Miller Mobley: Powerful Portraits

Written by Fredrik Franzén on . Posted in Portrait photography

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©Miller Mobley

It is hard to believe when you see his images, but Miller Mobley is barely 24 years old, and it was only four years ago that he decided to become a fulltime photographer.

“The reason I got into photography was actually this book I came across,” explains Miller. “It was about Richard Avedon. His images had a huge impact on me. It’s not even like I decided to become a portrait photographer. In fact, I’ve done a lot of other stuff too. But the portraits have always been my main focus. I feel that there’s this energy, this powerful attraction there that I can’t find in any other realms of photography.”

©Miller Mobley

Miller never went to photo school, and he never assisted anyone. He took some basic courses, but mostly he learned by doing, by remembering the images that caught his attention, and by studying the behind-the-scenes videos on YouTube.

“I soon discovered that all the photographers I admire were using Profoto, so I just figured I should get the same equipment,” says Miller. “The first thing I bought was the Profoto ComPact. You don’t make those anymore, do you? Well, anyway. When I opened the box, I had no idea what to do with them. I didn’t even know how to trigger them…”

Miller turned out to be a fast learner, and it did not take long before he was shooting with strobes like a pro. Earlier this year, he and his wife moved to New York. The move turned out to be good for both business and creativity, and today Miller is not only getting more and more assignments, but he is also continuously growing as a photographer.

©Miller Mobley

“I recently found a style that I really like,” says Miller. “I use the Pro-7 and the Zoom Reflector with grids and barn doors. It creates this really hard light that I use as key light. Then I place a softbox behind the camera to fill in the shadows a bit. The result is this very focused and vignetted light. You can’t use it in any photograph. It has to be a dramatic photograph, like the old man or the old lady with raining money in the background.”

What about the portrait of the guy with glasses? How did you shoot that?

“Well, I’m really attracted to headshots at the moment. I’ve been studying a lot of the old photographers lately, like Irving Penn and Arnold Newman. I just love the way they did their close-ups. They have inspired me a lot. I also wanted to keep it as simple as possible, so I shot it against a semi grey background, using the Beauty Dish with a grid as key light. For fill light, I used the Giant Reflector 180, which also created this beautiful catch light in his eyes. For back light, I put a gridded  softbox on the ground behind him, angled upwards. It created a nice gradient on the background. I also had two flags, one on each side, because I wanted to block of some of the light from the Beauty Dish. That’s actually something that I’ve realized lately – it’s not just about how much light you add, but also about the light you take away. Anyway, I think it turned out really nice. I’d say it’s my new favorite picture.”

What is it you like about it?

“I just like the way he’s looking at the camera. No matter how hard I think about it, I can’t figure out what he’s thinking! Also, I don’t have any other image like that in my portfolio. When I shot it, I created something new to me, and that’s really important. I don’t want to get too comfortable.“

©Miller Mobley

©Miller Mobley

And what about the other images?

“The first one is a portrait of Deontay Wilder. I don’t know if you’ve heard of him? He’s an Olympic boxer. He won a bronze medal, and I was commissioned to shoot a series of PR images for him. I like this image, because it’s not your standard, typically manly, big badass boxer image. He’s got a lot more personality and this almost spiritual look. I believe I used four lights for that one. The ProRing brought out his tattoos nicely…”

“The old man is actually my grandfather in law. He’s a really nice guy – always smiling, which you wouldn’t guess by looking at this image. This image reminds me of how important your personal work is. I shot it in his garage the day before I was going to shoot Deontay. I just wanted to play around a little, but it turned out so good that it ended up on my website. Not too long after that, I got a call from AARP Magazine. They’d seen the portrait on my website, and they wanted me to do something similar for them. Apparently, seniors are scamming other seniors these days. AARP Magazine was going to do a feature on this subject, and they wanted me to shoot a series of portraits to go with it. The portrait of the old lady is from that shoot, and I would never have gotten that assignment if I hadn’t photographed my grandfather in law in the garage. That’s why I say your personal work is important.”


Miller Mobley’s website

Miller’s blog

Written by Fredrik Franzén

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