Unconventional beauty photography with Sarah Brown

28 September, 2018

Written by: Ailish Cook

Sarah Brown's passion for photography started in school, where the creative elements of classes grasped her attention and drew her in. When she studied art, Sarah always took photos of what she was going to paint, but dreaded the long process of painting a final piece. This is when she realised she loved image creation through photography.

Developing a passion for photography

As an 18-year-old, Sarah was unsure of what she was doing. With a lack of options to study photography at A Level, she embarked to university to explore her passion. Despite the creative elements of the course, Sarah craved to learn more about the technical elements of photography.

On a mission to learn more, she interned at well-known fashion brand Missguided, learning so much from being hands-on in the industry. After finishing university and an internship, Sarah decided to move to London from Manchester, whilst assisting photographer Rankin. Now, she is a freelance photographer and is taking the beauty industry by storm.

From the get-go Sarah loved to experiment with concepts, break boundaries and eventually found her feet and passion in photographing people. She is an enthusiast and loves organising shoots, making mood boards, creating new and exciting ideas and brainstorming with her team.

I’m definitely that person who will nip into department stores just to look at all the beauty campaigns, not the makeup! I love how makeup/clothes transform not just a person but the whole vibe of a shoot. I also love the retouching side of things as it’s so therapeutic to me. Fashion & Beauty are very fast paced industries so there is always something new, which excites me!”

Capturing natural beauty

As someone passionate about people, Sarah strives to capture natural beauty as part of her shoot process.

“I think it’s always so important to not change a person but to bring out what they already have, whether it be one of my more effortless shoots or one with more edge. I really want the model to look like themselves, so I try not to majorly photoshop or anything like that. I keep in all their natural features like freckles too.”

Alongside capturing natural beauty, she enjoys challenging beauty standards and putting a different spin on conventional beauty photography. Sarah's aim is to create images that will make people stop and look twice, particulalry in a digital world where it is hard to capture the attention of others.

“Some of my images have an uncomfortable feel to them while still being beautiful and that’s something which isn’t really played upon too much in the industry. I think it’s so important to keep trying to push the boundaries on the creative side of things as the beauty photography industry is so overly saturated, so trying to stand out for me is really important.”

Challenging industry standards

Sarah's desire to create a-typical images is seen in her shoot with model Molly, where facelift tape was used to create raw and vulnerable beauty images.

"With Molly, the main concept was with the tape. I really wanted to make an uncomfortable but beautiful take on how this type of tape is normally used (face lift tape or used in drag makeup). It is usually placed under wigs/makeup.

For my shoot with Molly, I wanted it to be fully on show, with super raw makeup to create an ‘undone’ look which is a stark contrast to the normal use of the tape. I think she still looks beautiful, but not in a conventional way. I also love how it extenuates her features without the use of post-production.

I really wanted the look of the shoot to be as crisp, clean and effortless as possible. So I shot on a white backdrop using 2 Profoto B2 heads. I used 4 poly boards to prevent any spill onto Molly as I wanted the details of her to remain as much as possible. For my key light, I used 1 medium umbrella, with a Profoto B2. I wanted to keep it quite soft with the transitions of the shadows and highlights, I feel like this is the most flattering light. I kept this set up for the whole shoot to keep it consistent."

Drawing inspiration from the modern world

Sarah draws inspiration from a number of platforms to create shoot ideas, stylised images and diverse concepts.

"My mind can just spark at any time, sometimes I can see people on the tube and just get ideas from their style, or sometimes I can just go into an arts and craft shop and my creative mind becomes alive with all the shoots I can plan, this is just the tip of the iceberg. I also get so much inspiration from Instagram, however, if I see a shoot/makeup look I like, I always want to try and put my own stamp on it.

My mind never really turns off in normal life, as I’m always thinking about what I can use which is so unconventional in the average beauty shoot. With beauty shoots, I do think its important to let the makeup artist have a creative input, as I’ve found that some of the ones I’ve worked with have a creative mind as crazy as mine!"

Moving forward, Sarah is excited about shooting and experimenting with gels as she loves the psychedelic look it gives and how it brings out makeup in such a different way. We look forward to seeing Sarah's work with gels in the future!

Thank you to Sarah for telling us about her beauty photography! To see more of her work, visit her website or Instagram.

Written by: Ailish Cook

Products used in this story

Umbrella Shallow White

A lightweight umbrella for wide, even light with softness

Li-Ion Battery for B2

A spare battery for the B2