Photography; The Studio Model and the Camera Club

INTRODUCTION - THE VALUE OF STUDIO EVENINGS

This is the second page in what will eventually become a series of articles looking at various different themes of photographic subject matter. (The first covered plants and flowers). In this page I look at camera club and studio work, and most specifically, the studio model. And the page is intended for anyone who has never before tried this genre of photography, or who may simply wish to gain ideas to improve their portraiture and their photographs of people.

For amateur photographers who want to share their hobby with like-minded individuals, or who wish to gain advice or inspiration from other enthusiasts in the local community, the place to go is the local photographic society or camera club. Most clubs of this kind will hold regular weekly meetings with lectures, competitions and discussions on all different aspects of the subject. However, for those who actively take photos, one function of the local photographic society which may be particularly welcome, is that it can provide easy and affordable group access to the professional studio.

In my photography I have always tended to concentrate on composition of images under conditions of natural light in which I could see exactly what I was photographing. I would never claim to be technically proficient with arranging lights and calculating exposures in the studio, and therefore a whole area of this hobby would have been lost to me were it not for the existence of the local camera club. Such groups can give tuition in the use of studio lighting systems, and most will hold occasional events, usually in the evenings, when members can utilise this equipment to photograph whatever the theme of the sessions might be.

Jayne
Jayne
Click thumbnail to view full-size
JayneKerryMelanieNatashaRachel
Jayne
Jayne
Kerry
Kerry
Melanie
Melanie
Natasha
Natasha
Rachel
Rachel
One of the advantages of digital imaging is that so much can easily be done to modify or manipulate the image.This was shot in colour, but it seemed to me better in black and white - a quick adjustment in Photoshop did the job
One of the advantages of digital imaging is that so much can easily be done to modify or manipulate the image.This was shot in colour, but it seemed to me better in black and white - a quick adjustment in Photoshop did the job

INTRODUCTION TO THE SUBJECT MATTER

The theme of a studio session can vary. A popular choice is an evening for photography of 'still life' (inanimate arrangements of objects such as the classic artist's 'bowl of fruit'). Once in my time as a camera club member, the subject matter was a selection of pet reptiles which someone brought along. And some evenings which are dedicated to photographic techniques are useful. Most commonly, however, the subject would be a human model.

Why? Well I guess the reasons are obvious. It's easy for anyone to find subjects for architectural or landscape or still life or even for natural history photography. You can just go out into the town or the countryside and shoot away at the buildings, mountains or flowers. But it's not so easy for the majority of amateurs to get our friends or relatives to pose in imaginative ways for portraits or for fashion, much less glamour or figure studies; both the photographer and the potential subject will often be self-conscious, the subject will not know how to pose, and the photographer may find it difficult to give instruction for anything other than a straight 'passport' style formal pose. The solution is to hire a professional model, who knows what he or she is doing.

Models do come in all shapes, sizes, ages and sexes, but it will not be a surprise to learn that in what still tends to be a male dominated hobby (at least as far as the majority of camera clubs are concerned) the most popular and frequent choice is the attractive female model. And that is fine. We would all love to create imaginative, powerful and thought-provoking art, but most fundamentally we all want to produce attractive pieces of work - be it a pretty flower, a scenic country view, a beautiful building, or an attractive girl's face. The photographs on this page represent my attempts at this subject, taken on studio sessions at the camera clubs of which I have been a member.

  • All photos on this page are the work of the author of this article.

