Learning on Real Photoshoots

It’s September and students are now returning after the August break.  I have a full day of teaching ahead.

Looking back over last month the highlight was without doubt the sunrise photoshoot of Millie – going through her dance moves at Fleet Pond (with two students in attendance).

5.30 in the morning is a tough call for a lot of people, but the rewards of that early morning light are well worth it.  Fleet Pond is the largest freahwater lake in Hampshire and it can be quite beautiful when the light strikes it right.  With mist rising from the water and with swans gathering all around us, it was gorgeous.

Shooting Millie against the rising sun would, under normal circumstances, tend to under-expose her.    If we had correctly exposed for the light landing on Millie, the background would be overly bright.

Add to that, increasing the exposure would have meant a compromise in at least one of the elements of the exposure triangle.  Brightening the picture would mean either opening up the aperture (which would decrease the depth-of-field – something I wanted to avoid), shooting at a slower shutter speed (not an option for freezing the mid-air movement)… or pushing up the ISO, with the subsequent loss of image quality (IQ).

The solution was to expose for the background and illuminate Millie with flash.

In the first photo (above) you can see Millie leaping in the air with the black 7-foot diameter brolly containing three Canon Speedlites on the left of the frame.

I was shooting in manual with each of the three flashes also set to manual.  The Canon Speedlite system, which I have used for years, enables me to control the power of the flashes wirelessly from the back screen of the camera. So, fine-tuning the light was a breeze.

My camera was a Canon 5D MkIV fitted with the HUGE 200mm f/2 lens.

The super-wide brolly is one of my favourite light modifyers and it throws a gorgeously soft light over a wide area (great for group shots).  With three speedlites fitted, I could chuck out a lot of light and guarantee a fast recylcing time between flashes

The second shot (below) shows Millie with unwanted elements removed from the photo, courtesy of post-production editing in Photoshop.

Millie Green flying-15

What you don’t see in the photo was that Millie’s front foot was partially hidden by some pond weed.  I had to clone her foot from another shot and transplant into this image.

Finally, the reflection was added and the water-splash inserted by the front toe.  I added some clouds and colour-graded the image.

Millie Green flying - reflection darkened-15

Photography doesn’t have to be as complicated as this, but photography is an art form… and comes in many different guises.

Some like to shoot just as it comes out of the camera, some like to avoid any kind of editing at all.  Some photographers prefer to work only in natural light, others are happy to explore the creative opportunities of flash and other light sources.

Many photographers still prefer to shoot in black & white, while others embrace any technique they can to explore their creative options.

No single form of photography is more ‘correct’ than any other.  Each is valid in its own right and we have the freedom to pick our own preferred method.

And THAT is why photography can appeal to so many people.  It can be as simple or as complicated as we like.  If we get personal pleasure and creative satisfaction from the images we take, it’s a win-win.

Students who come to me to learn may well experience a broad perspective of different photographic styles.  I hope when they finally leave – they do so with a better, more rounded and sympathetic understanding of other photographers’ work.


I’m now in the process of talking to parents of another young dancer.

A new photoshoot is being planned and some of my one-year students will assist.

Online courses are fine (to a point) but they can’t take you on photoshoot like this. The experience is unbeatable.

You can see why so many students sign up for the whole year.

Learn Photography

If you’re looking for photography workshops, photography courses or photography lessons, check out our website at Hampshire School of Photography or call Tuesday – Friday 01252 643143

Kevin Ahronson

Kevin is a full-time professional photographer and has been teaching photography since 2009. He founded the Hampshire School of Photography where he runs photography workshops and gives one to one mentoring to photographers at all levels, from complete beginners through to those who want to turn professional

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