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Hi guys, it’s been again a long time since I have blogged my latest post here.  A combination of work, important projects and family life (3 kids now, and 2 of them at home for 2 months during holidays in July/August) made me virtually unavailable for anything else. I already can’t wait for our first holidays in more than 3 years, by the end of this year, back to Europe !

Anyway, during that time, I have done many different things, and among them, I have upgraded my lighting equipment with an amazing item: the Icelight. When I first heard about the Icelight early 2012, it was through my friend Jerry Ghionis when he was still testing it. Jerry is recognized as one of the best wedding photographers in the world, and he had the brilliant idea to design a continuous lighting that is really transportable and delivers a great light quality. I won’t describe the product here, there are lots of resources on that on the net – – but I simply would like to stress out that this product is amazing *.

So I have ordered 2 Icelights a couple of weeks ago and I got them last Saturday (17 Aug 13). They are not really cheap (US$500 each) but it costs less than a good speed light and for a far better quality of light. It’s as Jerry says: “it’s like carrying window light everywhere you go”. The product is manufactured by Wescott, a famous lighting equipment company, and is of great quality. The box itself looks like the one of an Apple product, and really you feel quality, reliability, solidness when you have the Icelight in hand. Everything looks perfect, and it is, but of course, there are a few cons: like the battery for instance, which lasts only 1 hour at full power (that being said, it’s quite rare that you need full power all the time, and between 2 shots, you can just switch it off …), or the maximum power, which doesn’t enable you to use it in bright outdoor conditions (the Icelight is clearly designed for indoor, studio or night shoots).

As every photographer, I am photo equipment geek … and as soon as I receive a new piece of equipment, I want to test and try it. In less than a week, I have already shot 2 photo sessions with my Icelights: one for a wedding and one that I have offered to a couple who wanted to do something very special (recreate the Wong Kar Wai movie “In the mood for love” mood and atmosphere in the streets of Port-Louis, Mauritius. Here are then some images taken during those 2 photo sessions … and really looking forward to the next sessions with them !

1. “In the mood for love” theme images:

DSC_4900w signedr DSC_4909w signedr DSC_4972w signedr DSC_4996w signedr DSC_5019w signedr DSC_5042w signedr DSC_5054w signedr DSC_5071w signedr DSC_5086w signedr DSC_5141w signedr DSC_5165w signedr DSC_5169w signedr DSC_5183w signedr DSC_5187w signedr

2. Images of Meelin and Oliver wedding – first time I ever used the Icelights:

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3. The Icelight with its box:


* Note: I am not a distributor or reseller of this product in Mauritius or anywhere in the world – Jerry, if you read this, maybe we could do business together here 😉 lol. I am not earning any commissions or royalties by writing this blog post. I am just writing it because I love the product and I think it deserves to be better known.

Despite being quite late for my new year’s wishes, it is commonly accepted to send wishes up to the end of the first month of the year. Therefore I am still on schedule 🙂

My family and I, wish you all the best of love, luck, health and success for 2013. Our politicians, throughout the world, are planning a difficult, tough and gloomy year 2013 – I prefer to see it with hope and opportunities.

2012 has been an amazing year for Pixel in the box – with a lot a new styles and projects reached: fashion, a short animation movie …

2013 promises to be an even greater year, on both professional and personal sides, as we expect our third kid by the end of March !

Again, dear friends, all my best wishes to you for 2013 !

Carte voeux 2013

This is a question that I am quite often asked, hence the reason of this blog post.

As I am also taking more and more images of hotels and villas, I have tried 2 very different techniques, which I will share with you. But first of all, why is it so difficult to take images of interiors: the reason lies in the essence of photography i.e. light ! When you look at a nice hotel room for instance, your eyes have a dynamic that a lens of a camera cannot render – they see both the room itself and the view from the window, at the same time, and both well exposed. The difficulty for a photographer will then be to render those exposures – one for the inside and one for the view – as good and realistic as possible.

The 2 techniques are:

1. The digital blending technique, which I consider to be more a “computer-based” technique rather than a pure photographic technique.

