Life Class (drawing) modelling

Note: The author has not life-modeled and probably should not.

Modeling for drawing or painting with one artist (or a group or class with a tutor) is one of the areas of work open to models and can complement photographic and other modeling work.  It seems to be generally enjoyed by those doing it.

Finding the work

The local art centre, university or college may well have a course or session and is likely to appreciate knowing of a willing (or just interested) model.

There is a website for artists models with advice and notices – the RAM website (Register of Artists Models):

Many models here on PurplePort have modeled for life-drawing and other traditional art activities, and they seem generally helpful.

The usual conduct of a session

You will typically be expected to hold a short series of poses for just a few minutes each. The artists warm up by doing rapid sketches. Perhaps 5 of 2 minutes each.

There might be a couple of intermediate length poses (say 15 minutes).

You then go into a static pose that you will be expected to hold for quite a long time (perhaps 2 hours with a break).


Make sure you note on your diary what sort of drawings you are posing for. One model arrived in a slight rush, strode into the class and threw off her robe, to be reminded – in front of a surprised-looking class – that today was just faces [1]. It isn’t always full-figure nude.

Look at some life drawings, and think about and try out some poses before your first session.

Arrive slightly early to the studio. Warm up, go through the poses, etc, and perhaps help setup.

“Make sure you use the loo before taking up the pose, two hours is a long time with your legs crossed.” (IanWarnerPhotography)

Ensure the space is warm. (“Take portable heaters [2]…yes, even in summer! Staying still and relaxed whether nude or scantily dressed for so long, you become cold very quickly.” (CTE)

Choose your positions or poses carefully. What may feel comfortable after a minute might not be so pleasant 15 minutes in?

Relax. Deliberately. If circumstances allow, do a few minutes of relaxation exercises before you start.

If your muscles are tense or you are stressed as you go into a pose then you are more likely to cramp up. Ask the teacher to make chalk marks on the ground to show where your feet or whatever are so you can resume the same pose after a break.

Learn to flex and relax your muscles without altering your position. Then you can ease the cramps a bit without changing position. Guardsmen are taught to tense and relax their calf muscles every so often as that reduces the chances of them fainting.

Have something to think about. Compose your shopping list, imagine a holiday, or dream up a short story.

Examples of life drawing and poses:


The recurrent advice given on PurplePort is to enjoy it, to have fun.

If you have never been in a life class you may be surprised how formal it all is. You do not wander around starkers! You walk to the podium in a robe. Your robe is brought to you when you break (do wear it). The artists will usually be very quiet and the whole atmosphere is like being in a library!

You will be surprised how quickly you find you have forgotten about being nude.

Don’t stress either. You don’t have to stay unduly still. You can still scratch an itch, perhaps depending where, move a hair out of your eyes, etc. Don’t be afraid to ask to move if you’re physically in pain or shake out a hand that’s gone dead. Most groups are lovely and understand that you’re a human being.

Expect mini-breaks between long poses where you can stretch, walk about, and drink tea. If not offered, make sure you ask for these basic needs when you need them. Depending on the duration of your assignment, you are entitled to a break in the middle.

Make sure you stretch properly in between poses.

Know what poses you can sustain for the various periods. The longer pose would normally be seated or reclining. Avoid poses with your arms raised above your head unless you have proven to yourself you can do it. Even 5 minutes is a long time with arms raised. Do your most dynamic poses first since you won’t be holding them for long with the first set, and then gradually simplify the poses as you get into the longer sets.  Aim to do a variety of poses. Standing, sitting, crouching and lying. This gives the artists a variety of shapes to draw from. The class leader should make it clear for each pose how long it is for. If they don’t then don’t be afraid to ask.

Rotate yourself around when posing, so you don’t leave one artist in the far corner just drawing the back of your head or your feet [3] for the whole session. Avoid making or maintaining eye contact with an artist, as this may disconcert them.

Life models move, that is part of the artists’ challenge, so don’t stress, just try not to move a lot. Settle into your pose as early as you can to minimise change. If you need to ease it a bit then try to move one bit at a time to minimise distraction (e.g. a hand or a foot, and back into place). The tutor should always make sure you are comfortable and if at any point you are struggling to hold a pose then let them know so you can have a 2-minute break, or even change the pose.

And don’t twist your back


By all means, talk to people. Have a look at pictures. Young students in their first class may be reticent, the mostly retired people who do various classes are likely to be amiable.


As with modeling for photography life-drawing assignments might be offered in various places. At least one reportedly reputable artist has drawn a model in his hotel room (see First Life Drawing Session Tomorrow, Any Advice?). This seems no more remarkable than doing a photo-shoot in a hotel room, perhaps where someone is working away from home.

Some may be in purpose-built artists’ studios whilst others in local authority buildings, adult education centres, and the like. There is one in the back room of a pub in Chagford, Devon. One model I know conducts sessions at her home.

Things to take

The tutor or artist will generally provide any props they want (if any) otherwise an uncluttered pose may be preferred. You might ask in advance what items they have in their studio so as to have a rough idea of what you can interact with (e.g. chair, stool, yoga mat, pillows, etc). If you are invited to select and bring something then keeping it simple is probably best. The artists are more interested in the shapes you create and the emotion you can convey than any accessories. Indeed, they can draw extra bits and add them in later – it isn’t just photographs that get post-production and additions from stock.

You might take some body oil to help define muscles and something to model with (such as a long white drape).

Credits and references

Lili Thorpe

Lili Thorpe asked a question about this topic which will be asked again. This article condenses the advice of several people in a long discussion into one document.  I hope it helps.


LifeDrawingArtist pointed to good advice online at the website saying their set of guidelines for models and artists/employers is useful and invite you to drop him a line if you have any other questions.

Nick McGrath


Leaf was nervous the first time she modeled nude for her local art school.  “I had no idea what to expect, and I am naturally very shy, so the thought of a large group of students all in a circle around me, looking directly at me, studying me, was intimidating.  But very quickly got used to it. it is actually a really good job.”

