You may be aware that I offer ‘mentored studio hires’, but do you know what that means?  Well, to be totally honest with you it can mean a lot of different things.  You see, a mentored studio hire is tailored to the individual photographer.

For a beginner, it might be all about learning to set up lights and cameras in the studio, for an intermediate photographer it might be all about learning to get the most out of the models he or she is working with.

Perhaps the best way to explain is to talk you through a typical mentored shoot.

Before the shoot

When someone approaches me about such a shoot, initially I try to determine the following:

  • What do they want to achieve from the shoot? For some it is about doing studio photography for the first time.  For others it is about more in-depth training on a particular genre.
  • What is their current experience level? No point in going over the basics with those who already know it.
  • What style or genre do they want to shoot? I’ve helped people with everything from headshots to art nude.  Some photographers may have examples of lighting or images they wish to recreate.  This can be really helpful at this stage.
  • Do they have a model? If they don’t have a model do they need advice on how to book someone or would they like me to book a model for them?
  • How long do they wish to shoot? I generally advise at least 3 or 4 hours for mentored shoots.  Some photographers prefer a longer shoot of up to 6 hours.  But for most four hours is about right.

Based on this information, there may be very little for me to do before the shoot, or there may be quite a lot to do.

If I am booking a model for the photographer, I take into account their preferences and will often send them a shortlist of a few models to choose from.

If the client is looking to me to advise on lighting as part of the shoot, I will prepare lighting sheets for the set-ups that we are going to use.

In addition to printed lighting sheets, I prepare a set of training notes covering the topics we are going to cover at the shoot.  This may be an extract from the various training notes for courses that I run, or more likely one of two specially prepared training notes, one being an introduction to studio lighting and the other being an introduction to posing and working with models.

At the shoot

What we do at a shoot depends on what the photographer is looking from the session.  But for someone new to studio photography I will show them how to set up the lights and take light readings.

Using the lighting sheets as a guide, I will walk the photographer through a step by step process for building up a multi-light scene, starting with a single light and then adding additional lights until we have our finished set-up.

I also show a quick way to photographically document the lighting set-up.   This technique simply requires  the use of a slow shutter speed, but keeping the aperture as measured for the lighting set-up  – I generally set my camera to 1/10s, and then take a wide shot to show the lights in relation to the subject.

Other common features of a mentored studio hire include, providing advice on how to direct a model, and how changing where you are shooting from can make a big difference to your final image.  I also provide advice on what combination of backgrounds, lighting and outfits will work well together.

Case Study

I was recently approached by a photographer, Stephen, who wanted a mentored studio hire.  After asking him a few questions we agreed on a 4hr session.  It was Stephen’s first time shooting in the studio and he wanted to concentrate on headshots and full-length fashion.

As he had never booked a model before, I did that on his behalf.  I put out a casting call on Purpleport and sent Stephen links to three possible models that I thought would be suitable for his session.  He chose “ImperfectRose”

Prior to the shoot, I printed out a copy of my 20 page notes “Mentored Studio Shoot 1 – Lighting Essentials” and also printed out four different lighting sheets for Stephen.  These would form the basis of the lighting set-ups that we would use during the day.

The first half of the day we concentrated on different ways of lighting headshots.  We worked exclusively with a grey background for the headshots.  When introducing photographers to studio work I like to start with a grey background.  It is the best for showing how the lighting can affect the background.   With lighting the background can be grey, black, or coloured.  (You can make it white too if you have more space than I have in my studio).

During this time we talked about “shooting in B&W” – the reality is that RAW data will always contain the full-colour information, but by setting the picture style on the camera we can see a B&W preview of the image.  We still have to do the conversion in post-production but this preview will give some idea of how the image might look.

For the second part of the session, we used a simple 3 light high-key set-up.  During this, we concentrated more on Stephen’s interaction with the model, the importance of building up a rapport, and I briefly demonstrated how I work with models, talking with them as I shoot and providing feedback.

As we approached the end of the session I began to ramp down my input into the shoot.  I want photographers I am mentoring to finish the session feeling that they are the ones who are driving the session at that point.

In conclusion

Firstly, I’d like to thank Stephen, for not only trusting me to guide him through his first studio shoot, but for giving me permission to talk about it here in my blog/newsletter.

If you would like to book your own mentored studio hire, please email me and we can talk details.  The price of a mentored shoot is “studio hire price” + 50%.

Just to let you know at the end of June I will be increasing the price of mentored shoots for non-Academy members only to “studio hire price” + 60%.  For Academy Members, and members of my flexible hire scheme the price will remain at “studio hire price” + 50% – just one of the many great benefits of being an Academy member.

Until next time, keep MAKING great images,


PS – A note about the blog images

All the images in this blog / newsletter were shot during Stephen’s mentored shoot.  They are shared with his knowledge and permission.  As many of you know, my teaching style is very much “shoot and show” and the images you see here were created as I was demonstrating particular techniques to Stephen.  Many of them were actually just single shots to check the lighting set-ups, or to document the set-ups for future clients.

At a mentored shoot I only shoot images with the client’s permission and then the number of images I make is kept to an absolute minimum.