Lorraine Owusu

Lorraine Owusu portrait and woodland shoot

1st August 2016


I met Lorraine when she was performing with Laura at an event promoting the work of the Joanna Project in Leeds. This project is aimed at reaching and helping prostitutes in the local area. A number of my friends are involved in the project. At the end of the evening we were introduced. When she found out I was a dance photographer she became really excited as she had been looking for one.

A few months later, after her course at the Northern School of Contemporary Dance was over, we managed to book a date. Lorraine wanted a few head shots for auditions and a dance ones too. She was particular keen on throwing powder around as she liked the photographs I had taken previously. As Sara was around, I invited her along too. She was interested to see how I set everything up as a photographer.

The shoot

This took place in my studio and in the wood outside. Once I know what my client's requirements are, I form a plan with a schedule, locations of each element and the equipment required to pull-off the shoot. We would go from portraits, smoke backgrounds and then powder throwing last as this would be very messy.

Lorraine Owusu

1. One of the first shots of Lorraine in the studio. An amazing smile. Very little had to be done when retouching her skin. f/8, 1/125th s and ISO 200.

With the studio/portrait shoot, I enquired what Lorraine's favourite colour was and as this did not clash with her skin tone and outfit it was set to yellow. Lorraine struggled with not smiling. She has a cute lovely smile, but sometimes a more neutral expression is required. Her attempts to pull this off resulted in a few scowls and this was not what we wanted. So, we stuck with smiling.

Lorraine Owusu

2. By tilting the camera it makes it look like Lorraine is leaning forward when in fact she was sitting upright. I placed a hair light to the left of the shot and behind. It did little to light her hair (to be expected really), but it did create a lick of light on the farside of her face nose to create a little separation from her hair and the unlit side of her face.

After the portrait shots we headed out into the wood and set-up for a few outdoor dance shots with Sara creating the background smoke. She found it much easier to light the smoke pellets than Kit in my previous dance shoot, then again I gave her a lighter this time instead of matches. I had to employ some additional lighting so the camera could focus towards the end of this session. It was becoming too dark.

Lorraine Owusu

3. Lorraine with a 'butterfly' kick. This was really hard to capture as there was quite a lot of movement in all directions and it was pretty dark. f/3.2, 1/400th s and ISO 1600.

Lorraine Owusu

4. While Sara was lighting the smoke pellet, Lorraine was pulling a few shapes so I photographed her at the same time. You cannot see any yellow from the back lights.

Lorraine Owusu

5. Lorraine wanted the right leg to be straight up. The previous attempted also worked, but her left arm was across her face. This one was spot on.

After the smoke we finished off with Lorraine and Sara throwing a few handfuls of flour around and making a lot of mess, but creating art in the process. Sara threw handfuls from the left of the photograph. Lorraine finished covered in flour and Sara received a decent splattering too. By this time there was no ambient light to make our way back. I am glad the torch I had was very bright. Next time I will bring both of them.

Lorraine Owusu

6. One of Lorraine's first powder throwing shots.

Lorraine Owusu

7. My favourite shot. This came about because in the previous shots Lorraine's right leg was not tucked in. So, I suggested she pull of a few Ghanaian dance moves as she is from Ghana. This is what we came out with.

Once the shot has been bagged we move on. If this was a concept shoot and we had lots of time to play with, I might try it again.

Lorraine Owusu

8. Lorraine's handstand keeping her legs horizontal. Sara threw the flour. I would have liked a few more attempts at this shot as a cloud of powder would have looked nicer. Still, the move is great!

Lorraine Owusu

10. Throw back. This was the last idea of the evening. Lorraine started low down with her arms in front of her and threw herself backwards to achieve this photograph. The back lights light the powder.


For the portrait shoot I used a 85mm f/1.8 lens and a full-frame camera mounted on a tripod.

The camera was set to ISO 200, f/8 and 1/125th of a second.

For the dance shoot I used a full-frame camera with a 24-70mm f/2.8 lens throughout. The camera was hand held.

The camera was set to ISO 1600, f/3.2 and 1/400th of a second.

The smoke was created with smoke pellets used for testing chimneys and extractor fans. They gave about thirty seconds worth of smoke.

The powder was plain flour and the yellow colour was created by covering the flashguns behind the dancer with yellow gels and sandwich bag to protect them from stray flour.

The torch was able to light Lorraine with enough light for the camera's auto focus to work. Otherwise it would have not worked. Thank God for high intensity LED torches!

Post processing

Most of the post processing was done in Lightroom. A bit of cropping, lens correction adjusting exposure and saturation. As the 'blacks' were increased so anything in the background started to disappear, the saturation needed to be pegged back. The yellow was boosted so the powder would stand out.

Photoshop was then used to bring out the detail in the smoke. In all cases sharpening too. I had to remove the light stand of the back lights and the odd leaf. I also removed a number of the larger clumps of flour in the shots.

For the portrait shots Photoshop was used to sharpen details in the hairs and eyes. The skin was slightly smoothed although with Lorraine very little work was required.

Lorraine Owusu

11. This is how Lorraine looked at the end of the shoot. This is pretty tame compared to other powder shoots I have seen or been involved with.

Lorraine Owusu

12. She was still smiling at the end. The experience left her with a few 'grey' hairs though.

Final thoughts and thanks

This was one shoot that took a while to arrange as Lorraine had returned to east London and she came up for this. I also discovered if she hires me again, I will have ensure all the lights are turned off after she has been in a room. She forgets to turn them off afterwards.

Having Sara around was a massive bonus. Most people are nervous during their first proper shoot. Having a friend around helps on many levels. Also knowing what works dance wise too is handy. Sara wanted to see a dance shoot from the otherwise too. Thank you for helping out.

The chocolate was polished off pretty quickly and helped Lorraine relax a bit.

I was pleased with the overall outcome of the shoots. I hope you love the results too.

Please leave a comment below and let me know what you thought of the photographs.

Your thoughts


Please leave any thoughts, comments, questions or just say, "Hi!" (not literally) below. I really do appreciate feedback. E.g. What is your favourite photograph and why?

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