Nick Turpin: Back on the Street

London-based speed-lighter Nick Turpin has brought a videographer along on another one of his snooted SB-800 street shoots.

For the shoot (done for MensHealth magazine) he simply approached appropriately dressed strangers on the street and created an instant studio around them.

Video, links and more pix after the jump.


(If you are reading on RSS or via email, click on the post title to be able to view the movie.)

I love this look, as much for the low-impact gear aspect as for the results themselves. Just underexpose the ambient, then go in and carve in some highlights with the strobes to add depth and dimension to the scene.

In terms of needing permits for commercial shoots, the fact that Nick can work without light stands or tripods usually eliminates the need for any sort of street shooting permit.

Well, any place but London, maybe. Just carrying a camera in that city can get you in trouble.

Recent laws enacted in the UK pretty much equate just having a camera with being a terrorist. Literally, if you are taking pictures on the street in London you can be searched and/or arrested if an officer "reasonably suspects" you of, well anything.

How's that for a first-world free and open society?

Actually, Nick had a few words to say about that for iN-PUBLiC, an organization that advocates for street photographers.

I suppose they could rewrite the laws to allow only people with dinky little cell phone cameras to shoot on the street. But then, Nick just finished a worldwide ad campaign using only a cell phone camera, too.

They will probably outlaw people with photographic memories next.

Related Links:

:: Nick Turpin ::
:: iN-PUBLiC ::


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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great vid.

I've said it before and I'll say it again; Dave Hobby gives good blog!

March 26, 2009 12:35 AM  
Anonymous Shelby White said...

Totally awesome!

Thanks for posting the vids. Very Inspiring. Now I should go shoot;)

March 26, 2009 12:56 AM  
Blogger L. B. PHOTOGRAPHY said...

Wow.. i have learned a lot from this website. There is so much more that i have yet to learn.
Thanks so much.. so far :O)

March 26, 2009 1:31 AM  
Blogger Dave said...

Those are some nice shots. I need some snoots.

March 26, 2009 1:46 AM  
Anonymous Caphics said...

Great use of minimal equipment with big results!

March 26, 2009 2:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What trigger is he using?

March 26, 2009 2:48 AM  
Anonymous Sharky said...

This look is so amazing and yet so simple. All you need is 2 friends to help you around. I am so trying this in the near future.

March 26, 2009 2:56 AM  
Blogger David said...

This as absolutely awesome!! Thanks.

March 26, 2009 3:17 AM  
Blogger Serge said...

Are you sure these were SB-800? If I see it clear, Nick is using Canon — why should a pro use a Nikon speedlight? He will lack functions in that case.

March 26, 2009 3:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

March 26, 2009 3:58 AM  
Anonymous ian reynolds said...

I am a but puzzled as to what flash trigger he was using. It seemed small, and also was he using boom arms ??, or were they mono pods with the flashed attatched, and as snoots I am assuming he was just using cardboard wrapped with gaffer tape, anyone reply on this one please.

I was also assuming he was using manual flash power rather than ttl as well.



March 26, 2009 4:07 AM  
Blogger alastair said...

Interesting shots; thanks for the heads up.

I've lived in London for nearly 20 years and regularly shoot with a large SLR on the street; I've never once been stopped or questioned except by tourists who want to see what I'm snapping. The one time I was stopped by a policeman, it was because he wanted to learn more about the hardware!

Shooting in train stations is not generally allowed, but people do it all the time and are rarely hassled; though such laws are in place, I think incidents are few and far between where common sense prevails.

March 26, 2009 4:40 AM  
Anonymous Neil said...

I hope that legislation is'nt misused during the G20 buisness kicking off next week in London.

March 26, 2009 4:57 AM  
Blogger Scott said...

I love the resulting images. Way cool.

This type of endeavor is not for the faint-hearted. What is more dangerous, the lorry that almost flattens him at 3:48 or the scowling bystander shortly thereafter?

March 26, 2009 5:16 AM  
Blogger lawsy1072 said...

