• Nikon D850, 24-120mm lens @ 85mm, 1/125s @ f11, ISO 400.
    Nikon D850, 24-120mm lens @ 85mm, 1/125s @ f11, ISO 400.

APS Behind the lens: The Cuban

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My passion for photographing people started in high school. I enjoyed capturing my friends during school activities or at functions. I soon realized time passes too quickly and wanted to record my family and friends for future posterity.

The Cuban is a portrait of my brother-in-law John Santillo. He is a hard-working, self-employed truck driver with a great character and a very interesting face. He was initially hesitant to sit for me because he didn’t like having his photo taken. It meant I needed to ensure he understood the concept and style of photograph I had in mind and at my second request he agreed to participate.

I explained that the cigar would be used as a prop together with hats. In preparation, I’d asked him to not shave before the shoot to achieve the tough scruffy look I wanted. Then, he told me he was trying to give up smoking! A week later he said he’d do the shoot and was comfortable with the cigar and completely understood what I was trying to achieve.

During the shoot he was blown away with the images I showed him on the back of the camera. A few times he said, “is that really me?’ The lighting setup was kept simple with two 250W flashes on stands; the main flash was fitted with a wide dish diffuser and placed to the left of him and at 45 degrees above his face about 1.5 meters away.

The second flash was three meters away to the right and slightly behind to give some fill light on the back of the hat and his shoulders. There was no lighting put on the background because I wanted the pale smoke to standout.

My golden rules with portrait photography are to always thoroughly plan the shoot together beforehand and get the subject or subjects involved with decisions on clothing, style and the use of props, and always try to provide ongoing feedback and encouragement during the shoot.

Amazingly, the whole shoot was over in 45 minutes. To date I have had 37 acceptances and nine awards including two FIAP Gold medals from that shoot. But the biggest honour for me was seeing how delighted and proud John was with the images we made. ❂

Nikon D850, 24-120mm lens @ 85mm, 1/125s @ f11, ISO 400.
Nikon D850, 24-120mm lens @ 85mm, 1/125s @ f11, ISO 400.
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