Sarah Brown is a beauty and fashion photographer from London who’s bringing a breath of fresh air to the industry. Her passion for photographing people translates into highly expressive portraits that ooze of the models’ confidence, which Sarah is so good at capturing.
I love beauty photography and I’m obsessed with texture. I enjoy bringing out my subject’s natural beauty, and I always like to keep things quite minimal on set so that the images I take are solely about the subject. I also really love playing around with makeup ideas in unconventional ways.
One of my other greatest loves is fashion photography, although I have started to drift away from it. I just always end up getting super close to the model’s face because that’s what I’m drawn to, which is a clear indication that deep down I want to focus on beauty photography.
I first realized I had a passion for photography when I was a kid and took art classes. I remember always taking photos of my painting progress and enjoying that part of it more than painting itself. I still loved painting a lot, which is why I think that I now enjoy retouching my images so much. I’m happy to have found a way to basically combine the two.
The beauty of photography
I’ve always loved photographing people. We are all so different, and we express ourselves in unique ways, which gives me endless possibilities for the type of work I do. And even though I enjoy shooting raw, simple beauty a lot, there’s also so much that makeup, hair and styling can do to make a shooting creative. I get to shoot a lot of talent, who know how to show their personality through the camera. I believe beauty is so much more than skin deep, and the most beautiful thing to me is seeing my models feel confident in themselves, no matter how they look – confidence always translates to the camera.
Skin texture through a medium format sensor
Because of my obsession with skin texture, medium format is essential for my work. The math is simple: the more detail I can achieve, the better. Most of the projects I work on are commercial campaigns that will need visual assets in a variety of different crops, for print, online, in-store etc. So it gives me and my client such a piece of mind on set when I’m shooting medium format, knowing I can shoot further out and still have the flexibility of cropping into a shot to use it for different assets. I also have a bit of an obsession with zooming into the iris of the eye, it’s actually mesmerizing seeing the eye in a way which is so unfamiliar to us!
I discovered Phase One in university. I remember there was a list of equipment we could rent out as students, and the Phase One system was the pinnacle, the ”sacred camera”. It wasn’t allowed off campus, and only certain students could rent it out. A classmate and I did a shoot with it once, and that day changed my whole perspective on photography. It was crazy to me to discover that a camera could see more than the naked eye. After that, I was obsessed.
Nowadays, I rent a Phase One whenever the budget of a shoot allows it. Normally it’s the clients who set the budget, but I always ask what kind of output they need and we negotiate from there. 9 times out of 10, they favor the flexibility of shooting on a larger scale, not only for the image quality, but also for later cropping options when visuals need to fit certain aspect ratios. So having a Phase One on set puts both the client and myself at ease: knowing we’ll always walk away from a shooting satisfied is so reassuring. Shooting with my smaller sensor sometimes feels like I’m taking a step backwards!
Working with such high image quality is both humbling and motivating. I’m very critical about my work, and shooting with Phase One lets me assess the quality of my work at a level of detail that’s not possible otherwise. On the other side, seeing my work on billboards or in shop windows is so motivating. Sure, I can check the quality of an image on set, on a screen, but there’s nothing quite like seeing the true scale of what I achieve in large print, especially when I’m working with 150MP!
A thought for the future of photography
Entering this new decade has been symbolic to me, because it feels like a transition from the past ten years, which were basically the making of myself as a photographer. The first few years of building a photography career are the hardest, and if you’re reading this while being right in the middle of that process, all I can say is hang in there and believe in yourself. There is a lot of working for free, a lot of projects that fall through, a lot of people not trusting your skill. It’s one of the most competitive industries out there, and you only get what you put in.
Although being a freelancer is definitely still tricky, I now feel I found my feet and defined myself as a beauty photographer. So I can’t wait to see what the new decade will bring me, to push myself and the genre of beauty photography ever further.
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