Nathan Magee: How to create renaissance images on a shoestring budget

Nathan Magee is a second year BA Hons Photography with Video student at our Belfast campus. His work delves into the weird and wonderful and tackles everyday spaces to make them his own through inspirations such as Brooke Shaden, Annie Lebovitz, Helen Sloan and countless others.

15 Mar 2021   4 min read

overlay graphic Nathan Magee: How to create renaissance images on a shoestring budget

How it Started

Back in March 2016 I got my first ever lens 50mm 1.8 that I still use to this day. At that time  I just heard of the 365 project which involved taking an image with an idea every day for the entire year. Previous to this I never had any set goals, but being a super nerd for Lord of the Rings and storytelling in general I knew that was an ideal starting point, before embarking on the weirdest year of my life.

Woman with boat in background

I started the challenge with no skills or previous experience with my camera and decided early on that the fundamentals were not for me, I learned that I didn’t have to be a photographer but I could use the photography medium to create art. The project to begin with was thrilling, I'd see myself running through forest, tripping, falling, covering myself in muck and burning old books to get ‘the golden shot’ from that day. Every day would produce a different idea and feeling, I'd get the shot I had imagined and more than often I didn’t and I would honestly feel terrible about it, and have the weird sinking feeling in my stomach because of what I thought was a wasted day and a wasted idea. I would come up with all kinds of concepts like becoming a human bee hive. With this I immediately got excited and purchased a jar of honey and threw it all over myself. I forget to mention I was in my mum bedroom as it had the best light and I turned the room into a poorly built beehive. This moments' complication also shared the same feeling as they time I lay in soot from a past bomb fire and walked the soot and stench that came with it into our Livingroom. So I realized art brought a lot of unexpected and sometimes unasked for randomness into my life and my parents house most definitely receive the brunt of it.

Lacking Motivation

Midway through the 365 I lacked motivation and had run out of ideas, naturally. So I decided to make art about not being able to make art. Unmotivated, I dragged my camera to the nearest lake, propped it up and jumped into the lake to try and portray what feeling lost would look like. I realized my art didn’t always need to be extravagant or “by the books”. I got caught up in what people thought about my work and seemed to be always searching for ‘the next big thing’ for people to like. So myself and my art we’re untethered and detached up until this point.

Man looking down with fur coat

I finished the 365 project 2 weeks after I was meant to and created a visual diary that allowed me to understand myself and my surrounding. Every image not always representing an event or idea that I wanted to convey and that was completely fine.

The 365 project has taught me things I wish I knew from the start. Not every piece you create will be your best nor your worst and that’s ok, we’re all growing. As creatives we need to remember to strip back and remember what it feels like to just create instead of searching for a quick meaningless rush in the finished product.

Tips to Create Images

Due to the endlessly annoying Pandemic a lot of us are stuck at home, so I'd like to share some tips that I use when create images from home with a shoelace budget that may help anyone stuck in a rut. Because believe me I live the “stuck in a rut” life, and that’s ok.

Man in old fashioned clothing

This image above is influenced by Rembrandt but not nearly as complicated. To achieve this mood you first:

  1. Get a laptop.
  2. Type on YouTube “10 hours yellow light” and full screen the video in order to get the most out of the yellow hue.
  3. Set up your camera on a trip or like me a stack of shabby old books at eye level.
  4. In a dark room hold the laptop with either hand above the top left or right of the face. This will give a smooth transition between the lights and dark of the image and give the image an instant painterly feel. In Photoshop this can be changed in hue and saturation to match the mood you are wanting to portray.

Woman with water dripping down from her head

Above is another easy image that was lit solely by a phone screen. This image was shot in a shower and should be completed in this order.

  1. Place yourself or model in a shower
  2. Download an app on your phone called “Reading lamp”. This app allows you to change your phone screen to literally any colour and works wonders in dark situations, even for video.
  3. Ask your model to hold the light directly in front of their face, for this particular image she held it just below her chin, but I advise playing around to see what suits ur model.
  4. Shoot through the window of the shower
  5. For the added face effect I had duplicated the image in Photoshop and set the blend mode to “Screen” and then lastly playing with the curves before placing the duplicated face just below.


As creatives we all live in our own thoughts. But please know that you do not need to create every day if you do not have the energy, you’re an artist at heart and something will come to you. Don’t feel antagonised by those who post every day because likelihood they may not be creating every day as social media is leading us to believe, but if so more power to them. Do things at your own pace because times are very strange for everyone and it’s important you know you’re not feeling it alone.

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