It never ceases to amaze me the things I say when captured by the ignorance of youth. That youth is subject to every endeavor of life. Chronological, parenting, marriage… photography. I am relatively young in my photographic maturity. I have only spent the last 15 months behind a lens with the aim of growing and perfecting this art. Yet that did not stop me, in fact it inspired me, to make far reaching claims as to what my specific genre of photography would be. Better yet, what it would not be. It would never be the artificial, posed and disconnected nature of studio portraiture. No, the real life, the real art, the real canvas was only to be found in that which was candid, unrehearsed and raw. I was dead set on pursuing this line of reasoning without remorse or question until I purchased the Rokinon 100mm f/2.8 Macro and attached it to my X-T2. One photo was all it took to change my direction. Ironically it was a photo of an eye that abruptly changed the trajectory of my vision. All it required was my wife’s beautiful eyes and a flash and a new route was opened to me.
I then set out to study all things flash related within the context of the studio. I read books, watched tutorials, went over FujiLove articles and poured over the portraits of those who have become my de facto mentors. My voracious appetite for learning spilled over and consumed my every artistic thought and hungered more and more for theoretical and practical knowledge. I discovered the necessity for exacting and minute attention to every conceivable detail behind a beautiful portrait. The manipulation, control and drama of light. The subtle intricacy of angle, tilt and perspective within a pose. Intention, purpose and story must saturate the concept of an image for it to have a lasting and pervasive impact upon the photographer, the subject and the audience. Prior to the macro image of my wife’s eye, I was blind to these realities, these essentials, this art. What drew me towards the candid approach of photography was the ability to tell a story devoid of words but rich with emotion. How can a photographic story with such prerequisites be told in any other manner? It stood counter to my reason that something posed could also mean providential, ordered and authored. What does a great storyteller do but author the end of a tale from the very beginning? And thus, is the role of the great portrait masters. To author a great image or series of images with the end in mind and from that to reverse engineer the heart and bones of the story. The lighting, the setup, the background and props. Because everything within the frame is still up to me if not even more so because I purposefully place it exactly where I want it.
My very next step was to invest in a lighting system. Immediately the big names came to my mind as the absolute “must haves” to create phenomenal photos. Because you just cannot create impactful studio images without Profoto, Broncolor or Elinchrom much in the same way as the same image cannot be captured unless through an 85mm or 135mm lens and their equivalents! In steps the Godox/Flashpoint line of lighting and for one who does not possess the astronomical budget required for the above brands, these were an absolute Godsend. As of this writing I currently own and produce with 2 speed lights, the Godox TT685F and the TT350F with an eye towards their line of studio strobes to be purchased very soon. My go to modifiers are an Impact 65-inch Silver Deep Umbrella as my key light and a Westcott 7-foot White Parabolic Umbrella as my fill light. All of this compacted within a tiny home studio at 13 feet by 13 feet and 9 foot ceilings. I often shoot this two light setup with my deep umbrella camera right or left and feathered away from my subject. My fill light remains behind me and on axis with the camera to gently lift the shadows out of pure black. I do not use light meters or rely on ratios as I have found it works best for me to simply play with the light and adjust as needed. Not to disparage those who use a light meter as it is an efficient tool to dial in the exact lighting one desires.
Whether due to the size of my studio or basic preference the lens most often on my X-T2 during a shoot is the XF 35mm F2 R WR. I love this focal length as it allows me to quickly get in close with my subject for a tight crop or with a few simple steps away and I can be at a near three-quarter length shot. When I really want to be intimate within an image or bring a level of artistic flare, I go to the XF 56mm F1.2 R shot wide open and down to f/1.8 or the Rokinon 135mm F2 and leave that wide open. The sharpness and falloff are smooth and intriguing.
My aim and goal behind my portraiture is to capture a bit of the essence of a person and convey that to watching eyes. I desire to provide a medium for others to truly enjoy seeing themselves in a portrait. Often, we are our own worst critics and despise the way we look in photos. Yet there is a beauty to be found in us and it is my design to draw it out, capture it and print it to be preserved throughout the generations. My business is legacy. This is what I see in my hands when I bring the camera to my eye. That I would be afforded the opportunity to preserve a precious moment of someone’s time. In their best light. From their best angle. It is a humbling reality. It was an unintended direction.