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Last Updated: Monday, 24 October 2005, 07:31 GMT 08:31 UK
Portrait lessons from Lord Lichfield
By Caroline Briggs
BBC News entertainment reporter

Lord Lichfield and Caroline Briggs
Lord Lichfield critiqued my photographs at the end of the day
It all sounds so simple.

Check the light is good, make sure your model is fully relaxed, and snap away to create the perfect portrait.

All very well and good if you name is Lord Lichfield and you are one of the best-known portrait photographers of the last century.

Unfortunately, I'm not, so I found myself with a lot to learn during a day-long portrait masterclass with the man himself.

Lord Lichfield was taking the class ahead of a TV series on photography, which aims to help amateurs to take better pictures.

As a keen amateur myself, I had been looking forward to spending the day with the 66-year-old Earl, and I was not to be disappointed.

Lord Lichfield began with an entertaining slide-show of his work with famous faces, including actor Colin Farrell, model Jerry Hall, countless Royals and the late Indian prime minister Rajiv Gandhi.

See if Lord Lichfield's tips turned me into a master portrait photographer.

As well as being marvellously indiscreet with his anecdotes, he talked us through the tricks of his trade, giving helpful tips and ideas along the way.

A good portrait photographer, he explained, will understand composition, the importance of controlling light and shade, and how to manage your model.

But he warned that it took more than technique to capture the perfect moment.

"Remember that the person you are photographing is 50% of the portrait and you are the other 50%," he explained.

"You need the model as much as he or she needs you. If they don't want to help you, it will be a very dull picture."

Lord Lichfield also stressed the importance of a location "recce" before shooting to assess the conditions.

When shooting his portrait of the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh for the Golden Jubilee, Lord Lichfield was told by Buckingham Palace he could have as much time as he wanted to "recce" the Palace.

But he was warned the Queen "would walk into the room at 6.25 and walk out again at 6.30" giving him less than four minutes to capture the perfect portrait.

Master your technique. This allows you to be as creative as possible
On sunny days shoot your model in open shade, not direct sunlight.
When the sky is overcast use reflectors to bounce light onto the model's face
When shooting indoors, the best light is from a north-facing window
Interact with your model to put them at ease. This will help you get better results.
Use a long lens for a more flattering perspective. Too short and it can make the model's nose look huge
Use a digital camera. This way you can take lots of photographs and not waste money

The results were - rather predictably - stunning, but Lord Lichfield explained it was only because he had enough time to set the scene perfectly in advance.

This is where I fell short.

We were set the challenge of shooting two portraits - one close-up shot, and one that included a London landmark.

So armed and ready to face our challenge, we met our two models for the day, Ben and Cheryl, on London's South Bank.

But after a "recce" that lasted all of five minutes, it was time to go.

I found it difficult to find a good spot in open shade where I could do justice to Cheryl's sweet and photogenic look, as Lord Lichfield had advised me to.

Growing frustrated, I remembered his advice about putting the subject at ease, so I chatted to Cheryl about her recent travels to New Zealand.

It was a little less extreme than Lord Lichfield's experience when he modelled for David Bailey.

The Queen and Prince Philip.  By Patrick Lichfield
Lord Lichfield photographed the Queen for her Golden Jubilee

The pair have photographed each other many times, but on this occasion, Lord Lichfield was determined not to give him an easy ride.

"I've heard all his jokes and they are very funny, but I was determined not to smile for him," he said.

"I thought I'd got the better of him, but as he was taking the last picture I saw his trousers falling slowly down his legs.

"David Bailey without his trousers is quite a funny sight. I couldn't keep a straight face and I just cracked up. He got his picture."

The 20 minutes I had with Cheryl passed all too quickly, and I moved on to Ben .

Back at the studio, Lord Lichfield took time to critique our selection of photographs.

He had useful tips and hints for our future attempts

And when Lord Lichfield selected the picture of Ben behind the sculpture as my best shot, he smiled when I told him it had been my last attempt.

"The last shot of the day usually is the best," he said.

Hot Shots will be screened twice a week on Mondays and Fridays at 2030 GMT with each episode repeated at 0100 GMT the following day, from 24 October, on Discovery Real Time.

In each half-hour episode, three interested amateur photographers will be taught how to take the best pictures by a leading photographer in the field.

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