Cara-Lee Gevers Interview: Finding Natural and Compelling Expressions for Your Portraits

expressive portraits Cara Lee Gevers

Cara-Lee Gevers is a South African photographer who realized her hobby of photography could do more than make her happy. Finding her talents while at the University of Pretoria, she dedicated herself to make innovate portraiture. Work that could be classically beautiful and visually elaborate, all the while emphasizing the unique wonders found in everyday life. The art to capture expressive portraits is not one that can be embodied by all. Having said that expressive portraits can be a creation that can connect to majority of the audiences.

In pursuit of this, her portraits never shy away from difficult sets or creative imagery. More impressively, most of the sets are constructed by her own hand, which usually takes 1 – 3 months. She views their completed whole as inspirations from her daily world. In their romantic tones, they show her detailed and precise eye for beauty. They are images born from a persistent craft and a need to express the unique story found within every person.

In this interview, Gevers talks about how she got her start in portraiture, explains her approach to posing and direction, and reveals what her self-portraits say about her. An artist who believes in creating expressive portraits.

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Your portrait work is really great. How did you get your start? How would you describe your work?

Thank you, I started photography very naively at the University of Pretoria in South Africa, while studying something completely different. A friend had a Canon 350 D that I would borrow to take photographs of the city and people. Photography was how I was able to escape the pressure of studying. Once I realized how happy it made me, I quickly invested many hours in learning about photography. Your career is where is you spend most of your life, I know how fortunate I am to be able to wake up each day and know I’ll be investing this day towards what I love. My photography is a call back to all that is romantic and classic. At the same time, I hope to create an experience and a story for the viewer, so that whoever and wherever they are they might find something in the photographs that they might relate to in some way.

My photography expressive portraits

I love your Personalities section. The men and women have great, unique looks. The 2nd one is my favorite (above). What’s your usual approach to directing models/clients during your shoots?

Directing models/clients used to be one of the most difficult areas of photography for me starting out. Pose them too much and the model/client looks too stiff, unnatural, and guarded. Don’t give enough direction and the model/client becomes nervous and tense. I usually give my models/clients half an hour to ease into where they are, what they want to bring to the viewer, how they want to be seen. Once that natural tension of being in front of a camera eases, you’ll have a more organic portrait of the subject.

Personalities section expressive portraits

The 20th image in Creative is a great example of how you’re able to get warm expressions that feel natural. What’s your secret? How much time do you spend developing a relationship with your clients/models?

For models/clients a glaring lens can be extremely intimidating. You have a great deal of attention focused on you with everyone’s hard work depending on your performance. Be sympathetic towards the people you are photographing. Make them smile and ease up any pressure they may feel by letting them know that there is plenty of time, they are doing great, and have fun. I spend the time in Hair and Make-up getting to know my clients/models, as I genuinely have an interest in getting to know the people I am photographing. I love people and I love their stories.

spend developing expressive portraits

You also tend to work with elaborate setups and dazzlingly locations. What is your pre-production process like? How do you come up with these ideas?

The majority of my setups are self-made. I spend 1-3 months on an idea at a time, creating dresses for shoots, or setups. The pre-production takes a great deal of time. It will start with an idea then go to mood boards, which depict what I am wanting to achieve, and then move to the team. Mostly, my ideas are inspired by everyday things that I feel will transcend into an great visual story.

elaborate setups, expressive portraits and dazzlingly

Your wedding portfolio is filled with vibrant photographs, but wedding photography can be intimidating to a lot of photographers. What advice would you give to other photographers about posing and getting great group reactions?

Wedding photography is such fun, and these days there is so much room to be original and creative. Couples on a wedding day already have what you would like to bring forward in your photographs, which is genuine emotion, the only issue is that most couples have not done any sort of posing for shoots before. Ease their nerves with a very relaxed approach to posing them, also give them the freedom to change their poses if that’ll help them feel more comfortable. Posing should be a very flexible guideline not a strict instruction. Group shots are about fun as well, laughter is the best way to achieve effective results.

expressive portraits bring forward

What is your usual approach to self-portraiture? Do they illuminate any personal stories?

Each self-portrait was taken at a certain time in my life, and all hold significance. They are stories of what was happening at a particular time, acting as a photographer’s diary of journey and love. If you look close enough, it’s easy to identify which fall into which category. Usually whatever emotion I am feeling at a certain time will connect to a memory, a desire, or a word, and then translate that into something visual.

expressive portraits with personal stories

What is the greatest advice you’ve learned for producing great work?

Never let your ego get in the way of why you are doing what you are doing. Stay humble, work hard, be grateful and focus on constantly evolving your work to a new standard.

greatest advice his expressive portraits

Focusing on capturing the right moment to get good expressive portraits is something that has been at the hilt of Cara- Lee’s list.

The photographer doesn’t shy away from hard work, tough times, and a tedious process to get the right expressive portraits she has envisioned!

Be sure to check out all of Cara-Lee’s work on her website and blog!

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