The Victory Sisters – behind the scenes…

April 7th, 2015

It’s no coincidence that the studio is known as Retro Photostudio!  Yes, I do shoot jewellery, product shots, and current fashions, but many of my clients are designers who specialise in retro-inspired apparel from forties and fifties.  One recent client, Mike from The Seamstress of Bloomsbury was kind enough to recommend The Victory Sisters who were in need of a photographer for publicity shots for their forties-inspired group. What a lovely and talented bunch of ladies they are. I was able to call on the services of Verity from The Vanity Box to create authentic forties hair styling…and she did an amazing job.

Anyway, to digress for a moment, you probably are not aware that for very many years I made independent movies, initially working on Super 8 and 16mm film, before moving to Super VHS, and M11 broadcast tape, before going “non linear”. Initially this was on FAST Videomachine, before going over to Premiere Pro. I appreciate this is all probably gobbledegook to you – but the reality is that I moved over to take stills around ten years ago, and the editing gear has gathered dust ever since. This was a shame as over the years my movies had garnered a number of awards in international film festivals. Well it was always my intention to return to making movies (I love the editing process…always have), so my most recent DSLRs, the Nikon D800 and D610 were purchased as I knew they are both able to take great movies.

Movie Toys…

I attended the Photography Show a week or two back, so took the opportunity to check out the various ancillary bits of kit needed to make full use of my cameras’ movie capabilities. Suffice to say I returned will a much lighter wallet and a number of new “toys”*. So I have started familiarising myself with what the cameras can do, movie-wise. So, back to the main reason for this blog post: To get used to the controls I have been shooting test footage of anything or anyone that moves…and today that happened to be The Victory Sisters! During the photoshoot I had them sing so I could get some action stills.  I’d initially taken a couple of video clips of the girls putting on makeup, with Verity attending to their hair, and even a couple of clips of the girls checking out the selection of stills. They’d changed back into their ‘day clothes’ and were on the point of leaving when I suggested they perform a song for me to video. They agreed, pretty much launching straight into a close harmony song before I’d any time to organise sound, tripod or lighting! So although the technical side is very ropy, I thought you might like to see the very first behind scenes movie I’ve shot in my studio. Despite the impromptu nature of the performance I think you will agree that the personality of these lovely ladies shines though – I think they are destined for great success! Retro Photostudio – Behind Scenes with The Victory Sisters from Terry Mendoza on Vimeo. * More about the  movie”toys” and my return to commercial videomaking in future blog posts.

The studio is growing!

April 7th, 2015

Every time I post on my blog I seem be apologising that postings are so few and far between!   Over the past few months the studio has gone from busy to “crazy busy”…I am certainly not complaining but, because a number of new commercial clients have asked me to take over their photography, this has led to periods when I’ve been spending all my waking hours either shooting or preparing images for print, posters and web catalogues.  Consequently the blog has been sitting unattended at the back of the queue.

Anyway, it is gratifying that all my regular clients who get me to shoot their Spring/Summer and Autumn/Winter collections have been growing too, along with their shooting requirements. Companies where I was scheduling four days to shoot a collection are now asking for seven days.

I can’t really put the success down to a single factor; I do know companies like consistency and reliability – so I keep a very tight eye on quality control…all my gear is colour calibrated, and so colour rendition is the same from shoot to shoot. I always deliver within the promised timeframe, so companies can rely on having time before the major trade shows to produce their look-books for the new collections.  A major factor in my favour is that companies are able to get rid of many of the stresses of organising a photoshoot.

Let me take the pressure and headache off you…

Here’s a typical rundown of photoshooting/image preparation:

Company provides the brief: what kind of product / how many models needed/ specific model characteristics / studio or location / style of photography needed / format for finished images / date considerations.

I look after:

  • Putting out casting calls for models
  • Forwarding shortlisted applicant details / portfolios to client
  • Organising location where needed
  • Booking models and sorting out their travel arrangements
  • Coordinating and booking ancillary team: Hair Stylists / Makeup Artists…and even staff to press outfits if they have been supplied in packets!
  • Researching / acquiring props for specific editorial shots
  • Photography – which includes logging shots in a filename format suitable for the particular company.
  • Shortlisting images; supply of proof images
  • Arranging payment for the models and team
  • Retouching / colour correcting the shortlisted images
  • Compositing where required for editorial / poster images
  • Outputting images in multiple format: print ready and web-ready versions.
  • Supply of ‘behind scenes’ images, which I supply gratis, for company PR on social networks
  • Behind scenes video – this option is rapidly gaining popularity!

