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Four Top Portrait Photographers

We have a quick chat with some of the top portrait photographers found on ePHOTOzine.

| Interviews


Four Top Portrait Photographers: Rogercharlesphotography
'The 4 Elements, water' by rogercharlesphotography

How did you get into photography?
That's a long story but to put it briefly I'm not a 9-5 kind of person and much prefer working for myself and the flexibility that gives me. I spent many years trying to make a living as a musician, but after watching a TV program on celebrity and paparazzi photography I thought I could do that and so in October 2011 I bought my very first DSLR camera and set of to become part of the paparazzi. You can guess how that went... DSLR Doom! I soon realised it wasn't really what I wanted to do and I needed to also learn how to use my camera ( I had never used a DSLR until this point so had no clue about most of its features and functions). Also, all the running and hanging around for the chance of maybe getting a shot that if I got I might be able to sell and may get a few quid for. There had to be better way of making a living!

So I thought I would try other avenues such as family portrait and corporate photography and it was whilst doing these types of images that I felt the need to be more creative. I started playing around with fashion photography and location shoots then from there, back in April 2012, I decided to buy some studio lighting and I guess the portrait and beauty photography I do so much of now grew from that moment on. I don't have a flash studio and just use my garage. It's not glamorous and is a bit small but it seems to do the job. It's been a sharp learning curve over the last 8 months or so, but I might get there eventually!

Talk us through how you set up and take a shot.
I think, like all photographers, I have an idea of how I want the shot to look in my head. I work mostly with a 4 light system (sometimes less depending on the shot) I have 2 lights for the model, 1 main light and 1 fill plus a hair light and then one to light the background. I don't use a light meter, just my eyes. I'm not saying it's the right way to do it or in fact the wrong way but it works for me.

I position the lighting as required for the shot making sure that the shadows and light fall exactly where I want them and adjust each strobe as required. This can take a bit of time to get right but it's worth taking time to do this as it shows in the end result. I tend to shoot with spot metering around ISO 100 at 1/160 - 200 and f/13-14. I tend to sit my models on a stool as most of what I shoot is from the waste up and I will normally stand around 3 or 4 feet away directly in front of them. Once I am happy with the lighting and settings it's just a case of making sure the model is exactly as I want he or she to be and I take the shot.

How do you come up with your concepts?
I like to be creative but mostly a very weird mind and sense of humour help! I could be walking around the supermarket and see something and think: 'wow! That would look good in a photo.' I'm often placing weird items on my wife's head when we are out to see if it would work in a shot. I might get an idea from something I see on TV or something that is mentioned in a conversation, one of my favourite concepts was my "4 Elements of Nature".

I wanted to do something that would be in-keeping with my style of beauty and portrait photography but also really tell the story of the theme. This theme just came about because I said I wanted to replace a model's hair with water (above). I'm also lucky enough to have worked with some really great people that also bring great ideas to the shoot. I think the bottom line is I just try to think of images that will look great and make people want to go back to and look at over and over again.

What draws you to portrait photography?
This is a hard question to answer, I think it's because I feel comfortable doing it. I like the fact I can be creative and a bit weird and wacky, and also you get to work with other creative people like MUA'S and stylists.

I get a real buzz from a shoot. It's like play time for me. Sure I still have a lot to learn and sometimes shots don't work but when you get that one shot in the day that you know is great it's an awesome feeling. I also like the studio environment, I like the control you get in the studio. I enjoy location shooting but studio work is by far my favourite. Beauty/portrait photography seems to work well for me in that environment. I think simply put, I just really love doing it.


Four Top Portrait Photographers: Winter woolies
'Winter woolies' by Baden

How did you get into photography?
Like most people I always remember having a camera around and took pictures of the children and days out etc. But it was never anything serious and they were just snaps. I think the first time I can recall being impressed by other people's photography was when I used to keep marine fish and although my marine tanks looked amazing and I won awards for them, I could never emulate the beautiful photographs that other people were able to take of their tanks. I remember reading up a little about how they were able to do it and it became obvious they had DSLRs.

I moved to Kent from Wales in 2010 when I met my wife and we wanted a hobby that would help me get to know the area better and to meet people, so in 2011 I bought a second hand DSLR, and we joined a camera club. I started like most people shooting anything and everything, but found that I enjoyed shooting people and in particular the creative side of the editing which I had some experience of but not particularly editing photos. I quickly realised also that my camera was a little out of date and I found it slightly frustrating that I could not achieve what I wanted to with it, so I upgraded my kit. I read up a lot and realised the importance of having a good lens too and moved up from the kit lens to one that's great for location portraiture.

Talk us through how you set up and take a shot.
My early model shoots were all on location as we really enjoyed using the places we were exploring as a backdrop for models. A particular favourite was an abandoned train station which had a great atmosphere and added wonderful texture and depth to the shoots, but we used all different locations such as formal gardens, woods or the beach... the possibilities are endless! I think if you are going to shoot outdoors, the location is important, and also enables you to be creative and tell a story with your images.

On location I use natural light where possible, a Speedlight and a reflector to lift the dark areas especially the face, which is the important part! As my work became more popular, I realised I needed another option In case of bad weather and I invested in a studio kit.

My set up is quite standard. I usually have the model seated at least 6 foot from the backdrop; this gives a good background separation and adds depth. The lighting set up depends on the type of image I am looking for and I might use anything from a single light up to four lights. I always try to work with lighting ratios, for example 1:2 (my key light would be f/8 and my fill light would be f/5.6).

I try and bring out the best features with every model I work with, and attention to detail is important. Stray hairs and lumps and bumps in fabric are easier to move out of the way before you take the shot rather than in Photoshop. It’s handy to have an assistant, and I am lucky as my wife often assists and as a photographer herself, has a keen eye to spot things I might not notice if I’m concentrating on the overall image.

