Moving to the Next Level
“In my work, there’s always a hint of motion,” says fashion and celebrity photographer, Frank Doorhof, “it could be the fine nuances of a hand that gives the idea of movement, or a pose that creates a certain curve... I just love ‘flowing’ lines like that. I can get immensely happy with a shot where the model simply flips her hair just a bit!”
Movement, whether great or small, is the essential energy that runs through every image Frank makes. And it’s something he knows reaches out to the viewer as well, instinctually attracting their eye in the same way our minds have evolved to notice movement, strong colours or patterns.
© Frank Doorhof | Sony α7R III + FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM | 1/125s @ f/11, ISO 400
“I always look for that flow,” he says, “even if it’s not big and obvious, because for the viewer a more dynamic image is always more captivating.”
As well as regular movement from the subject, Frank makes use of props and physical effects to fill his images with dynamic energy. “When you get into it,” he says “there are so many options. Water, smoke and powder are all great, and I also use long dresses, scarves with a wind machine on turbo or just very slightly blowing...there is just so much that can add that sense of motion. What you can make is only limited by your creativity.”
© Frank Doorhof | Sony α7R IV + FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM | 1/125s @ f/11, ISO 400
The instinctive attraction to movement is mirrored in the way it’s captured, according to Frank, with decisive action needed to find the right moment in a twist, or leap. “When you’re capturing motion, every shot is different, and there’s no way that you can get the same thing twice. It’s sometimes frustrating when you really nail the shot but something like the subject’s expression, or the position of a hand is not 100% correct. Of course, you can make one image out of two, but I’m the kind of photographer who likes to get it 99% right in camera. And it’s a challenge that pushes you to improve yourself.”
Helping Frank to be decisive is the speed of his Sony α7R IV, which delivers medium format quality with the urgency of a sports camera. “We have Hensel studio strobes that can keep up with the α7R IV’s 10fps, but it’s more shooting single frames and relying on the immediate reactions of the camera that help me,” he explains. “I’ve tried both methods countless times and I prefer to use my own timing. The difference of a few microseconds can mean the moment is gone, so reaction time of the camera is vital.”
© Frank Doorhof | Sony α7R III + FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS | 1/125s @ f/11, ISO 200
Almost all of Frank’s work is achieved using flash, and it’s that which adds the razor-sharp edge to his motion shots, rather than super-fast shutter speeds. “People often confuse this,” he explains, “and in the studio or when working with strobes it’s the flash duration that freezes the motion. When indoors, set your camera on f/16 and 1/125sec and shoot an image at ISO 100, and you’ll likely see the frame is black. But fire the flash with the same settings (after metering it of course) and voila – your model is there, defined by the speed of the flash. Because of that, you could do it with a shutter speed of 1 sec and get the same result.”
Where control of the shutter speed does become vital is in Frank’s slow-sync, or ‘shutter dragging’ flash work, which mixes swirling movement and crisply defined subjects, in a dreamy or chaotic mix of colour and shapes.“I sometimes experiment with slower shutter speeds and settings which keep the available light in the scene as well as the flash,” he says, “and though I’m more drawn to the razor-sharp frozen shots, shutter dragging can give you great results. It’s a very personal style, and a lot of fun especially when you add zoom effects, or move your camera. The number of keepers goes down drastically, but don’t lose faith, if you hit it – you really hit it!”
© Frank Doorhof | Sony α7R III + FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM | 4s @ f/16, ISO 100
For his high-speed flash shots, Frank mostly pre-focuses his α7R IV using the centre focus point, and shoots in one- shot AF mode, “then I let the model jump and because I’m mostly shooting at smaller apertures, with motion I have some wiggle room,” he explains.
While for other shots, like outdoors, the eye-tracking AF and ISO performance of the α7R IV leap to the fore.
“One of the things I love about the Sony system is that when you’re in a situation where you need to combine continuous focus with flash, the Sony α7R IV and α9 are absolute beasts. They just make it so easy.”
© Frank Doorhof | Sony α7R III + FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM | 1/125s @ f/11, ISO 200
In the end, whatever form the movement is captured in – striking sharpness or fascinating blur – it’s something that has always defined his work, “because even from the start,” he finishes, “fashion photography for me has never been just about a pretty face – it’s about making an impact.”