Award Winning Portrait Photographer Family

November Portrait Photographer Award | Judges Choice Award | How it Was Done

Long title huh?  You might want to grab a cup of tea and get comfortable as this is going to be a bit of a long post as there is a lot of things I want to say about the image you are going to see.  First, let’s see the image….


Award Winning Portrait Photographer Family


The above image is of my and my family.  We wanted to do a photo to put on our Christmas cards this year (we had to wait until November was over as I didn’t want my movember mo in the photo), and we wanted something that was my style, original, and most importantly fun!  This image was the result.  Anyone that reads my blog, knows that my photography has a distinct style and I wanted to make sure we incorporated that.  But, I also wanted to try something a little different and that is when we decided on a 1950’s themed photo.  I think the end result looks a bit more 1970’s than a1950’s but you get the retro feel nonetheless.


Two big things with this photograph.  I finished it on the last night to enter into the SWPP monthly competition, and having not entered anything into the November competition I figured I would throw this one in and see what happened!  I was very pleased when I found out that it won Gold on Tuesday, and then REALLY surprised when I found out today that it won the Judges Choice Award for the month of November as well!  I have won this award once before, and winning it again was such an awesome feeling (and the little cash prize that comes with it is nice).


Since I have posted this image online Sunday night, I have had a lot of people asking about how it was done….so I am going to share that with you.  😀


I have to say that from concept to finished product on this photograph was probably only 3 hours, which is a pretty good job if you ask me!  My son was a great model for me setting up my lights as well, which did surprise me a bit!  I knew going into the photo that I wanted my usual three light setup and I have done that setup so many times that it didn’t really take me very long to get the lights setup and the ratios correct.  This is the most important part of the making of this image…getting the lighting right.  I knew how the finished image was going to look in my head, and I knew that I wanted good accent lighting along with good key lighting…and I think I nailed it.  If I am honest, I would have shifted the light camera right a bit to accent on my son a bit more than it is…but he is hurtling himself through the air!


The other key to this image is the posing.  Posing can really make or break an image, and for that reason I decided to shoot this image as a single space composite.  What is a single space composite you ask?  Well, in a nutshell it is taking an image of a scene multiple times when things change and then bringing all those things together.  Don’t know what I mean?  Here are the three separate images that make up the finished photograph SOOC (straight out of camera).

Award Winning Single Space Composite Photographer Photography


Why did I do this photograph this way?  The poses.  If I were to shoot all three of us (on a timer as well since I am in the photograph) getting everyone to have that “perfect” pose that they have would have taken many, many, many shots…and no doubt my toddler son would have been over it by that point.  Shooting each person separately gives me the freedom to direct and coach the pose and then choose the most complimentary ones when finishing the photograph.  Amazingly, I took ONE shot of my son jumping!

How do you do this kind of shoot?  Well, there are a few very important keys.  One, your camera MUST be on a tripod.  The slightest change in angle, height, or composition from one photo to the next can either make putting the final image together very tough, or impossible, or it will just not look right.  Two, the lighting HAS to remain the same.  If you lit each subject differently it will not look natural or right in the finished product.  I think most everyone that has seen this image has thought it was shot as one image, and not three!  Doing a composite image this way is not only the easiest form of composite image to do, but it can open you up to a load of possibilities.  I could have done this image with ME being all three subjects if I wanted to!


Editing…  editing a single space composite photograph is very easy, and this comes back to our keys again.  Because the image is exactly the same (in terms of composition and lighting) we need to only decide on a “base” image.  In this case I chose my lovely wife to be the base image.  I did this because her shadow really dictates the rest of the image.  So, I open her image up then place the image of me in a new layer with a layer mask and paint myself in.  Again, because the lighting and exposure are exactly the same, I don’t have to be terribly accurate here….you won’t notice if you did it right!  Then repeat for my son.  Once they are all put in place it’s onto my normal editing and viola!!!  We are done and we have an award winning image that took 3 hours from thought to completion.    Just for reference, and so you don’t have to scroll back up, let’s see the final results again….


Award Winning Portrait Photographer Family


I would like to take this opportunity to talk about equipment for  a minute as well.  I mentioned earlier that I used three lights in the creation of this image.  You are probably thinking “Three lights!!!  I don’t have that kind of money!”  Well, my ENTIRE setup of three lights cost me £250.  I am NOT a fan of using expensive lights.  Why should you use expensive lights when using them off camera?  As long as they fire, and are adjustable what more do you need?  My lights are 3 Yongnuo YN560’s.  You can get them on eBay for £30.  The most expensive part of the setup is the triggers….what send the signal from your camera to the lights to fire.  these cost just over £100 for all three and the trigger for the camera….then you have your stands…stands are stands…I won’t go into to much detail there.  And I just realised I lied to you….the whole setup cost £350 as I also have a Wescott Apollo soft box that I used on the key light.  Modifiers are much more important than the actual lights, so DO spend money on good modifiers…and the Apollo softbox is amazing.  That’s it!  Cheap, quick, and easy!!  Next year I think I will have to make it a bit more festive….and involve our amazing dog.   She just wan’t up for it, though I did try!!


Please feel free to ask any questions below.  I will answer you.  Also feel free to share!!  Sharing is fun!!!

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Join the discussion and tell us your opinion.

Iain Gomes
December 5, 2012 at 10:38 pm

Fantastic blog and image… really cool seeing how you created it and the techie info… Congrats on a well deserved Gold…

Simon Hobbs
December 7, 2012 at 9:28 am

I keep coming back to view this image… keep thinking how wonderful it is. Well done! Just wondering how you added the tea?

January 14, 2013 at 7:33 pm
– In reply to: Simon Hobbs

Hi Simon! Really sorry for the late reply on this. The tea was added later, and it is a shot that I took about 2 years ago when I was in a phase of photographing water, pouring things, splashing things, and other stuff like that. The nice, and easy, thing was that I shot the tea on a white background so it was really just a matter of adding it on a layer and setting the blend mode to screen. 😀

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February 6, 2013 at 9:47 pm

[…] This image won Gold in the Open Avant Garde category for the month of January with The Societies.  It was one of the most complicated single space composite images that I have done, but one that was a LOT of fun to create.  As I try to get more advertising photography into my portfolio, I really wanted to create an image that told a story, was interesting, and told a story.  There are a lot of subtle elements to this photo, and that is part of the reason it was shot as a single space composite.  If you don’t know what I mean about single space composite, read my post about how my photographer of the year nominated image was created here. […]

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