Photo deep dive with one of my favourites - English Photoworks.
I thought I'd use a post to share some details about this photograph, which I made in a studio session back in May and which has become one of my absolute favourites. Making a good studio image, as in all areas of photography, is a balance between the technical and the creative. The biggest challenges in the studio are ensuring the lighting is correct for the kind of look you're trying to achieve, and that your exposure and focus are spot on. The creative side of things is down to posing, wardrobe, post processing (editing the image after the session) and a little bit of magic from the person being photographed.
The model is Bethany, from Kentucky in the USA - she is a former student of mine, and a really good photographic model. She's very good at taking direction, is natural and unselfconscious in front of the camera.
For this shoot we had gone for a more dramatic and moody look, which is achieved by a combination of the lighting and posing style. The pose is formal and mannered, reminiscent of women's portraiture in Classical and Pre-Raphaelite painting. The Pre-Raphaelites were a group of English painters who flourished in the mid-19th century - they are so-called because their paintings recreated the posing style of artists who predated Raphael (1483-1520). The Pre-Raphaelites painted images of women, usually long-haired and with 'floaty' dresses - the scenes depicted usually referenced literary imagery.
Anyway, Bethany's appearance and wardrobe lent themselves easily to this kind of shoot. Her pose is in profile (the old, non social-media meaning of the word!) and it's more unusual in modern portraiture to have no eye contact with the viewer. The upward-facing hand gesture is often seen in Classical painted portraiture.
To achieve the lighting style I used one strobe light with a large, square softbox - this is like a huge flash that emits a soft and even light. The camera lens had a filter that acted like a pair of sunglasses, limiting the light and giving the image its soft and dreamy quality. The strobe was placed on the right hand side of the image, and was positioned so that it shone across Bethany, rather than directly at her so she was in the 'halo' of the light - I was trying to avoid the kind of harsh glare that you can get with some styles of studio lighting. The result is that the image is softly, but unconventionally lit, and I hope it conveys something 'more'. There are lots of ways top get creative in studio photography!
One photographer who I admire hugely is the Australian Bill Gekas - he has become well-known by taking his inspiration mostly from the Flemish Renaissance Old Masters. He uses his daughter as his model, and recreates the locations, lighting patterns and wardrobe of Vermeer and his contemporaries. Have a look here, I think you'll be amazed: http://www.billgekas.com/p1014938437