2. The flash lighting technique, which imposes to be much more careful on the ground when taking the image. (I also refer you to the great ebook of an american photographer, who explains this technique in details: Lighting Interiors by Scott Hargis)

For those 2 techniques, I recommend to use the following settings: lower ISO setting as possible (ISO 100 for instance) to get the best image quality; a small aperture (f/11 or above) to get the most elements in focus (except if you are looking for a specific effect); a long shutter speed (1/5th, 1/10th, 1/20th sec for instances) to get the most of your ambiant light (mostly if you put the lights on in the room) – just watch out not to move your camera, else your image will be blurred ! Finally, I also recommend not to shoot too wide – I think 24mm is largely enough. Shooting wide means a lot of lens distortions in the edges of your images.

Those 2 techniques both require some photoshop work afterwards, but while the first one may require hours of it, the second one is more for fine-tuning the image. Both techniques require the use of a dslr (digital single lens reflex) or at least a good compact camera that has Manual, Aperture, Shutter Speed modes. Both techniques require the use of a tripod. That’s basically all for the first technique, while the second one will also require the use of several speedlights (a minimum of 3 I personally think), some equipments to hold those lights – light stands, elastics or other stuffs to fix the speedlights in very remote places if needed … – and a triggering system to fire them. In the end, as you will see, the second technique would be the best one (to me), but it is a bit costly.

The first technique – the digital blending technique. To use this technique, you should shoot in RAW format – this enables to get the most of your exposure in the high lights and low lights. The shooting technique on the ground is pretty simple: select your point of view on your tripod, make a first assessment of the available light (ambiant light) for the inside of the room, take the first photo. From there, you will take several similar images, 1 full f-stop down or 1/2 f-stop down after each other – this means that you will take similar images more and more under-exposed, until you get the best exposure for the window and the view from this window. Generally, I use 3 images – 1 for the inside, 1 for the window, and 1 in-between. Now the tough job on photoshop can start – combining those 3 images into layers in the same image, getting nice transitions, often using selections (to select the frame  of the window for instance).

There are a few tips to make it a little bit easier. First, pay great attention to the window – it has to be plain, with no other objects between the camera and the window (difficult to mask it out afterwards); watch out the curtains, the blinds and other elements that could be very painful to mask out. Second tip, use a manual white balance, as you would not like to have 2 different color sets in your images (although it can be adjusted as you shoot RAW …).

Here is an example of room I shot more than 1 year ago using this technique (2 of the 3 exposures):

and the final result:

And here are examples where this technique would be very difficult to apply, don’t you think so ? 😉

Copyrights Scott Hargis

Copyrights Scott Hargis

The second technique – the flash lighting technique. This technique imposes the photographer to be much more careful when taking the picture. The following steps should be carried on to get nice images:

a. First, after having selected your angle of view on your tripod, you should assess your ambiant light vs. the light of the window. To do so, take a picture, in Manual mode, so that the view of the window is well exposed or highly over-exposed. This is the basis of your image.

b. Start thinking what should be your lighting with flash i.e. what are the key parts of the room to be lit – this would define how many flashes you will need. Here there is a little trick to know about – flashes produce hard light as they are small sources of light (this is why in studio we use soft boxes, umbrellas, diffusers … to create larger sources of light and thus smoother light – the larger and the closer your source of light to your subject, the smoother and creamier it will be). The trick here is that you should not direct your flash to your subject, but you should bounce it on the walls and on the ceiling. The walls and ceiling will then become larger sources of light and will create a beautiful smooth light for your subject. Here is an illustration of this:

Copyrights Scott Hargis

c. When lighting a room, always start with 1 speedlight  and always start lighting the foreground. Then you can combine a second light lighting another part of the room and so on … using this methodology, you will precisely know what are the effects and impacts of each light if you need to place them differently or adjust their power for a better rendering.

d. To adjust the power of your flashes, there is one rule to know: Shutter speed doesn’t affect your flash power, but aperture does. Shutter speed will allow more ambiant light to come to your sensor, so if your room if properly lit with your flashes, setting faster or slower shutter speed will only impact your ambiant light and the view of your window. If you lack power from your flashes, decrease the aperture to get brighter results.

e. Now that your image is well lit (both inside and window view), you can focus on small adjustments. Indeed, flashes will create shadows that can be removed by placing the flashes more adequately. Also, you can have reflections from your flashes in glasses, steel or wooden surfaces. Either you can deal with them while taking the final image, or those will constitute the minor adjustments to be done in Photoshop during the editing phase.

