Brett Harkness Training - Flash Training - Italy Course - Day 3

Day 3 started with grey misty skies & a great Italian breakfast.

The second day of shooting is always smoother than the first as we have gone through many techniques by now and the photographers on the course are a little more used to shooting in my style. So we hit the ground running with our first look. On this second day of shooting we had two agency models from an agency in Pisa.  Ambra Siri & Laviniana Otetaru. 

After a typical Italian breakfast and very good coffee we headed outside. Our first look on day two was a simple beauty shot / head shot with a variance on a clam shell set up for the lighting. We found a flat lit spot at the side of the villa where we set up two modifiers. One strip box & my trusty 135cm octa (direct). Shooting quite tight between the two boxes made sure the light was beautiful & even on Ambra's face. The box below filling in the neck shadows & the light above being flat to the model giving a nice even spread on the face & most importantly giving us a cool looking catchlight in the eyes.  


Everyone had ample time shooting the model with little direction needed on this shot due to the nature of the image. A beautifully flat lit image giving the photographers time to shoot with the model.

One of my favourite looks....... the red mist...

.....meanwhile in the trees Jo & Gareth were very busy working on our second model Lavinia making sure the amazing neckpiece ( from CCAD) that we were shooting on the next set up was in place. A fantastic feather & black leather neckpiece adorned the model with strong hair &  makeup. I immediately knew the set up that we needed for this shot as it had to be equally strong as the piece !! I wanted to work up slowly to the finished shot though, building the lights as we went. We started off with my main key light and built up the lighting as went. We ended up with 4 lights on this set - each one serving a different purpose to complete the look.

I started with my main light as I usually do, Elinchrom Octa 135 direct with 1 head. Attached to An ELB 1200w pack.  The main aim of this was to show what could be done in an area - background- that didn't have too much going for it. To change the scene completely by the way we lit it. After the main key light was set we added a second head with my favourite square grid on it. This was to ad some light to the rear of the models head and hairline but also to bring out the dark leather collar against the dark trees. So with our first two lights set I decided to ad some colour. We had with us some great gel sheets from Lee Filters which we cut up into squares and taped over two extra heads with small spill dishes on them . 

Once we had our bright red gels attached we added some fog/smoke to the background - this would give something for the gelled light to grip onto. Which it did! Filling the back of the model and her surroundings with a great red coloured smoke. This certainly was one of my favourite head shot looks from the three days.


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After a quick break for drinks and a snack we headed off for our next location in the grounds of the hotel. By this time most of the photographers had a better understanding of what we were doing and how we were looking to light the models. We also had Mark from Ricoh Pentax there to offer advice on the Pentax 645z which I use and also to give the photographers a chance to run a card through one on the shoot. A stunning camera that is a dream to shoot with! 

Archway & Trees

Using one of the archways in the grounds we set up for the next shot. I left it up to the photographers on this one to choose the location and how to light it, advising them on their choice and helping with the set up. The difficulty with this shot is that I really wanted to ad smoke to this one as we were shooting against the trees, being very dark in nature we had to light them. By chance the sun then popped out behind the trees lighting up the smoke rays perfectly! We had to act fast so as not to miss this one. Putting the extensions in place to run the fog machine was the hardest - stringing nearly 150ft of cables together to reach the back of the forest backdrop. Adding the key light was also tricky as I wanted to shoot with the archway in one of the shots and putting the Octa too close to the subject meant it was in the frame. 


It was very important here to make sure that our fill light in the trees was strong enough to act as if it was the sun shining through. A simple shot in the end but helped out by god's light! 



By this time the sun was quite warm so it was time for lunch. So we all took a break under the trees and sipped wine for a bit. A superb way to spend lunchtime! As always I am keen to get going on our training courses and after 40 mins was cracking the whip again! 

The Olive Press with Liviana

I knew our next location was going to be great as I had scouted this building a few months earlier when I came to look around the villa! The old Olive Press room dating back 100's of years. We had to give Jo & Gareth time to prepare the model but I knew when we picked up this dress from CCAD that it was going to be special and it didn't disappoint. Working in the contained shade of the olive room we made the lighting set up pretty simple with the Octa again as my main key light. The sun by this time was getting lower and cast a strong light into one of the windows in the room so we used a reflector to stop the light. Richard my assistant added another light outside in the first window to bring some depth to the subject and pick her out against the dark wall. The colour in this room couldn't have suited the model Liviana any better with what she was wearing..


