I’ve been photographing for a while. 9 years to be exact. For most of that time, I was focused on black and white street/documentary photography. Stealing emotions was a thrilling challenge to m and the 50mm was my dearest friend.
It wasn’t until 2014, when I adopted the Fuji system, that I began to experiment in other fields. The X100 came to me when I needed it the most. I was getting tired of the DSLR bulkiness and started to leave the camera at home, opting to take the smartphone with me instead. My photography was slowly dying when I read about this sexy compact powerful camera. I just had to have it! I sold my simple previous Canon equipment and got a second hand X100. Then everything changed.
The 35mm FF equivalent wouldn’t let me go unnoticed anymore. If I wanted to keep doing what I was used to, I’d have to get really close. By that time, my soon-to-be-husband asked me to join him in a couple portrait photoshoots and I fell instantly in love. I didn’t have to steal emotions anymore. People were willingly giving them to me!
Nudity came naturally then. I was really digging the “natural” idea (living in the Amazon helps a lot with that), so giving up clothes and focusing on the human/nature interaction was the obvious choice. I was lucky enough to find people who understood what I was trying to express – the unique peaceful feeling of being naked in the wilderness. They knew I wasn’t looking for a sexy/sexual theme and even though most of them were never photographed before, they engaged in my idea and opened themselves to me.
I still bring a lot of my street photography background to my portrait photoshoots. First, I only use natural light. My subjects are regular people – friends, colleagues, other photographers, people I meet online… They’re not used to be in front of a camera, so I tend to be as minimal as possible to make them comfortable. To lights pointing at them, no assistants (my fiance usually comes along, but as a co-photographer), no big productions. Also, I like to let them be themselves. I’m not a posing director. They’re free to do whatever they feel like doing. Some dance, some stretch, some do yoga, some just sit down and enjoy being there. I feel like I have to work around them and extract beauty without creating it, just like I had to do in the streets. As I like to say, the photoshoot is the time when the subjects express themselves. My expression comes later, in post-production.
And I’m a huge post-production fan. As I said before, I like to be as minimal as possible while shooting. But on the other hand, I’m not very fond of the all natural final look. I like to create, I like to express myself with strong colors (usually one at a time), I tend to be very dark… It’s not possible to create all that at the scene without intimidating the subjects. I would need lots of assistants, lights and sometimes painting the whole forest around me in a new color. That’s not an option for me, so I express myself through editing.
My workflow usually goes like this:
1. First, I try to create a concept in my mind. But I have to say, this is hardly what comes out in the end. When I have an idea, I look for someone who would fit it and be willing to pose. I show them what I have in mind with other pictures or drawings so we’re at the same page. But when the photoshoot starts, it’s really all about the subject’s interaction with me and with the location. Sometimes I plan something focused on strong facial expression only to find out later that the girl has a much better facial expression. Sometimes we get to a location and some nice color pops up and changes everything… As I don’t work with professionals or studios, there’s only so much I can plan ahead.
2. At the location, I now tend to shoot for about 3 hours, stopping every now and then to chat a bit, relax or eat something. I used to do full day photoshoots when I started, but time taught me that tires the models and myself, making me look at the photos later with tired eyes and not taking the most out of them.
3. I’m the super curious kind of photographer. When I get home after a photoshoot, I have to see it all and edit at least a few pictures. When I’m shooting I already have an idea of how I’ll process the images later, so when I get home I rush to the computer so I can finally see the images how I imagined them.
4. I use the Adobe Suit for my post-processing. Lightroom is not the most efficient tool to process Fuji’s RAF files but it’s amazing workflow never lets me go anywhere else. The only thing that irritates me is that I can’t view full size pictures and rate them before importing them to my catalog. And that takes ages! So before Lightroom, I use Adobe Bridge to choose what I like, eliminating blurry, blinky, cheesy or boring pictures right away. Then I import only the rated pictures to Lightroom where I do most of my work.
5. At Lightroom, I work hard on light and colors. My final pictures look way different than the originals. Some people don’t respect that, some are ashamed of doing. I’m actually proud of it. It took me a long time to learn how to process my images and I feel like I’m putting my soul in them when I do it. That’s the main reason I always shoot RAW. I like to have all the flexibility I can for manipulating the photo later.
6. After the light and color adjustments in Lightroom, I send the pictures to Photoshop so I can treat skin when needed, remove unwanted objects, sometimes expand the frame… Unlimited possibilities. Then I save them in PNG (nice tip from a fellow Fuji user) and send them back to Lightroom, where I export and watermark them. A lot of photographers are against (or hate) watermarking, but I find them useful. If people share your work without nominating the author, you get your credits right from the image. If they remove the watermark that’s a huge prove of bad faith (lawyer me talking now), so you’ll be more likely to win a lawsuit. Just make sure the watermark doesn’t steal the viewer’s attention.
I’ve been photographing people for two years now and I can honestly say I’m nowhere closed to bored. Every one of my photoshoots is different, exciting… I meet new people, I learn new things about photography and about myself. It’s been a wonderful journey.