If the people drawing you are students, they will probably not interact with you.

If it is a ‘life long learning class’ or similar, it will be full of lovely people of mixed ages who are often regulars to the class and are really friendly and supportive.

My classes are usually 2 – 6 hours long. I usually am asked to start with some 5 minute poses first to warm up, then a longer pose, which may last for the rest of the session. They mark out where I’m sitting so I can move when I get breaks. I usually sit for 40 mins or so at a time. I recommend very natural poses, not twisting too much. Don’t put too much weight on any one limb or a particular part of your body. Try to spread your weight. Try to relax into the pose, as soon as you can. You don’t want to be tense. And the sooner you relax into a pose, the better, as you’ll shift in your position when you do this. If you need to move because you’re uncomfortable, try just moving a hand or a foot at a time, whilst keeping the rest of your body really still. Any movement will be distracting to the artists, so try to avoid it or contain it.

Don’t cycle or walk up a giant hill to your classes, like I used to do. As soon as you stop still, you’ll start to sweat! I’ve stood in front of a class many a time and visibly sweated. Literally, dripping from me, running down my body, down my crack and all. One artist painted in lots of ink splatters to represent my perspiration!

Do not eat too much beforehand. No beans or anything like that lol! Bring water, and something sweet. You’ll feel sleepy so sugar is helpful.

I recommend staring at one spot on the ground, to keep your balance, and to make sure your head stays in the same position. If I’m seated, I usually close my eyes after a while.

I go into a serene and meditative state when I am life modeling. I also come up with bizarre ideas for shoots whilst I’m sitting there – most of my surreal images are a result of this! It’s a good time to start thinking over problems, solutions, and plans for the future. It’s wonderful to have time to think – a real luxury!

If you are worried about them being strangers and feel intimidated, go round and talk to everyone. Tell them it’s your first time. They will all be supportive. Talk to them about their drawings on your break – their techniques, materials used, etc. By the time you get back for the second part after your break, you’ll feel like you’re in good company. I love to see how others have drawn me, it’s very interesting, and they will love some feedback from you!


[1] This may be apocryphal. It falls into the category of stories too good to check.

[2] (heater in use with pose)

[3] Unless, I suppose, they really want to.



After 12 years working as a professional photographer, I realise now more than ever the value of having working relationships with industry vendors. We all have a job to do, we all want to be successful, we all want to make money. I see a lot of businesses take an isolationist approach, which can be detrimental to the success of your business. Instead, I find ways to foster mutually beneficial relationships with vendors.

Recently I was looking at where my fashion portraiture referrals were coming from when I noticed that a venue I used to shoot at several times a year had completely fallen off my radar. We had not shot a wedding there in almost five years. How could that be? We picked up the phone, scheduled a meeting with their team and did something about it.

Below is how we went from an afterthought to front-runner—and rebuilt a relationship and our portfolio along the way.

Know what you bring to the table. 

We are creatives. All businesses need creative talent. They need graphic design, photography services, video services and also someone with vision and the ability to execute ideas.

There is great value in what we bring to the table, and we have to parlay that into a winning situation for ourselves. That’s why we are doing this. Be transparent. I know I was.

We offered to stylise a commercial fashion shoot and promotional video in exchange for premium placement in this venue’s salesroom. It was a lot of work to commit to, but in the end, it was a great way to position the studio as a premier partner. I was doing something no other photographer was willing to do. I bet correctly that the images we produced would drive new business to our studio and galvanise our relationship with the venue.

Think about what your vendors need. 

Anyone involved in this project needs something. We are all in business to make a profit. Most vendors don’t have time to help you with a stylised shoot if there is nothing in it for them. We all need to be a little selfish here, and that’s ok.

So, what do they all need? Updated images for their marketing. This includes social media, print advertising, and billboards—all of which require images. It’s easy to just photograph for yourself and not think about the other vendors involved. That’s a huge miss.

For this shoot, we delivered new prints for their sales room, a multipage flyer highlighting both the venue and my photography to be handed out, and a video commercial. Of course, I got some incredible images for my portfolio to showcase at the next show.

Own the concept and idea. Every piece of it. 

This is your idea. Own it. If you want to just be a heartbeat with a camera, then let someone else run the show—but all you will have accomplished is to prove you are nothing more than a nerd who knows how to use a tool.

Instead, own the concept from beginning to end and showcase yourself as the director, producer, and vision of the project. You will be bringing incredible value to the team. Who wouldn’t want to work with a rock star? Once the word gets out that you and your team pulled this off without a hitch, you will be received with open arms by any vendor on future projects. Screw this up, and, well, you know what will happen. But hey, no pressure.

We owned the entire concept from beginning to end. There are a lot of moving parts to something like this, and you need to stay organised.

Bring in your tribe. 

We all have vendors we like and who we have a good relationship with. Involve those people. This is the trifecta. You now add and galvanise your relationship with existing partners who want to be part of everything you do: florists, limos, tuxedos, models, hair and makeup.

We expanded the shoot to include a bunch of vendors we have relationships with. This shoot had a little bit of everything, so we needed help from our partners. In return, they got imagery. See how easy this is?

Deliver on your promises. 

Don’t you dare come this far and screw this up? You better deliver on all your promises, and deliver fast, none of this six-month delivery time. We had our images ready in two weeks from this shoot. We were sharing and tagging vendors in less than 24 hours after the shoot. Do not half-ass this. If you do, the resulting negative publicity will not be forgotten anytime soon. These are vendors that you have to see week in and week out.

Invest the time and energy needed to complete the project. Hire someone, outsource if you need to, but do it right.

Stay connected to vendors on social media. Thank them for their involvement. Share behind-the-scenes images and stories. You are doing this to keep the excitement and momentum going post-shoot. This is something everyone invested a lot of time and energy into, and you need to do everything in your power to make it worth their while and ensure no one leaves with a bad taste in their mouth. If they do, they will never do it again.

It doesn’t need to be complicated. Is it a lot of work? Yes, but trust me, the results are well worth it. Once you find your rhythm and formula, repeat it all over again.