Abby
Abby
Click thumbnail to view full-size
Fleur. Professional lighting from several directions helps to emphasise form, and subtly highlight the dark hairAnd with the same photo I thought I'd try a high contrast, high impact effect utilising a digital imaging programme for this imageMelanie. All of these photos were taken as transparencies and have subsequently been digitally scanned for this pageAnother image of Melanie. Colour reproduction was not ideal after scanning, so I decided black and white was a better option for this imageNatasha. For this photo a simple fan was employed on the left side to give some life and movement to the girl's hair
Fleur. Professional lighting from several directions helps to emphasise form, and subtly highlight the dark hair
Fleur. Professional lighting from several directions helps to emphasise form, and subtly highlight the dark hair
And with the same photo I thought I'd try a high contrast, high impact effect utilising a digital imaging programme for this image
And with the same photo I thought I'd try a high contrast, high impact effect utilising a digital imaging programme for this image
Melanie. All of these photos were taken as transparencies and have subsequently been digitally scanned for this page
Melanie. All of these photos were taken as transparencies and have subsequently been digitally scanned for this page
Another image of Melanie. Colour reproduction was not ideal after scanning, so I decided black and white was a better option for this image
Another image of Melanie. Colour reproduction was not ideal after scanning, so I decided black and white was a better option for this image
Natasha. For this photo a simple fan was employed on the left side to give some life and movement to the girl's hair
Natasha. For this photo a simple fan was employed on the left side to give some life and movement to the girl's hair

THE STUDIO ENVIRONMENT

Usually amateur sessions with models will be group affairs (unless of course one chooses to hire the studio for exclusive use). Of course for the more experienced portrait, fashion and glamour photographer, working solo may be best to create a good one-to-one working relationship with a model, but for the rest of us, photography in a group session has clear advantages. Dealing with a professional model can be daunting, and one advantage of a group session involving fellow club members is that the atmosphere is likely to be friendly and more relaxed for all involved. Confidence may be gained from the approach of others who are more experienced in this kind of photography, and one can glean ideas through observation. Lighting is arranged for the photographers by whoever runs the studio or organises the event.

All that is left for the photographers to decide is the exact effect they are looking for, and how best to convey that to the model.

For this picture of Kerry I came in close to concentrate on the face. I also applied vaseline (petroleum jelly) to a simple sunlight lens filter in order to blur the edges of the photo to give a slightly dreamy or romantic appearance to the image
For this picture of Kerry I came in close to concentrate on the face. I also applied vaseline (petroleum jelly) to a simple sunlight lens filter in order to blur the edges of the photo to give a slightly dreamy or romantic appearance to the image
Emma. Most models employed at amateur clubs will be semi-professional, but Emma was a fully professional, much published model
Emma. Most models employed at amateur clubs will be semi-professional, but Emma was a fully professional, much published model

TALKING TO THE MODEL

Not my strong point! Being naturally introverted, it isn’t easy talking to a perfect stranger, possibly in a state of some undress, trying to get them to pose in a manner which you think is attractive. One feels inhibited and awkward - indeed, probably a lot more awkward than the model, who as a professional or semi-professional will have a great deal more experience and much better ideas than you do. However one thing the model cannot know, is exactly what effect you are after.

Best for the novice to think out a few ideas beforehand, learn from others who are taking photos, and perhaps rely on the model to come up with suggestions, and then just subtly alter the pose to create the most effective or dramatic look. Much of course will also depend on what props, if any, are available. Above all, try to relax. All you are trying to do is take good photos.

A photograph of Natasha. A white robe against a pale background wouldn't work in all photos, but subtle changes in shade can make a picture  less strident or garish, and more tranquil and appealing, the right effect for a pose such as this
A photograph of Natasha. A white robe against a pale background wouldn't work in all photos, but subtle changes in shade can make a picture less strident or garish, and more tranquil and appealing, the right effect for a pose such as this
This photo was taken in the same horizontal format as the previous one, but I later decided to drastically crop the image to vertical format to concentrate just on the head resting on the hands, which I think works quite well
This photo was taken in the same horizontal format as the previous one, but I later decided to drastically crop the image to vertical format to concentrate just on the head resting on the hands, which I think works quite well

HEAD AND SHOULDERS

People photography and portraiture is not the easiest of subjects to do well. One of the problems is that we are used to seeing people in motion, and in three dimensions, and constantly changing their expressions. Captured in a split moment of time, a photo can leave a model in an unattractive pose, with arms or legs awkwardly arranged or cut out of the frame at the wrists or ankles, possibly with very unsightly shadows cast by the nose or the chin, or with strange facial expressions.

