The Photography Show 2019: Colour popping portraits with Hannah Couzens | Profoto (UK)

The Photography Show 2019: Colour popping portraits with Hannah Couzens

04 March, 2019

Written by: Hannah Couzens

Multi-award winning photographer Hannah Couzens will be joining us at The Photography Show 2019 to share her expertise in capturing portraits and lighting to achieve the perfect image. In a recent shoot, Hannah captured colour popping portraits and bought carnival vibes to life in her studio, and below talks us through how she achieved her bright and powerful portraits.

Colour popping portraits

Maurisa and I have worked together for a few years on various different themes but mainly corporate headshots. Originally from Trinidad, I knew that Maurisa models the most incredible costumes at the Notting Hill Carnival each year. 

I saw a snapshot photo of her at carnival with this Savage Beauty headpiece and we decided that such a costume needed to be photographed in the studio. This headpiece is such a statement I wanted to create some strong and bold images full of impact. With the help of incredible make up artist Abbie Beautement, we decided to keep the colour theme going into the make up then keep the background very dark to make the colours pop. 

Set-up 1

For the lighting I knew that I wanted to keep it simple yet make sure we didn’t lose Maurisa into the background, so I chose to sculpt the light carefully around her face, shoulders and neck. 

I chose two 1x6 strip boxes to light the side of Maurisa’s face, shoulders and hair. At this point I wasn’t sure if we wanted to shoot full length images or get in close.

For my key light I chose to use a B10 with 3ft Octa to light the face. We realised that the headpiece looked even more impressive with the head tilted back slightly. Although the light was set up in butterfly position (centred overhead pointing down the nose) you don’t notice the typical light pattern on the face. This did however show off the make up more and still allowed me to keep light in Maurisa’s eyes. 

Set-up 2

Once on set, I realised just how amazing the costume looked from the side profile. As a portrait photographer I hardly ever shoot anybody in complete profile but this almost looked more impressive. 

I was concerned about everything getting lost into the background so I decided to add a B10 with bare head behind Maurisa on to the black background to create some separation and also one of the stripboxes to the back of the hair and shoulder before positioning the Octa in front of Maurisa. 

Set-up 3

After a few frames I realised something wasn’t working for me so I started back with just the key light so I could see what was bothering me. 

As it goes, I realised I much preferred the image with just the Octa as opposed to the three lights.  

The aim of the shoot was to create dramatic, bold shots full of impact. I felt that for the profile shots, this was definitely more impressive with just one light. A great reminder to not over complicate things! 

The Photography Show 2019

Hannah will be joining us at The Photography Show 2019 to tell us her top lighting tips and techniques to help get the shot every time. More information about the show and tickets can be found here. To see more of Hannah's work visit her website or Instagram


Written by: Hannah Couzens

Products used in this story

OCF Softbox Strip

Ideal for edge or rim lighting, used with off-camera flashes
From £166.67

OCF Softbox Octa

Ideal for flattering portraits, used with off-camera flashes
From £133.33