Dominate your local market.

Shooting in Hotels

Helmut Newton’s remark that women do not live in front of white paper and his preference for shooting in smart hotel rooms gave one reason.


Studios are excellent in many ways, but real and existing rooms offer lots of sets and have a narrative plausibility. One of them might fit the artistic requirement for a particular shoot. Costs, geography, and convenience are other respectable reasons. A hotel is neutral ground (which neither the model nor the photographer’s home is) and has slight and distant supervision.

A touring model may well book a room overnight or longer. One option is to book a rather nice large room, and besides sleeping in it and preparing to meet the coming day may offer availability in it for shoots, intending to at least defray the cost of the room.  This perhaps works best in or near a sizeable town.

A photographer may also be touring, or away on other business, and mix a shoot with it, or perhaps repeatedly use a local hotel in daytime[0] or take it overnight.

Types of location

As well as individual hotel rooms it is worth also considering: suites, AirBnB, B&Bs, and studios made like hotels [4]. In addition, hotels and pubs have function rooms, and hiring one for a declared shoot (of rather larger size and complication than one to one in a room) is a slightly different topic.

Some hotels will hire out their rooms by the hour. Of the ones we might like to use, boutique hotels tend to be aware of photographers. You will probably not be allowed to use the bath/shower or have the model get into the bed because they would have to get the room cleaned again. Boutique hotels may only do this in the quiet seasons. Some few hotels actually present themselves as studios, either occasionally or whenever they are not fully occupied.

For example South House Retreat, Near Dorchester, Dorset

Other hotels or houses may be booked in their entirety among several photographers as a shared location and used much as for any other party or corporate away day.  A slightly different topic.

For example, The Old Rectory (near Bridport, Dorset) or Studland Bay House (also in Dorset) each are a scene of several shoots by groups from PurplePort.

It is helpful if you have seen the actual room before finally booking or accepting it since some look better in their photographs than in reality. On the other hand, that’s also the business you are in. Geography may limit your options, and the question of whether to book into the same room every month with a different person visiting is not absolutely simple to answer.


Life is simpler near home. Laws and customs may be severely different in some other countries, and local knowledge and research are desirable. Contemplating how you return your images to home may also be worthwhile – some customs barriers might be better passed with the camera cards sanitised, in both directions.

To tell or not to Tell?

On the whole, nobody cares. Large corporate chains, if approached through their head office, are likely to say “no” by reflex – this may not apply if you are shooting for Vogue or even Playboy.  The receptionist might be interested but is unlikely to be troubled. A general view seems to be “don’t tell, don’t ask”. Good hotels are very helpful to good guests [2]. Lying is probably a bad idea. Including hotel branding material in a shot is tactless and may lead to an upset.


Bring in a bag, perhaps two bags. Bringing in the whole studio lighting set, C-stands and wind-machine in one go seems unwise [3]. Check-in and shortly afterward go back for the rest. If an eyebrow is raised, the explanation that it is unwise to leave it in the car or that your insurance requires you not to is both plausible and probably true. Indeed, it is good advice.

Artemis Fauna’s four-suitcase packing list [1] for touring probably looks less unusual with a model than with most photographers.


You probably should. If it is a business hotel, then look as if you are doing business. If it is a country house then dressing as if you might be involved in some country life seems better than a black t-shirt and cargo shorts. And boutique hotels may expect hipsters.

Undressed photography in the corridors has been practiced by David Bailey (the real one) and others, but at the very least it should be carefully done out of consideration for other guests, and later photographers and models. Whereas in the rooms, well that’s part of the point, isn’t it.

Check Out

If you breach explicit conditions on the use of rooms or are unfortunate enough to upset the manager, then you might be ejected quite suddenly.  Make sure you have transport or some other retreat plan available.

If (as is usual) all has gone to plan and you have completed your shoot, and have a home to go to, you can check out early, leaving the model or photographer to enjoy the facilities. Or you use the facilities yourself. If you are staying on someone else’s tab then draining the minibar and leaving breakages would be …bad.


Packing lightly seems sensible. A second body and flash give resilience, but the first probably won’t fail, and you can work around lighting problems. Turn the beeping down, avoid flashing under the door and perhaps through the windows, eschew smoke, and generally be discreet.

Police reports, interest, and questions

In general, police are sensible. They are not troubled by people who are not criminals, so long as they are not also arseholes. If the ins and outs of a room excite interest, be ready to show that you are not acting unlawfully and discuss that lawful activity.

References and credits

[0] For instance via or, but many hotels are used to people booking a room to bath and change between work and events.

[1] A Model’s tips for UK Tours. Fauna, A.: a-models-tips-for-uk-tours

[2]  DWM “once ‘fessed up to the receptionist at a lovely hotel in Doncaster, and then asked if she had a step ladder that I could borrow. She duly produced one for me. But, mostly, in, out, job done.”

[3] Although monsignorphotographic who shoots headshot sets (amongst others) checks in ” … first with a small bag then ferry the other stuff in after, lights, backdrop roll and stand, stool….”

[4] E.g.

Colin Adams on boutique hotels near Gosport. GJP, Nigel68 suggested specific hotels.

Many others made specific points.

In 2017-18 these hotels were mentioned:

ChrisD3 offered these links a little while earlier



Carriage with four grey horses

The secret to all business is relationships—the good ones and, yes, even the bad ones. The bad ones drive us to do things like start a blog. The good ones support us, sometimes every step of the way, sometimes literally from the ground up.

“It’s not about what you know, it’s about who you know.” I used to say that with a twinge of bitterness in my mouth. Now, a decade or so later, I realize that isn’t a snide statement. The best thing you can do in business is expand your network.

If so much of our success sits on the shoulders of whom we know, then it’s our job to get out there and expand our reach. Here’s how you do that.

Get Uncomfortablehead portrait of horse

This year I spoke at a convention for equine photographers. Pretty obscure. But those people need social media advice too, and that’s what I was there to teach.

