Advertising | Portraiture

In my early days of photography I was drawn to capturing fleeting moments, milestones, the memories that we will forever look back on with a full hearted wrench. I then chose to develop Photography as my career, attending college and University as well as extra tuition for the area that I wanted to focus on – Newborn Photography, Portraiture and Weddings. I knew my end goal was to run a successful business providing those services. It has been such an enjoyable journey, having Photography skills and experience as well as editing and everything else that falls under the bracket of running your business has opened so many doors that were never part of the ‘Great Plan’ in the beginning!

One door that it opened for me was in Advertising, a part of the Photography Industry that never interested me until I ended up there and it revealed a whole new direction.

Small Back-Story – In 2015 I was asked to do an Interior Shoot for a quirky little shop that was opening up in the village of Overton in North Wales. It sold beautiful homeware, that was all locally made and often one-of-a-kind pieces.

The shop belonged to two ladies who both had their own full-time professions, a Magazine Editor and Textile Artist but were running it together as a side project. We got on really well and Viv (Editor) had mentioned that she also had something else in the pipeline, wasn’t sure if was a definite but would get in touch if it went ahead. I then didn’t hear from Viv for some time, I think it was early 2017 when she contacted me to ask if I would be interested in doing some test shoots, she wasn’t going to be able to pay me in the beginning but it was for a great new project that she was working on and if it worked then we could discuss payment.

We got together and she briefed me on the project, they were starting up a magazine different to anything else that is available for young girls approaching their teenage years. It was to be a fun, inspiring, creative, completely ad free and have no reference to anything related to image, make-up, Boy Band Heart throbs etc which is the mass content of almost all current girly magazines:


I fell in love with the ethic behind the idea for the magazine, at the time my daughter Sophie was 8 so this was something I felt really drawn to get involved in. I hated the junk that was in the magazines that she occasionally bought.

Viv brought this book to show me:


This was going to be the vein of the Kookie Magazine.

From the article…

“You don’t need to be pretty, perfect or compliant to be loved.”

That is the message photographer Kate T. Parker wanted to use to empower her girls when she started taking their pictures three years ago. You won’t see any dolls or pink tutus in this heartwarming, energetic series that beautifully showcases what it means to be a girl now. Parker, a photographer based in Atlanta, Ga., turned her lens on her daughters as a way to encourage them to escape the stereotypes imposed on young girls and celebrate their strengths and interests. Parker’s message to her daughters, aged 5 and 8, is “be strong, be yourself, be honest and celebrate who you are.”


‘CELEBRATE WHO YOU ARE AND WHAT YOU LOVE’ As a mother I honestly couldn’t think of a better piece of advice for my daughter.


Jumping Forward to 2019 – We have just completed the 5th Issue of the Kookie Magazine, it is a quarterly publication and the brief for the cover has been simple and the same throughout:

  • Studio shoot using soft lighting to look as natural as possible against a light backdrop so that illustrations can be added around the model.
  • Waist to Head in the frame
  • Fun, energetic, smiling, laughing, engaging with the camera

Although simple in the brief, the technicalities are always never so simple. Firstly I had to get the girls to be relaxed in front of the camera (which usually involved me telling them embarrassing stories about my childhood uuurgh) or stupid dances to get a giggle. I also had to capture the girls when they were moving and jumping and larking around. I had to use a fast shutter speed, in order to do this I needed more than just the natural window light and had to use a mixture of lighting – lowest setting on my strobe and placed almost directly in front of the model but slightly off to the left, similar to Butterfly lighting, the placement of the light here means you don’t have any harsh shadows on one side of the face, it is evenly lit with a gentle shadows under the cheekbones and chin and under the nose.


After each shot the images were shot in colour and sent over to the Kookie Team. They on average narrowed it down to 2-4 images which they thought could make the cover and then I would edit those and convert to Black & White for the final submission to them. When we were on the 1st issue I initially thought it a shame to have them in Black & White, personally I preferred the colour but I quickly realised how brilliant it was, the colourful illustrations around them are a perfect frame and your eye is drawn straight to the model. It also connects all the girls who are all wonderfully different in so many ways but united as one.



