Life on the Other Side of the Camera

Life on the Other Side of the Camera

Life on the Other Side of the Camera

As a professional photographer, I am just not used to being the subject of a shoot – but that all changed straight after my own wedding.

A close friend and accomplished bride and portrait photographer, Wayne Kahn, stepped up to do the honours at our post-big-day bridal shoot. The theme for these occasions is usually pretty much left as a blank canvas. They are either shot in a studio or on location and the participants will often don their wedding attire for at least one of the set-ups on the day. This is a great opportunity for the couple to trawl additional romantic pix at a more leisurely pace than is usually afforded on the wedding day itself.

For our shoot, I hired a17th century manor house in the south of England for a day and left it to Wayne to organise the hair and make-up requirements - just like any regular photoshoot. I'd previously organised some of my own photoshoots in this amazing location so I was aware that some of the rooms had limited power access. Fortuitously, I had recently picked up some of the new Bowens XMT location lights (my first foray into battery powered lights) so I was keen to see them put through their paces in the field for the first time, and I asked Wayne if he would bring them to the party. The whole kit comes packaged in a compact rucksack with light stands strapped to the sides. I augmented this pack with a couple of umbrellas – ensuring that everything was very quick and easy to move around.

XMT500 Kit in Rucksack

The whole kit comes packaged in a compact rucksack with light stands strapped to the sides. I augmented this pack with a couple of umbrellas – ensuring that everything was very quick and easy to move around.

XMT500 Kits open rucksack

The first set-up was in a room that was undergoing 'maintenance' (and has been for decades) so although it was an area without power or creature comforts, it was visually stunning with a lot colour and texture on the walls. Wayne brought along a backdrop and began setting that up whilst I got to work with the lights. As I mentioned earlier, this was the first time I had owned battery powered and cable-less flash heads and it's one of those features you seem to never know you need until you try it. The XMT heads have batteries in the actual head itself, so there are no concerns about a maverick cable swinging clumsily on the stand or on the floor. To get the two lights set up with stands and umbrellas in place took less than two minutes, so I was ready long before Wayne had his backdrop sorted. Helpful and accommodating model that I am, I took my place next to my wife and waited for instruction.

Behind the scenes with 2 lights and backdrop

It’s worth pointing out that if you've never been the subject of a photoshoot yourself and you're a photographer, then I highly recommend it. You really see what it's like being on the other side of the camera. I spotted things that I do when I'm shooting that might be confusing to a model so it was certainly a valuable learning experience for me. Here's the set-up that Wayne kicked off with.

First setup

The lights were positioned evenly on either side of the backdrop and well above our eye level to ensure that we were being lit from above. I often see some photographers make the mistake of having their key-lights positioned too low. This error can leave unsightly shadows on top of the cheekbones or forehead. Wayne also angled the lights down (as you can see) to ensure an even coverage of light from head to toe.

Model with background

Before the shoot started we were advised that the light to camera right would be our main light and that most of our posing should be directed towards it. (This dominant light had 1.5 more stops of power than its sibling to camera left.) This difference in power gives the shadowing and sculpting you see on the model (my wife) in the pictures herewith. Whist Wayne was shooting he noticed tungsten work-lights in the room behind the backdrop giving out an enticing warm glow. He said that if he turned the flash off and just used the LED modelling lights on the XMT units he could incorporate both colours in his next set-up.

Model with background 2

The XMT modelling lamps give out a similar cool colour to flash so you don't need to adjust the white balance when switching from flash to the LED modelling light. When mixed with the warmer tungsten lights in the room the result is the beautiful warm lighting behind the model that you see in the pictures on this page.

Model on ladder

Wayne barely readjusted the set-up. He simply brought his key light in a little closer and increased its height to accommodate the fact that my wife was now standing on a ladder to show off her dress. He removed his camera’s flash trigger, so as not to further engage the flashes, and reduced his shutter speed to allow for more ambient light to enter the frame.

Model on ladder with light

After this look we completed a few more set-ups outside to quickly catch the last of the fading natural light, then it was back inside for one more set before we had to leave. We grabbed my lights from the other room (again, without the worries of those pesky cables) and set them up in another room in the manor.

Setup 3

This set-up followed on from the look of the previous format as Wayne cultivated that warm glow from one side again. Unfortunately, in this new room we didn't have the glow from the tungsten work-lights, so Wayne simply attached a yellow gel to one of the lights and reverted to shooting with flash - not ambient for this one.

Behind the scenes key light position

As you can see from the behind-the-scenes shots, the key light is to camera right, again positioned just above eye level and angled down. The second light that is also coated with a yellow gel is positioned at a similar distance and height on the opposite side. This time the gelled light has 1 stop less power to allow for that warm glow to fill in the shadows created by the key-light. You can see some of the resulting shots below (I'm sorry, I couldn't protect you anymore, here's a picture that includes me to prove I really was there!)

Jake Hicks with Wife Final Image

After this we were out of time so a few minutes later my XMTs were snuggly back in their rucksack and I was ready to go.

I have to say a huge ‘thank you’ to Wayne Kahn, for not only an amazing photoshoot on the day and tons of stunning images, but also for allowing me to share his work here.

Model Final Image

(For more of Wayne’s work go to:

The bottom line:

If you are a photographer and you've never had a photoshoot that includes you in the images, I highly recommend it.  You will be surprised at how much you learn from being on the ‘wrong’ side of the camera. If you'd like to see some of my work when I'm on the 'right' side of the camera, then you can do so at the link below.

All photos by Wayne Kahn. All behind-the-scenes photos by Jake Hicks.

Camera Settings:

Girl against backdrop - flash

ISO 100
Shutter 1/125
Using Canon 70-200mm

Girl on Ladder - Ambient LED/Tungsten behind
ISO 2000
Shutter 1/60
Using Canon 70-200mm

Girl on Sofa - Yellow gel
ISO 500
Shutter 1/80
50mm Sigma 1.4 lens

Couple on sofa - yellow gels
ISO 500
Shutter 1/80
50mm Sigma 1.4 lens

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