23, Calbro Court, Tuam Rd, Galway

If you follow my website blog over at http://seanmcfoto.com/blog, you’ll know I’m building up a portfolio of composite work. Obviously I make no claim at mastery yet, but I’m happy with the quality of the work. That said, I’m still working away at it. Here’s a recent shot, and I’ll talk through the making of.

Bink quays alpha

The first part of this to be shot was the background. I did a recent trip in Galway city centre to shoot loads of lanes and alleys, but with the light fading, and street lights coming on. The actual time window in which to get these is quite short, so I’m pleased to have 10 different lanes from that evening. Not all are useable, but I really only need one.

Backgrounds 220811 4829

I did a fair bit of cloning out of cigarette butts, and that was most of the work done on the background.

I had model Madame Bink in studio a few days later, with the intention of shooting for composite. You can see my studio setup below.

MadameBink 250811 4891

I shot on a ‘Storm Grey’ background from Creativity Backgrounds. It’s probably slightly darker than I want, but still works fine. For the key light, I’m using a 44cm silver Elinchrom Beauty Dish on a BX400. I’m using the translucent deflector, rather than the more standard silver. I just like the look! For rimlights, I’m using 2 Portaflash 336’s with barndoors (because I never sold them on, no other reason). Sometimes I need to add black wrap (cinefoil) to these to flag even more. You’ll also notice, I’ve got 2 black sheets of aeroboard against the wall. This is to stop spill off the white walls to aid in better light control.

For post processing, I began with the Quick Selection tool on Madame Bink in Photoshop CS5. I then used Refine Edge to get a better selection. I cleaned up the resulting mask using a number of different tricks, including brushing in Overlay mode and normal brushing. Using the Move tool, I dragged the layer with the mask to the tab for my background image. Holding the shift key, I released it to drop it in the centre of the background. The image is too large, so I used Free Transform and click the link icon on the H and W sections and entered 60%.

The shadows were added by using a Drop Shadow layer style. I then used the Layer>Layer Style>Create Layer command to put this shadow on a new layer. I duplicated it twice, and used Distort and opacity to create 3 shadows that mimic’d the original lighting. The final look comes from processing the photo in onOne Software‘s Phototools.


Flickr has long been the bastion of photo sharing on the net, but truly it’s like a bastard stepchild for Yahoo. They’ve no idea what to do with it, and nothing they do try makes it better. Quite the opposite is often the case. There are a few new contenders to throne and one of them is 500px. I’m not a bandwagon kind of guy. A lot of my photographers friends often jump on each new thing, but to be honest, I already have enough to do without adding another site to my list of things to maintain online. I let my Flickr Pro go this year and I suspect I’ll be letting it linger.
So after a while of leaving the bandwagon to settle, I’ve taken a closer look at 500px. To me it seems like a mix of Flickr and perhaps 1x.com, but without the secret handshake mysterious deciders of your fate. The photo interaction is community geared, but without the discussion groups. There are blogs however which are interesting in this concept, but I’m not sure that they foster community so much.
So I’ve joined and uploaded my weekly quota of 20 photos as a free user for now. Whether or not I decide to be ‘Awesome’ (or is that too tacky?) remains to be seen.


As part of building up work for magazine submission, I recently pulled together a team to start shooting editorials. Click the photo to be taken to the gallery of final images. As it was our first time together, I’m pleased with the results for a number of reasons. First that it was a large team contributing, and that I had people dealing with different aspects of the shoot, taking pressure of me. I’m used to working tight and small. In fact, I’m even starting to do hair, to add to my makeup skills for when budgets are tight and we still need to pull something off. I’d like to thank my team:

Model: Lily Robbenn
Wardrobe/Hair Styling: Byron B. Yeates
Makeup: Aisling Kelly
Assistant: Saibh Egan

John McGrath also did a BTS video which I’ll link to when he’s finished.

During the tour with Mark Cleghorn, we had a day off on the Saturday, when we went to Wales vs South Africa. On the Sunday we made our way to Twickenham for the seminar on Monday. We didn’t leave until late afternoon, so that gave me time to fit in a shoot with Becky Dee. I used some of the material from the shoot in the remaining seminars. Here’s a selection of images from the shoot. It was interesting, because Becky normally only does Glamour and I don’t usually shoot Glamour. Mark’s reaction to the bedroom set stuff was one word: ‘Overlit’. Oh well. Live and learn. Mark does have a preference for harder light, and while I often shoot like that, I didn’t this time.

Becky-8652.jpg Becky-8633.jpg Becky-8680.jpg

More after the jump. Continue reading ›

A quick one from yesterdays shoot with Alex. I’ll be using this shoot as part of my Raw worklow on Mark Cleghorn’s tour: http://www.markcleghorn.com/training/seminars/photoshop-vs-lightroom-tour-2010


For Sale. This old house is, on the road from Maam Cross to Leenane, is beautifully eye catching and fantastically located. I’ve often wanted to stop there and shoot, but there’s nowhere to pull in. Or at least there wasn’t. Someone filled in a small pull in with gravel, a few minutes walk from the house. The house looks great from the road, but it’s really hard to get a composition without it looking lost. I think you’d really need a ladder or a pole to get the shot perfectly.

This time, the gate was already open, it’s usually closed and locked when you drive past. I trudged through the garden to pick this point. I’m sure there’ll be folks saying I should clone out the pylon, but I really like it. It’s the last pylon, there to serve this house, and this house only.

An old sunset revisited.

I shot a poster for John O’Dowd’s last play ‘The Head of Red O’Brien’. It’s a long and entertaining monologue. I have to say that having read it, I admired John’s tenacity in getting through it. It’s rather wordy, so he really did a great job with it. For the poster John donned a wetsuit, shirt and head bandage and ducked into the freezing cold waters of the River Corrib to get a great shot that I love.
Time doesn’t stand still though, so I was glad when John came to me for a new headshot recently. While I love shooting well lit studio portraits, of late I’ve been tending towards natural light for my headshots. So here’s the one John picked. He texted to say his agent loved it too.

In the process of tidying recently, I found a roll of expired Fuji Reala 120 film (expired 2005). Reala has been discontinued for a while, so I couldn’t help but want to shoot with it. There’s a roll of Kodak Portra 160VC in my rarely used Holga, so it was to the Mamiya 645J I went. If you’re not familiar with the 645J, it’s one of many medium format cameras that use a cartridge for the film loading, rather than a dedicated film back. Of course that means I could never use a digital back with it, but it would take a lot of film and scanning to get to the price of a digital back for me! Continue reading ›

It’s been a rather hectic few weeks. If you’re following me on Twitter, you’ll see some of what’s been going on. Last week was spent shooting production stills for Glor Tire. They’ve a new season beginning in September, so there was a lot of work recording bands and contestants. This week I’ve had 3 shoots with Alex Popovici, one for location fashion, one for swimwear, and one for shooting on my medium format film camera. Fun! Here’s a few of the fashion shoot.

Alex @ Cong Abbey
Alex @ Cong Abbey
Alex @ Ross Errily Abbey
Alex @ Ross Errily Abbey

I’ll post some of the Glor Tire shots once the programme has been officialy launched.