Without intention, my photography has led me into the world of advertising which might lead to other opportunities that I also hadn’t looked for like shooting for other magazines or more commercial clients etc. Although it would have to be for something that I truly believed in and wanted to promote for example I would only work with companies that matched my ethic, were focused on helping people, eco-friendly, not tested on animals etc.

Advertising is something that surrounds us like air! Unless you are lying in a field with nothing around you but nature you can’t look anywhere without seeing some form of advertising… it’s in what people wear and use, it’s on the radio, television, newspapers, magazines, internet, mobile phones, radio, press, billboards, sponsorships, posters, packaging … the list goes on and on and dates back to ancient times. There has been evidence that shows the Egyptians used to make sales messages, wall posters and political campaigns using Papyrus – thick paper made from the pith of the plant:


So even as far back as then advertising was a necessity for communication. Up until the 16th century before printing was used, advertising was done in every way possible, using signs, symbols, trademarks, posters & town crier

After this period, newspapers and magazines were introduced as printing processes were developed.

In Britain, during the 20th Century Thomas J Barratt was regarded as “the father of modern advertising” He worked for Pears Soap Company creating slogans that targeted the higher class members of society.

From here onwards companies followed with advertisements focused on targeting their perfect clients. We are all consumers, we are drawn to certain things relating to the type of people we are or who we want to be.

What is the psychology of advertising?

Basically, the psychology of advertising is the combination of many different interests and variables that seek to predict the psychological trends of consumerism.


In this article, The Psychology Of Advertising, it discusses the different ways that marketers use the psychology of advertising to persuade customers into buying:

  • Mechanistic, repeatedly seeing the same advert, keeping it in front of its competitors
  • Persuasive, improving a product that is equivalent to its competitors
  • Projective, creating products that are specifically aimed for the lifestyle and culture of a person.
  • Suggestive, prays on people’s anxieties to make them think their life would be better off with that product.

And you have the visual aspect, certain fonts and colours trigger feelings and reactions in different people:


There is also the degrading sexual references that have populated advertising since the 19th Century:



Every advertisement has a message to influence you, this is what advertising is, finding a way to tap into a persons desires and anxieties to get your attention.  This was the reason that I was never interested in pursuing a career in advertising photography because I felt that there is always a hidden agenda with every advertisement you see. I hate that even today women are still objectified and girls from a young age are being hypersexualised.


Since being involved with Kookie Magazine my opinion has changed, it’s so exciting to be able to be involved with something that advertises something so inspiring that it’s carving a new path for our young generation of girls, empowering and encouraging them, proving that we are all equal and the sky is the limit.

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Competition Almanac

Competition Website Yearly Membership Cost Entry Fee Entry Date
The Portrait Masters $299 $20 15th Feb
WPPI $239 $40 Members 24th Jan
$70-$85 Non-members
SWPP – 12×16” Print×16.htm £120.00 £20 Members 22nd Dec
£25 Non-members
SWPP Monthly Comp £120.00 Free to members Last Day Of Month
Not applicable for anyone in part or full time education

Jerwood Awards

The information on here has been taken directly from the Photoworks website and contains the information for the Awards which are every 2 years and only for applicants not in part or full-time education.

Submission for this was 5th November 2018, the 2019 date hasn’t been released yet.

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WPPI Photography Competition

The information here has been taken directly from the WPPI Website:

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(ARTICLE) How to Create an Award-Winning Photo Print

February 16, 2018

By Luke Edmonson



1. Expressionless subjects will undermine beautiful posing, superb lighting and a gorgeous location.

2. Holding onto the print’s “emotional baggage”—all the things that went on before and after that are not visible.

3. Not assessing the image under the right light: f/2.8, 1/125th of a second and ISO 100.


1. Make small work prints and place them near your work area. After a few days, turn them upside down. The problem areas will be revealed more easily as you disconnect from the emotional construction of the image.

