From Italy to Paris – Guest Blog by Helen Lesley

I’m suffering from withdrawal after the glorious (if tiring) road trip and workshop in Italy. As well as a wagon load of washing and dry cleaning, I also brought back ten words in Italian, so I now profess to be practically bilingual. Although… come to think of it, my French is even better so perhaps I should say trilingual. Luckily, I will have the opportunity to brush up on the Francais next week ☺ on Andrew’s Paris Fashion Workshop!

The language of style is universal and my brief for Paris has given me scope to make the most of it so I am rubbing my little hands together in glee.

’Fashion’ is a word open to a number of interpretations and it helps, of course, to have three fabulous models: Amber Tutton, Gemma Huh and Zara Watson. When Andrew first mentioned the workshop, I started to think of how I would go about putting a collection together and this is kind of how my though process developed…

Over the course of the three days in Paris, says Andrew, photographers on the course will have three workshops and four extended opportunities to shoot for their portfolios, including one night shoot. I nod encouragingly/enthusiastically. He outlines the historical and picturesque locations he has planned, drawing partly on ideas from his previous shoots and workshops in the city – Montmartre, The Eiffel Tower, the banks of the Seine and Notre Dame. Now I can visualise the backdrops for the outfits and the models who will be wearing them.

I always try to put myself in the shoes of the students doing the workshop. They have come to learn new skills and polish up their existing camera craft but you can do that anywhere. So, accepting that Paris adds atmosphere, ambiance and that all-important contextual element, my job is to try and add a frisson of excitement through the creative styling and wardrobe decisions I make. And don’t forget that models take their cues from what they are wearing; it influences pose, expression and attitude. I muse over whether we need classic, romantic, funky, sensual, rockin’…? At this point, I add feedback and past experiences from other shoots to the pot. I always like to hear what people thought of a dress, a hairstyle or an overall look.

Getting closer to some concrete decisions. It takes a while.

Now I have some ideas, I ferret around in my wardrobe department for a bit and emerge with possibles. I dig about in the jewellery and throw a few hats, bags and belts around. By this time, more than one room is in use and cats are under strict instruction to avoid certain areas. I often have half an outfit and need to beg, borrow, shop or phone a friend to complete it. I am constantly shopping for future shoots so you can imagine my happy dance when I turn up something I had bought on spec ages ago and had forgotten about. Fortunately, every model I have ever met also has a master’s degree in shopping so, if I’m stuck for an item, they will kindly oblige. Even Andrew, the little rascal, has been known to buy the odd item (as long as it does not involve leaving his computer).

Am I ever going to get to the point? What are our three lovely models going to be wearing this September in Paris? Well, their hair colour and styles are conveniently redhead (long), blonde (shoulder length) and brunette (short) so each has a very different look. Already fabulous! Each day will be devoted to a different fashion style: Casual, Contemporary and Vintage with evening gowns all lined up for the night shoot. Personally, I can’t wait!

Styled by Helen Lesley

Gemma Huh styled by Helen Lesley

Styled by Helen Lesley

Zara Watson styled by Helen Lesley

Styled by Helen Lesley

Amber Tutton styled by Helen Lesley

The stylist view of our big Portfolio Builder Day

A guest blog by Helen Lesley MUA.


Zara – photo Courtesy of Colin Halford

“I’ve got an interesting job for you,” said Andrew, leaning back in his chair. I had been half listening to him up to that point but now I turned and gave him my full attention.

“Hmm?” I waited.

“Four models in period costume to match four classic and vintage cars dating back to 1931.”

Excited? Of course I was! It sounded like fun. It would take more than a delve through the wardrobe department, although I could think of one or two vintage pieces that would love to come out for a bit of a jaunt. I listened, hungry for more information.

WindmillArt secret location… old country house… courtyard garden… orchard… Cadillac… Studebaker… Bentley… Chevrolet Corvette… cream tea, courtesy of Saracen House (not just a studio but purveyors of fab grub)! It all sounded very intriguing and I couldn’t wait to get started. I’ve been involved in many different types of styling with Andrew over the years but this was possibly the most demanding so far in terms of the number of models and changes involved. Hey ho, I love a challenge and immediately began researching the cars and the eras so that I could be as accurate as possible.

The four models Andrew had in mind were all perfect – Zara Watson, Jen Brook, Faith Obae and Raphaella Macnamara. It was essential that each model was able to do her hair and make-up to a high standard as, although I am a qualified MUA, I wouldn’t have much time on the day for lips, grips and the like. Even without all that, I knew I had my work cut out so how lucky did I feel when Andrew said that Elizabeth Keates had agreed to help me! With her theatrical background, I knew she would be a master (mistress?) of the ‘Quick Change’. She also proved to be a wizard (a witch? No, that doesn’t work) with hair.

