Shot with Nikon 135mm f/2.8 AI-S.
Window light and bounce card.
Hair by Chicara Johnson
I photographed the magazine cover photo with my FujiFilm x100s mirrorless camera. I have the silver model but I really want the all black edition.
I really like this camera because it is three times smaller and lighter than any of my Nikon DSLR cameras.
Sometimes it is hard for the subject to hear my directions because the larger DSLR cameras create a barrier between me and the.
The smaller size of the FujiFilm X100s makes it easier to communicate with the person that I am photographing. I think that the photos come out better because there is a deeper connection made. The difference is like a face to face conversation versus a conversation through text messages.
Another great feature of the Fuji X100S is that it does not make any noise. This is a great feature because the sound of the camera shutter can prompt subjects to change their expressions causing the photos to look unnatural.
I used the sun as my light source and and a round reflector for fill light.
Hair, makeup, and wardrobe were provided by Janelle Monae’s team. I must mention that her team was awesome because behind the scenes professionals don’t get enough love.
Janelle Monae PDN Magazine Cover
I really enjoyed working with Janelle Monae because she is chill. She was quiet at first but she came alive when she stepped in front of the camera.
Sometimes (a lot of the time) celebrities arrive fashionable late to photo shoots. This means that I get less time to capture the shots. Fortunately, her management gave us more time to shoot. I still had to get the shots really quickly but we got the job done!
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 natural hair fashion portrait of Emoni Baraka. Hair and makeup by beauty expert Jamaya Moore.
I used the available light from a window and a circular reflector to capture this shot.
I used a Nikon D700 full frame camera with a Nikon AF Nikkor 85mm f/1.8D lens.
I like to work with small teams. This means a great model, makeup, and maybe a hair stylist. Most of the time it is just the model and myself. They usually take care of their own makeup but I really prefer to work with models who use little to no makeup especially for the natural hair photos.
This photo was taken at I time after I had given up on photography but Jamaya convinced me to dust my camera off and get into the studio. It felt good to be behind the camera again.
What made me put my camera down in the first place? Maybe it was arrogance. I did not think I was getting the “recognition” I thought I deserved. I have grown a lot since then. I know that I did not put in as much effort and hard work that I thought. I have also learned that hard work is good but smart work is way better.
I also left because I was tired of being broke all of the time. I didn’t like not knowing where my next check was coming from. I wanted to go back to computer programming because in my mind I thought it was more “stable”. Stability is a myth and there is no such thing as a stable job anymore.
The crazy part is, I made a lot of money as a photographer. The problem wasn’t making money the problem was keeping it. I spent like a mad man because I new that someone would call or email with a job. I would book 10K+ jobs and then be broke in a few months. I have repeated that cycle too many times in the and I had to change my thought process. I had to change my attitudes about money.
Im not sure what I spent that money on! I bought camera gear but that was only a minor dent in my income. I think it all went to things like dining out. I threw away a lot of cash. Fortunately, I have learned from these hard lessons.
The main thing I had to do was stop blaming the world. I had to look into myself and my habits. I had to change.
Jamya says that I never really quit I was just on sabbatical. She is right, I never really left. I just needed a break to figure some things out.
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.
I got a call from a guy at pitchfork media to photograph Janelle Monae. If I was not already familiar with the contact that reached out to me I would have thought it was a cruel joke. Pitchfork found me through my natural hair photo book The Coiffure Project which had gotten some press from major sites like The Huffington Post.
The setup was simple. Natural sunlight. I round reflector for bounce and fill. Shot with the Fuji Film X100s.
This was one of those situations that you never see coming. You never know what past interactions will manifest themselves in the present. The contact that reached out to me was a guy that I had a brief interaction. Long story short the contact reached out to me for a previous shoot. Unfortunately the company he was representing did not have the budget for the shoot. We both agreed and then went our separate ways.
A year and some months later I get an email from the same contact almost forgetting who he was. He said that he has changed jobs and now was working for Pitchfork media. He asked me if I knew who Janelle Monae was and if I wanted to photographer her. I was super excited but I had to play it off. “Yeah, Ive heard of her. I wouldn’t mind working with her.” Inside I was bursting.
The budget was in line for the project so everything was looking great. I caught a train or the Bolt bus to NYC and I shot with Janelle Monae.
