A New website@ www.iamaretoucher.com

Matt Brewin Retoucher

My new retouching website is now available to view online at www.iamaretoucher.com.

A blog will accompany the new website with lots of retouching techniques that I’ve been using to good effect.

Over the past 4 years I have worked mainly on the post processing side of jobs. I have worked with some really top Photographers and big name brands and it has been great! Unfortunately my camera’s have developed a thin layer of dust because of this…

My love for Photography still blossoms so please keep an eye on this blog as I will be posting some new Photography material soon!

See more examples of my retouching work@ http://www.iamaretoucher.com/examples

hendersonsexample matt brewin retoucherred bull examples matt brewin retoucherwatchcomp_details matt brewin retouchermontana examples



Ian Reddington uncovered for Henderson’s relish Doc @ Refinery Photography studios, Manchester

Matt Brewin / Refinery Photography explosionshot_unsharpened_final_web                                     Ianendshot_unsharpened_final_web

Actor Ian Reddington (appearances in Eastenders, coronation street and Doctor who to name but a few) got in touch about some promotional shots for his new Documentary, all about Sheffield’s love for Henderson’s Relish www.sheffdocfest.com/films/5774.

Ian like the idea of a ‘spin off’ from Kim Kardashian’s Paper magazine shots from last year (shot photographer by Jean-Paul Goude) www.papermag.com/2014/11/kim_kardashian.php made famous by her baring all. Not an simple shoot!

So on a shoe string budget we re-worked the shots, adding some ‘Yorkshire spice’ to combine the Henderson’s Relish element. Instead of the champagne falling into a glass we would use the Relish. To make things even more complicated Ian wanted the splash to fall onto a pie…that was perched on his backside…

It wasn’t easy, it took a lot of retouch time, but I finally came to a happy medium between the two. So much thought had to go into this shoot, a massive thanks to all involved!

Assistants / James Welch / George Heaton  www.george-heaton.com

Stylist / Jodie Thackeray

Retouching + Photography / Matt Brewin / iamaretoucher.com

Studio / Refinery Photography, Manchester http://www.refineryphotography.co.uk 







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Stewed in the Studio! Henderson’s Relish and the Camera Axe.

hendersonsstew mattbrewinphotographer

So far we have blown up or shot a bottle of Henderson’s relish. That went well and now we are into image number 2. The second in the series of the Henderson’s Relish images that I’ve been working on.  The Image focuses on the way we sheffieldians use our Relish.

Relish is dark in colour and is to be added to food but not like red and brown sauce, they can go with almost anything. Relish has a more complicated relationship with the flavours it meets and this is why Henderson’s is often used as a flavour enhancer. Us northerners like a warm hearty meal, a stew or a shepherd’s pie, something that includes meat, gravy and carbohydrates. After we make it we realize it lacks something. This is where the Henderson’s Relish is added.

In this image I want to see Henderson’s Relish actually in the stew. It needs to mix into the stew in a disorderly way that looks half appetizing.  We need to keep the bottle and logo on show then include the ingredients meeting with Henderson’s to create the perfect winter dish that us Brits love dearly.

The first obstacle I found with this shoot is the lack of resources. I needed to find some great Advertising Photographer who had shot something like this before and I couldn’t find a thing (btw if anybody does find something i’d be interested to see it).  A bit more thought was needed.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

So…how would we see stew? To see a through a stew we have to improvise and it’s all about the composite here, to make water look like stew and then add a glass bottle and all the ingredients. Thinking about texture, colour, its temperature and what’s going to be added is important. After a test shoot I found a mixture of lighting and retouch that made this work.

This image is made of 30 different images. Inspired by drinks advertisements and infused with high speed flash photography.

I sketched out the idea and then filled a 3 foot fish tank full to the top. The key to this Image is to be able to create the stew effect. The tones and textures need to be present as well as the different consistency’s to make water look heavier.  Some of this is done digitally and some of it is in the effects created by the lighting.

Heres one of the crappy sketches i did in the studio. This one is the lighting diagram.