Because the studio is outside of London, I am able to provide this service very competitively too.  So whether you are an established company and been let down by your current photographer, or a new company with a tight budget, feel free to drop me an email to info at retrophotostudio dot co dot uk and I will be very happy to discuss your photographic needs. You will be under no obligation, and definitely no pressure either!

Photoshoot for a fashion catalogue

January 15th, 2015

Behind the Scenes – photographing the Spring / Summer 2015 Hell Bunny Catalogue

Shooting a fashion collection for a catalogue sounds glamorous and a lot of fun. I’d be lying if I said it was not fun…but it involves plenty of hard work too. Here’s a little slideshow to show you some of what goes on behind the scenes.

Behind the Scenes – creating the Hell Bunny catalogue from Terry Mendoza on Vimeo.

Read on to learn more about the entire process i.e what was involved in the photography for the latest catalogue.


Six months ahead the Hell Bunny design team plan ‘poster’ themes- the editorial images which appear on catalogue covers. These are often shot on location. The team researches online and creates moodboards so everyone appreciates the feel they are looking for. This also ties in ideas for props, hair styling and makeup.

Four months out they start the model selection – generally selecting one or more new models to keep the catalogue looking fresh.  I browse my model database of those I’ve worked with and forward suggestions, often putting out a casting call too, shortlisting promising candidates for the company audition.

Once the poster themes have been chosen I start sourcing props – the studio already has a wide selection of retro props, but invariably I’ll scour boot sales, maybe cadging props from friends and family too.  For this particular shoot I hired a couple of candelabras from a secondhand shop.

Next the logistics of ensuring the plan comes together – props/models/makeup artists and hair stylists will all be available on the required dates.

Checklists of props and equipment are prepared. Working away from base it is vital that nothing gets forgotten.   I plan on the assumption that if anything can go wrong it probably will!  So spares of everything  are carried – camera, tethering lead, laptop, lighting units, stands, hard drive, battery charger and so on.

The Hell Bunny outdoor poster shots were taken on a bright September day in South East Essex – some at Westcliff Cliffs, some by Southend Pier and the rest around beach huts in Thorpe Bay. A further rainy December day was spent shooting the  interior ‘church’ shots in a Grade II listed building in the Essex countryside – complete with its own private chapel.

It took five further days to shoot the catalogue shots in the studio.  Shoot days are not for the faint-hearted…some of the team rising at 4am to get to the studio for 8:30. It takes between 90 minutes to two hours for hair and makeup, so with multiple models, both Natasha and Bella have a busy start to their day! It is common for shoots to finish around 6:30 in the evening too.  Once back home around 8:30pm, and the first task is to create an insurance backup of images – never trust a single hard drive! 4500 shots were taken over the week, with the Nikon camera tethered to Lightroom.  With that many images, a very organized workflow is vital.  As each outfit is photographed it drops into its own named file directory, with the designers simultaneously making their image selections.   By the end of the week 850 images have been selected, so the work on ‘cleaning up’ images can start.

Preparing images in Lightroom and Photoshop

- the technical bit!

I use a colour-calibrated monitor at the studio to check images.   Images are shot  in RAW format, and the first Lightroom step is to apply the presets I’ve created, one for each of the three lenses I use. Next I refine Colour Balance, White point & Black Point for each image. Special attention is given to dark fabrics – detail must remain clear whilst not affecting the other tones in the image.   All the images are now exported as Photoshop files using Lightroom.

I now run a batch process I’ve created, which prepares files for individual attention – adding correction layers to each file before saving /closing the file.

Files are now individually opened and checked full size, so flaws can be cloned out or otherwise corrected.  When the entire batch has been cleaned in this way they are all double-checked in Lightroom before being cropped as necessary for uniform size in frame.

Next the entire directory of edited images are output in full resolution to a print directory, and once more as a version optimized for use online. If this sounds time-consuming, indeed it is – I’ve even left out a few steps to avoid boring you!

Anyway, around ten days after the conclusion of the shoot the entire batch of 850 images is uploaded so the webmaster can get busy uploading images to the site. The designer of the new season’s lookbook now has all the materials he needs to assemble the new season’s catalogue…and it is time to start scheduling the next season’s shoot!

Boris – producing Hollywood Glamour in Twenties Whitechapel

January 4th, 2015

Ronnie Lawrence, a friend of mine, recently asked if I could restore a Boris photograph of his mother-in-law Ada Margolis on her wedding day.  The faded sepia image is reproduced below.

