Inspiration for artwork can come from many different places. Since photography is a visual art medium, I always look for inspiration and ideas from the old master painters.
The works of Caravaggio, Rembrandt, Vermeer and Titian can be used for inspiration in our modern visual craft. They were the primary inspiration behind this photo. Like in most of my work, I give the image my own twist, whether it is posing, colors, props or something else. This particular image is not a recreation of any particular painting, but more of the atmosphere reminiscent of the old masters’ works.
As most of my work is visualized and planned, it is important to have all the elements in the scene on hand, from props to lighting and everything else in between. Once this is done and the photographer has full control of all elements, there are no excuses for errors.
"The reason I stretch out the fabric using clamps is to have an even surface to give the illusion of a wall, and this also makes it easier to blend a texture over it in post-processing."
I shot the photo in my home studio using a very basic setup with two lights and a reflector. The background was just a brown piece of fabric stretched out on the backdrop stand. The reason I stretch out the fabric using clamps is to have an even surface to give the illusion of a wall, and this also makes it easier to blend a texture over it in post-processing. I placed the subject a bit away from the background for two reasons. First, I prefer to have the background slightly out of focus as it turns out smoother, and it's easier to edit when overlaying a texture. Second, this prevents light from spilling onto the model when I use a wide grid spot to lighten the background.
I used a ¼ CTO gelled Speedlight as the key light source at ¼ power with a 28″ softbox to the left of the camera, angled at about 45 degrees from above and to the side. Another Speedlight with a 65-degree grid spot was placed to the left of the camera, just next to the softbox, and aimed at the background for some separation. With this style of portraiture, I almost always light the background rather than use a hair light for separation. The third source was a 42″ gold reflector to the right side of the camera, next to the subject and just outside of the frame, to bounce back a decent amount of fill light.
"Although I have a more powerful studio strobe, I find that in my small studio space I can do almost everything I want using AA-size battery-powered Speedlights, and this photo was no exception."
The shutter speed was set to my maximum flash sync speed, which overpowered any remaining ambient light and provided total control of all light sources. Although I have a more powerful studio strobe, I find that in my small studio space I can do almost everything I want using AA- size battery-powered Speedlights, and this photo was no exception. Working in small spaces has its benefits once you know how to take advantage of the inverse square law, and I can comfortably work at ¼–½ Speedlight power and still be hitting an aperture of f/5.6 at ISO 100.
I try to keep the post-processing down to a minimum by shooting a perfect image in the first place. In this case, the post-processing involved overlaying a texture on the background and the usual Hue/Saturation and Curves adjustments to make the photo pop.
1) Make sure you have a clear idea of how the scene will work. Think about the composition, color relationships and lighting ratios, which all play a part in making an atmospheric image.
2) When recreating an existing piece of art, give it your own twist using colors, props or costumes. Sometimes a small change can lead to a new idea, which will in turn inspire others. This is the way art evolves.
3) An assistant can be invaluable and save you a lot of time when photographing young children in a set environment. Children can quickly lose interest, so everything must be carefully prepared before you start shooting.
4) I try to not think too much about gear, as it can get in the way of the creative process. I have many different types of light modifiers, but in most cases, I end up using the 28″ softbox. If I could only have one light modifier, I would choose the 28″ softbox without thinking twice about it.
I was born and live in Melbourne, Australia. I am a self-taught photographer who learned the technicalities of photography using a 35mm film SLR camera from the mid-'90s, and then I switched to digital in 2005. I constantly practice the art of photography and try to refine my style. Digital technique is one of the best advances in photography. It allows editing photos in ways that the greatest photographers could have only dreamed about in their day.