2. If you can see it, we can see it. Examine your prints minutely for problems—again, upside down.

3. Don’t leave making your entries to the last minute. You don’t deserve the anguish, stress and increased courier costs.

4. Bring your entries in 6 x 4-inch prints to WPPI. You can show them to others easily and if you’re chatting to a judge after the event, we can draw corrections on them for you!

David Anthony Williams is a seasoned WPPI judge. This year’s live judging takes place Saturday, February 24, and Sunday, February 25, 8 a.m.-6 p.m. at the Great Hall in the Excalibur Hotel, Las Vegas.



Every month Kelly will do a live critique on her Facebook page of images that have been sent via the monthly submission. Only a handful are selected so even if yours isn’t you can still learn a lot by the feedback on other peoples images. This is a really good opportunity to learn how to improve your images.

kelly brown



The Website link to the past judges doesn’t work and just takes you to the home page –






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SWPP Competitions

SWPP Monthly Competition (Members Only)

ENTRY DATE – Last Day Of The Month

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GOLD AWARD – December 2018

Paulina Duczman                                                      Nancy Flammea


There are 27 categories that cover all aspects of photography and it is judged by some of the most esteemed Fellow, Master and Grand Master photographers in the UK and across the world.

I can’t find anything on their website or online to say who judges the monthly competition, I have emailed them to ask and will add this in when I hear back.



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ENTRY DATE: By 21st December 2018

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Save Money – Make Money

My proposal for this year consisted of 3 main objectives:

  • Enter competitions to raise my status
  • Learn how to market and sell to my ideal client
  • Earn more money – Fine tune my business to save money & increase my prices

In this Blog I will be looking at how I can fine tune my business to save time & money.

Current Studio Expenses:

OUTGOINGS p/month p/year
Studio Rent & Bills £300.00 £3,600.00
Fuel £80.00 £960.00
Parking £24.00 £288.00
£404.00 £4,848.00

I also have many other expenses in regards to the business but these will continue wherever I am based. The ones above are what I am looking at removing.

At home we have a separate annex which I am going to convert into a studio  – Which will save me nearly £5000 a year!

I have spoke to our home landlord and they are happy to write us up a contract which will take us to May 2020 and then the idea is that we will be buying our own home and I will be converting a garage or building a studio in the grounds.

Annex –

The main room is 10ft Wide x 14ft long and then there is a toilet/shower as well. It benefits from a high ceiling, it’s not a huge space but I only want to focus on babies which I don’t need lots of space for and Weddings which I don’t really need any space except to have a meeting.

I will be looking into space saving & dual purpose ideas.

This photographers studio will probably be the strongest influence in the set up of mine because the dimensions are very close to mine:





TIMESCALE – Leaving current studio 28th February – New studio needs to be ready by mid March because I have Newborns booked in.

To Do List (FEBRUARY):

  • Replace Carpet with wood flooring (permission needed from landlord)
  • Clean & paint everywhere inside
  • Buy a Pantograph rail system for my lights so they can be off the floor and pushed up when not needed
  • Buy a backdrop system, rails, shelving, storage
  • Fold down changing tray
  • Buy 2 chairs and a table or have the little sofa I own re-upholstered.
  • Buy Kettle, mugs etc
  • Have a sign made for outside
  • New samples – Wall art / albums
  • New Business Cards & Flyers
  • Update website & google details
  • Order backdrops & smaller beanbag
  • Bring heavy duty racks from old studio to use in the alleyway to store my large props
  • Work out what Kamila & I will do with our shared props
  • Move all my studio equipment & props to here
  • Speak to Bowen Son & Watson to let them know I’m leaving end of Feb
  • Make an appointment with Lloyds to take myself off the joint account with Kamila

Outside the Annex:

To Do List Outside (FEBRUARY):

  • Sand & paint doors & fascias
  • Clear gutters & clean windows
  • Clear the alleyway entrance, power-wash walls & floor
  • Garden – Cut back all the overgrown bushes and trees outside the glass doors to allow more light in



I have a budget of £2000 to get everything done

The aim is to save money in the long run but I will still have to spend some to get everything right. All of the manual labour like sanding, cleaning, painting, gardening etc I plan to do myself to save money.