Original wedding photo of Ronnie Lawrence' mother - hand coloured, but faded!

Original wedding photo of Ronnie Lawrence’ mother – hand coloured, but faded!

In the twenties  the East End of London was a poor,  predominantly Jewish area.  This was where Boris Bennett, an immigrant from Poland, set himself up as a wedding photographer. He established his studio in Whitechapel in the twenties, and soon carved a niche for himself by his creative mastery of Hollywood lighting and set creation using art deco props.  Over his career he took over 150 thousand photographs, and many still have pride of place on mantle shelves around the country.

The restoration process

It was an interesting exercise to restore the image. I first scanned it in high resolution, then took it into Photoshop and used the white point dropper in Levels to set the white point. I tried the same for the black point using the black dropper, but the result was way to blocked out, so shifted the black point slider in Levels along to butt against the histogram where tones were just appearing. The next step was to clone out the spots and discolourations on the print. The print has obviously been painstakingly hand coloured, so I added several colour overlay layers, masking and adjusting to bring back skin tones, dress colouring and colour to the flowers.    It was important to remain faithful to the original retouching, rather than create a ‘modern’ look to the photograph.

Both the grain and time had not been kind to the face, so I smoothed the cheeks and forehead subtly, then ‘sculpted the face using a 50% grey layer in overlay mode to give definition to the facial features, using a fine brush at low opacity on the grey – white to lighten, and black to darken.

There was a hint of catchlight still visible in the eyes, so I created a blank layer and on high magnification enhanced the catchlights, to bring life to the face.

The final step was to add a curves layer, selecting Auto to bring back some ‘pop’ to the image, fading this layer until it looked natural.

The restored wedding photo - the 'hand colouring' feel still retained

The restored wedding photo

You can find more of Boris’ work, in an interesting Daily Telegraph article Wartime Wedding Glamour in the East End.   There is now also a lavishly illustrated book “Vintage Glamour in London’s East End” , by Frank Harris and Michael Greisman

I love my work – looking back on 2014

December 31st, 2014

I often read the tag #lovemywork, and that certainly describes my situation – this has certainly been one heck of a year!

So here’s just a brief overview of the past twelve months, which started brilliantly, with photographing in New Zealand and Australia…fabulous countries for landscape work, and wonderful friendly folk too.

Lake Mapourika, South Island, New Zealand, early morning

Lake Mapourika, South Island, New Zealand, early morning

Gratifyingly, a number of fashion companies started using my services for the first time, and there has been a great interest in my location fashion shooting – in 2014 I did more location shoots for catalogues/editorials than the previous two years combined! I’m posting some examples, but oftentimes fashion shoots have to remain ‘under wraps’ until release of catalogues.

Hell Bunny poster shoot 2014

Hell Bunny poster shoot 2014 featuring Miss Betsy Rose

Portia Victoria (L) and Devon Mayson for Banned Apparel

Portia Victoria (L) and Devon Mayson for Banned Apparel


Hell Bunny poster shoot 2014 featuring Miss Betsy Rose and Frankii Wilde

Location photoshooting – Hell Bunny SS14 catalogue

I’ve been fortunate enough to get to shoot in Canada, Luxemburg, Germany and several times in the USA.

During the year I achieved the qualification of Licentiate Photographer with the Society of International Fashion and Glamour Photographers, and over the past few months I have also been honoured by them with the accolade of a Gold Award for some of my images….such as these:

Portrait - Helene Atsuko

Portrait – Helene Atsuko


Fine Art Gold Award - The Societies. Shot in upstate NY

Fine Art Gold Award – The Societies. Shot in upstate NY


Societiies Gold Award - Nature, Fern - New Zealand

Societiies Gold Award – Nature, Fern – New Zealand

My work featured in a number of publications, and on various magazine covers too.

Sophie St Villier gracing the cover of Vintage Life

Sophie St Villier gracing the cover of Vintage Life


Leanne James - Inked Magazine

Leanne James – Inked Magazine


I was happy to sponsor both Burlesque Idol and Pinup UK again – acting as one of their judges for the latter.  I was also invited to judge the Miss Pinup Scandinavia, and to run a pin-up photography studio at Rat Fink Reunion in Avesta, Sweden.

Finalists of International Section Miss Pinup UK

Finalists of International Section Miss Pinup UK

Fighting the hot sun and having a great time Helena, Ariel and Kandi (L to R)

Fighting the hot sun and having a great time Helena, Ariel and Kandi (L to R) at Avesta, Sweden

December saw a flattering profile of the studio published in Pinstriping and Kustoms magazine – thanks guys!

