marlene olsson

“Changes” Editorial

It seems like a long time ago that I worked on this collaboration with Marlene Olsson and Erin Tunn, but its finally allowed to be shown to the world. We photographed this collaborative piece around the time when David Bowie passed away, so there was a little bit of an influence in that respect. We also had no stylist on the day, as our scheduled stylist unfortunately fell ill. So the styling was all up to me, and therefore ended up featuring such designer garments as a vintage kimono (inside out), and a queen size bed sheet. Going to be all the rage next season, I hear.

Read about the shoot in an earlier blog post here.

Steph Doran
HMUA: Marlene Olsson
Model: Erin @ GTR Global
Assistant: Josephine Tut

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Marionettes and Students Visit

Oops, haven’t blogged in a while (yes, same excuse as always…) I have so much to share. If you’re a subscriber, prepare to be bombarded with new posts. If you’re not a follower… why not click that button?

Anyway, after the great wrist incident of 2015 (aka when I broke it on day 4 of a 2.5 month overseas trip) I had to stop working for a while. Photography does require a certain level of wrist and arm fitness, due to putting up and down equipment and holding cameras. I usually work 7 days a week (and love it) so after two days of resting I was going insane. I am more functional now, but still not 100% normal. But luckily able to shoot!

Last week, the final year students at Photography Studies College visited my studio. I used to be a student at PSC, and this studio visit has become a yearly occurrence. Basically, the students come to see me, a “professional photographer” (note: hahahaha) in my natural environment. To make it more interesting, I set up a lighting demonstration or little fashion shoot. This year, I decided to shoot a marionette and puppet inspired editorial shoot.

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I had an amazing team on board for this shoot, and was so excited that I came in the day before to set up the lighting. My model was Thea from Scene, I had Marlene Olsson doing hair and makeup, and my partner in crime Kat Menze styling both set and wardrobe.

We got in early, drank copious amounts of coffee, and knocked off two looks before the students even arrived. When they did, my team took a rest and I had to stand up in front of the beady-eyed students and talk about my career path. I tried to be funny- sometimes it worked. Then I let them all have a go with my medium format camera (most were too scared of breaking it to even look at it!) and we had a little q&a session. Then the students left, and it was back to work.


I had told Marlene to get creative with the hair and makeup, and do whatever she wanted or felt like. She did not disappoint! Thea’s hair transformed to a ball of curls and ringlets about three times its normal size, and her face looked like a beautiful doll, with shiny gold rims around the eyes, and delicate gold ‘tears.’

Kat also blew me away with the set. We have wanted to incorporate set styling into our collaborations, but have never seemed to get around to it. What started with just a brown backdrop with the end of the roll showing developed into a simple ‘attic/workshop’ inspired space that could be moved around and changed easily. We pulled in some boxes and random bits of panelling form around the studio, and Kat decorated with stuffing, tulle, and other lengths of fabric. But the biggest innovation for me was using an old messy drop sheet as the base on the floor to cover the bright white cyc. It not only added texture and interest, but it saved me hours retouching. Thanks drop sheet.

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The shoot ran super quickly, with Kat matching outfits at lightning speed, and Thea just looking brilliant in every frame (sorting through and choosing even one to retouch has been both a nightmare and a dream because they all look amazing!) Davey (my assistant for the day) and I moved the lighting and set elements around to create different scenes for each look. I think this really helped to stop the series looking stale or repetitive.

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We wrapped at 3:30, in time for Thea to get to her classes at uni (she is not only beautiful, but very smart!) I wasn’t even tired, despite having been up since 6, because the shoot had gone so well. I couldn’t wait to retouch some shots, but there was a whole studio to pack down, as well as bags of Lincraft stuffing and fabric petals to sweep up.

Keep an eye out for these shots in print soon!!

