A visit to A and R Photographic, Liverpool

During the week I was able to visit my good friend the photographer Imran Ali. He runs his studio from Liverpool Bluecoat and along with the excited conversation of catching up with one anothers’ exploits, we were able to tinker with the range of goodies in his studio.

I’ll confess he was impressed/amused at the bag of camera bits I took along for the session, but no-where near as impressed as I was with all of the lighting gear, reflectors and general electronica he had available for our photo-fest.

And as a delightful addition, we also had blogger friend Debra join us and add Vlad the Hasselblad into the equation.

“So How would you set up this lighting?” asked Imran, as my mind swam into a vortex of unease at the sheer range of options on offer.

“Er, something at the front?” I ventured, “And maybe something ELSE at the side?”

It was clearly too much for me and I was having trouble remembering the different between a grid, a snoot and a sparkling water.

“Reflector” I clung to. “Reflectors…We’ll need to use some reflectors”

Because Debra and I arrived at different times I was able to witness the same effect when she was asked similar questions. We both did that sharp intake of breath when we first noticed all the gantries and swivelly things.

There’s a clear need for vocabulary and a way to overlay structure onto what could otherwise look like chaos.


My compliments to Imran though. A combination of patience, indulgence and some basic disciplines shepherded both of us through the initial stages of using the lights.


Here’s the basic build we used.

1) A ‘beauty bowl’ front light comprising a bowl containing two diffusers.

2) A grid rim light to provide side highlights

3) A snoot projected backwards onto a black background to provide background colour via a gel

I can make it all sound glib here, but trust me, it took time for me to get this set up and balanced. By comparison watching Imran work was a revelation as he would change the degree of feather on a light with one hand and be simultaneously correcting the power output with the other hand.

Debra and I both experimented with the build up of lights one at a time. It was useful to see the effect of one item such as the side light and what it did to the subject. There are plenty of shadowy pictures of each of us now as we trialled the various combinations.

Another thing that was interesting was that we were shooting at ASA50, with quite stopped down apertures (f7.1) and 1/125 shutter. The available light in the room was negligible compared with the power of a thousand suns as the main strobes/flash units fired.

Anyway, I think it worked.


It was incredible how quickly the time passed and we’d planned a grand finale with Debra’s Hasselblad film camera (Vlad). ‘He’ was proving a little moody in this digital world and had to be coaxed to play with the strobe lights. We had a combination of a bulb and an electronic flash firer which Debra had to press simultaneously for her self portrait.


We created a few black Polaroid pictures along the way because the co-ordination required was to the nearest 125th of a second. Gulp. Anyway, the snap above is of the modelling light setup for the shot which we tried several times. I await Debra’s development of the film with bated breath. In the meantime, here’s a lovely square mono picture from the Canon.


The time ended all too soon but we were all quite pleased with the picture taking and progress. I learned a fantastic amount and it was fascinating working with Imran who mainly shot great pictures SOOC (Straight Out Of Camera) and just used colour correction, minor RAW exposure correction and minimalistic cropping.

I’m already thinking about a return visit!

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~ by rashbre on Friday, 14 October, 2011.

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