Frank Doorhof is an internationally-renowned glamour, & fashion photographer. What I really love about Frank is how each of his photographs evoke a mood that is very uniquely “Frank.” In this interview you’ll learn the fastest way to improve your photography, how to get amazing emotions from your models, and many more glamour photography tips and tricks.
(PS. You can learn how to take better photos with Frank Doorhof by checking out his videos.)
All your photos have a very distinctive feel. How did you find your own style and how long did it take?
I think it’s a matter of just doing what you like best. I never followed trends of what other photographers did and tried to copy them. I am always incredibly fascinated with other’s looks, don’t get me wrong, but somehow I never tried to copy someone 100%. I think it’s important to find your own “voice”.
I think that I’m very influenced by movies. I’m a real movie lover and I will always try to find something that I can use in my photography. So maybe that’s where that “feel” comes from. I always hope and think that I’m using different styles and “feels,” but I still try to have some “Frank” in there.
Explain to us how you achieve your particular style, technically. For example, how do you plan your lighting setup? What lighting modifiers do you use?
I do have my favorite modifiers of course, but for me it’s more a feeling of the vision I have for a certain shot, and I will use light to get there.
In my workshops I always tell the students “Imagine not having to worry about light, technique, cameras etc, but imagine being able to just focus on the story, the model, etc. doesn’t that sound great?”
Everyone will answer yes. Knowing your gear is easy, you just need to read the manual and experiment. Mastering light seems a lot harder, but when you really break it down it’s actually not that hard. Light is all about direction and angles and of course “steering.” When you understand that and you know how to meter your light there are a lot of option that open up. And to be totally honest it doesn’t really matter what light modifier you use, with a 1.90 Octa I will get a different mood in my shots than with a gridded spot of course, but when I know I only can use modifier A I will create a mood that fits modifier A.
The thing that often surprises me is that some really great photographers, when faced with a situation where they are out of their “comfort zone” or without their favorite modifier, they are sometimes at a total loss.
That’s why in my workshops (and DVDs) I always try to explain to people that it’s not the gear. It’s understanding what you’re doing and training your eyes/mind to see the end result.
But if I have to choose a modifier…. Hmmm I think the Elinchrom maxilight/spot. I really love those. I use them with a grid from Honeycomb Grids and that combination is great. But I also LOVE the 1.50 indirect Octa from Elinchrom for some nice “crisp” full or ¾ body shots. And of course strip lights for nice accent lights.
However, during workshops abroad I often have to work with different gear and again, it doesn’t really matter as long as you have something similar. By choosing the right angles you can get similar results.
You’ve become a well-known photographer who’s now part of Kelby Training. What were some of your major achievements that led you to where you are now?
I always find it hard to see myself as a well-known photographer and I’m still hoping I won’t wake up some morning to realize it’s all a dream and I’m actually a garbage man (and I mean no disrespect to garbage men).
I strongly believe in the fact that everything is about what you do and give, and that you will get back someday in some form. I always try to be nice to everyone. I’ve built a following of people that I like to talk to and discuss photography with. I love to share my work and of course I do share tips/tricks. This is what built my “name” as a teacher. After I started teaching workshops, my workshops became popular very quickly. When I met Scott Kelby things completely rocketed. I’m forever grateful for what he has done for me.
However I also realize that it’s also all about “me.” How do I handle my mails or social media? I live by the principle that if someone takes the time to mail me, then who am I to not respond to them. Sometimes it will be a short e-mail and sometimes it will be a bit longer. Depending on my schedule, I will always try to respond to everyone.
Before I joined KelbyTraining I was already doing my workshops abroad and doing demos on tradeshows, but the power of their network in spreading your name is just enormous. Of course if you don’t perform (or be open) you won’t have a long career. For me it’s a constant challenge to perform better. I always try to have more interesting videos online and offer people something really unique. When you look at my instructional videos and DVDs you can see that every one is different. I hate to repeat myself. I would hate to give people the same thing but let them pay for two different “carriers”.
