Photographer Spotlight David Benoliel
Fashion photographer David Benoliel has been a friend of the CI family for years, partnering with us on some fantastic workshops in the Miami area. When the Phase One IQ3 100 was announced, David was one of the first people we thought of that could push this amazing system to its limits with his distinctive visual style and creativity. And, as always, David was excited to try a new tool that could take his work to another level. David produced a Beauty session in late February with support from Chris Snipes, the CI team, Phase One, and Elite Models.
The images speak for themselves, but we wanted to dig deeper with David about his inspiration, his process, and his first experience with the Phase One XF and IQ3 100.
How did you begin planning your vision for this shoot?
I attended Art Basel in Miami and was inspired by the painting Como Si No Pasara El Tiempo No. 8 by Salustiano Garcia Cruz of a young girl in red on a red backdrop. It looked like you were just seeing the girl’s face, and you didn’t realize at first thatshe was wearing the same color as the backdrop.
Color has such a powerful impact in the images you have created. Can you speak to your design direction for color in this shoot?
At first, I just wanted to do only red. Then it became a small “fine art” series, no more than 4-6. I wanted the model’s face to stand out from everything else with very rich colors. We tried white, but it wasn’t the same as with the dark colors. That’s how I chose the colors.
When shooting models, there is a relationship between photographer and subject that is established on a shoot. How would you describe the way you approach that relationship?
Prior to the day of the photo shoot, the model receives a mood board with direction for the series, so they know the kind of images we will create. I like to pick up the model myself to share ideas about the shoot and also to “break the ice” so that we arrive at the studio the model is much more comfortable. This removes any stress or pressure she might feel about arriving on a set.
Also, I always share the photos I’m taking. When I’m shooting, the first thing I want to do is show everyone. Also, I like having feedback from the people on set. I want to see what they think or feel about what we are doing. It is very important that the model likes the photos for him/her to feel beautiful and comfortable so that she will give me more during the session. I always take the first 5-6 shots, take 10 minutes, go to Capture One and Photoshop, do a quick edit to show what the image will look like after editing. Sometimes you cannot tell. We talk about the images, to make sure s/he is ok with the photographs. If not, we go back and work towards something that’s more of what the model wants to do. I really try to have him/her comfortable and happy to be at the shoot, even if we are doing very conceptual work.
For your mood board, do you build it yourself or work with an art director or designer? Does it depend on the work you’re doing?
For this particular series, I didn’t have an art director on set. But I have a really good team. Usually on personal projects, for the art direction, anyone I’m working with can pitch an idea. It could be the MUA or the model. For example, the model can come to me with an idea and we develop the idea. If everyone brings ideas from lighting to makeup, to posing, I build around these ideas.
We would love to know more about your general philosophy of your photographic art.
I don’t have any particular philosophy for the direction of my photography. I still consider myself “a young photographer.” I didn’t go to school for photography. I came to the United States to open a French restaurant eight years ago. I didn’t even have a camera six years ago! So I built my photographic style all around my personal tastes. What I’m influenced by now is current day photographic styles. I build my pictures around what I would put in my living room, and I build from that. I was totally over the top at the beginning. I work more from my taste than a philosophy. For example, if the model is giving me something that provokes me, we work from there. I am waiting for this moment to happen. Sometimes I have to provoke it. I don’t have a long history of learning photographic processes. I learned almost everything through workshops. I had few good mentors, who taught me things that I use every day.
Is there anyone you’ve met or worked with that’s been your inspiration?
There have been two big influences for me. The first was a Photoshop teacher that had a way of teaching how to retouch and approach an image that really changed my way of shooting. And then the photographer Marco Grob – who shoots celebrity and political figures for magazines. His style of shooting is incredible, very simple with maybe one or two lights. That’s where I’ve learned the most. Such as his portraits of 9/11 for Time Magazine (TIME Beyond 9/11: Portraits of Resilience). I’m doing mostly fashion and beauty and he’s the opposite of what I’m doing. I might choose his path to switch to one day! I still do workshops. I’m still learning! As a matter of fact after our conversation, I’m going to a videography workshop.
