New Workshop! Lighting 3 | Advanced Off Camera Flash

How We Shot It

How I Shot It – A Quirky Composite of “The Noble Family” by Paul Monaghan

By Paul Monaghan on September 3rd 2014

PMonaghan-noble (1)

The Noble Family

This image is rather special to me, not only because the family loved it, but it also placed high in “The 1st SNS Exhibition” held by Samyang in January this year.  It received a bronze award and netted me a pretty awesome 24mm t1.5 cine lens for my Pentax.

It all started with me paying a visit to a couple I was booked to shoot a wedding for. As part of taking the deposit, I always like to give a little back so I visited their home and set up to take some portraits of them so they could see how I work while I got to know them better.

During this time, they were telling me how much they loved a crazy photo I took of my own family (which I had pre planned and was stolen and had over 750k views in two days) and if I could do something like that for them. Talk about being put on the spot!

PMonaghan-noble (2)

Me and My “Stolen” Crazy Family Photo

 Not one to back down, I took a little look around their home and decided that the kitchen due to the space, layout and props was as good as place as any to set up.


I knew I wanted to use the Samyang (Falcon) 8mm fish eye. It’s not the most common type of lens for a family group shot, but the magic thing about a fish-eye lens is that they give you a great amount of perspective/depth to play with in an image that can make things look more dynamic.

PMonaghan-noble (3)

Samyang (Falcon) 8mm Fisheye

I also knew it would be almost impossible to do this type of image in one frame, as it would require impeccable timing from the subjects and a lot more space to light the image how I wanted. So it was shot in stages as this gives me the benefit of placing lights into the frame to be removed later as can been seen in the images below.

PMonaghan-noble (4)

Composite Frames

Knowing this, I set my camera – Pentax k5 with the Samyang 8mm fisheye – onto a tripod and went about finding the scene I wanted to capture and finalise my settings, which was ISO 80, f11, 1/180s.

Once I found my composition, I split the image into zones in my head, This made it easier to give each subject a place in the frame. Their dog wasn’t originally planned to be in the shoot, but I felt the image had an empty space at the bottom left and pets are definitely a part of a family.

PMonaghan-noble (5)

Zones Color-coded

To light the image, I used a 60x90cm softbox as a main light towards the front of the subject and two rim lights behind each side of the subject to make them pop off from the background a little more. The lighting changed and moved around for each frame which you can see in the colour coded diagram below.
PMonaghan-noble (6)

Once I had the lighting set for a subject, I took a several frames of them doing different things and then moved on to set up the lighting for the next subject. This way I had more options for the final composition and was able to select images that went together better and seemed more fun. It’s also a good idea to take a clean shot of the environment without any of your subjects so you have detail to fall back on in post.


Creating the final image isn’t that difficult if you have some basic knowledge of layer masks. The camera being mounted onto a tripod means the background stays the same in each frame and it’s simply a case of painting the details you do and don’t need. I used a large brush for the most part and only going to a smaller brush when the subject interacts like the dog and the dad’s legs.

PMonaghan-noble (7)

100% crop Showing masking detail

If you need to brush up on how mask’s work the check out: BEGINNER’S TIP: CHOOSE MASKS, NOT THE ERASER TOOL

After the images are all merged together, it’s time to do the usual sharpening, dodge/burn in Lightroom to get the look that you want, which for me changes each image.


Pentax k5
Samyang 8mm f3.5 fisheye
Qflash with 60x90cm softbox
Two speed lights
Radio triggers
Dog biscuit!


I was really pleased with the image. Not only did it turn out much better than my previous attempt, but the fact that it was all done on the spot without any planning is what excited me the most.

Thanks for taking the time to view my image and I hope this little BTS article can help inspire people to try something similar.


This site contains affiliate links to products. We may receive a commission for purchases made through these links, however, this does not impact accuracy or integrity of our content.

Paul Monaghan is a self-taught photographer from Scotland and owner of a small photographic studio just outside of Glasgow, Scotland. Over the years photography has not only helped him document the life of his four kids, it’s also lead him to work on some amazing projects, make friends all over the world and gives him the tools he needs to bring Ideas in his head to life. Visit his websitehere.

Q&A Discussions

Please or register to post a comment.

  1. Alexander Europa

    This is such a cool idea! I can definitely see a market for adding this into a family portrait package. I’m going to start messing around with the concept and see how I can spin it into my own style. Thanks for sharing!

    | |
  2. Basit Zargar

    Great shots with great family

    | |
  3. Clare Havill

    Great sense of humor in the images.

    | |
  4. Paul Monaghan

    Feel free Charlie Bruce, where is your club? I’m a member of the Kirkintilloch Camera Club myself. I can tell by your text that your Scottish and it could be cool to come help out if its not to far :)

    | |
  5. Charlie Bruce

    Hi Paul, This is a great image, very imaginative. Oor club has been looking for a project for winter and this is ideal. Hope ye dinna mind us pinching your idea. Plan is to split in tae four groups and see fa ends up wae the best idea and image at the end of the season.

    | |
  6. Al cu

    Very inspirational, I’ll dibble a little thanks for sharing

    | |
  7. Rui Pinto

    The second picture was also shot using composite frames? The various shadows doesn’t seem to match.
    But hey! Great photos! Loved it ;)

    | |
    • Paul Monaghan

      The second picture was my first crazy family type shot, my wife wanted a new family portrait and I said ok but only if we do it my way.

      It was much simpler, two lights either side of the room and one out in the hall way. My daughters shadow is missing but it would have been cast onto me and my son’s if we were in the frame at the time (due to the light placement).

      I would be happy to write about any of my shots if there is interest to see how they were made.

      | |
  8. Paul Monaghan

    Thank you Eric and Mugur.

    If you ever try something like this I would love to see the results :)

    | |
  9. mugur ic

    I like the ideea. Very creative and good backgrounds

    | |
  10. Eric Sharpe

    Great shot, and excellent background. Really creative. Also, I won’t be stealing this photo!

    | |