I knew absolutely no one, not even the person who invited me there to speak.

There I was at the opening-night mixer. I dressed confident but not intimidating and walked into the ballroom. My heart was ready to burst out of my chest as I surveyed the room. I had no idea what on earth I was going to say to anyone. I held my breath, walked to the nearest circle of people talking among themselves and said, “Hi, my name is David.”

I didn’t stay long talking to anyone, so it didn’t get that awkward. When the conversation died, I simply excused myself and found another group and did the same thing. By the end of the night, I had met at least half the people there. No, I didn’t remember their names (I should work on that), but the next day when I had to teach them, I knew a lot of smiling faces. By the time the next night’s party came around, I felt like I was out with friends.

Shy? Me too. If that story made you sweat, you are not alone. The success with new relationships doesn’t come from how comfortable you are meeting new people. It comes from you simply doing it regardless of how you feel.

Shut Up and Listen

The next step to building relationships is to simply stop talking. I don’t care if you’re meeting someone on Instagram or in person. If you want to start the relationship right, at least act like you give a damn about the other person.

It’s not brain surgery. People like to talk about themselves. They like to brag and have people gush over them. So, give them the opportunity for both. Ask questions about what they do, how they started, what motivates them, what they’re most proud of in their life right now. Anything works. (Well, maybe not politics, especially these days.)

When you do talk, replace the number of times you typically use the word “I” in your dialogue with their name. According to Dale Carnegie’s classic How to Win Friends and Influence People, the sweetest sound to anyone’s ear is their own name. Just don’t overdo it like this girl I went out with once, who said: “David, why don’t you, David, tell me what David likes to do on the weekend, David.” We didn’t go out again.

Be the Cool Kids Table

One of the first times I went to a big photography convention, I remember feeling like I was back in senior school. I was never at the cool kid’s table then, and I certainly wasn’t at the photo convention either.

In fact, I remember once sitting in a room with a couple of speakers from the show just watching how they interacted with one another like old friends having the time of their lives. I wondered how I could get in with that group. Then it dawned on me: I couldn’t, at least not to the extent that they already were. I didn’t have the history they had together.

Instead, I realized that it was never about getting into the cool kids club. It was about making your own club. I don’t look up; I look across to find colleagues with whom I can form friendships that’ll last a lifetime. I make my own circle, and you can too. You can do the same thing with vendors in your area, with families, with any kind of business relationship you can imagine. Be your own cool kid’s club and develop relationships over time that will help your business grow as you help theirs.

Being in the photo industry is an amazing privilege. Being a part of the Guild of Professional Photographers family has been incredible. There are no others like us. We are the cool kid’s table.

Night time portrait



                                                                                                           Catchlights are the lights reflected in a subject’s eyes. I normally use strobes to capture them. Catchlights add life and sparkle, while their absence can result in dull, lifeless images. There are no hard and fast rules, and sometimes you may want dead and lifeless. It’s all about knowing what you want, why you want it and how to create it. But portraits are almost always better with catchlights.

Single vs. multiple catchlights

Regardless of the light source used, the goal remains the same: replicating what exists in nature. In nature, we have only one light source, the sun, and there’s only one. I’m not a fan a multiple catchlights. There are exceptions to this, notably in the studio with certain fashion, cosmetics and beauty lighting applications, so we’ll look at them both ways. While studio lighting is a bit more forgiving in the catchlight department, my preference is still a single catchlight created by an overhead keylight. A single catchlight is more natural looking. Multiple bright lights reflecting in a subject’s eyes screams artificial lighting.

Positioning your catchlights

Catchlights are best positioned in your subject’s eyes at either 10 or 2 o’clock, just like the ideal hand positions on a steering wheel. Use 10 and 2 as your catchlight position guideline. There’s one more position, the one you never learned in driving school but use every day: the 12 o’clock position. You want your catchlights creating crescent shapes at the tops of the eyes. So 10, 2 or 12 are the ideal positions for catchlight reflections in a subject’s eyes. As long as you stick with those three positions, you’ll be on solid ground.

Rarely do you want a catchlight in the lower portion of the eyes, under the retina. This occurs when a light source is placed below the subject’s eye line. We’re attempting to replicate what happens in nature, with light always coming from above. Lighting a subject from below creates a ghoulish effect

, but there are exceptions to every rule. When you add a second light above that acts as a dominant keylight, you get a pleasing over-and-under effect known as clamshell lighting. I cover other lighting patterns and their catchlights below. In any lighting pattern, any secondary catchlight should be subtle and subordinate to the power and appearance of the keylight.

The position of the catchlight reflected in your subject’s eyes is a direct result of the height, angle and position of the keylight in relationship to the subject. The 10, 2 and 12 catchlight positions are created using these classic lighting patterns: Paramount/clamshell light (12 o’clock) and Rembrandt/loop light (10 and 2 o’clock). If you want a catchlight at the 2 o’clock position in your subject’s eyes, move your light to the same position left or right around the circumference of your subject. The same is true for the 12 o’clock position of the catchlight created with Paramount and clamshell light—simply position your light source above your camera positioned directly in front of your subject. To control where the catchlight falls height-wise, raise and lower your keylight until the catchlight is where you want it. For me, that’s a crescent shape at the top of the eyes.

Filling in the shadows

To fill in the shadows on the side of the face opposite the keylight, you’ll need a reflector, which provides subtle fill without distracting secondary catchlights. Reflectors are incredibly flexible despite the fact that they don’t have their own power source or light modifiers. With reflectors, you use distance to control the amount of light they contribute. The closer a reflector is to the subject and keylight, the brighter the fill light. Conversely, the farther away the reflector is from the subject, the less light it contributes. You also have a range of fabrics to choose from that reflect light with different efficiency, intensity and contrast. The basic rule of thumb is white fabric for a softer, more subtle effect and silver when you need more light and contrast.