In today’s world it seems that photographers need to be very “tech savvy” in order to understand the sophisticated tools available and how best to leverage them. What is your approach to the technology element of photography?
I like technology! Like lighting, how you can change it and everything about lighting. it’s like how I feel when I’m in love! I’m a geek! I built my own computers. I love sound technology and video. Every morning I look and see what’s coming out. Technology is who I am. It’s really important to have a camera that will help you achieve an incredible result. You have to understand how everything works with editing software too. I can’t see myself taking a photo and sending it on without mastering the next part of your workflow. I won’t use every tool the camera gives me, but I know the tools I need for the camera and software. I am always seeing what I can add to my equipment for ease of use – that’s exciting for me.
Did the functionality of the XF expedite or improve your workflow?
The new Phase One 80mm LS “Blue Ring” lens is very smooth and fast. The XF camera feels good in my hand and the viewfinder was great. I like the shape and feel of the body, very modern. I didn’t have enough time to see a big difference in my workflow, but it was more comfortable and I was able to shoot a lot faster.
What differences did you note between the XF and the DF+ Autofocus?
The autofocus on the XF seems really fast and very accurate. The speed and how smooth it was made me very happy. There is only one POF but very pleasant to focus.
What were your first impressions of the IQ3 100?
Resolution was incredible. I own an IQ280 already, so I was used to a beautiful high resolution file. But the IQ3 100, it was incredible. Everyone was around the computer – zooming into the eyes to see who we could see reflected in the model’s eyes.
As we go up in resolution DOF is reduced – did you experience any difference in the 280 to the 100 or how did you handle that? Or is that something you’re aware of?
I didn’t see a big difference, but again we were in a studio. With my 280 it looks incredible for commercial photography when you need to have the model and jewelry in focus. But just to be safe would be taking 10 shots. But I would have to refocus and reshoot 2-3 times. I used to shoot with the 50 before. So I’m used to it. So if I can, I take extra shots and recompose. When you have a camera of this quality, it doesn’t bother me. I just have to know how the camera works. There is no way I would change for anything else. It is totally worth it when you don’t need the sharpness. The feeling that you have from this camera with the DOF is incredible.
Many portrait photographers shoot with the 60 or 80 (yourself) – what did you notice in the move to the 100?
I was continuously shooting and there was no delay. You can shoot 20 images and the camera will stay in line. Even if you’re disconnected you can keep going. The other problem with current systems is shooting in very low or no light, the first decision is resolution. I often have to shoot very fast in low or no light, the high ISO range will also be a really great function for me.
What changes did you notice in retouching on the 100 vs. the 80?
There is so much more detail to retouch. This also means you can do more with the picture. I don’t like to over retouch, I sent these to a retoucher I like. There is so much resolution it’s incredible. I don’t mind spending 2-3 hours retouching an image. These were intended to be printed very large. I print most of my images at 120” and everyone says the detail is incredible. Whether you’re into photography or not, you can see the details. The color dynamic range is incredible. There’s nothing comparable to the quality of the pictures you can achieve with this XF 100MP medium format system. I was on a different system before, and there’s nothing like this. I’m not being nice. You don’t need the 80 or 100MP but it opens the door for so many possibilities. Most of my images will print 12×8 in a magazine. With this dynamic range and detail you can crop without losing any quality. I bought a new Canon backup camera. Moving from the Canon to the Phase One XF is like going from an iPhone to the Canon. If Phase One comes out with a 150MP I will go to it to have this quality.
Anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
I love Phase One, it has really changed the quality of my work. It’s fast and high-res, but it’s totally worth it. I can offer the client something they can’t get from other photographers. It makes a big difference in the end.
You can find more of David’s work below: