Spotlight Interview … Photographer Bruce Smith

JRP: I first became aware of Bruce Smith some time ago by listening to an interview on the Candid Frame, a site hosted by Ibarionex Perello. Besides being a talented photographer Bruce also shares his love for his craft in a down to earth way. It is a pleasure to share his thoughts with you.

Thanks Bruce for taking time out to do our interview.

Bruce Smith: Thank you for inviting me do the interview, it’s an honor.

JRP: Where is home for you Bruce?

Bruce Smith: Liverpool and London or where ever I go to shoot if I am on location for more than a couple of days it becomes my home.

JRP: How did you get your start in photography, and do you have any formal training?

Bruce Smith: I was studying Graphic Design at Art School where I spent so much time in the photo studio using photography to create my graphic images. Photography had become a big part of my studies.

By the end of my studies my final exhibit showed so much photography that the director of a local photographic studio that came to view everyone’s work asked me to become a studio assistant for them.

JRP: Who and what has influenced your photography?

Bruce Smith: I was inspired by the photographers from the ‘30s to the ‘60s, including Cecil Beaton, Norman Parkinson, David Baily, Barry Lategan, John F French, Horst P Horst, William Klein, Irving Penn, Richard Avedon, George Hoyningen-Huene, and many more.

JRP: Every job is different but basically what would I find in your camera bag for a typical shoot?

Bruce Smith: Nikon D2X, D2H DSLRs, Nikkor zooms, 80mm to 200mm f2.8, 35mm to 70mm f2.8, 17mm to 55mm f2.8 being my most used lens.  A dozen flash cards. Mac Pro Book laptop. A couple of 100 gb hard-drives. Epson digital storage viewer. Batteries, lens brush blower, lens cloth. Nikon Speed light. Metz Flash Gun.

Lighting; 2 Californian Sunbounce Reflectors, diffusers and flags kit. Several Mono light flash head kits from 125 watts to 750 watts.

JRP: Please describe your digital workflow and the software you use.

Bruce Smith: I create a folder on my desktop as a link to my secondary hard drive. Inside I place the folder for the day’s shoot with the client’s name and the date of the shoot. Within that folder I’ll create one folder for test shots, then one for each shot to be taken on the day, perhaps named with the garment name or code number. Inside each “shot” folder, I place sub-folders containing around 50 images so that they don’t take too long to load.

Fashion photography is about working fast and efficiently. You don’t want long breaks while you wait for a large number of images to load in the browser. I shoot on 512MB, 1GB, or 2GB cards. They give you a reasonable number of image frames to get your shot, and they are relatively fast to download.

I’d also advise shooting Raw files and a medium quality JPEG that can be burn onto CD. This means my client can leave the shoot with a proof of each image taken during the session.

I transfer using a firewire memory card reader. They copy your image files across much faster. A 1GB card will load in 1-2  minutes, compared with 10-15 minutes using USB card readers. Viewing images in Adobe Bridge.

I keep three copies of all the files, one on the main computer, one on a secondary hard drive, and another on CD or DVD.

I always save two sets. You have to have the data storage space. Losing images is a disaster, so back up your images carefully. In the past I have lost images due to both my laptop crashing or external hard drives failing and not having back-up copies. Don’t wait for it to happen to you. Clients are not interested in hard-luck stories.

JRP: How do you handle image printing?

Bruce Smith: Because most if not all of my work is commissioned for print media I tend not to do very much printing myself. The exception being for my portfolio.  So I am not the best to ask regarding image printing.

JRP: How do you approach your personal work as opposed to your work for hire or is there a difference?

Bruce Smith: I use my personal work as a form of relaxation. As a way of expressing what I can’t express in my commissioned work. This involves mainly shooting fine art figure images where there are no rules, just shooting what and how I feel like at the time.

JRP: How do you scout and select your locations for assignments?

Bruce Smith: The first questions that I ask my client is WHY are we shooting the images and what are they for. What do you expect to achieve from the images. What type of lifestyle, what mood, etc. This helps me to put together my ideas as to how the images will be.

The locations are usually picked to reflect the requirements of the client’s expectations for the images, color, atmosphere, texture, light, mood, emotion, energy, etc.  If the feelings to be portrayed in the images is about ethnic lifestyle with colors such as reds, browns, etc., I choose a location such as Kenya or Morocco, because I know that the requirements will be met there.

I have shot in many locations from Alaska to Kenya. All have been chosen to reflect a mood or a certain lifestyle.

JRP: What is your over-all philosophy on lighting? Do you make use of available light mostly or do you use additional lighting or reflectors on location to dictate your lighting mood?

Bruce Smith: I will always choose to shoot available light if I can. Supplementing the light with reflectors or diffusion screen occasionally. I may use some fill-in flash or I will replicate natural day light using flash or HMI continuous lighting (movie lights). It all depends on where and when I am shooting. I assess the need of the shoot and decide on the same day. Using available light means you have to be flexible, and to time your shooting around how the day light changes during the day.

JRP: You have a new book that is soon to be released. Share with us what is covered.

Bruce Smith: Here is what I cover;
Carrying cases & gadgets, Fashion protocols, Assistants, Styling, Sourcing, models, Testing for models.

Organizing a fashion shoot, Researching your ideas, Times of day to shoot, Locations: indoors, Locations: outdoors, Normal studio, Daylight studio, Backgrounds, Set building, Props and accessories, Preparing for a shoot, Studio flash, The clean, white background.

Camera equipment, Computer software & hardware, Studio lighting,

Location lighting, How to set up, Daylight studio, Daylight studio and flash, Interiors with flash, Interiors with daylight, Interiors with daylight and flash, Direct sunlight, Backlit sunlight, Side-lit sunlight, Front-lit sunlight, Shooting in shade, Shade and reflectors, Fill-in flash, Continuous light, Shooting in bad weather, Diffusion screens, Reflectors

The day of the shoot, Image file management, Clients’ needs.

Composition, Allowing for text, Shooting for balanced spreads, Creating energy, Directing your models.

Exposure choices, Metering, White balance, Shooting Raw and JPEG.

Managing your time, Required shooting: Clients direct shoot, Required shooting: advertising, Advertising shoot, Required shooting: editorial, Editorial shoot, Required shooting: catalog, Catalog shoot.

Editing, Sub-editing, Preparing for press, Cosmetic Photoshop, A wider angle, Yellow beauty, Nip and tuck, Photoshop Selenium Tint.

Marketing yourself, Testing as a marketing tool, Developing your individual style, Your portfolio, Appointments, Image Usage

Contributing photographers: David LaChapelle, Barry Lategan, Perou,and Rankin.

There’s a lot more so check out my blog. The UK book version is entitled “Pro Digital Fashion Photography“. The USA book version is called “Fashion Photography: A Complete Guide“.

JRP: What has been the best advice given to you by another photographer?

Bruce Smith: “KEEP IT SIMPLE”, Barry Lategan.

JRP: What advice would you share with photographers starting out?

Bruce Smith: Be determined! It takes a lot of drive to be successful, 75% determination 25% talent. Learn the art of NETWORKING, it’s half of the battle to finding your clients.

JRP: Thank you Bruce for sharing your thoughts and photography with us. It has been a pleasure talking with you and I wish you continued success.

Bruce Smith: I enjoy sharing what I can. I love to give back some of the privileged gift that I have been given, like being allowed to earn my living doing something that I love and I am passionate about.

I wished there had been advice so easily accessed like it is via the Internet today when I started out. I learned mostly the hard way by making mistakes! 🙂

JRP: To view more of Bruce Smith’s wonderful images please go to these links:


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s