Ezzie

General, Photographs

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Model: Erin                   Location: Wiltshire, UK

One of the aspects I want to capture in this B&W portrait series is a kinda candid feel. That not all of the pictures are staged and posed. To be honest, for a model and photographer, these more ‘relaxed and natural’ shots are probably amongst the hardest to capture. It’s like setting up a video camera and being told to ‘walk normally down this road while we film you’. As soon as you think about how you walk ‘normally’, you can’t.

The reason I think, lies in the fact that you don’t think, you just do it. As soon as your conscious brain takes over, it becomes hard to be natural. It’s why most of us really struggle to act well or perform simple ‘natural’ poses when being photographed.

From a photographers perspective, the key to getting these shots is to create as relaxed a shoot as possible. However, for different sitters this will mean different things. What is relaxing and natural to me isn’t necessarily the same for your model. Judging and reacting to your sitters character, attitude and even mood during the shoot can be vital in achieving the results you want.

I have no idea how a model like Ezzie manages to make this look so easy. I know it takes a lot of hard work and I also know she sometimes mentally puts her mind in a situation that invokes the look she’s after. Beyond that I’ve no idea and just marvel and am in awe at the seeming ease she is able to transform from one look to another.

All that said, for me, shooting with Ezzie means none of the above applies. Over the couple of year’s we’ve worked together we’ve become friends and her full time job is an actress. We have to occasionally remember we have work to do and have to literally drag ourselves away from tea drinking, chattering and laughing in order to do some serious work!

These shots were achieved with one strobe/beauty dish and during a moment we were either taking the piss out of each other or performing our huge array of fake accents that always revert to Irish for some reason neither of us has yet fathomed!

The technicals are Canon 5D Mark IV, Canon 24-70 II f2.8 L at 50mm, 1/160th sec, f5.6, ISO 100 for the top image and Canon 5D Mark IV, Canon 24-70 II f2.8 L at 70mm, 1/160th sec, f5.6, ISO 100 for the bottom.

 

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Belle-Eve

General, Photographs

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Model: Belle Eve               Location: Wiltshire, UK

The beautiful Belle Eve contacted me to see if I was interested in a shoot as she was ‘in my area’ on a tour. One look at her port and I jumped at the chance.

She arrived ready to go and we spent a few hours chatting, shooting, chatting and shooting some more. We tried different styles, we varied the lighting and I changed lenses throughout.

Eventually, when it came to editing, as I’m finding with many of these portrait shoots, the tricky bit is choosing which shots fit my own brief and work with the other images I already have.

This isn’t one of the chosen images but I love it all the same. I like Belle’s near smile and eye contact. A lovely image of a lovely model!

Shot using an LED continuous ring light on Canon 5D Mark IV, Sigma f1.4 85mm at 1/500th sec at f2.5, ISO 1600.

Portrait Series

General, Photographs

I’ve embarked on a new project that’s aimed at simple, natural portraits of beauty.

I make no apology for this. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and I’m holding the camera! So it’s my eye, my take and my series.

I’ve started with four amazing models that’ve each been fun and exciting to work with. Their abilities and skills in achieving my aims have been amazing. Although the brief sounds simple enough, it takes a great degree of effort, practice and dedication to simply “look natural”.  Add into that, a lighting set up and a photographer gabbling on ten to the dozen and you have to know what you’re doing as a model!

The series will one day be published in a coffee table book but will take some time to amass a portfolio. However, the shots published here won’t be the ones I’ll use, not the shot I’ve chosen as the photo that ‘takes my breath away’! However, they will hopefully give you a flavour and serve as a reminder for me.

The intention is to produce them all in a B&W. I saw a video of shots of actors, some posed, some shot on set but all having a natural, almost candid feel to them. As a lot were stars from yesteryear, most were taken on mono film and that’s the look I’ve adopted. It isn’t a revolutionary style or anything that will wow the photographic community but I don’t normally shoot with B&W in mind and it’s been some time since I produced anything without colour. My usual attitude is that it takes away a vital aspect of information from the viewer and is an oft used excuse for poor colour management/composition by the photographer, so this series is a challenge for me.

This session with Rebecca Perry was shot here at my place. Rebecca arrived and we chatted and drank tea as we got to know each other. For the next 2-3 hours we shot and chatted and laughed and shot. The lovely thing about these projects is that you meet wonderful people as strangers and, after an intense and personal period of time, you inevitably leave as friends. This is exactly what happened with Rebecca. (I’m planning on writing a blog post just about the creative process and it’s alluring and seductive aspects which sometimes lead to misunderstood emotions.) Rebecca’s an amazingly brave and driven individual. She has that gorgeous sophisticated look, professionalism and hard work ethic that will take her far in whatever career she eventually ends up in whether that remains modelling or not.

I love this shot but have not given it the green light as the ‘one’ because it looks and feels too much like a studio shot. It wasn’t but it could easily be mistaken for one. As for her beauty, well, that’s for you to decide!

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Carla Monaco

General, Photographs

At long last I’ve managed to get round to doing some processing for me!

I’ve long been an admirer of Carla’s work and if truth be told, I was really waiting until I had a great idea so that I could see if she’d work with me. After much deliberation I settled on three lyric project shots I wanted to try and thought she’d be perfect for.

She lives and has a studio close by so I emailed her with the ideas and asked if she’d be interested. She responded quickly and much to my delight, said she’d be keen to have a go. We settled on a date and time and I sent her more details…

I set off on the day a little unsure how things were going to go, Carla is a model of great repute and some of her portfolio is quite simply, stunning. I arrived, was offered a cuppa and chatted with Carla about how I saw the shoot going. She is a creative and highly professional model and was willing to try the ideas out. I realise after some time of this type of shooting that my ideas aren’t too run of the mill (but not that whacky!) for a working model.