Here is an example of a room lit with flashes and how it was lit (Copyrights Scott Hargis):

Scott Hargis used 3 lights to lit this image, all bounced onto walls or ceiling, and placed so that the shadows created are not disturbing:

To conclude on this topic, taking images of interiors is a difficult and technical photographic subject. It requires patience, experience and a lot of skills (in both photography and editing). Finally it also requires a lot of equipment. But it is also very nice to compose the light of such images and to see the result out of it.

I hope you enjoyed reading this post and it answered some technical aspects … and most of all that it gave you the will to try it ! 🙂

Dear friends,

I am very pleased and proud to announce that our first stop motion movie is on its final steps of production. We (Jasbeer and I) are very proud because this is quite of an achievement that we have done with this short film. And it is a real team work, that looked almost impossible and too challenging a fews months back. But we have successfully met this challenge, and here it is: we are almost there with our first movie ! :)Here is the cover image of our short film, named: “In my Dreams”:

Synopsis: A boy and a girl dream about each other even though they have never met in real life and despite sharing the same passion for ballet, until one day …

But let’s go back to the origins of this beautiful artistic creation. This short stop motion movie has a nice ground story, as it is the combination of 3 arts: ballet dance, photography and 3D animation. The project was born a few months ago, when I contacted Jasbeer, a Mauritian drawer expert in 3D animation who was freshly back from the UK, to propose her to combine her drawings with my photography. When we first met, early April this year, we talked about a few ideas that we would like to achieve together … but really, one project triggered our full attention: the ballet stop motion project was born !

Thanks to the images that my friend Khatleen Minerve took of Meeyin Qiu, I knew there were some ballet dancers in Mauritius. Actually, we now know that there are several schools of ballet dance in Mauritius ! We contacted Meeyin, who then contacted a male ballet dancer, Christopher Charme – after our first meeting, late April, we were all very motivated to go ahead with this project. However, everything had yet to be achieved and we had lots of technical issues to solve.

First, we had to change my normal white photo studio (well it was more turning towards grey than pure white 😉 ) into a “green bubble” i.e. a green screen from ground to ceiling. Green screens are commonly used in the audio-video, cinema and TV industries as they are easier to remove during the editing process. So here we were, painting the ground in green, and creating green curtains for the walls and ceiling …

It was not easy to fix the ceiling curtain !!

The studio was then greeny ready 🙂 In the meantime, Jasbeer and I had worked a lot on the script of the story, cutting it in several sequences. Eeverything has been planned from the acting, the emotions, the background description, the color cast, the timing and number of frames for each sequences, the dancers’ outfits, the angle of view to the lighting and even its temperature ! Our dancers had then to meet to think of a choreography  and we had a few test shoots to solve the last technical issues.

 The beautiful Meeyin.

For the ones who don’t know what is a stop motion movie – this is a movie made of lots of still images rolling at 24 frames per second. Therefore, to see 1 second of film, you have to shoot 24 images. Linked to this fact, there are several constraints, like for instance, to capture a movement, you need to trigger the shutter quite quickly to get a flawless movement. I will certainly write about this in a later post. For the moment, let’s share some behind the scene images so that you have an idea of the whole stuff 🙂

