Sources of Inspiration

I have sometime been asked where I come up with the ideas for shoots. Quite often that is something that is difficult to answer as often a shoot ends up combining several different ideas that may have come from various sources.

Sometimes the inspiration comes from another image or a piece of art. The image here of Aleks is based on a painting that I saw in a gallery in Wellington. I have often found that paintings can provide inspiration particularly for poses.

Others times i will see or buy an object that I think has potential just to play with it.

I saw a string of LED christmas lights on trademe some time ago and thought they would be quite cool to use in a shoot. Back in May I shot them as one of my “Photo a Day” images which is showed at the bottom of this page.

No this is quite nice but I thought I could make it more interesting so with a model willing to be wrapped in the lights you end up with the following image.

Herding Cats

If you shoot weddings you know that they can be quite stressful at times because there are keys shots and moments that you have to record, that basically you can ask for a re-shoot. It is almost the same at kids birthday party.

Except at weddings you generally don’t get the other wedding party deliberately trying to get at the wedding cake, nor getting in the shots (well nearly not always).

Rogue is the 4 year old son of Photographer friend and she asked me along to record his birthday. He was so eager to blow out the candles that he started even before his mother had the cake on the table. Fortunately I managed to get in at least one shot of his efforts at extinguishing them.

And if your wondering about the title of this post. Well the party was held at a cafe that had a Karate Dojo attached to it. While the theme of the kids was pirates, the session was run as a Karate birthday party complete with Kata sessions and games.

The organiser from the Dojo admitted later that they normally ran such parties for older kids as three & four olds are not the easiest to listen to instructions or stay focuses. In fact for some the games they headed off in all directions. A bit like how a bunch of cats would behalf.


This post is not about a session I have shot but rather the culmination of a number of things that I have seen or experienced in the last six months. I have titled it “Respect” because this is to be is central to how I deal with people when I am shooting them. Please bear with me as I hope this will not turn into too much of a ramble.

The first instance that sparked this post occurred back in February when I did a shoot with Maly. For at least half of the session all she had on was wearing was a length of fabric, some of which was very sheer. During a break in the shooting she asked me how it was that I could concentrate on the photography when she was dressed in so little. I explained that I was so focused on getting the shots that I was not actually looking at the fact that she had very little on. In fact I have done sessions where at the end as I have reviewed the images I have not remembered taking them. I also explained that the purpose of the shoot was to produce art and not simply to let me see her naked.

The second discussion occurred during my shoot with Aleks. We were discussing a reasonable successful photographer (in terms of awards) that we both had done shots with. Aleks did not have a very positive impression of his mainly because he wanted to shoot more erotic style images with her when all she had agreed to was a nude shoot. When she refused he ended the shoot.

Now I always tell my nude models that I am going to produce shots where shadows will play a concealing part and that they will resemble early “Playboy”, and definitely not modern day “Penthouse”. In reality the difference is posing between the two can be as little as 3 inches in terms of where the model is relative to the camera. In doing this I am respecting their right to a level of privacy. The only time I have ever done a shot where literally everything was on full display was one at the specific request of the subject.

I always tell them that if I ask them to go into a pose and they are not comfortable doing it then they can say “no” and we will try something else. I do not believe that it is right to push anyone past their own comfort zone (unless they are getting paid for it). That is the way I would like it, therefore the way I treat others.

Producing a great image, especially concept shots, actually involves a collaboration between the photographer and the model. If you as a photographer do not respect the model then the chances of producing great work just got a lot harder.

Red, Green & Blue

If you know anything about colour theory then you will know that Red, Green and Blue are the primary colours. All other colours can be created from them and if you meet them at full strength you end up as white. They are the main colours that you see on all electronic devices.

Red, Green & Blue was another of the topics in the 2012 Interclub Challenge. I decided very early on that I want to show the colours merging into white as one entry, and that I wanted to use a model. The original concept as shown in the photoshopped image was discussed with a makeup artist, and I had a model agree to do it. It never came to fruition as it was going to tie people up for too long and also be expensive.

It was then that I say an illustration that used fabric and when I showed it to Maya (my model) she loved it.

Now ribbons are also expensive but I managed to find satin material that I could cut up and then press ganged my daughter into sewing together into long ribbons. This gave me more than enough material to play with. The only draw back was that the satin freyed and so left little threads everywhere.

We decided that we were going to shoot two different concepts. The first would be similar to the illustration and we would simply deploy each of the ribbons in a light wrap. This is the shot that came about from that concept.

Then in the second series I would bring in the concept of the colours mixing into white. I had obtained a full white mask and a white wig. Maya was very accommodating because it took me and her friend Holly nearly 15 minutes to completely wrap the ribbons around her. It probably would have not been that bad for her if we had not started by putting on the mask & wig.

The final image was manipulated a little in photoshop to really make it “pop” and I hope that it has the dramatic effect I was after.

Aleks in Lingerie

I met Aleks through the model mayhem site although it turned out that she was friends with one of the other models I had shot. After a couple of false starts we managed to set up a shoot for her portfolio. She particularly wanted to do a series of shots in lingerie. I had done plenty of this style before but mainly in a studio environment and I decided that I wanted to try something different. I wanted to set the shots in positions and poses that you would see in lingerie ads. Therefore I planned to use several rooms around the house.

There are two challenges that you face when shooting around the house, rather than in a controlled environment.

Firstly you have be very careful with what appears in the backgrounds. While I thought I had most things taken care of it is amazing how small things will suddenly appear after the shoot when you are reviewing the images. Thankfully Photoshop can fix those.

The second challenge is windows and particularly reflections of the lights in them. I solved this by mounting the camera on the tripod and took two shots in quick succession. The second one was too quick for the flash to recharge nor for Aleks to move so essentially I got a fully masked image that I could composite.

A matter of perspective

Often if you want to produce an image that is dramatically better, or just different, from the same old, all you have to do is change the perspective that it is shot from. I have learned this well over the last 18 months as I have been shooting my “photo a day” images.

At lunch time today I sat down by the Wellington War Memorial to eat. Very some I was joined by a cheeky sparrow and the couple of pigeons, all eager to share in whatever would fall their way. I decided to take an image of my lunch partners but when I looked at all I could say was “boring”.


Then I thought maybe I could put the camera on the ground and see what I could capture. The result is a much better image and my photo for 18th July 2012.


Composite images in Photoshop are relatively easy, but I wanted to see how challenging it would be to create something in camera. The opportunity came up when I was looking for images to submit into the 2012 Interclub under the topic of “Time”.

How do you represent a concept like time in an image. I did not want to shoot photos of clocks and hourglasses because it had been done to death. It hit watching tv one night when a number of ads droned on about products to stop the effects of aging. Let’s show time on the body but in a literal sense.

I would do this by finding a model willing to pose nude and then I would project images of time onto them and record the result. Admittedly I “borrowed” a number of images from Google searches. I met Freya via Model Mayhem and she had no problems being my subject. We set up a projector as the only light source in her pole dancing studio and with the camera on a tripod I encouraged her to simply move around. The images rotated through a slideshow and after some attempts we managed to get a series I was happy with.

The most difficult thing with the shoot was getting the focus right as Freya was moving and there was not a lot of light for autofocus to lock in on, but by the end of the evening we had more than enough usable shots to use.