Main costs –

Pantograph ceiling systems are around £500 & then there is the wood flooring, I’m not sure how much that will be until I get some quotes.


PLANS (To Scale)

new studio plan 3


new studio plan 2new studio plan 1


  • During the winter I had to drive to the studio at 6am to put all the heaters on; there is no heating so we have to use plug in heaters, then come home to take my kids to school then go back to the studio. We had timers on some of the heaters but they didn’t work on all of them so I had to manually do it. It is a 40 minute round trip (16-22miles depending on route) to get to the studio so for each shoot I was driving for 80 minutes (32-44miles). BASED ON 2 NEWBORN SHOOTS P/W I WILL SAVE 160 minutes of driving.
  • I was spending 1-1.5 hours setting up for each shoot plus 1 hour to put everything away. Sharing the studio with Kamila meant that we each had to clear the studio after each of our shoots. BASED ON 2 NEWBORN SHOOTS P/W I WILL SAVE 4 HOURS SETTING UP AND CLEARING AWAY
  • Every time I received an enquiry before I could offer any dates to clients I would have to check with Kamila what was free and then contact the client with the available dates and then let Kamila know which one they confirm. And Kamila had to do the same with her enquiries. Lots of clients want weekend slots and when there is on average only 8 a month it only left us with 4 days each. BASED ON CONVERSATIONS BETWEEN US TO ARRANGE BOOKINGS I WILL SAVE AROUND 0.5 HOURS P/W



  • There has been a few incidents recently where Kamila’s clients have been recommending her when someone posts on social media for a Newborn Photographer, and one actually posted online that my business no longer existed and that it was only Kamila at our studio. Awkward situation, it was rectified fairly quickly thanks to a friend of mine seeing the post made about me and set her straight. When we set the studio up together Kamila had no intention of doing Newborns, she didn’t enjoy doing them and thats what I was specialising in so there was no problem with us sharing. But because Kamila does maternity photos she has been doing some newborns and at half the price of what I charge. Which was going to start looking confusing to clients that they can go to her and have their shoot in the same studio with the same props as me but at half the price! And Kamila is a brilliant photographer, so why wouldn’t they pick her and save money.. I would! MOVING TO MY OWN STUDIO WILL SAVE ANY CONFUSING & AWKWARD SITUATIONS 
  • Client Parking – No parking outside, the nearest was the multi-storey across the road which is not good for a new mum with a pram. The lift is regularly out of order, there’s been lots of problems with drug addicts in the stairwells and there’s only one pay-station on the ground floor so if you park on the other levels you have to walk all the way down to get a ticket then go back to your car to put it on then back down to leave. The next nearest is Island Green Car Park and that’s a good distance for a mum to walk, especially if she’s had a c-section. CLIENTS WILL BE ABLE TO PARK RIGHT OUTSIDE MY HOUSE
  • Stairs – Clients had to climb a flight of stairs and wither carry their pram up or leave it at the bottom and carry the baby up. CLIENTS WILL BE ABLE TO BRING THE BABY STRAIGHT THROUGH TO MY STUDIO WITHOUT THE NEED OF A PRAM OR STAIRS
  • The location of the studio was great in the fact that it was in the centre of Wrexham but it was quite embarrassing to hear the foul language that people use in that area, Parents swearing at their kids, drunks arguing outside my door, drug addicts loitering around & general arguments between people. The old single pane sash windows in the studio didn’t mute any of it and I was constantly apologising to clients for what they could hear. Also the noise pollution from the traffic, sirens, road works, football fans all contributed to a noise level not ideal for newborn sessions. I WILL BE BRINGING CLIENTS TO A QUIET & DESIRABLE AREA 
  • My client demographic will shift so I will be able to increase my prices in relation to photographers in my area. INCREASE MY PRICES
  • There is lots of photography business’ in Wrexham, photographers that are setting up studios in the town centre so the competition in that area is rising. I WILL HAVE THE ONLY STUDIO IN OVERTON



  • It might appear that I have taken a step backwards?? Moving away from a central location.
  • Until I start working in it I won’t know how i’m going to cope with a smaller studio
  • …..struggling to think of any negatives atm, will have to come back to that one!

