Professional Photographer to the Rescue: studio portrait photography demystified

Professional Photographer to the Rescue: studio portrait photography demystified

In our latest Professional Photographer to the Rescue post, our pro takes our apprentice into the studio and breaks down some of the common misconceptions about studio portrait photography and reveals the best equipment to use, simple techniques for working with studio lighting and portrait photography tips for making pictures your model will love.

Professional Photographer to the Rescue: studio portrait photography demystified

Our Professional Photographer


John Morley
John has shot more pictures of people than he can count. He set out as a professional photographer in 1972, when he was 15 and still at school; he got his parents to drive him to weddings he shot! He’s been at his Dorset studio for 19 years, regularly shoots portfolios for aspiring models and runs training courses – the perfect man to teach Luke the basics of studio portraiture.

Our Apprentice


Luke Bayliss
Luke lives in Bournemouth and works in merchandising for Tesco. He got into photography three years ago, and has always fancied a go at trying his hand at taking professional portraits – so we set him up with a fully equipped studio, two models, the services of a makeup artist, and our professional photographer.

Technique Assessment


As the first of the models emerged from the makeup room, John took Luke through the basics of setting his camera up for professional studio lighting…

Professional Photographer to the Rescue: use manual at f/11

Manual at f/11
“You need to have your DSLR switched to manual exposure mode (M) when using studio lights,” John explains. “The actual exposure is controlled by varying the output of the flash unit. To simplify things, I use f/11 for 90 per cent of my shots. This gets enough depth of field and ensures the best quality from the lens. The shutter speed is then set to 1/125 sec to ensure that the flash doesn’t have any problem synchronising with the shutter opening.”


Professional Photographer to the Rescue: get a grey card reading

Get a grey card reading
“Don’t leave your camera set to its default Auto White Balance mode when you shoot in a studio,” cautions John. “A consistent manual setting is best, as it enables you to batch-process your images more quickly. If you’re not familiar with the lights, take a Manual White Balance reading using a commercially available grey card or a piece of white paper.”

PAGE 1: Meet our professional photographer and apprentice
PAGE 2: During the shoot
PAGE 3: Final tips from our professional photographer
PAGE 4: Our professional photographer’s recommended gear


Wedding photography tips: 10 steps to pro-quality pictures
Free portrait lighting cheat sheet
54 Portrait Ideas: free downloadable posing guide