Always pushing, always learning

Hand Painted backdrop
Custom backdrops being made at the workshop

Last weekend I attended a multifaceted workshop at Mary Duprie’s Studio in Pontiac, MI.  We started out Friday night by painting our own canvas backdrops.  This is something I have wanted to try for years, but never really had a good concept of how to go about it.  Mary has made hundreds of backdrops so she was a great person with whom to learn.  She shared her secret mix of paint colors and we went to town.  Once the paint dried we experimented a little with plaster and finally colored venetian plaster.

Small sample of my backdrop
A cropped shot of the finished product

It was a thoroughly enjoyable experience, and I now have a hand-made backdrop that I will use for years to come.  I will be making more, but I think I’ll wait until summer and make mine in the garage, my studio floor is not as water tolerant as Mary’s!

As fun as it was, I was happy to get home for a little rest before starting day two.  Saturday started with an introduction to working with a makeup artist, selecting the subjects clothing and designing the set.

Janet was our model for the day.  She brought a fun selection of outfits.  We first photographed her in some her own clothes, then we switched over to working with Mary’s vast wardrobe collection.

Model Photography Workshop
Janet with wardrobe from studio collection

I have a Profoto beauty dish, but I never got the results from it that we were able to get at this worship.  I now have several new lighting setups with which I look forward to experimenting.

Janet with Profoto beauty dish.
Getting the lighting fine tuned.


After a brief break for lunch we moved onto working with natural light.  When I teach workshops I spend a lot of time discussing how to shoot indoors and out using natural light.  May of my Photography students don’t own studio lights and are trying to photograph family members (their children typically) to their best advantage.  Once again, Mary had a different take on things and the images came out beautifully.

Window Light Portrait
Window Light Portrait

A quick wardrobe change and the addition of an elegant chair gave us very different look for our next setup.  The 17th century chair gives this portrait a very timeless feel.

We shot this set with several different backgrounds.  The black is the most timeless.  I like all the different looks, but the black is my favorite.





For day three with had a new subject with which to work.  Alex was a more experienced model and Mary taught us how to take her from where she was and give her a few new techniques with which to advance her skills.  I look forward to high school senior photography time.  I will be adding a modeling flair to the session that will be great for creating dynamic images and fun for the kids.  It was fun to watch as Alex picked up on the new information and started to apply it to her modeling.

Full length portrait of Alex
A formal look with Alex

The lighting for the image at right is designed to primarily feature the mask of the face with subtle shadowing.  Alex was a beautiful subject and the lighting had to take advantage of her features.

Headshot with tight crop
A very different look with Alex

The image at left was our last set of the workshop.  We changed up everything.  This was shot high key.  I went in close for a very dramatic headshot, then pulled back for a much more playful image that I find very appropriate as Spring starts to take hold here in Rochester Michigan.


Full length to show off some of the new techniques we were practicing
Alex full length ready for Spring

With Wedding and Mitzvah seasons gearing up I am very excited to have had the opportunity to study with Mary Duprie and expanded my expertise.  I can’t wait for my next portrait client so we can collaborate and make them look fantastic.

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