My quest for vintage clothes took me far and wide but, oddly enough, some of the pieces I used were almost under my nose in the market town if Louth. Riverhead Theatre has a magical wardrobe department where I spent a happy hour or two, emerging triumphant. My lovely like-minded friend, Pam, lent me some original frocks, hats and shoes dating from the ‘30s to the 40s. I sourced an original 1940s’ tea dress and feather hat in exceptional condition from The Frockery. The gorgeous red ball gown (I think Raphaella might have been tempted to pop this in her handbag if it hadn’t been so big!) also came from this little shop of treasures, as did the ‘20s style dress and jacket worn so elegantly by Zara. The wedding gowns were kindly loaned by The Bridal Boutique of Louth and Jen looked radiant in them. Faith’s attire had to reflect the 1990s; so recent it sounds easy. Not so. I ferreted about in my own photographic/theatrical wardrobe for most of her costumes and accessories and it was quite a while before I was satisfied. I particularly loved the cream two piece trouser suit and she said she felt like Diana Ross in the beaded cocktail dress. Everybody happy ☺.

I am a self-confessed control freak where costume is concerned, whether for the stage or the camera so I try to make sure everyone looks the part on the day. Communication beforehand is just as important though and all the models came well-prepared with the make-up and bits and bobs I had asked them to bring. This makes things so much easier but, of course, there were some things that I had planned to do on the day. One of these things was Zara’s hair which needed 20s’ styling and it transformed her into a latter-day diva. Liz is a whizz (no, I think that’s wiz) with hair and when I pointed to Raphaella and said, “A victory roll would look great with the suit”, she just did it. Marvellous!

The day – and even the weather – was lovely. Next stop: Italy. I have put together the wardrobe for the road trip and the Light, Colour and Passion three-day workshop. Quite different and, this time, it’s the whole kit an’caboodle: make-up, hair and wardrobe styling for a range of different shots from fashion to lifestyle. Gemma Bortolozzo and Zara Watson are the perfect complement and both lots of fun to work with. On the back burner, I have the Paris Fashion workshop bubbling away because I will have to hit the ground running when I get back. Zara Watson, Amber Tutton and Gemma Huh to model. Wow! Can’t wait!

Raphaella - photo courtesy of Steve Price

Raphaella – photo courtesy of Steve Price

Behind the Scenes photos courtesy of Andrew Griffiths.


An interview with Jannine Timms

The first of an occasional series of interviews by Helen Appleton.

When Jannine Timms signed up for the newsletter in January, she was hoping to win the £600 worth of training. She thought it was a bit odd that she hadn’t received an email back. It meant she couldn’t confirm. “I wonder if it’s gone into my junk mail?” she thought. What a good job she checked!

Are you a professional or an amateur photographer?

I’ve been a professional photographer for two and a half years now. Before that, I classed myself as a “Happy Snapper” but nice comments about pictures of my little boy gave me the confidence to do some of my friends’ children too. They were very happy with them but I felt by then that I wanted to improve. I progressed from a compact to a 450D and began doing some of my own research too. I was determined to teach myself. That was the start of it really.


Which courses have you done with Andrew Appleton this year?

I have actually done four workshops and a portfolio builder day. I realised that I was getting a lot out of the sessions so I didn’t mind topping up the original prize value. Andrew trains us personally in small groups, the models are experienced and the venues are all great. I did the four full-day courses over a five month period in total, February to June.


Which workshop did you do first?

The Portrait Workshop in February. I didn’t have a problem with soft skills but then Zara Watson made connecting and directing so easy anyway. She’s amazing! Andrew explained that the other major aim of the day was to gain a greater understanding of how to shape a face with light and to choose the right angle for the subject. I was really proud of the images I took that day. I had been on workshops with other trainers where some of the things went over my head and I was a bit disappointed that I hadn’t learnt more about the technical aspect of what we were doing. Andrew’s workshops are different and I came away with a real understanding of the process that day. I like to think that the portraits and headshots I have taken since then are proof of this.


How did you feel about the Portfolio Builder Day?

It was at Pipewell Hall and everything about the day was perfect – the grounds, the lighting, the models – everything. We got to shoot the four models (Zara Watson, Fiona York, Amber Tutton and Artemis) in very different locations inside and out and I got some lovely images for my port. It also gave me a chance to put into practice some of the things I had learnt on the Portrait Workshop. I really enjoyed the day and got a lot out of it.


