Studio based Author Portrait.

For this module, I have been given a description of an Author from Ocean City Writers (a Plymouth-based creative writing group)

‘If Catherine Zeta Jones and Jabba the Hut had a lovechild, it would resemble me. Although, to my shame Papa Jabbas genepool would have to be stronger than Catherine’s to get the mix right. As jack of all trades and master of none I have surrendered to my failings. The misguided titles of domestic goddess, cupcake queen and Photographer extraordinaire long forgotten dreams as I now attempt my lifelong ambition of becoming a mistress of the written word. As I am to writing what Frank Spencer was to D.I.Y please bear with me, this might take some time.’ – Cassy Trew.


To start with, I did some practice shoots. I experimented with the rembrandt lighting technique.

My equipment list was

  • Bx kit
  • 2×21 cm dishes
  • Soft box
  • Reflector
  • Sky port
  • Beauty dish
  • Light meter
  • Extension lead
  • Nikon 7200 Digital SLR Camera with 18-55mm lens
  • Honeycomb

I took the following images in my university studio using a white backdrop.

As you can see, it took some experimenting to reach something i was happy with and that i thought represented the rembrandt lighting technique well. I began, making the images over exposed and out of focus but once i slowed down and used the light meter I slowly got better images. I then moved around the lights around to create the effect typical of rembrandt (one side of the face in shadow with a triangle of light under the eye).

The is my favourite image because i think it depicts rembrandt. As well as this, the sitter is looking very thoughtful which is what i want for the author description image. Cassy describes herself as having ‘long forgotten dreams’ and i would like my image to show this.


At this point, I felt confident in a studio setting. I knew how to get the light effect I wanted and had a good idea of the feeling I wanted to put across in my author portrait image. For my final author portrait image, I wanted to recreate this using a few props and taking the studio to a home environment.

The equipment I used –

  • Arri 800W Open Face Light
  • Hasselblad 500 6×6 medium format camera
  • Large lighting stand
  • Reflector x 2

I knew that I wanted to use the line regarding misguided titles of long forgotten dreams and chose to have a camera in the final image. This piece of writing doesn’t tell me too much about the writers physical appearance but I felt that it gives an idea that she doesn’t think very highly of her appearance and may have low self esteem, so i tried to capture this too.

When it came to using the hasselblad, I felt confident in doing so and began planning how I would like to present the portrait. I looked at the different styles of portrait photography – traditional portrait, environmental, candid, glamour, lifestyle, surreal, conceptual and abstract. I came to the conclusion that the styles environmental, candid, lifestyle and conceptual could all represent the author in the best possible way. I felt that the environmental style would complement the description of the author’s character by showing her in her daily setting as a writer. I also felt that shooting this in a candid way would mean that the viewer would have more empathy for the writer and more of an understanding of her. Using the lifestyle style means that it could evoke emotions for the reader, maybe of familiarity. This leads me on to the conceptual aspect. I wanted the image to have a hidden meaning which wasn’t totally obvious but the viewer could speculate over. This being that she had finally settled on a career path which she loved, instead of focusing on others which did not bring her as much joy. I wanted her to seem calm, at peace and comfortable in that environment but also like it was something she loved doing, that she couldn’t help but stay up into the early hours of the morning working on written pieces. It was because of this that I used a desk lamp and a mug of coffee.  Also, although I hadn’t intended on my final portrait being out of focus, (and it is because of the poor lighting) I am actually quite pleased that it is. I think it adds a hazy feeling to the image which may not have been there otherwise.


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