One solution is to concentrate on head and shoulder shots - for the novice there's much less to think about without arms and legs to worry about. it creates a much simpler composition, and in some ways a more powerful shot - the face is the part of the human anatomy which most immediately attracts our attention, and which of course best expresses emotion.

As in the earlier photo of Kerry, vaseline was employed here. Special clear centre spot filters can give an effect somewhat like this, but vaseline gives a less uniform, more dreamy effect, which also hopefully focuses attention on the eyes
As in the earlier photo of Kerry, vaseline was employed here. Special clear centre spot filters can give an effect somewhat like this, but vaseline gives a less uniform, more dreamy effect, which also hopefully focuses attention on the eyes
Natasha. A simple pose, but I really like it - and the slightly quizzical flirty look on her face. (Maybe she looks quizzical because she's wondering what on Earth I'm trying to do?)
Natasha. A simple pose, but I really like it - and the slightly quizzical flirty look on her face. (Maybe she looks quizzical because she's wondering what on Earth I'm trying to do?)

THE EYES HAVE IT

If the face is what first attracts our attention, the part of the face which most draws our eyes - are the model's own eyes - particularly if the model is looking at the camera. It should be possible in a studio session to achieve perfect focus across the image, but come what may, the eyes are the place to try to ensure that focusing is pin sharp.

Of course the same rule applies to outdoor photography. Usually In a studio, the photographer can employ a small aperture on the lens allowing a great depth of focus so everything is sharp - but outdoors there may be a desire to have a very narrow depth of field to ensure the background is out of focus and therefore not distracting. Even so, making certain the eyes are focused sharply really is the prime consideration in all forms of people photography with the possible exception of action shots.

Joanna in ultra close-up. In addition to front lighting, a strong backlight illuminates the hair
Joanna in ultra close-up. In addition to front lighting, a strong backlight illuminates the hair
Click thumbnail to view full-size
Zoe. Is she a Goth or a punk? I don't know. It's not really my scene, but I like the poseI quite like the unconventional fashion, as well as the patterned backdrop canvasThis is Becky. A simple portrait, with a head scarf and coloured backdrop for interestNicky. There's really no need for the portrait subject to be staring passport-like at the cameraNatasha. A white backdrop canvas can obviously allow the model to really stand out
Zoe. Is she a Goth or a punk? I don't know. It's not really my scene, but I like the pose
Zoe. Is she a Goth or a punk? I don't know. It's not really my scene, but I like the pose
I quite like the unconventional fashion, as well as the patterned backdrop canvas
I quite like the unconventional fashion, as well as the patterned backdrop canvas
This is Becky. A simple portrait, with a head scarf and coloured backdrop for interest
This is Becky. A simple portrait, with a head scarf and coloured backdrop for interest
Nicky. There's really no need for the portrait subject to be staring passport-like at the camera
Nicky. There's really no need for the portrait subject to be staring passport-like at the camera
Natasha. A white backdrop canvas can obviously allow the model to really stand out
Natasha. A white backdrop canvas can obviously allow the model to really stand out

BACKGROUNDS

The background can be an important part of any photographic study such as a portrait. In the studio of course, the entire background can be stage managed. It can compliment the subject matter if it consists of props which reflect the model’s activity, or if the background colour or style reflects the model’s mood or personality. However, more often than not for the novice amateur, backgrounds prove a distraction taking the eye away from the subject of the photograph and sometimes completely spoiling what might otherwise be a good shot, as in the classic outdoors 'tree growing out of the model's head' effect. The easy solution in the studio is to remove any source of distraction and use a plain or patterned backdrop with perhaps just one prop ( a chair for the model to sit on, or something to hold in the hand). Most studios will have a range of backdrop canvases and props, or if a 'themed' shoot is planned, then various suitable props can be hired accordingly.