2018 Competition Entries

During 2018 – 2019 I intend to create images for competitions. My aim is to win an award, I might as well aim for the top because that’s the only way you can get somewhere close!

Creativity takes courage.” Henri Matisse

March 2018 Submission

In March 2018 I entered The Society of Photographers monthly competition in the newborn category and for this I was received the Highly Commended Award.


May 2018 Submission

In May 2018 I entered The Society of Photographers monthly competition in the newborn category again with this image, unfortunately no award this time.


November 2018 Submission

In November 2018 I entered The Society of Photographers monthly competition in the newborn category again with this image, unfortunately no award this time.

Baby Maisie-8-Edit

Wildlife Competition

I had the extraordinary experience of a squirrel climbing up my leg recently and luckily I had my camera round my neck at the time! If I can find a wildlife competition with a category to suit I might enter this:


KOOKIE Magazine WON!!

This isn’t an award for myself but as the front cover photographer for the magazine I was thrilled when in November 2018 it received LAUNCH OF THE YEAR at the British Society Of Magazine Editors Awards in London:


Unfortunately I wasn’t at the ceremony to see it win, or my front cover image displayed on the huge screens as they announced the winner. BUT I’m utterly thrilled all the same and so proud of what Vivien Jones & Nicky Shortridge have achieved since the first edition this time last year.


We are now on to the 5th edition ready for Christmas and have the 6th edition in the pipeline too…… It’s very exciting on the KOOKIE front 😀




Alice In Wonderland Shoot

Like the Harry Potter image I created in November I’ve wanted to do an Alice in Wonderland shoot for some time. I didn’t want to just re-create a still from the movie I wanted it to either be humorous or have a hidden meaning, an emotion or perhaps a reference to problems in our society. Something that might amuse the viewer or start a conversation.

Artists have the ability to say things in their work that is sometimes too hard to be spoken, such a powerful tool in this day and age when everyone has opinion about everything. During my research I came across an interesting article on Artists as Activists: Pursuing Social Justice 

It features some of the artists involved in Gutfreund Cornett Art’s mission, a series of exhibitions around the U.S. tackling social injustice issues.

“There is much that is needed to be said, to make people stop, look and listen, to confront social injustice issues. Art can often say what words cannot. We want to bring powerful artwork to the general public that reflects on these issues and encourages change.” Karen Gutfreund

The artists involved have created work that addresses serious issues like wealth disparity, immigration, racism, gender and equality issues, reform of the criminal justice system, and gun violence. “Ignorance is bliss” Their intent is to start a dialogue and raise awareness of these sensitive issues.



The result of my research brought me to the concept of creating an image that showed the effect that mobile phones have on our youth. On the face of it, it’s not as serious as many of the issues addressed in the exhibition above. But on the other hand is it? If it’s affecting our children so much that the first thing they do when they wake up in the morning is reach for their phone and with them for the whole day and is the last thing they look at before going to sleep then how do we tackle the addiction. How will it affect them when they grow up, will they have social interaction or mental health issues and how will this affect society as a whole?

one recent study found that 99.9% of a large sample of English 15-year olds use at least one kind of digital technology every day.

There is no confirmed medical evidence that says technology will damage our children’s health. Prolonged use will only lead to a sedentary life which is bad for our body and mind so moderation is the answer. Unfortunately technology has become an unavoidable part of our daily lives, used for gaming, shopping, banking, communication, so many things… I know myself if I ever need to find something out we just ask google!