Stew is going to be dark in colour so a background light is needed as well as multiple foreground lights to capture the falling vegetable’s. It has a heavy texture but it’s a liquid rather than a sauce and it’s often cooked cold-start’ so the ingredients are raw when mixed, this makes any food styling easier.                                                                                                                                                                 Increasing noise in the background image was done by simply upping the iso on the digital back. This kept the quality but made the colours and tones look ‘bitty’ and untidy which is what I wanted at the time. Lights are outside the tank, as close as possible to the subject and softened off by using curved Rosco. The Rosco can also be flagged off easily so I could keep a dark background.

The first part of the Photography process is getting the lighting right on the vegetables.  Using yellow and light red gels over the Bron heads to light the subjects helps them fit into the background colour (which is originally orange). Water is transparent and therefore it can be whatever colour you want it to be in a studio environment. Here the water is coloured by the gels and this helps make the subjects look as if they were in water. One strong main light and lots of fill is best here. A subject in water will usually have one direct light source hitting it and this will often be from above (think about a shell in the shallow seas lit by sunlight from above, but fill light coming from the sand below).

Matt Brewin photographer Hendersons close up

The Camera Axe (CA) is used when we needed the bubbles to surround the vegetables. It was important to get a good trail of bubbles, the bubbles surrounding the veg was also key to connecting the composite.  The laser sensor is placed over the top of the tank. Dropping the object into the tank triggers the beam. As the object falls through the water it creates bubbles around the subject and also a bubble trail. In this image the objects have different mass, size and weight.

To perfect the bubble trails a simple adjustment to the CA’s delay is needed. There is no need to move the sensor just change one small setting on the CA. To perfect this further or create a different effect around the vegetables we can place the sensor on the sides of the glass (not inside the tank!) and have the beam carry through the glass tank. You would have to dumb down the sensitivity of the beam but by doing this we can control the triggers through the water!

Cutting out the veg and bubbles was not easy and very time consuming. Using Channels in Photoshop was the best way of separating the bubbles from the background. A few snap shots of the cuts can be seen below.

Screen Shot 2013-11-24 at 20.59.24

The sharp edges that the Phase One back provides (no antia-liasing filter) is one of many reason’s I why I use a medium format system.  It’s so much easier to see the edges of a subject and the sharpness of the files increases this, So much better for detailed clipping or masks.
Screen Shot 2013-11-24 at 20.49.27

Took about three days of serious Photoshopping but I was happy with the detail and drama that was present in the final image.

And the Final Image below:

So Henderson’s mixed with Stew and Henderson’s shot with an Air rifle. One more image to go….any ideas? Please get in touch.

hendersonsstew mattbrewinphotographer

Corrections and feedback from the last shoot:

Maurice from Dreaming Robots (www.dreamingrobots.com) got in touch about the battery life of the Camera Axe: “Charging via USB took around 45mins, changing the batteries takes 30 seconds. I prefer the latter as it makes the shoot less stressful. Battery life seems to be around 2 -3 hours.” – When using the version with 6AA batteries you can’t charge the batteries over USB.  You can only power it over usb.  I also found the battery life very short.  I usually see 20 hours, but that is without the laser sensor.  I haven’t tried a long run with that sensor so that might be the difference.

The 6AA battery power is a better option and I have found that the battery life is better. 

 Maurice from Dreaming Robots got in touch about the modelling bulbs problem I encountered in the last shoot:  “I  found that using the 650w modelling lights from the Broncolor heads could confuse the sensors ” – If you add a tube around the light sensor you would block it from ambient light and not have an issue with this. 

http://www.dreamingrobots.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=8&t=1876 – This works. Thanks again. 

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D4 and Acute Profoto Gear up for Grabs

Referred from the studio today. My printer is selling all of his Profoto Equipment.

Let us know if you want to make an offer or get in touch about the Equipment.

Some nice gear here.


