How did I shoot that?

This is one of favourite images.

Taken back in 2013, I had the brief of photographing this family in a way that truly represented them as they are, rather than the more traditional posed shot with them all standing formally in front of the camera. This was to be something that personified them as a group, something they could identify themselves with, something completely natural (albeit completely posed, of course).

The concept then was to show the family in a scene which typified their normal life together. The three kids watching the TV with their 3D glasses on, dad reading the paper and mum walking in with a tray full of coffee.

As soon as we arrived at their home, mum and the two girls went through make-up while my assistant and I set up the shot.

As this was meant to be a ‘watching the TV’ moment, we had to make the room look convincingly as if it was shot in the evening with curtains pulled and the warm glow of tungsten light bathing the room.

My first job was to erect a 2 x 1-metre diffusion screen in front of the sofa. I would fire a couple of Canon Speedlites through this to provide a soft key light. The speedlites and the screen (a Lastolite Skylite) were mounted on a couple of C-stands, angled to fire down at an angle on the group. The angle roughly adjusted to provide even light from head to toe.

Shooting with both the camera and strobes both set to manual, I had fine control over the scene’s exposure. This was easily controlled from the transmitter mounted on top of my old Canon 5D MkIII.

Flash photography with Kevin Ahronson
Lastolite Skylite in the foreground with the two C-Stands (Speedlites on top, just out of frame)

To create the look of tungsten lights, I first of all placed a third Speedlite in the hallway, inside in a Wescott Apollo Orb softbox (without the front diffuser fitted). This meant the strobe was firing directly at the highly reflective foil interior and bouncing out in a harsh, high-contrast beam. A CTO gel (Colour Temperature Orange) was added to give the final warm appearance of tungsten.

Then, the lamp on the right of the picture was given the tungsten treatment too.

You can see my assistant, Lee, attaching the Canon Speedlite to the inside of the table lamp

Speedlite number four was unceremoniously taped to the inside of the lamp. We made a decision to fire it upwards (obviously it can only fire in one direction at a time) and like the previous strobe, it also had a CTO gel fitted, to give it a warm, tungsten look.

The orange glow shooting downwards in the final image was provided, courtesy of Photoshop.

You can clearly see from the image above, with the curtains drawn back, that the photo shoot genuinely took place during daytime. The metadata says between 11am-12pm.

The shot below is straight out of the camera, with no edits. The final edited image is under it for direct comparison. Notice the lack of Photoshopped down-light in the unedited image.

There was some additional editing in post to give the image it’s final touch, but not a lot. I like to get it right in the camera if I can.

Straight out of camera
Family flash portrait by Kevin Ahronson
The final edit

As always, if you have any questions or comments please post them below and I will do my best to answer them.

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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