Sean is an extremely talented photographer and his post processing skills compliment his photography beautifully. Once you’ve gotten through this interview make sure you check out his work over on his website. I’m sure you’ll find some inspiration there. This post could be mildly NSFW depending on your employer. I would love to know your thoughts about his work, and how do you go about skin smoothing, leave your comments below.
Tell us a little about yourself?
For the past 16 years I’ve made my living working in television, for the most part as a video editor. I currently work for MLB Network doing on-air promotions. However I also own two photography companies, Dragon Ink Photography being one of them. My wife has also gotten into photography and does most of the other shooting for our more “family friendly” business. We have had a couple location that we called our studio, but recently found our “home” in a carriage house built in 1901. We have renovated the bottom floor so it has a nice mix of modern mixed with the old. I truly love shooting in that space.
What made you get into photography?
In college I had taken a couple classes and really loved using the camera to create cool imagery (I can’t draw to save my life and I love having an artistic outlet). This was back when everything was still film and I was using my parent’s canon AE1. Not too long after, digital came out. I bought a digital point and shoot and while I loved the instant gratification (and no-cost developing), I found that my love of photography was waning. I hated not being able to see through the lens and have creative control over the exposure. Eventually, I stopped taking pictures altogether and my wife had to take all our family photos. About 5 or 6 years ago, I bought my first DSLR, a canon Rebel xtiI, and spent the next year or so taking photos of my wife, kids, cats, dogs, and anything else I could find. I was happy to have an SLR again. I now had all the creative control from before while still being digital.
How did you get started?
Around the same time I got my Rebel, my friend also bought one and we discussed how we always wanted to shoot with models. I’ve always admired feminine beauty whether it be pinups, glamor, dresses, ..anything really, and we hired a local model to come shoot with us at a local park. It wasn’t anything like my current work, basically casual shots, but I was on such a high afterwards from it. I was truly hooked. It was such a different experience from shooting friends and family with such a different end goal in mind.
What sort of photography do you mainly do?
Dragon Ink Photography is mainly geared towards celebrating feminine beauty. I have photographed men, but find I’m happiest photographing women. I love so many genres of shooting with women. I adore everything from gorgeous gowns, to corsets, lingerie, pinup, hair and makeup…the list goes on.
What gear are you using?
I shoot with a Canon 5D mkii these days. I love having full frame.
For lenses I have: 24-70mm 2.8L, 70-200mm 2.8L, 35mm 1.4L 85mm 1.2L
As for lighting, too much to name individually, but mainly Canon speedlights and Alien Bees for studio
Whats your favourite lens and why?
For most of my work I use my 70-200mm 2.8L. That has been my workhorse for the most part. However we recently purchased the 85mm 1.2L and it’s quickly becoming my favorite. I’m a sucker for shallow DOF and these lenses allow me to have that while still getting really crisp focus.
How are you marketing yourself?
I’m still trying to figure out what exactly Dragon Ink Photography is. In the past year or so, things have really ramped up for me as far as quality of work, fan base, etc, but I don’t quite know where to take things. I’m trying to figure out if I should narrow my focus more so that I’m known for one specific thing or if I should keep shooting a wider range of stuff. I recently revamped my website and that has been a huge help as I used to have a pretty boring and basic site. I am a huge fan of facebook fan pages and that has been the biggest part of my marketing so far. I definitely plan to look at more avenues this year. I also would love to figure out how to get published. I find it very daunting for some reason.
Whats your favourite photo you have taken?
Such a tough question. I definitely have a few that I love.
What post processing tools do you use?
I’ve been a photoshop disciple for the past 17 years. I couldn’t live without it even if I didn’t take photos. There’s just so much to do with it. Just recently however, I’ve added in Lightroom to the mix. I used to use Bridge for my organization of files, but really like Lightroom’s tools and integration with RAW formats and Photoshop. I also use just a couple plugins to mainly speed up certain processes. I really like the Nik software suite, mainly Viveza and Silver Efex.
How did you shoot and edit this photo?
For this shot I was looking for new ways to use my studio. We had only been in the space for a few months and I was getting tired of the typical seamless backdrops. I really liked the wood flooring but found the wall behind to be distracting and it took away from the soft, angelic feel I was going for. I used two strobes, one on each side, to blow out the rear wall and floor, creating that white void. The subject was far enough from it so that there was very little haloing. I then lit the model with a single soft-boxed strobe from camera left. Getting the right balance took a little experimentation, but once I got it, I loved it and have used it a lot since. For postwork, It’s pretty much my standard workflow. I edit out any blemishes and imperfections using the healing brush combined with the cloning brush. Then I use a skin smoothing technique that’s constantly evolving. I know the super-pros use dodge and burn at the pixel level, but I just don’t have that kind of time and would loose interest pretty quickly. Instead, I use a skin smoothing plugin that gets pulled back a lot. I think for this shoot I also then used Nik Software’s Viveza plugin to give the image some overall pop.
Advice for new photographers looking to go pro?
Learn the gear and try to get really confident in your work. But no matter what, never, ever, …ever…stop learning.