Spotlight Interview … Fashion / Fine Art Photographer Fiona Quinn

JRP: Fiona Quinn is a talent that came to my attention via the Mola Beauty Dish Lighting Blog. She has some very stylized images in her portfolio. We are glad that she is willing to share her thoughts with JRP Blog. Thank you Fiona.

Fiona Quinn: HI James, thanks so much for the opportunity!

JRP: Where is home for you Fiona?

Fiona Quinn: I am primarily based in Auckland, New Zealand but also travel to Australia as I am represented in Sydney.

JRP: How did you get your start in photography and is there any formal training in your background?

Fiona Quinn: I went to Fine Arts school intending to major in Painting but quickly discovered Photography and all its creative scope. When I completed my degree I realized while concepts and ideas came very easily to me I lacked the necessary skills to take my work to the level I needed it to be.

I then assisted for a year and went on to complete an advanced one year photography course that was very skills and industry based. This gave me a strong foundation to build from.

I got a job with an advertising company in Auckland setting up their in-house studio and became their main Photographer. This was a huge learning curve and I was photographing everything from product to people and lifestyle. This taught me a lot about the commercial side of the industry working with large format digital / post production, account managers and creative directors.

I then set up my own business as a freelance photographer and everything grew from there.

JRP: How do you generally define the style of your work?

Fiona Quinn: Clean stylized and very beautiful. I am very details focused and manage my shoots from concept to finish. Fashion is about fantasy to me its idealized reality and it often evokes a mood or tells a story. Sometimes the shoot is about the model sometimes its about the clothes sometimes its a story … either way I want to make images that have an inherent sense of beauty and strength.

JRP: What equipment would I find in your camera bag and or studio for a typical shoot? What lighting equipment do you favor?

Fiona Quinn: I love shooting on location. New Zealand is so beautiful and I also travel to Australia, so its important that I have a portable set up.

I shoot primarily with a 5dmkII, a 24 -120mm L series lens, and my Hensel Porty Lithium 1200 kit. I can fit the head and camera with lens into a backpack and the lightweight pack can be carried over the shoulder. This kit is perfect for me as it has a fast recycle time and a long battery life.

I usually use a 24 inch Mola on my porty and a pop out reflector/diffuser. This means if we have to walk over rocks or through the bush my assistant and I can carry everything comfortably. I also take a pop up shade to protect my gear from the weather.

I also use the 70 – 200mm L lens, the 100mm macro, and an extra head depending on the shoot. In the studio I also use strobes. I have some Multiblitz monolights and I will also rent Broncolour if I need more power or need to freeze motion. I use a variety of modifiers, softboxes, and dishes. I also always have my Sekonic light meter (yes I am old school).

I rent the Canon IDsmkIII if I need a faster synch speed and have just sold my Phase One digital back as it doesn’t suit my current work style.

JRP: Could you please describe your digital work flow and the software you use?

Fiona Quinn: If I am in the studio I shoot tethered to Capture One, if I am on location I shoot to card and my assistant will download the cards to my laptop as we shoot.

If the shoot is for a magazine I will go through the shoot after-wards as there often isn’t much time on the day and flag the shots I like then make my selects. If there is time my assistant will process jpegs of each shot as we are shooting so we can see how the images tie together for the story.

For some magazines I will do everything, the concept, choose the model, location and my team. I will also choose the final shots, get them retouched as tiffs and send them the preferred layout with the high res images.

Some mags I will give a few options for each look with my preferred final selects and then give them the raw files with a treatment jpg for each look. If it is a commercial or advertising job the client will often make selects at the shoot. Images are then uploaded to FTP for the client to download.

I also work with retouchers in Spain, London, and Canada. This is also done via FTP and email. I love the internet!

JRP: Do you print your images?

Fiona Quinn: My Fashion portfolio is mainly tearsheets. I will get something printed if there is something odd about the layout of a shot or if my agency wants more than one image layered up on a page. I print images myself to check the layout or to make final selects.

JRP: Break down one of your images for us and please explain the lighting or any special concerns you had during the shoot?

Fiona Quinn: OK this image is from an editorial called “Glisten” of the very beautiful Stella Maxwell. The editorial was included with a profile on her and is a homage to excess eighties glamour with a modern twist as she told me she is often referred to as “that eighties model”. I am using an old flash and drag technique with three strobes, a dark studio, and 400 watt modeling bulbs. The exposure is 1 second with the light from modeling bulbs causing the slight ghosting and picking up some movement from the model so the background comes through in places.

These shoots are always quite tricky and I love that you can’t ever exactly replicate a shot like this because of all the variables. It was also important not to over light the model so the background gels are not overpowered. The silver background is also like a giant reflector bouncing the light everywhere, so cutters are needed on each light.

This is lit by a 24 inch Mola beauty dish with a grid on the model, a softbox with a grid and a gel over half of it on the background, and another gelled strobe with a dish and barn-doors also on the background.

JRP: Given the current economy what are some new directions being taken by you in your photography?

Fiona Quinn: I have found there has been a bit of a trend towards a more classic approach. Clients are not taking as many risks especially with branding and advertising. Budgets are smaller and clients are not wanting any surprises after the costs are approved. This means as a photographer I have to be very clear about any requirements and the buffers are much tighter. Quoting is a lot more competitive as jobs are often based on money and not so much skills.

I am promoting myself through shooting editorial and am part of a couple of upcoming exhibitions that will showcase more of my personal work and not just fashion.

JRP: Would you share some of the best advice given to you by another photographer?

Fiona Quinn: Shoot what makes you happy and have a balance in your work! I was shooting a lot of commercial work and making quite good money but also going a bit crazy creatively. A colleague who has since become a valued friend looked at my work and asked me why the hell I wasn’t shooting fashion as those images were by far the strongest. Since then I try to have a balance. Fashion is what keeps me sane and my commercial work pays the bills!

JRP: What advice would you like to share with other photographers?

Fiona Quinn: OK this is for those who are starting out. Experiment, try new things and shoot as often as you can. Light makes photos so learn how to manipulate and craft it.

Build relationships with your peers. Those people you studied with may one day be art directors and designers at companies you want to work for.

Be kind and value your team. These people are so important. Always make sure food is provided for everyone on shoots especially if its personal work.

Keep your promises. If you promised a model and makeup artist images in return for their time then make sure you deliver.

Align yourself with people you admire. Make their coffee, carry their gear, and ask them questions. You can’t beat hands on experience.

Have fun! I am still amazed I can do this as a career!

JRP: Thank you Fiona for sharing your thoughts and images with us. This has been a most revealing interview, a real pleasure.

Fiona Quinn: Thanks James, it’s an honor to be featured!

JRP: To view more of Fiona Quinn’s eye-catching photography please follow this link:


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