I think the difference is I ask them to act a part and get into a different persona for the shots I’m after. I’m quite chuffed also that every lovely model I’ve had the pleasure of working with seems to really quite enjoy it and are quite prepared to ‘go the extra mile’ to get what we need.

Carla was no different and when I finally suggested that the last pic I was after was one involving a close-up face beauty shot with the twist being she had to pour honey onto her mouth she never batted an eye (she did have the foresight to change into an old top though)!

This photograph was taken in between the ‘main’ events and was really a grab. The dress Carla was wearing was for another image but standing chatting together I decided it would be a waste of a great sorta fashion opportunity if I didn’t just try to get a lovely shot of her looking, well, like Carla looks!

The ‘real’ shots are coming shortly!

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Anastasia

General, Photographs

As part of my ongoing and forever lasting photographic ‘Lyrics Project’, where I take images representing lyrics that have been important to me, I undertook this photo shoot. The lyric in this regard was “Anastasia Screamed In Vain” from the Rolling Stone’s “Sympathy for the Devil”. I am not a huge Stones fan but think this track is amazing and was big for me way back when.

Anyway, to me, (and this is all that matters really) the lyric refers briefly to Anastasia Nikolaevich (Romanov) of the Russian Royal Family who along with the rest of her family was ordered to the basement of their exiled home and executed by the Bolsheviks in 1918. Not a cheery story but Anastasia subsequently became a bit of a legend:- a) because she was young at 17 and considered beautiful and b) because there was much speculation that she and her younger brother had survived the attack. There were many rumours and women claiming her identity but the whole sorry tale was only finally proven in 2007 when her and her brother’s remains were positively DNA tested.

So, the idea for the shoot was to take a literal approach and twist the tale into a more modern way. I therefore asked the wonderful model Helen Diaz to sit for me and ‘act out’ this somewhat testing assignment.

We shot in an empty room and the processing is deliberate to try to give the image an overall stark but engaging feel. This image isn’t the one finally used (as Helen isn’t screaming) but it is my favourite of the session and to me has a troubling feel to it as a stand alone image. The image used is available to view on my website if you are so inclined http://www.squashimagery.com/_photo_12409463.html

Needless to say, Helen was an absolute pro, is totally mental (no, really) and is gorgeous looking and to work with. No question I will be hoping to work with her again soon (if she’ll have me back)!

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A Lesson in Portrait Photography

General

I was recently asked to do a portrait shoot for a lovely friend of mine with the purpose of providing some images that could be used for a biog and media information etc in her line of work.

Jane Evans is an up and coming expert in the field of parenting post domestic violence trauma. As her reputation grows she is getting called upon more and more for training and media interviews etc for her particular specialism. Her unique blend of gentle personality combined with a realism of everyday life make her input and training invaluable to anyone that meets her.

The portrait session was arranged and we decided that a studio scenario was just not going to work for Jane. Like most unprofessional models, Jane didn’t relish the idea of having her photograph taken and was understandably concerned how the results might make her look and perhaps more importantly, feel.

It is very important in these situations (i.e. all portraits!), whether photographing for pleasure or commercially, to put your subject at ease and not ‘overpower’ them with paraphernalia or barked instruction. I am lucky enough to know Jane but if you don’t know your subject it is always worth spending whatever time you can, having a chat with them.  This helps you understand what they want from the shoot and get to know the characteristics of the person you are about to subject to, what to many people, is a dreaded experience.  It also means that they can get to know you as well. A good photographer will never under-estimate this conversation.

This quote sums up my philosophy totally and I believe should be taught at EVERY Portrait Photographic training course in the world! “It’s one thing to make a picture of what a person looks like, it’s another thing to make a portrait of who they are.” – Paul Caponigro.

This is where the difficulty and the excitement lives in photographing people. It doesn’t matter who the subject is, rock star, politician, next door neighbour, brother or a stranger in the street. The skill is in executing the capture of an individual’s heart. Many say ‘soul’. Another famous quote is: “Portraiture is a window to the soul.” I am not sure that is necessarily the case but it certainly is more than just a photograph of a person.

Too many times we are witness to photographs of people that are merely a record of what someone looks like. Capturing the inner person is the secret and the reason the greats are great. Sometimes I have had a portrait session with someone and feel I have let them down. I have failed to capture them in the way I should have. Is that their fault? Is it mine? Always it’s mine, talk to any model sitting for the real greats, Avedon, Blumenfeld, Testino and they will not mention the equipment or the studio or even location. They WILL talk about the photographers passion, engagement, conversation and how they were made to feel fantastic, maybe carefree. They trusted their photographer. This is what should be taught at any photographic educational establishment but is so rarely touched upon. A photographers ‘style’ only develops when they have grasped the mastery of these simple concepts.

Anyway, back to Jane. We decided that as Jane was nervous (not uncommon at all) and that she is a country gal at heart, we went for a walk in the country! As we got going, I shot a few of her with a longer telephoto lens so as not to ‘crowd’ her and get her used to me taking some photographs. I explained what we were doing so nothing was a surprise. As we proceeded, Jane became more confident and we had a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon.

The results are, I feel, fantastic. I showed Jane these images (and a few others) last week and I am always hugely surprised at the impact a good set of images can have on the sitter. It is why I love this job! I didn’t alone make these images….it was, and will always remain, a collaboration. Jane made a comment that I am not sure she realised the impact of. She told me that she trusted me. The highest compliment she could have paid me in my opinion. I hope that although the vast majority of you will not know Jane, you can start to know her from these few images. If that happens, then surely the photography has done its job!

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