AP photographer Andrew Sydenham demonstrates to three readers how a simple arrangement of lights can produce effective portrait photography. Oliver Atwell joins them

Many photographers begin their love of photography by taking pictures of their friends and family. Be it holiday snaps or makeshift portraiture set-ups, shooting people we’re comfortable with is an easy way to start understanding the ins and outs of our cameras and how light interacts with the subject being photographed. That’s why in this Masterclass, AP’s resident photographer Andrew Sydenham will be exploring the basics of portraiture and how a simple set-up in the home can produce effective results.

‘In this Masterclass we’ll be looking at some very basic lighting,’ says Andrew. ‘We’ll look at how we can use light to shape and soften our subject, as well as shadow reduction on the subject and the background. We’ll start by looking at high-key lighting and how we can photograph our subjects against a pure-white background.’

Andrew says that different lighting set-ups can create various degrees of mood within an image. ‘After the more commercial-looking portraits produced with high-key lighting, we’ll take look at low-key lighting,’ says Andrew. ‘Low-key is a lot more atmospheric and expressive, so we can have plenty of fun exploring that. It’s a firm favourite with a lot of people who work in portraiture and the results that you can achieve are very expressive.’

Rather than using models, our readers will be photographing each other, meaning that they can feel comfortable moving at their own pace. The day will also find our readers working with two small sets.

‘The sets we’ll be working with today are being kept to an absolute minimum,’ says Andrew. ‘The idea is to work in an area that can easily be replicated in the home. The key thing to remember throughout this whole day is how these techniques and ideas can be applied to objects and lighting found around the average home.’

Andrew will also show the readers some helpful accessories, such as snoots and softboxes, that can either be built from scratch at home or bought cheaply online.

‘When you realise how easily these objects can be made at home, you’ll begin to see that producing your own basic portraiture images need not be a matter of renting out a studio,’ says Andrew. ‘Portraiture is one of the most fun things you can do. There’s nothing more satisfying than manipulating the light to bring the best out of your subject.’

Your AP Master…

Andrew Sydenham
Andrew has been a London-based studio photographer for more than 20 years, working for a wide variety of editorial and advertising clients. Specialising in food and still life, he has contributed to more than 100 books and magazines. He provides product photography for Amateur Photographer and What Digital Camera, and is passionate about lighting techniques and equipment. Andrew also teaches on Foundation in Photography and Foundation in Digital Photography SPI courses.

The AP readers…

Maria Mil
Maria has a passion for portrait photography and is hoping one day to make it a full-time profession. She uses a Canon EOS 60D. ‘It’s been a really nice day,’ she says. ‘No matter how much you think you know, there’s always some other little tip that can change the way you approach your subjects.’

Chris Randle
Chris enjoys shooting various subjects, but is particularly keen on portraiture. He uses a Canon EOS 5D Mark II. ‘It was a brilliant day,’ he says. ‘Getting a successful portrait image isn’t always the easiest thing to pull off, but this day helped no end.’’

Colin Roberts
Colin describes himself as a keen amateur who started taking portrait images around two years ago. He uses a Canon EOS 400D. ‘Today has been a great opportunity,’ he says. ‘Having had a bit of a break from photography, this was a great way to get back to doing what I love.’

Would you like to take part?

Every month we invite three to five AP readers to join one of our four experts on a free assignment over the course of a day, with food and refreshments provided. The experts are Tom Mackie (landscapes), Cathal McNaughton (documentary and photo essays), Annabel Williams (location portraiture) and Andy Rouse (wildlife).

If you would like to take part, visit transport.kelsey.host/amateurphotographer/masterclass for details of how to apply. Please remember to state which Masterclass you would like to attend and make sure you include your name, address, email address, daytime telephone number and two or three examples of your work (preferably in your application). Each participant will be able to use his or her own camera, lenses and other equipment.

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