Fine and Delicate Details
Artist Interview with Noa Smith
Noa Smith is a portrait photographer based in the United Kingdom who loved to focus in on fine and delicate details in her photos. We had the opportunity to interview her and learn more about her process!
Q: When did you start taking photographs and why did you continue?
A: I have always been in love with photos. As a teenager I would spend my pocket money buying countless magazines purely to look at the pictures in them over and over again. I have always been drawn to beautiful, classic and timeless black and white portraits. My love story with the act of photography started with a small analog camera when I was in primary school. Being so madly in love with the countryside made it so easy to find subjects to photograph. I was literally taking pictures of everything. From animals to landscapes, from flowers to architecture and from people to objects. When the digital age opened its doors, and I purchased my first digital camera, I knew this is what I was destined to do, my calling in life is to be a photographer.
Q: Which is your favorite Lensbaby lens and why?
Q: What tips do you have for beginners just learning how to use the Edge 50 Lens?
A:Patience and practice. My personal advice for beginners is not to give up at the first hiccup. I know how tempting it could be to swap the lens for one that we are more familiar with, but the old saying "practice makes perfect" is totally true. Try and stick to the new lens for at least one month. Learn the lens, get the feel of the lens. Let your brain adjust to the focal length. Test it on various subjects. Give yourself time to get to know its special perks. Allow yourself to make mistakes. It is impossible to create masterpieces all the time. Play around and enjoy the journey. As for the technical side: instead of shooting with your aperture wide open (in this case - Edge 80 - f2.8), choose a slightly narrower aperture, such as f4, as it is easier to tackle sharpness this way. As for the OMNI Filters and prisms, try and stick to one wand at a time. Learn its special aspects, and experiment with different subjects in different light conditions. Once you gain confidence move on to the next filter. This way you can avoid getting overwhelmed, and you will create a system of knowledge in terms how these wands act, and when you have a new creative idea, you will know exactly which one you need to create a certain effect. But also be ready for surprises, for lots of wonderful surprises :)
Q: What professional photographers have influenced your work, and how do you incorporate their techniques into your photographs?
A: The photographer who had the most influence on my photography was Doralba Picerno, my teacher in photography college (2011-2013). The most important thing she thought me that I still follow until today, is to create and carefully compose my images within my camera. She said: 'Think before you press the shutter.' Living by this method you can improve your visual thinking immensely, you can save up on post production, and you can also expand the lifetime of your camera. In terms visual and creative influence I was very deeply inspired by the earlier work of the Russian lifestyle photographer Anastasia Volkova's portraits, weddings, lifestyle captures and still life set ups. She captures light and details in a truly magical way, and turns the most ordinary subjects into engaging stories. On certain days I still reach back to her older work, as they always make my heart sing (these days she works as a lifestyle blogger).
Q: Give us the BTS of this photo!
A: The most amazing part of this photoshoot was that it was totally unplanned. The beautiful lady in the photo is a dear friend of mine. We were having dinner together and after we finished I suggested we go and enjoy the sunset on the balcony. From the moment we stepped outside magic started happening. The sun was already behind the horizon, and the light was absolutely mesmerizing. I have never had a photoshoot like this. I asked her not to move and ran to the other room to grab my camera. I think I didn't take more than 15 images and they all came out wonderful. This pretty much never happens. I think it was one of those moments when people are having a beautiful time together, everyone is relaxed and everything falls into place very naturally and effortlessly. To capture the atmosphere and her gorgeous features, I used my Lensbaby Sweet 80 Optic. I really adore using this lens for portrait photography, because it creates a glorious painterly effect and it adds motion to the images.
Noa Smith with Lensbaby Edge 35
Q: What is the most difficult part of being a photographer?
A: There are so many talented photographers and artists out there, and it is so easy to fall into the trap of comparing ourselves to others. We need to be able to recognize the value of our own work, and appreciate the gift of creativity that we are blessed with. It is important to keep our eyes open and to see all those amazing work presented on different social media platforms, and websites, but instead of losing self confidence, we should rather use others' work to feed our inspiration and to grow. We are in the same boat after all. We are all photographers. Let's learn from each other, and support one another. This is precisely the reason why I created earlier this year The Intuitive Photographer discussion group. When we face a problem in our creative process, we tend to think we are all alone in this world, no one else is struggling and everyone else is thriving in their photography journey. Getting together with the group really helps to identify how much we are alike. By sharing our worries and thoughts on certain topics helps immensely to realize that we are in fact not alone with our creative hardships, and there's always a shoulder to lean on when one needs a bit of lifting and encouragement.
Q: Do you have formal training as a photographer or are you self-taught? What was that journey like?
