portrait

Welcome to my photo studio in Ixelles

I have converted the loft room of our house in Ixelles into a small portrait studio. As far as possible, I use the natural light from two large, north-facing Velux windows. But I am also experimenting with more sophisticated LED and flash set-ups.

The studio has three ‘locations’: a 2.5 metre backdrop rail for fully-body portraiture, a 1.5 metre rail that gives me a bit more distance for seated and horizontal poses, and a plain white wall for headshots. I’ve also installed an excellent music system, and created a nice little waiting/changing area.

The first few sessions have gone extremely well, so this is a side of my business that I will be trying to build up during 2019. I love meeting and photographing people. Give me a call and let me welcome you to my studio!

Photographs for a corporate website

I am working with Brussels-based communication agency ESN to create images for its new website, which should be online by the end of 2018. It’s a work in progress — I probably have another day of shooting and editing still to do. But it’s already been a great learning experience and I wanted to record my impressions while they were still fresh.

The brief was to shoot three sets of images to give the website a real flavour of the agency’s human side — full portraits of key people and group shots, as well as simple headshots of the whole team of 50. We decided to shoot most of the portraits and groups at a handful of well-known locations in central Brussels.

For the group shots, we set up loose scenarios in which the subjects discussed an actual project. I found that if I could get them talking about something that really interested them we could avoid the kind of acting that always looks exaggerated and false in the photos.

I planned to crop these group images to the ‘cinematic’ 16:9 aspect ratio, since they will probably be used for page headers, so I tried to shoot for this format. But it still isn’t clear whether the agency is going to use them in colour or in black and white. In the end, I have delivered both versions of each image. Which do you think works best?

I’m doing the headshots in an empty office with simple LED lighting to balance natural light from the window. It’s a fascinating challenge to try and capture each individual’s personality in just a few minutes. As usual, a number tell me that they are not photogenic or don’t like having their picture taken, but I’ve gently insisted on making at least 20 or 30 images of everyone, and so far I think we have succeeded in avoiding the classic photobooth look. Some subjects gave me a little longer and were willing to play in front of the camera.

Sharon How, pianist

Well, it’s a mysterious and wonderful calling to be a photographer, I find. You put yourself out there on Facebook and Instagram, you create a website, you do a little advertising with Google AdWords, and one day you receive a message from a young pianist asking for a one-hour studio session to produce a series of professional portraits. Of course, you say yes.

Sharon arrived straight from the hairdresser, fully made up and in the dress in which she was to give a concert (a Bach solo piece) later in the day. She refused coffee, tea and water in order not to mess up her lipstick. We talked for a while. She is Singaporean, studying in the US. She has beautiful hands and a lovely laugh. She showed me a photograph of her without the hairdo and the makeup.

Then we went downstairs to the little studio set-up I had created in our basement – a simple white drop, plenty of natural light and a couple of LED lamps, and on-camera fill flash. What an incredibly intense and intimate hour – for the photographer, trying to ‘see’ a stranger, and for the subject, trying to reveal herself to a stranger.

But I think we made it. I am proud of the results, and Sharon wrote me a lovely message to thank me for them: “I just managed to look through Sharon_web-best on my phone and they turn out really amazing, so much to the ideal portraits that I have always wanted to have for myself. In addition, I am amazed by the black and white photos (it is incredible some look nicer in black and white), it changed my whole perspective of the artistic potential of black and white art! The black and white photos are so artistic and incredible! I really really love them!”

The photos on this page are outtakes. They are not the ‘professional’ shots, but rather the ones that show Sharon’s playful side. She’s a lovely person, and I hope that we can stay in touch. One day, I’d like to shoot her without makeup and with her own short hair.