Rossella Vanon did not like being photographed and decided she would rather hold the camera herself. Today, she is a sought-after fashion photographer with a knack for creating colorful images wrapped in soft light.
About six years ago, Italian-born Rossella Vanon packed her bags and moved to London. The plan was to get a degree in sound engineering and work with music. But things took a different turn.
“It’s kind of funny how I fell in love with photography,” says Rossella. “I was always the one who ran away when someone took out a camera at a party. In fact, I hated being photographed, which is probably why I decided that I preferred being on the other side of the camera. Now I’m in control. There are no longer any crazy pictures of me with insane faces,“ she laughs.
She is joking, of course. But there is some grain of truth to it since she obviously enjoys the freedom and creative control that comes from being a photographer.
“I can pick up my camera whenever I want, go wherever I want, shoot whatever I want and do whatever I feel like in postproduction,” she says. “The same principles apply to the work I do in the studio. As a photographer you decide what model, stylist and make-up artist to work with. You are the one who visualizes and directs the outcome.”
How would you describe that outcome?
“It’s hard to look at your own work and describe it, but whenever I talk to editors, art directors and other people describing my work, there are two words they keep repeating: color and light. Add to that the presence of nature, and I think you have a fairly good description of what I do.”
How do you do to make your images colorful? What’s the secret?
“You know, I’ve been thinking quite a lot about that, but I’m afraid I haven’t found a very good answer. I guess it boils down to the choices you make along the way – what stylist you work with, what background you use, what clothes you choose, etc. Putting together these choices becomes a manifestation of your personal taste. And I do love color, even though I’m always dressed in black or brown…”
What about the light? Any preferences in that regard?
“I like soft light. I also like to keep it simple and make the most of what I have. Most of my pictures are shot with only one or two D1 500 Air monolights. I also try to use windows, white walls and reflectors to my advantage. I’ve found that a certain amount of restrictions and limitations can be liberating and inspiring. Reflective surfaces also help me achieve the soft light that I’m looking for.”
Would you mind giving us more of a detailed explanation about how you created a couple of your images?
“Sure. Let’s start with the two images of the dark-haired girl against the red and the purple backgrounds. I think these are good examples of the importance of light. Both images were shot the same day with the same model but the lighting is quite different. For the image with the red background, I used a much harder light. The image with purple background, on the other hand, has a much softer light.”
So how did you light the one with the purple background?
“I used two softboxes – one Softbox RFi 5′ Octa and one Softbox RFi 2×3′. The large Octa is in the top right corner about 45° to her side. That was my main light. The smaller softbox was placed on the opposite side, in the lower left-hand side. I often use reflectors for this purpose – to fill in the shadows. But in this case I used a second softbox, which gave me a bit more control of the light. There was also a large window in the studio, which helped create the soft, kind of dizzy feel to the image. You can actually see the softboxes if you take a closer look at her eyes. There’s one on each side of her pupil. I like that. It’s a beautiful catch light, much more flattering than having just a single square.”
A Shallow Depth of Field
“Sometimes I get assignments where the client asks for a certain look and feel. Other times, I do a personal project that ends up being published in a magazine. The images with the girls with flower in their hair belong to the latter category. I love doing personal projects because they represent my personal taste the best. But I also think they’re important from a professional point of view. You can go a little crazy and experiment with the lighting and learn things that help you evolve as a photographer.
“All these images were shot the same day, using a softbox and an umbrella. There’s just one exception; the darker one. For this one I wanted a more shallow depth of field. This forced me to change the setup, because when I tried opening up my aperture to achieve this softness, the light was too bright. I solved this by using just the modeling light on the D1. Because of that, this particular image is not as crisp as the ones shot with a flash. But I kind of like that…”
Immersed In Water
“The girl in this image is actually immersed in water. It’s kind of hard to tell at first glance, but if you look closer you can see the water around her neck and toward the back of her head. The white line that’s coming down from her ear, that’s the surface of the water reflecting the light.
“I used Umbrellas on this shoot, because we were shooting in a pretty confined space and I needed a wide and soft light spread. I wanted soft light all over the place, basically. The place we were shooting in had white walls, which also helped to diffuse the light. I also had a reflector to bounce off a bit more light.
“The umbrella was in the top left-hand corner. You see the highlights on her cheekbones? That’s the umbrella. The window was on the right-hand side, and the walls were pretty close, so they reflected a lot of light too. I then had a reflector close to the floor, bouncing light from both the umbrella and the window. Again, if you take a closer look at her eyes, you can see both the umbrella and the reflector.”
You will more images from these shoots below. You can see even more of Rosella’s stunning work at www.rvanonphotography.com. She also arranges workshops, in case you want to pick her brain: http://www.rvanonworkshops.com/
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