You know you are in for a day of great images when the first image taken on the shooting portion of the day has you ‘chimping’ – for those not familiar with the term it was created about the same time that digital camera screens got big enough, and detailed enough, to actually see the image captured.

Then, when the image was of a certain quality, we found ourselves going ‘oooh oooh oooh’ and pointing at the screen.

Hence the term chimping!

Well the first shot at yesterdays Natural Light Portrait Workshop had me chimping and everyone else chomping (at the bit to get shooting that is).

The first shot of the day

Our model for the day was eighty year old Peter, the father of regular Workshop attendee Anthony.

When Anthony asked if I’d be interested in shooting his Dad as a model and he showed me a picture I was all over him like a rash.

Anyone who knows me, even in passing, know I love to shoot people with some character in their faces and Peter had that in spades.

I enjoy and look forward to every Workshop I run but I had to admit to a certain extra anticipation for this one.

You never know how someone is going to look when lit and shot until you capture those first few frames.

The first look will often tell you wether you are in for a day where a lot of shots will work or one where you are going to be restricted to certain angles and certain light.

The first shot (above) not only was one I particularly liked, but it showed that not only did Peter have a great face it was going to translate into some fine images too.

One of the things I love most about teaching how to shoot in natural light is the eye opening moments where people see light like an experienced photographer for the first time.

That ‘oh look at THAT!!’ moment. This moment is usually followed quickly by ‘that’s so easy!!’

Fluorescent light in a car park

After a few lovely window light portraits in my studio we headed out into the dull and dreary Melbourne day to see what other shots were available to us.

Next stop turned out to be in an underground car park lit by a solitary fluorescent tube. our obliging model stood and posed for the light with great patience as we all captured some strong male portraits in the most unusual of locations.


Whilst standing at the entrance to the car park to discuss what we had done so far, and make sure the lessons of what we had been doing was sinking in, Peter took a moment to light up a cigarette.

This of course turned into another shoot opportunity.

The paparazzi went wild with this one and I have a feeling the ‘smoko’ was not quite the relaxing moment he was hoping for 🙂

An unwelcome intrusion

As is pretty much always the case, eight photographers pointing their cameras at one poor soul attracts lots of attention when we are shooting in the street.

Sometimes the passers by get dragged into the shoot by me – especially if they have a great face – but this time we had a couple of ‘gents’ slightly worse for wear after a morning in the pub and they jumped in themselves.

I shot off one shot just to appease them and move them on and Peter, as he was moving to get out of the shot actually looks displeased but in fact he handled the situation with aplomb, shook the guys hands, wished them a happy day and told them to look in the next days newspaper to see their images!

What a great sport.

As I said, the day was overcast and the light fairly bland, conditions a lot of photographers enjoy because of the soft, even lighting but I personally prefer days with more punch in the light as this gives us a far greater range of shooting opportunities to work with.

The main focus of the Workshop is to learn to see light and learn how to use its many variations. I try hard to sway the group away from ‘locations’ unless the light happens to be great on them (very rare) but the group quickly got tempted into wanting to shoot an old doorway and wall so that is what ended up shooting next on our walk.

Peter was a natural flirt, any young girl walking past while we were shooting would get a smile and a couple of lines to get a reciprocal smile.

Of course Peter being eighty meant anyone under retirement age was a ‘young girl’ and therefore everyone got a bit of attention.

What a great character!

A bit of colour play between wall colour and Peter’s jacket

We managed a couple of quick shots with a bleak bit of sunshine that popped out for a minute or two but as we did not have time to find surroundings that really showed up the lesson being taught the shots were educational but not particularly artful.

Our last couple of shots for the afternoon revolved around a bit of colourful wall that played well against the blue of Peter’s jacket. We worked hard on the ‘Keep It Simple Stupid’ philosophy during the afternoon and chose areas that would highlight our subject rather than the surroundings. This simple wall produced a variety of lovely shots that really added to the mood of the day.

Keep It Simple

I started the day not hoping to get good shots. I ALWAYS expect to get good shots, but a lot of those shots, while good, are not ones that necessarily feed the creative soul.

They are good, competent images taken to demonstrate and teach the lessons being taught.

At a Workshop the lesson is always more important than the image.

But somedays we are fortunate that we can combine both the lesson, good shots AND images that are truly satisfying and that makes a me a happy camper.

A day of promise fulfilled is a great thing.