Live Demo at The Photography Show

The Photography Show is over and what a hectic four days it has been! Lots of great people and plenty to keep us busy on the stand but I thought I might just reflect here on Sunday’s talk and demo on the Live Stage. It wasn’t exactly how I’d planned it but things turned out fine in the end.

My talk was on portraiture so naturally I had booked my subject well in advance. However, I didn’t take into account the ’s’ word. That natural phenomenon which tends to stop trains in (or on) their tracks. Yes, a couple of snowflakes meant that my intrepid actor/model Sam Dunning was stuck in London and unable to make it to the show in time for my 11am slot, despite setting out at the crack. We had organised a live demo based on the character he is currently touring with on the Comedy Dining circuit - ‘Boycee' from ‘Only Fools and Horses’. I was getting echoes of last year, when dancer Alexa Hilton made it on stage just one minute before we were due to start… those dratted trains again. But back to our present dilemma, to avoid disaster we launched Plan B. I needed a new and immediately available sitter for my portrait demo - but where to find one?

Fortunately, we didn’t have to look too far and it was Dave Clayton, friend, artist and Live Stage Manager, who came up with the solution. The Comic Con Exhibition next door would have just what we needed! He was right. Andrew Griffiths from Saracen House Studio sped off to do some talent scouting and he came back with the ideal subject.

Our new model, fresh off the comic press, proved perfect. A whirlwind introduction revealed that his name was Z (pronounced Zee, for those of us who are not American) and his character for the day, Major Motoko Kusanagi from The Ghost in the Shell. For the uninitiated, this is a 1980s’ Japanese manga series of printed publications written and illustrated by Masamune Shirow. I looked it up.

With only 30 minutes on stage, I decided to concentrate on two separate setups: one with on-camera and one with off-camera flash. For the first one, I placed Z with the audience behind him and bounced my on-camera flash off the wall behind me. Changing shutter speed allowed me to control the amount of light on the audience and having the flash in TTL gave me a consistently correct exposure on Z.

My second setup used three off-camera flashes and, to hold these, I recruited the help of some voice-operated light stands: Alistair, Virginia and Keith. Keith was the main light, equipped with a Yongnuo YN 560 Mk4 fitted with a round flash pop-up beauty dish. Virginia had a second YN 560 aimed at the background and Keith was on hair light with a small YN 460 fitted with a gridded snoot. Here’s the shot.

My thanks go to everyone involved. Z was a star; we will keep Sam Dunning’s ‘Boysee’ for another day, something to look forward to. If you want to see us all at work, go to the Appleton Photo Training page on Facebook to see Andrew Griffiths’ video of the proceedings.