Photography experience for people who hate having their photographs taken with male client seated in studio

Portraits for people who hate having their photo taken

"Anyone who knows me will be aware of just how much I hate having my photo taken! Can not thank Siorna enough - this is hands down the best photo anyone has ever taken of me!!"

— Pamela R, Greater London Assembly candidate, 2021
Business and Headshot session

A woman's London headshot photo with a bright shirt and necklace smiling

Helping clients to feel comfortable in front of the camera is my main motivation.

This is why my photoshoot sessions involve video or phone calls to talk about what you might like, how you might want to be styled, what kind of images you love and how you will display your portraits.

My favourite part of the consultation is being shown outfits you love, either on the call or afterwards from photographs. I love thinking about complimentary colours, the right lighting, or textures that will enhance your portrait.

Many people feel they need to lose weight before they commit to a photoshoot or worry that they won’t look good. I understand these thoughts because they are my own too. I picked up the camera in my teen years in the hope I would never be in another photograph! These feelings spurred me to train and to gain experience in posing people of all body types.

We plan posing, colours and moods in advance so that you know what to expect. You can walk into the studio, knowing me a little better, enjoy a coffee or tea while getting ready and relax into some music of your own choice. You can take as much time as you need and we will create photographs that will last a lifetime.

Clients who fall into this category.

If you’d like a portrait and this sounds like an experience for you, please reach out for an obligation free consultation.

a photoshopped creative London studio photography photoshoot

Creative portrait session: Twin Peaks

Why a creative portrait session?

Creative sessions allow you to step outside the everyday in a fun and safe space. To express a creative idea you’ve always wanted, or to work with me to create something unique for you.

How do you want to be photographed?

When I asked this question, Faye was immediately drawn to a creative session, rather than a contemporary or business portrait (though we can always combine different styles into one session). Faye is a huge fan of the tv show Twin Peaks written and directed by David Lynch and I was excited about the visual themes of the series and incorporating these in styling and postproduction.

Before and after video from double exposure post processing (12 seconds).

The final creative portrait collection

Set 1: Double exposure

A double exposure image is a combination of two images into one where one image is overlaid onto another at less than full opacity.
I learnt a great method from the amazing photographer Kate Whyte’s You Tube channel How to make a double exposure style composite in photoshop

I chose a number of my own nature images from Finland to resemble the forests and rivers of Snoqualmie Valley (Seattle) where Twin Peaks was filmed. For Faye’s final image I was looking for interesting shapes and textures with bright and dark parts. These would make a bigger impact when turned into black and white. What makes a black and white image appealing is having the full transition from black, to grey to white.

My landscape photography from Finland used in the double exposure images.

Set 2: The agent look

Faye’s style is a homage to two characters from the show, Audrey with her red lipstick and Agent Cooper in the suit. It played off the idea ‘what if Audrey had become an agent later in life?’
This set up used the portrait lighting style, clam lighting. My camera settings were 1/200, F/5.6 and ISO 200 with a 55mm lens.

Set 3: The projector

This was a a darker style to invoke Laura Palmer’s tragic ending at the beginning of the tv show. Faye had a wet hair look and I projected an image of bare, lifeless trees onto Faye’s skin.
This set up used a digital projector, with another nature image I’d taken in London. As the only light source was the projector I needed to allow more light into my camera. My camera settings were 1/100, F/4.0 and ISO 1600 with a 55mm lens.

A behind the scenes image in black and white of a man vaping at a portrait session in north London

Creative portrait session: Vaping

Creative Portrait Session: #1 Vaping

Why a creative portrait session?

The goal for all my photoshoots is to take the best picture you’ve ever seen of yourself. They are about creating something special for you to remember for a lifetime. With a creative portrait session, you are choosing a completely bespoke experience, tailored to your ideas.

How do you want to be photographed?

This is the first question I ask clients for a creative shoot. For Sergio, who directs short films, he wanted something film noir, something of an old movie style. When he casually showed me film stills with people smoking – I knew we had our theme.

I’ve never actually been a fan of cigarettes. I grew up in a heavy smoking environment and didn’t relish the thought of promoting or being in a room filled with smoke.  We settled on vaping as it would produce more ‘smoke’, making it easier to capture in camera, and wouldn’t produce so many chemicals as cigarette smoke. In fact it smelled like blueberries.

This session was always going to be black and white. However, to offer some variety I kept a few images in colour, choosing a retro blue tone to evoke my childhood memories of a smoky filled room. I think a few of these turned out to be my favourite.

Below is a 30 seconds behind the scenes video of the shoot!

Behind the scenes

Smoke constantly moves and to make sure I caught the trails and patterns I focused on lighting and shutter speed.