So, what did you try next?

I booked on the Mastering Speedlights Workshop in April. We were taught how to use them with ambient light, exposing the model correctly. What I like about Andrew’s training is that you never walk away thinking “What?” He explains a concept well and seems to know when you don’t quite get something so he goes back over it. Really valuable. I booked on the Creative Speedlights Workshop as a result.


Where did you go from there?

I did the Boudoir Workshop at Saracen House. It reinforced all the technical skills I learnt on previous sessions with Andrew but aspects of posing, expression and styling were taught, as well as the soft skills. I think being female, friendly and approachable helps. In my business, I shoot ladies who are size 8-18 and can empathise with how women feel about their bodies and how they want to look. They can’t look fabulous unless you get everything right. Boudoir is definitely part of what I do so the session was very useful.


Which of the sessions did you enjoy the most?

Difficult. The Portfolio Day was amazing and I got loads of really varied images… But no, it’s got to be the Boudoir Workshop at Saracen. Gemma Bortolozzo is a superb model and such a lovely person – plus I just loved working with the Arri lighting set-up.


Which workshop was the most beneficial for you as a professional photographer?

It has to be Speedlights. My technical understanding is so much better now, thanks to the variety of things I learnt in the sessions with Andrew. Yes, from both professional and a creative perspectives, the Speedlights courses have definitely helped me to grow the most.


Roadtrip! The gear for Italy 2014


I have had to reduce the normal amount of gear I carry in the Voyager for this trip as I have had to put the back row of seats in. Normally there would be a load more stands and modifiers. This is what these bags and boxes contain:

Main Shoulder Bag:

  • Nikon D3 Body
  • Nikon D3x Body
  • Nikon 80-200 f/2.8
  • Sigma 24-70 f/2.8
  • Nikon 50mm f/1.4 D
  • Nikon 85mm f/1.8 D
  • Nikon SB900 + accessories
  • Sekonic L758
  • Remote controls for cameras
  • Tethered Cable
  • Grey card
  • Memory Cards
  • Lens cloth
  • Spare batteries

Small Shoulder Bag (Video)

  • Canon Legria HF G10
  • Wireless Mic System
  • Tascam Dr-05
  • Cables, batteries and chargers

Large Rolling Bag

  • Nikon D7000 Body
  • Nikon 18-200
  • Tokina 11-16 f/2.8
  • Lensbaby
  • Nissin Di866 MkII
  • 6 x Yongnuo 486 MkIIs
  • 6 x OjecCo Wireless Receivers
  • 1 x Nikon OjecCo Transmitter
  • 1 x Canon OjecCo Transmiter
  • 1 x Roundflash
  • Assorted flash brackets, gels, clamps and batteries

Rolling Toolbox

  • 4 x Westcott Ice Lights and chargers
  • 1 Pocket Wizard TT1 Nikon
  • 2 Pocket Wizard TT5 Nikon
  • 1 Pocket Wizard AC3 Nikon
  • 1 Pocket Wizard TT1 Canon
  • 2 Pocket Wizard TT5 Canon
  • 1 Pocket Wizard AC3 Canon
  • 1 Orbis Ringflash
  • Batteries
  • Large white sheet
  • Small reflector

Lencarta Safari Kit

  • Lencarta Safari Battery
  • 600ws head
  • Ringflash
  • 2 Lencarta Mach 1Hypersync Tranceivers
  • Elinchrome Skyport Trigger and Receiver


  • Nikon SB910
  • Large Tripod
  • Small Tripod
  • Monopod
  • Westcott Apollo Orb kit
  • Westcott Apolo Strip kit
  • Westcott 26″ Rapidbox
  • 2 large 5 in 1 reflectors (not in photo)
  • 1 60 x 80 pop-up soft box for Safari (not in photo)
  • Ion Bluetooth sound system

Wortley Top Forge (Part 2) Behind the scenes video

I have eventually managed to get the footage from the second Portfolio Builder Day edited. Interestingly this was all shot on Canon gear: The stills were taken by Andrew Griffiths on a 5D MkIII and most of the video on my Canon Legria HF G10 with a few clips from my new Canon SX280 HS pocket camera.

Again big thanks to the four fab models; Zara Watson, Angela Hudson, Gemma Bortolozzo and Julie Aston and the support from Hasselblad and Broncolor.

Next Portfolio Builder is on 7th June at WindmillArt near Cambridge.