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Portrait with Phil Khorassandjian of Walkley Honey

A few weeks ago I asked Phil Khorassandjian of Walkley Honey if I could take his portrait. I met him through the 2014 Walkley Festival where he ran sessions showing how he keeps his hives and looks after his bees. I loved his white beekeeping suit and his smoker, although he admitted he doesn’t use that much. Nevertheless I thought his white suit would lend itself well to a low key portrait, with the flash catching and illuminating the smoke. With an idea of a finished image in mind I was very excited when he agreed to let me come back with my camera and flash. Below is the final image:

Beekeeper with smoker

Phil of Walkley Honey

To get the low key finish (i.e. black background) I set ISO to 100 and shutter speed to 1/250s which is the fastest speed my camera can sync with flash. I then used a small aperture (f/11) that didn’t let in any ambient light, giving me a completely black image. I then set up a flash gun on a light stand (actually a tripod!) off to my left which I fired with a wireless trigger. I use Yongnuo RF-603s which are about £20-£25 for a set of two and which do a very adequate job. Finally, I set the flash to manual mode at about 1/8th power. This lit Phil and the smoke and, by making sure Phil was far enough away from the background, kept the background black.

With relatively modest equipment – one flash and a camera with manual control – I was able to create the portrait I wanted. The key to this image was having an idea how I wanted it to turn out, to know how to set up my equipment to achieve this, and to be confident enough to contact Phil and ask to take his portrait!

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