We featured NYC-based fashion and beauty photographer Franklin Thompson back in 2010, and in the past three years he has taken the photo world by storm. Inspiration and ideas for Franklin’s photography has always come from many sources: “Movies, other photos, travelling in foreign places, strange and unsual people, the way light falls on objects and the shadows it creates, new experiences, old memories, 1920’s, 60’s & 70’s, ancient cultures, broken and abandonned objects, music, childhood fantasies…. I could go on and on forever.” His editorials have been featured in magazines such as: Highlights, Noi.se, And+Men, Vogue Italia (Photo Vogue), Style Mode Magazine, W25 and UCE. He has also shot for most of the top NYC modeling agencies including Ford, IMG, Marilyn, Muse, Q, Supreme, Trump, and Wilhelmina. And now, he’s shooting high fashion at the Jane Hotel.
I’d always been inspired by fashion and thought I’d be a designer. I became serious about fashion and beauty photography after taking an internship with beauty photographer Sarah Silver in 2003. Since then, I’ve practiced, tested and shot editorials for magazines and shot for clients such as Conde Nast and TREsemmé. I’ve also recently signed with an agent, Farimah Milani & Associates.
There have been lots of ‘moments’ that helped move me to the next level. The most significant was probably taking the internship with Sarah Silver. Not only did I learn about studio lighting, but also about the ‘unwritten rules’ of photography and the industry like: how to produce a shoot, how to talk to clients, how to direct models, digital workflow.
I learned my techniques by watching and observing the photographers I’ve worked for, and practice, practice, PRACTICE. There’s nothing like just getting out there and doing it! You can have everything explained to you by the best in the world. But until you put it to practice you’ll never truly know it. In the beginning, even though I knew what I needed to light beautiful images, I didn’t have the kind of gear or money to get what I wanted. I had 2 umbrellas, a beauty dish, some reflectors and black cinefoil. I had to improvise to try to get the results that I wanted.
Also, I ask… other photographers, assistants, directors, friends. Use your resources.
[My dad is] the one who originally inspired me. He would always take pictures of us when my sister and I were kids. He loved taking pictures of flowers, also. If you look him up you won’t find a single one of his images. There all probably still in boxes of negatives somewhere in the house. But my dad is the original photographer (to me).
Of course I’ve also been inspired by Sarah Silver. She has had a huge influence on the way I see and shoot women. I also love Paolo Roversi, Henri Cartier Bresson, Camilla Akrans, Steven Meisel, Solve Sundsbo, Annie Leibovitz and Craig McDean.
The worst part about what I do is competition. There are so many photographers and so-called photographers with high end cameras looking to get into the industry. Anyone with a little bit of money can pick up the latest gear and start calling themselves ‘photographers.’ But there’s so much more to it than just taking pretty pictures. The best part is that I love what I do! I love people, taking pictures, lighting, creating, and combining art and technology – and getting paid for it too!
Learning from the Pro
Just did a fashion editorial at the Jane Hotel in NYC’s meatpacking district. This time I decided I wanted to shoot video as well as stills so I had to choose a lighting setup that would work for both. I wanted something that would give me a similar look and feel across both mediums without having to light them separately. Our hotel room, while comfy, was not very big at all.
Since forever ago, I’ve been shooting with strobes but this situation called for continuous lighting. So I decided to use broncolor’s HMI units, KOBOLD! This was my first time using them and it won’t be my last. I used 2 Kobold 400’s. One with their Litepipe accessory and the other with barn doors. broncolor Kobold 200 and 400 models accept most (if not all) of broncolor’s light shaping tools. I’d grown to know and love broncolor’s strobes and accessories so this was a perfect job to test out broncolor’s Kobold 400’s. The Kobolds could be used for video and just enough power for stills to get a nice cinematic look and feel.
I could shoot video and stills without having to switch lights, power or fixtures. The hotel was old and the rooms were tiny so power was a concern. The Kobolds were low enough in power to plug in two 400’s and still light enough for still and video. The room was extremely small with our entire crew in it. Normally, hot lights would make it unbearable due to heat, but the Kobolds didn’t generate much extra heat. The best thing I like about the 400’s is that they are fully compatible with all of the broncolor modifiers that I use for stills. They’re also water resistant, for those of you that like to shoot in the rain! Before broncolor I’d used Profoto and Alien Bees. When it comes to professional lighting, flash duration, modifiers, consistency and quality, there’s no question… broncolor is it.
I learned [these techniques] through practice. Shoot, shoot, shoot is the name of the game! When I first began shooting I didn’t get the concept of strobes. I wanted to light everything with continuous light. It seemed so much more natural to me. So here we are back at square one almost.