Color and Shape

I kept it simple and fun for this shoot with model Rachel Luree: crisp shadows, complementary colors, playful poses.


As of late, my need to explore studio lighting has waned. I still have the drive to create, but I find myself at a place where I am uncertain how to proceed. Light exploration no longer alone satiates my creative needs. There’s no more mystery in the discovery for me. It’s time to push my limits again. I need to get outside my head and my go-to techniques. But how does one simply pull themselves up by their artistic bootstraps? I need something to force my creative hand.

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I have been teaching at Photo Week in Dubai all week. Yesterday I got a day off and attended a workshop led by Italian portrait photographer Paolo Verzone. It was not only great to see how someone else leads a workshop, I really enjoyed being a student again. Paolo knows his light. My largest takeaway was how he uses mirrors to reflect sunlight. He taught me that you can bounce sunlight a thousand feet and it’s still as bright as a strobe. He was bouncing sunlight through windows and lighting a subject inside a building, often diffusing the light with a crumpled trash bag (talk about Studio Anywhere). If he’s traveling to a shoot in another city, his first stop after leaving the airport is a grocery store to pick up a cheap mirror.

On my next day off from teaching, I went out to shoot with Abby (a model from one of my workshops), with a newly purchase mirror in-tow. I left my lights back at the hotel, opting to hunt for light. Whenever I found a spot that lacked the light I needed, my assistant Seth was there, mirror in hand, to fill it in with sunlight.


Shelby is one of my favorite people to photograph. She always brings so much emotion to shoots. Going in to a session, I never know what we are going to make. She brought a few black and white garments with her, as well as the idea of making a tear shape on her face. I experimented with projecting a few different images of water drops on her face, but didn’t like the result. I decided to change it up, making simple shapes like circles and lines, which I projected on to her face.

The image of the dot pattern was a bit of a happy accident. During the shoot my laptop was tethered to a projector, with my image files open in Photoshop. For that setup I decided to black out a portion of the file, leaving her nose and mouth unlit by the projector. The fact that her pupil lined up with the dot pattern was serendipitous. When we looked at the back of the camera at the end of the shoot, we both gasped.

When it came to post-processing, I wanted to give the feel of Ming Dynasty porcelain (white and blue patterns). Ultimately I decided to push the whites to more of a peach color.