May 16, 2022

The inspiration and process behind my personal project: Three Heads in a Row

In brief, it made the ideal tabletop. Next, some instant feedback was needed, which made tethering necessary. Being able to see the images coming through in near-real-time made fine-tuning my presents a lot simpler.

Remember when you could sit in a café, slurp an almond milk latte and see the world go by? Now, you may believe that makes a best target for street photography and Im sure you d be. Individuals interacting with other individuals, with objects, their ownerships or environments– Im always impressed by what these interactions reveal about an individual.

This was, obviously, a far cry from the profile image I was attempting to produce but this absurdly funny mishap of a photograph had something, a specific innocence, and I was strangely drawn to it. Just how much enjoyable would it be to subject other individuals to this utter and total photographic ridicule? Well, as it ends up– a lot of fun!

I believed of the common Instagram grid layout and envisioned three images per topic, all engaging with their preferred objects or belongings. We all own things that are dear to us, possibly for some nostalgic factor or another or just since it exemplifies our character, character or career option. This would give me plenty of ammunition for conversation and a possibility to get to understand the subject a little much better, vital when pushing the envelope toward the farcical, especially when youre photographing individuals who are not used to being photographed or having a massive lens stuck in their face.

Hi, Kersten here. Im a picture professional photographer based upon the outskirts of London, England, and co-host of the Camera Shake Photography Podcast. Now, you might not have become aware of it however if you ARE one of our tens of listeners out there– its nice to satisfy you.

A couple of years earlier, prior to the whole world went crazy and shaking hands wasnt disapproved of as much as it is today, I decided that my website was in need of an overhaul. The about page particularly needed some love and attention and a new mugshot was simply what the physician purchased. The job was to create a self-portrait that communicated my character but didnt appear too business, with a sense of unwinded and casual, yet indisputable professionalism. Huh. Easy, right?

For me, however, it meant total interruption of a project I had begun in late 2019, the primary topic of todays blog site: Three Heads in a Row.

This in itself has, since date, become my biggest difficulty of all with this project. In order to push my topics far enough to offer me these bigger than life, humorous expressions I need to build up rely on a fairly short amount of time. Thats where the professional photographers capability to get in touch with the subject on a human level ends up being vital and individuals skills are important. This connection, the trust, is the fine line in between success and total failure.

All of it seemed to work out up until I pushed the remote, got distracted and the cam fired, catching me by surprise in mid-move, hands flailing with a not-so-flattering deer in the headlights expression on my face. This wasnt the Miles Davis cool I had actually pictured, however rather the depiction of a bumbling moron, too thick to spell his name and entirely bewildered by his own reflection in the water.

It comes as not a surprise to many people that the last 18 months have been, to put it slightly, challenging. Over here in the UK we needed to withstand several total lockdowns, which implied that company as we understand it went south and specifically for us portrait photographers, life got a whole lot more complex. Standing only a couple of feet opposite somebody, taking their picture in a studio environment was not only frowned upon however straight-out prohibited. Shock horror. For a few of us that provided an opportunity; an opportunity to decrease, re-evaluate and get innovative with a personal job or 2.

Back then life seemed regular. In a world where global pandemics were mostly minimal to Sci-Fi B-movies and the idea of social distancing either made you a social castaway or just plain old strange, the need for individual tasks was just as important. And so was people viewing.

I took a look at it and … enjoyed it.

It might simply be the way my brain works however I love giving these complete strangers histories. I d make up complete backstories describing why this or that individual was doing what they were performing in the place and at the time they were doing it. All of course from the security of my perspective gathered on a rusty old chair outside Baker Street station or whichever street café I d find myself because day.

Now that weve covered the Why, lets have a look at the technical

For Three Heads in a Row it was obvious from the beginning that developing the final appearance had as much to do with the choice of focal length, lighting, etc as it had with the post-production process. The last image is square, making it best for the Instagram platform, yet I shoot wider, in landscape, to give me cropping choices later on.



