Daughters of the Northern Coast


The purpose of this post is about exploring how to build an image to tell a story.

We’ve all heard the expression “a picture tells a thousand words” – it’s actually an average 83 (that I read in some research somewhere) but the number doesn’t really matter.  The facts are most of us are primarily visual and some pics communicate more effectively than others, that there are photos that speak millions and others little.

Ideally as a photographer you want to get as much as possible shot in the camera so to cut down post production time but that is not always possible or practical.

Below is a photo composite of three different photos – our model, the landscape and the old car.  On their own each image is OK but not a thousand words worth –  the elements joined to create a story that hopefully resonates with your audience and worth much more.

  • The model shot in a green screen studio in Sydney,
  • The car located on the highway near Sawtell on the North Coast and
  • The background landscape around Boorowa  NSW.

There is a caveat – the time to create a composite image is about ten fold  –

With every piece of communication you need to ask what message do you want to convey?

James Reyne is playing at our local club in a few weeks time -as teenagers during the 80’s we grew up listening, dancing and singing to Aussie Crawl on our surf trips up to the Northern Coast of NSW.  Sons of Beaches and Daughters of the Northern Coast.  Music an inspiration.

Sunset Over a Golden Sea Sunset Over a Golden Sea Photo by Scott Maxworthy maxymedia

We were down at Boorowa in mid south west NSW yesterday to do some filming for Ottoboca (my foodie project) with the Sam’s from Sam’s Paddock Butcher – simply beautiful tasting, high quality, pasture fed Angus beef.

This pic yet another example of the stunning beauty of our country – the late afternoon sun creeping through the clouds and washing the fields, gum trees and an old abandoned building (look closely) in golden light.

Boys toys

A Day In The Studio

The Essence of Uniqueness – Finding Your Own Style

My partner has headed off overseas for a couple of weeks – that means I can setup my temporary studio and be shooting and editing from 7AM to the wee hours of the morning.

The main objective is to get better at my lighting management; talent direction and post production composite creations.

The work I’m most inspired by right now are Commercial Photographers Dave Hill and Joel Grimes – they have this combination of creative design; technical lighting and Photoshop wizardry of stunning desaturated but high contrast images that I really love.

But, you can’t copy – the thing is you need to develop are your own skills and style and THEN see if there is market demand for that look.

It’s a conumdrum – do your create then market or market a look?  Where’s the opportunity?  Joel Grimes gave a great interview of his success – in essense – we are ALL unique – what you’ve got to do is take that uniqueness to develop your style.

From a business point of view I’ve been trying different styles to see where the market is – from landscapes (no money in that) to actor headshots, lingerie and fine art.  Below are some of the shots so far this week


Modelling shot – Tessa

Tessa - PortraitPhoto by Scott Maxworthymaxymedia

 Experimenting with tones.

TessaPhoto by Scott Maxworthymaxymedia


TessaPhoto by Scott Maxworthymaxymedia


Getting more artistic – I’m liking these shots

Behind the MaskPhoto by Scott Maxworthymaxymedia

Liar BirdPhoto by Scott Maxworthymaxymedia

Shooting some high constrast black and whites – for the fashion market – the shots are OK but they don’t grab me.
ExposedPhoto by Scott Maxworthymaxymedia

I think this shot is pretty clich’d and would be in my stock shot bag if I was to focus attention on bodiour and lingerie photography. 

TakenPhoto by Scott Maxworthymaxymedia



SNAPPYS – Social Not Actually Planned Photography You Shoot

I’ve written before about event photography – in particular planning is critical for wedding photography or corporate shoots (and when you’re being paid) BUT, there are also times when you decide to take your camera along just to capture the moment and hopefully get some interesting shots – SNAPPYS – Social Not Actually Planned Photography You Shoot.

Case in point is our small annual Xmas poker game with a few mates, beers, a pizza or ten and combined with some good old fashioned mate sledging.  So, last night I grabbed the camera and just shot as the evening unfolded.

With any type of event you know ahead that there’s a basic storyline or timeline that will be followed.

