Lisa Tanner - Lensbaby Soft Focus Portrait

“The girls loved the dreamy ethereal look of the images. One big plus to the Soft Focus is the reduction in post-production time as women’s skin needs much less retouching when using it.” – Lisa Tanner


You picked up a camera at a very young age. How did you become interested in photography?

My dad would drag me to his jazz television show that he produced for the PBS station WGBH-Boston in the 60′s. I would always get in trouble for playing in Julia Child’s kitchen set that shared the same studio. I think he gave me a camera to keep me out of trouble. That’s where my interest began, and once I started working in a darkroom I fell in love with the magic of seeing prints appear in the developer. I was also looking for an escape from high school so I started photographing musicians in NYC.


Was portrait photography a natural path for you to take or did you start with other types of photography first?

I started with live rock and roll bands in the late 70′s, then enrolled in Parsons School of Design NYC and took some fabulous classes from well known working professionals. The most influential was with Phillipe Halsman, the famed portrait photographer with over 100 covers of Life Magazine. He would hold a very small class in his studio and deconstruct all his famous portraits for us, and then give us assignments to do the same lighting with a bare blub and reflector. The way he spoke about his subjects and how he was able to get emotion out of them and into the camera made me fall in love with portraiture.


You have used Lensbaby in some of your senior portrait sessions to give your sessions a creative edge. For example, the soft light in the portrait above really compliments the Lensbaby blur. Did you use diffusers/bounces/fill here?

I did use a Photoflex Disc reflector to add fill to the eye sockets on this overcast day. A reflector is a must have as a way to get catch-light in the eyes during an outdoor portrait shoot.


I really like the colors in your portraits – do you usually instruct the models to bring several differently colored outfits?

When I consult with my models/clients I ask them to bring multiple tops and accessories. What they think looks good on them may not be what I’m envisioning for the look I’m trying to create, or the backgrounds I have in mind. Always better to have lots of options.


These look like ideal portrait settings – how do you find such great locations?

I enjoy finding funky areas of town by driving around location scouting. I look for textures, color and shapes, noting where the sun is in relationship to the location at that specific time of day. I will snap a few reference shots to remind me of what I’ve found. Some of these portraits we shot down by the Navel Shipyards in San Diego.


What other gear did you have on hand when shooting these portraits?

These were simple, just a Canon 7D and a reflector.


Which optics did you use for these portraits?

I used the Double Glass Optic and the Soft Focus Optic. I also added the wide and telephoto lens elements.


Are there portrait settings or subjects that work better with optic x than optic y?

I like long focal lengths for portraits, so I add the telephoto glass over the soft focus. For portraits where I want the background to have negative space or be a prominent element in the portrait I choose the Composer Pro and Double Glass, so I can be selective in where I choose to place the Sweet Spot.


How did your clients react when they saw these Lensbaby shots?

The girls loved the dreamy ethereal look of the images. One big plus to the soft focus is the reduction in post-production time as women’s skin needs much less retouching when using it.


What are your top three tips for getting the most out of shooting with Lensbaby optics?

Patience – take your time finding focus, especially on wide apertures. Don’t move on until you know you have nailed the Sweet Spot!

Change angles- some of my best shots come when I play around with the Composer Pro and try new angles (and) expect the unexpected.

Use interesting post-production – Kevin Kubota makes a great set of actions specifically to enhance the Lensbaby Optics.

Lisa Tanner - Lensbaby Portrait and  Environment

Lisa Tanner - Lensbaby Horizontal Portrait

Lisa Tanner - Lensbaby Soft Focus Horizontal Portrait

Lisa Tanner - Lensbaby Double Glass Horizontal Portrait

Lisa Tanner - Lensbaby Vertical Portrait

Check out more of our favorite photographers in our Pro Spotlight.