A: I have always been a creative person. As a child I would spend most of my time with drawing and painting. My hands and fingers were always as colourful as a rainbow, because my pens and crayons would leave their marks on them. I still adore that beautiful creative mess. I have a degree in Visual Education. I learnt how to create work for exhibitions, and I was also taught how to set up exhibitions. I think from the first moment I was able to hold a pencil as a toddler, I wanted to be an artist. After university I moved to the UK, with my very first digital camera (a small point and shoot), and I was taking pictures of every living creature. I spent countless hours in the leafy royal parks of London and I was photographing all sorts of birds, squirrels, dogs, foxes and deer. At this stage in my life my dream was to be a wildlife photographer and to work for the National Geographic. After a while learning by myself was not enough. I was craving for more. I was longing to learn from a professional photographer, and to get proper education in photography. I wanted to earn the title to call myself a photographer. (I do know that being a photographer is not about having a certificate that pronounces you a photographer, but it was something that I had to do for my own self growth. I needed to prove myself that I can get a diploma in photography.)I needed to push my boundaries and I had to get out of my comfort zone. I was after a challenge, even though I was scared and terrified of failing. I studied photography for three years, and during this time my creative vision has completely changed, and my world of photography turned upside down and inside out. When I started college I was so determined about my path as a wildlife photographer, that even my first project was about documenting an elephant sanctuary in Thailand. I never in a million years would I have thought that my interest will turn towards humans, and I would madly fall in love with portrait photography.
Q: What details do you believe make the best photographs? How do you go about focusing on them in your work?
A: I believe that The Light is the key element in every photograph. In terms of details, it really depends on what my subject is, and what I am trying to express with my image. I absolutely adore focusing on fine and delicate details. To enhance their appearance I normally create images with very shallow depth of field by setting my camera to a very wide aperture of F1.4.
Noa Smith with Lensbaby OMNI
Q: What inspires you most?
A: The Light. It always amazes me how the light changes everything around us, and it even affects our appearance. Just imagine a gloomy day, walking through a forest. Everything seems grey, the light is completely even, there are no strong contrasts or bold colours. Imagine that the sky slowly starts opening up and the sun rays shine through the trees. All of a sudden, just like in a fairytale, magical things start to happen: the green of the foliage is no longer just green, millions of shades of green start appearing. Or think about the sunsets! Have you ever seen two of them the same? No, it's impossible. The light keeps changing, and this beautiful change transforms everything around us. An ordinary glass bottle can turn into an extraordinary glowing vision. From a portrait photography point of view, by changing the light you can express a wide range of emotions. A dark and shady image does not necessarily mean a sad image. It really depends how you position your model, and how you capture the light. The Light is a miracle.
Q: Tell us your favorite quote!
A: "... So go create. Take photographs in the wood, run alone in the rain and sing your heart out high up on a mountain where no one will ever hear and your very existence will be the most hypnotizing scar. Make your life be your art and you will never be forgotten."(Charlotte Eriksson)
Q: What is your favorite subject to photograph?
A: Always and forever Humans. My aim is to capture their souls rather than their physical appearance.
Q: How would you describe your photography style?
A: The best way to answer this question is by looking at all those wonderful comments I receive day by day from the lovely photography community on my social media page. Just to mention a few: Katja: "Her images have so much soul. She shows the magic of little things. Each image is a little masterpiece worth printing and being seen in an exhibition." Regina: "I am always in awe with her art and the mood she conveys."Yunyan: "Noa, what an amazing photographer. She makes you, who you are, in front of the camera. She shoots not only the figure, but also the soul behind. "Lorenzo: "Why do I think your photos are something else? ... the softness of the colours you capture, soft yet sharp. The beautiful compositions you have in your photos. And just the way you capture the light. You have a true talent with the shadows, the positioning for capturing the right light to enhance the details, the softness. "My style: Soulful and emotive / Always searching for light / Creating mood rather than documenting my subjects / Finding calm and beauty in the ordinary and turning it into extraordinary / I love focusing on details and getting close to my subjects.
Q: What is the most rewarding part of being a photographer?
A: The joy of creation and the love I receive from my viewers.
Q: What tips do you have to bring the best out of your models?
A: As a portrait photographer I never make my models act. I do not ask them to pose, or smile. I just simply let them be. My aim is to capture who they are. I am portraying their soul, not their physical appearance. Most people feel uncomfortable in front of the camera, which is perfectly natural. I invite my models / clients for a soulful talk, rather than for a photoshoot. We are chatting, getting to know each other, meanwhile I capture their moments: a certain look on their face, a certain movement they make or a smile that inspires me. Photographing people is a teamwork. The team is the model / client and the photographer (me). We work together. I highly appreciate their faith in me, trusting that I am the right person for the job. Therefore I involve them in my creative process. I show them the images on the back of the camera, so they can see how we are progressing. My heart always skips a beat, when their face lights up, and they say: 'Oh wow! I love these!' Being a portrait photographer is a wonderfully rewarding job.