Creating the Photograph: Nathan Hostetter’s “Mirror Mirror”

Creating the Photograph is an original series where photographers teach you about how they concepted an image, shot it, and edited it. The series has a heavy emphasis on teaching readers how to light. Want to be featured? Email chrisgampat[at]thephoblographer[dot]com

Photographer Nathan Hostetter usually works with natural lighting and tries to emulate some sort of film look to his images. His photos can be characterized as having some sort of elegance to them while also finding a way to show off the humanity in his subjects. So when Nathan showed us a few of his portraits, we were quite impressed with one he shot of Naomi.

But what you’ll also be amazed by is how simple his lighting is–and that’s what makes the images!

Here’s Nathan’s story!

The Concept

For this shoot I wanted to do something with a vintage/vogue look. The model, Naomi Pacheco, is a friend of mine, and we shoot together from time to time. The entire shoot unfolded fairly quickly. She called me a day or two before we shot to let me know she had a great venue for us. The location is a small lounge called Seventy7, in Studio City, CA. The bar already has a cool, vintage vibe, so we ran with that. The idea for this shot came to us organically on the shoot. We were between poses, she had just changed into her dress, and was leaning into the mirror applying lipstick. I stopped reviewing the shots and snapped a few picks of her next to the mirror and the idea to use the mirror in the shot came to me.

The Gear

The Shoot


I won’t spend too much time on philosophy, my shoots are typically pretty simple. Natural light, film look, not much retouching, these are all typical characteristics of my work. This was the first shoot I ever used a flash on, and I think for the vibe we wanted it was necessary.


We had the venue all to ourselves, and the place even had a powder room for the model to change and get her hair and makeup done. This particular shot ended up being the final shot of the set. We shot around the bar, on different couches, and played with several different looks. I honestly don’t always have a method to my madness, I just like taking pictures and working with other creatives. After Naomi changed into the green dress, we set up a few shots on the couch.


I stopped midway to have her fix her lipstick, and as she leaned into the mirror to apply it, I loved the way it looked. We tried it with and without flash, but just couldn’t get the look and exposure we wanted without the flash. The flash was set up on a stand off camera, and I used the soft box adapter on my Rogue Flashbender (which I love by the way). I played with the angle a little to avoid getting too much bleed in the mirror, and tried a few posed with her looking at me verses the mirror. After reviewing everything together, we decided we liked this look the best.


Post Production


I’m not big on retouching. I know its part of the process and most models want super smooth, air brushed versions of themselves, but I am not a fan. Yes I correct color and do small touch ups, but I want people to look like people. Naomi did a great job with her hair and makeup, so there wasn’t much to touch up on her. I wanted to keep a dark and moody vibe. I kept the ceiling lamps pretty warm, and adjusted the blacks and shadows up. Mst adjustments were pretty minor, I like to adjust color with until I like what I see, without getting caught up on the numbers.






Chris Gampat

Chris Gampat is the Editor in Chief, Founder, and Publisher of the Phoblographer. He also likes pizza.