The first time I saw that picture of Steve Jobs by Albert Watson, you know the one, he’s looking at the camera intensely while holding his chin, I felt like could just fall right into his eyes. Jobs’ eyes I mean, although falling into Watson’s eyes, or the ability to see and photograph like him is really what I think I actually want. Some photographers have a quality of mesmerizing you with their art. That’s the quality in the Jobs picture and pretty much all of Watson’s work. He is the top of his craft, for his attention to bringing out what it is that is the essential thing. With exquisite and impeccable lighting detail, he carves out every feature on a face with light as if it were a chisel on stone.
I’ve been studying portrait photography masters the last few months with my commercial photography mentor Don Giannatti over at Lighting-essentials.com. We have studied Josef Karsh, Herb Ritts, Sarah Moon, David Bailey, to name a few. One can’t help but improve their skills in portrait photography when pushed beyond their comfort zone to study lighting techniques they might not even have imagined. In this workshop, we study, and then do our own image as inspired by the artist we study that week. It is kind of impossible to actually copy someone, but by seeing how they did something, our own skills are improved, and we bring that to our own style. No robots here.
Our challenge to photograph in the style of Albert Watson I found to be inspiring and particularly difficult. I’m sure I moved the light with every single shot I took (around 100), moving the model only slightly to put her into the pose I wanted. I tried three different modifiers before finally settling on a Westcott Rapid Box Octamini plus diffuser with the speed light. I tried to think in terms of lines and forms and shapes, as well as the essential element of what makes the model, well, her! It was a challenge, but I learned a lot. Every time we study another photographer, it’s like having new colors in a paint box. So good.
Jacqueline Lowe is a model I’ve worked with a several times before on personal and commercial projects. Once I made a picture of her doing a hair flip in a creek. Hair is one of the essential elements that makes her a fantastic model. She gives a great hair flip. Her eyes and sultry come-hither expression are another feature I wanted to bring out.
The images here a few favorites from our session. We weren’t planning on doing the hair flip, but after trying a few different Watsonian inspirations, we couldn’t resist helping ourselves to some good old fashioned hair flippin’s. Scroll down to see my favorite. The images are processed to Black and White in Lightroom.