Playhouse Creatures

This past Sunday evening I biked down to Homerton College to meet up with Bethan Davidson and the rest of the cast of Playhouse Creatures to shoot some publicity photos. I brought two lenses with me, the 85 mm for portraits and the 50 mm in case I needed something a bit wider. The portraits below are shot with a main light to the left shooting through an umbrella, and with a second flash from behind to give some highlights in the hair.

We were shooting in a simple classroom, with a rather bright beige background. With flashes you can control the brightness of the background in several ways.

The ambient light from the background is modified by the shutter speed, the aperture and the ISO. The flash on the other hand is only modified by the aperture and the ISO, since the burst of light from the flash has such a short duration.

If you want to make the background brighter, then you can use a longer exposure. If you want to make the subject brighter, without making the background brighter then you have two options. The first is to increase the aperture, and reduce the exposure time accordingly to maintain the background exposure. Since flash light is not affected by shutter time the net effect is that your subject is brighter.

Another way to make the flash brighter is to move it closer to your subject. The light falls off with the square of the distance. If your subject is at 2 metres distance from the flash, and the background is at 4 metres, then the difference in illumination will be 1:4. If you move the flash one metre closer, the relative difference between the subject and background will be 1:9. You need to compensate the exposure accordingly, but this lets you change the relative light levels.

Ok, enough about that, here are the photos…

Bethan Davidson. Notice the highlight on the right side of her face that helps define the outline. With an umbrella on the second flash this light would be softer. Can you hear that I am trying to motivate my future purchase for myself?
Posey Mehta
Jessi Strich
Zoé Barnes
Flo Best, costume, hair and make-up design.
Isla Iago
Stella Pryce, director of the play.
Here is the final poster, beautifully designed by Hannah Grace Taylor.
Isla Iago. I was shooting this pressed up against the wall on the other side of the classroom, to manage to fit her in the frame.

Homerton College is really far away, and for some reason, during the last few months, I have been there a disproportional number of times, compared to other colleges. Is Homerton some Theatre Mecca?

– Johannes


Update: If you want to create a similar light in the portrait the way I did it, then you need a shoot through umbrella. This was what I used: shoot through umbrella, flash standmounting adapter and hot shoe adapter (Amazon links). There are cheaper flash stands out there, but I opted for quality.


Mrs Betterton – Bethan Davidson
Mrs Marshall – Zoe Barnes
Nell Gwyn – Isla Iago
Doll – Posey Mehta
Mrs Farley – Jessi Stritch

Production Team
Director – Stella Pryce
Assistant Director – Bethan Davidson
Producer – Miranda Venables
Costume and Hair & Make-up Design – Flo Best
Photographer – Johannes Hjorth
Corset Mistress – Zoe Barnes
Publicity Designer – Hannah Taylor


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