Ill constantly remember a conversation I had with Joel Grimes in which he told me that for the last 50 years he made time for a personal job every week. Breaking down your imaginative limitations one shot at a time can just make you a better professional photographer, greater visual communicator and an artist with an unique voice– your voice.


When the composite is total I overlay a texture over the background to add some grit and grunginess. This texture is something I produced out of a mix of concrete floor covering and an icy window shot. And last but not least, its back to Lightroom for some last touches.

The lemon slice shot is a fine example of this. I sketched out the total concept and shot the backplate (me holding the knife). Considering that I understood where the lemon halves would remain in the frame I shot them individually, on skewers, in the approximate position they would remain in. Shooting elements for composites in situ has the benefit that the light falling on these almost always looks really photorealistic and needs little change later on. The lemons were in the same location– just not at the exact same time. My daughter and I went to buy a truckload of lemons and turned a big percentage of those into slush. Whilst she threw this mix of lemon pips, pulp and lemon juice in the air I shot several frames. Recording this in-flight makes it look realistic, after all this is what would occur had I really sliced this citrus fruit in mid-air, right? The resulting mess aside, it produced a remarkable addition to the final shot.

Given that the key light is positioned above the subject theres a requirement to bounce some light back under the chin and to cheer up the eyes. I find that a sheet of white foam board at a small angle works great and unlike a silver reflector, just adds a subtle punch of light in just the best locations.

Signing off,

I hope you enjoyed this blog site and please get in touch, I d enjoy to hear what you believe.

The technical.

The crucial light is in the typical beauty position, centred above the subjects face. I might on event revert back to an octabox, especially for topics with particularly glossy heads, primarily to control specular highlights on the skin. My studio strobe is an Interfit Badger Unleashed, a light I love and utilize for just about any studio and on-location work.

Since this task is designed to be displayed in an Instagram gallery I develop 3 images per subject and organize them so they make some type of sensible sense (to me a minimum of).

Normally, I shoot this kind of portrait with a 24-70mm lens on full-frame, around the 26-32mm mark. Not normally called a standard portrait lens, this focal length with its gradual distortion at the broader end adds to the comical, cartoonish appearance. This is something you d typically want to prevent in a straight-up portrait, it actually creates the look in this case and injects a sense of heightened truth into the shot. As far as the aperture is concerned, Im sitting around about f/7.1 as a starting point. The goal is to create enough depth of field between the front of whatever item is being handled and the back of the head. Its essential to keep this in mind due to the fact that the type of object being utilized in conjunction with the posture struck will have an impact on the depth of field required and therefore notifies the f-stop utilized. For instance, in the image below I had to develop sufficient sharpness between the suggestion of the knife pointed at the cam with outstretched arms and the back of the head. In order to accomplish this, I needed to go as far as f/18. Bear in mind that shooting with intent is what governs the aperture.

For a closer look at how I modified this, examine out this video on YouTube in which I go through the whole procedure in detail.

I position it roughly in the middle in between the topics shoulder blades and the flooring to produce a vignette with a small graduation on the background. Getting the power right here is crucial as I only want to light up the background slightly to produce some separation of the topic from the background.

About the Author

In a world where worldwide pandemics were mostly restricted to Sci-Fi B-movies and the concept of social distancing either made you a social castaway or simply plain old odd, the requirement for individual tasks was just as crucial. Capturing this in-flight makes it look sensible, after all this is what would take place had I actually sliced this citrus fruit in mid-air? Ill always remember a discussion I had with Joel Grimes in which he informed me that for the last 50 years he made time for an individual task every week. Every bit of understanding got, every issue resolved, every minute invested has made him what he is today– a master of light and innovative visionary with specialist technical skill. Breaking down your imaginative limits one shot at a time can just make you a much better photographer, greater visual communicator and an artist with a special voice– your voice.

Kersten Luts is a corporate and business picture and headshot photographer based near London, UK, in addition to the co-host of the Camera Shake Photography Podcast, photography blog writer and general nerd. You can discover more about him on my site, check out his podcast and follow him on Instagram and Twitter.