My first real studio shoot


It’s been a while, I know, but I’m back.

About two years ago I finally decided to delve into flash photography. I hadn’t really liked studio photography before, thinking it was too clinical and too artificial. But studio and flash work has its uses and actually I found myself liking the learning curve. I had bought myself some speedlight equipment, mainly two Yongnuo Speedlite YN560 IV flashes and YN560-TX transmitter. I also picked up some light modifiers (umbrellas) and light stands.

I did some dabbling with the speed lights and eventually tried to shoot my brother’s family but the results were not quite to my liking. A few tries, some videos and a book later I thought I got the hang of hand flash lighting basics.

Without fill flash, the sun would’ve created very contrasty and strong shadows on her face.

I learned a some stuff, like how to fill strong shadows from afternoon sun like in the picture above. A few successes brought up my confidence but soon I found out that the most difficult thing is guiding the model. How to conjure good expressions from people not accustomed to modeling is not easy. I guess doing some research, compiling a folder filled with poses and such can work. Still haven’t done that.

A studio course with a dozen other people and a few models

A few months ago I attended a studio course in Tampere. First, we had a studio theory lesson and then we shot three models for several hours. At first we did some basic shooting with lights set up by the trainer but eventually we got to mess around with the lights and actually try out directing the models. I was already familiar with the basics of lighting so I was able to concentrate more on directing the models.


When shooting with her I wanted to have a very neutral pose inspired by American Gothic, so I asked the model to try out a dollhouse look. This is what I got, I was pretty pleased!

Another model was a more experienced one with a fantasy outfit and well-established modeling pose routines. We had like a dozen photography enthusiasts at the course taking the same photos of her so I tried to think how could I get something different. Everyone was shooting her dress, but I decided to try out something more minimalistic, so I asked her to look at the strobe light and adjusted the camera settings so that the background went all dark.

A simple picture,but I liked the feel of it.

I thought most of the other enthusiasts were shooting her like a fairy princess, but I thought she looked a bit like a child as well. So I asked her to sit on a normal chair, maybe looking like she was being punished for something bad she did. In post I thought the photo looked a bit bland so I did a slight post processing to make it look like she was having a dark aura around her, making the feel of the picture more broody.

Little princess gone bad?

On the second set with the first model the lighting was similar, just with some hair light added. I wanted to have a bit more organic look on her face so I asked her to ruffle her hair a bit and try to look a bit innocent. This was what I got.

A bit more innocent.

I am a photography amateur who likes the “ugly” kind of beautiful, with rough edges, non-posed expressions, snot-on-cheek and such. On my next set up I noticed the fantasy model looked a bit tired after a long day of flashing strobes. I asked her to embrace the fatigue I was spotting from her face and she did as I asked. The results were as directed, but the pictures did not work so I won’t post them here. But I was glad to be able to pick up things and try to steer the situation in a direction of my choosing.

Insight comes from experience

I actually wrote this piece now, three months later, to remind myself of the model guiding process I tried to partake in. I had ample time with each model and I could have been a lot more bold and creative had I had more insight. But I am pleased with the progress I made. The only thing I am not pleased with is the fact that it has been three months already since my last strobe shoot. I need more practise!

Tomorrow I will be doing student studio shoots at work. It won’t be a creative process because we are just doing regular, better-than-cellphone portraits non-stop for 4 hours or until battery dies. It will be more of a technical challenge to get tethering and quick share to student’s email workflow rolling. Early next month I’ll be shooting the portraits of our alumni association board members so maybe then I’ll get to be more creative and try out some more complex model directing again.

This pose is all her, not really my input involved except tweaking the lights.

Models can be found in IG under handles @j.siltamaki and @saijasasetar.