I could have quite easily shot in this room all week as there was so much going on. When I shoot models I try not to give too much direction as I find this can sometimes look too forced, I prefer the model to make up her own mind about what she is wearing to avoid the pose looking forced and un natural.




It was almost like someone had gone in there weeks ago and painted this wall the color that we needed it was so perfect. When out on location you have to constantly look for things like this - I am always prepared to jump ship and move everything if I see something else that may work.. Jo & Gareth created the perfect swan! I love the way the light from the sun comes through the window on this shot and the light in the window puts a fine edge around the model just lifting her from the background. 

With the sunlight getting low now we still had two looks to shoot so we moved the kit as fast as we could to another location just 50ft from the Olive Press house. 

The Orange Tree 

I was looking forward to this one if not a little apprehensive on how the look would 'look'! Jo & Gareth yet again pulled it off to exactly what I had in my mind. When Ambra walked on set I knew it was going to work and under the orange tree seemed like the perfect location. Fallen oranges on the ground scattered around her complimenting the orange of the head dress ( by Mystic Magic ). Richard my assistant had to fight to cover her from the setting sun so that we were working in complete shade, not mottled sunlight. Using a reflector & the softbox he managed to stop the sun from hitting her - when on location particularly you have to make the most of the kit you have with you because thats all you have so many things double up for different uses. 



I was very happy with this shot and everyone got ample time even with the sun setting to shoot this. Shooting with ND filters on the Pentax 645z is a great way to control the ambience in a shot like this. Having max shutterspeed at 125th means that I have to use ND's to control the ambience and thus shutterspeed. It gives a painterly look to the images. Using strong power on the flashes whilst shooting on f4 for me is better than shooting on a low powered flash and using a faster shutterspeed. The light I find wraps the subject differently than shooting in High Speed flash mode ( even if I could I wouldnt) .


The Ballroom set up

What a beautiful way to finish an amazing two days of shooting in the Villa's own ballroom. An amazing room with beautiful frecscos adorning every space. 

I knew the group by this time were running on fumes! ( I could have kept going forever! ) But I wanted to finish off in the ballroom with Liviana. Working with the ambient light creeping through the curtains we used the Elinchrom ELB 1200w on 3/4 power as she was wearing a very black dress & as we know black sucks up the light. We had an amazing horned head dress ( from Mystic magic ) which Gareth had wrapped the models own hair & extensions around to create an amazing look to end with. 

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Adding a light behind her coming from the same direction as the natural light gave us a strong warm glow coming from the corner. Just enough to look natural whilst at the same time giving separation from the background. Making sure the shutterspeed was low enough to drag a little of the ambience out of the room and setting sun.

What an amazing few days we had in our own slice of Italian Villa life! It was awesome. A huge thank you to all the people involved and the hard work that went into this. The feedback was awesome as always on our abroad courses.  It was great to have some old familiar faces with us on this one aswell as some new ones too! It takes months of planning and preparation to pull off a course like this and we cannot put  a course on unless we have atleast 6 photographers. 

If you'd be interested in joining us on a trip like this either this year or next then please get in touch with us either through the site or via social media to tell us that your interested. If there is enough interest then we will start working on it! 

It's a fun packed 3 days ( 2 shooting ) filled with great company, great food & wine , great models and shooting. So join us in 2018 for  trip of a lifetime .....

If you didn't see Days 1 & 2 then click on the link below..


Thank you to in no particular order:


Jo Leversuch - Makeup & Styling ( internationally recognised as one of the best in the business

Gareth - Amazing hair & styling - Aqua the Salon

Richard Woodside - my assistant who worked his behind off to make sure the lights were perfect

Kristie & the kids - who without no abroad course is complete

Jane - for finding the Villas for us , lending us her kids to shoot & helping out over the 3 days! 

CCAD ( Cleveland College of Art & Design ) who without their fabulous outfits the course wouldn't have had the same impact

Mystic Magic design - fabulous head dresses & various pieces

Bex Brides ( amazing vintage clothing & accessories ) 

Manfrotto | Lee Filters | Elinchrom & The Flash Centre - for their support leading up to the course

Ricoh Pentax - Mark for coming along and bringing lots of toys to play with

Our models over the two days of shooting - Giulia Pisani | Ambra Siri | Alice Venanzoni | Lavinia Otetaru