Creative Portraits in B+W

Shooting in the studio is always a joy because it's so laid back. With no constraints and ultimate control over lighting and the set, there simply aren't many of the practical limitations to creativity that are realities for most shoots. Recent I photographed one of my oldest subjects, my good friend Erik, in his studio-converted apartment in Connecticut. During the edit, both Erik and I were feeling the high-contrast black and white look, as it fit well with the very two-dimensional minimalist set we had created. Playing with shapes and lines, I think we were able to create some interesting and unique portraiture. Take a look.

Just For Fun: A test shoot with Jessica

Testing is how you improve as a photographer. Constantly trying new lighting techniques or ideas lets you see what works and what doesn't. It lets you perfect your lighting skills and proficiency on set, so when you have a paying client, everything is guaranteed to go smoothly. It's one of the few times you can show up to a shoot with absolutely no concept, no plans, and just try to make something work. Doing impromptu test shoots is like a blank canvas — you show up, see what you can get, and learn from it. You learn to problem solve and make something out of nothing. The freedom is liberating.

Behind the scenes shot of the setup. Spring days are great to bring the studio setup outdoors!

Behind the scenes shot of the setup. Spring days are great to bring the studio setup outdoors!

This recent shoot with my good friend Jessica was a test shoot that provided a personal challenge. I had traveled back to Moscow to see friends for the weekend, and was staying at Jessica's place. We have a few free hours in the morning before going on a hike that afternoon, so we decided we'd throw together a last minute photoshoot. We didn't have any models, a studio space, or any plan to speak of. We tried to find some friends who were willing to sit for the camera, but didn't have any last minute luck. Without models, we decided that we'd just photograph each other — neither of whom had showered or prepared in any way to be photographed that morning.

We drove around and found a sheltered area out of the slight breeze and set up a nice little studio outdoors. We experimented with mixing natural light with a pop of studio strobes outdoors, primarily shot against my small hand-painted canvas backdrop that I had in the back of my car. I also experimented with letting go of the strobes entirely and shooting just natural light and using black cutters to knock down light and create shadow and depth to the portrait.

In the short session we captured some interesting images, some of which I think work really well in black and white. With just a few hours one morning, going from no plan at all to a final image felt like a productive use of time and allowed for a little flexing of my creative muscles. Here's to something a little different.

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And a bonus photo... A picture of a creepy old house somewhere on the Palouse, photographed during my weekend in Moscow.