Ok! Tip. Create, create, create! Become great. Share your work in the process. People see your work and if it fits with what they need they will hire you. Stick to what you love and create the work that you want to get paid to do. Find out who else does the type of work you do. Figure out how that person does it. Learn from them. Borrow from them then make your own improvements. There is always room for improvement and the student always exceeds the teacher. No one is built like you. Only you can add the twist that you can. The most important things is to keep creating and never give up. You can take a break if you want. A long break even but always get back to you do.
There are no rules make up your own rules.
Janelle Monáe Pitchfork Media cover story by Glenford Nuñez.
Lily was one of the first models that I photographed for the The Coiffure Project. Lily is a great model and she moves very well in front of the camera. Lily’s eyes stood out to me when I was searching through the comp cards that her agency sent. Since this image I have worked with Lily on many different occasions.
This was a simple shoot with a simple lighting setup. I used a beauty dish and a reflector. This shoot (like most test shoots) was experimental. At the time, I was obsessed with the work of Terry Richardson and I was trying to imitate his look. I know that you can never successfully copy someone else’s work but you can make a lot of great discoveries in the process. All of the great artists started by trying to copy the masters before until they developed their own voice.
One trick I learned is to pop the lenses out of glasses when photographing them because the glass always has a reflection. Sometimes the refection can be distracting to the overall photo.
Lily Lightbourn Natural Hair Portrait by Baltimore portrait photographer Glenford Nunez. Specializing in natural hairstyle pictures of black women with curly hair.
This is a photo of Nikisha Riley one half of Urban Bush Babes. Urban bush babes is a natural hair, health, music, film, fashion, and art blog.
When I was photographing Nikesha I used a Nikkor 20mm 2.8D Wide angle lens. I went through a wide angle lens phase for a while. I really liked the how the final images looked. If you were not careful the images could easily become distorted due to the nature of wide angle lenses. But if you get the angle just right you could come up with some really cool shots.
The Urban Bush Babes Blog was one of the early adopters of the coiffure project.
When I was trying to promote the project I reached out to many natural hair bloggers and was either rejected or I did not get a reply.
Cipriana the other half of the blog and Nikesha took a chance on writing about the project. Things changed for the Coiffure Project soon after. A waterfall of blogs started to write about the Coiffure Project after being posted on the Urban Bush Babes site.
When the Huffington Post picked up the story after seeing the Coiffure Project featured on the UBB site everthing started to blow up. Shot outs from the natural hair community and a deluge of email from young natural hair ladies that wanted to be photographed for the project. Also the blogs that never replied started emailing me. And the Coiffure Project started showing up on the blogs that flat out told me no.
I have booked long lasting photography clients because of the press coverage that started with the support of the UBB site.
I am very grateful for Nikesha and Cipriana. I still have yet to photograph Cipriana but maybe she will read this.
Test shoot portrait of Ashley Irvin from Ford Models. This was the fist time working with Ashley and I was nervous. I didn’t know what to expect. Working with a Ford agency model was intimidating at first but the shoot went great. Hair was done my Chicara Johnson and the makeup was done by Meagan Shea. Ashley Irvin Portrait Photography.
I think I used a large Paul C. Buff soft-box for this shoot. The soft-box served more like a accent light because the studio space had really large 10+ foot windows. The light was coming in from the models left, my right. I try my best to use natural light when I can. Natural light wraps around the subject in a different way especially for women of color. The sunlight reacts with the skin in a beautiful way. I think there was a bounce panel on the models right side, my left but I don’t really remember. All that being said. The overall setup was very simple.
I used my Nikkor 50mm 1.4G which is great for portraits. I only really use two lenses. The 50mm and a 20mm for shooting in tight spaces. I will use the 20mm when covering an event. I don’t use zoom lenses. I like to be right in the thick of things but I digress.
We shot this on a large white backdrop. I forget the exact size of the paper but it was mad wide.
Ashley was great in front of the camera. She had great studio etiquette and she knew her angles. The great work by the beauty team is what took this shoot to another level. It was one of those days that everything flowed. It was one of those days that give you survivors guilt. Is this life? Life cant be this simple. Life is that simple when you are doing what you love.
On a side note I really miss that studio space. The goal is to get back in there before later. Listening to that new Kanye and Kendrick NO MORE PARTIES IN L.A 2016 while im updating this post. Fuego!