  1. Acute / D4 Head, frosted 75mm dome, UV coated, with New style Zoom reflector, with modelling light. PART NUMBER 900666
  2. Acute / D4 Head, frosted 75mm dome, UV coated, with New style Zoom reflector, with modelling light. PART NUMBER      900666
  3. Acute / D4 Head, frosted 75mm dome, UV coated, with Old style Zoom reflector, with modelling light. PART NUMBER      900666
  4. Acute / D4 Head, frosted 75mm dome, with      modelling light. PART NUMBER 900666
  5. Acute / D4 Head, frosted 100mm dome, with modelling      light. PART NUMBER 900666
  6. Acute D4 Ring Flash, with Aluminium flight      case. PART NUMBER 330513
  7. Acute2 1200 Generator. PART NUMBER 900773
  8. Acute2R 1200 Generator, Built in pocket wizard      receiver UK version. (missing antenna, but doesn’t affect it). PART NUMBER 900811
  9. Softbox 3′ x 4′ RF, No transport Bag. PART      NUMBER 254527
  10. Softbox 2’x 2′ RF, No transport Bag. PART      NUMBER 254525
  11. 7′ / 210cm Giant Reflector, Silver inside,      Complete. PART NUMBER 100317
  12. 7′ / 210cm 1 Stop diffuser.
  13. Acute / D4 Lamp Extension Cable. PART NUMBER      330601
  14. Grid and filter holder, No filter holder. PART      NUMBER 900649
  15. Grid 5 deg. PART NUMBER 100646
  16. Grid 10 deg. PART NUMBER 100605
  17. Grid 20 deg. PART NUMBER 100606
  18. Beauty Dish “White”. PART NUMBER      100608
  19. Speed Ring Profoto, ( x2 off these ). Part      Number 100660
  20. Galumet MF6045 Light Stands, ( x3 off these )
  21. Storm Case M2700 – Yellow. (      Currently foam cut out for  x4 Acute /D4 Heads )
  22. Storm Case M2720 – Yellow. ( Currently foam cut out for      x2 Acute 1200 Generators + 1 Acute  / D4 head )
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Matt Brewin photographer shoots Henderson’s Relish…… literally!

‘Making Henderson’s Relish Images with help from the Camera Axe 5’ Part 1 

henderson's series final mattbrewinphotographerMost people reading this won’t have a clue what Henderson’s relish is. That’s good because we northerners like to keep it that way.

In Sheffield, North of England, Henderson’s Relish has been made for over 100 years in a small factory close to the city centre. Surprisingly it never really took off anywhere else and therefore became a local secret which ‘sheffiedians’ and still very proud of to this day. It goes well in stew, on cheese on toast even on chips/French fries. It’s a little like Worcester sauce (but its better!).

Last year I embarked on a project using Henderson’s Relish and high speed captures. I was going to use the Camera Axe laser trigger for the high speed stuff. I would therefore combine the results with a review on the Camera Axe 5.

As a Sheffield lad myself this was a project I was excited about because it can bridge the gap between commercial product photography and art work. I have wanted to create more artwork so I was intending on making these images as spectacular as possible.

Most of the time I find using laser triggers time consuming to set up. Often the results are so precise that the shots do not look random enough to fully see what’s going on throughout the frame. Sometimes the best captures are the ones done by testing the speed of your finger on the trigger. Often it is these shots that show you how the liquid or other substance is carrying across the frame. However the speed at which the subject is travelling dictates weather this technique will work, for the following series I needed a little extra help.


Camera Axe 5 Review


by  mattbrewinphotographer blog

tnvwedding 2Often as Photographers we need to capture fast moving subjects. Sometimes these subjects are so fast that we cannot react in time and need help from technology.

High speed photography has become very popular due to faster flash durations and homemade laser triggers. All one needs to do is take a quick browse on http://www.Flickr.com.  There are great examples of amateur photographers using these triggers. Some of the results are pretty awesome, shot with the minimum amount of equipment.

There are now several laser trigger devices on the market that are designed to work with DSLR and medium format cameras. They range in price and appearance. The Kapture One Toolbox system was one of the first laser devices to come onto the market and is very expensive! This system, created in 1991, is cumbersome compared to the newer designs but is well built and has been tried and tested by many photographers.

Recent alternatives to the Kapture One Toolbox are greatly appreciated due to the cost of the old system. The alternatives include the Camera Axe, Time Machine and newly released Trigger trap. These three triggers seem to derive from home made systems but all should do a similar job.

