London & Lagos Based Fashion, Commercial & Advertising Photographer » News and tips for creatives, models and anyone interested in Photography, art, travel or anything creative.

Hello and welcome back! How was your mini holiday? I hope you got to shoot and practice with your cameras. I want to apologise for the late post. I was supposed to post this yesterday but I had 2 shoots over the break and lots of work to get done.

I mentioned last week that we would be looking at the process I go through when planning and setting up a photo shoot.
For easy consumption, this post will be divided into 2. Today I’ll talk about the process and tomorrow we’ll go through a call and production sheet of an actual shoot.


I spend lots of time reading, watching movies, visiting museums and galleries, looking through any and everything visual as I love feasting my eyes and my mind. This is probably the most important part for me. It keeps me excited and challenged while also staying in the loop of what is out there and what is not.

You don’t want to spend valuable time planning and executing a shoot only to find out it has already been done; believe me, it can happen.


Ideas can start out from the lyrics of a song, a character in a book or movie, something visual I have seen or from a figment of my imagination. Once I have that, I start to do some in-depth. I read around the subject and more importantly collect pictures or visual ideas that represent what the idea means to me. (This stage is very important to enable visual representation of the idea to the team that will execute the shoot). At this point, I’m gathering images of what I think the location should look like, the hair, the make up, the colours I want, etc.

Once I have a direction for my shoot, I try to pick a date when the shoot will hold and then set a time line to work to. Then I start searching for a team. Hair and make up artist, a stylist, models and an assistant(s) if I’m going to need one.


Putting together a team is always tricky. The right or wrong team can make or break a shoot. If you have people you’ve worked with before and want to call on then that could be good but be sure to continuously try out different teams so your images don’t all look-alike. It’s also a good way to build a list of contacts you can call on at various times.

At this point, things become fluid and I’m doing a few things at the same time; location scouting, hunting for models coming up with lighting diagrams etc. I make sure to always give every member some leeway to express their own creativity.  So while I might show the make up and hair artist visuals of what I imagine I want, I give them time to research and come up with unique and fresh ways of interpreting the brief. I find this process yields great results.


By now I’m in the final stages of what I want the images to be. The idea is all developed, any props have been gathered, styling and make up is all but set and I’ve drawn lighting diagrams and created a shoot list. I sketch or collect images reflecting the poses or compositions of the intended final images so once we’re on set we can set about creating those particular looks. I aim to get the planned images done and then I’m free to experiment.

Be sure to always leave room for surprises and be sure to try for a surprise once you’ve gotten your “safe” shot.


We will look at the production sheet tomorrow. See you then!

Here’s an image from a shoot based on the idea “beauty and time”
I’ve used and kept a lot of the negative space here to represent time and loneliness. The image was created specifically to be viewed as a large wall print.

Time, Beauty and Lonliness

An image from the series "Beauty & Time"

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Skill level: Intermediate to advanced.


We’ve got a long bank holiday coming up here in London and I for one will be out shooting on one of the days so it’s an exciting and busy time. I’m always mentally absent a few days before because I’m working out so many things in my head. Checking and re-checking to make sure it all comes together as planned.

Yep, you heard me right. I did say, “As planned”. Good images don’t “just happen”; they are created. I’m going to stop here before I give away Tuesdays post today. On Tuesday I’ll be talking about my process of setting up a shoot so be sure to stop by for a “pick my brain” session.


So for those of you who have been following the blog, we’ve covered the basics of aperture in the “know your body” series, so we won’t go over those again. What we will do is discuss further uses of the aperture.

You are already aware that the aperture can be used to control exposure in an image so today let us discuss the term “depth of field”.

Depth of field is a measure of the distance in focus in an image.
The area in focus will be 1/3rd in front off and 2/3rds behind the point you focus on.


How many times have you seen those images where the person or object is in focus and everything else behind it is blurry or out of focus and wondered how that was done?


In as simple terms as I can put it, here goes:

If you set your aperture to a small number (eg, f 1.4, 2.8 or 3.5), then the background is going to be a lot blurrier or out of focus than if you have it at a larger number (eg. f.8, 16 or 22).

And that’s it. Now go practice. 🙂

A few tips before you do run off

1)   The first thing to remember is that the smaller the aperture number the smaller your depth of field so no group photos or you could find that the person in the middle is in focus and everyone else is out of focus.

2)   Not all lenses will have the ability to go as low as 1.4 or 2.8.

3)   How out of focus an image actually is will depend on not only the aperture but also the focal length.
Meaning a lens with focal length at 200 and f3.5 will have more out of focus areas than one at 50 and f3.5.


Make sure to practice and let me know how it works out for you. Remember, questions always welcome. Here, by email or personal message via my facebook page.


Happy Holidays. See you next week.


The image below was taken at a fashion shoot. Camera settings at ISO 100, F7.1 and 1/200.

Beauty Image of model Sheries

Beauty image from a Fashion project by Hannah Brewster. Make up by Mr Gorgeous and Hair by Deanne Chandler

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  • April 5, 2012 - 11:56 am

    CB - Striking image!