What’s the fastest way for a photographer to improve his skills?
Buy a Polaroid camera (no joke) and start using that.
First thing you learn is that every shot costs money, so you have to force yourself to perform.
Now when going back to DSLR (or P&S or iPhone or whatever) start thinking that same way, SHOOT SLOWLY, don’t spray and pray.
Start with one light, even better start with sunlight.
I always say “When you can shoot an image with a Polaroid and natural light that wows people, you’re a great photographer”.
Have you ever been on a shoot but just couldn’t seem to get great images? How did you overcome that challenge?
Of course. I always say that the “professionals” often have more crappy shots than anyone else, but they just never show them.
In the end however I will always try to go home with at least 5-6 good shots. However sometimes you just can’t help it. A while ago I taught a workshop and the models that were supposed to be there didn’t show so the organizer booked some other models, and with all due respect, they were not material you could work with. They were lovely girls but far FAR from models.
The only thing you can do at that moment is put on a smile and simply continue and try to figure out how to use the models in a way that they will make them look great on the images. Instead of focusing on the models and the clothing, I will now coach the models to be part of the scenery. The images were not really model shoots but more like compositions where there also was a person in the image.
Think about shooting something in a forest. When you have a great model with a flaming red dress, long hair etc. it’s easy to make a shot that focuses on the model and the clothing and have a WOW image… however now imagine the model being there in a normal dress, and also she’s not the best “model.” You can now opt to make the model part of the scenery by placing her very close to a tree and letting her body follow the curves of the trees. Or if you’re into nude photography, you can work with bodyscapes & closeups or maybe even rim-lighting the model, making a body study instead of a model shoot.
You can also go the “movie & storytelling” way and let your model kneel down in front of something with her/his back towards you, placing her smaller in the frame, and try to tell a story. There are so many options.
In my opinion a good photographer should always find a way to get something good. It will not rock, but I think it’s a weakness if you drop your camera and shout “I can’t work like this”.
You capture amazing emotions and poses from your models. What are your tips for getting emotion and feeling out of your models?
Tell them they won’t get paid unless they scream.
No just kidding of course.
Best way to get emotion out of a model is just talk everything through, tell them that photography is actually acting on 1/1000 of a second and that they have to really get into the feel of the shoot.
And trust me not everyone can do it, it’s like I said before… I shoot a lot of shitty images without any expression. Sometimes it’s my fault (bad day), sometimes it’s the model that just doesn’t work for me, sometimes it’s something else, but those images never come online so people will not see those.
And sometimes you just get a model that will rock your images and those you keep and those you DO show.
One thing that really helps is shooting tethered. The model can see the images coming in and can see what’s going wrong and going great. Also build your trust with the models, if something doesn’t look good DELETE it right away, this will build the trust that you really need to do the more extreme expressions. The model has to be 100% sure that if something doesn’t look right, you WILL delete it.
New models usually need a bit more coaching than experienced models. When you coach a newer model, how do you explain what you want her to do?
Varies per model. I will never touch a model because I think they need to be in their personal space to really perform well so I often coach with my hands, and that works really well.
And also the more experienced models actually I coach A LOT. I’m always talking. You should always remember that the model doesn’t see what you see through the lens. To make sure she does everything right there has to be some form of communication.
The worst thing you can do is say “just do something” and than keep your mouth shut. That will not get you the images you want. Sometimes it will get you some nice images. Sometimes you’ll even get great images. But always remember that a great image can become a WOW image if you change something just a little bit. Those changes are what you do when coaching.
Both you AND the model have one common goal, and that’s to get a lot of great images. If that means talking a lot and steering the model than that’s what it takes. I never ever heard of a model that told a photographer “keep your mouth shut and just let me model” but I do hear a lot of models say “I just wish the photographer would coach me more.”
Being a photographer means you have to be able to interact with people. It’s all about the collaboration between the model and the photographer, and if that “clicks” then there will be magic.
Interested in glamour photography Tips from Frank Doorhof?