There are two options when purchasing the Camera Axe 5. You can either buy the cheaper Shield kit, which plugs into a Arduino Uno and requires some assembly. Alternatively you can skip any D.I.Y and opt for the more expensive ‘ready to go’ kit. If you have some knowledge of electronics then you could save some cash by opting for the Shield kit. I may often have to build small sets for shoots but I’m no electrician and therefore will pay a little more to avoid extra work.

When the camera axe arrives it is ready to use straight out of the box (just add batteries), which anybody would appreciate. This gives more time to test the system and get used to it rather than reading the manual waiting for it to charge up.


The First Image in the Series:

The flexibility of the Camera Axe system is why I would buy it. This shot of this Henderson’s relish bottle exploding would need three different elements capturing to composite later on. These would be break, splash and smash. The camera Axe offers different sensors. For this shoot I used the following:

Laser Trigger:

Creating the smash and splash involves throwing glass and liquid about. The camera axe helps me capture these easily by using the Laser trigger.

This is essentially a laser beam between the laser sensor and light sensor. The camera Axe controls the settings and sensitivity of the beam.  Set the Camera Axe to ‘Activate’ and when the beam is broken it will trigger all the lights and expose the image. I found it can take a few minutes to set up effectively, however, when it’s working to the settings you require it becomes a joy to use.

Projectile Sensor:

Breaking the thick glass of the bottle would be a tricky. It would need to be broken at high speed and this requires a weapon. I borrowed a high powered 22 cal Air Rifle for this project and rented a shooting friend for the day.

This Projectile Sensor is a must if any photographer wants to break objects using bullets. The sensor can project where the bullet will end up in the frame by calculating the speed of the projectile as the projectile travels at constant speed. Consistency is a must when using projectiles. Trial and error testing doesn’t work.

This sensor took a few minutes longer than the laser trigger to set up, but again, when we got it up and running, the results were consistent. We would never have been able to capture the bullet hitting the bottle without the Camera Axe. The projectile sensor was the perfect tool for the job.

*Health and Safety is paramount for these types of shoots. Everything is covered up to avoid liquid and glass shards breaking the equipment. I often use thick clear Plexiglas to shield myself and the camera during potentially ‘dangerous’ shoots in the studio. I may lose a very slight amount of quality from the lens glass with the thick plastic in the way but it gets me closer to the action.

During the shoot

During the shoot the Camera Axe performs consistently and with the new 6 x AA battery holder the shoot can keep going without having to break for a charge. Charging via USB took around 45mins, changing the batteries takes 30 seconds. I prefer the latter as it makes the shoot less stressful. Battery life seems to be around 2 -3 hours.

The cable lengths will obviously be dependent on the size of the set. My sets are large in comparison to a water drop shot so I needed to purchase (very cheaply) about a dozen extra extension cables. This meant I could cover an area of about 6 x 6ft and have the Camera Axe positioned right next to the camera and tripod.

HendersonCAlightingHere is a very crude lighting diagram I drew after the shoot.  Lighting is Broncolor Pulso 4 heads  right, left and above with Grafit and Pulsoa4 packs. Front lighting is Elinchrom Rapid heads used as fill light. white Pexiglass is used as bounce cards behind the bottle. All heads are set to the fastest possible flash durations.

The delay is the most useful tool that I found in the Camera Axe menus. For me this was similar to altering the exposure or upping the aperture on a location portrait shoot, slowly tweaking the image through visual experience of the exposures. The density and propulsion of the subject is the key to determining the delay time needed.  The outer splashes in this shot needed a delay of 0.150 second while the splashes around the bottle could be 0.50sec to 0.100sec. Both the sensitivity of the beam and delay option is balanced nicely to create the desired result. With everything in life this is determined ultimately by experience with the device.

The sensitivity of the laser sensor beam can be seen in the Camera Axe menu when switched on. This is indicated by 0/999. The first number indicates when you want the beam to be cut and the second number is the sensitivity of the beam. If the sensors are not completely fixed in place the numbers will fluctuate as the sensors slip.  Seeing this live really helps you avoid mistakes. The second number indicates the strength of the beam. For most shoots you would want the beam to be over between 800 and 999 which would be a nice strong beam.

mattbrewinphotographer camera axe

Crude drawing number 2 is the Camera Axe setup. Photo diaries are ok… drawings keep you guessing!


