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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Brian DeMint: Deliberate Dissonance

A big fish in a small pond, Brian DeMint takes an unconventional approach to fashion photography in Small Town, USA


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DeMint is so focused on the end result—the perfect image of a beautiful woman in a wild outfit with great makeup and a vibrant, sculptural and textural quality—that he has all but completely ignored what most photographers would consider the essentials of equipment and technique. Certainly no other fashion photographer ever profiled in these pages—or likely in any other—can lay claim to as minimal a setup as DeMint favors. He recently traded in his Canon Digital Rebel for a Nikon D90 with a kit lens. "An 18-55mm, I think," he says. That's all he needs. Well, that and the chicken warmers.
 
DeMint is so focused on the end result—the perfect image of a beautiful woman in a wild outfit with great makeup and a vibrant, sculptural and textural quality—that he has all but completely ignored what most photographers would consider the essentials of equipment and technique. Certainly no other fashion photographer ever profiled in these pages—or likely in any other—can lay claim to as minimal a setup as DeMint favors.
 
"You know," DeMint adds, "those $7 silver dish-reflector lights with the clamps? I get mine at Wal-Mart because they have a 10-foot cord instead of a 6-foot cord. They run about 20 cents more, but I feel a guy has to splurge sometimes to get the equipment he needs. I use those with 100-watt soft-white bulbs and a stick to duct-tape them to when I have to move back a bit. They're used in some chicken houses to generate heat, I understand. So, if you want to get some great arty shots of chickens sometime, it's all set up.

"Usually, my setup is one light for portraits," he says, "two if I need a hair light, two or three lights for three-quarter body shots, and I rarely do full-length shots. For beauty sets, the setup is usually two: a backlight or fill light and the key light. I always hold the key light in my hand, so I can put the emphasis exactly where I want it. Plus, the model can pose as quick as she wants, and I can adjust the light to match so I don't miss a shot. These lighting setups give me a dramatic and baroque artistic feel versus the other lighting forms I've tried.

Brian DeMint is an equipment minimalist. Using a lower-end DSLR and simple lighting gear, he creates photographs layered with complexity of color, shape, form and texture. It's interesting that his minimalist approach on the equipment side extends to his choice of formats. Says DeMint, "I never shoot in RAW, never plan to. I've experimented with it and personally dislike it because it just adds to the image size and processing time. That's just a personal choice, so readers, please don't send me your arguments why I'm a dolt for not using RAW or for using a PC instead of a Mac. Yes, it's true! I use a PC."

"I've tried strobes and many forms of other gear," DeMint continues, "however, the hot lights let me see exactly where the illumination is hitting without doing tests. I'm ready to shoot immediately for each set. I have no lighting adjustments, except I might bend a reflector to make it more of a spotlight for a jewelry shot or something. Plus, I prefer the painterly feel it gives to the images."

Having very few lighting adjustments also means that the photographer can be present while the model is being made up. This is crucial for DeMint's process, as the entire look of the shoot—from wardrobe to makeup to hair to posing and retouching—are all spur-of-the-moment decisions. Since each piece of the puzzle is weighted equally, DeMint needs to be involved in the preshoot processes, too.

 

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