  • April 5, 2012 - 12:11 pm

    Kofo B @ Camera Mum - Nice post David and what a great picture. Absolutely stunning, beautiful model, lovely catch lights!

  • April 5, 2012 - 11:01 pm

    davidotokpa - Thanks CB.
    Hello Kofo, thanks for stopping by.

  • April 12, 2012 - 11:48 am

    Planning a photo shoot involoves a few things. Here are a few tips - […] resulting images from this shoot please click to view the “FIGHT CLUB” section of my PORTFOLIO. You can also download a pdf copy of the production file “HERE“ Share […]

It’s a new month. This year seems to have flown by so quick; I wish could slow things down a little bit. Fortunately or unfortunately, none of us have the ability to control time.


What we can control, is time in photography. We looked briefly at shutter speeds last month and now we’re going to take a closer look at shutter speeds and a few scenarios where you might need to manipulate the speed of your cameras shutter.


As you know by now, in very simple terms the shutter speed is a measure of how fast or slow the lens opens and closes. This is important in a few scenarios. (If you didn’t know this, see the “Know your body” series of posts.)


The first is in shooting moving subjects.

When a person or object is moving, you generally need a fast enough shutter speed to freeze their movement.

If it is not fast enough, you get what is called motion blur and depending on how fast they are moving your entire image can end up being unrecogniseable.


To capture an image of a person standing still doesn’t require a fast shutter speed. As long as you can keep the camera steady you could take the picture with an extremely slow shutter speed. If you wanted to capture a person walking, you would have to increase the shutter speed. To capture someone running, you would need an even faster shutter speed and to even attempt to capture a moving F-1 car would require a shutter speed much faster.


If the person or object you’re trying to photograph is blurry try increasing your shutter speed.


The other scenario you might want to increase or decrease your shutter speed is when you are trying to control the amount of light using shutter speed.

If you are photographing a scene at night, there is generally not usually enough light and in order to get the amount of light needed to properly expose the image you might have to leave your shutter open longer.

The reverse would work when shooting in the daytime and the light levels are extremely high. If there is too much light, you increase the shutter speed and then the shutter opens and closes so fast that it reduces the amount of light getting to the cameras sensor.


I want to continue to impress on you the importance of trying out what we go through on here. As well as trying out these things, DO NOT be afraid to experiment with your camera. These are just guidelines and once you understand how the camera works you can begin to create more interesting images by manipulating the camera’s functions and settings.

For example, you might actually want to have some blur in the image and not something totally sharp. It’s all up to you.

Let your imagination be your only limiting factor.


The image below was shot with 2 Strobes. A beauty dish to camera right as the main light and a gridded light on the background.
Camera settings at ISO 100, f8 and shutter speed at 1/125.


Watch AD for D&G

Model shot in Studio

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Level: Intermediate to advanced photographers.


This is the second post in a lighting tutorial series on using on camera flash or speed lights. For the first part, click HERE.

Remember our quick tip from yesterday:

“Your aperture controls the exposure on the person when using flash and your shutter speed controls the exposure of the background.”


Today we’ll be looking at a different application of using a speed light. I can’t stress how important it is for you to actually practice what you’re reading about here. Remember you can always ask questions, either here, on my fb group page or through a private message or email. No question is too small or silly.

OK, off we go.

Scenario 2:

It’s a gorgeous day, the sun is out and a group of you have gathered for your annual reunion at the beach. The water is an intense blue, the clouds are raging mix of whites and blues and it has to be captured so you can all remember this day. Since you’ve got that fancy camera you’ve been entrusted with photography for the day. You should be very excited at this. It’s why you paid so much for that camera, isn’t it?

The only problem is the sun is too bright and if your subjects are facing the sun you get pictures where all their eyes are closed. Easy, you turn them around and now the sun is behind you. You’re shooting on auto so the people come out totally black while the clouds are perfect. On a few shots the people come out good but the background and the beautiful waves and clouds are totally white.

Frustrating until you remember you need to tell the camera just what you want. You know how to do that because you’ve gone through the “know your body” tutorial on the blog. So you switch to manual and start shooting. But it’s still not working for you.


Well the simple answer is that the human body is amazing and our eyes and brain work together to constantly adjust and balance various light levels automatically. Unfortunately, most cameras can’t do that without some help.



I’m sure a lot of you are wondering why you would need flash in an already bright situation.

It’s simple really. If you photograph your model with them facing the sun then you have a lot of light. Too much in fact that they can’t keep their eyes open.

But if you turn them away from the sun, and set your shutter speed for the background, you’ll likely have to go very high which becomes a problem when working with external flash since most cameras have a 1/250 sync speed. In simple English, you usually can’t use a flash with speeds higher than 1/250. So for this you’ll have to drop your ISO as low as possible, and close down your aperture (higher numbers) and this should darken the background. Then you can turn on your flash, increase it to a level where the person is properly exposed and viola.

There can be times when there is just too much light to shoot below 1/250 even at the lowest aperture you have (which would be the highest number).

In these instances, more advanced procedures are required. I’ll address this at a later time.

