Interview: photographer Robert Lopshire

December 20, 2011
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“Many times I’ve set up for a shot not knowing how the subject will react or if it will bite…I’m talking about the insects, not the models!”

This week, we get up close (literally!) and personal with macro and portrait photographer Robert Lopshire. You may have seen his photos as part of the orbis® macro tutorial series with his macro iris photo using the orbis® ringflash to get stunning results. We find out what influenced him to become a photographer and how he uses social networking to stand out from the photography industry.

 

How long have you been a photographer?

About 25 years now, my first camera was the Pentax K-1000 which I still have tucked away safely in my china closet. Might have to go grab some film for it soon!

Illustration was my first passion though, I started drawing at a very early age. For quite a while, I was fine tuning my illustration skills by drawing photos I found in magazines. It seemed to make sense to take the shots myself so that’s when I decided to look into purchasing a camera.

 

Are you a pro or amateur? What was your breakthrough, either when you knew you were in love with photography or when you became pro?

I never thought about becoming pro for a long time until my stock photography started taking up a lot of my time, as well as friends and businesses asking for images for catalogs and websites.

© Lopshire Photography

I was mostly doing product photography which I enjoyed because I was given complete artistic freedom on the projects.

There were a few breakthrough moments which made me seriously consider going pro both of the shots involved portraits which I never did too much. I never liked the common everyday portraits of people, but after receiving a huge response from the few portrait shots I did it really sealed the deal. Shooting non-conventional portraits caught the attention of some models that wanted to update their portfolios, as well as aspiring model looking to start their books.

 

Tell us a bit about the setup for your photoshoot(s) – lighting, equipment, post processing?

As far as studio work I’m very experimental but I do still implement classic lighting styles depending on the mood of the shoot. The models I work with on a regular basis know how picky I am about lighting- every subject’s face is different so I make sure that whatever lighting scenario I’m using that it’s the best for that particular model.

For example, one of the models I work with is Ivana. She has the most incredible eyes…as soon as she turns towards the light source her eyes become a brilliant silvery blue, so when she shows up for a shoot I have a few lighting scenarios ready for her that would include more direct and focused lighting.

Portrait of a model taken using the orbis® ring flash - also great for macro

 

Now with Becca, we change things up because of her dark features which includes using a lot of natural light and some diffused studio lighting to fill, I love using the orbis® ring flash with her.

 Portrait of a model taken using the orbis® ring flash - also great for macro© Lopshire Photography. Model: Becca

We have a few favorite items we use during model sessions such as 22” Beauty dish, softboxes & shoot through umbrellas. My main DSLR is the Olympus E3 usually mounted on a Kirk 3LT (Three Legged Thing Tripod). I use the orbis® ring flash a number of different ways but my favorite method is having the flash & orbis® ringflash secured to a boom arm on a stand right in front of the camera.

The orbis® ring flash in action in the studio, it's also great for macroBehind the scenes with Rob Lopshire © Lopshire Photography

My workflow after the shoot is Bridge/Lightroom3/Adobe Photoshop CS5.

 

How did your orbis® help?

The orbis® ring flash actually helps a number of ways. The first being as I mentioned before, it lends itself to all kinds of experimental lighting. Second, it becomes an invaluable light modifier in the studio or on location- not just for its portability and ease of use but for its fantastic results on subjects indoors & out.

When I’m not doing my commercial work in my spare time, I’m out shooting macro, mostly insects. I bring along the orbis® ringflash, the Olympus E3, Oly FL-50 flash with my Sigma 105mm F2.8 EX DG Macro lens. The results are great, the catch light that shows up in the subject’s eyes makes for really fantastic image…even if the insect is not as pretty as the models I work with.

  Macro photograph taken using the orbis® ring flash - enlight photo© Lopshire Photography

The orbis® is designed to give photographers an edge. It’s very challenging to make a living as a professional photographer, what are your tips for staying competitive in the industry?

The first which I tell a lot of people is be ready to adapt, the industry is one of the fastest changing and challenging out there.

