Photographing a Luthier….What’s A Luthier?


One of the best things about being a newspaper photographer is that I get to meet lots of interesting people who do lots of interesting things. I was given the assignment to photograph a Luthier. What’s A Luthier I thought to myself…

So a Luthier is a maker of stringed instruments. I had the pleasure of photographing local Luthier Gwyneth Wilbur at her home just outside St. Andrews for Salon. The neat thing about her is that she has started to use local wood to build her violins instead of using imported wood from Italy. So my idea was to get shots of her alongside some of the local trees that she uses for materials.
The photo above was my absolute favourite shot and it was the one they ran huge on the salon front. Lighting wise, I used a flash fired into an umbrella on a stand at a 45 degree angle on the left of her. This provided a really nice soft light that spread out to cover her and some of the background. I also slightly underexposed the ambient light exposure to make it go a bit darker and make her stand out.


I also had to take shots in her workshop. Again, I used a flash shot into an umbrella to create the look of soft window light coming into the workshop(which there was, but it just wasn’t bright enough)


I then wanted to get some shots of the violin itself. I had to do some detail shots, and we pinned up a red cloth to use as a background. A more contrasting background might have been better, but I didn’t mind the color.



She had this really nice window, and I thought the woods behind would supply a nice background. So I put a snoot on my flash and put it on a stand to shine down from above to create a spot light effect.

Then I wanted to accentuate the warm colors of the violin. So I changed the white balance to TUNGSTEN, which then made the outdoor light very blue. Then I placed a CTO gel on my flash, which changes the light from the flash to tungsten, resulting in proper color on the violin.

After doing the shots of Gwyneth outside, I decided to try some shots of just the violin in the natural setting.

For this shot, I used a snoot on the flash to create a spotlight effect, and then had Gwyneth hold the flash directly above the violin. This was one of my favourites, but unfortunately didn’t run in the Telegraph. 🙁





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