Marta Everest speaks to DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHER about the creative process behind her stunning artistic portraits of her children
Many photographers find inspiration in the work of painters, often due to a fascination in their use of light and shadow, to create the illusion of depth in a 2D image. Marta Everest (500px.com/martaeverest) has become an expert in using minimal resources to create rich, painterly portrait images.
WHAT GOT YOU STARTED IN PHOTOGRAPHY? TELL US ABOUT YOUR EARLY CAREER.
While living in America, so far away from my native country Spain, I felt compelled to record the early beginnings of my children’s lives, not only for me, but for the sake of my extended family abroad as well. I wanted to create beautiful images of them and capture their everyday routine, so I bought a 35mm film camera and took it everywhere I went with my children. Then one day in 2002 I sent a photo of my daughter to a photo contest and surprisingly won the first prize! I was thrilled and hooked from that moment on. I knew
I just wanted to keep doing what I thought I was good at and in 2007 I purchased my first digital camera, a Nikon D80, and my first editing software. It was one of the best investments I’ve ever made.
WHAT ARE YOUR FAVOURITE SUBJECTS TO PHOTOGRAPH AND WHY?
From the beginning, children have always been my favourite subjects to photograph. I simply love to capture that raw emotion that comes naturally to them and cannot be staged (especially when shooting outdoors). That’s the same principle I try to apply when I shoot my indoor portraits as well, or at least most of the time. My kids in particular have been my cornerstone in the process of becoming the photographer I am today – with their help I have been able to polish my photographic skills throughout the years, and that’s something I will be eternally grateful for. Everything I am today I owe to them.
WHAT INFLUENCES YOUR PHOTOGRAPHIC STYLE?
I am a woman with an old soul and have always been drawn to old-world style paintings, in particular those of children. I find a lot of inspiration just by looking at them, but sometimes I also find the kick I need to create my portraits in the illustration of a book or in a childhood scene that I have in my head and I just want to re-create. Even the classical music I listen to almost every day provides me with the inspiration I need to elaborate some of my images. I want my photographs to tell a story, much like Norman Rockwell or Morgan Weistling, who are without a doubt among the best artists of our time. I also want my photographs to stand the test of time, so they can be enjoyed by generations to come.
HOW DO YOU CREATE THE LIGHTING EFFECT COMMON IN YOUR IMAGES?
I don’t own a studio, so in order to take my indoor photos I need to improvise one in my own living room. The space I have is limited because my house is small, but I manage to set it all up. I do not have a strobe or use flash for any of my photos. All I have is a single octagonal softbox with one 85-watt studio light bulb, and a few backdrops that I have purchased throughout the years. As a general rule I shoot in a room with minimum light and tend to place my softbox to the side of my subject, a little over the head. I sometimes have to work my way around, holding the softbox with one hand while shooting at the same time, so I can create a different lighting effect. Then, during the editing process in Photoshop, I emphasise this lighting with the help of tools like the Gradient Tool and the Curve panel.
“My kids in particular have been my cornerstone in the process of becoming
the photographer I am today”
HOW MUCH PROCESSING DO YOU USUALLY APPLY?
Some photos require more editing than others, depending on where I positioned the light. I
always edit in Lightroom prior to Photoshop and never use one without the other. The LR process is fundamental when editing this type of portrait, mostly because it allows me to select those specific areas of the photo that I want to emphasise and those that I want to isolate, among other things I can’t do in
PS. About 65 per cent of the work takes place in LR, then the finishing touches are done in PS. With the help of the Curve panel and other tools, I combine actions and textures together to give the photos a painted feel and that antique appearance I aim for.
WHAT CAMERA GEAR DO YOU CURRENTLY USE AND WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE PIECE OF EQUIPMENT?
I have a Nikon D810 and a couple of lenses I carry with me at all times – a Sigma 35mm Art and 105mm lens. I use the 35mm 85 per cent of the time, especially when shooting children outdoors, and the 105mm when I want softer portraits. I also have a 50mm f1.4 and a 70-200mm lens. The 70-200 is outstanding, but I find it bulky and heavy to carry, so I keep it at home and only take it with me when I need it. The 50mm is the only lens I use for my indoor portraits and I really couldn’t do without it – it is without a doubt my most precious piece of equipment, creating my favourite portraits of all time.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE OTHER PHOTOGRAPHERS LOOKING TO DEVELOP THEIR OWN PORTRAIT STYLE?
I would tell them that developing your own style is not something that happens overnight and in some cases, like mine, it may take years to materialise, so it is important to persevere. For years I took my camera everywhere I went and made a huge effort to shoot daily,
so that hopefully one day I would embrace my photography style. I couldn’t be happier I did. It is important to experiment with the tools you have, devoting a little time to it every day, and don’t follow the book all the time. Always follow your intuition and hope for a unique outcome.
DO YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE IMAGE FROM THE SELECTION YOU SENT US AND WHY?
This is the hardest question since every single one of these photos has a special meaning to me. They are truly equal in beauty in my eyes. However, I would probably pick ‘The little writer’, only because I think it is the first indoor portrait of my daughter that I have ever edited using textures, and that turned out to be the image that somehow catapulted me into the ‘spotlight’ marking the beginning of my fine art portrait photography journey. This image has established a reference into how I wanted all my future portraits to look.
“Developing your own style is not something that happens overnight and in some cases, like mine, it may
take years to materialise”
WHAT MAKES A SUCCESSFUL PORTRAIT IMAGE?
A portrait that can communicate a message or tell a story is a great portrait. However, it will only be successful if it causes an emotional response, and if the mood that follows leaves a trace that can last a long time in the mind of the viewer, regardless of technical issues or bad composition. Some of the best and most memorable photos in history were far from perfect and still, those are the ones that we remember.
THE BLESSING“I’m a very religious person, so I didn’t need many reasons to create a photo like this one of my son giving thanks”
AboveTHE LITTLE WRITER “TO THIS DAY IT STILL AMAZES ME HOW EASY IT WAS TO CAPTURE THIS IMAGEOF MY DAUGHTER WHILE SHE WAS COLOURING AND DIDN’T EVEN KNOWSHE WAS BEING PHOTOGRAPHED” BelowLETTER FROM MOM “I WANTED TO CREATE SOMETHING WITH A MELANCHOLIC FEEL TO ITWHEN I TOOK THIS PHOTO OF MY OLDEST DAUGHTER READINGA LETTER” RightNEWSPAPER BOY “I WAS INSPIRED BY AN IMAGE I HADIN MY HEAD OF MY DAD PILING UP NEWSPAPERS AT HOME BACK WHENWE WERE KIDS AND WANTED TO RE-CREATE THE SCENE SOMEHOW”
LeftCINDERELLA “A CLASSIC AND ONE OF MY ALL-TIME FAVOURITE PICTURES,” SAYS MARTA. THIS SHOT PERFECTLY DEMONSTRATES THE PAINTERLY, FINE-ART STYLE PRESENT IN MANY OF MARTA’S IMAGES AboveTHE LAMP KEEPER “I TOOK THIS IN MY HOUSE AT NIGHT.THE ONLY LIGHT WAS COMING FROM THE OIL LAMP. I WANTED TO GIVE A WARM AND COSY FEEL TO IT”
RightTHE DRAWING “I ASKED MY DAUGHTER TO DRAW A PICTURE OF HER DOG, WHILE I TOOKTHIS PHOTO OF HER IN MY LIVING ROOM” AboveBRAIDS “HER EXPRESSION, SO CALM AND PEACEFUL, IS WHAT I REALLY LIKE THE MOST,” MARTA SAYS ON HER FAVOURITE ASPECT OF THIS IMAGE