Well this wraps up my Lighting series on using on-camera flash or speed lights.

If you have any questions please leave a comment and I’ll be sure to address this.
If you found this helpful, please let me know.
If you found this too difficult to follow, please let me know as well.
And if you know anyone with a camera that could do with more knowledge please share this with him or her.
The weather here in London has been good this week. So while you’re out enjoying the sunshine, be sure to try out any new techniques you’ve learnt.

See you next week. Happy shooting.

Here’s an image from several years ago when I was starting out using one speed light. Camera set on manual mode to ISO 125, F8, 1/50.
I wanted to get the lovely sky while keeping her the center of focus in the image so the exposure of the background is one stop below the exposure on her.

Beauty at sunset

Image is of my friend Dawn who I haven't seen in years.


This is post 2 in a Lighting Tutorial series on using speed lights. For the previous post, see below.

Post 1  |  Post 2

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These posts are for the intermediate to advanced photographers.


This will be the first in a series on lighting. I will be covering working with natural light, on camera flash/speed lights, and studio lights/flash heads.

I’ve gotten a few requests about working with flash photography in events so we’ll cover that today. I’ll be focusing on working with “on camera flash”. This can either be the built in flash or a flashgun attached to the camera.


Let’s look at two scenarios,


Scenario 1:

You’re photographing an event indoors and you are trying to capture all the fun and beauty. There are various coloured lights and the décor in the building is stunning, but the images are just too dark to be of any good. You’ve increased your ISO, opened up your aperture as far as you dare if you want to photograph people in groups and be in focus. You’ve also reduced your shutter speed and now you’re getting blurry images because you have to stand there for what seems like forever for the camera to take the picture.


There’s never one way to skin a cat and this is no different. There are a few ways of solving this problem but we’re using on-camera flash this time.

The reason you can’t get both the background and the foreground or the subject exposed properly (exposed in this context means how dark or light) is because every camera can only handle capturing a specific range of light to dark (for those interested in the technical, every camera has a dynamic range usually between 5 to 10 stops.).

Most of the time, you will be trying to balance the subject with the background. If you’re trying to get images where the subject is exposed properly and the background is not too dark or too bright.

A good rule to try and remember is this:

Your aperture controls the exposure on the person when using flash and your shutter speed controls the exposure of the background.

I’ll explain briefly and if you’re interested in understanding the process behind this then leave a comment and I’ll go into more detail.

Without getting too technical, and please understand this is not an absolute rule. It’s just a starting point for you to try and then figure out what works best for you.

Auto: Shooting with your flashgun on auto.

Set your flash to TTL or auto and the metering on the camera to spot meter. Then set your shutter speed to a level where the background is as bright as you want it. The slower the shutter speed, the brighter it will be.

Next adjust your aperture to what you want, making sure your depth of field is enough for what you’re trying to photograph.

Before you take a picture make sure you’re focused on the face. This tells the camera to take a reading of the face and determine what level of light it needs. The flash should then automatically adjust and set a level that keeps the people exposed properly.

This works because you manually set the shutter speed and aperture to give a level that keeps the background from going totally dark, the camera does not change any of the settings but then decides to add the right amount of light to the people to get them lit properly which gives you the best of both worlds.


Manual: For even more control set your flashgun or built in flash to manual mode.

A good starting point would be to set your shutter speed low enough to where you allow enough light in to expose the background properly. (The slower it is the more light you let in; bearing in mind that if it is extremely slow there could be some interesting effects with people or moving things)

Then set your aperture to a number that works for you.  The image is likely too dark. Turn on your flash and either reduce the power or increase the power until the image looks good.

Now that you understand this you can play around with making the background darker or lighter depending on what you want to do.

(If you don’t know how to use your camera on manual mode then see my post on “know your body”)


That’s it for today. We’ll look at a second scenario tomorrow but be sure to try what we’ve discussed today.

Here are 2 images shot years ago (2006 to be exact) showing what can be achieved with a single flash gun.


The baby was shot with one speed light set to auto and the Camera on manual mode at ISO 200, F8, 1/80.  I allowed the background go black for the desired effect.

And the model and child was shot with one speed light on manual. Camera set to ISO 320, F6.3, 1/125. I wanted the background slightly darker than the subjects to make them stand out.


Behold the baby

Chloe was my first baby shoot. I'd love to see her now.


Mother and Child

Image shot in Nigeria during a fashion shoot


This is post 1 in a Lighting Tutorial series on using speed lights. For the previous post, see below.

Post 1  |  Post 2

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  • March 29, 2012 - 10:21 am

    Lighting Tutorial Series: Part II - On Camera Flash Photography - […] This is the second post in a lighting tutorial series on using on camera flash or speed lights. For the first part, click HERE. […]

  • July 17, 2012 - 9:44 pm

    a fantastic read - Oh my goodness! Awesome article dude! Many thanks,
    However I am encountering troubles with your RSS. I don’t know the reason why I am unable to subscribe to it. Is there anybody having similar RSS problems? Anyone who knows the answer will you kindly respond? Thanx!!

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