Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Top Photographers Interview: Stephen Eastwood



This past week I had the opportunity to exchange emails with Canon Explorer of Light, Stephen Eastwood. He is currently number 8 on My Favorite Photographers list and someone whose beauty photography represents what I would like to accomplish one day. This article contains a series of some of my favorite shots from Stephen’s portfolio as well as information I collected during our discussion. I hope you enjoy this peek into the world of one of the top beauty photographers out there right now.





Do you have any advice for those getting started? (i.e., How to get discovered?)

“Networking, networking, networking. There is really no other good advice, get your work out there, be seen, send direct mailers, send your book out, send you site out, but before all that, make certain your work is within the level of quality that may actually fit the people you are sending it to and their requirements, if not, its an insulting waste of their time.”

Any advice about how to stay graceful under pressure? (i.e. photographing celebrities, for big advertisers, etc…)

Never make it personal, its stress of a business day and pressure, its rarely personal, and even if it is, you getting upset [and] accomplish[ing] nothing but making you less able to deal and think and react as needed as efficiently as you could be.

No favorite photo? Does that mean you are like a lot of photographers where you are hard on yourself in that search for the perfect photo?

Always, but more so that all the photo I use to represent myself usually have some meaning or reason for me to be using them.  Some commercial shots are not as interesting to me, but they are what the client wanted and my ability to consistently give that to them is of more value in maintaining my ability to continue to be a photographer, so that has meaning and value.

Do you use Photoshop? (If not, what?)

Yes. [Adobe Camera Raw (ACR)] for most conversions with the remaining falling to Bibble or [Canon Digital Photo Professional (DPP)].

Since you don’t use plug-ins, what Photoshop techniques or tricks do you find most useful?

Lots of layers, lots of adjustment layers, near every image needs different things, most can use a tad of contrast added since I convert a little flat to give me more headroom, there is no set formula at all. 

Here’s some of Stephen’s Favorite Web Sites:

Stephen also has some great tutorials at



Stephen is a gear head’s idol. He’s got all of the coolest gear and he is very knowledgeable about some of the hottest stuff in the industry right now. In this section I get the skinny on some of the cool stuff that he uses. Here’s a partial list of what’s in Stephen’s bag: (more follows)

What gear do you shoot with (or recommend)?

Phase One backs, now a P65 on an H2 body, long glass, on the H2 the 300 most often, sometimes the 210 for when I need wider, and extension tubes. On the Canon I stick to 200-400 range most often, going as wide as 135, and that accounts for about 90% of what I do, the remaining 10% can be anything from 14mm up. For lights I use anything, but mainly prefer Broncolor (now versos) and speedotron blackline. I picked up some hensel porty packs to use so I could possible recommend them as a lower priced portable option on some DVD series and when asked. I have used lumedynes and continue to do so when I need lights in very small spaces as accent lights (heads in a lamp or sconce, strange and exotic locations where a normal head won’t fit) I use [B&W and Hoya] polarizer's and ND filters outdoors often. I also use a collection of speedlights, slaves, random strobes, vivitar 285hv's and all sorts of strange and one off or custom made lights from when I use to get bored and have all these things made or designed or retrofitted.

What Tripod Legs & Head do you prefer?

I don't, but for video I have  a Cartoni S422 C20S head and H601 legs and Sachtler. [These are] mainly used for the RED camera, on smaller format cameras like the Canon XHA1, XLH1, Sony EX1 you can use much, much less expensive setups. 

What do you carry your gear in?

Pelicans (review), and large (very large, Photoflex Transpacs and Kata gear cases usually).

NOTE: For those who aren’t familiar with Transpacs I’ve included a list of some on B&H here:

PhotoFlex Transpacs

What studio light gear & mods do you recommend?

Broncolor or Speedotron Blackline, maybe a Hensel Porty System with ringflash. Plus Kino's, LED's, Fiber Optics, and all the above. I use fresnels strobe and HMI and tungsten, most any and all softbox, stripbox, octobox has a grid on it, beautdish with grids, reflectors with grids, para's and octabanks, as well as umbrellas and softlighter II's

Any gear, book, etc… recommendations for the gear heads?

I think most all books I have looked through have a combination of good and bad, I myself prefer to look at fashion and advertising work in current print, in magazines, many European, and figure out what to take from what is being done in that work.

As for gear, Interfit makes a really cool reflector paney set, its like a lower priced feature packs sunbounce, its called the flex-lite 5 in one panel with a C-Stand and grip gear, or just the frame and panels and a smaller one.

What type of computer do you used to edit your photos?

PC's dual quad core systems currently.

Do you own a printer (if so, what kind) to print your own photos, or do you use a print service (which one)?

Commercial work goes to offset, [and] I have a Canon IPF9100 60 inch printer

With the rise in popularity of photographers doing video with the 5D Mark II, what camera stabilization system would you recommend?

Well, I personally like the  but I hear the Merlin Steadicam works as well, you need an arm and vest otherwise its hard to have any real smooth footage.


Parting Thoughts

It was a real treat to get to talk to one of the industries leading beauty photographers and a Canon Explorer of Light. What I never expected to learn was just how much video is a part of his life as his photography is. What’s more, Stephen is a real gear guy so it was a blast to learn about a lot of cool gear I haven’t discovered yet. I’ve loaded up my wish list on B&H with all the cool gear he loves. Now I just need to win the lottery to so I can buy that list and live the dream life as a beauty photographer/videographer like Stephen Eastwood!

Click here to learn more about Stephen Eastwood in his own words, and stay tuned for more interviews from My Favorite Photographers list.

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