The ideal catchlight shape is a matter of personal taste and is dictated by the shape of light modifier on your keylight. There are a few modifiers that are perennial favorites based on the more natural-looking catchlight shape they create. Octabanks were invented for this very reason. Their octagonal shape creates a natural-looking reflection in contrast to that of square or rectangular softboxes. The beauty dish is another modifier favored for the circular catchlight it creates. Umbrellas are another option; they don’t provide a lot of control in the way of light spill, but they are a large round ball of light not unlike the sun. Square and rectangular softboxes can be used, but the reflections in your subject’s eyes will mirror those shapes. It’s all about individual preference.

Ring lights

Ring flash and ring lights are niche lighting tools that are in a category all their own. These lights create a signature doughnut-shaped catchlight dead center in a subject’s eyes. Stylistically, there isn’t much middle ground with ring flash and ring lights; people either love or hate the catchlights they create. I love them.

Catchlights are also useful when you’re trying to decode how an image was lit. They provide telltale clues about the lighting tools and techniques used. You can make educated guesses about what kinds of lights were used, how many were used, how they were modified, what their positions were and how far they were placed from the subject. So when you’re trying to reverse-engineer lighting you see in a magazine or on a movie poster, look to the catchlights.


I have worked my ass off building a successful business. But it hasn’t been easy. The last two years have been enough to break the strongest-willed person.

So, what do you do? I am sure as you read this you can relate on some level. You have had things go wrong in your life or business. We all have. I don’t have all the answers. All I can do is share with you my lessons learned and how I have managed turmoil, adversity and negativity in my recent past.

Roll with the punches.

One thing I have come to realize is that you just have to roll with it. I don’t know, maybe it’s just experience that has led me to this conclusion, but what are you going to do? Give up? Whatever you are doing in life or business, it is going to be met with some level of friction. It’s impossible for it not to. I stress this to myself and my team constantly: “If it were easy, everyone would do it.”

That’s not just some cliché line. Think about it. The people who are successful are there not because they are the best or the smartest. Many times it’s because of their sheer will to do things that others are unwilling to do.

All too often, I see entrepreneurs struggle when they hit pain or friction. The first “no” they hit, they just sort of panic and give up. You just need to tell yourself, “I got this” and roll with it.

Don’t let the negativity get you off your game. And by the way, that negativity can come from friends and family, not just “haters.” Once you start climbing your success ladder, people will become very negative and very few will truly be happy for your success. I have found that circle in life to be very small.

It’s not me, it’s you.

When adversity strikes, you have a choice to make: cower in the corner with fear and panic or strike back. My philosophy has always been: I didn’t start this, but I sure as hell am going to finish it.

We are all entrepreneurs. The challenges I am speaking of impact you whether you are building a business or a career. The corporate world is cutthroat. I know, I spent 40-plus years in it. Climbing that corporate ladder? Rest assured, there is someone trying to chop your legs out from under you. You have either felt it or experienced it. If not, then I promise you, you are not the rising star in your circle.

I believe in success for all. I don’t believe your success comes at my failure or vice versa. Not everyone feels that way. Is it jealousy? Or is it pure laziness? I believe it’s laziness. You may want success but are too damn lazy to go out there and work your ass off to get it. Many of us make excuses to make ourselves feel better. “Oh well, he got the promotion because he is a kiss-ass. I am more qualified”—I guess that’s one way of looking at it. Or, “He got the promotion because he spent more time selling himself, making sure the people in the office knew how qualified he was, and spent time networking with the key people in the office.” See my point?

Is photography really any different? I had to laugh when I was reading in a local Nottinghamshire photography forum about a photographer who was a guest at an event I was shooting. He was mocking me and my business because we were supposed to be a high-end studio, but I was wearing Chino’s at the event. How unprofessional of me. Really? That’s all you got? You are sitting home broke, your business is failing or struggling, and your thing is I am wearing Chino’s. So you are better than me because of that?

We all know what it is like to deal with the cattiness of our peers. Do not let it break your spirit. Instead, realize that this comes from a place of negativity and a refusal to accept that they are where they are in life and business because of the decisions they make. It’s not you. I promise you. It’s them.

Keep that in the back of your mind. These people are pathetic, they are jealous, they are a cancer in your life. Disconnect from them. Disconnect from these groups. Focus on what you are doing because you are doing something right.

Deal with the hand in front of you.

I have learned in both business and in life that I can’t always control what lands on my doorstep, but I can sure as hell handle how I respond. I believe in fighting fire with fire. You come at me, I am bringing the heat back at you. I will never run from a fight. I am just not wired that way. Now, that might lead you to think I like conflict or adversity.

Actually, nothing could be further from the truth. I would much rather have peace around me. You can’t control what the people around you do. I have learned that over and over again. But you can control your own destiny. You will be dealt a hand and then have a choice to make. Fold and run or stay and play it out.

If you decide to fold and run, you are not meant to run a business and you will struggle your entire life to find success at any level. Harsh? Perhaps. Reality? Most definitely.

Success is not easy. It’s hard. It’s messy. It’s a struggle to get there and even harder to stay there. You need to learn how to fight for what you want when it gets tough. Most importantly, you need to learn when to bring some offense to the fight so you’re not always playing defense. An attack will come fast and furious at times, and you will need to take what you have been dealt and make the most of it.

Fight the fight, and, most importantly, fight to win. Let everyone around you know that you are in this to win and that if they come at you, you will push back on them even harder.

Shit happens—keep pushing forward.

On your journey through your career, you will be faced with adversity on many levels. Do not let these moments break you. It’s hard, I know. But it gets easier with every passing day. You are not alone. Everyone’s dealing with their own demons. It can feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders at times, but you can do it. You can push through this. Just stay positive and surround yourself with positive people who want the same things. You will soon realize that your circle should remain tight. Keep the cancer out.

Remember: If it were easy, everyone would do it. It’s true. People are lazy. They want the fruits of success without the incredibly hard work that is required to get there. If you are one of those people who gets this and understands that success is not about luck but about working longer and harder than your peers and doing the things that no one wants to do, I am speaking to you.