Ive seen Nick Turpins stuff before and I think its stunning for its simplicity and elegance. I just reviewed our "official" wedding pics from two years ago and they are just, well, nice. Imagine the impact you could give to wedding pics with just a couple of snooted iTTL'd speedlights! Its a style I'm definately going to "pay tribute" to. Good work from a London Lad.

March 26, 2009 6:22 AM  
Blogger mt said...

Hooray - an article (sorta) about Canon gear. (-:

Great video.

March 26, 2009 6:30 AM  
Blogger Oli said...

I live in the UK, and have been wanting to do a similar kind of street studio project for a while. It's a shame that paranoia has created a society which is quashing creativity.

Well, TRYING to quash creativity. If anything, it makes us a lot more creative by finding ways around all these ridiculous 'laws'.

Thanks again for all the information, advice, inspiration (and for introducing me to Flickr and McNally's books!)

March 26, 2009 7:49 AM  
Blogger brett said...

yay Canon. i liked the video at the end. we have to stand up for our rights.

March 26, 2009 8:15 AM  
Anonymous mstrubbe said...

The material Nick was using for the snoots appears to be black cinefoil. Rosco makes it. A roll will last you a lifetime.

March 26, 2009 8:35 AM  
Anonymous Paul Silver said...

Thanks again David. Great article, great site.
Thanks to Nick for sharing as well,
I'll be using some of these idea's in a shoot tomorrow.

March 26, 2009 8:45 AM  
Anonymous Erik Patton said...

I wonder how many people initially said no to being photographed or how many later said yes when they found they were shooting for a well known national magazine.

I'm not a street shooter and don't think I could pull this off myself, so I'm curious.


March 26, 2009 8:50 AM  
Blogger Guided Light Photography said...

He's using the MicroSync radios

About using Nikon strobes with Canon cameras...when you get them off the hot shoe and shot manually, it doesn't matter what brand your using. I use crappy Sigma flashes for off camera lighting and save my SB's for on camera use or when I want to use TTL.

March 26, 2009 9:29 AM  
Blogger Philadelphia Wedding Photographers said...

What is the difference between snoots and grids? Are snoots more powerful?

March 26, 2009 9:54 AM  
Blogger Debbi_in_California said...

The flash trigger is a Microsync
Loved this
Thx David

March 26, 2009 9:59 AM  
Anonymous Tom said...

I think Nick Turpin's female assistant is a total hottie!!


Yeah. and I love his videos..... we're so much better for it.

March 26, 2009 10:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The snoots appear to be black foil easily shaped and durable!

March 26, 2009 10:44 AM  
Anonymous Namir Yedid said...

Is the fact that he's able to drop the ambient while not exceeding his sync speed just a fact of the time of day he's shooting (meaning the ambient light is already fairly low)?

I asked because his still manages to get a short DOF in one of the shots in the post, which means a fairly wide-open aperture, but the light is still nice and dramatic.

March 26, 2009 10:50 AM  
Blogger tipo70 said...

Aside from the snoot, was this bare flash or was there a diffuser attached to the flash? I would love to try this out myself.

March 26, 2009 10:55 AM  
Anonymous Neil said...

Snoots = hard edge to the light

Grids = more gradual falloff

I like Nikon flashes and Canon's prime lenses, mixing the two works just fine. :-D

March 26, 2009 12:29 PM  
Anonymous Craig Murphy said...

Easier to get people to sign a release form if they know its for a mag I suppose. Anyone have a good rap for convincing people on the street to sign one if your shooting for yourself only and don't have the legitimacy of a magazine behind you?
How do you go about it?

March 26, 2009 12:42 PM  
Blogger John Sargent Barnard said...

I was doing a shoot during the london bombings about four years ago. I was never questioned or searched. These new rules are completely absurd. London is a great place for on location photography. It would be a shame to let this city to to waste.

March 26, 2009 12:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


According to the EXIF data in the posted images, he is shooting most of the images at 125/f5.6 @ iso 500. He shifts to 250/f4.5 when he uses the 80-200/2.8.