The biggest right now from what I’m experiencing is social networking, we all know we should be using it to its full potential, but the challenge is standing out in the crowd. Know what your style is and make sure everyone out there knows what it is.

Stay on top of the news and current events in world of photograph y and always be ready to embrace technological change even though you may not like the changes at first.

With your own website and sharing sites key-wording is extremely important especially on photo sharing sites like flickr® and social sites like Facebook.

I was recently featured in a write up by Sigma Corporation of America HERE, featured twice by Olympus and now (again) here on the orbis® ringflash site because of social networking, key-wording and sharing photos.

 

Your photos have a particular quality to them, how would you describe your personal style?

For the longest time my photography style matched my illustrations… dark, edgy and moody, sometimes gloomy (my illustrations were a bit on the dark side). I’m not saying I no longer have that style in my images but I like to think my photos have become bit more stylized, punchy and attention grabbing.

 Fun group portrait featuring the orbis® ring flash - enlight photo

© Lopshire Photography. Band: Delta Falling

Are you a self-taught photographer did you go to college or university or did you have a mentor?

I’m self-taught- I would have liked to attend college and take photography courses but at that time it was not financially feasible. At 17 I was in my first apartment and I was working two jobs.

When I purchased my Pentax I knew it would be a great piece of equipment to learn on being a fully manual 35mm SLR. It was a bit intimidating at first and I went through a lot of film but I think learning on my own helped to shape my style to a degree.

 

Is there something you always ask to yourself/think just before you press the shutter button?

Usually I have a few things running through my mind, the biggest is the whole concept I put together before the shoot…that vision of the scene will be lingering around my head for a while before we start. I ask myself “Is this going to be cliché?”  “Is it too contrived?”.

Usually by the time I’m about to press the shutter I try to have those questions answered or make changes. At the same time I’m wondering what the model is thinking, if she has the slightest look of doubt of what we are going for, I won’t start until we are both on the same page.

As far as doing macro photography especially with potentially harmful critters, I’m mostly thinking “take the shot but be safe”.  Many times I’ve set up for a shot not knowing how the subject will react or if it will bite…I’m talking about the insects, not the models.

 Snake macro photograph taken using the orbis® ring flash - enlight photo© Lopshire Photography

What is one last impression you want to leave in your photos?

I’ll start with the macro insect shots, I just want to have people realize the small things that surround them every day, some incredibly beautiful, others fascinating and unearthly.

My other images I really just want to leave an impression of how I see thing. When people are looking at my photos and they stop and stare at an image I know at that point they are seeing how I view things.

 

Do you have any tips for those looking for advice from recognised photographers?

I get a lot of questions and I love helping out photographers, I think researching through proper channels such as books, websites and other media is crucial. Unfortunately I see some new photographers on quick answer sites where the questions and answers are based on a point system and a lot of the answers are not coming from experienced or professional photographers.

Dragonfly macro photo taken using the orbis® ring flash - enlight photo© Lopshire Photography

Seek out constructive criticism from other photographers. Friends and families are great but most of them may not be able to give you the proper feedback on your images. There are lots of legitimate blogs, message boards and official photography sites that people can obtain a wealth of information & critique from. Another great thing to do is hang out or shoot with other photographer- even if your styles are not similar or you shoot completely different subject matter.

Where can we hear more from you or see more of your work?

My main site is www.lopshire.net and I’m also hanging around the networking sites like Facebook, Google+ and Twitter as well as model networking sites like Model Mayhem and the brand new Fashion-Faces.com.

I post a lot of my images on flickr® and deviantART

 

We’re honoured to feature Robert Lopshire in this week’s orbis® Photographer Spotlight. Don’t miss out on UK fashion photographer Dave Piper’s interview HERE, and catch all the action from other orbis® photographers in the orbis® blog interviews.

Give your photographs the WOW factor, get your own orbis® here and check in next month to see who’s getting amongst it with the orbis®!

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