Q:Mike I love your work. You really do lighting very well. I'm particularly impressed with your natural light stuff, but since I can figure that out on my own, can you give me a hint as to how you lit the "expression collages" on your landing page? The way the light falls off to the sides is beautiful, and it's a look I've been trying to replicate in my own work with no success.
Faceboards were shot with a 4-light setup.
- 1x White Beauty Dish
- 3x Grids
- 1x 5-in-1 Silver/White Reflector
Here’s a link to a behind-the-scenes image to show you how it all came together. I color coded the lights on the model to give you a better idea of what everything does. Hope that helps!
Ryonen - May, 2012 - Portland, Oregon
Haitian Patient & Mother
Style & Consistency
May 2, 2013
I know that you use social media more for brand development/name recognition than for individual interaction, but, if you don’t mind, after your critique stream today I did have a question. (If you do mind, then whatever.)
My stuff would very clearly fit into that whole architectural minimalism stream of photography that you’re less than enthusiastic about. Honestly, it doesn’t rustle my jimmies in the slightest that you easily get bored with it, because, heck, there are plenty of genres of photography that I myself find painfully repetitive and boring, (e.g., wildlife photograph: hey look it’s another ultra-crisp bird on a branch with a bokeh-tastic background!). However, I completely understand that a lot of people are essentially taking the same architecture pictures over and over and over again, (especially within the group of people who follow your stream), and I do genuinely appreciate your critique when you find a picture boring. It forces me to think harder about what I shoot, other than “ooh! pretty lines!”
So, that got me thinking: When it comes to your particular style of portrait/fashion photography, what is it that you look for to distinguish photographs? When I look through your stuff, I see a lot of pretty-model-standing-in-front-of-bright-window-with-skimpy-clothes-and-vacant-expression photos. I don’t mean that in a bad way; rather, it’s a feeling of I-don’t-know-crap-about-fashion-photography-so-I-don’t-even-know-what-I’m-looking-for. So I’m curious, if you could spare a thought or two, what advice you would give about viewing your style of photography with a critical eye. Your stuff is definitely good, but beyond broad generalizations about the technical aspects of the photos I’m not sure I’d be able to articulate why your stuff is substantially better than others.
Several good questions here.
First and foremost, I am actually a big fan of architectural minimalism inasmuch as I appreciate clear form lines, crisp colors, and creative use of patterns. I give harsh critiques when the composition becomes muddled - if the picture loses sight of the minimalist aspect, then it becomes just another picture of a building. There is nothing wrong with shooting pictures of buildings so long as it’s not just because you are snapping pictures willy-nilly.
Throughout the stream you’ll hear me stress consistency. Whether you are shooting architectural minimalism or portraits, showing viewers a consistent portfolio demonstrates an understanding of the subject. For instance, If you are building an architecture portfolio then avoid including images of your girlfriend in the same gallery. When you force yourself to shoot consistent subject-matter, you begin to refine your technique - you make new images conform to the previous photos. Consider that if you play Rugby one day, Tennis the next, and Waterpolo the day after, it is very likely you will suck at all three sports simultaneously.
The same rules apply to portrait photography. When judging a portrait photographer, look first to technique - is the subject well lit, is the skin clear and healthy, is the focus sharp, etc. Any good portrait photographer should cover these bases in every photo. Then perhaps move on to style points - does the subject look attractive, or intelligent, or fashionable, etc. If you’re viewing a fashion portrait, do the clothes fit? Finally, if all the ducks are in a row, I think it’s ok to then examine how the image fits into the photographer’s body of work as a whole.
Consistency and style should be defined separately. Style, I think, is establishing when a photo looks right to you, the photographer. Consistency is then grouping images of a particular style together. As such, photos-with-bright-lighting is a style which I have grouped together for certain audiences. Alternatively, commercial editorial shoots are grouped in a different collection so that I can show them to different clients. The same is true for headshots, or lifestyle photos, etc. Style and consistency go together in a finished portfolio. Just be aware that it is possible to exhibit different styles in the same portfolio while still remaining consistent.
As for what sets me apart from other photographers, I think a ton of it comes down to practice. I make my living as a full-time photographer which means I am constantly practicing. Using the sports analogy from earlier, I have been playing the same sport for over five years now. But I’ve still got a long ways to go. There are some seriously amazing photographers out there - I would suspect it’s their practice which sets their work apart from mine, just the same way my work is set apart from others.
Above all else, I want to stress patience. Finding style, building consistency, and practicing the craft takes time. This stuff does not come over night, nor does one build a professional reputation in a day. Patience with practice build style and consistency; style and consistency build a portfolio; a good portfolio can land you a job.
The Great Gear List
I use the following equipment:
- Nikon D700
- Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 | Nikon 85mm f/1.4G | Nikon 50mm f/1.8D
- LaCie 324i Monitor
- Wacom Intuos 4 Drawing Tablet
- X-Rite Eye-One Display 2 Calibrator
- CreativeLight Large 5-in-1 Reflector
- Silver Insulation Panel Reflectors
- Sekonic L-358 Light Meter