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© Ute Reckhorn

© Ute Reckhorn

The Story Behind the Creation

  • 5 min read

The Story Behind the Creation with Lensbaby

Artist Interview with Esther Bunning

Esther Bunning is a professional photographer based in New Zealand who captures a story in all of her images. We had the opportunity to interview her and learn more about her process!

natural light photography

Esther Bunning with Lensbaby Composer

Q: When did you start taking photographs and why did you continue?

A: A holiday job when I sixteen in a department store, photographing kids on Santa's knee led me to my first camera, and this was followed by tertiary education where one of my subjects was photography. It became a passion - and while I'll never been a painter, technology like Lensbaby have enabled me to craft my vision in an organic and painterly way that I adore.

Q: How do you bring the best out of your models? What tips do you have?

A: I'm an introvert, so I tend to keep things relaxed and quiet and I go with the flow too - often people do things naturally that are a reflection of who they are, and it's always watching intently for this and ensuring people are comfortable and not intimidated. I always explain too, what I'm doing or why I'm using a particular lens or technique and totally involve them in the process of my creating methods.

Q: So you're an introvert Esther! How has that impacted on your work and especially given you have mostly specialized in photographing people?

A: If I'd thought about it more in the early days of being a photographer, I think it would have made sense to perhaps change genre's and work with landscapes or food perhaps! But I threw myself head-on into photographing people and have had to learn the hard way how to work with being an 'introvert'. Photographing weddings for a number of years gave me the ability to be able to work with large groups/make things happen as required for a photograph, and quite honestly it's take me out of my comfort zone! A very good thing, and it's made me grow...I don't think I'll ever find it easy putting myself 'out there' but equally, I think that my personality contributes to my image making and the overall feel of my work too - and I've realized that's simply part of who I am.

bokeh effect photography

Esther Bunning with Lensbaby Composer

Q: Which is your favorite Lensbaby lens/gear and why?

A: So many options! It depends on what I'm photographing and how I want to tell the story - but my favs are my Composer, my Velvet 56 and more recently the Sol 45mm for my mirrorless - and using this with video too - the way the light refracts is stunning and it adds magic to every image.


creative effect photography

Esther Bunning with Lensbaby Velvet 56

Q: What tips do you have for beginners just learning how to use Lensbaby gear?

A: To experiment! And play - and not give up! I also think it's really important with any creative medium, and so true of Lensbaby, not to be attached to a particular outcome... so be open to whatever might happen. This is an integral part of the magic, and the significant difference between Lensbaby and conventional lenses where everything is predetermined to a large extent. The magic of Lensbaby is that it isn't predictable - embrace this.

Q: What professional photographers have influenced your work, and how do you incorporate their techniques into your photographs?

A: I particularly love the work of Paolo Roversi, Sarah Moon and Jeremy Cowart for their ability to break with convention and always be true to their own vision and style...it takes courage to be stylistically different from the conventional and it's not always an easy path - this reminder grounds me and continues to push me forward with my own direction.

Q: What is the most difficult part of being a photographer?

A: I think it depends on what part of your photographic journey you're on...in the early days for me it was having the courage to be and shoot how I love to work - i.e. more organic, less sharpness, less conventional - I mentioned it before but it's not easy stepping away from the expected view of what 'makes' a photograph. I'm less concerned about this these days however as I've been doing this a while now! My partner and I are both full-time photographers and we make 100% of our income from this, and always have - so it's continually evolving and staying passionate about the medium, and continually being able to make a living from it. Not always easy in an every changing world.

creative effect photography

Esther Bunning with Lensbaby Composer

Q: Do you have formal training as a photographer or are you self-taught?

A: Photography was a subject during my textile design tertiary study. It's mostly though been about evolving with the technology and the possibilities it continues to bring - I find this so exciting and the future even more so. As a medium we should embrace where this can go!

Q: What details do you believe make the best photographs? How do you go about focusing on them in your work?

A: For me personally, it's about story and emotion, and beauty - it's being able to reflect a time, a place or a person with authenticity and another depth. And this doesn't have to be conventionally or the way it's typically been done before. It CAN be new and fresh and different, and shake up a particular genre.

Q: What inspires you most?

A: People who explore without parameters - who take risks and who continually experiment - regardless of the creative medium...ie it could be lighting, or fashion, or textiles, or furniture design or photography of course - it doesn't matter the medium - I LOVE all of this so much and it's incredibly exciting to see people exploring new ground.

Black & White Photography

Esther Bunning with Lensbaby Composer

Q: Tell us your favorite quote!

A: 'We should not fear death, we should fear dying without having lived. Live your best life people.'

Q: What is your favorite subject to photograph?

A: Can I have more than one favourite?? : ) People, and horses and simply beautiful light - wherever or whatever form that may take.

Q: How would you describe your photography style?

A: Organic, poignant, ethereal, emotive.

Q: What is the most rewarding part of being a photographer?

A: Moving people, emotionally, with my work...it makes me feel like I can actually make a difference to people's lives - or help them view the world a little differently perhaps than what they're used to.

Esther Bunning

Esther Bunning is recognized as one of New Zealand’s leading story-teller photographic portrait artists and her works reflect the heart of her subjects by giving a visual voice to their story. Her signature style is recognizable for her creative use of Lensbaby and in-camera techniques and she loves to combine the magic of blur, movement, abstraction and light to create poignant images that transcend photography.
A holiday job in a department store photographing kids on Santa’s knee started her photographic career and she’s worked primarily photographing people ever since. Her hankering for creating a less conventional image has always been a motivator in her work.

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