Portrait Masterclass with Peter Coulson

Mar 29, 2014, 3:54:00 PM

“Can’t teach an old dog new tricks” - rubbish! 


Walked in full of enthusiasm, carrying my signature 212m pen, small notepad and Hasselblad H4D50 and 7 hours later exited with a notepad full of key points, diagrams and practical tips, the ‘blad memory card screaming ‘download me and see what I’ve captured’ and even more enthusiasm than I entered with. What a great day!


For me personally it was time to step away from landscape photography and a reliance on, and self-taught understanding of, natural light in an outdoor environment. I wanted to enter, if only briefly, the world of professional portrait photography; bending, shaping and using studio lighting to achieve a pre-determined look, style and quality. To use my Hasselblad in a whole new way and expand my understanding of this amazing camera.


In this new world I was keen to enter, who better than Peter Coulson as a guide, teacher, mentor? After a brief personal chat on the phone in response to an email I had previously sent, I enrolled in Peter’s upcoming Portrait Masterclass - “a one day intensive hands on workshop, suitable for all levels”, held in his Koukei Studio in Kilsyth South, Victoria. The maximum group size was 8 and the workshop, held last Saturday, was ‘full’.


Regardless of their field of endeavor; be it business, sport, health, etc, it is always a humbling experience listening to and watching first hand an expert in action. Their self belief, confidence and enthusiasm for the ongoing development of their chosen field allows them to freely share knowledge, technique and experiences. They don’t fear competition, instead thriving on the challenges it presents. Peter is no exception. No question asked was ignored or trivialized and all facets of the shoot and post production techniques were explained in detail. Hence, my notepad brimming with new-found pieces of wisdom.


No Portrait Shoot could be complete without someone to photograph. Controlling the use of natural light, shaping artificial light from one or a number of light sources or constructing an image using a blend of both natural and artificial light might be challenging and a load of fun, but it is meaningless without having an end result in mind and a model to bring it all to life.


Wow! How lucky were we. First we got to work with Rhiannon Tragear-Ragg on some edgy black & white, chrome/metallic overtones, set-ups. Rhiannon was perfect for this look and although she did not show it, she must have got sick and tired of having gusts of wind pushed into her amazing face as each of the 8 participants took turns to photograph her under similar and repetitive conditions. Perhaps Peter should have kept this technique under wraps for the sake of Rhiannon! The afternoon part of the workshop saw a change of model from Rhiannon to Teisha Lowry and a shift in style from black & white to front cover of a colour magazine. Again, Teisha was a perfect subject for this different style. Each ‘look’ brought about by a change in the lighting set-up employed and each new set-up adding to my notes, covering photographs and new-found understanding and knowledge.


To see some of the images I took during the workshop click here.


I would like to think I played a major role in capturing them, but nothing could be further from the truth. Peter set the lights and explained post production techniques he used, Rhiannon and Teisha were so professional that they knew what to do without me telling them, and the Hasselblad instinctively knew how to work in this environment. All I had to do was press the shutter release button. Still, someone had to do it!


As the oldest person in the group (by some many years) I felt privileged to be there. To be learning from the best at what they do, both Peter and his models, Rhiannon and Teisha. To experience first hand the utmost respect and trust that each had for the other and their understanding of their respective roles in making the Portrait Shoot a success. To be challenged in a field outside my comfort zone. To have the passion and the desire to learn new tricks!


That’s what I love about photography, there is so much to learn, so much to share and so many new images to capture.


Rick Broadway

212m Photographic Gallery & Studio - Ballarat