First tests – Jas

First tests – Jas 2 🙂

During the planning process

Meeyin getting ready

The set up

Studio views 1

Studio views 2


Studio views 3

Studio views 4

Jasbeer choreographer 1

Jasbeer choreographer 2

Jasbeer choreographer 3

Jasbeer choreographer 4

Looking for the correct marks 🙂

I should have been a dancer 😉

What is it ? Ballet or rock ? 😉

A Sunday at work – visit of my kids

Jasbeer directing

Jasbeer directing 2

Chloe 1

Chloe 2

Proud Chloe 🙂

A nice angle

During the shoot

Shooting portraits

Flying Jul 🙂


Meeyin and Christopher having fun


Editing 2

Editing 3

In total, the whole project took us about 3 months of work – 1 of planning, 1 of shooting (3 week-ends and a half of shooting) and 1 of post-processing (mainly Jasbeer). Some 4,000 images were taken, for an end result of a bit more than 3 minutes of film. It was a lot of work and efforts, but it really worths it … and we had so much fun ! 🙂

Now we just have to wait for a few more weeks before the last and final version of the film is over – then we will release it for film festivals, and then on the Internet. Let’s be patient ! 😉

Thanks for reading.

Dear readers,

as some of you may know by now, I didn’t win the Fashion Photography Contest but I got an “honorable mention” which allows me to develop a last theme. But first, before going further, I would like to congratulate the winner, a young and talented Mauritian photographer, Max Anish Gowriah. You can find some of his awesome work here.

As I just wrote above, I am entitled to develop a last fashion theme, with fashion designers creating outfits for me. I will need to meet them this week with my ideas … My issue is that I have lots of ideas that I’d like to realize, some of them being even just at the stage of dream 😉 Thus, I have gathered 3 themes that I could shoot for this final and I would require your help by the form of a poll – if you could just let me know which theme you would like me to shoot. Many thanks in advance for your participation !

It’s been now a few months that I have opened my studio in Coromandel; however, due to a very busy agenda, I still haven’t been able to really start shooting in it. Also it still needs to be a bit renovated and better furnished, to properly welcome clients, models, make-up artists … Eventually, I have recently painted the shooting stage in green for a personal project which will combine 2 types of art – photography and animation. I’ll write more on this later on.

When launching my studio, I had in mind to widen my scope of photography to fashion and commercial photography. Recently, I put a first step into the small world of fashion in Mauritius … but not the studio. I took the opportunity of the first Fashion Photography Contest in Mauritius to gather a first small team around me to be able to submit nice images for the contest. This team was composed by Pawan Cavalli – fashion designer; Mélanie André – model; Valérie Lee – make-up artist; Nicolas Malachie – assistant. The shoes were provided by Bella Donna and jewels by Svarowski. Finally, I got some assistance from Sachin Sagar (he lend me some pieces of photographic equipment) and from East-Sider (which provided me with the male mannequin). Pawan designed and created an absolutely stunning dress, using the latest technology and materials, specially for this shoot. As usual, Valérie did an awesome make-up on Mélanie, who was the perfect model for the occasion. Finally, Nicolas’s assistance and help was extremely valuable, as I wouldn’t have been able to set-up all the lights without him. All this was put together in less than 10 days, and for free, which was quite improbable ! 😉 (the idea of the male mannequin even arose in my mind on the same morning as the shoot itself !)

To participate to this contest, I had to submit 2 fashion images before a certain date – and the last free date we all had was actually the day before the deadline. And on that day, the weather was quite grey, windy and rainy on the whole island ! I had decided to do the shoot at Cap Malheureux, the Northest point of the island. It rained almost the whole trip to there, and finally, the sun came out and we had a wonderful sunny afternoon ! Here are some images I took on that shoot:

After submitting my entries for the contest, I posted some images on my Facebook fan page. A few hours later, I got a message from Alexandra Weber Isaacs, who is promoting fashion in Mauritius through her nice and interesting blog. She wrote that my images were nice and pleasant to look at, and technically well realized, but that I missed some elements to compose some really excellent fashion images. Although I don’t deny it, as it was one of my first fashion shoot, it made me think of the definition of “fashion photography”. What is fashion photography really about ?