Studio lighting

I used two studio lights to create the effect. One light with a 4ft octabox was placed overhead to light Sergio and create dark shadows under his nose and chin.

I used a strip light on my left placing it slighting in front of Sergio. This would light up the smoke he produced, but not spill onto the backdrop.

Camera settings

My shutter speed was at 1/200 sec at f/9 with an ISO at 200.

Importantly, to capture the unique smoke patterns, I set my focus mode to continuous shooting (AF-C) on low, which on my camera took 5 consecutive images each time I pressed the shutter.

A behind the scenes image in black and white of a man vaping at a portrait session in north London

The final creative & bespoke portrait collection

A woman with tattoo at a London photography studio

Contemporary portrait session: Charlotte

Why a contemporary portrait session?

The starting point for contemporary portrait sessions is to celebrate you and anyone else you may include in the photoshoot. It’s about allowing yourself to put daily responsibilities on pause so that we can create an image that will last a lifetime.

How do you want to be photographed?

For Charlotte this was as simple as dressing in fabulous clothes and displaying her magnificent tattoos. It was to create images for her young son so that she existed in photographs he could look back on and see his fabulous mother.

A woman with tattoo at a London photography studio

All these set ups were created on location at my clients home. We used my portable backdrop in her conservatory for these images.

Camera Settings

1/250, f/2.8 to f/3.5 ISO1600 using constant light and a 90mm lens.

A gypsey romany dancer in a custom blue and gold costume with her hands above her head. Photograph by Siorna Ashby, a portrait photographer in north London, Finsbury Park.

4 tips for dance photography

Dance Photography

Capturing movement in a portrait is an exhilarating challenge. I recently worked with a dancer who specialises in Middle Eastern and Russian Gypsy dance. 5 costume changes and a lot of laughter later, we had a dance portfolio to show off not only her skills, but her home designed and home made costumes as well.

In this post, I will talk about my 4 essential steps to taking the shoot and my 4 top tips I picked up about working with performers.

Step 1: Talk to your client

Learning about your client is essential for any photography project. By asking Casey what type of portfolio she had in mind and what images had inspired her, I understood her expectations. As it turns out Casey loves vintage style dancing images. A quick google showed me some traditional poses, but also led to the idea to use glamour lighting techniques, which led to step 2. 

Step 2: Figure out your lighting

1920’s Hollywood photographs used a technique called the “butterfly light”.  Photographers shine a light down on the subject until a ‘butterfly’ shadow appears just under the nose. This really helps give a softer glamorous look and is a great lighting technique to have in your back pocket.

For additional lighting tips read >6 Portrait Lighting Patterns Every Photographer Should Know


A black and white image of a gypsey romany dancer using butterfly light. Photograph by Siorna Ashby, a portrait photographer in north London, Finsbury Park.

Step 3: Capture motion

Capturing motion for a portrait is tricky. For this shoot I wanted the subject frozen in focus, but the idea of movement to strike the viewer. Casey uses veils and fans in her performances, which offered the perfect opportunity to capture this look. 

As she danced with her veil I had my shutter speed in the range of 1/1250 – 1/6000 sec with an aperture of f 2.0, and used the same diffused glamour lighting to give a softer look.

With the fans I used a flash so that Casey would have a modern style to choose from. The shutter speed was set to 1/250 with an aperture of  f 2.0, to capture the movement, while Casey held a crouched position.

Step 4: Take a risk and have fun

At the end of the shoot i knew i had the type of images Casey had asked for. In my research i had come across the photographer  Joe McNally  who used clip on bicycle lights while taking pictures of belly dancers. I wanted to try it out! .Luckily Casey was up for it and with the shutter speed at 2 seconds (flash on backfill setting) Casey danced in the darkness with the red lights streaking across the air.

My 4 tips for working with performers 


1. Ask ‘How many times can you do that?’ Casey could perform for over an hour on the hottest day of the year, so her stamina was far better than mine! This tip is useful if there’s a tricky, energetic dance move that you want to capture. You’ll know how many chances you get to make your perfect shot and can plan accordingly.

2. Ask ‘How are you?’ Allow for breaks and check how your client is feeling. 

3. Find out how they move. Something that helped me enormously was asking Casey to demonstrate how she danced before I started taking photographs. Watching Casey’s movement showed me her patterns and when she would stop in a certain pose for a split second. This helped to make sure I was ready at those moments to capture her face when it was in full smile, while her outfit was still in motion.

4. If you are happy with your photographs, show your client a couple of the good shots as you progress. They immediately start to relax and can even suggest how they might pose differently.

If you are a performer and would like to discuss your own portfolio please do get in contact, I’d love to work with you.