The Psychology of Finding Portraiture Inspiration in the Scene

All images by Carl Jeffers. Used with permission.

“A lot of my inspiration for a shoot comes from the actual location.” says Photographer Carl Jeffers–the winner for our Natural Light Portrait mission with EyeEm. “I spend a lot of time exploring and researching my locations, even down to where the light will fall at that specific point in the day.” The 27 year old photographer hails from Preston in the UK. Like many of us, he’s started out by photographing friends and finding ways to make them look great.

The results are really about an emphasis on the final look of the image vs the technicalities.

 

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Phoblographer: Talk to us about how you got into photography?

Carl: Well basically I was exploring urban environments with a couple of friends, and we decided to document it. One of my friends was really into fashion styling, and the other had a 50mm lens. As soon as I began shooting with it, it literally changed my life. From then I started to develop and interest in photography, exploring and shooting with my iPhone, and just over a year and a half ago I bought my first camera and 50mm lens, and since then I’ve never looked back.

Phoblographer: What made you want to get into portraiture?

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Carl: Two things really… Firstly I think my environment and surroundings, and secondly my girlfriend (the friend who was really into fashion styling). Because I’m from a small city not known for its landscape or cityscape views, I felt like I had to use whatever I had to create whatever I could, and that turned out to be portraits. With me being so passionate about photography and creating, it pushed me to research and practice every single day.

Phoblographer: Lots of your work involves the use of natural light, whites and blacks and backgrounds that aren’t busy so they emphasize the subject. What brought you to really focus on this style of shooting?

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Carl: Well firstly I love natural light, I very rarely ever use flash or any additional lighting and I much prefer shooting outside rather than in a studio. I’m a Graphic Designer by trade so my style has always been very minimalistic and simple. I like to always have a focal point whether it’s through the use of lights and darks, colours, tones and textures, sharp and soft focus, or leading lines and symmetry.

Phoblographer: Talk to us about posing, where do you typically draw your inspiration from and what are some things that you always keep in mind before you work with a subject?

Carl: A lot of my inspiration for a shoot comes from the actual location. I spend a lot of time exploring and researching my locations, even down to where the light will fall at that specific point in the day. I also strongly believe in each photo having a vibe or a feeling, and I encourage my subject to show character, or to have a thought provoking expression which I feel allows the viewer to interpret the image themselves.

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Phoblographer: How do you think posing men and women is different?

Carl: Posing women is slightly harder because there are so many different angles that can appear either flattering or unflattering, but sometimes it’s just down to the individual and how comfortable they are behind the camera. I think when you’re comfortable and confident, it shows.

Phoblographer: How do you go about choosing your subjects and how do you usually go about communicating your creative vision to them?

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Carl: I only ever really shoot people who I have made friends with, because that comfortability in a photography relationship shows. It’s important to be on the same page, so I often create moodboards on pinterest with my girlfriend, or gain inspiration from instagram and show the model the kind of vibe I’m going for.

Phoblographer: What gear do you use and how do you feel that it helps you get the images that you want?

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Carl: I have a Sony A58 and predominantly use my 50mm lens for portraits as I love the separation that the low aperture can give at F1.8 (I’d love a F1.4 or 1.2!!) I also have an 18 – 55mm that I use for wide angle shots or landscapes/cityscapes, and I have a 75 – 300mm zoom for the times when I want to get a little closer to whatever or whoever I’m shooting. I feel having a wide, a fixed and a zoom gives me a great range and variety.

Phoblographer: How do you plan on improving yourself as a photographer and your business in the next year?

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Carl: I’ve only been shooting for around 2 years so I feel that each year I have grown in my photography knowledge, but experience is always the best teacher. I want to travel more, explore more, create more, do more and learn more. I’m also the kind of person that doesn’t like to settle for one thing, so I try my hand at different aspects of photography and in the coming years I’ll continue to do so. I’m my own biggest critic and I’ll definitely be pushing myself to try and enter more competitions, and basically just keep enjoying what I’m doing, because passion and love is one of my main driving forces.
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