In this photo l like the pose, but not the smile. I can't remember if I asked Rachel to smile, or whether she just did, but although it fitted her friendly personality, for me it doesn't quite gel with the aggressive image the outfit and look conveys
In this photo l like the pose, but not the smile. I can't remember if I asked Rachel to smile, or whether she just did, but although it fitted her friendly personality, for me it doesn't quite gel with the aggressive image the outfit and look conveys
Fleur. One of my favourite portraits, partly because of the attractiveness of the model, but mainly because it appears natural and unposed, with the model seemingly oblivious to the photographer
Fleur. One of my favourite portraits, partly because of the attractiveness of the model, but mainly because it appears natural and unposed, with the model seemingly oblivious to the photographer

THE POSE

Posing has already been mentioned in connection with many of the photos on this page, but it is all too easy for the pose to look forced, unnatural and uncomfortable - particularly so, if the photographer doesn't have a clue about the kind of effect they want, or if the model is a novice, or if there is no communication between photographer and model. Before a first session, it's a good idea to take a look through the glossy magazines and get a few ideas from the work of experienced models and professional photographers.

Sometimes, a portrait will look best and most natural, if the model seems totally unaware of the camera, lost in her own thoughts or activities. I think the image opposite works in this way.

Debbie. Clearly a pose inspired by the strong directional lighting from above and in front of the model, but a pose which also lends itself to various abstract effects as seen below
Debbie. Clearly a pose inspired by the strong directional lighting from above and in front of the model, but a pose which also lends itself to various abstract effects as seen below

AFTER SESSION PHOTO MANIPULATION

Once upon a time, manipulation of photos was the sole preserve of the professional or the dedicated amateur with his own darkroom. Nowadays we have it easy, and anyone with a basic photo manipulation programme can do all kinds of things to change their images, whether it is to compose the subject matter rather better through cropping, or to subtly alter the intensity of colour or brightness, or whether it is to create artistic special effects.

In the example shown here, the pose of the girl lent itself to a variety of effects of which I have shown a few. To do this I have employed a fairly simple programme; Photoshop Elements is a more basic version of the professional Photoshop, and at a fraction of the cost. This page is not a tutorial on photo manipulation, so all I have done in the illustrations below is to post ten examples of manipulated images, and the titular description of the major effect or effects employed in Photoshop Elements (though in most cases subsidiary manipulation such as alteration of brightness and contrast or colour saturation has also been used). Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so it's for you the reader to decide for yourself if you think all or any of the manipulations work. I like them but I wonder if anyone else does? There's a poll at the end, and please feel free to comment, good or bad. I should say that although I spent quite a few hours experimenting with each and every effect available, the actual creation of each image below would have taken less than a minute.

Image manipulation is fun. Give it a try and see what effects you can achieve.


Click thumbnail to view full-size
1) 'Threshold'2) Find Edges'3) Glowing Edge'4) 'Gradient Map'5) 'Lens Flare and Bas Relief'6) 'Lens Flare'7) 'Lens Flare and Charcoal'8) 'Neon Glow' (blue)9) 'Solarise'10) 'Spotlight'
1) 'Threshold'
1) 'Threshold'
2) Find Edges'
2) Find Edges'
3) Glowing Edge'
3) Glowing Edge'
4) 'Gradient Map'
4) 'Gradient Map'
5) 'Lens Flare and Bas Relief'
5) 'Lens Flare and Bas Relief'
6) 'Lens Flare'
6) 'Lens Flare'
7) 'Lens Flare and Charcoal'
7) 'Lens Flare and Charcoal'
8) 'Neon Glow' (blue)
8) 'Neon Glow' (blue)
9) 'Solarise'
9) 'Solarise'
10) 'Spotlight'
10) 'Spotlight'
Natasha
Natasha
Kerry
Kerry

PERSONAL VIEWS AND CONCLUSIONS REGARDING CAMERA CLUBS, STUDIOS AND MODEL PHOTOGRAPHY

In all I've only attended about a dozen of these studio sessions, and these photos are a representative selection from those sessions. Today, I do not belong to a camera club as various factors in my life caused me to lose a degree of motivation and interest. For the past few years my photography has been largely confined to records of my travel and vacations. However, this hobby is rewarding in so many ways and I must make the effort to once again diversify the range of photography I do. Camera clubs can help rekindle this motivation and open new doors for anybody who wishes to try new areas of photography.