Alexandra’s definition is as such: “The principal aim of fashion photography is to combine two elements: the perfect presentation and display of a product and doing this in an original way that blends in and enhances a particular mood.” My opinion is that this definition isn’t fully complete as it missed an important piece of the subject: the model. To me, fashion photography is a kind of portrait photography for which the model wears some fashion items that are presented and displayed in an original way, respecting a certain concept and mood. To say it in another way, there is very little difference between fashion photography, portrait photography, modeling, glamour … Honestly, I am still not sure if I am shooting fashion images or just portraits of models, but to put this internal debate in my mind to an end, I got a part of the answer from contradictory comments on the same image – someone wrote that the mood, model and product did not work up to their combined potential and that it could have been better, stating that the male mannequin didn’t fit the mood or the location / on the same image, other people commented that this is one of the best concept image they have seen for a while and that it is a totally great and interesting concept, looking like a surrealist painting, Dali-style.

With this ambiguity in my mind, I came to the Fashion Photography Contest‘s final (I was selected among the 4 finalists) with the idea of building my own “fashion” style. Being a finalist of that contest meant to shoot 2 imposed concepts, with 2 models each. Dresses and outfits were specially designed for the occasion by La Maison de Haute Couture Lionnet Fauzou and by Sanjeet Boolell; models were provided by Mathis Models, directed by Karen Nicolini; make-up artists were Dominique Chan and Cédric Lanappe; shoes and accessories were provided by Bella Donna and the Mauritius Glass Gallery (which designed some amazing shoes in glass ! – see below). The day was really fun and tiring, it made me think of the TV show “Top Chef” for cookers – we had 2 imposed themes, on an imposed location (L’Aventure du Sucre) – although we could pick up whatever place we wanted inside the domain -, we got to know the models, the outfits and dresses and the accessories only a few minutes before starting the shoot. Finally we had a fixed limited time to complete the task, which was to create 2 fashion images by concept + 1 individual portrait of each model.

The first concept I had to shoot was about 2 queens: a dark/devil queen who wants to invade the territory of the white butterfly queen. The outfits were really amazing, the models acted very well. For this concept, I was inspired by the Quentin Tarantino’s movie “Kill Bill”, mainly the scenes in Japan with swords. On the field, I have looked for potential swords and found that sugar canes would perfectly fit both the place and the swords. Then I looked for a “grungy” place and found out an outdoor facade with a lot of textures, geometrical items, old stairs … Perfect for the mood I wanted to create. For all the below images, I wanted to convey a feeling of the strength of their fight, their anger and spirit of revenge ; I also wanted to experiment new angles, using the background for composing my images. To do so, I had to face some difficult elements, such as a strong and harsh sun (it was 11am), I had to climb on a not-so-stable ladder to find new angles, I used a fan to blow some air opposite to the existing wind … – it really looked like a “super-production” from the outside 😉

The second concept I had to shoot dealt with a soldier, coming back from the future to save his beloved princess who was imprisoned in a steel jail. For this shoot, I had to find futuristic inspirations in the locations and in the outfits, which were also really great. The huge engines of the sugar cane plant, the wheels, the wooden boat, the tubes, all in all formed a good set-up for picturing my tale. Because I have apprehended this shoot as a story in 4 steps (images), with the soldier cruising back through future, her beloved princess in her wheel jail (inspiration from “Modern Times”, Charlie Chaplin), the soldier climbing to deliver her and finally the start of their romance. Here I wanted to show the power of love in a futuristic place, using the great-but-difficult-to-deal-with background. It was very dark indeed and my challenge was both to keep as much ambient light as possible and darken all unnecessary disturbable elements. This second shoot was also very challenging for my team as we had to change lighting set-ups 5 times, at 5 different places … within 1 hour and 15 minutes !

Last but not least, I would like to thank a million times Ali Ghanti and my wife – they have assisted, helped and supported me during this whole long and hectic day. The work of an assistant is very interesting but also very demanding – you need to be proactive, to anticipate, but also to react very quickly; you need to suggest and propose improvements in lighting, posing, framing … Both Ali and Diane did that perfectly ! Thanks a lot again !