Success is there for you. Work hard, and when you feel like quitting, push even harder. Pull an all-nighter. Do what you need to do to achieve your goals. When those around you are laughing at you, mocking you, telling you it can’t be done, use that as fuel. Prove them wrong. Be motivated to show them you will succeed. The ways you handle the pressure will become your defining moments. I believe in you.

And by the way, I am wearing Chino’s as I write this.



The most exciting kinds of artificial lighting are those that mimic natural light. It’s not easy to recreate nature’s subtle, atmospheric qualities. Beginners make the common mistake of throwing way too much light at what they’re shooting. Whether you’re shooting people or products, less is more. The more focused the lighting, the more interesting and visually compelling it becomes. If there’s light everywhere, there’s no direction for the viewer’s eye to follow. If there’s a scarcity of light, the areas that are illuminated become the focal point. We see this kind of subtle light in nature.

Lighting geeks like me love nothing more than watching the way sunlight behaves as it streams through a narrow opening, moves across the sky or scatters into beams of light as it breaks through clouds or strikes the leaves of a tree overhead. It results in unique shapes and patterns. These magic lighting moments give me pause and remind me how powerful light and shadow can be in creating mood and atmosphere.

In photography, we recreate these effects using tools known as “go-betweens,” aka “gobos.” These are typically a piece of wood or metal with a series of shapes and/or patterns cut into it. A gobo goes between the light and the subject to cast a shape or pattern onto it. There are also constant lights and strobe modifiers with built-in mechanisms that allow shapes to be created with light and also permit the definition of those shapes to be varied as desired.


The concept for this “Slash of Light” shoot was the result of a collaboration between local model Laurel Mona and me. We connected via Facebook, where I always post new work, which is a great way to cultivate new relationships with creatives interested in collaborating. Laurel sent over a series of sample images of concepts she was interested in shooting. Several of the images reminded me of a concept I’d been wanting to shoot that was inspired by the striking patterns and shapes created every day on my walls by the afternoon sun streaming through my windows.

This warm, defined, dramatic light changes its shape and angle with each passing hour. We settled on this concept, and over the next few days, Laurel followed up with multiple wardrobe and accessory options. Nailing down many elements before the shoot helps assure everybody is on the same page and working toward the same creative goal.

Styling is a big part of the equation. Ideally, the colours of the background, wardrobe, and hair and makeup should work together to support the overall look and feel of the concept. We chose a warm-toned wardrobe and accessories to help accentuate her auburn hair, a mottled-gold background and the look of afternoon sunlight.


One of the best tools for creating shapes with light is Profoto’s Pro Zoom Spot. With this focusable Fresnel and a strobe, you can create a beam of light that you can adjust from zoom to spot and soft to sharp.

Popular Fresnel models are available from Bowens, Elinchrom and several other manufacturers. What differentiates the Pro Zoom Spot from the crowd is its four built-in user-adjustable blades that can create an endless variety of shapes. When you combine this shape-making capability with the Fresnel’s ability to create anything from soft edges all the way to super-crisp shapes, things get really exciting. The Pro Zoom Spot acted as my key-light and is responsible for the slash of light you’re seeing in these images.

The new model, with its built-in 4,800-watt-second strobe, wouldn’t make sense for me at its prohibitive price tag of £8,000. But the legacy model I use, to which you add your own Profoto Pro Head, can be found on eBay for around £300.

I have seen people get close to this effect using a speed-light. In this method, a cardboard tube is attached to the speed-light. At the front of the tube, two strips of gaff tape are used to create a rectangular shape with the light when the flash is fired. Lastolite makes a set of gobos with which you can create shapes and patterns with speed-lights. You won’t achieve the same degree of crispness on the edges of the shape, but they offer a cool, inexpensive way to get close.

The shape created by the Pro Zoom Spot was confined and hard-edged, with no falloff to illuminate Laurel’s body or the background. This resulted in a flat look that lacked separation, layering, and dimension. So I added two fill lights, one at a time, to better judge their contribution.

These additions needed to be extremely low-key or I’d risk destroying the subtle effect created by the key-light. I needed a kiss of light on the backdrop to create separation and bring in its gold tones, and an equally low level of light on Laurel’s body to provide detail and avoid everything falling into black.

To illuminate the background, I used a Profoto B1 500-watt-second strobe with a 20-degree grid spot. This created a subtle circle of light on the background, providing the separation needed to create more depth in the images.

To add detail to Laurel’s body, I added a second Profoto B1 500-watt-second strobe modified with an Elinchrom 14 x 35 strip box. I varied the strip box’s height and horizontal and vertical orientation for ground and standing poses and positioned the fill lights. For the tighter portraits, I used the gridded strobe camera left as a hair light and angled the strip box slightly toward the backdrop to maintain separation.


Word to the wise: This is not a forgiving style of lighting like clamshell, which we might use when shooting beauty and portrait work. This light has much harder qualities that accentuate every line and blemish. Expect retouching to be more laborious and time-consuming, but the payoff is beautiful dramatic images. For retouching, I used my go-to Beauty Retouch Panel by Retouching Academy, an inexpensive Photoshop plugin that takes care of many of the repetitive tasks required in retouching.



Many photographers dream of working on location in incredible places where one might encounter the occasional giraffe or dolphin. A few years ago I was exposed to the dark side of destination shoots when I was invited by my good friend Brian to shoot inside a vast abandoned country house in West Yorkshire erected before the Civil War. Since then, I’ve had the urge to visit destinations where I am more likely to get tetanus than to see a family of elk.

There is a strange allure to working on location in these abandoned buildings. Part of it is the architecture and history of the building. But to be honest, I’m mostly into it for the spooky factor. At the house, my mind was free to ponder the 100s souls who died there. When I walk through the halls of places like this, I let my mind wander to the history. I also think about the architectural workmanship of those who are long dead and forgotten.

In the nursery room, the name of a nurse was carved into the concrete floor. That gave me an odd, ghastly feeling. Perhaps I was feeling what those gizmos adorned with a lot of blinking lights measure on those ghost hunter shows.

