JRP: Kevin Clark is photographer who has made reputation as a food / portrait specialist. Kevin has been kind enough to spend a few moments with our readers. Thank you Kevin and welcome to JRP Blog. Where is home for you Kevin?
Kevin Clark: Vancouver on the west coast of Canada.
JRP: How did you get started in photography, and do you have any formal training in your background?
Kevin Clark: I was in art school and took photography as one of my elective courses. I had never touched a camera in my life. I fell in love with all of it immediately, the photography, the film developing, the darkroom … I was obsessed. My formal training is in design, but I’ve never worked as a designer.
JRP: What is it about food photography that motivates you?
Kevin Clark: Well, I love food, but I am certainly not a cook. I’ve met other food photographers that are really into cooking and are real foodies. That’s not me. I love to make food look fabulous with lighting and design, but the main thing I want to do with food is make it look delicious. I love the creative synergy that comes about when working with great chefs, stylists, and designers in a collaborative environment.
JRP: You are quite an accomplished portrait photographer as well. Two disciplines food and people. How do you balance the two and maintain such a high level of artistry?
Kevin Clark: I use a similar approach for both food and portraiture. My main goal is to make the main subject the focus of attention.
JRP: Equipment wise what would I find in your studio for a typical food shoot? What lighting equipment do you favor and how much does this change for your portrait sessions?
Kevin Clark: My main camera is a 5D mark2 I have only four lenses. A 50mm f1.4, 85 mm f1.8, 135 mm f2, and a 17 to 40 mm f4 all Canons. I’ve used all these lenses for food photography and the three primes for most of my portrait work, although for group portraits or some of the more stylized portrait work I will use the 17 to 40 zoom.
I have a seven foot Chimera Octabank and two small Chimera softboxes that I use for my food work, supplemented with various diffusers (usually 2 by 2 foot sheets of velum in a home made frame) as well as large and small white, silver, and black foam core panels that are used as reflectors and flags. These are all supported by my indispensable and fabulous Manfrotto Magic Arms.
For portraits I use the same lights, but will also bounce light off all manner of things in my studio, often using two white 8 foot by four foot foam core panels taped together like a book as my main light source or bouncing a bare Elinchrom d-lite 2 head into the panels. By the way, I can do anything with those 4×8 foamcore panels that I can do with my Chimera 7 foot Octabank. The Octabank is just faster and easier to use. Oh, when I was saying “all manner” earlier, I was referring to the white walls of my studio. I bounce those barehead Elinchroms off all kinds of things.
I recently did a shoot for a skin care salon in a 10 by 10 foot examination room. They wanted a high key natural light look. I bounced the Elinchrom into the corner of the gray room behind me and shot another head in a small softbox into a white sheet behind the subject. The result was a soft, flattering natural looking light.
The main difference in the lighting for food and people is power. I tend to use Profoto heads with lots of punch for the food stuff. I shoot close in a lot and require more depth of field, as well as needing to shoot at 100 ISO for super clean images.
For people I will shoot at f 1.4 to f 3.5 at up to 1600 ISO, so the low powered Elinchroms are essential. I also mix flash and natural light a lot, so being able to power down the lights to 12 watt seconds in dark and rainy Vancouver really comes in handy.
JRP: Could you please describe your digital workflow and the software you use.
Kevin Clark: I shoot everything in Raw. I shoot a grey card and do a white balance every time I change my lighting setup.
We import the files into Lightroom and do color and exposure adjustments before exporting to DNGs and Jpegs. We use the jpegs for proofs on our online ordering system. All the files are backed up in triplicate, two on hard drives and one archival tape. We also save the original CR2s on a separate drive.
When our clients order prints or digital files we export 16 bit Profoto tiffs through Lightroom using the DNGs we created earlier.The files are tweaked in Lightroom and then final adjustments and retouching is done in Photoshop. We then save the 16 bit PROFOTO layered files (we use layers for everything) and flatten and convert the files to 8 bit colormatch tiffs (for print – COLORMATCH files convert well to CMYK ) and 8bit SRGB jpegs (for the web). We then save “as” these new files, we end up with the original layered file, the print file and web file.
JRP: Do you get involved with any image printing?
Kevin Clark: We have an online order system we created that our headshot clients use to order their repros. We use a local printer that we have had a long term relationship with to do the printing.They use a Fuji Frontier for the printing so we send them SRGB files converted from the original PROFOTO tiffs.
JRP: What advice would you like to share?
Kevin Clark: I think the best advice I can give a photographer in the digital age is to TRY ANYTHING! You use a digital camera and get instant feedback so EXPERIMENT always.
I use the WHAT IF principle. What if I over expose by three stops? What if I shoot handheld at 1/4 of a second? What if I mix light sources, etc. Try anything, you never know what you might discover!
JRP: Thank you Kevin for sharing your thoughts and images with us. It has been a pleasure talking with you and continued success.
To view more of Kevin Clark’s photography please follow these links:
His first E-book at: http://www.craftandvision.com/authors.html