Wednesday, August 15, 2007
Bruce Smith - Beyond The Girl
Bruce Smith's 30-year career of bringing vitality and life to fashion springs from an inner energy that erupts in his on-set enthusiasm and animation
Smith enjoys the control digital provides him, especially when it comes to color accuracy, an essential quality for fashion. White-balance controls and the flexibility of RAW capture offer him the means to ensure that the intent of the designer and manufacturer are exhibited in his images.
“In the beginning of shooting digital, I wasn't in control of the images after I shot them,” he says. “The imaging studio would be responsible for that. But as I came to have more control over my work with digital, I became a lot more experienced at getting the color right. I shoot a lot of bridalwear, where color is critically important, because one ivory color isn't the same as the next ivory color.”
Yet as he benefited in his control over color, the longtime film shooter had to get accustomed to exposing a medium that was very different from film. Says Smith, “When I started shooting digital, I lit things the same way that I would for film. I got images back where I was losing highlights all the time despite the fact that the manufacturers of these camera backs were saying that their cameras could handle the contrast range. What I've done now is hold back on my lighting a bit and slightly underexpose my images and bring out the brightest area later in Photoshop. If you have a 400-shot catalog to shoot, you don't want to spend all your time to retouch and fix such problems. Who has the time and money for that?”
Discovering A Bigger Audience
But digital has meant more to Smith than a way to capture photographs. It has created greater opportunities for local clients and those outside of the country to discover him and his work. The result of this immediate window to a photographer's work and the communication provided by e-mail and instant messaging has created collaborations that might have been difficult or impossible to achieve more than a decade ago. In many cases, Smith has the job even before meeting the client in person.
The traditional process of making cold calls and setting appointments to meet art directors isn't a foreign one to Smith. He's no fan of it, but has done it many times and remembers the sometimes crushing disappointments such a process delivered. “I once spent three months trying to arrange an appointment for a well-known magazine,” he recalls. “It was three months of telephone calls and letters to try and meet this fashion editor. I finally managed an appointment. I took the train to London, I sat in the reception area for 45 minutes, and eventually, I was called. As a fluke, I decided to count how long I'd have with the fashion editor. I was in and out of this editor's office within 26 seconds. That was three months of trying to get the appointment, four hours on the train and 45 minutes in a waiting room— all for 26 seconds. It was heart-rending.”
The event is something that hasn't deterred him. Smith derives too much happiness and satisfaction from what he does. The ability to imagine something and make it a tangible reality provides him with all the impetus he needs to push himself and his work further.
“I'm a great believer that if something comes into your head, you act on it,” Smith says. “You act on it and see it through and make it work. You do these things. You make them happen. As a photographer, if you just sit on your ass, nothing will come to you.”
To see more of Bruce Smith's work and learn about his touring intensive workshop, visit www.brucesmithphotographer.com.
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