Most of the subjects I enjoy shooting fall into two distinct categories: those that complement the place and those that oppose it. Shooting high-fashion and artistic nudes contrast strangely with the destruction all around the subject, and that dichotomy is interesting to me. The other category embraces the nature of the place, and that is where I get into my arcane mood and work on somewhat disturbing images that evoke an emotion. I am not into gore or blood, but enjoy the more subtle ways of giving those little hairs on the back of the neck a workout. Creating spooky images and seeing the proper response is more natural than some other forms of art where pretentious people come up with all sorts of wild reasons you made an artistic choice. In this case, they just drop their glass of wine and freak out, and you know your mission is accomplished.

I embrace the feeling I get from a specific location. Most of the time, this isn’t going to be a happy one. We might as well call it creepy. As you can probably guess, I love creating images filled with emotion in places like these. Most of mine also include a figure, which might be wearing something that fits the theme, or a beautiful nude. Another common reason for risking entry into these abandoned locations is the sheer wealth of goodies for compositing. I have found unique textures and scenes that just don’t come along frequently, and capturing them adds a unique character to my images.

You’re probably wondering if I believe in ghosts. I don’t, but I have been in many places that should be on any respectable ghost’s list of places to haunt.

Now that you know the reasons I enjoy it, you are probably ready to grab your camera and find some busted house for your next photo session. Before you do that and end up in jail, or worse, let’s talk about some of the things you need to know before you venture forth. Keep in mind this isn’t an exhaustive list, and I am not an expert like some hardcore “urbex” photographers.

Don’t Go Into Basements

There are structural concerns in most of these places, and being on the bottom of the pile doesn’t give you the best odds of survival. Secondly, if there are ne’er-do-wells, wild animals, crazy spiders or exploding fungus, this is where they prefer to live. Bring a sword and a torch or two if you plan to venture down those stairs alone because I am not coming with you.

The Opposite of the Basement Is the Roof

The roof is often the weakest part of the structure for load bearing. Walking on an old roof is a riskier dice roll than the band of stupid adventurers that went into the basement.

Don’t Go Into Houses

Houses are where people are likely to be living (duh). After the last legal residents have moved on, homeless people often take their place, and they don’t much care for visitors. Unless you are an aspiring crack dealer or have a death wish, just stay out of houses. They also have some of the weakest floors and decay much more quickly than their commercial counterparts.

One of the phrases I have heard uttered is “Breaking and entering is a felony, but trespassing is a misdemeanor.” Now, I am not condoning you enter places illegally, but keep in mind that you are probably breaking a law or two in most cases. Be especially careful at federal properties, like abandoned post offices—entering those places is a felony even if the front door is wide open or even missing.

City Permits and Safety

There are plenty of abandoned buildings you can enter for a small fee and enjoy a day of photography without fear of being hauled away in handcuffs or face a hefty fine. Contact a city’s film and television office and ask about an urban explorer pass or permit. They often have lists of locations and descriptions of the safety of those spots.

Just because you have permission doesn’t mean you are safe from those willing to do you harm and take your camera gear. Use common sense, be aware of your surroundings and don’t go alone.

Wear Proper Clothing

Many of these places are downright dangerous. Wear safety shoes to protect your feet from rusty nails, strategically hidden poo and other scary things you probably should kick before they bite you. Change your shoes after you leave the building. You don’t want to track whatever you stepped in all over anyone’s house or car.

Don’t Do Damage

Even if you are in a place that is filled with graffiti, you are there to explore and document, not to alter the location. Be a ghost. Don’t disturb anything. Every time you move something, you stir up dust that can contain a lot of things you probably don’t want to breathe into your lungs. Consider wearing a mask. Fungal spores, mold and lung-shredding particles of asbestos are often prevalent. Depending on your research of the location, any or all of these safety precautions are things you should consider. As I have said before, use common sense.

Many of the most exciting places are those off the beaten path. Most cities have buildings that might still have their original furnishings and equipment or be in pristine but an aged condition. These are goldmines that are closely guarded secrets among those who discover them. A little research can open a door (literally) that would not otherwise be available. Having a robust portfolio of work can also talk you into locations where they know you will respect their property. That portfolio can get you out of a situation with the law when they can see your work and know you are not the type of person they would want to arrest. Of course, all of this goes out the window if you happen to be in a place where the owner of the property wants to wreck your life and sue you to set an example.

Keep all of these things in mind. Have a plan, do your research and work quickly. The less gear you take with you, the better. Best of luck if you choose to follow this path, worthy adventurer.


2 full days spent at the NEC for this year’s Photography Show, and thoroughly enjoyed it all…! I attended the Pro Conference for the first time (two mornings) and was treated to some great talks from inspirational photographers and even an accountant, and the Sunday Times Magazine picture editor… They all combined to describe how to make yourself a better presented, organized, managed and tax-reducing photographer… all good news to the ears! Sometimes you can get waylaid down on things like accounts and make the job at least pay for itself and it was good to see people who are successful at this craft. And they are happy to share their wisdom and experience with us too. Thank you to them! See some of the links at the bottom for the speakers/companies involved, especially if you, reading this, are photographers!

Some highlights… Day 1 – Emma Taylor kicked it off with a rousing talk about taking control and trying to define your style. This was followed by a talk on presenting yourself on websites and portfolios… has made me think again on my quite busy website, and will adopt some tips given on the day by Allie Astell (websites) and Marc Schlossman (printed portfolios). Then a very lively talk and quite inspiring one for me by portrait photographer Mark Wilkinson talking about the end to end process and the problems of setting the ‘right’ price for what photographers do… Didn’t have the answer (as no-one does) but gave some pointers to help! Then a useful end of the morning by accountant Eric Longley who told us a few tips on how to keep the money we do make!

