For Mac, who shoots both on location and in a studio, lighting is a crucial part of every session. "The hardest thing to do properly is a full-length whiteout: no shadow, no join in the floor; nice black edges around the skin and good light on the subject. Avedon was a master at it. He made it look simple - but it isn't."
"I once went to a Helmut Newton seminar. During the Q&As someone asked him why he always left a shadow in the background on the left hand side of his models.Newton admitted it was because he just didn't know how to get rid of it!
He said he just put the light on the models and lit them.
I was astounded.... but it's true."
Mac's last purchases on the lighting front were Bowens Esprit 1000DX flash heads. "They are more than powerful enough for what I need right now" he says. "They are easily portable and I love them to bits. I use them all the time. And next on my shopping list is a Bowens ringlite converter."
The recession has left a mark, rather than a commercial scar, on McVirn Etienne.
He admits: "I don't think anyone is well known enough in this game to avoid taking a hit in this recession. The 'super heavyweights' have dropped prices and so they are now picking up some of the jobs that someone at the same stage of the food chain as myself might pick up. And the photographers lower down in the pecking order now find they are working for virtually nothing."
He confesses: "In hard times I will accommodate people's purses wherever I can - but I won't allow anyone to take me for a 'budget ride'.
It's strange. Last week I found myself doing a half day shoot with a value of £12,000. Twenty four hours later I committed to a job that earned me £120."
Mac has taken portraits of some big names - but he says the funniest ever shoot was the one he did with Ricky Gervais.
"I was supposed to get an hour with him" he smiles, "But the first forty minutes were spent laughing our heads off. Eventually I got the shot I wanted with a Homer Simpson image behind him. I put up one Bowens light with some black foil round it - and shot."
When I bumped into Ricky weeks later he said it had been a great shoot for him because it had been painless.
McVirn Etienne: www.mcvirnetienne.com
The Societies of Photographers Convention and Trade Show at The Novotel London West, Hammersmith ...
You have 265 days until The Societies of Photographers Convention starting on Wednesday 16th March 2022