Matt: Thanks for responding to my questions ... Firstly, please tell me a bit about your business including aspects like its history, your qualifications, and why you choose this field.
Bruno: Lightbent Images and Photography is still relatively in its infancy because I recently relocated from the UK back to Australia. In the last 2 years while in the United Kingdom I mainly worked as a freelance photographer, which I also did previously while in Jakarta (Indonesia). I am a corporate accountant by profession making the transition to being a full time photographer as a lifestyle change.
Photography has always been part of my leisure activities since my high school days but the joy of doing street portraits in the Kampung and traditional markets in and around Jakarta (Indonesia) 6 years ago, stirred in me this need to photograph every day. While in Jakarta I would give myself a 15 minute challenge to photograph anything and render it meaningful to the viewer.
That anything turned out to be the locals, street vendors, labourers, taxi drivers and basically anyone I came across. I practised often and learned the bells and whistles on my new digital camera by photographing people on the street.
After my family and I relocated from Jakarta to London in 2012, I continued with my daily practice of a 15 minute challenge creating anything photographically meaningful or interesting. I also maintained my street photography exercise in London.
As for my photography qualifications? I sought out photographers and instructors I admired most like Dutch lighting master Frank Doorhoof. I went to his studio in his home town of Emmeloord in the Netherlands to have some one on one sessions with him regarding photography, lighting and more. Those days with Frank Doorhof consolidated everything I knew about lighting and steered me towards being more creative with it. He still provides me with guidance, suggestions and recommendations whenever I need some. Though I did not do apprentice training with Frank, I credit him with 90% of what I know now regarding photography lighting.
I also travelled up to Liverpool to spend a weekend with another professional, the beauty, fashion and fine art photographer Bruce Smith. Photography nowadays goes hand in hand with photo editing, so I sought out the Canadian photographer and high end retoucher Michael Woloszynowicz for some private sessions. With the knowledge acquired from all of these leading instructors in their field of expertise compounded with my years of photography and many workshops and seminars I felt that a profession change was in order for me.
While I was pursuing full time photography in London, my wife was offered a position back here in Perth. We decided to return to this city for the lifestyle and to be close to the grandparents for our 4 year old. I also packed in my accounting profession to pursue my passion of photography on a full time basis.
Matt: You specialize in headshots. Entertainment and media professions come first to mind (eg actors, singers, comics, models, broadcasters, etc). Which of these specific professions gives you most work and why?
Bruno: Since arriving in Perth and establishing a presence the work is sparse but I am getting references from other photographers to be a second shooter for them for wedding ceremonies and to attend to some of their corporate headshot sessions when they have extra bookings on their busy days.
Yes, I am a specialist in headshots and I am also in the process of creating a new body of work (cinematic headshot products). My cinematic headshot is designed for any use at all -- not only the film and acting industry. Currently, however, I am targeting actors since they can make the connection with the camera more readily than most in the corporate environment. However, business people are my ultimate clientele and a lot of effort is being dedicated to create an appealing and different product for that group.
Matt: How do you get most clients for headshots? Personal referrals, online, offline?
Bruno: Currently all work I get come from personal referrals or my daily routine. There has not been any online contact yet as I am still building up my website and it will be a while before it can start appearing in Google searches. Currently my daily routine consists of giving out at least 10 business cards to people I encounter during my day and following up on contacts I have made days or weeks before. So there is still more ground to cover.
Matt: There seem to be more and more films and TV programs being made in Perth. Has this affected your business? If so, to what extent?
Bruno: I have been contacted by many aspiring actors in the last couple of months because they have seen my work. But as yet I have been unable to secure an appointment with a local casting or film director to discuss what they require to help me create looks with my cinematic style that would appeal to the local industry. As people are usually resistant to anything new, I must keep creating the work to convince the market that my cinematic headshot style is something they really need to have in their portfolio.
Matt: Are you in a saturated niche here in Perth or is there enough work for everyone?
Bruno: I don't think so. I believe that there is a big pie out there that everyone can have their share of if they can find their own place at the table. Last weekend I was the second shooter for another photographer at a big wedding of two sisters. Another photographer recommended me to help out his mate because he himself was not able to do so. Whatever niche there may be, I do believe if one is good at doing what he knows how to do and can provide his clients with good products and services then the fear of being in a saturated environment will be non existent to his business.
Matt: I'd imagine that creating a good headshot is challenging. It's not all down to you, after all. The subject has to deliver the goods too! Does it often happen that the person you're photographing doesn't give you anything to work with. If so, how do you overcome this?
Bruno: Certainly, it is more challenging than we think, however it doesn't have to be so. In the age of selfies, people tend to be more relaxed and readily activate the appropriate facial muscles to express what they are feeling at the time. However, most of us, once sitting or standing in front of a camera, tend to freeze -- like subjects did for the long exposure of years gone by. It seems to be inherent in our generation to still think that we don't have to move a muscle while in front of the camera!
Before the digital age, photographers used to be limited to how many exposures they had in the camera. And in order to have enough light to get through the lens onto the film to create an image, they had to have the camera on a tripod to avoid what is called a camera shake and asked the subject to remain as still as possible to avoid motion blur. So being facially expressive used to be a challenge, because the subject had to hold still for many seconds or minutes at a time. Fast forward to now with the way we have our passport photos taken, where any type of facial expression is deemed to be unacceptable, and people seem to think that all headshots are to be created under the same restrictions!
Certain types of headshots require a certain photographic lighting pattern, backgrounds and a studio to shoot in. Then the photographer must have so many light modifiers to do the job ... To overcome this, I have developed a way to shoot a headshot or any portrait by creating the same studio lighting patterns on any locations and at any time of day. Only the wind can stop me carrying out my normal way of doing this on location. For example, the self portrait (included above) was created from my driveway with the background of the street leading to my house.
Matt: How do you approach a shoot? Do you tend towards taking heaps of shots and choosing the best ... or prefer to set it all up perfectly and get The One? Or maybe you use different approaches with different people ...
Bruno: I do not have a set pattern for how I conduct my actual sessions. My interaction prior to the shoot dictates how things will transpire. During this communication via email, text messages and phone calls, I do my best to make the subject excited, comfortable and look forward to the shoot. I can only achieve that by projecting this emotion myself. The old adage ''monkey see, monkey do'' is true. My individual personality is my biggest asset when it comes to making my clients feel at ease and feel good about themselves and the shoot.
I tend to take less shots when my sessions are difficult because the client is not comfortable in front the camera. As such I must construct and manufacture the shots in order not to prolong that discomfort in my client which may invariably encourage them in the future to trust a photographer other than myself.
However, I do take a lot more pictures if my client is having fun being in front of the camera -- even though they may need only a handful of shots. These fun sessions are the ones I enjoy the most and I do challenge myself by attempting to create something different and unique for my client to remember our session. In short, my approach is to get my client's trust, make them forget about photography and ensure the session is fun -- especially when it is their first time or if they are usually uncomfortable being put on display like that.