"It's a big advantage being able to control a look as the shoot progresses."
Chris Davis is a fashion and portrait photographer based in the UK. His clients come from all over the world and his photos have been published in Vogue, The Guardian, NYMag and more. Recently he has been commissioned for several book covers including three New York Times bestselling authors. Today he runs Specular, his own Photography brand.
Digital art, photography and other media has been Chris's passion for years. He grew up surrounded by artists and he still likes to be around creative people.
Chris finds inspiration from a wide range of media including film, music, paintings, photography and most importantly people themselves: "I have a big love for films, especially from the 80's or with an 80's feel to them like 'Drive'. I'm a big fan of that night time neon and streetlights look."
Spilt personality style
Chris's personal style varies from job to job: "I think I'm still growing as a photographer. I have an almost split personality style; in some shoots, I love to have as much contrast as possible, really strong use of color (if it's not black and white), and defined areas of light/dark with lots of detail and sharpness, especially when it comes to some of the physique work I shoot." He continues "And then I have another style that's more to do with using natural/constant light, shooting wide open with soft backgrounds, and ideally a more timeless/cinematic look, but still quite 'contrasty' where possible. I really like playing with hard light, especially bright sunlight." Regardless of the lighting, Chris always likes to shoot in a more editorial style, keeping the model’s poses as natural looking as possible, looking more like a caught moment than a posed one. When Chris has input on choice of model, he casts for a more edgy look: "In the end, it doesn't matter how the lighting or color grading is done, if you have a very plain model, the shoot will look commercial. The casting has to be right."
Capture One Pro plays an import role in the process
Depending on the client, a lot of the pre-production has already been handled when Chris comes onboard. Then it's just a case of working out what lighting is needed to match the client’s brief. Unless a full team has already been put together, Chris also helps finding the right people for hair, makeup, and assisting.
Before the client arrives, Chris sets up the lighting and uses his assistant as a model stand-in to get the look as close as he can before the models arrive. Together with his assistant he sets up Capture One Pro with the folder structure and naming conventions needed. He then creates a quick look in Capture One Pro, boosting the clarity and structure slightly, increasing the contrast a little and adding some blacks to the shadows. And depending on the client, he pulls down saturation a bit as well.
During the shoot Chris relies on having a skilled technical assistant for the shoot to run smoothly "It’s a huge help having someone who can tweak the contrast, skin tone etc. on the go to keep things looking as close to the client’s vision before the final edits." After the shoot is complete, Chris either does the final selects himself, or exporting a bigger set of selects in a low-resolution JPG file for the client to then pick from and finally forwarding those client selects to his retoucher.
Before Capture One Pro, Chris used to avoid shooting tethered due to many software issues. But since his switch to Capture One Pro, he found it to be a big benefit: "It’s a big advantage being able to control a look as the shoot progresses, to check sharpness on the more challenging shoots, and have the shots load up on a bigger monitor or in Capture Pilot for the client to see exactly how the hair, makeup, clothing etc. looks." He continues: "It saves a lot of retouching work later if the client is able to see clearly if there is a crease or a bit of hair out of place on the day. And on beauty shoots we can put up a zoomed area to see if there are any issues with the more complicated makeup while the model is posing, making sure nothing is smudged etc. There's a really nice palate of tools there to make sure as much as possible can be fixed on the day."
Chris normally does all the color grading himself after the retouched images come back. More recently he started working with Capture One Pro to do the color grading: "I love how fast the looks can be generated and applied."