Due to demand I have decided to start this blog to give a little insight into the thought processes, influences, insights and inspiration that goes into producing the images that I create.

Lee howell is an award-winning commercial photographer & creative retoucher based in Edinburgh UK.

'Lee Howell Rising Star' - Photo-grapher Magazine

Beauté Aviaire 

A series of conceptual fine art prints, exploring the connection between the aesthetic beauty that visually lies in the delicate luxurious opulence of avian plumage and the sexual femininity of the female form.

These composite images, where feather meets beauty and fashion, are constructed using the art of photographic capture, photographing models and birdlife in separate instances and in separate locations.

Then digitally manipulating the imagery in postproduction, to create a new single piece of artwork, a combination of both bird and beauty, each perfectly complementing the other.

It has always interested me, the way that the fashion industry has long associated a feminine quality to both fur and feathers, especially when more often than not; it is the plumage from the male of the species that is chosen to be worn.

Here with the help of modern digital postproduction techniques, I have been able to explore this connection further and unlike 19th century aristocracy who chose to wear whole stuffed birds as hats at the height of the “plume boom” era, I’ve been able to produce this artwork without any birdlife being manhandled or harmed in the process.

All of the garments, as well as hair styles featured have been created solely using manipulated imagery taken of various birdlife and at no point during the process of this project did any of the models see, wear or come into contact with any of the feathers or birdlife featured in this series of prints.

Lee Howell ABIPP

Award-Winning Commercial photographer and creative retoucher Lee Howell is based in Edinburgh UK, specialising in advertising, fashion and contemporary editorial portraiture.

Lee was recently awarded BIPP Scottish Photographer of the year 2014


Proud daughter & harshest critic, this evenings great finale to the inaugural Retina Scottish International Photography Festival. #RetinaFestival #LeeHowellPhotography #BeautéAvairie (at Edinburgh Creative Exchange)

Proud daughter & harshest critic, this evenings great finale to the inaugural Retina Scottish International Photography Festival. #RetinaFestival #LeeHowellPhotography #BeautéAvairie (at Edinburgh Creative Exchange)

Back on the workbooks, three new major projects in the planning I’m going back to the oldskool… #Oldskoolrules

Back on the workbooks, three new major projects in the planning I’m going back to the oldskool… #Oldskoolrules

The Mad Hatter, Fourth monkey Theatre Production company.

Commissioned to do this composite portrait for their advertising campaign for the new interpretation of Lewis Carols classic Alice in Wonderland, we shot the model in our new studio which was under construction at the time.

The pitfalls we were trying to avoid were the obvious, trying our hardest to not copy Tim Burtons iconic version with Johnny Depp, yet still include all the individual elements they need to be included, as per the story, rabbit, pocket watch, mouse, sign on the hat, tea cups, playing cards, dolls, cheshire cat.

Many of these elects were shot separately and introduced to the composite in post production.

My preferred version is the slightly more caricature version, however the client is producing a darker version than the original play, with audience being met at midnight beforehand and lead to to their seats by the white rabbit.

With this in mind the client chose to go with the more realistic darker version due to suitability.

As for the image construction, the models portrait is masked out and edited first with Adobe Photoshop CC, the other separate elements are then introduced and put into place. When I am happy with their placement, the dodging and burning is done to accentuate the highlights and shadows, first on a grey layer with paint brush and then with the dodge and burn tools on a separate layer.

A black and white layer is made and blend mode changed to luminosity or multiply depending on the effect required,to help give the image some punch. This is masked through accordingly, the outline of elements are often manually blurred, a colour tone layer added, curves used to cross process the colours, adding some blues into the blacks. Finally a natural vignette added to focus attention and blacks pulled back some more with a curves adjustments layer.

The final piece looks dully complicated and busy and did take some time to complete all versions but think each image sits well together nicely.

So officially we should be now in our office and studio space but due to some unforeseen problems things have been held up somewhat, so thought I’d post this anyway.
Still very excited to be sharing a studio with this talented young Edinburgh based photographer:

Hopefully more news soon… watch this space as they say.

So officially we should be now in our office and studio space but due to some unforeseen problems things have been held up somewhat, so thought I’d post this anyway.

Still very excited to be sharing a studio with this talented young Edinburgh based photographer:

Hopefully more news soon… watch this space as they say.


TRIBE: Maasai

Stacy Jansen making garments in Kenya, smiles are infectious, indifferent to the boundaries of language…

1. Can you tell me a little more about the TRIBE project. Some background info, etc. & What inspired you to feature the Maasai people?
Tribe is a collaboration project between myself and Stay Jansen, who is a costume designer for theatre, film and television. I had seen a collection of her designs in a recent fashion catwalk show, and was very interested in the way much of her work is heavily influenced by that of indigenous tribal people from around the world, in particular Africa in the styling and production.

