The Prattle Of Trafalgar

The Prattle Of Trafalgar

My clients don’t prattle, but this is my blog, so I do. And I need a catchy title to draw you in.

I like doing character portraits – you can always be a bit more adventurous by telling the story through lighting, and of course you’ve always got people in front of you who emote. I’ve a few clients in theatre and I’m usually harassing them about letting me do portraits for their shows, and sometimes they let me, and really I wish I could do it all the time. If anyone is reading this.

I showed my clients at Trafalgar Entertainment some character portraits I’d done from a few sources. One was Hope Mill Theatre, an amazing, small theatre in Manchester, and I did their productions of ‘Return of the Soldier’ and Sondheim’s ‘Putting It Together’. The other was for the Winter Gardens in Blackpool for whom I did portraits for Madagascar and The Wizard of Oz (if anyone’s reading this).

Anyway Trafalgar didn’t need any pictures for their shows but they did need some staff portraits, and wanted something a bit different. They liked the stagey look of the production portraits I’d done – they all had nice hair lights and contrasty lighting, all very expressive – and so I did a headshot session for them, and it was a nice change to be able to craft the headshots a bit more and make something unusual out of it. We played around with eyelines a lot – some to the camera, some away – and a lot of the time what we shot looked like a 1950s school yearbook photo, which I got a kick out of. Here they are…

Another challenge: I had to travel to central London from Manchester to do this, so had to manage with more or less what I could carry on the train since this city is increasingly hostile to cars. I needed three lights, one for the hair, one for the face, and one for the background, plus camera gear and my light modifiers and stands, to get the effect I was after.  I actually saved a lot of space by swapping a B1 for the tiny A1, Profoto’s little speedlight – which is brilliant for Profoto users as the colour of the light matches the colour from the rest of the Profoto range, it fires off the same trigger (and even doubles as a trigger itself, which means you needn’t panic if you leave yours at home) and it fits into your setups without drawing attention to itself.

That little light is responsible for the halo around the subject, just pointing straight back at the wall behind. And by the way these weren’t meant to be shot against that wall. We had a red paper backdrop on order but for some damned annoying reason it didn’t show up till 4pm. So like any desperate freelancer I used what I had to make it work. And I think it works just fine.

Here’s a setup of the shot. Nothing complicated but spot the shitty rigging solution.


Yessss you’ve seen it. Was originally planning to counterweight my hair light with shopping bag loaded with whatever I could find, but in a most grevious violation of fire regs I used the extinguisher instead. Zing.

Thanks for reading.

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