Clicking on an image will open another window. You can use the second window to scroll through all the enlarged images associated with this article

The Henna Page Journal
From Inspiration to Photography
A lizard's tale ~

Alex Morgan
Page 4 of 5

Previous Page Next Page
Front cover

Photography for a Portfolio

This is the first time I have taken photographs of the application process of a design (see above). For my portfolio I try to record the finished application and often wait until the henna is quite faded before photographing a design again. I like that "lived in" look. When meeting a new client I always have my photographs available for them to see. I can explain clearly the fading process using these photographs. Feedback from first time clients demonstrates that for some people a better understanding of how a design will look on their body is conveyed when they see a photograph.

The process of application was recorded on a digital camera, whilst a 35mm Single Lens Reflex (SLR) with b/w film was used to record the finished design (Figure 6). The digital camera is a simple device to use for recording your henna. I simply placed a plain black cloth, nothing special, under the recipient's arm at intervals throughout the application. The rest was just "point and shoot". The camera works automatically to compensate for light levels by using flash and you get instant feedback to see if you like the composition.

When photographing a finished henna application I prefer to work with my SLR camera. I try to use the slowest possible film I can. The picture of Figure 6 was shot on Ilford Pan F 50 ASA film. The shutter speed was 1/15 sec. This is much too slow to give a sharp picture unless you use a tripod, beanbag or copy stand to steady the camera. The aperture was set to F8, which gave me enough depth of focus to cover the entire hand.

For photographing hands I use a 60mm macro lens, which allows me to fill the frame with the hand or go in closer if I want to (Figure 7). The hand is lit with two lights opposite each other with the subject in between such that the lighting is essentially flat and diffuse. I try to avoid using flash for henna shots, it tends to bleach out flesh tones. Film has far more inherent contrast than most digital cameras. With a digital image the contrast can easily be enhanced from the "flat" image produced by the camera.

These b/w photographs were taken using two lamps set at 45 degrees with respect to the subject to give even illumination. If you are using daylight as your light source you'll get the best results on a bright day while shooting in a shaded area.

~ Alex Morgan


  1. Victoria Rovine, Baba Wague Diakite "Respect yourself as well as your tradition" African Arts, Vol. XXXIV no. 2, Summer 2001.
  2. Adire African Textiles -
  3. Jean Chevalier and Alain Gheerbrant, The Penguin dictionary of Symbols, Penguin reference books 1996.
  4. J. C. Cooper, An illustrated encyclopaedia of traditional symbols (Thames and Hudson, 1978).
  5. Suzanne Preston Blier, Royal Arts of Africa (Thames and Hudson, 1998).
  6. Frank Willett, African Art (Thames and Hudson, 1993)


  1. Quick Reference Photographic Trouble Shooting. SLR.

    Previous Page

Next Page

Back to the Cover

    Return to The Henna Page