PHOTOG || Steph Doran
MODEL || Thea A @ Scene
HMUA || Marlene Olsson
STYLIST || Kat Menze
ASSISTANT || Davey Biasi

PSC Visit Blue Tree

Well well, this was a few weeks ago now! It’s a very busy time of year for me, with lots of shoots happening all over the place. I love being busy though, so I’m happy. And my tax return is finally parcelled up and mailed away, so that’s a huge relief. I’ve been putting it off since July…

Me: “Im going to get it done as soon as possible. End of July, easy.”
July 1st me: “Yep, this thing is definitely going to be done before my birthday.”
August 22nd me: “Ok, end of August. I still have plenty of time.”
September 1st me: *panic!!* “Crap, was I meant to have this done before September?!”
September 2nd me: “Phew, still time. 30th September, absolute deadline.”
Monday: “Holy moley this thing has to be in the government’s hands in 3 days!”

I’m confident the exact same thing will happen at the end of next financial year.


Financials aside, a few weeks ago I played teacher and had students from Photography Studies College come to visit the studio. I used to study there, and the tutors had asked me if the final year students could come and visit, and listen to me talk about myself (#funtimes)

I remember being in this class and having lots of photographers come and visit the school, some of which were more engaging than others. So I wanted to ensure that I wasn’t boring for the students, and they wouldn’t hate me forever. One of my old tutors suggested doing a lighting demo, and that then turned into a mini fashion shoot (because I mostly shoot fashion, and it would be a bit more exciting than just photographing a flower ontop of a box or something.)

Que team…

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I’m lucky in that I have spent the last few years testing and building up my contacts, so I was able to pull a team together pretty quickly to make this happen. I wanted to give everyone involved a chance to play, and get some new images for their folios, so that it would be worthwhile for them. I’m a strong believer in everyone benefiting from any collaboration- whether that be financially or with images as appropriate- so I just opened the shoot up to anyone who wanted to come and play.

I borrowed some garments from Joseph Jang- a designer I have worked with a few times and whose collections I adore, and then had Melanie Kirby from Scene Model Management come in to wear them. Marlene Olsson was hair and makeup artist, and seemed excited that she was allowed to do whatever she wanted with the hair an makeup. She had been doing a lot of commercial work in the previous weeks, and so a little creative freedom was an exciting prospect.

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We got set up, and then the students arrived. I won’t bore you with details, but I talked about my photography career path thus far (with no script or preparations, so I was a bit all over the place!), and then when the student’s eyes began to glaze over, I started shooting.

We had set up two ‘shooting areas’ in the studio, and many lights and modifiers to impress the students. Of course, that included using the Bron parabolic umbrella with a ring flash inside, purely because it is big and looks fancy. I showed the students what each light was doing, and how I normally go about setting up (working with one light at a time so I know what they are all doing.) Then I let the students have a go, using my medium format camera. They were both thrilled and terrified to touch it!

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Next, I got the students to be a little more hands on. I had them do a lighting set up for me, shooting as they developed it. Earlier, I had taped a tree branch to a c stand, and put it behind a white paper roll. I then set up a picolite behind that, pointing towards camera (ie: shining through the screen.)

This was the result, and also the students’ starting point.

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I then asked them to light the model, however they wanted. They worked really well as a team, moving around the lights from the studio, and pulling out cutters and reflectors to tweak their lights. I shot a frame after each change, so they could see what they were building up.

They did a great job, and solved lots of problems. It was great to see their enthusiasm.


In the afternoon, there was another group, so I repeated the whole thing again. This group was a little less enthusiastic because they had mostly photojournalism students, whereas the morning class had mostly commercial major students (so they would be more likely to be in a studio environment.)

We changed up the hair, makeup, and clothing, for some variation (also so Marlene and Melanie had some different images for their books.)

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Here are some of the retouched shots. More to come!

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After the second group had gone home, I took Melanie out into the carpark behind the studio to do a few extra shots. I wanted to make sure, once again, that she had a few more variations for her book.

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We shot for about 7 minutes. I shoot quickly, and also I didn’t want Melanie to be late for her train!

Some of the retouched shots from outside…

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Such a fun day! I love teaching and sharing my knowledge (however limited it may be!) Thank you team for making this happen!

MODEL || Melanie Kirby @ Scene
HMUA || Marlene Olsson
DESIGNER || Joseph Jang