MacGyver Backdrop

Exposure Photography Awards 2015 // Louvre Exhibit

The Exposure Photography Awards results were posted a few weeks ago, and while I didn’t place I was surprised to get an email this week to say that one of my photos had been included in the private exhibit at the Louvre in the Portraiture collection! I was so stunned. I’d seen the other entrants and thought there was no way I would possibly be included; they seemed so far advanced compared to me, with a definite style that was very different to mine.

The photo they chose to include was this one of my niece, Makayla. It made me even more sad that my MacGyver backdrop has been ruined :(




I received an official letter of recognition, as well as a preview of how the photo will look in the book See | Me are bringing out later this year!






I couldn’t have even contemplated entering something like this without the constant support and encouragement I receive, so thank you so much everyone <3

Elinchrom Studio Lighting Test 4

Today I worked with my (very patient) sister again doing some more lighting work. This time I went back to one strobe, and tried to add a white reflector.


I tried to concentrate on achieving Rembrandt Lighting with mixed results! The above photo was probably the closest to Rembrandt lighting that I got.


This was probably my favourite shot out of them all, and even though it isn’t Rembrandt, it still felt like “the one” that most spoke to me.


Today’s lessons?

a) I need to learn how to be better at posing people. If that means having a rough storyboard idea before hand, then do whatever works

b) I need a reflector stand and

c) The MacGyver backdrop does not work well on a windy day

Elinchrom Studio Lighting Test 2

I had my second trial with my Elinchrom lighting set up today. Still only using one light, and it was working with my young niece in the late afternoon.

I started panicking when the strobe I was using wasn’t working. The light was test firing from both the head itself and the transmitter, and the bulb wasn’t flat. I was trying everything, and my niece was getting bored and dramatically exclaiming that she would “never get to have her photograph taken”. So I swapped out the heads, went ahead with taking her photos (I managed to get two decent ones) and then went back to the first strobe to try to figure out what was wrong. The Elinchrom has both normal sync mode and high speed sync mode, and that can be adjusted on the head. It turns out I had both turned off. At least I figured it out!





So I may not have ended up with a lot of photos, but I was proud of the ones I did get and I was happy that I was able to work out the problem. And the MacGyver backdrop is still holding up well. Small wins!


The MacGyver Backdrop

So, today I decided to put my little project to the test.

My lovely sister and her daughter Makayla offered to help test my handmade backdrop, whom I lovingly call MacGyver.

MacGyver was made using a painter’s canvas drop sheet (a wallrunner, so not too huge and unwieldy) and special Dulux Design Suede paint in a colour called Pompeii Ash (which seems a tad on the nose).


pompeii ash


Design Suede is one of those “texture paints” that are designed for interior walls and can give the effect of suede, or there are also types that mimic the effect of stone, or pearl. In some of the samples I’d seen, it kind of gave the same effect as some of the hand-painted backdrops I’d seen used.

Following the instructions, I went over the canvas with one coat with a paint pad (like a roller but better), left it to dry, then came back the next day and did a second coat using a special brush and using random crisscross strokes. Then I left that to dry. So all up with drying time it took about three days to finish.




Because this was purely for experimentation, I thought it would be totally fine to go ahead and masking tape MacGyver to the brickwall at the back of the house. Which didn’t work more often than it did.

But, wonder of wonders, it didn’t look to bad in the end!






Now if you’re thinking that Pompeii Ash doesn’t look very “ash-y” you’d be right – the good thing about having such a neutral colour was that in editing it could take on any appearance I wanted it to. In this instance, because of my sister’s hair and colouring, I ended up boosting the blues/purples to compliment the red of her hair. Making sure to keep an eye on the white of her shirt (to keep things as realistic as possible) I could play around by bleaching out some of the yellow and cooling the look of the photos overall. By boosting the contrast and levels and using dodge and burn selectively, I could darken the background and give it a much edgier feel than when it was simply grey.

I was so surprised with how well it worked out. At the start I was so gung-ho, but after I got the materials I honestly wasn’t sure if it would work. But I think it did! And the best part is, Design Suede comes in lots of other colours to try! And it was CHEAP. Way cheaper than having to outlay on a framework and a proper hand-painted backdrop, which I am reluctant to do until I have completely mastered portrait lighting and shooting. But here’s to experimenting!