An example of how the beam numbers would work would be a large rock passing through. This would send the first number to 0. A carefully placed water drop may also send the beam to 0 but throwing a handful of sand at the beam may not take it to 0. This is because of its density and therefore you need to increase the number to something like 200/999. This is balanced by adding some extra delay time so that the sand will trigger the beam in the same position as the rock or water drops.

*We found that using the 650w modelling lights from the Broncolor heads could confuse the sensors a little especially if you wanted to set the beam up near a full strength modelling light. It is best to work in low light. This will also help you see the beam more clearly.



One problem that does let down the Camera Axe is its Camera sync compatibility. This problem is encountered when you need the High speed durations as well as the Shutter sync speeds. This will not affect everybody. High speed durations will freeze the subject when using long exposures as long as the modelling lights are turned off. For those who need this added precision you will need to purchase a custom cable or be prepared to use a different camera.  I like using the 1/125 or 1/250 sync because I can still use the modelling lights.

The current camera cables for the Camera Axe are available only for Canon, Sony, Olympus and Nikon cameras. That’s great for 80%+ of pro/semi pro Photographers who regularly shoot with Canon and Nikon. For me and my beloved Phase One it’s not happening.

I have tried the Profoto Air cable and Pocketwizard Mamiya cables but with no luck. Both of the cables have 3.5mm jack on one end and the Mamiya / Phase One camera connection at the other. The results were very inconsistent with the camera triggering either before or after the flash.

Custom cables could be made to overcome Camera model vs. Camera Axe issues. I feel that the amount of custom cables available should be able to solve most photographers’ issue

First conclusion

Henderson's Relish Series Image 01The final result after a heavy amount of editing and compositing.

No matter how hard you try you can’t react quickly enough to capture the perfect paint throw or bursting of a balloon. If high speed photography is what you want to pursue then a laser trigger will be needed to help you capture that ‘perfect moment’.

The Camera Axe is a good choice and not an expensive investment. The cost is peanuts in comparison to a new pro lenses or pro camera body’s. It offers a good range of sensors, great battery life, fantastic customer service (thank you Maurice!) and in comparison to other devises offers good value for money.

In a nut shell the Camera Axe let me worry about my lighting, exposures and safety of the equipment rather than worrying about timing. This was like having a third assistant.

UK and European users can expect to wait up to 2-3 weeks for the item to arrive from the US (especially if customs get hold of it). Alternatively you could purchase from http://www.proto-pic.co.uk and will save time, but it may cost more.

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Window Shatter Series

Over the past two months I have been working on a Series of images based around sports balls crashing through Glass Panes.

I was wanting the speed of the balls passing through the pane to be a lot quicker than one would expect. Really exaggerating the speed of the ball passing leads to a ‘bullet like’ impact. To do this I had to comp it all together in post, couldn’t find anything to fire the balls through quickly enough. Would have expected to use some kind of high pressure cannon like device.

Even at 6/000 sec t 0.1 flash durations were struggling to freeze the speed of the cricket ball been thrown through the pane. You can expect the ball being fired through the pane by some kind of powered machine to be difficult to freeze. Anything but the latest packs at their lowest durations couldn’t do it.

Glass was purchased via an old greenhouse i bought off Ebay. Took the glass out, polished it and scrapped the rest.

Felt great throwing the balls through the glass. End up hesitating a lot. Feels wrong but aesthetically looks great when the image comes up on camera especially with the backlighting.

Lot of mess made during this shoot…smashed up the whole greenhouse. About 45 panes!


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More Test shooting: First weekend in January

IMAG0017After a lazy Couple of Christmas weeks I’m back into the studio shooting more test shots for the 2013 folio. Great to be firing up the Bron packs again…..making a mess, this time with glass!

Capturing the early stages of the breaking glass is tricky. Updates later.

vicefirstedit02 copy

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