On the other side of the debate there are also ways that technology is helping children to grow and develop in a positive way. In an article from it suggest that:

Benefits of Technology & the Right Kind of Screen Time for Children

  • Technology allows for creativity & freedom of expression
  • Technology aids in socialization and relationship building
  • Technology allows for independence and empowerment
  • Technology improves problem solving and perseverance
  • Technology helps instill an entrepreneurial spirit
  • Technology enhances learning
  • Technology jobs are (and will be) in high demand

We are living in an exciting time with constant developments in technology and as long as it is used in moderation then it shouldn’t be a problem



The concept behind my image is to address the effect that mobile phones / technology has on our youth using inspiration from Alice In Wonderland. I plan to use the scene where Alice falls down the rabbit hole, curiosity still the cause but with a mobile phone at the forefront – She’s so engrossed in using the phone she is totally oblivious to what’s going on around her. Falling down the hole .. into the unknown, will represent the future, because we don’t actually know the long-term effects of using technology in every aspect of our lives.

Alice mood board.jpg




I don’t intend to spend any money, adopting Brooke Shaden’s approach, I will use things I have, can borrow or make.

  • Tea Set
  • Vintage chair
  • Vintage table
  • Vintage mirror
  • Mobile Phone
  • Blue & white dress
  • Drink me bottle
  • Clock
  • Books


  • Falling down the rabbit hole
  • Looking at the phone
  • Taking a selfie
  • Playing a game on the phone
  • Falling down the rabbit hole head first because she’s dropped the phone
  • Sitting on a chair using the phone oblivious to the fact she’s falling down a hole




  • Nikon D850 & Sigma Art 50mm 1.4
  • Tripod
  • Jinbei Light, Softball Diffuser, Strobe & 150cm Octobox
  • Backdrop stand & Black paper backdrop
  • Props – chair, tea set, book, phone, table & lace


I had my chosen sketch and my mood boards with me, this made it easy to pose Sophie and the props in the right place. Knowing where everything was meant to be situated still resulted in taking quite a lot of photographs because the angles and facial expressions are very rarely achieved in just one shot.

Below are the chosen images for the composite:



As this was a composite I used the same process as in my previous composites with some of the editing techniques learnt from Duczman. I won’t break down the full edit here but you can read about similar ones I’ve done HERE.


I used this leafy stone wall image in several layers to build up the background:

I then cut around the book, table, cup & saucer and added them to the image:

Alice a

The next stage was layers and layers of curves to adjust the highlights and shadows of different areas as well as Dodge & Burn and Hue/Saturation layers. Then the unnecessary highlights were removed and added as needed:

Alice edit explained sml

LAST STAGE – Lifting the shadows & running the image through the Portraiture software


Alice sml

**note for the image above** something that I missed when uploading this image is that when it’s been exported something has happened to the shadows, I have the final image and on screen it doesn’t look like this. I will have to look in to what’s happened when it’s been exported.


Start to finish the edit and getting it ready for print took just over 7 hours. Probably my most difficult composite to date because in all my others there has only been one element that I have had to composite into the image but this had 5. Getting all the separate elements to work together in a composite is really difficult. The simple thing of a highlight or a shadow where it shouldn’t be can instantly make the image look wrong. I am excited to see what it’s going to look like printed, it’s very hard to see all the faults on a computer screen so you need to print it big for them to stand out. Once I’ve seen it in print and done any edits that need doing I will then send it for final print.

When I received the prints I was happy with the portraits but I feel the composite image needs further editing, the shadows under the chair are wrong, like in the image above, around the table it looks a mess, I’m really not sure what’s happened, perhaps I’ve sent the wrong file for print, because the final edit I have of this looks perfect on screen.

I have sent it off to be printed again and will add the photos of comparison when it arrives.

Harry Potter Shoot

As part of my proposal for this year one of my objectives was to create images with the intention of entering competitions. For my first entry I have chosen to create Harry Potter themed newborn image.


The very first Harry Potter novel – The Philosophers stone was released in 1997 and since then the much-loved author J.K Rowling has since gone on to write another 6 award-winning novels. These were then made into films by Warner Bros and are famous worldwide.

Some of the very first reviews described Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone as “the most imaginative debut since Roald Dahl” and “a hugely entertaining thriller” with “all the makings of a classic”.

Glowing as they were, those early reviews almost undersell the eventual success of the book and its six sequels.

The books have collectively sold more than 500 million copies, making them the best-selling series of all time — with the final four novels consecutively setting records for the fastest selling book in history.

The series has been translated into 73 languages and adapted into eight hugely popular films, as well as spurring spin-off books and films and a lucrative body of merchandise.

In the 20 years since the first novel was published, the world of Harry Potter has grown to be worth more than $25 billion.

Literature and films

These days there appears to be a growing amount of films that are remakes of ones done before, the first one that springs to mind is the Spiderman movies, originally a Marvel comic book which was made into it’s first American film Spider-Man in 1977 which was intended as an introduction for a weekly TV series. Sony Pictures Entertainment bought the rights to the character and released Spider-Man in 2002. Then followed Spider-Man 2, Spider-Man 3, The Amazing Spider-Man, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and Spider-Man: Homecoming. It is a wonder they haven’t exhausted the characters potential but he has gone on to feature in other Marvel films such as Captain American and the Avengers Series and still to be released – Spider-man: Far From Home.

In George Bluestones Novels into Film: The Metamorphosis of Fiction into Cinema (1957) he discusses the common reaction from those who’s favourite novel has been made into a film which they describe as being ‘butchered’. It is definitely a difficult task to take a book and adapt it for film, some novels are strongly narrated from the thoughts of the characters and you get a much deeper insight into their personality which becomes the path for the story. It can tell you what a person is feeling, what something looks like or even tastes like whereas movies have to rely on visuals, action, sounds and music. With the use of CGI in films, which has been said to fill the gaps where the story lacks, there is so many ways of bringing magic and fantasy to life.

Avatar (2009), however, looked stunning, but only had enough storyline for a 21-minute episode. It should’ve been the most expensive TV series, and the plot we were presented with would fill the pilot quite nicely.

CGI should be there to enhance a narrative, not try to distract you from it or paper over a lackluster tale. All too often, the audience is underestimated: the filmmakers figuring that if they make something look pretty, the general public won’t notice the distinct lack of incident.

After watching the film Girl On The Train which I loved I spoke to my Mum telling her that she needed to watch turns out she had and hated it! Only because she’d read the book first and in her opinion the film didn’t do it justice. That appears to be a common thread with films that have come from novels, readers feel short-changed after watching the film because the have only skimmed the surface of the details that were in the book.

When it comes to the Harry Potter films, having not read the books and having nothing to compare them to I love them and was eager to create an image inspired by the films for some time. This opportunity arose when I found out that a client who had booked a newborn shoot with me was a huge fan. She was unaware that I was planning anything and I chose to do it as a surprise with the intent of using the image as a competition entry if she was happy for me to do so. Knowing how popular the films are I also hoped that by sharing a Harry Potter themed image on my website and social media it would increase my traffic.


Before I started to sketch out my idea for the shot I searched the internet to find other Harry Potter style newborn images to see what had already been done before.


This collection of images is from Pinterest & Google (Image references are at the end of this blog)

This gave me a good reference point when planning my image, not wanting to replicate work by another photographer, I made this mood board as inspiration but mainly to so I knew what not to do. These days it’s extremely difficult to come up with an original idea and as I’ve mentioned before the internet can be great for inspiration but it can also have the adverse effect when you feel like everything has been done before.

The world always seems brighter when you’ve just made something that wasn’t there before. Neil Gaiman

The demand for themed newborn props has definitely increased over the past few years. I have noticed on sites like Etsy there is a huge selection of vendors making baby props for almost everything you can think of.


You can also buy Harry Potter Digital backgrounds, to use these you need to photograph the baby in a way that it can be added into the background with some clever Photoshop skills.

