One of the nice things about being a photographer is that sometimes you get to be present to record nice moments in people’s lives.
Recently a friend asked me if I would be there to take photographs when he surprised his girlfriend with a proposal. I don’t do this sort of thing (or weddings or stuff like that) as a business but sometimes I’ll do it for a close friend and in this case I was honored.
So here is a selection of photos that illustrate the story of the proposal. I hope you’ll join me in wishing all the best to the happy couple.
Someone who means a great deal to me loves the painting “Flaming June” by Frederick Lord Leighton (1830-1896). Here’s the original painting:
I always wanted to do a photographic homage to the painting in honor of that special someone. At the time I had hoped to use her as the model, making it something special we would share.
At the time that I first started thinking about it, I didn’t have the skills or the tools to do justice to the painting. After time went by I gained the skills and tools I felt I needed. Sadly, during the time of waiting as so often happens, the special person with whom I wanted to make the photograph with ceased to be part of my life.
Even so, it was a challenge I wanted to take on and a concept I really liked. So with that motivation and out of love, longing and heartache I hired a model and proceeded.
This is the resulting image. I feel like it does homage to the painting without copying it. In particular, this image is constructed using conventions from photography that you probably wouldn’t see in a painting. Also, there are differences in textures and lighting that I was not able to address so I used my own creativity in those areas.
This turned out to be much harder than I expected. I’ve seen other photographic homages to classic paintings (and to this one as well) that succeed to varying degrees. I think mine succeeded but perhaps not as fully as I had hoped. I’m not sure I would want to regularly do interpretations of classical paintings as some photographers do. In this case I was motivated in a way that would not normally apply so this may be the only time that I do something like that.
Model credit: Chelsea Claire
I have posted previously about how I have been working to evolve my personal style in both my landscape photography and my studio work.
Here’s another example of my evolving style in studio work. This image is different from what I normally have done in the past in that I’m trying to evoke a mood and let the image tell a story.
One of the ways in which this image is different from what I might have shot a year or two ago is in the use of props to set a stage and create a narrative. Another is in the processing where I have used intentionally desaturated colors and a surrealistic backdrop (composited in) to set a specific mood.
I hope the image instills you with a certain moodiness and the general drift of a story.
In any event, I feel this image is an excellent example of where I want to go with my studio work. It’s certainly a new and significant addition to my portfolio.
In my previous post I described how I have made a conscious effort to evolve my personal style away from where I was going until about a year ago. I felt my photographic style was too influenced by my stock photography work.
Here is an example of how I have approached evolving my style in the studio. In previous shoots I would have started with a lighting plan, set up all the lights and metered to get the exposure values I wanted. Then I would have tweaked things once the model was positioned.
For this shoot, I started with no lights. Once I had the model positioned, I added a light directly above the model. Why? Just because I don’t normally do that.
Then, I started placing other lights and looking at the effect that was developing. It wasn’t completely random—I had an idea of what I wanted to accomplish but it was very general. It was more along the lines of looking for dimensionality, contrast, perhaps a mood. It wasn’t specific in the way my work has been in the past.
The result is something beyond what I originally envisioned and nothing like what I would have shot two years ago. I think it’s much more sophisticated and evolved.
The work takes longer this way but I think it’s worth it.
When I first started getting serious about my photography I kept thinking about how to create my personal style. I’d try one thing thinking that would become my style but then I’d go off in a completely different direction some other time.
Over time, I did develop a personal style. I knew it was a personal style because I could look at a collection of my pictures and see that they were all taken by the same person.
Its evolution wasn’t a conscious thing. It just evolved naturally after I’d taken something like 10,000 photos. So when it comes to a personal photography style that was my theory of evolution — shoot a lot of pictures and it’ll just happen.
In any event, I came to realize after some time that my need to shoot stock photos to make money was influencing the evolution of my style. All my photos, stock or not, had a commercial, stocky look: bright and even lighting, bright and saturated colors. These were becoming my trademark. It wasn’t what I wanted.
I wanted more mood in my images. I wanted my images to have more of a fine art feel to them.
About a year and a half ago I decided to intentionally get away from shooting quite so much stock photography. I set out to see if I could develop a different “feel” to my images. A new, more intentional and directed theory of evolution.
I think I’ve been successful. I’ve created a number of images in the last year or so that I consider the best work I’ve done. Best of all,
it doesn’t look commercial in the way stock photos do.
Now I’m focusing on using light more creatively. This applies in my landscapes as well as in the studio. The above image is an example from my studio work. I’ve returned to to the studio with a more experimental approach and I think it’s starting to take off.
The bodyscape image above is made with a view to creating a strong graphical statement rather than a portrait. I hope you like it. I’ll post some more from my studio work at another time so you can follow along as I explore my new theory of evolution.
Here’s a quick tip for you…
Portraits look better if taken from a longer distance zoomed in than they do if taken from close up with a wide angle.
A wide angle will distort your subject’s features making them look puffy. Puffy is not an adjective people use when they describe their favorite portraits.
A few weeks ago I got my new long telephoto (Canon “L” 70-200mm f2.8 II for those who care). The main reason I wanted the lens was to improve my portraits by letting me shoot from farther away and zoomed in (again for those who care, my previous go-to portrait lens was my Canon “L” 24-100mm f4).
This is good for two reasons: first you get less distortion of your model’s features and, second, you get a better “bokeh” effect on the background. That is, the background gets blurred out more so there are fewer elements in the portrait that detract from the subject.
In any event, I used the new lens as an excuse to get back into the studio for some portraits of my kids. These photos were taken from twice as far away as I have normally shot in the past.