Day 2 started with Amy Shore discussing how to get to the front of the very busy field photography is. She is a car and lifestyle photographer and developed quite a niche for herself, but getting there was a journey of disappointment and ultimately delight! Then Tom Barnes gave a very enthusiastic and at times lightning speed talk through the subject of remaining creative and inspired and was an inspiration as he understood the lows and the highs of this art. He is a very successful commercial photographer. Then we were lucky enough to have an interview style Q&A with the Sunday Times Magazine picture editor, explaining what he wanted to see from photographers and how they should present their work to him. Very interesting, especially with the range of images the magazine covers, they are looking for photojournalistic / documentary photos that tell a story. And the second morning finished with award-winning photographer Emma Blau describing how important personal projects are in getting a photographer more exposure and other work through them. Again a great inspiring talk.

As well as this there was the show itself that ran for 4 days 17-20 March, a huge trade show with hundreds of stands with all sorts of stuff from the expected camera stalls to the more bizarre cat’s protection league, from photo holidays to photo printers (some absolutely huge!), lots of peripheral / add-on items, a plethora of photo and album stalls, and a lot of talks available on the many big stands and ‘stages’ around. I dipped in and out of a few but I was pretty well talked out by the two full morning sessions. One demo I did catch was at the Rotolight stand where Jason Lanier was demonstrating the latest LED Rotolights and was particularly interested in the smaller Neo 2 light which can be a continuous light, a flash, and High-Speed Sync Flash too… Very nice, in fact, I bought one!  I had a good wander, talked to quite a few people, met a few faces from back home and a few more contacts made too. All in all a good couple of days. I wasn’t intending to spend a lot but did succumb a bit (but then, when in Rome!).  I would recommend this show, anyone interested in photography will find something to look at, buy, or be inspired by. There were also many hundreds of photos hung around the arena, some great images to look at too!

A couple of notes:-

1) All pics were taken on a camera phone, so apologies for the poor quality of some (it was just a note-taking device really!).

2) If you want any more detail or ask about any of the people/talks just comment below or message me on

Some Useful links:-

The Photography Show –

Some of the speakers (their sites have some great images!):-

Paul Wilkinson @paulwilkinsonphotography (Instagram)

Amy Shore

Emma Blau

Tom Barnes


Thanks, David!

10 Tips for Shooting Freestyle Scootering


Although there has been a lot of resistance within the action sports community to the new boy on the scene there is no question now that freestyle scootering is here to stay for the foreseeable future. This trend has been seen played out before a number of times within the community. This is why I foresee a future where those core scooter riders who stick with the sport no matter what will be a part of the community judging the legitimacy of the next new sport to come up. Like all booming sports they are judged upon what most people see which is small children snaking everyone blindly at their local park. Not many people outside of the sport are privy to how rapidly the sport has progressed and just how insane some of the stuff being accomplished is. As the brand photographer for Grit, Crisp and Lucky scooters as well as one of the go to guys for the vast majority of events within the UK I’ve seen some crazy things done on scooters and also had the pleasure of capturing them. I’ve learnt a lot over my years in the role and hope these top ten tips for shooting freestyle scooting can help you achieve great results when out attempting to take photos of this sport

– What’s in ya Bag?_DWM2388

First things first and before you have even got to your shoot, what equipment are you taking? If the answer is all of your gear then think again! Shooting freestyle scootering is a lot like other extreme sports in that it is location based meaning you can spend a lot of time on your feet moving from one place to another. Only take what you need and make sure that bag you have is a reputable brand of bag so that it is both comfortable and supportive.

– Dress Sense

Bring location based means you can be out shooting in the elements or even a cold damp skatepark. These places are made for people who are exerting themselves for hours on end so don’t expect there to be central heating. Make sure you wrap up enough for the location and if possible bring an extra layer. You’ll be thanking yourself when you’re not so cold that you’re struggling to fire the shutter.

_DWM2304– Talk Talk talk

Communication is key when shooting any action sport and talking to your subject can help you and your subject in a number of ways. Having them talk you through the trick and how they personally tweak it can help you get the best possible angle while telling them your plans saves you from placing light stands or other gear right in their way.

– Clean up

Although you should be pretty hot on keeping your equipment clean it never hurts to have a Lens pen or lens cloth in your pocket at all times. Skateparks and street locations can be pretty grotty places where lots of dust can get kicked up into the air. One quick wipe before you start prepping the shot ensures that every pixel shall have it chance to shine as it should in your final image.

– Pre Focus

Once you have an idea of how and where you want to shoot the trick from prefocus your shot. This is the key to getting the shot as quickly as possible without having your subject to perform the stunt over and over again. Getting them to stand where they shall be doing the trick and firing a few test shots is a sure way to check you’re all focused in on the right area.

– Duck!

Freestyle scootering alike any other extreme sport it quite a dangerous activity and those that decide to do it are fully aware of the risks, but that’s not where it ends. As you are now documenting it you became apart of that risk and with the highly technical nature of the sport its well worthy being aware of both your surroundings and what your subject is doing. Nobody wants to take a scooter deck to the face.

– Flash_DWM2606

I can’t say enough about off camera flashes, if you are not already using them then change that right now. There are always great chances in which off camera flashes are not needed but the majority of the time I would say they are. Not only do they freeze the action well they also if used well can add more depth to your images making the action seem more explosive. They also open up the opportunity to shooting in low or even no light situations.

_DWM2323– Too close for comfort

Something that is almost a necessity within action sports is with a wide angle or fisheye lens. These lenses allow you to get so much closer to the action which can provide some very striking results. They communicate the extreme nature of the sport really well. If not already in your kit bag then it’s one for the Christmas list.

– Go long

Don’t be afraid to get the long lens out and go for something more scenic. If the scene is worthy of capturing and the trick dynamic enough it will work. A good variation is always needed so don’t hide behind that Fisheye for fear of the trick not looking “extreme” enough.

– Experiment

Last but no means least remember this is only a set of tips to help you achieve the basics of shooting freestyle scooting. They are not a list of rules that are never to be broken. Switch things up; try something that is unconventional from the normal practice because you might just discover a new and amazing way of documenting the sport._DWM2292