I always do a few test shots to ensure the skin tones are correct and fine tune the lighting. Once they are right you are good to go and can start being creative!

Sometimes I have a concept in my head, whether it is a straight forward beauty shot, or maybe something that I can build into future composite work, which is another side of the photography and editing that I really enjoy. My models never know when they might appear in a recreated landscape or surreal piece, but they have always been delighted when they do!

What draws you to portrait photography?
Photography is so diverse and the possibilities are infinite, it’s almost impossible not to be drawn to one area, and that’s usually the one you are the best at! I do other types of photography and am the first to admit that despite my best efforts, my landscape work is not as dynamic as I would like it to be, so I tend to do more portrait work as that’s what I enjoy the most and get my best results from.

I really enjoy the challenge of bringing out not only the best in everyone I shoot, but to give some sense of either their personality or a particular mood or feeling. It sounds easy but when you have nothing more than a simple pose or expression to convey something, and make that image stand out from the crowd, it requires a little more thought and creativity. No matter how many images I take on a shoot, I rarely use more than one from each look as I think there is only one best shot.

I think overall though, I really enjoy the interaction with the people I work with and the pleasure they express when they see the final image. People are naturally very critical of themselves in photographs and when they love the image I know I have done a good job.


Four Top Portrait Photographers: Fleshbot
'fleshbot' by paulbaybutphotography
How did you get into photography?
I started late in photography, in 2011 whilst on a trip to London with my girlfriend, where she suggested
I buy a better camera than the compact I was using, as she was none too impressed by my skills and since then I have not looked back. Soon after that, I joined 'Bolton Camera Club' and won trophies for 'Best Digital Image' and 'Best Print' in the first year, thus securing my move from beginner to advanced in year two.

Talk us through how you set up and take a shot
My techniques are less technically restricted and more of a free creative visual exploration. I use no light meters, I just watch the light and do everything by eye.

Lately I have been getting more interested in ambient light photography, low f stops and using natural sunlight, filtered through trees or by a window side. The freedom of non-flash is a refreshing break from the studio.

However, it is generally in my 'minuscule' home studio where most of my portraits and creative work is done. I use speedlights and 1 studio light, mainly against black which I say is the new white. I try to make the light as dramatic or moody as possible and use shape and form in conjunction with shadow and light.

Whenever I approach a subject or model, I often look for evidence of a darker side to their nature, and then accentuate this in the most creative and unexpected way possible. The right model is essential to the finished image. It has been said that my work borders on the unhinged. However, I always seek to balance its shock content with an appreciation of what makes a well-rounded, visually arresting and, sometimes, disturbing image.

What draws you to portrait photography?
I get a real kick out of portraiture work, tinged with a touch of the darkside, sometimes subtle and sometimes full on Gothic horror, so I'd say my preferred subject matter for a photographic shoot would be something that's aberrantly shocking, yet darkly erotic. Horror's in my blood, but I'm on a mission to show that the grotesque can also be compelling and strangely beautiful.

Horror is a recurrent and underlying thread running through most of my work. It's not a gratuitous thing, rather a genuinely unholy obsession with the paranormal and, indeed, the whole horror genre.

I guess it all started as a meek and mild child of eight, when I was regularly allowed up beyond the witching hour by my late grandmother (unbeknownst to my parents) to watch classic old horror movies like 'Dr. X', 'Them', 'The Invisible Man' and 'The Abominable Dr. Phibes', starring the undisputed king of macabre, Vincent Price. The imagery and the lighting was all there. I just did not realise its influence till 30 plus years later.

I am a Manchester-based graphic designer and creative by day, and a keen-eyed, experimental photographer by night and, although I've only been behind the lens for just two years now, as a hobbyist, I've amassed quite a large body of work creating two 120 page photographic collections displaying my best images from each year.

When not shooting horror I do take some respite in commercial photography assignments, ranging from weddings and family portraits, to model portfolios, fashion, burlesque, glamour and events.


Four Top Portrait Photographers: Michael, 12
'Michael, 12' by aleci
How did you get into photography?
I first got in-touch with photography when my little boy was born in September 2000. At that time I bought my first DSLR and I was hooked.

I am total autodidact, so everything I know about photography and Photoshop I have discovered when taking portraits. I will work almost only with natural soft light shining through my window on the northside of my house, or I will use a large dome in the roof of my kitchen (which is also my studio).

Talk us through how you set up and take a shot.
I try to use as little equipment as possible, just my camera, and quite a few creative lenses like my lensbaby and toy lenses, however I mostly use old primes all with f/0.9 to f/1.4.

If I am searching for inspiration I use music. I never produce any pictures without music to set the mood.

What draws you to portrait photography?
I just love the human face, from kids to really old folk. I'm fascinated by the eyes and the emotion that's reflected in to them.

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JackAllTog Plus
14 6.4k 58 United Kingdom
23 Nov 2012 9:20AM
Congratulations to all, super interviews and stunning photographs with a real reminder that its dedication & talent that can make some super images. Its super to see how quick some people can become so good (yes I'm jealous in a good way). thanks for sharing and showing what and how it can be done. Thanks - I'd not noticed aleci before, love the simple gritty expressive style.
Baden 11 157 United Kingdom
23 Nov 2012 2:11PM
Thank you Stuart! Smile
Thanks Stuart I will respond to your email Smile
And congrats to all above...even my little welsh buddy Tongue
Congrats to all above. I love looking at and admiring inspirational works of others
and to be mentioned here is a huge buzz and boost to carry on doing what I love to do most.

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