Category Archives: Commerical Work

Photographing Art

One of the advantages of being part of the photographic community is that occasionally you get offered work from other photographers, when they don’t feel comfortable undertaking it themselves. This is exactly what happened when a friend contacted me to see whether I was willing to produce digital versions of the artwork that a local artist Bill Hunt was producing.

I have actually been photographing art works since 2011 when my wife started an arts diploma at the Learning Connexion in tighter lower Hutt. As part of her diploma she needed to document the work she had produced and she did this by way of a blog. That meant I was taking images of the various pieces she was producing.

As these images were largely for documentary, and not for sale, we did not have to worry too much about the final product being exact replica of the original. The pieces came in all shapes and sizes and on various materials which also created challenges in the photography. The set up for most shoot was simple in that we would take an easel onto the front deck and I would stand on a small stool to try to get the right angle. We shot outside so as to use natural light as this created a much even light across the whole image.

The major challenge that you face when photographing an art work on an easel is making sure that the camera is square on to the front of the piece. Otherwise you end up with distortion which has to be fixed in post. Some people attempt to deal with this by hanging the art work on the wall however even then you face the same issue as the hanging line will generally result in the painting being further away from the wall at the top than the bottom.

In 2018 my wife donated a piece of her art to a charity auction and then told the organisers that I could be available to photograph all of the donated pieces so that they could put them into the catalogue. This meant that the images had to be of a higher standard than what I have previously dealt with.

When art work is photographed by professionals they generally use a rig that holds the camera absolutely square to the image. For the auction catalogue I recreated such a rig by putting the camera on the boom arm and using the Panasonic image app to see the image and control the camera. The paintings were laid on top of the white sheet on the floor in the doorway of a garage where they were being stored.

I had placed a level on the floor and got that reasonable straight in camera. That was then used to position the various pieces, and meant that I did not have to play around with each image. That saved a lot of time especially as there were over 30 pieces to photograph.

While the camera/lighting arrangements meant that I could shoot fairly fast and that the paintings did not have distortion, I did face a problem that the light was coming from one direction. This was particularly in an issue on the number of pieces that were behind glass or had a highly reflective surface. These images had to be corrected in post.

Fast forward to 2020 and the request to reproduce Bills work, which I know were acrylics painted on canvas. This was going to be a completely different requirement because the end product needed to be exact copy of the original because it was intended for sale. I also wanted to create a setup that was easy to put together and take down so that I could replicate the process, assuming that the first shoot would end up with further work.

I looked at a number of YouTube clips and settled on an arrangement using two large square soft boxes placed at 90° angles to where the canvas would be seated. Both boxes were at the same power and positioned at the same angle and distance from the centre of the easel support. To make sure that the light settings were identical I metered across the board placed on the easel and confirmed that I was getting a consistent f9.

The camera was placed on a tripod and tethered into my computer using the Panasonic tethering app. This meant that I was seeing the images come up at 27inch and not the back of the camera. This mean that I could really nail the focus.

The app has a really great features that make this sort of work a lot easier. Within the live view (which lets you see exactly what the camera is seeing) you have grid lines but also the ability to place guidelines.

We would position the first piece of artwork on the easel and then drag out a vertical and horizontal lines on the canvas. We would then tweak the angle to the camera, or the easel, to the get the image as straight as possible. Once we had that as close as we could then each of the art pieces at that size would be photographed.

We would adjust the guides only when we were moving to a different size piece.

This worked out really well. We did face an issue that not all of the canvases were actually square at the corners and so on some images did need some fine tuning in Photoshop.

As it turned out Bill was pleased with the first session and I have done two further sessions with his work.

Fitness Shoot with Simon

LR-Colour-60While I have been photographing portfolio sessions of people for a number of years, if you look at my work, you will see that the vast majority are women. So when a friend suggested me to her friend I jumped at the opportunity.

Simon is a personal trainer who operates out of a local gym. He has a background in marketing so when we initially met he had some very clear ideas what he was after, and also what he did not want. We agreed to do two separate shoots, one being in a studio and the second in the gym.

For the studio shoot I had originally booked a place in Upper Hutt that is set up as a full photographic studio. Unfortunately it is based within one of the grandstands at Trentham racecourse and on the Tuesday before the shoot I discovered that another event being held that weekend would make access to the studio virtually impossible.

I then reached out to Freya who runs in Wellington. I had shot in her place a number of years ago. While the space did not have all of the gear of my original choice it had large spaces as well as large area of natural light which I ended up utilising for the shoot rather than relying on the studio strobes.

We finished the shoot in an alleyway behind the studio for a completely different look. Simon had asked for a quick set of images for social media so that night I selected and processed 7 images to send him.LR-Colour-34

For impact I decided that most of the images from the first shoot would be presented in Black & White.


The second shoot took place a fortnight later in a central gym. We scheduled it for late in the evening to ensure that less people would be around. For this shoot I initially started using a single speedlight with an umbrella, however that started to give me some issues in that it would not recycle quick enough. Eventually I ditched the light and cranked up the ISO and shot with the available light knowing that as the images were being shot in RAW I could correct the colour cast that the fluorescent lights would introduce. This worked out quite well.

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Simon appears to be very pleased with the images that he received.

A day at the Salon

One of the things that I firmly believe in is if someone helps you out then you should return the favour. Tiffany Williams, who is the makeup artist who helped me out on the Book Queen series, works at Tawa Hair Salon. They wanted to do a series of shots that promoted what they could do and I was more that willing to help out. The images from the shoot were intended to be used both on Facebook and in print.

