Feature Image by: Brigitte Godwin

Behind The Image: Ben the Barman

22nd June 2017

Brigitte Godwin of Pardon My French Photography shares the experience behind her winning image from Canon Light Awards LIVE: Adelaide.

I was nervous going into Canon Light Awards LIVE with no idea what my brief would be.

All I knew was that I’d be attending a Portrait Photography Masterclass with the insanely talented Ryan Schembri—one of the Wedding Photography industry’s leading lights—and would have to complete a mystery brief within a 24-hour time frame.

Before the workshop I found myself brainstorming ideas to cover every possibility.

I had so many ideas for different setups, some elaborate and some minimalist. I also had a list of people I could ask to be my model, depending on what the brief would be; I had gorgeous females on standby, a male with two different coloured eyes, someone elderly, a family, someone plus-sized, and the list goes on.

Whatever the brief, I was quietly confident I had the perfect model somewhere on my list.

During the workshop we learnt about the play between light and shadow, composition, and Ryan’s personal experiences, which shaped him into the photographer he is today. At the end of the workshop we were asked to look under our seats where we found black envelopes with our brief inside.


“Approach a complete stranger and take their portrait,” the brief read.

My initial reaction: “F&@K!”

My subsequent reaction: “Challenge Accepted!”

Shooting a stranger put some pretty big limitations on what I’d planned.

But just as quickly as I’d find a limitation, I’d think of a solution:

Find a person who agrees to let you take their photo, and is happy to have it plastered all over the Internet. I’d have more luck confronting someone who is outgoing and a bit of a people-person. Instantly I thought, “bartender!”

Most of their job is spent talking to complete strangers. They would be much easier to approach than someone sitting at a bus stop.

That person also needs to feel comfortable in front of the camera. I could judge this by the person’s personality whether or not I would ask them.

You’re stopping someone in the middle of their day, so you don’t want to be rude and take more than ten minutes of their time. If need be I could order table service.

Shooting a stranger puts limitations on the emotion that you can portray in the image. I knew that I’d struggle to approach a complete stranger and create a serious or sombre feeling. I love people and I wanted to have fun, so that’s the direction I wanted to take my portrait.

The location in itself creates a visual story, but it would just be down right creepy to approach a stranger and say: “Hey! I want to take your photo. Would you like to get into my car, and I’ll drive you somewhere nice?” In my head I already knew that it was pivotal to find my stranger in the environment I wanted to take their photo. I asked my friend who was doing the landscape masterclass if she wanted to accompany me while I searched for a cool looking bar and completed my brief. She was more than happy to oblige for a glass of wine…or two.

Light was going to have some limitations as well. As we were competing in the Canon Light Awards LIVE, I wanted to find some place where the light had some depth

It took me all of five minutes to decide on my plan of attack.

And within less than two hours of receiving the brief I’d found the perfect bar, with the perfect stranger, and had taken his portrait.

Canon Light Awards Image by Brigitte Godwin

It didn’t feel awkward at all and was so much more fun than I could have ever anticipated! I wanted to have fun with the whole experience, and didn’t want to spend hours on Photoshop editing, so I keep it basic and made adjustments using Lightroom.

I ended up winning the Portrait category with the image ‘Ben the Barman’, and I’d encourage anyone wanting to enter participate in the Canon Light Awards LIVE to just do it! Have a play with your camera on manual mode before you go, to get the most from the masterclass. And just have fun!

Check out more of Brigitte's work on her website and on Instagram.

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