March 26, 2009 1:11 PM  
Blogger DanielSting said...

Excuse my ignorance, but how do you deal with model releases for something like this? Are strangers in the street willing to sign something out of the blue for a paid job?

March 26, 2009 1:20 PM  
Blogger Gab said...

hello, i'm looking to buy this kind of boom, the tall one with the flash on it. Do you know where can I buy this?

March 26, 2009 1:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


where can i buy a boom like this?

On b&h I dont find the same one and its very expensive

thank you

March 26, 2009 1:42 PM  
Anonymous Jonathan Histed said...

Great great post. It's almost a political one! technical and aestehtics information apart (which are great and educational as always):

I am consious not to make a political comment here: that is not the point of the blog. However: this law strikes me as being ridiculous. If the law is all about "taking pictures that could be of use to a terrosist"... that doesn't mean I have to be a terrosist: and the picture could be so much as of a bus timetable the terrorist might use. Doesn't this law mean it is now illegal for me to take any pictures in the UK? even of a brick wall: the picture could be used by a terrosist to test the optics of camera he might buy...


Does any one have any links to any summaries of what you are allowed to take pictures of in the UK? taking some pictures the other day: I got a really nice one of someone's back; who was gazing on a city sky-scape... and I realised afterwards .. "am I allowed to use the pic; if I don't know who he was?.. even if he is not identifiable in it?"...

I presume this must be a common thing fro photo journalists? The law obviously also applies to us amateurs too...

How do journalists who travel abroad a lot cope? the law must be different in every country?

March 26, 2009 2:35 PM  
Anonymous Marcin Kaliski said...

Nick Turpin makes really interesting pictures. He's also quite nice, I'd say, which is important part of being a photographer. Great idea with approaching strangers, kind of Sartorialist way...

March 26, 2009 3:03 PM  
Blogger Fotografía Profesional said...

is good your photografhy .iam peruvian .not write inglish sorry
.es un buen trabajo admiro tus fotos recibo informacion mediante mi email ,gracias tratare de hacer lomismo aca en peru .
una pregunta cuestion pleasse las personas hacen un contrato contigo por tomar las fotos explicame
london is maravilloso

March 26, 2009 4:29 PM  
Blogger Ian Livesey said...


Great video... but for the love of god can someone please tell me what that music was? A sitcom... something I know.. help :)

March 26, 2009 4:38 PM  
Blogger Guided Light Photography said...

@ Gab

The boom is from Wal-Mart or Home Depot/Lowes. It's a paint roller extender!! Isn't that great! David Ziser talks about it in the video at around the 1:41 mark.

March 26, 2009 4:56 PM  
Blogger Shawn said...

Amazing work by Nick, minimal gear, amazing results. I didn't want the video to end. Another great share from Mr. David Hobby.

March 26, 2009 5:10 PM  
Anonymous Nikki said...

Love the video and the whole idea of it. I can't believe what Britain is doing with regards to photographers but I have a feeling it is moving to the US. A friend has designed a shirt about this...
Definitely feels like a crime these days.

March 26, 2009 6:07 PM  
Blogger Screenist said...

I like what he chooses to emphasize with the light, always the face and the hands. His subjects tend to have neutral, conservative clothing which also reinforces this emphasis.

I think that's a good artistic choice. Normally when you look at a person you first want to see who they are or what they look like (their face) and then what they are doing (their hands or feet).

It seems like the flash is only about a stop above the ambient which keeps this subtle enough to be effective without seeming overdone.

March 26, 2009 6:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Im learning everyday ....Wounderful site!! I do have a quick question...But first...I understand the programming(According to the EXIF data in the posted images, he is shooting most of the images at 125/f5.6 @ iso 500. He shifts to 250/f4.5 when he uses the 80-200/2.8.) now my question is what are the settings on the flashes? Any info would be great.

Tray from Akron

March 26, 2009 6:39 PM  
Blogger Jenny Stewart said...