Pinstriping & Kustoms magazine feature

Pinstriping & Kustoms magazine feature

I feel both fortunate and humbled to have been able to work with so many lovely models and great teams of MUAH and art directors. I am not going to name names as I know I’ll only leave someone out, so thank you to you all.   I have put together headshots of some of the models I’ve photographed – it has been a real pleasure working with you all. models and actor headshots models and actor headshots models and actor headshots

retrophotostudio-models4 models and actor headshots models and actor headshots

I wish you a healthy and happy 2015.  For myself I am delighted to have already scheduled photoshoots with so many loyal clients, and excited to be welcoming a number of new ones too.

Finally, a note to myself – must do better on my blog in the coming year; my last post was ages ago…simply down to workload!

Burlesque Idol – the shows go on!

February 6th, 2013

The fourth season of the London based Burlesque Idol competition is now under way.  I have been privileged to have been a sponsor over the past seasons – the winner of each heat enjoys a free photoshoot at the studio.

As a consequence, there have been a succession of talented lovely ladies visiting the studio over the years, and it is wonderful to see how well-known many of them have become on the burlesque circuit…and not just here in the UK.  I thought it would be fun to post a retrospective gallery of some of the heat winners of the past years – see how many burlesque stars you recognise…

And the heat winners are, in no particular order…


Lolo Brow - makeup by Bella Noell

Trixee Sparkle - channelling HRH!

Trixee Sparkle - channelling HRH!

Scarlett Belle

Scarlett Belle

Tete Bang

Tete Bang

Violet Blaze

Violet Blaze - as Miss Jessica

Hotcake Kitty

Hotcake Kitty - a la Elvgren

Vivacity Bliss

Vivacity Bliss

Aurora Galore

Aurora Galore

Fanny Dent

Fanny Dent

Beau Burlington

Beau Burlington

Jolie Papillon

Jolie Papillon

Kitty Darling

Kitty Darling

Kitty Pearl

Kitty Pearl

Carmina de la Minx

Carmina de la Minx

Peggy de Lune

Peggy de Lune

Effie Vescent

Effie Vescent

Daisy Champagne

Daisy Champagne

Chantilly Lace

Chantilly Lace

Good luck to all the entrants of Burlesque Idol season four.  And if you have not won a heat and are still really wanting to shoot with me, send me an email, and as an entrant I will make you a very special offer!


Shooting in New York State

November 22nd, 2012
I am a people photographer, but take me out of my regular environment and I’m happy as Larry shooting everything and anything, whether it moves or not.

Shooting into the light

I have been spending a few days in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York before heading to the warmer climes of Florida.  The weather here is chilly but bright and we are travelling in a valley beside Cayuga Lake.    The sun is visible weakly behind the thick mist coming off the lake. It is ideal to be able to shoot directly into the sun to create some really atmospheric effects.
Foggy day at Cayuga Lake

Foggy day at Cayuga Lake

I love the receding planes of lesser contrast as the mist obscures the detail of the trees.  Shooting in this way turns a relatively nondescript scene into a hauntingly beautiful landscape, where you expect a werewolf to be lurking just out of frame!
I always shoot in RAW as it allows later experimentation on alternative colour balance decisions. In this instance, because you would be more likely to spot that lurking werewolf after dusk, I pulled the balance towards the blue end of the spectrum.

Shooting nothing!

During these trips I spend a lot of time shooting textures and scenes that I can later integrate with studio model shots – you are bound to see the above scene cropping up in my work sooner or later. It is always a source of amusement that on our vacations whilst my wife is busy shooting scenery I am shooting the sides of rusting dumpsters and grungy cracked walls! Other photographers hurry to my side to ensure they are not missing a photo opportunity, only to leave with a puzzled look when they find I am apparently shooting nothing!

Photographing into the light

Long shadows - Finger Lakes

Long shadows - Finger Lakes

The next morning presented a further chance to shoot into the light. When the sun is near the horizon, not only does the light take on a warmer orange hue, but the strength of the light is less, keeping the flare when shooting into the sun more manageable.
As I didn’t get out as early as I had intended,  there were elongated shadows which help make the image more dramatic, but the sun was also a little higher and stronger than I really wanted. I solved this by moving myself to frame the image with either branches or trunk blocking some of the sun’s rays.

Burlesque lives!

November 16th, 2012

Burlesque not only lives, it thrives.   Burlesque shows are sprouting around the UK, and of course further afield in Europe, Australia and America.  Aside from shows, the art of burlesque is also mainstream, being taught the length and breadth of the UK.  The courses are very popular, attracting girls from all walks of life, and all sizes – it is incredibly empowering for the girls, even if the goal is not to develop a stage act, but simply social, to meet other girls, and enjoy a little exercise and fun at the same time.

Retro Photostudio has photographed countless professional burlesque artists.  Yet not everyone with a feather boa who visits the studio is a professional burlesque artist.  The studio also photographs  an equal number of girls who have no intention of performing their own act, but merely wish to capture the fun and excitement that their hobby gives them.

Burlesque workshops

A number of burlesque workshops send their ‘graduates’ to the studio to enjoy a girly burlesque shoot day – after pampering by the professional make-up artist and hair stylist, they enjoy a few hours in the studio under expert direction to produce a series of photographs to  show off to friends and family.

Once bitten by the burlesque bug, some girls are keen to perform in front of an enthusiastic audience, and even compete to be able to measure their skills against others.  One of the best stepping stones for this, allowing girls to progress from keen amateur to fully-fledged performer is the annual Burlesque Idol Competition, which Retro Photostudio has been proud to be associated with as a sponsor since its launch three years ago.  The winner of each heat qualifies for a free shoot at the studio.

This year’s final takes place on 30th November at Madam Jojo’s.

The most recent finalist to visit the studio was Violet Blaze – a very enthusiastic young lady!

Violet Blaze - as Big Mama

Violet Blaze - as Big Mama


I asked her how she found her shoot…and she emailed me the following description of her experience…

Upon arrival at Retro Photo Studio… I was welcomed with a nice cup of tea… perfect way to start the day! I was impressed with the amount of props and costumes that were available ! 

Terry made me feel at ease instantly.. and straight away I felt at home with the camera and him. 

He is a fantastic photographer.. attention to detail.. angles… and always gets that foot turned just right.. or that stray hair out the way! He is not just a photographer.. but an artist. 

All the raw images looked FANTASTIC.. I found it so hard just to choose 25 from the hundreds of shots taken… but something is telling me I am going to have to purchase some more because I love them so much! 

When I received the retouched versions however.. I was AMAZED… I have always wanted to be captured in the true Mendoza style.. and he made me look like a real pin up star. 

I feel with these pictures… people will be able to see I am taking my burlesque career seriously.. they are so professionally done and have already helped in getting me gigs! It’s all about the image… 

I will definitely be going back for another shoot once I get my new act together. I look forward to working with Terry again.. he is simply fabulous. 

Violet Blaze xxx   

So if you love burlesque, and regardless of whether you’ve never been on a stage before, or are a full-time pro, feel free to contact the studio and I will be happy to discuss your own tailor-made photoshoot.

I love Photoshop, but…

November 6th, 2012

There is no question that Photoshop is an amazing tool.  It allows one to correct flaws in images, or to create artificial realities; in short if you can imagine it, you can create it.  I use Photoshop all the time, and have done so right back from version three, which was supplied in a great pile of floppy disks!

I have no problem with fixing minor flaws when finishing images of models, either for clothing designers or for their own portfolios.

But this is a tool that should be used with integrity.  Recently my wife received a catalogue from a make-up company.  Every image in the catalogue had been retouched, not just to correct flaws, but to create a whole new reality – smooth flawless skin with not a hint of wrinkle.  The text clearly suggested that users of such make-up products could expect their skin to appear the same as in the illustrations…a claim that I consider highly misleading.  Within a day or so, another household named brand catalogue arrived with make-up products illustrated in exactly the same manner.  Then today a leaflet popped through the door for a local company offering ‘permanent make-up’ and laser treatments to beautify skin.  To my eyes the illustrations were horrendous – the skin was smoothed so much that it looked like wax – devoid of any pore structure!  Eyes were painted to remove any trace of the normal capillaries – they looked like artificial eyes!

Photoshop – reality or deceit?

A young lady friend of my wife is not a Photoshop user – and is unaware of how the image has gone from being optimized into the realms of fantasy.  These representations are images for her to strive to achieve…and strive she has.  She has invested huge sums with plastic surgeons attempting to emulate these fantasy images.  Unsurprisingly, aside from some of the awful things that have gone wrong and had to be corrected, this unfortunate lady is still nowhere near her impossible ideal…and of course she never will be.

When dealing with selling facial treatments and make-up, just what has happened to morality?





October 31st, 2012
SINderella - is back...and looking for you...

SINderella - is back...and has her eye out for you...


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