Runrig Portraits - Making the Image

Last year I had the pleasure of shooting the band Runrig for their final album 'The Story'. My time with the band consisted of shooting full band shots then individual portraits on location.

I'll go into detail with you today on how I shot this individual portrait of Calum MacDonald.

Camera Settings - 5D MkII / 50mm / ISO200 / F/8.0 / 1/160th Sec


The location was chosen by the band which was a bar in the West End of Glasgow, it caught their eye due to the old school portraits on the walls; very fitting with the artwork throughout the album.
The background was excellent, but there was a horrid carpet which I decided to cover with a Calumet Grey muslin backdrop, which added a soft dusty look to the images.
Just out of shot on both sides at the back wall were two windows which we covered with blackout material to ensure all lighting in the room was controlled by my lights.


I lit the portraits using 3 strobes - 

  • Key light - 400w strobe with a large Octabox - with diffusion panel attached for soft even lighting.
  • Fill light - 400w Strobe at a low power shot through diffusion scrim at 45 degrees to the subject. Just enough to fill the room a little and increase detail in the shadows.
  • Hair light - Bowens 500r boomed overhead out of shot, with 10 degree grid. The light from this falling on the head and shoulders.

It's at times like these I would sometimes use a reflector at camera right in order to fill in the shadows on the face an body of a subject - but I decided against it on this occasion as I preferred to keep the shadows in order to create a little drama in the portraits

Portrait Lighting Setup


I produced both colour and black & white of each shot. For the colour versions I know I wanted a very earthy tone and feel.
My editing process is the same in 99% of my images - Lightroom/Photoshop/Lightroom

1. Import to Lightroom and set the correct the exposure, and pull up shadows if required. I always shoot around half a stop underexposed to retain detail in all highlights.
I then add a round of colour grading and contrast in Lightroom using RGB Curves to introduce the feel I require for the shot.

2. Open in Photoshop - Here I start by removing any distractions from the image - There was a vent on the wall camera left which had to be removed, easily done with the Clone Stamp Tool.
Next I work on dodging & burning which is an essential part of my look. I always dodge & burn using curves adjustment layers with layer masks, this way I have complete control and I can amend the adjustments at any time.
I'll also sharpen the eyes, then use selective colour adjustment layer to further colour grade. I then save off the .PSD file which pops in Lightroom.

3. Final Lightroom adjustments - I will then finish in Lightroom by adding a little noise, and any colour and tone adjustments to ensure all images in the set are consistent with one other. From here I export my final images.


The final images used in the album booklet were my black and white conversions, which very much suited the theme of the album... But I've always had a soft spot for the colour versions.

See below for all the member's shots with the same setup - click to open

Matt Marcus - Photographer