Wow love this guy's style! I chuckled to see him dodging cars to get the shot. :)

March 26, 2009 6:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm wondering what the little typed piece of paper says on the back of his camera underneath the viewing screen? Anyone?

March 26, 2009 7:00 PM  
Blogger adn said...

As always a great great post.
Thanks a lot Nick ^^

March 26, 2009 8:08 PM  
Anonymous Rich Baum Photography said...

WOW, makes me want to get out a cardboard box and some tape, make myself a snoot and go out and shoot some people on the street... Oh how I wish I was there to see the initial reaction from the subjects... they all looked pretty cool about the whole thing.. maybe that's just the way it is on the other side of the pond...

Great video. Makes it all look so simple (but I know it's not quite that simple.)

March 26, 2009 8:13 PM  
Blogger Huckleberry McFly said...

Pretty sure that the assistant is using a Gitzo mic boom to hoist the flash.

March 26, 2009 8:19 PM  
Anonymous Ptollemy said...

Brilliant concept and video, thanks again for posting such fabulous material. :)

March 26, 2009 8:24 PM  
Blogger sodabowski said...

Totally awesome results with minimal gear. Thanks for showing us :)

March 26, 2009 9:08 PM  
Anonymous Apollux said...

The good thing about shooting for a magazine is that it is editorial use, so you don't need model releases for that.

Great lighting on those shoots. I get the top flash is for the head, the side one is for the hands.. but on some pictures I see a third light on the background, where does that comes from?

March 26, 2009 11:47 PM  
Anonymous LAP said...

The more and more i watch these videos of photographers utilizing these portable flashes either the ones by Nikon or Canon, I am a step closer to purchasing some for my location photography. I find it very difficult lugging around my 3 Alien Bees on Location especially for a simply portrait. Thanks for posting the video.

March 27, 2009 12:47 AM  
Blogger Jason said...

Fantastic. I think I need to go try this on some friends now. Shame the weather won't be good this weekend, i'll have to wait.

Great post.

March 27, 2009 1:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is this a joke? use 2 light to key the head and the lower part of a human body? But seems noone can see it?

March 27, 2009 2:12 AM  
Blogger Thomas said...

Excellent and creative work ! I love it.

What kind of stuff he uses to hold the flashes ? I mean this long stake


March 27, 2009 3:02 AM  
Anonymous Tom Robbrecht said...

Can't those radio triggers be used to set off an explosive charge remotely ? ;-)

March 27, 2009 3:04 AM  
Blogger Conor Cahill said...

Fantastic stuff...

I thought those looked like Gitzo booms myself, not cheap...

If you notice, the Men's Health logo on the model release is huge, and in colour--I imagine that's a deliberate strategy to help make the photog team look official. Personally I think it's a good strategy when stopping strangers on the street (as long as it is legit of course!)

IMHO if you want to do this kind of thing yourself on the street as a freelance with no mag behind you, you will struggle. Also, having worked with releases before, I would advise that you have an assistant with you dedicated to paperwork: it's no fun to be shooting and dealing with paperwork at the same time.

March 27, 2009 3:46 AM  
Anonymous karin.g. said...

Great work by Nick Turpin, and wonderful to see that the great Brian Griffin's influence is alive and well in British photography still! Brian himself continues to make movies and stills. I first came across Brian's work in Management Today magazine years ago, and visited him whenever I lived in London. His images from way back are still as fresh as ever. I recommend that all Strobist readers take a look at his work at:

March 27, 2009 4:25 AM  
Blogger Bill said...

Looking at the EXIF data from these three pictures, he was shooting at fairly moderate settings. Did he use a ND filter? For the first and third pictures on this post:

ISO 500

For the second shoot, he opened up about a stop to 4.5 and increased his shutter speed to 1/250 which kept the ambient the same. I'm guessing he did this for DOF. Now, did he drop the power on the flash or just move them further away to compensate? We may never know...