This research into the buyers market for newborn prop vendors shows that if there is an increased demand, more and more props and related items are available to buy then it seems right to assume there is an increase in photographers doing these type of themed shoots.

SKETCHES (*take a photo of my sketch)


With the great selection of props and accessories online I could probably have bought most of the items that I needed for my image. Instead I chose to make as many of them props as I was able to so that my image would be unique. Taking inspiration from photographer and artist Kirsty Mitchell and her Wonderland series.


Using her experience in fashion and costume design she created every bit of the extravagant outfits, props and scenes. The complexity of each individual image was so intricate that I can only assume that having full control of the design at every stage was so important to achieve her vision.


Not in any way comparable to Mitchell’s creations but inspired by her I wanted to make as many of the props as I was able to.

For the bed, I used the branches from a cherry tree that we recently chopped down in our garden, I wanted it to look like it had been made in a time where there was no fancy tools. Just simple wood cutting tools with nails and rope to hold it together with a hessian mattress.

I also made the fluffy wool blanket using a needle felting technique, I knitted the scarf, melted and stuck the candles together, printed paper with script text and then aged the letters and envelopes with coffee and teabags.

The owl, wand, headband & wrap were purchased from Etsy sellers, I could have attempted to make these as well but I ran out of time so these were bought items.


As always, with a newborn shoot you never know which way it’s going to go. You can get a baby that sleeps the whole time or on the odd occasion they have health issues like colic or reflux and they generally don’t settle at all.

During this shoot the baby girl – Maisie, slept really well…. a relief after all the preparation for this shot I’d hoped for! When I revealed the Harry Potter scene, the Mum was lost for words! Another relief for me, I was so pleased at her reaction and how eager she was for us to get the shot I had in mind. The (rough) sketches that I had done were handy to have because I was able to show her how we needed to have Maisie positioned. She was going to be wrapped and on her back so it wasn’t a complicated set up, all we needed was for her to be content in a deep sleep.


Nikon D750 & Sigma Art 50mm 1.4

Jinbei Light and softball diffuser @ 45 degrees to the front left of the baby



1/250 F4 ISO 200

I usually shoot most of my newborn portraits at around F2 to achieve a nice soft fall off behind the facial features to the blurry background. For this shot I wanted to make sure I got a little bit more detail showing in the letters so I set my aperture to F4.



As recommended by Duczman on the workshop I attended I purposely underexposed these shots. Making sure to preserve all the highlights with the intent to recover the shadows in Photoshop.


Out of these 2 images I much preferred the aerial shot of Maisie, it is more pleasing to the eye, less cluttered, better composition and she’s holding the wand which meant I could add some magic light to that. Even though I intended for her to hold the owl the wand worked just as well.

Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep. Scott Adams


The edit consisted of removing the flaws & skin retouch then adjusting the exposure, highlights, shadows, contrast, colour, and adding light to the wand. After that I flattened the image and took it into Alien Skin (Additional editing software for Photoshop) here I used the sliders to increase the contrast and final colour adjustments.

Baby Maisie-8-Edit


The final edit of this is very close to how I imagined it, the only difference from my original sketch is that she’s holding the wand instead of the owl. In hindsight the wand is what stands out as the focal point and appears to be the light that illuminates her face. There is even a bright circle highlight in the tip of her nose which looks like it’s been cast from the wand. If I was to do this again I would perhaps try a different layout with the papers on the floor. The more I look at it the more they look purposely placed instead of fallen or discarded. In general I’m really pleased how this turned out, it’s never a sure thing that the baby will sleep never mind get the shot so I’m grateful for that. And I look forward to hopefully entering it into a competition, even if that just results in some constructive feedback which will help me improve my work in the future.

All images taken are copyright of myself (Suzanne Ross-Hughes | Perfect Moments Photography ) Any other images shown have been sourced from the internet and have been referenced accordingly. This blog also includes research and references to other photographers that relate to the topics discussed.

Pinterest photo references:,