Courtney Francis talks about shooting Stormzy

East London’s Courtney Francis has been shooting great individuals for a while and we get to talk with him about one of his favourite shoots to date

Hi there. My name is Courtney and I am a photographer. Well actually i’m a Microsoft certified IT Administrator for an international shipping company but thats boring and you don’t want to hear about that.

Im here to tell you about a photoshoot I’ve done for a music artist who has basically taken over the UK scene in a very short time. I’m of course talking about the wicked skengman himself, Stormzy.



My story begins a year ago. I was made aware of Stormzy by watching #HardestBars and I like his energy and his delivery. At this stage in my photography journey, I was still finding what I wanted to focus on. For 2 years before this I was shooting everything. From parties to hair & beauty photoshoots. At the beginning of 2014 I decided to focus on portraits. This was the type of photography I most enjoyed. Another thing that I throughly enjoy is music. I attend various music show regularly. What came natural to me was to take my camera to shows and take pictures. I’ve been doing so ever since.

I was shooting at shows and sending images to the artist. One of them, was Stormzy. The first time I met him was at Charlie Sloth’s ‘Fire In The Booth Cypher’ at the BBC studios. The performance he put on was a great display of his talent. I was running around, shooting when I can. The BBC was filming the event so I had to make sure I stayed out the way. One of my best images I shot was of Stormzy. In fact, it is one of my favourite shots of 2014.



The picture made it’s way around social media and it got on Stormzy radar and he retweeted it. That was big because after he did that, my mentions went into a bit of a frenzy!

At this point, I was still shooting shows and doing portrait shoots. But I saw the potential that Stormzy had and I wanted to help the cause. I attended a show called Latimer Live and was shooting the performers. It was a great night. Youngs Teflon, Jammer, Buskin and others put on a great show. Late into the night, Stormzy and Section Boyz jumped on stage and the crowd went crazy!



I met with Stormzy after the show and we talked for a while. He said he liked my work and wanted to work with me. Fast forward about 6 months. I’m still shooting shows and portrait sessions. Meanwhile, Stormzy is performing on Jools Holland and had won the first ever Grime MOBO award. He was killing the game. One day I receive a message asking if I was available to shoot Stormzy some press shots. I was at work at the time so I had get my friend to go to my house and get my camera equipment. Luckily Always have it packed for situations like this. After work I was met by one of his friends and made our way to South London. What I didn’t know at the time was Stormzy was really poorly. With a fever and a pounding headache, he still didn’t want to cancel the shoot. I admired that. Even though he was ill, he still was up for standing in the cold while I sorted my lighting. The shoot itself was pretty quick. I had to recall all of the things I’ve learned over the years and produce quality images in a very short time. For the first look I decided to go for a dark theme with the subject being the only thing lit. Thankfully Stormzy was wearing a jacket from Adidas which was very colourful so it made sure that he really stood out.


For the second look, I didn’t want to to shoot the same type of image. I wanted something brighter. But considering that at this point, it’s more or less pitch black outside so I have to adjust. I noticed a gate with a lamp overhead. The light that was shining was a strange green hue. I found this interesting and choose to have Stormzy stand under the light and use it has fill light. I setup the key light and used my knowledge of lighting to balance the difference colour temperatures and started shooting. Stormzy started to get into it and we got some great shots.

I’m the kind of nerd who sits up late nights watching and reading about photoshoot and tutorials just for situations like this. It definitely paid off and I was happy with the shots. After the shoot I told Stormzy to go home and rest. He said he couldn’t. I found out later that night he drove down to Brighton for a show. When you see people like that and how hard they work no matter what they are going through, it motivates you to stay focussed and work as hard as possible.

Stormzy’s team needed the shots edited pretty quickly so I got started the following day and remembered the vision I had on the night and brought it to life in the edit. After sending the images I asked where they were going to be posted. I was told “Wait and see”. The next thing I knew, Stormzy was added to the BBC Sound of 2015 list and the images that we shot was used all over the BBC websites. I was grateful for the positive reception it received and because of Stormzy’s hard work, my shots have been seen everywhere as they have been used for his press shots. It’s a great feeling. It gave me a vision of what I am capable of and has made me focus more on providing portraits for artists so that our culture in represented with high quality photography.




See more of Courtney’s work here

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