March 27, 2009 4:33 AM  
Blogger Guided Light Photography said...

@ Huckleberry McFly

Or it could be this modified to accept the umbrella adapter. There's one that extends to 16 Feet for about $50.00.

March 27, 2009 8:41 AM  
Anonymous Craig Murphy said...

Doesn't look quite like the Gitzo boom but it sure isn't a Home Depot paint roller extension. Not that there is anything wrong with that however. Nice find.

March 27, 2009 9:39 AM  
Blogger Jonas said...

Thank you Nick - awesome results and totally with you on the stupidity of the new "laws".

All the best,
Jonas (London as well)

March 27, 2009 9:54 AM  
Blogger SMax said...

where do you get a boom arm like that for your speedlight?

March 27, 2009 11:22 AM  
Anonymous Alex Russel said...

Easy DIY boom instructions:

Take a wooden pole (dowel, broom handle, etc...) and drill a 7/32" hole in one end. Cut the end off a 1/4-20 threaded bolt, and carefully screw it into the hole. You can now attach a threaded flash shoe to the pole. I use the one off my umbrella adapter since I'm to lazy to go to the store and buy another for 4 bucks. Time to build, about 5 minutes.

March 27, 2009 11:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

An interesting video and some excellent results. But here's a question, he was able to get random people sign release forms because he was shooting for a magazine. I want to shoot for myself - I'd have more troubles with that and some may even think I'm some kind of a creep. Seriously, how would I deal w/ that?

March 27, 2009 12:12 PM  
Anonymous Craig Murphy said...

Even though its not expensive if you don't feel like spending money on Cinefoil I just made a great snoot out of a Heftey EZ Foil cookie sheet. $1.99. Seems to shape real nice. Just cover the edges with some gaffer tape as it can be sharp after cutting with a scissor.

March 27, 2009 12:30 PM  
Anonymous David Jackson said...


Check this out!!!! Using household kitchen cookware as off-camera light modifiers:

Feel free to share it on your site!


March 28, 2009 2:10 AM  
Anonymous stk said...

David, you're aware of the restrictions imposed (not only) on photographers in the US in the name of the so-called War Against Terror? I don't think this is a special UK or US or European issue...

March 28, 2009 2:34 PM  
Blogger Sean said...


For those asking about the model releases, google Bryan F. Peterson. There is a great article online at about "How to talk to strangers" that is a great read.

Regarding detonation via PW: In the strobist DVD, David talks about hacking the PWs to do neat things like ringing a doorbell. I wonder how he did that?

The little sticker: I don't know for sure, but I would bet that the camera body is on loan from CPS or he may be renting it. CPS was my first guess though.

Regarding the boom: I bought an 8' long pole that extends to 16', but would much prefer something with more sections, and more compact (and maybe lighter) to use.

Regarding Mixing Canon and Nikon: I also mix, as I never use on-camera light anymore (pretty much). I have one set that matches, but buy Nikon flashes cause they seem more rugged?

March 29, 2009 2:26 AM  
Blogger Notorious said...

Nice video, great post - nice to see he's using microsync's like i've got :P people tend to just talk about pocketwizards, or ebay triggers, with nothing in between... these seemed to do the job!

whats with that annoying music loop though!? jeez.

March 29, 2009 7:35 AM  
Anonymous Jeff said...

Snip>"He was able to get random people sign release forms because he was shooting for a magazine."

I don't think that's quite right. People posed for him because he obviously knows what he is doing. He's a pro with an entourage, including the guy with the clipboard and the video shooter. That's five people with a decidedly pro demeanor, and they're doing something that is creative and fun. Who wouldn't want to take part in that? The magazine hook can't hurt, but if he had told them he's working on an art project for his portfolio, I bet they still would have said yes. (Never underestimate the power of flattery).

So, if you want to do something like this, just approach people with the same confidence Nick and his crew do. Then make sure you have a plan and the chops to pull it off when they say yes.

March 29, 2009 6:45 PM  
Anonymous Romania Photobloggers said...

