Creative director to image creator: An insight into portraiture with Caroline True | Profoto (UK)

Creative director to image creator: An insight into portraiture with Caroline True

06 July, 2018

Written by: Ailish Cook

Caroline True is no stranger to the challenge of creating original portrait photography, something she does on a regular basis. From being George Michael's personal photographer to shooting footage for TV commercials and documentaries, Caroline's work captures the complete 360-degree vision of her subject, creating timeless and authentic images.

Starting out in the creative industry

Behind every photographer is a background story and introduction to image creation. Before Caroline's interest in photography sparked, she worked with large companies as a creative director, in charge of planning strategic visions and managing creative direction, which is where her eye for detail and ability to initate creative partnerships commenced.

Caroline True.

Being a creative director at Virgin Records through the 80s and 90s gave Caroline a flavour of the photographic industry through working on hundreds of video and photo sessions. This experience led her to becoming George Michael's creative director, where she was involved in managing videos, photoshoots and documentaries. This position furthered and "ultimately led to the honour of becoming his photographer", where her work involved collaborating with some of the most incredible creatives in the world. Working with artists, video directors and photographers from her time as George Michael's creative director and photographer gave Caroline the opportunity to develop a network, explaining her current career as "osmosos from those years".

Discovering a new-found passion for image creation

Caroline's introduction to photography commenced through a project she embarked on for George Micheal, where she recieved her first camera.

"George Michael owned the piano that John Lennon wrote the song ‘Imagine’ on. It was a small, brown, upright Steinway, not the white grand piano that featured in the actual music video. We decided to take the piano on a tour of America with the aim of sending a message of peace. The piano went to multiple places where tragic events had occurred, and to put the piano in situ, we allowed people in different locations a time frame to do and play whatever they wanted on it.

John Lennon's piano at The Lorraine Motel.

I spent three months on this tour with the piano, visiting places such as The National Civil Rights Museum and The Lorrain Motel where Martin Luther King was assassinated, Wako in Texas where the Branch Davidian Siege occurred, New Orleans two years after Hurricane Katrina, and to Virginia Tech after the tragic college massacre. In total, we visited 14 places.

John Lennon's piano in New Orleans.

Before this trip, George gave me a small DSLR camera. After the trip, I came back and told him that I was going to be a photographer! I had taught myself what I needed to know to capture photos of some truly incredible and emotional moments whilst staying in motel rooms along the way. Needless to say, this was a life changer for me.” 

Image creation in practice: A shoot with Danny Goffey and Daisy Lowe

Caroline has gone from owning her first small DSLR camera to photographing well-known portraits over the years. As her portfolio has developed, she has captured a range of subjects and settings. Recently, Caroline shot an album cover for singer and song-writer Danny Goffey, who is an ex-member of the British band supergrass. Alongside this, she captured images for Pearl Lowe's fashion brand with model Daisy Lowe.

“Danny and his wife Pearl Lowe are my friends, and live close to me in Somerset. I have taken many photos of the Goffey family over the years. I always strive to give them what they want and a need for purpose.

Danny’s shoot was for press shots for his new album, Schtick, and Daisy was showcasing her Mum Pearl’s beautiful dresses. I wanted to achieve something edgy with Danny and something beautiful for Daisy.”


The art of light

When shooting Danny and Daisy, Caroline aimed to achieve authenticity through composition and lighting. She uses the Profoto B2 to provide flexible shooting and consistent images, along with the A1, which helps achieve light shaping possibilities. 

"I use light simply, as for me it is all about the subject. If the lighting is complicated and they have to move half an inch to get a hair light in the right place, I feel that it makes people not behave in a natural way as they are constantly thinking about the light and me, not themselves and the desired portrait. I rarely use more than one light on my portrait shoots.”

“The A1 has been a game changer for me”

“For Danny’s shoot I used the Profoto A1 and B2, with one light per set up, no combination. They are both incredible lights, small, unobtrusive and very easy to set up. The A1 has been a game changer for me. I have never used a speed light so was a bit apprehensive when I bought it, however, I couldn’t believe it actually is like a studio light when using it.”

In order to create authentic portraiture, Caroline sees relaxing your subject as the most important factor. She also believes in and practices the art of simplicity throughout her portraiture, which helps to achieve originality and capture characteristics.

“Simplicity on every level is the most important thing to achieve– less is more! Making the person I am taking photos of feel comfortable, relaxed and loved is crucial to the perfect portrait."

Below are Caroline's favourite images of Danny and Daisy, however she emphasies that finding "the one" is not a systematic process.

"I never know why, however the images that are ‘the ones’ always just pop out at me. They are generally the same images that the people I am photographing like too. I always like to collaborate and give a generous choice on the edit.”

Caroline's approach to portraiture has never changed, and she doubts that it ever will.

"For me, portraiture is all about the person I am talking photos of, and that is my ethos. It is so important to me that they love the photos of themselves and live with them. I have always felt this way, whether it be within photography or video.”

Thank you to Caroline for featuring in Profoto stories. To see more of her photography, visit her website or Instagram

Written by: Ailish Cook