Behind the Lens - Luke Gottlieb

 Luke Gottlieb (@Victorofvalencia) let us take a moment out of his time to discuss one of his most recent creations. We wanted to get an insight into the creation of the image to share with you!



How did you achieve this shot?

Simply put, I took this shot using minimal equipment and patience. Stephanie and I had been shooting for the whole afternoon before we captured this particular photo. All it took was being open creatively and being attentive to the nuances of light.


What camera did you use?

My main camera body is a Nikon D750 and I love pairing it with the cinematic look of the 35 1.4 lens. It allows for a wider shot, but keeps a sharp focus on the subject rather than it being lost to the background. It’s a great portrait setup. 


What settings and why those settings?

It was fairly dark in the room, so I had to balance my settings in the right way in order to capture it how I wanted to. For my shutter, I had it at about 1/500th of a second. I shot it at F/2 with an ISO of 250. Sometimes I like the look of the grain that using a high ISO can give, but since I wanted a cleaner look I chose to instead use a slower shutter and a steady hand to maintain that crispness of a low ISO setting. My 35 can open up to 1.4, which I use occasionally in portrait situations, but I have found the sweet spot for the lens to be right at around F/2. It also allows me to have a more even focus around her body, rather than one specific part, like her eyes. The D750 is a beast in low light and gets great tones.


Did you use a tripod for this shot?

I use tripods occasionally, but in all portrait situations I always just use the balance and freedom of my hands. Once in a while with a portrait I choose to get a little weird and show some background motion. In that case, I’ll use a tripod, but 99% of the time I do not.


What was the inspiration behind this photo?

I have a deep love for cinema and often when I am watching a film I am paying attention to the light. Since she had this glorious dress and a head of hair like you would see in a fantasy film, I wanted to portray this vintage film vibe. I wanted the image look and feel like a still photograph taken on a movie set from the 60s. 


How did you decide on the location for the photo?

The location was a bedroom with these amazing west facing windows. It was the perfect spot. We had to rearrange some furniture as to not have too many distractions in the background.

Is this the picture you set out to make that day? If not, how does it differ from what you had pre-visualized?

This particular shot was actually the most unplanned shot of the day. I knew that we would be utilizing dresses, but our main focus was shooting the outfits outdoors at low light for a moody look. At this particular moment, right after she put on the dress, the sun was low enough that its rays were coming into the windows. The special thing about this shot is that just behind me to my left was a huge mirror. The sun was reflecting off of the mirror and back onto her face. It acted as an unintended reflector. What I love about that particular nuance of light, was that the sun was low enough in the sky that the light was nice and soft. The golden reflection worked perfectly. It was subtle, but just right.


How did you chose your model? Was she excited to be a part of it and with the outcome?

This model is a friend and totally badass blogger out of San Francisco @Stephanie_Danielle. She was visiting the area so we decided to shoot together. Stephanie and I had shot before so we had established an awesome creative rapport together. She is always willing to get creative with photography, which makes my job super fun. While Stephanie was fixing her hair in the mirror she brought to my attention the brilliant light that was bouncing onto her. We improvised in the moment. 


What time of day was this image shot? Why did you chose that time?

This was shot at around 3:00pm on November 29th here in Colorado. The house is tucked away up against some hills, so even at 3:00pm the light was almost over the hill. It was a perfect time for an indoor shot like this where the light is nice and soft.

What was the most difficult part of making this photo?

Composition of the body was tricky. The light bouncing off the mirror was very centralized so positioning her face within it in the right way was a bit of a challenge. I wanted to reveal some of her face with the light, but not too much as to retain a bit of mystery. As her face was the focus of the image the rest of her body needed to flow and look candid and natural as well. I wanted the viewer to feel something from this photograph and to feel as if they were there. We took several shots and this one spoke to me the most.

If you could change one thing about it, what would it be?

The only thing I would have done differently would be to have a cigarette in her left hand. Since this was a throwback style image it could have really added to the cinematic feel, but I am super happy with how this turned out. There is always another time to build upon this concept.  

Why do you take pictures?

Other than the fact that photography is incredibly fun and inspiring, I choose to focus on capturing human beings. I love landscapes and will always shoot them, but portraiture is my main love. Human beings are incredibly difficult to capture and I live for the challenge. Being able to style a set of images like this particular shot or simply capture the candidness in everyday life is was keeps me passionate. I want to feel something from a photograph and want the same for the viewers who look at mine. 

What did you edit with? How long did the edit take you?

After importing the photo into Lightroom I did all of color toning with a custom preset plus some additional tweaks. I loved the contrast of the image so I focussed on that as well as adding the right amount of grain and sharpening. I did some minor skin cleanup in Photoshop, but kept it minimal. I used a couple gradients to balance the golds and grays and used softening brushes for the background so as to really bring the viewer’s eye to her. I spent about 30 minutes on this photo. I like to take my time with certain photos when I feel like they deserve the attention. Post processing to me is where a photograph can really take life. It is so much fun.

Did you use natural lighting or strobes?

The only time I use flash is when I shoot weddings. Other than that, I am a sucker for natural light and love utilizing it in all its glory!

Do you have any advice?

Someone once told me that the quickest way to get to where you want to be is to be at peace with where you are. To me, this applies greatly to the arts and particularly in my case, photography. These days, so many of us want to excel faster than we may naturally be doing so since there is so much in our faces all the time. What I have found is that rushing art does not get you anywhere. Learning to be patient as well as not being afraid to try something different can be a challenge. Though to me, it is necessary and important to break through those barriers. I also will always tell someone that it is better to focus on the things that make you feel good about your own art rather than get too caught up into why your art doesn’t look like someone else's. It’s great to be inspired and we don’t really excel unless we are, but we also must be individuals and grow as such rather than striving to be someone else other than who we are.

Check out Lukes presets!



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