(Because I didn't find the right e-mail adress for my message I am sending it as a comment. We do appologize for this inconvenient.)


I've been visiting and learning from your site "Strobist" a whole deal. It is
fantastic. I'd love to let other people know about it and show them how to use these

I am an admin for a photoblog "Romanian Photobloggers", and I would like to translate
your side/techniques and input the information into our blog. How can I receive the
right to translate it? And most than anything: would it be possible to use the
photos from your site for the translated tutorial??

Let me know if this translation would be possible. We'll of course keep all the
rights as they appear on your site.

I would very much appreciate any help in this regard.

We want to make something like this:

Thank you for your time.

March 29, 2009 6:50 PM  
Blogger David said...

Romania Photog-

I am not authorizing any translations for websites other than the Spanish site at this time. If you would like to help to produce a Romanian translation of Lighting 101 as a PDF, we would be more than happy to have you do so.

More info here.


March 30, 2009 7:45 AM  
Blogger Nick Turpin said...

Its always such a pleasure to be on Strobist and be hit by the wall of warm enthusiasm that are the comments.

Can't answer all questions but...

The snoots are made from black cine foil

The boom is a Carbon Fibre Gitzo Microphone Boom

I do shoot Canons with Nikon flashes

I have had only two people say no to me in the streets since I have been shooting these portraits. I show them my work on postcards and they usually agree to be photographed. I only get release forms signed for the commercial work.

The sticker on my camera is insignificant, it reminds me of things I am trying to achieve with my photography which are easily forgotten in the heat of shooting on the street.

My female assistant is Hot

And I'll try harder with the music in future ;-)

Thanks for everyones interest.

March 30, 2009 1:49 PM  
Anonymous David Purslow said...

Great video very informative, thanks for the post ! great stuff

March 31, 2009 9:57 AM  
Blogger Sean said...

Nick Turpin... A new favorite. :)

March 31, 2009 3:42 PM  
Blogger Behind the Shot said...

Great post!
Nick has a beautiful talent.

March 31, 2009 6:07 PM  
Anonymous Vancouver photographer said...

I've tried this technique and can say Nick makes it look a lot easier than it is. Pre-visualization is so important as well as mastering exposure on the fly. Great video, but this all takes lots of practice.

April 01, 2009 5:25 PM  
Blogger Jack O'Sullivan said...

Once again, another inspiring vid. It is time for me to get out and shoot!

Jack O'Sullivan
Bedroom Sets

April 05, 2009 8:23 PM  
Blogger finc said...

This is great to see.

I would love the opportunity to do more street photography like this. People need to understand the laws surrounding taking photographs (ie if you can see it and you're standing on public property, you can legally photograph it). I live in the UK and am sick of being questioned every time I pull my camera out, simply because it's large and obvious.

If I was going to spy, surely I would be using a spy camera?

April 06, 2009 7:51 PM  
OpenID robinacollins said...

I gotta get me a snoot.

April 07, 2009 12:23 AM  
Anonymous Dian Garber said...

Great blog, great education!

April 07, 2009 6:01 PM  
Anonymous Peter Tsai said...

These are beautiful shots that take full advantage of the strobist philosophy!

April 18, 2009 1:57 PM  
Anonymous jonpaul douglass said...

great stuff.

here is someone who uses a similar technique...

even more exciting subjects.

April 22, 2009 11:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Heard Nick's interview yesterday on radio 4 - inspiring stuff and after looking at the photos - amazing snap shot of modern life.I only hope more big borther laws to not prevent such freedom...

April 29, 2009 8:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


The shooting info here is awesome but my comments are really reserved for the crazy laws in the UK.

I was stopped in Central London recently when shooting just outside St Paul's Cathedral by two of London's finest. And their first comment (literally) was "Excuse me sir - are you a journalist?" followed by many questions about me, what I'm doing etc. They wanted to see ID and my camera.

My only 'crime' is having a good quality camera & long lens.

July 23, 2009 11:43 PM  

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