Love Photography: The Upcycled Portrait Studio with Shane Peagram

Dan Ryder by Shane Peagram 2
Dan Ryder by Shane Peagram

On Thursday evening award winning photographer, Shane Peagram, revealed some of the secrets behind his amazing work to a fascinated (if slightly crammed-in…) group of local photographers, artists and novices attending the Doncopolitan‘s latest Love Photography workshop.
Shane is famed for his dramatic and highly creative portrait work…
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…but what you might not know is that he rarely uses expensive, state-of-the-art equipment, because an understanding of light – and how to manipulate it – will serve you much better than paying a fortune for the latest ‘must have’ camera.
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Shane (top left in the above photo) began the evening talking us through some his photographs.
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He introduced concepts such as the classic light patterns for portraiture before revealing that some of his most beautiful portraits were actually taken in a dingy little garage using various ‘found materials’ (‘trash’ to those of us who are less inventive than Shane). For instance the ‘dress’ in the image below is actually some wrapping which came with a bunch of flowers.
Shane is a bit of a magpie and encourages all photographers to collect interesting, everyday items which other people might throw out. He even came to the workshop with a bunch of feathers he’d been collecting en route for a future portrait he’s planning of a local street dancer who has the best afro in Donny. As you can see below the only light source was the large shop window of the Doncopolitan Studio and the backdrop for the evening was made from a large cardboard box which Shane’s new bed had just been delivered in. He painted it using tester pots and gave it a classic ‘distressed’ look by scratching some of the paint away once it had dried.
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But Shane doesn’t just use reclaimed materials for his props and backgrounds, he also uses them to control the light for his portraits. He took the other half of the large cardboard box and painted one side black and the other side white. This gave us a large reflector to bounce back the light coming in from the window.
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Above the white side of the c̶a̶r̶d̶b̶o̶a̶r̶d̶ ̶b̶o̶x̶ reflector is being used to provide a flattering light for the young lady (whom fans of the Doncopolitan might recognise). Below the black side is creating a more dramatic lighting effect.
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Although we didn’t need it on the night, even the foam packing which came inside the box can be used as a light modifier. Simply tape it over the window to diffuse the light and create a more flattering glow.
Shane has many tips like this, such as using a Pringles‘ tubes as a free snoot, but recommends you search the internet for the many hundreds of photographers hacks which are out there… and which can save you a small fortune!
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Here the large black card is being used as a backdrop and a smaller piece of foam-board, with one side painted black, is being used as a reflector (the results of which can be seen at the end of this blog post). And what’s true for portraits is true of other photography, such as still life…
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Shane has been kind enough to leave his r̶u̶b̶b̶i̶s̶h̶ reflectors behind, so we’re going to use them to help people practice using some of the techniques he taught us on the evening. If you fancy taking part in one of these practical evenings, or if you want to come along to the next Love Photography workshop, then email us at:
In the meantime here’s that portrait which Steve Bates’ was taking using the home-made black reflector and black background. We think you’ll agree that its not at all bad for some cardboard, foam-board, black paint, a window and a little imagination 🙂
Dan Ryder by Steve Bates
Dan Ryder by Steve Bates

A huge thank you to Shane Peagram and everyone who attended on the workshop.

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