And wish me good luck for the results ! 🙂

Until recently, I always believed there are 2 types of lighting school – natural light and flash photography. Being a natural light photographer, I had in my mind that natural light was the best quality one and that a photographer using it well was someone able to adapt himself to any kind of situations (and I still think this is true 😉 ). Also in my mind, the role of flash was more to light a dark scenery or fill-in the shadows – this is obviously the main basic role of a strobe (flash). Finally, using flash had some major drawbacks for me: first strobes flatten perspective hone on-camera; second, when off-camera, it requires to move a lot of equipment (a tripod stand, an umbrella or a soft-box …) and this is really not convenient during a wedding and without assistant.

So, with those negatives mindsets against flash, I have launched my studio activities in Mauritius last year … and from then, I have rediscovered the power of flash, the one I learned some years ago during my photography degree in Paris and the one I used on assignments with professional photographers in Europe and in Asia. However, this really was about using big huge studio flashes, either in a studio or outside, and this required a lot of equipment and assistants (I have very recently assisted a Belgian photographer for a Paris Match reportage in Mauritius, using those big huge studio flashes outdoor – you can have a look here). Here comes a technique that is now, I guess, quite well known by professional photographers – it is called “strobist“. This term of strobist was named by David Hobby (and it’s copyrighted), who is one of the 3 masters of flash photography with Joe McNally and Zack Arias. Just have a look at their work and you’ll understand the power of small flash (strobe) photography ! Very briefly, the technique consists of having your flash off-camera i.e. from a different angle than the one of your lens. You can use 1, 2, 3, 10 different flashes to compose the light of your image – this gives you incredible creative possibilities and precise master of your light. Also, used with effective light modifiers (umbrella, soft-box, grid, diffuser, beauty-dish, snoot …), small strobes can achieve great results !

Knowing that you can get amazing results with just a few pieces of equipment, made me rethink the way I was shooting my outdoor wedding portraits. I used to use natural light and reflectors, which is still the way I operate 80% of the time, because it’s very practical in the fast-paced environment of a wedding. But now I also use my mobile lighting equipment to get images I was previously not able to shoot AND to precisely craft and master light to get stunning images with a lot of character (light creating soft or contrasted shadows). My equipment is pretty basic – 3 Nikon sb800 (I might buy a couple of sb910 soon), some stands, umbrellas, soft-box, color gels, reflectors, diffusion panels and radio triggers. I had this equipment for quite a long time, and I used it indoor (for corporate portraits for instance) – but I was reluctant to use it outdoor, because of the wind. So here comes the small detail that makes the whole difference: some weighting bags, given by my friend Michel Gronemberger, professional photographer in Belgium. With them filled with sand or rocks, my stands with umbrellas won’t fall down, even with some wind.

OK, enough said about my ways to flash photography ! Let’s have now some examples of a wedding I shot last week, without assistant – the wedding of Tara and Stephan in Tamarin. What I did was really simple, and the results were great. I simply thought of 2 lighting set-ups, one on the beach, on in the gardens – except those 2 settings, the whole wedding reportage was shot as usual, with natural light.

The first lighting set-up on the beach could not have been simpler than that – a one light set-up, with 1 Nikon sb800 triggered in a shoot-through umbrella, camera left, iTTL mode, +1EV compensation. The idea was to shoot the couple with the sea and the nice sunset behind them. At that time, the sun was hidden by some beautiful clouds and a few rays of sun light was coming out of them. The ambient light was very soft, but the background was pretty clear (explaining the +1EV compensation to the iTTL mode) – this bright background was also used as rim light i.e. the back light that defines your subject outlines. When you are taking pictures with flash, it’s better to go on your camera manual mode – first, you need to take an ambient light image to check which amount of ambient light you need in your final image; then you check the amount of flash light you need to light your subject; finally, you check the balance between ambient and flash light, in terms of amount of light, quality of light (the position of your flash towards your subject) and colors of light. Here’s the result:

Without any strobe, reflector … and measuring light for the whole frame, you get this type of result (which I love as much as the previous one 🙂 ):


