetry, particularly in Wes Anderson films. However, in saying that, I like it when the background tries to conflict my ideas! The person I’m taking photos of may be in the centre of the image, but there is always something in the foreground or background giving the photos a sense of unbalance. I aim to give my photos a feeling of realness that comes from leaving the location as it is to show off the natural character.
As the location was quite small, we were careful and cautious to not repeat the same areas. To avoid this, take photos from a multiple angles to make each area looks new and interesting. We started at one end by the willow tree arch, then worked our way down to the far end with the potting area. There were two main pathways through the garden so we went up the right hand side then back down the left. Although some of the various areas appear in the background of other images, it helps to make sure the photos flow as a set. I find that if you wander around too much looking for locations, the photos can seem a bit disjointed. If you do choose to wander round, select areas with similar colours or in a similar style to help make the photos work better as a set. For instance, try not to take photos in an old location then go to a modern location because this may clash too much.
To finish up we took some portraits by a long red and black brick wall just next to the garden. Laura really likes brick walls as backdrops and uses them often in her photos. I really liked the contrast of the two toned bricks against her outfit. Laura really reminds me of Julie Christie in the film Darling, effortlessly cool and effortlessly elegant at the same time. Do you see it to?? I love it! <3
Please take a look at Laura’s awesome spaces on the internet linked below:
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Louise at Carberry’s Cafe, located on Wensum Street in Norwich, kindly let myself and a creative team use her upstairs room for our latest fashion editorial. The idea behind the shoot was to incorporate Beth Poulter’s eye for mature styling with a rustic, characterful setting full of wooden textures. We used blush pink and pastel blue in the styling and make-up to bring the whole look together.
We had a small dilemma on the day of the shoot. Due to unforeseen circumstances, the make-up artist booked in for the shoot was unable to make it. It was a shame that they could not make the shoot as it would have been lovely to work with them, but some times situations like this happen. Luckily Jessy stepped in to take care of the make-up and did a fantastic job. We were looking for a natural look with hints of pink on the eyes and lips. We asked the model to not brush her hair that day so it was messy and full of texture.
Model Katie - represented by Crumb Agency - really brought the feel of the shoot to life. I directed her to look bored and uninterested, as though she was hanging around this room waiting for someone. I also like the people I photograph to look strong and to control the scene. I think she does this effortlessly by keeping the focus on her regardless of the composition.
When composing the images, I really wanted to get a feel for the space. The room was full of round, wooden tables and chairs, which I wanted to be visible in every shot. It gives the impression of the room being crowded by objects whilst noting that Katie is in the room by herself. I tried to position an object in between myself and Katie to give the photos an interesting sense of depth. If an object was not in the foreground, I would ask Katie to point her legs or arms towards me.
There were multiple objects in the room which I wanted Katie to interact with or use to add interest to the shot. Although the table and chairs help to get a feel for the cafe space, I didn’t want to overuse poses or compositions with them. I used different areas of the room and different set ups to tell more of a story and give further clues to the location. My favourite object was the wooden piano. I didn’t want to overuse this object so tried to make each pose and composition as varied as I could. We also discovered a Marshall amp in the corner of the room which we HAD to use. This is actually one of my favourite shots from the series.
I wanted to make the most of the floor to ceiling windows which was the main source of light for this photo shoot. Once Beth had styled Katie in the final outfit, I tried to take some backlit photos of Katie by the window. However the view out the window didn’t suit the rest of the shoot and I didn’t like the balance between the light and shadows. Instead, I asked Katie to lean against the window and turn to one side. I then stood inline with her, with the light falling on her from the left. These photos gave me serious chills. The light was so dreamy and romantic, Katie looked stunning and the reflection of her face in the window is so intriguing. Perfection!
I feel so blessed that I get to meet and work with such lovely, talented people. I’m very grateful that Louise let us use her cafe for the backdrop for these photos. The location was perfect for the look of the shoot. I love it when a plan comes together!
If you would like to work on an editorial project with me, please send me a message via the CONTACT page on this website.