INTERVIEW WITH…
Face Off – Exclusive Interview with Sean Archer Photography
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NOTINDOOR

Have you seen the movie Face Off, with John Travolta and Nicholas Cage? Do you remember the name of one of the lead characters? Yeah, Sean Archer! Did you know he’s real? Did you know he’s a photographer? Did you know he’s an amazing photographer?

Well, he’s not THAT real, but portrait photographer, Stanislav Puchkovsky, created Sean Archer Photography.

He’s big on 500px and pretty much all over the world, so why not learning from him, right?

Sean Archer Photography
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Sean Archer Photography

ML: How did your journey in portraiture begin? Did you try other subjects before you settle on people?
SA: I always admired great photography, but never tried it seriously myself. In the end of 2011 I bought mirrorless camera Lumix G3, for travel and family shots. I knew nothing about photography, absolutely nothing. So, I choose simple automatic mode and began shooting everything, just for fun. My first model was my mom’s dog).

In the beginning of 2012 my friend asked me to make portrait for her.
It wasn’t my first portrait (I love to draw from school and graduated Architectural Academy), but first as a photographer. To my big surprise, result was better than her photo from some professional guy before. And I realized that I like process a lot, from shooting to postprocessing. It’s like drawing, but much faster. I never had patience to be serious artist, but just enough to be a photographer).

Lumix G3
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Lumix G3

Photo by Sean Archer Photography

ML: What do you enjoy about working with people?
SA: It’s fun. I never try to be dead serious or something like that. I don’t do preparations. It’s always improvisation, just “let’s start and we’ll see what we got”. I shoot a lot of people I’ve never seen before and it’s always comfortable.

ML: How has your style and approach to portraits evolved as you’ve done it more?
SA: As I said, in the beginning
I knew nothing about photography. And all I know now is from my own experience. Thousands
of shots, learning the light, camera modes, processing methods. Important, I worked in broadcast design and good with graphic soft- ware, it helps a lot.

ML: What do you look for when selecting your subject?
SA: In the beginning I shoot anyone who wanted to, there was no selection. Now most of my work is paid, so people choose for me, as a portrait photographer. But, there’s always time for photography as a hobby, and now I can choose models to work with. I look at model and wonder how she’s would look in my pictures.

Maria
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Maria

Photo by Sean Archer Photography

Anna
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Anna

Photo by Sean Archer Photography

ML: All your models are very attractive and willing to pose provocatively for you. How have you made that possible?
SA: Before photoshoot I always ask model to show what photos she likes, what’s comfortable for her, what she wants. So, before I take the camera I already know what we want to get. It works perfectly and I’ve never had any problems or misunderstandings. Of course, my portfolio helps a lot. Models know what to expect, and ready to cooperate.

What’s really important is that it was never my goal, to be provocative.
I believe I don’t cross the border between beauty and vulgarity. As an artist, I think, you can find beauty not just in the eyes, hair and lips, but in the waistline, hips, etc. It’s a study of form and light that attracts me.

ML: How do you deal with your subjects and are there tricks to getting the results you want?
SA: I like to show good shots in the process, on camera screen. When I see a really good one, I always show it. It helps. Everyone loves it, people see that they’re already look great in a photo. And don’t forget, those screenshots are small and bright, so it’s not a problem to find some.

Anna
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Anna

Photo by Sean Archer Photography

Julia
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Julia

Photo by Sean Archer Photography

ML: How do you stay excited by portraiture?
SA: I always wanted to do something like this. From early childhood I love to draw, usually it was comics and action heroes. Then some real artwork in academy, graphics and broadcast design. And photography, it comes naturally, as next step in my creative way. I think of myself as not only photographer, and as an artist too.

ML: If you’re not working on a client’s brief, how do you come up with themes?
SA: It’s pretty easy. It’s a model and her clothes you work with. I don’t like special themes and heavy make up (for example, “let’s do vampires” or something). I like natural beauty and natural light.

ML: What’s your favorite style of lighting to work with? Do you prefer natural light or flash?
SA: Natural light only. It’s warm and soft. Maybe it’s not the best choice for advertising and fashion, but great for portraits. And it’s free!

Valya
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Valya

Photo by Sean Archer Photography

Anna
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Anna

Photo by Sean Archer Photography

Valya
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Valya

Photo by Sean Archer Photography

ML: How do you modify your lighting to suit the subject and get the results you want?
SA: It’s good when a shooting day is sunny and you can get all the light you need. It’s not a problem to reduce it (jalousie, curtains). Just don’t let direct sunlight in, it should be diffused.

ML: How extensive is your post-processing?
SA: Mostly, it’s light and experiments with color. Sometimes conditions are far from perfect, so it needs more work. I never know what to expect, it’s a total improvisation. Will it be in warm colors or in cold colors? Or maybe black and white?

ML: What’s your typical workflow for retouching a shot? How much retouching do you do?
SA: I remove spots and problematic skin zones. It’s very important to keep skin texture, make it clear and bright, but natural. I don’t like the ”fashion” style that makes skin lifeless, like it was processed with a sandblasting machine. Sometimes it’s ok to highlight the freckles, for example.

ML: What’s your approach to adding creative effects in post-production, such as texture, lighting effects and toning?
SA: You know, significant part of my pictures was made at my place, so I’m always trying to create something different. Textures are good to use. Sometimes I draw some light accents and experimenting with cross-processing. I don’t believe in “true photography” (shots straight from the camera), it’s good for journalism, but in portraits you have to be an artist.

Natasha
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Natasha

Photo by Sean Archer Photography

Dasha
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Dasha

Photo by Sean Archer Photography

ML: What’s your favorite camera and lens setup for indoor work?
SA: My first camera was Lumix G3 and it really shines with Olympus Zuiko 45mm. If you have good light condition it’s very good. My second camera was Canon 6D with three Canon lenses, 50mm 1.4, 135mm L 2.0 and 85mm L 1.2. Later I started to work with Olympus, so I have the best gear from them. My favorite camera is Olympus E-M5 Mark II with Olympus prime lenses 75mm and 45mm. For travel I use 12-40 mm.

ML: Aside from photo gear, what do you like to keep around to make your shooting easier?
SA: A fan. Sometimes it’s more than just volume to the hair, it could create some interesting new looks. When I’m trying new angles, speed and height the results could be surprising. And, of course, some back- ground music is always good.

ML: Why did you choose to use an alias?
SA: When I decided to upload some of my first shots to big photo sites, I wasn’t sure at my skills at all. I wasn’t sure it was good enough to be among great photographers with expensive gear and many years of ex- perience. So, I choose to use my nickname from video games, “Archer”. And when it was necessary to enter full name, I used “Sean Archer”, as the agent from the movie “Face Off”. I think, it’s a lucky alias.

ML: Has the exposure on 500px led to any paid photographic work?
SA: It didn’t. But it gave me more, confidence. I can’t take money for work if I’m not sure of myself. When my shots became popular,
I thought, “It’s not bad what you’re doing. A lot of people thinks so, it’s inspiring. Don’t stop”. And half a year ago I realized many people around me are ready to pay for my work. It’s word of mouth, that’s led to paid work.

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When asked to write this article, I found myself thinking there is so much to write about. I enjoy shooting many types of Photography. Shooting from Macro shots to Concerts, and many things in between, I enjoy the challenges of the different situations. Owning also a Studio that has Green Screen, which holds another interesting world of endless creativity with backgrounds.

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