The second lighting set-up I used for this wedding was later in the dark. I heard from the owner of the bungalow where the couple was staying that April is the only month in the year when you can have the full moon rising right over Black River, a beautiful river running just down the bungalow’s garden. On that specific day, it was full moon, the sky was cloudless and the moon’s reflection on the river was sensational. Very close to the river was a small pirogue, under a nice tree, both lit by a warm yellow directional spot. The whole difficulty here was to get enough ambient light while it was very dark. After my first test shot for ambient light, I was at ISO 3,200, f/2.8 and 1/20th. If those set-ups are tough for move blur of the background, there’s no risk of getting a blurry couple in my image as the flash will fix them in this very dark environment. Anyway, I had to hold my breath to get some sharpness in my background … The lighting set-up was composed of 2 Nikon sb800, the spot on the boat and tree, and the full moon. 1 sb800 was on-camera and was used as fill-in and commander for the second flash – it was in Manual mode at 1/32 power. The second sb800 was camera left, with shoot-through umbrella, iTTL mode and -1EV compensation (to compensate from the very dark environment). Here’s the result in those 2 different images (both with similar lighting set-up):

And seated on the boat:

Thanks for reading, guys 🙂 Have a good week !

In this blog post, I would like  to tackle a few tips to create nice portrait images. Portraiture is certainly the most common type of photography, as it is extremely vast – it goes from a simple casual portrait, to kids portraiture, family portraits, corporate portraits, weddings, fashion … Obviously, you will not apprehend your clients from the same angle and with the same techniques if it is fashion or corporate portraits. But the few tips I will give you should enhance your images … hopefully 🙂

1. Communication with your model – it seems obvious, but when you are beginning in photography, it is not natural at all to communicate and direct your subject, and it is far more comfortable to be hidden behind your camera. Photography here is more about psychology ! Very few model believe they are photogenic – actually every subject is photogenic. It is our role as photographers to make them feel comfortable, to position them, to find the best angles and techniques to make them look beautiful and be proud of their images. This, of course, cannot be learned in a book – it requires experience, self-confidence, good communication skills, empathy …

2. Find a dynamic in your pose – the whole dynamic of a pose is made by your subject’s body, this is what we call “body language”. Here, the key parts of your subject’s body are the shoulders, the arms and hands, and the legs (if you’re shooting a full body portrait).

– shoulders should be 2/3rd turned – shooting a portrait of someone’s shoulders looking straight at the camera will make him (her) look fatter, as their shoulders will take more place of the frame. Instead of having our client face square to the camera, we need them to do a 2/3 turn away from the camera. Having them turn away will give them a slimmer profile look in the camera and shave off those 10 extra pounds 🙂

– arms and hands should be occupied – keeping your arms and hands straight down your side is really not dynamic and gives the impression of not being comfortable or of being bored. Asking your model to put a hand in his (her) pocket or a hand on his (her) hip will create diagonal lines which will provide a dynamic composition. Also, except for some specific messages that you want to convey with your image, avoid having your model with crossed arms.

– with legs, you can play with the height of your model, being seated, kneed, or standing. Legs can be crossed, one straight one in diagonal … You can make them jump … Any movement would be good for your composition, always trying to avoid having your model planted like a tree 🙂

3. Find an expression in your model’s face – I believe that this is a critical point to make a good portrait. When I am looking at most fashion images nowadays, I really get bored. There’s nothing, not a smile, not a look in the eyes, the skin is so made-up and photoshopped … there is basically no personality in those images, as the model is not the key part of the image – it’s more his (her) clothes that are important (which, I believe, is crap – a model, with some personality and showing happiness to wear those clothes, will certainly give a much more powerful message to potential clients). Hence my point, a good photographer should always try to convey emotions through his (her) pictures – in a portrait, emotions and feelings are initiated by the eyes, the mouth, the global face expression and the body language.

– focus must be on the eyes – that’s the basic of a good portrait: if the focus is not on the eyes (i.e. the eyes are not sharp but out-of-focus), but on the nose for instance, then you lose considerable impact (moreover if you use wide aperture like f/1.4)

–  focus must be on the eyes, not on the chin ! – be careful at your angle, it is always better to take a portrait of someone from a higher point of view. From there, your model will rise his (her) eyes up to you, making them pop up while his (her) cheeks will look thiner. Shooting a portrait from a lower angle is good to create an impression of power … but not really appropriate for beauty shots (except if you want to put the emphasis on the model’s chin) 😉 Thus remember, chin down, eyes up !