Her experience having spent time out in Africa has given her a real insight into the people, their traditional dress and how it’s put together and worn, so when time came to photograph these garments it seemed illogical to simply picture them in a sterile white studio, completely out of context with everything these garments were about.

Much of the imagery that I am renown for producing are works of fiction, whether the Work is for advertising, editorial, fine art photography or for personal projects, there is always a sense of romanticism and escapism engrained within the imagery.

As Stacy’s designs are so heavily influenced by her time in Africa it seemed only fitting that we should try and portray them in context with which they are associated and with my particular expertise in image manipulation and compositing we were able to make this possible on a very small budget, without leaving the UK.

“Photography is an accessible medium; it holds great potential to inspire interest in and convey the beauty of a culture. Lee and I wished to create a series of photographs which would explore facets of these cultures through the medium of Lee’s unique photographic style.

To do this, we did not attempt to place the subjects in entirely realistic clothing and settings, but instead focused on creating photographs which would draw an emotional response from the viewer. For these photographs, we blended visual elements which allude to Maasai material culture with extraordinary settings.

This series is intended to be a departure from typical “style” photography. This is a representation of the elegance of the Maasai, but also a reminder of the individuality of people worldwide – an awareness which can easily be lost”. – Stacy Jansen

2.What are some of the challenges that you had when shooting the tribe?
I work with a great team of creative individuals, makeup, hair and lighting assistants, so once we had found our ideal models, of which Kevin Mdanga our male model is actually from Maasai descent, then it was down to me to make a grey, overcast, rainy couple of days shooting in Scotland look like the sun dried savannah of the Serengeti, which was no mean feat I can assure you.

I already had all of the backplate imagery already captured from a previous trip to Africa myself. I knew which scenes I was intending to use, so had to try to match a Scottish foreground location to that of the already captured backdrop, we ended up supplementing African bush for a piece of scrub land at the base of the Pentland Hills on the outskirts of Edinburgh perfectly.

Due to freezing cold temperatures and persistent rain, we started our shoot in the studio, capturing much of the models imagery indoors, that way they could really get into their roles without teeth chattering and turning blue from the severe cold.

African Dawn Before the storm The foothills of Kilimanjaro Africa, spending time in a Maasai village, Kenya/Tanzania border 12yrs ago... The Gathering.

TRIBE: Maasai - Commercial Work inspired by Old African film photographs 

Looking back through these old images of our first time in Africa, some twelve years ago now, it seems only yesterday that we were dancing, bouncing and singing with the maasai villagers, with some of the warmest, friendliest people I’ve had the good fortune to meet in this lifetime.

The experience without doubt left a lasting impression on me, so years later, when life’s journey bought me into contact with Stacy Jansen, a US costume designer for theatre, film and television, it seemed like fate that we should work together.

Stacy had recently exhibited her last African collection, designed and constructed using the same authentic techniques she learned while spending time in rural Kenya.

The original brief - to photograph her collection on studio shot models, white background and all fairly standard stuff. However it soon became obvious to both of us that this would not do both the garments and the proud nature of the maasai people justice.

So with my particular skill in compositing and digital manipulation, we set about constructing a series of images to portray exactly this, however with budget constraints almost none existent there was no alternative but to shoot the main subject matter here in the UK  and composite these into backplate images captured while in Africa on previous trips.

The technicalities of this project will no doubt take up another post on this blog, but the reason for posting these old film photos of an early trip to Kenya, is to show that as a photographer, you are always absorbing life’s experiences, from one day to the next. It’s these experiences, sights, sounds, emotions that you draw upon, sometimes years later, when you are  working on a particular commission for a client.

Both Stacy and myself plan to travel back to Africa at some point in the future, one place in this world that much like India has left an incredibly lasting mark on both of our psyches…

Creative ProShow #7, in Rome lived up to the usual high expectations. Being first to talk at 10:30am was a privilege and hopefully got the conference off to a good start, giving an honest insight into my image construction, ideas and thoughts behind my work.

Some better preparation by myself to take into account the language barrier and running time, next time will help but everyone seemed keen and uber enthusiastic, both during and after my stint on stage.

Over the two day conference there were some firm new friends made and I look forward to my return later in the summer.

Roma you most certainly Rocked….

As a conceptual photographer and creative retoucher, influence for my work is a continues process and comes from various different media, along with the world around us, in many different shapes and forms.

This Sony advertisement ‘Mental Wealth’ by Chris Cunningham is fifteen years old now and still often enters my mind on a regular basis, such is it’s presence… eerily captivating and definitely ahead of its time… and certainly influential.

Oh and don’t forget to keep an eye on the clock counter…