Personal Work: Fine Art Portrait

As a working photographer it is all too easy to get caught up in working on jobs and forget to nurture the creative side. As much as we love to create for others and complete jobs to the highest standard we are capable of, every job needs professional development from time to time. For us that comes in the form of personal work. Creating for the sake of creating is a great way to remind ourselves why we are in this craft we love so much. It also gives us the opportunity to learn new techniques or play with a new piece of gear.

This shoot came to me one morning last week as I was sipping my coffee and finishing a chapter of my book. I didn’t live in Seoul at that time, I lived in a forest filled with magic and dreams. I decided then and there to make an image of that feeling. Three days later, I had organised to shoot with Jaymie and my good friend Andy.

We met at Olympic Park in Seoul with a rough idea of what we were going to do, a camera, a tripod, a book, a lantern, and a cup of coffee each. From here we set about piecing together the image you see below. Sitting Jaymie on the picnic rug, I began collecting vines and leaves to place all around her. We then decided to tie up her hair using a piece of twine I had with me. Two guys attempting to achieve this must have been quite comical to any onlooker, but in the end Andy brought out his inner hair-stylist.

From here it was a case of lighting Jaymie and the lantern. The lantern is lit by an SB800 powered to 1/128 sitting behind it with a full CTO gel attached. Jaymie is lit by another SB800 at 1/16 power in an SMDV Diffuser 70 to camera right. I have been wanting to try the new Diffuser 70 for a while and learned quite a lot about it from this shoot – review pending! We then took Jaymie out of the frame and tossed leaves and pages all around to be composited into the frame in post.

This shoot gave me the freedom to put together each piece of the puzzle as I saw fit and create the image I had in my mind. It was a great excercise that I think we all need to do more often.

Seoul Fine Art Photographer: Personal Work



Subject Defined Portrait – Seoul Portrait Photographer

For the last four weeks, I have been visiting my family in my home country of Australia. It has been good to see the sunburnt land again, and (touch wood) avoid the bushfires so far. One of the tasks I set myself while I am here is portraits of my family. Not in the traditional sense. I want to evoke each of their personalities in the images I make.

With that in mind, I started my project by photographing my younger brother Matt at his workstation. Matt is a little bit of everything: part musician, part party goer, part electrician – an eclectic human being. I wanted this to come across in the image. This wasn’t going to be a standard Rembrandt lighting setup, and it wasn’t going to be a deadpan look into the camera.

We started simple with a blacked out room (except for his monitors – which we based the exposure on) and a CTO gelled SB800 fired into the back wall to illuminate the room to about 1.5 stops under the exposure I initially wanted. 1.5 stops under? This was my base to build on, same as you would use ambient outdoors. CTO? I wanted the key light to be really cool, but the shadows to be neutral – so I set the camera’s white balance to tungsten. On top of this we threw in my Diffuser 50 with another (non-gelled) SB800 about 10 centimetres out of the frame to camera right. Their respective powers were 1/4 and 1/32 by the time we had balanced it all out.

Now it was time to start shooting. The first few shots were to get us warmed up, so we started with Matt working at the station. Clearly, this was not going to be the final image we were going for.

Flash Portrait of Matt Working

We had filled the room with everything that is Matt, and now we just needed him to be him. “Think about it for a minute, and when you’re ready, give me a little bit of Matt,” I said. This was the result.

Flash Portrait of Matt - Personality

This works for me. It is simple, but it shows everything Matt is – bar one thing that is. Matt has his own way of doing things. His music blurs the lines, and this needed to be expressed. Then it hit me, or rather I hit it.

While swinging the camera down to have a chat with Matt about the possibilities for this image, I accidentally pressed the shutter and made a blurry image. Nobody’s perfect right?

Serendipity played the best role in bringing this image to life. I slowed the shutter to 1/1.6 and closed my aperture down to f/4, then adjusted the flashes accordingly. For the next few frames, I had Matt bring himself out again and I shook or moved the camera in circles for the duration of the shutter – making sure I lined up the frame I wanted just before the shutter closed. This is when the flashes fired – on rear curtain (slow) sync – freezing Matt and his room over the top of the chaos I had just created.

Flash Portrait of Matt - Slow Shutter

As an extra, I decided to try firing the flashes twice during the exposure. This was down with the test button on the Flash Wave III radio triggers and resulted in another portrait that represented Matt to the letter.


Two lessons from this quick session – always be open to serendipity, and never settle for ‘good’.