  • Arrival and introductions (introduce the characters)
  • Food
  • Game commencement, rounds and player eliminations
  • The Finale 
  • The Award Ceremony
My thoughts are to wrap these individual images into a storyline and then create a single composite image – a bit like creating a cartoon strip.
With any set of images you want to create a common consistent style across the images so you’re not confusing your viewers – in many ways it’s similar to writing styles – that you don’t go from a chatty and conversational tone of voice to suddenly prim and proper.
For this shoot I want to move fast so I keep my equipment and setups very simple – also  so any of the lads can pick up the camera and shoot.
  • Canon 7D with 15mm-85mm kit lens 
  • 1 x 580 EXII Speedlight hot shoe mounted.
  • Manual setting – Shot f/5.6, 160ASA, 1/100 shutter with E-TTL

Post Production

Home later that night in Lightroom about 50 shots are quickly short listed to a dozen and then shorted listed again to seven ( I read somewhere that when compositing you want to use an odd number  – Rule of odds )

I use OnOne Perfect Photo Suite 6 software effects module and select “Nicely Toasted” from the Vintage Presets – it’s fast and gives the photos a different look and feel then the straight photographs.

Back in Photoshop all the photos are added as layers and a corkboard background image is Googled, copied and added.

The same process for some drawing board pins.  I could spend an hour just making these pins more realist but how much time do you want to spend?

I hand-write in some comments using my old Wacon tablet – this is an essential PC interface add on for anyone working with images.

The entire image is merged to create the end result.  All up it’s around fours hours work (do you still call it work if you’re doing it to learn?).

I post into my Facebook page and tag the lads – they love it.

Does it work better than the individual unprocessed shots?  Absolutely….well I think so.  What do you think?


The Portable Studio – Equipment List

Ok, the first article “Tuesday Technical Tips”.  Where to start?  Well, first of all being a photographer is not about what camera and equipment you have that matters most – “a fool with a tool is still a fool” – though

  • like a guitar, good equipment in the right hands certainly makes a difference.
  • like Apple fans – product fans will tell you it’s THE MOST IMPORTANT thing that matters.
  • good equipment should increases your creative options and capabilities.

The ultimate compliment being “wow you must have a great camera! (smiles)”  

At the end of the day you’re just painting and capturing light – and although amazing results can be achieved with just a smart phone and a small torch you’d hate to have to depend on it.

What equipment you need very much depends what type of photography you want to pursue, how much money you’ve got and how much desire you have to get technical.

In many ways a photographer is a bit like a chef knowing how the ingredients combine to make, bake a deliver a beautiful cake – about trying to understand all the technical elements simultaneously involved – customer need; image composition; what are the myriad of settings on your schmancy new DSLR; what’s happening when you change the fill in strobe (flash) aperture of 2.8 to 5.6 (and move it back double the space); what’s the best work-flow from camera to computer; what editing package; getting the images to web or print.  Yes, it’s practically endless.

What matters most for you?


For me, being mobile is always a consideration and that itself has degress – there’s “global backpacking bush trekking mobile” to “get around in the car mobile” through to I’d love a big studio with heaps of stuff in it “non mobile”.  

For me, it’s “I carry it on a plane mobile” – ie maybe a camera bag and another carry bag.

Power and weight

Camera; strobe units; computer – all require power.  The batteries are probably the heaviest parts of what you’ve got to carry.  I like to try and shoot outdoors – that means I’m sometimes carrying up 25kg of equipment.


No need to say anything more – if you spend one dollar will it make you two (and how long before it pays the $2+)?  There’s always equipment creep.

My Equipment

Like any new project it’s worth taking a quick note of where you are now and where you want to be so you can move forward.  Let’s take a look at my current (and fairly limited) equipment.



Canon 7D 

Upgraded last year from an Olympus E-330 – it was a good place to start but now with the 7D – it’s a beautiful piece of kit.  Several reasons for selecting this camera –

  1. We’d just won a big CLIVE studio job (low light) and the old camera was strugglng with a lot of noise at higher ISO settings 
  2. Wanted video capability as part of our CLIVEvideo projects.
  3. Standard camera base amongst friends allowed for lens and accessory sharing
  4. Software system interoperability – basically means becuase of popularity and major brands then device drivers etc are available immediately

Canon EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM Lens Review


EF-S 15-85mm and a Canon EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM

The 15-85 came standard with the camera and is OK.  As my primary focus at this stage (excuse the pun) is portrait type photography then I wanted a great lens – the 24-105mm L is simply great.  For portraits a wide angle (less than 24mm) will make someone look like you’re seeing them through fish eyes and is not very complimentary.  A long lens removes any distortion.  A wide aperature (ie f/1.4) = more light the better and creates narrow depth of field – nice highly desired “bokeh” effect.  The 7D has a 1.6 cropping sensor – I’m told that makes an 60mm lens deliver a 100mm result.  I tend to shoot f/5.6 and do my blurring in post edit Photoshop.  

