Making The Shot - Mens Hair Photoshoot MALLEN MADNESS

Today’s blog will involve a behind the scenes look at a recently published Men’s hair editorial collection, MALLEN MADNESS.
The concept for this shoot was adventurous – It was to have a comic book & movie poster aesthetic, with references to Sin City, but with a theatrical gangster spin. It was a challenge but also a fantastic commission.

It’s not typically what I shoot, which was why I was up to the challenge to test my abilities as an artist.

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Live presentation

With a team led by master barber Tony Haresign, this week we had the opportunity to give a presentation of how the images were brought from concept to creation live on stage using styling, SFX makeup and I also discussed my processes for shooting the collection.


This post is an ideal follow up to the talk, where I can share more details of the key aspects of how the images were shot.
Here are 3 key elements I used to create these images:

1. Studio Lighting

The studio lighting I used was to be essential to make these shots work, as we would be shooting the subjects in studio against a white paper backdrop, then cutting out the models in Photoshop and placing them on a separate backdrop, which is known as a background plate.

We would need the subjects to ‘pop’ off the background plate, and we did this with the help of our lighting.

I used 4 lights for these shots, and even for the group shot each model was lit and shot separately using the following set up.


Key light - first light was a beauty dish place above and towards the model at a 45 degree angle illuminating mostly the face and the hair, and also part of the clothing. I left the beauty dish undiffused, as I was keen to enhance specular highlights on the face as there was sweat added in makeup to enhance drama of the characters.

Fill Light - Our second light was placed below our model pointing upwards at around 45 degree, this filled in our dark shadows created by the beauty dish and also created an interesting catch light at the bottom of the eyes. 

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Kicker lights/Rim Lights – The final 2 lights were strip-boxes, with only inner diffusion panels and with grids in place – This was intentional as I wanted defined directional light. These were placed symmetrically behind the subject pointing inward, also at a brighter level than the key light and fill light so they acted as a harsh kicker to ‘pop’ the subjects off the backdrop and also emphasize the cheekbones.

Lastly I added 2 x black poly boards to add contrast to the model’s cheeks helping emphasize the cheekbones even further. These black poly boards also ensured there was no unwanted spill light bouncing around the room.

2. The Angle I shot the subjects

The second aspect that was essential to this shoot was the angle which the subjects were shot. As this was going to have a movie poster feel, the angle the subjects were shot was important. By shooting from below pointing upward I was able to give a ‘hero effect’, which is often used in movies to make a character look important. Superhero movie posters also use this effect.

But it was also essential not to shoot from too low an angle otherwise we might not see enough of the hair, so I had to find the balance for the shots in order to achieve the desired result.

 3. Post-production.

Last but not least, this was our last essential aspect and where the concept came to life. 

We had our studio shots cut-out in Photoshop, and had our background plates which I shot separately. I then brought them together in Photoshop and created the overall feel and atmosphere for the collection.

I wanted to make the characters look like they were in background environment, but also keep a theatrical feel to the shots. 

Separate layers of rain were added both in front and behind the characters at various sizes and opacities in order to create a sense of depth in the images.

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Overall, I feel the final images have met all the original criteria put in place when discussing the concept, and the challenge of creating these images was worth going the extra mile to make the shots as good as they could be.

What’s interesting is it’s not something I would usually shoot so pushing myself outside my comfort zone was a good chance to learn new skills and adapt during the creative process.