My apologies for only including female models on this page. Not unnaturally they attracted me the most, and they were the models most frequently employed, but the basic ideas on composition, posing and technique would apply to any human subjects including family and friends. (Though possibly some of the costume ideas would need to be modified!)

Photography of the kind illustrated here can be an enjoyable and highly creative art form, and one which so many would not have easy access to without the resources and assistance of the local camera club, and the models they hire.

My thanks in this regard are due to Rolls Royce/XRR Camera club in Hertfordshire, and to Leigh-on-Sea Camera Club in Essex - the two clubs of which I have been a member.

A relaxed model, at ease with herself and the photographer, will make for the best images
A relaxed model, at ease with herself and the photographer, will make for the best images

TO SATISFY MY CURIOSITY ..

WHICH OF THE SPECIAL EFFECTS DO YOU THINK WORKS BEST ?

See results without voting

COPYRIGHT

Please feel free to quote limited text from this article, or to use my photos, on condition that a viable link back to this page is included

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I'D LOVE TO HEAR YOUR COMMENTS. THANKS, ALUN 10 comments

Greensleeves Hubs profile image

Greensleeves Hubs 4 years ago from Essex, UK Author

Mama Kim; thank you very much for your comments on this hub, and particularly for the votes, and for sharing the hub for which I am truly grateful.

I've not done any studio photography for quite a few years now, as I haven't been able to spare the time, but it was really enjoyable to have the opportunities which camera club membership provided to be able to take these photos - I think I may have to join again! Alun.


Mama Kim 8 profile image

Mama Kim 8 4 years ago

Wow I really enjoyed this hub of yours! All the photos were lovely. My favorite is the close up portrait of Nicky. Voting this a bunch and sharing!


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Greensleeves Hubs 5 years ago from Essex, UK Author

Thank you very much for visiting, and for the generous compliment sofs. Cheers. Alun


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sofs 5 years ago

Awesome pictures! I am truly impressed!! Great work!!


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Greensleeves Hubs 5 years ago from Essex, UK Author

Thanks richardmohacsi. It's certainly true that working in a studio can only improve one's knowledge of lighting systems and similar aspects of photography, and I would certainly recommend it as an experience - irrespective of the subject matter of the studio shoot.


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richardmohacsi 5 years ago from Florence

Nice hub Greensleeves. I've done a little bit of studio work, not much, hasn't been my thing. But different aspects of photography helps better understand the art. For me, the studio is all about learning to control and use lighting. The rest just happens.


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Greensleeves Hubs 5 years ago from Essex, UK Author

Thank you sweetie 1 for those very nice comments about the photos. I really appreciate what you say. Alun.


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sweetie1 5 years ago from India

Hi greensleeves i am really impressed by your art of taking pictures. You have made the models look very beautiful and though i don't know much about photography but you surely know it inside out and made these models look much more pretty than they are I am sure about it.


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Greensleeves Hubs 5 years ago from Essex, UK Author

Thank you Derdriu! So glad you appreciated the page, and thanks for putting forward your views on particular images, and for voting in the poll. It's always interesting and helpful to learn how others see your work, and how they view the effectiveness of different images. I myself cannot really make up my mind about my favourite photos, though generally I will feature my favourites as larger images and usually relegate the others to 'thumbnails'. As for the manipulated images at the end, I haven't yet decided myself which effect I like best - I'm still thinking about that one!

Thanks hugely Derdriu for commenting.


Derdriu 5 years ago

Alun: What a magnificent, provocative, useful guide to photographing the studio model, with applicability to familiar, similarly professional, and spontaneous contexts! It is most appreciated the way in which you identify challenges and pitfalls as well as hints and outcomes. You offer clear explanations which are presented logically and supported photographically. The originals and the manipulations all work, especially the digitalization of the first Fleur, the second romanticism of Kerry, the final informality of Fleur, and everything with Debbie in the end. For your poll, I finally chose the gradient just because it will be impact-ful no matter the environment and even though the bas-relief in its ancient evocations may have been my actual favorite.

Thank you, voted up, etc.,

Derdriu

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