Photographic Masterclass | Creating Portraits In Edinburgh!

A couple of days in Edinburgh running a Masterclass and then presenting to the Edinburgh Photographic Society. What was the biggest thing I learned? Take a hat!

It is an honour being a part of this industry: I spend much of my time judging qualifications and awards and running workshops and masterclasses. Last week I had the pleasure of being a guest of the Scottish region of the British Institute Of Professional Photographers (the BIPP) and the Edinburgh Photographic Society – one of the world’s longest-established photographic societies (1861!!!!). Rest assured, they’ve updated the furniture and the pictures since then – it’s a thoroughly slick and modern organisation!

Having a few days in Edinburgh is always a pleasure, so I was possibly as excited as the people attending! Although I have been a visitor to this beautiful (and welcoming) city numerous times, I love being in an area that I don’t know and then, well, inventing photographs as I go. There’s something magical about improvising and working with things as you find them – which is to say, on this particular day, chilly!

Now I knew that Edinburgh could be cold – it is, after all, Scotland in February – but I probably should have brought a woolly hat (as pretty much everyone else did!). Funny how adding cold ears to the mix drives the creativity!

Always Start With Coffee

The day started in an excellent little coffee shop in the city – the Rabble Taphouse and Grill. Much coffee and chatter as, one by one, the delegates arrived. It turns out it’s relatively easy to spot photographers as they walk in the door – mostly, it’s the bags they carry. You could argue there’s a particular look in the eyes too!

So we headed out into the elements with our incredibly photogenic (and patient!) model, Kristina.

The point of this particular masterclass was to create variety in the images much as I would do here at the studio. And, just as it does here, the weather plays its part. Or should I say, the weather dictates what is possible! To start with, it was cold and windy. So we found a side street with as little wind as possibly and set about creating some images.

When the street became too cold (Kristina was beginning to shiver) we headed down to the Photographic Society’s building, a few blocks away. Daylight is such a wonderful thing to work with that, even though we had access to their well-equipped studio, we created most of the images just standing in the hallway. Sometimes it’s like that: you walk into a space and just know that the light is incredible. And so it was. I could have worked in there all day.

We did, eventually, head into the studio area and played with some studio lighting. The control you get in the studio is a real joy but I will always have a soft spot for natural light!

A couple of people had asked to explore off-camera flash and working with mixed lighting.

So a quick step into the street just to cover the basics of off-camera flash and then back for coffee (hoping I’d be able to talk about mixed available lighting once we had had a drink and some warmth!)

Final shot? Just using the light from a Fire Exit sign (well, the clear plastic bits of it anyway – I didn’t want any of the bright green!). It always amazes me what light you can find if you look carefully for it.

All in all, an honour to be the guest of the nicest people and laugh with so many like-minded photographers. A huge thank you to Barrie from the BIPP and Pamela from the EPS for inviting me! Big hugs as well to Kristina (our model), the guys at Rabble who dealt with a big gang of photographers and their various coffee orders and, of course, everyone who attended!

Oh, and I may just have consumed a wee dram or two while I was there. And next time? Well, maybe I’ll pack a hat!

In the interests of all things education, here are some of the images we shot along the way.