Shot with Nikon 135mm f/2.8 AI-S.
Window light and bounce card.
Hair by Chicara Johnson
When shooting for a brand, consistency is important so I used studio lighting. I usually use natural light so this was welcome change. The key light (main light source) was located on the right side of the model and I used a white board on the right side as a bounce fill.
My current studio space does not have enough ceiling height to achieve the look that I wanted so instead of having the model stand I asked her to sit on a small step stool. Like one of those kitchen step stools for small people to get stuff from the top shelf. Conditions will never be “perfect” so you have to get comfortable solving problems on the fly. The step stool tweak put the model at the perfect height to get the look that was in my head.
Conditions will never be “perfect” so you have to get comfortable solving problems on the fly.
The back drop is a white wall but I wanted it to be grey. You can achieve this by making sure that no light hits the backdrop. The subject has to be far enough away from the backdrop so that the key light does not affect the tone of the backdrop. The angle of the key light is also important. This is why I like to shoot with the light high up so I can tilt it downward. A grid also helps with controlling the direction of the light.
I used a Nikon D750 with my Nikon 135mm f/2.8 set on f/4.0, 1/160 sec, ISO 200. The 135 is manual focus but once you master focusing correctly the lens becomes one of the best portrait lenses ever made. An exaggeration? Probably, but I really love this lens!
Hair by Chicara Johnson.
Makeup by Jamaya Moore
The article is a little technical but it is worth the read even if you don’t understand the numbers.
Photographic technology was never designed for black people so we have to get creative. We have to step out of the norm and develop our own methods so we can get the best results.
I even think about traditional painting and how you don’t see many black people. I imagine that the pigments used in oil paints are formulated for lighter toned people. The paint techniques are different as well.
The current situation does not have to be a bad thing. This only means that the door is wide open for innovation.
Never really sure what to call these. Portraits? Fashion portraits? Its really not fashion though. Well I guess its just a portrait then.
This is a photo from a short photo series that will be coming out next month in July. Will keep you posted.
This was shot with the 135mm which is turning into my favorite portrait lens of all time. Its a challenge to work with because it is manual focus but when you get it right the results are great.
Model Shamika Young.
Diandra is a great model and is a photographers dream. We have worked together before in the past. She loves the camera and she knows her best angles. She arrived to the studio photo shoot ready and all we had to do was snap the shutter.
We used natural light from the window. The windows were located behind me. I shot this image with a Nikon D700 with an Nikkor 85mm f/1.8D. The 85 is a great portrait lens but I sold it. I try to simplify my camera bag when I can but more about that later.
I have so many images in my archive that the world hasn’t seen. It is time to start releasing it. I believe that we are all sent here to do that “thing”. The thing that makes us happy. Portrait photography is my thing. Making images has always been in me. Make cool stuff and share it.
More on simplicity. If its not a definite yes then it is a definite no. I try my best to apply this mantra to all aspects of my life. This way of thinking is particularly helpful when you need to optimize your camera bag. I use the same equipment 85% of the time for all of my shoots. Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G, round reflector, and natural light.
If I use strobe lights it is typically an Alien Bee 800 flash head or a Profoto flash head (if I am renting equipment) paired with a large octabank light modifier. That’s it! No mas.
I also take my cue from studying top photographers. The great image makers have very simple setups. They are not bogged down by excess equipment. They know exactly how to make the image that they want to make with the gear that they have. How may knives does a great chef need?
Diandra Rose Natural Hair Portrait
This is a Janelle Monae Profile Portrait. I shot this in NYC for Pitchfork Magazine. Pitchfork is The essential guide to independent music and beyond. The found me through my natural hair photo book called the Coiffure Project.
The story eventually was picked up by PDN Magazine. One of the top photo magazines in the world!
My images made it on to the cover of PDN Magazine! You know I was hype. It still feels like a dream for a dude from Baltimore. It was a moment were all of the the hard work appeared to pay off. But we know that its just the beginning and the grind never stops.
These images where shot with my FujiFilm x100s Mirrorless camera with a wide open aperture so that I could blur out the background. I cant remember but I think i was at f/2. Im sure I can open up light room right now to figure out the exact aperture but one thing at a time.
Side note. I have the silver FujiFilm x100s Mirrorless camera but I want the black one! One more step to being incognito!
We were located in a community garden in Tribeca New York. We did not use strobe lights for this shoot because the sun was just right so all we needed was a reflector.
The subject (Janelle) was really cool. She was a chill person. I wish we had more time to chat about the universe but we were on a tight schedule. Celebrities tend to be very busy so we had to get the shots quickly.
I think we established that we were both Sagittarius which I thought was kind of cool. Searching for some kind of connection. Maybe im over thinking things. Hahaha!
Janelle had a beauty staff making sure her look was crisp. Her makeup was on point and her natural hairstyle was a piece of art.
This is a photograph of Jessica Chibueze shot in Washington, DC. I took the train to DC because it was the halfway point for Jessica and I.
We shot this outside somewhere in downtown DC. It was in front of a building that was under construction. There was a black tarp hanging from the side of the building so I used this as the backdrop for the shoot. A security guard was watching us closely but it did not take a long time to get the shots I needed. Snapping the shutter only takes seconds once all of the pieces are in place. The son was in the perfect place and the model new how to move in front of the camera. We came away with a great portrait.
I shot this with my Nikon D700 and the Nikon AF Nikkor 85mm f/1.8D.
This is a great portrait lens but I have sold it because I have a 50mm that can achieve great results. I wanted to make room in my photo bag.
I have worked with Jessica on many occasions for paid shoots but this was the first time we were able to work together for personal work.
We spent some time walking around the city looking for the perfect location. Usually I walk and talk with the model until they make an expression that catches me off guard or when the light hits them in a way that shocks me. If you are a photographer you know what feeling im talking about. That jolt of energy that shoots through your entire body the model and the light is perfect. I love the way that the sun is wrapping her brown skin.
We talked about life and photography and modeling and fashion and non profit organizations and humanitarian work. Jessica is very active in the humanitarian field. She does a lot of work in Africa.
Natural hair fashion portrait of Lily Lightbourn.
Natural hair portrait of Lily Lightbourn.
I think I used a beauty dish for this shoot.
The lens was a Manual Nikon 135mm f/2.8 AI-s. This lens is crazy sharp. I recently put it back in my bag.
Looking through my old work and I realize that I like my older photos better. I think its a time when I was more into photographs and I was worried less about what people thought of my work. There was a roughness about the photos. I experimented a lot back then. I used different lenses and light set ups. I guess I was searching for a specific look.
It has been yeas since I shot this photo but I have learned a lot of lesson. One to the biggest is simplicity. The photos that stand out to me the most are simple. There are not a lot of distraction. Also the most powerful photos in my opinion always have some sort of subtle quark. A slight imperfection or lip twitch or eyebrow twitch or funny head tilt or something. Portrait photography is great because everyone is different and everyone has their subtle features. Its is my job as a photographer to capture them. Better yet its my job as a photographer to share those unique photos.
In the darkroom photographers encounter photos that make us think twice. We love it deep down inside but we wonder if the rest of the world will. It is important to post the photos that we are nervous to post.