– make your model smile – attention, not 1,2,3 … smiiiile ! But really smile, with a good joke for instance. I mean, people look really better when they do smile, don’t you think so ? A beautiful smile should drastically improve 90% of your “not-so-good” portraits.

– avoid systematic direct eyes contact with the camera – looking straight at the camera is natural, as your model is reacting with your, who is behind the camera. However, and except for some specific images (ID portraits, corporate portraits, advertising portraits where the eyes have to “talk and sell something” to the image viewer …), it is also important look at something else – the horizon for instance, providing a visionary message; or a couple who look at each other, full of love, is a far better image than the same couple looking straight at the camera with a “cheesy” smile ! 🙂

– light the face of your model – the role of a photographer is to find the best light for his (her) model. Light will create texture, shadows, depth … a whole atmosphere that will bring personality to the image. The photographer will then have to position his (her) model according to this light, may it be natural light or flash.

4. Overall composition of a portrait – the rules of third is important in portrait, as it is in almost all fields of photography. The key element of a portrait are the eyes, they should be placed on a force line or a force point, as shown here:

Also it is important to pay a careful attention to the background when making your model pose. In Mauritius for instance, you need to be careful of the boats on the sea, of the palm tree that can look like Indian feathers behind your model’s head 😉

5. Specific portraits:

– kids portraits – kids are a difficult subject, like animals 🙂 Indeed, they don’t obey and don’t pose as we would like them to. In order to succeed in kids portraiture, a photographer need to get familiar with the kid (talking with him (her), showing him (her) the camera or your flash …). I also use a little plastic mouse that makes some noise when pressing on it … just so that the kid will look in my direction when I would like him (her) to 🙂

– group portraiture – an important point here is to constitute an homogeneous group, and then to make them do something – talking, laughing … Also try different situations where they are comfortable, as 2 parents lying down in the garden with their kids for instance.

– corporate portraiture – first is to understand the needs of your client (what will the image be used to), then is to find the place where to make the portrait (if in your client’s office), considering light, environment, composition.

– fashion portraiture – for fashion, except if you are working on your own projects, you need to meet specific requirements from your client. Those requirements concern the model, the pose, the clothes, the attitude, even the type of lighting you will use. It is thus very important to assimilate all those requirements before starting the shoot, but it also doesn’t prevent you from knowing what to do to get a great image 🙂

I hope those few tips will help you, photographers to make your model better pose for you, and you models, to be aware of what is a photographer looking for when making you pose for him (her) 🙂

Dear friends, I’m sorry I have been so long since my last post here. Things are moving quite fast for Pixel in the Box and I have been very busy on new assignments and new projects.

Today, I would like to share with you the story tale of a profile studio portrait I did of a friend in January this year. Since I have a studio in Mauritius, I have been taken up a lot for outdoor contracts, so that I have not yet been really able to take profit of this great indoor asset. However, I have lots of idea of portraiture, and, earlier this year, I wanted to test some of them with a female model, my friend Khatleen.

What I really wanted to do with her was testing dramatic lighting conditions on her brown skin. Also, since she has a wonderful prominent haircut, I had the idea to show its volume in a profile image of Khatleen. For drama, I used a black background and a specific lighting set-up – I needed the light to hit only part of her face, creating deep shadows with a very shallow transition. However, the light still had to be quite soft to enlighten a black female beauty. Finally, I had to use a second light to lit her hairs to create a volume effect on them.

Here is the setting I used :

The model has to look straight away, let’s say at midday position – then, your main light, a large soft-box placed around 1 meter away of your model face has to be placed at 2 o’clock position. The second light is placed around 2 meters away of your model to hit her hairs – I used a snoot to only focus the light on them. And here it is, very simple isn’t it ? Everything lies in the position of your light sources – you can try to move them a bit for different effects.

The feelings I have each time I look at this image are the ones I would have when admiring an old statue of a black divinity of beauty or something like this … 😉


June 2018
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