Thursday, June 14, 2012

PUBLISHED - 'Professional Photographer' June 2012

When I first got into photography a few years back I always believed that getting published in books and magazines was the end goal. Since then i've been published a few times but many of my beliefs and philosophies regarding photography have changed and these days I shoot with different goals in mind focusing more on the aesthetic values of imagery than anything else.
In this regard and the way my professional life is structured, i'm quite fortunate to be in a position where I can afford to shoot for myself and the occasional client that gives me complete creative freedom without any timing or creative pressures.

Even though my goals have changed over the years, I have to admit that getting contacted by one of the most internationally recognized and respected photography magazines in the industry to be interviewed and have work featured in an article has to be an awesome moment for any photographer at any level!
A couple of months ago just that happened! I was contacted by the editorial staff at 'Professional Photographer' magazine to be interviewed and have a selection of my work featured in the June 2012 issue. After some liaison with the editorial staff, they put together a great article of which i'm proud to have my name to. The staff at 'Professional Photographer' magazine were an absolute pleasure to work with and true professionals in their field and I have no doubt we may work again some time in the future! Thank you! It was an honour!... Featured article as printed below.

Bill Gekas - Look Twice
Written by Jeff Kent for Professional Photographer

It may be true that there’s nothing new under the sun, but innovative 

photographers like Bill Gekas who dare to push the boundaries 
can find their signature style. Next step up: Extraordinary.

June 2012 - "These days there are too many good photographers out there,” says Bill Gekas. “The key is to be in the smaller bucket of extraordinary photographers.” Since teaching himself photography on the 35mm film format in the 1990s, Gekas has become a respected portrait artist with admirers around the globe. Based in Melbourne,Australia, the photographer has accumulated a cache of photography awards. The way to earn such awards, he says, is to dedicate yourself to the craft, enter competitions
regularly, and produce work that makes the good photographers look twice. “In most cases, if it impresses your peers, it’s bound to impress your potential clients,” says Gekas.

Gekas’ style changed in 2005, when he switched from film to digital, and he could experiment with his capture techniques in completely new ways. It was also about this time he began to seriously study the portraiture of Diane Arbus, Yousuf Karsh, Irving Penn, Cecil Beaton and other greats of photography. He’d been shooting a bit of everything up to then, but portraiture, not so much. Inspired anew, Gekas began to focus on portraiture with a fine art aesthetic. 

Gekas relies heavily on visualization. Everything is scripted in advance, including the lighting, the setting, the composition, the clothing and the way the colors and tones will interact in the frame. “I take the photo before I execute the shot,” he says. “I picture the finished shot in my mind days or hours before I click the shutter. The process is thought out from the technical to the artistic. When it’s time to shoot, I know exactly how to set the scene.” Gekas keeps a scrapbook of ideas and rough sketches that inspire him to create new setups.

It’s critical for him to figure out every technical detail in advance so he can create freely. “I’ve always believed that once you have the technical side of photography under your belt, that’s when the fun really starts. Then the strength of your imagination becomes the only limiting factor.” The lighting, of course, is central to Gekas’ careful composition. For indoor sessions, he prefers to modify the light with soft boxes. He often affixes gaffer’s tape in a cross pattern on the external diffuser of the main light to mimic sunlight streaming through window panes. He takes advantage of the inverse square law (an object positioned twice as far from a light source will receive one quarter of the illumination) as a lighting control. He uses two lights and a large circular bounce reflector. One light serves as the main light, and it’s usually modified by a 28-inch soft box. He places the bounce reflector on the opposite side of the composition to reflect a bit of fill light onto the subject. He often modifies the second light with a grid spot and aims it at the background, or he places it on the background axis to create a shaft of light. With a slightly larger set, he forgoes the bounce reflector and uses another light for fill, typically placing it on the camera axis and bouncing the light off the ceiling. He finds this a more precise method of controlling the amount of detail in the shadow areas. Typically, he shoots at the max sync speed to make sure the ambient light doesn’t contaminate the studio lighting.

In contrast, ambient light plays a prominent role in Gekas’ outdoor shoots. He employs a single artificial light source, usually in tandem with a circular modifier, such as an umbrella, and sometimes with a mid-size octabox to give the impression of direct sunlight falling on the subject. He harnesses the ambient light for fill by selecting a shutter speed just slow enough to admit a soup├žon of natural light without overexposing the image or blurring the subject.

Though he’s enjoyed his current stylistic approach, Gekas is always looking to evolve. “As artists, I don’t believe we can stay in a stagnant state producing the same style of work continuously,” he asserts. “In order to evolve, we have to get out of our comfort zones whether we like it or not, and push the boundary further each time. Otherwise our work starts sounding like a broken record, constantly repeating itself.”

The ideal in portraiture is to go for a look that’s unique, appealing and interesting, says Gekas. That style will define you as a photographer. Keep your eyes open, analyze images that move you and images that don’t, he recommends. “Don’t be scared of taking certain elements from different works and molding them into something to call your own. You might like the lighting from a photo you saw somewhere, a prop from another photo, colors from another. The key is not to limit yourself with the excuse, ‘It’s all been done before.’ Yes, many things have been done before, but with some careful thought you can adjust a concept to give it your signature. Experiment!”

Looking at other photographers’ work, trying to one-up your peers with new approaches—these are important parts of the processes in Gekas’ mind. “As in any other industry, competition is a healthy thing,” he says. “It pushes the boundaries. Pro photographers need to differentiate themselves from the rest, to find new ground.” Standing out from the crowd gets you noticed. In a field full of practitioners doing good work, only the extraordinary will stand out.

See more from Bill Gekas at