Character Portraits in Practice Part 1

For my first character portrait I invited Sarah Follon, a freelance theatre stage manager to come into the studio between performances.

Being a stage manager, she almost always wears black so I wanted to take images against a black background but as she is also a lot of fun, I didn’t want to lose her into the background and make the image too ‘moody’.

I set up four studio lights, a key light  and a fill light, set at 45 degrees to the front of the subject and two strip lights set at 45 degrees behind the subject. We were fairly close so I set the key light and the camera to f8. The two strip lights at the back were set slightly higher in order to give a bright highlight around Sarah’s shoulders and separate her from the background. Sarah’s job means that she is hidden during a performance and I wanted to put her in the spotlight.

At first I sat Sarah on a chair where she sat quite stiffly and properly, posing for her portrait.

Sarah Follon-13 Sarah Follon-28

I asked Sarah to kneel behind and lean on a box that was in the studio, than I asked her about her work at various theatres and the show Bouncers that she is currently working on. She relaxed a lot more and began to get much more expressive with her hands especially when she was telling me about a play she had seen recently where the curtain had got stuck and looked like it was going to fall down part way through the performance!


I gave Sarah some direction in terms of poses to try but mostly I tried to make it more of an chat between friends and keep her so distracted in what we were talking about that she would take less notice of the flashing lights.

Sarah laughed a lot throughout the shoot and I think I captured this fun aspect of her character quite well.

These though are my favourite images.