Yes, there are a few more lens on the wish list.

Fader ND Filter ( ND2 to ND400) 77mm Neutral Density


77mm Fader ND Filter This filter gives me the ability to create darkness on a bright day.  For example, a blurred waterfall shot (slow shutter) and small aperature.
Speedlite 580EXII front

Strobes (Flash units)

Canon Speedlite 580EX II; Canon Speedlite 430EX ii; Olympus FL-36 The Speedlights give me the ability to quickly add a flash to the camera and using the automatic E-TTL Flash Metering, get quick quality results but now I’m nearly always shooting off-camera flash using triggers and the flash units set up manually based upon light meter readings.  Three flash units gives me 1 x main key light; a fill and a hair or rim option.
Item image

Strobe Triggers


RF602 RF-602 for Canon with 3 receivers

As this was my first entry into flash triggers I did a fair bit of research on the pros and cons of these relatively inexpensive units. Feedback – still learning and nothing to compare against but seems to work so far.  Can also be set up as a remote camera trigger.
Sekonic L-358

Light Meter

Sekonic L-358 A critical piece of equipment once you start experimenting with multiple off camera flash units.  Combined with the remote triggers you can instantly see what imact changes in flash settings is having on light striking your subject.  Also a cine feature for our video production projects.


Manfrotto 055




After years of tripods falling apart on me I decided to get something solid and picked this up on Ebay for about $100.  It’s old, sturdy and heavy and doesn’t quiet fit my specification of backpack mobility but it’s solid and there’s no movement.

Camera Bag

Kata DR 467i Everything above (excluding the tripod) can fit into this bag including my laptop. 
lighting accessories

Lighting Accessories

LightPro BK-2K Accessories Kit

The LightPro Strobist Accessory Kit is a good start it includes: Studio Adaptor, 40x40cm Speedy Softbox, Small Pro Globe, Small Snoot, Barndoor Grid Set, Umbrella Reflector, 32” Shoot Through Umbrella and Extension Arm.   Yes, there are many more items on the wish list.

I’ve also got some sandbags; clips; reflectors; stands.

Photoshop CS5


Photoshop CS5


Photomatrix Pro


For every one hour taking the photos there’s usually another 2 hours or more involved with editing.  I go with Photoshop because that’s the tools the pros use.  If you’re going to invest your time in developing software skills then best to develop where there is a market and user base of knowledge to draw upon

Iphone Photography Applications


Future post.

Next week we’ll start to look how these elements come together for a shoot.

It Always Depends On The Talent

To write a good article depends on the writers talent and skills – it’s usually a very solitary thing.
To get a good photo for a photoshoot I’d maybe shoot 100-200 shots in a 2-3 session depending on the model and if any other crew; from that I usually get a dozen or so “good shots”.  Then there’s roughly 1/2 an hour in Photoshop per image.  It always takes time and depends on the models talent and the photographers skills.  The more skilled you get the more automatically goes into the shot.
With professional video you shoot for a day – then allow a day’s edit to create a one minute clip – scriptwriters, actors and directors talent, editors skills, the much more people involved. 
For a 15-30 sec CLIVEvideo – there’s usually about two hours writing the script; up to an hour online presenter coaching; up to an hour and many takes to get a natural engaging delivery.  A professional presenter will deliver the script perfectly in 1 or 2 takes.  
It comes down to objective and conversion.
Everything depends on the talent, skills AND what results you want!

A quick overview of HDR Photography

So much of your photography is about eliminating information – HDR Photography  (High Dynamic Range) is about capturing the whole range of luminance – from the faintest shadows to that of a star light .  You see human eye has a sensitivity range of around 10-15 stops (the aperture settings on a camera) whereas the typical DSLR sensor has a range of around 6 stops.  

To create a HDR image you combine multiple photo exposures in an application like Photoshop or Photomatix, at a basic level just three – one heavily under exposed; one normal and one over exposed (but you can use up to 9 depending on your stop bracketing).  A tripod is a must.  A remote trigger is an advantage to reduce any camera shake.

Set to your camera to Aperture mode – so that the variable across each image is just the shutter speed.

If you’re shooting in low light then conscious of slow shutter speed and therefore blurring – sometimes this adds to the image.

Rock Pools Oak Park Cronulla