London Photo Festival & London Photo Gallery

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The psychology of the portrait picture

‘Make me look like a super model!’

I provided Ingrid with an impossible task when I bravely volunteered myself for her portrait of the month project back in April. I am far more comfortable behind the camera than I am in front of it and when I was having my photograph taken by Ingrid, we tried to examine this in more detail.

Ingrid’s project has thrown up more than just thinking about the technical aspects of taking people’s portrait photographs – she has also had to think about human emotions, skin tone, location and how the subject feels about themselves.

Some people are naturally more photogenic and relaxed in front of the camera than others, but one thing that Ingrid has learnt to do is make the subject feel relaxed and she does this in one sentence: ‘pretend I am not here’ and it works!

Perhaps also as photographers, we are concentrating on the camera of the person who is taking the photograph and by this I mean: ‘why are they using the flash outdoors?’ or ‘that’s a nice camera, I want one of those’!. We are trying to analyze the nuances of the situation instead of just enjoying the moment.

Read Ingrid’s blog post:


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Featured Photographer: Ingrid Abraham ‘Portrait of the Month’ Project

This project (Portrait of the Month) came about due to the number of clients who’ve told me they either don’t like having their photos taken or don’t think they look good in photos, which got me thinking about ways to light and pose people to make them look and feel amazing. On a typical photoshoot I usually take a sequence of shots, so the purpose of this project is to concentrate on lighting, shooting and editing a single image only.

I’ve been studying the behaviour of light and various ligh​ting setups for over a year, inspired by photographers like Damian McGillicuddy,Neil Van Niekerk and Scott Robert Lim. In order to practice what I’ve learned and improve my photography, I launched a new project called ‘Portrait of the Month’.

Each month during 2014 I will take one carefully planned and professionally executed portrait of an individual (no couples or groups), in various parts of London using multiple speedlights, modifiers, and coloured gels which will be showcased on my Facebook page. To get the ball rolling, I asked my good friend Shivangi to be my January Portrait of the Month and she kindly agreed. 

We arranged to meet yesterday (4th January), on Walthamstow Marshes just after 11am. It rained, but the monsoon-like weather we’ve been experiencing held off just long enough for us to get the shot, however it was very windy and we were greeted by several inquisitive dogs!

I created a lighting diagram using the Strobox iPhone app to keep a permanent record of what I did. I began the shoot by exposing for the sky to retain the moodiness in the clouds using my 85mm lens. My camera settings were 1/125, f/6.3, 200 ISO. To separate Shivangi from the background I placed a bare speedlight at half power on a stand, approximately 8 feet behind her and to my right. She’s absolutely crazy about the colour purple so I put a purple gel over the light to give her a slight glow.

My main light was another bare speedlight at 1/16 power on a stand, approximately 5 feet in front of her, to my left. I also placed a white reflector on the ground by Shivangi’s feet to add a tiny kick of light on the shadow side of her face and coat.

And this was the end result …


If you’d like to follow in Shivangi’s footsteps and receive a free portrait, please get in contact – there are only 12 slots available in total.


Are you working on a photography project and would like to be our ‘Featured Photographer’?  Email us for more information.