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We’d started the session with headshots, wine, Lee Anne’s choice of Spotify tracks (which included Louis C.K. stand-up comedy), then switched gears to shower shots just before sunset. The light was perfect and I wanted to use only natural light through the single window in the shower for this shoot. The water ended up nicely backlit and the single light source created nice interior shadows. But what really made the shots great was that Lee Anne was totally comfortable posing for the shoot and felt confident about how she looked. Maybe it was the wine and comedy, but more likely, it was the result of clear, open and honest communication between the two of us – along with having ample time to warm up to the idea and adjust to the environment and situation before shooting.
Having the right vibe in the room and chemistry between a photographer and their subject is crucial to getting good results, though we were also lucky enough to end up with perfect, natural light to help us out. This made it possible to grab a couple of natural-looking silhouette shots and cinematic contrast. I chose six images to use for my set that had similar color grading and style, but for a few others, I played around with the editing a bit to see what else I could do with them.
Since I’m a huge fan of cinematic portrait photography (and it’s naturally part of my style as a filmmaker), I stuck with that look in the final edits of my set of six. I’m really happy with the color of these and I’m glad we caught the light when we did.
I’d like to shoot another shower set at some point in the future and will probably change things up for a slightly different feel, but I had a great time working on this project and it was a blast working with Lee Anne. My goal with this set was to create a beautiful, natural-looking and cinematic set of images. With the right blend of trust, a comfortable, inspiring environment and a great model, it was much easier than I could’ve expected to get great shots.
I’d wanted a good camera for years, but couldn’t afford one. After studying Film and TV Production at NYU, I made a tough decision to leave New York and move back to Chicago so that I could be with my boyfriend at the time. Unfortunately, that also meant putting my personal goals on hold (one of them being to buy a good camera and continue working on film and photography projects) and most of my money went towards school loans and survival. I already knew I’d chosen an extremely expensive field, but without the network I’d built in New York or being a student, the lack of discounts and school-owned gear to borrow left me without the ability to easily continue creating projects.
While in Chicago, I was completely distracted from what I really wanted to do and I quickly become bored and impatient. My personality is one that thrives from frequent change and challenges, so I basically started doing everything I could to stay busy and entertained. I worked several jobs, wrote a few business plans for concepts I had in mind, had a list of inventions I didn’t know how to create (and I STILL need a self-rotating curling iron), learned how to brew beer and write a little front-end code, became briefly obsessed with learning how to DJ and moved to and from New York three more times. But at the end of the day, what I always came back to are the same things I’ve loved since I was a kid: New York, filmmaking, editing and photography. And a few months ago I finally purchased a friend’s 4k Blackmagic Cinema Camera (BMCC) and started shooting.
My boyfriend, who I partner with on film production projects at Emulsion Pictures, recommended the Blackmagic because I couldn’t decide between a video or still photography camera and, fitting for my personality, I wanted to shoot both. The BMCC allows me to do that and I’m really happy with the image quality so far.
The camera is a bit heavy to lug around Bushwick for photography, but at the moment, I’m happy enough with it that it’s worth the inconvenience. The trick is that the BMCC doesn’t have a still camera mode, so my process as a photographer is a little different than most. I shoot video and extract the best frames of my subjects, which tends to work out well since, at the moment, none of them are models. Shooting video makes it easier for me to catch their best and most genuine moments while providing video content for photo shoot vignettes, like this one of Tsugumi.
As I learn more about my camera and get a better idea of my lens preferences, I’m starting to get the hang of what I need in order to produce the types of images I want. It’s also led to my learning how to properly retouch images (mostly using Photoshop), for which the Blackmagic allows a lot of leeway. The images tend to start out relatively flat, but this gives me more room to make adjustments in post.
And one of the most important points I’m learning so far is the value of a photographer being a good director. I suspect that a lot of photographers rely on the beauty and/or experience of their models, but I’m always more impressed by photographers who are able to capture genuine emotion or the personality of their subjects, as opposed to just a pretty face or a strong lighting / technical skill set. And it’s another reason I appreciate the process of extracting stills from video – I think is just a more efficient way of catching those moments.
I’m still getting the hang of it! But it’s something I hope to always improve upon. In the meantime, all my subjects have to do is keep moving.