Each Monday, we’ll highlight one indie photographer whose body of work deserves special recognition. Please enjoy their photography here and make it a point to enjoy the rest of their work on their website.

Gillian Woods is a photographer who is originally from West Sussex, England but in May 2010 she made a transatlantic move to Ontario, Canada.

Gillian’s style is usually surreal or conceptual portraiture, with a focus on post-production manipulation. She likes to create images that tell stories, sometimes they are very realistic and relatable, other times they are more fictional and fairytale like.

End of the Road
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End of the Road

Gillian also likes to literalize phrases such as “coming out of my shell”, “end of the road”, “walk all over me”, or “putting on a face” into images. She finds that these images often create humor even if the image itself is less than jovial.

Coming out of my Shell
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Coming Out of My Shell

Kit:

Gillian’s camera bag is pretty light, but far from basic, she shoots with a capable Olympus E-420 and a Sigma 50mm f/1.4 lens.  Gillian currently only uses a 50mm f/1.4 and has a particular love for it because of the shallow depth of field that can be achieved.  The lens lends itself especially well to stitching multiple photographs together, which she often does to create her final image.

Walk all over me
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Walk All Over Me

Workflow:

When Gillian shoots outdoors she uses only natural light, however, if she shoots indoors she might set up a standing lamp with a homemade softbox attached.  While she doesn’t have any photographic lighting equipment, it’s something she’d like to work with in the future.

For conceptual images, Gillian usually has an idea of what she want the final product to look like and will sometimes sketch it out prior to the shoot, otherwise the idea and image is more spontaneous, and inspiration comes from the location of the shoot.

Gillian sets up her scene and usually shoots in portrait rather than landscape orientation in order to capture full body shots as close as possible to the subject.  If she is taking a self-portrait she’ll use her remote shutter release to photograph herself.  Once she has the shot she wants, she’ll use ‘The Brenizer Method‘ and capture images around the subject taking extra photos to expand the scene, Gillian captures10 to 40 additional shots to complete the composite image.

Let them throw stones
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Let Them Throw Stones

Up in the air
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Up in the Air

Gillian then imports all the captured images into Photoshop CS5 and merges them together to create a single, larger, cohesive image.  Using Photoshop she’ll correct imperfections with the clone stamp and healing brush tools, and may even add elements that weren’t in the original images, blending them naturally with curve layers and layer masks, picking and choosing what parts of each layer she wants to show or hide.  Occasionally Gillian uses gradients and adds textures to complete an image.

The Puppets of War
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The Puppets of War

Tips, Tricks and Techniques:

Gillian takes advantage of the wide aperture of her lens, and almost all her photographs are shot at an aperture of f/1.4.  She says of her technique “shooting close to your subject and stitching multiple photos together can create brilliant bokeh, and consequently draws attention to the area you want your viewer to focus on.”

Gillian advises photographers to learn about and utilize, Layer Masks in Photoshop they give you a whole new avenue of photographic manipulation to explore. Using Layer Masks you can create images that aren’t possible straight out of camera AND they look realistic. “Learn about Layer Masks” is a piece of advice she has given to photographers who have enquired about her technique.

expansion and sky replacement
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expansion and sky replacement

Lessons Learned:

Gillian accidentally discovered a way to make textures “stick” to certain areas of photos, when playing with some adjustment layers. She is planning to make and share a tutorial on this technique soon.

Inspiration:

Erik Johannson and Joel Robinson, both for the same reason; their amazing creativity and abilities in manipulation.

What’s Next:

As we can see, Gillian loves photographing people and setting up scenarios in which they play a character to tell the story of the image.  However, she also wants to try is street photography, where the people aren’t acting, and the story they’re telling is an honest representation of their life.  She also has a strong desire to shoot in an array of different environments, like deserts and jungles.

What ingredients make me
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What Ingredients Make Me

Gillian has a lot of photography ideas floating around in her head that involve water but she hasn’t yet had an opportunity to create them, so she’d love to try underwater photography.  She believes the images would have a totally different feeling to them, and that it would be a new challenge trying to capture the light and movement underwater.

Goldilocks - The Reprise
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Goldilocks – The Reprise

Links:

http://www.facebook.com/gillyfacephotos

http://www.flickr.com/photos/gillyface/

Jeremy

Jeremy is a consultant, educator and photographer based in the Caribbean. He shoots an eclectic range of material, but his favorite subjects are urban and seascapes, people and aircraft. He mixes his love of technology and travel with photography. Following a brief post college hiatus he picked up a camera again in 2003 and has been shooting ever since. You may view his work on his website


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