Setting up for the shot. In the end the beauty dish was not used.
Setting up for the shot. In the end the beauty dish was not used.

So last Sunday I ended up at their salon for the shoot which consisted of three female and two male models.

Taking photographs of hair dressing is quite tricky. While it is simplistically a portrait you are trying to bring out the details in hairstyles and this can present an issue depending upon the colour of the hair.

The original intention was to shoot each model on a number of backdrops so I set up a white, blue and multi-colour backdrops in such a way so it was a simple matter of changing them. This would enable them to use the same image in different setting. As it turned out the white background was the only one suitable for all models.

This pullback shot shows the position of the hair light.
This pullback shot shows the position of the hair light.

I used a simple two light setup. My main light was slightly to camera right and was in a 1×1 metre softbox. A second light was fitted with a small gridded reflector and mounted on the end of a boom arm. This was then positioned either above or on the opposite side of the model to bring out the highlights in the model.

I did experience some issues with my gear early in the shoot and there was a couple of minutes of panic as the camera refused to fire. Fortunately it resolved itself however it did reinforce the need to ensure that you have back of key gear available.

I am quite pleased with the results and I hope that the client is as well.

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Swimmall – reproducing mannequins

At the same time as running Ministry of Swimming my client also has created a second website called “Swimmall” where he is selling both his brand and other brands. As some of his suppliers already supply him with images the shots taken for this site had to fit with a strict standard. Basically each suit had to be shot on a white background with the model in facing in such a way that you saw the front, side and back of the suits. I joked with the models that these were essentially mannequin shots for them as you could easily replace a model with a mannequin and get the same result.


The shoot did not present any real challenges however after I had shot my first model I realised that a little forward thinking would have saved me a lot of processing time. You see Emma was shot in my usual style of hand holding the camera and I was also adjusting the focal length to get what I considered the best shot. This was a big mistake because it meant that I had three images shot from slightly different angles and sizes that I then had to compensate for in post. Not difficult but all adding extra time.

For the rest of the models I shot with the camera mounted on a tripod and left the focal length alone. This meant that no images needed any tweaking in this regard.

Ministry of Swimming 2012 Update

As it had been over a year since I did the original shoot for the Ministry of Swimming website I contacted the owner to see if he needed any new images. This was indeed the case and this time they were all swimsuits.

I ran a casting call and selected fours models to assist as the suits ranged in size with a number being only prototypes rather than the full size. One model failed to show so my daughter ended up stepping in at the last minute.

The client wanted the same urban style theme as we had come up for the original which was a little challenging when there were 23 different suits and unlike the goggles they did not have names, so there was nothing to guide me on. Still we managed to do it and over a week we shot all four girls in the studio as well as finding new graffiti art to composite in.

The images were delivered tonight and the client was very happy with them which is the result that I was after. Next year we are going to get some male models to complement to series.

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Pan De Muerto

This was another job through a connection. Pan De Muerto is a Wellington Bar/Restaurant specialising in Mexican cuisine. They also sell a range of clothing and the owner wanted to showcase a new range.

The shoot was set for a Sunday afternoon with a very fixed time as the bar opened at 4.00. Trip is a biker who has a very strong resemblance to Jessie James, and he told me that he had organised a motor bike to be part of the shoot. I was amazed when this beautiful customised Harley was brought it. That was therefore going to centre stage for at least some of the images.

The restaurant had amazing murals on the wall so we knew that we were going to get some great images. The crew were also great to work with and it shows in the final images.

Casey – The drain shoot

Casey is an incredible athlete who swum Cook Straight in under 4 hours, and my client definitely wanted him for the website. In scoping graffiti locations I had found a stream that ran under the Hutt Road and came out by Belmont School. I thought that it was an interesting location as it also meant we could combine water and graffiti without the need for Photoshop.

We shot on a Saturday morning in bright sunshine around the base of the pond. I thought Casey was very brave to actually get his head under the water.

We then scaled the sides to shoot in the drain itself. Using a bare flash certainly brought out the muscle definition that Casey had.


The Ministry of Swimming range also includes some kids gear so John arranged for three of his younger, but no less talented students to come down to the pool.

There is an adage in showbiz “never work with kids or animals”. Well that certainly didn’t apply her. The kids were great and followed instructions well. They didn’t seem to mind repeating things until we got the shot.

Sarah on the Street

Sarah is an accountant who likes to model on the side who I met through model mayhem. I asked her to help me with three separate elements that would be shot on the same day.

I met her by the Te Aro shops where there is an old petrol station that is covered with graffiti art and also has a high wire fence perfect for what I wanted.

We then moved on a carpark in Vivian Street. I wanted a shot of a girl in a bikini walking towards a large motorbike. Motorad kindly loaned us the bike.

We ended up shooting Sarah wearing a hoodie over the bikini because I won’t make models freeze in the name of art, as the weather has turned quite nasty.

Green Screen – Grace & Janelle

Part of the concept of doing the MOS shoot was to introduce an urban feel to the photos, and this was being achieved by having graffiti in them. I knew that there were too approaches to this. I could drive all over Wellington, models and gear in tow, and shoot on location, or I could shoot in the warm of the studio in front of a greenscreen and composite the images later.

I had shot both Grace and Janelle before so I knew that they could pull off what I wanted. Grace had the added bonus of having some really nice tattoos that I knew could incorporate in the look that I was after.

The shoot took place over two Sundays while at the same time I scouted locations around the valley as well as on the net.