I met Dutch photographer Frank Doorhof two weeks ago at Photoshop World in Orlando, Florida. We immediately become friends. Next week I will be shooting with Frank in the Netherlands. How cool is that!
I'll be posting photos from our shoots here on my blog, so stay tuned. For now, here is a guest blog post from this cool Dutch dude.
Take it away, Frank.
• • •
Let’s start by introducing myself.
My name is Frank Doorhof. I’m a Dutch fashion/glamour photographer with a passion to teach. In the last few years we released seven instructional DVDs which are sold worldwide. In 2010, I was asked to join the team of instructors at www.kelbytraining.com
, where you can now find five of my instructional videos.
A frequent topic of discussion on my workshops is about shooting in stunning locations vs. shooting in everyday, closer-to-home locations. After all, not everyone has the time or money to travel to exotic locations.
Well, I strongly believe that you can shoot in every location, you only have to train yourself to see the photo possibilities in the location, and that’s often the start of a real improvement in your work.
The best locations
One could argue that the best locations are the locations that are stunning: think about old ruins, churches, castles, luxurious hotel rooms etc. Of course that is true, However, often the really best locations are the locations you don’t expect to be good locations.
A while ago, I taught several location workshops where I choose a basic hotel room or basic location. The first response of the students was that the location was not interesting, and they wondered why I choose it. Some, I think, even panicked and thought the workshop was wasted money.
The first thing I did during these workshops was to let the students look for “shots." It’s fun to see that in every group there was only maybe one or two students who found some angles that they found interesting.
The problem, in my opinion, is that most photographers think in images they see – instead of thinking about looking through the lens. When you simplify a scene by looking through the lens, it often opens up loads of options you simply don’t see when looking without the lens in your mind.
Think about movies. Through the lens a scene looks like you’re in a wonderful and real room/space. However, if the camera were to move just a little you would see that it’s all fake and a set. The reason the illusion works is because the filmmaker makes you see what he wants you to see, or what he thinks is interesting.
As photographers, we have to think in complete images and angles, and when mastering this technique you can use the most standard locations to your advantage.
Locations far away?
The best locations are far away…… we travel to distant locations to shoot and to create stunning images. However, when you look closely you will find that often there are very interesting locations close to your own home town or even around your own house/studio.
Our studio is located in a smaller town and located in a business park. At first sight it's not that interesting. However, when starting to explore the area I found several small “sets” that work really well, and I use them during my workshops. The nice thing about this is that during the workshops the students learn to see that something that at first sight looks terrible is totally transformed when a model enters the set and the angle and light are combined.
Shot just outside our studio, a very uninspiring industrial scene, but when closing in and styling the model the scene is transformed into something I found interesting and I keep coming back to that scene.
When on a trip
Because I teach the workshops around the world, we do travel a bit, and as a photographer this is of course the perfect situation to shoot some nice images. However, I hate the standard snaps that you see a lot, so I always try to do something special with my images.
For me this often means including some people that are interesting, but also choosing the angle and including the sun can make some stunning images that are different than the standard.
Choosing wide angle, including the sun and a low angle gave me a shot that I really like.
Walking on Rodeo drive there are many options to shoot, and for some you have to be quick, and don’t ask permission.
And for some you just have to ask permission, the nice thing is that most people will give you the permission to shoot, take your time and always give your card so that the “model” can get his/her images.
It’s mostly in the angles
A lot of photographers think in terms of light and showing the area as complete as possible, and often I also use this, of course. However, when you want something interesting it’s a good idea to experiment with different angles. We all see the world from eyes height, when you shoot from this height you will get images that record what you see, but this will almost never really produce something that is stunning or interesting. It's just a record of what we saw, and the scene has to be pretty impressive to be impressive as an image, we all know the feeling that you think you shot a great image and when you see the final result it somehow is not that spectacular.
One thing you have to realize in this is that a camera does not see depth, it sees in two dimensions: width and height. The only way the camera can “fake” depth is by choosing the correct angle and (and this is my favorite thing to play with) by choosing the right lens. A wide angle for example will give you a totally different rendering of a scene than a longer lens. The wide angle will exaggerate the scene by making details closer to the lens much bigger than details further away; this can give you very “funny” results when used in model photography.
Shot with a 35mm lens on a Medium format camera gives a nice distortion to convey the image a totally different look.
A longer lens will compress the scene, giving you the option to show details in the background that with a wider angle will not be visible. Also the field of view is different between the lenses, so this gives you a lot of options to play with.
Using a longer lens can compress the scene and show much more of the chaos of billboards than you will see with your own eyes.
By using a longer lens I could include the background in the scene, in reality the billboards and building are far away from the hotel where we shot this image, by compressing the scene they appear much closer.
Including the location
Especially model photographers can sometimes fall into the trap of not showing the location. We all know the blog and forum posts were a photographer tells you about the stunning location he/she shot in, the amazing scenery etc. and when you look at the images you will see images that could just as easy be shot in a studio with some styling or in any other location. This is not wrong of course, in essence it’s about the model.
However, I think it’s great to also show some of the location, in the end the attention always has to go to the model for me, to achieve this I often use some flash or bounce on the model letting her stand out of the scene. I do shoot some material where there is not much of the scenery in the shot but I always try to include some key elements of the location in my shots so that people will recognize the locations were we shot. This helps with the story telling.
This shot was taking in the staircases of our hotel, a very uninspiring location, expect when adding some strobes.
Turning around 180 degrees and we found the elevator. Using one strobe inside the elevator gave me yet another option to shoot this location and telling a story.
I could write several articles on this issue, but with a blog post we don’t want to make it too long. For me, the message I want to bring to you is that you have to challenge yourself to see options in every day locations, look through the lens if you start out with this and soon you will find that you will get better at visualizing scenes without looking through the lens and a boatload of options will open up for your photography.
Follow my work at www.frankdoorhof.com
where you will find my blog which is updated several times a week with technique, reviews, visions and guests.
You can also follow me on twitter at www.twitter.com/frankdoorhof