Deconstructing photography styles: Brandon Woelfel
I am starting this series with a photographer that is very appreciated on Instagram. He built his name using an individual style that appeals to many, and especially to the young generation: Brandon WoelfelI really like it too: the colours, the fairy lights, the bokeh, the dreamy feel, the sleepy messy look, the glasses.In the search for your own style I advise to look to others, test, practice, repeat, get inspired and then move forward with at least one lesson learned. Experimenting with different techniques is what can get you closer to finding your own voice.So let's see what analysing Brandon's images says about how he's creating cohesive and brilliant content, and how we can learn to portray a similar feel.
To obtain a complementary style to Brandon's you need to shoot in low light. Don't remove light completely as the props might not be enough to illuminate the model. Try shooting at dawn or dusk or on a moderately lighten street.The way you ca deal with the low light is:
- up the ISO - which means there will be some grain in the final image. No worries! noise is part of his style. You also need a camera that can handle a high ISO.
- lower the aperture number - which actually helps with the bokeh. To achieve this a prime lens would be the best choice. (For example a 50mm 1.4 or 1.8)
If you look at most of the images Brandon Woelfel has on his feed there is a clear predilection towards objects that either reflect or create light. Take some props to your shoot: mirrors, glasses, something sparkly, water, fire, glitter, a prism, bubbles.Beside these there is a certain vibe his photos are portraying: stylish, hip, cool, urban, young, fun. All this using certain modern elements such as: polaroids, hats/caps, large frames, cool colours, graphic Tees, jeans - for getting a collage look.Wear the props or use them in front of the lens or as a play item, there are no rules. His images are about having fun with friends in a cosy/friendly environment.
I believe Brandon Woelfel is the best example of how to use and do bokeh. Those blurry lights in the background, and in the foreground, and all around, look beautiful.Besides taking the photos in low light and using the props you also need a small aperture number. Brandon's foreground and background have a nice bokeh which means he focuses on the subject(which could be either a person or and object) with a 1.4 - 2.8 aperture.Make absolutely sure you have lights in the shot (street lights, city lights, fairy lights) somewhere behind the model. Also if you have fairy lights you can hold some in front of the model, closer to the camera to create that big light blobs. Using a large aperture not only helps with the foreground blur but works well if it's only an arm length from the focused subject!
Like with most low light, underexposed images you need to allow some time for post processing.Sometimes the colours are changed to offer variation. The main palette remains similar and cohesive with muted blacks, cool whites, bright highlights and increased saturation on a number of colours. In his images the whites tend to have a blue tint and the enhanced tones are: turquoise, aqua, pink, blue, azure.Some of the fairy lights and bokeh can be multiplied in photoshop using cloning and Brandon Woelfel doesn't make a secret of it. He shares some of the before and after images on his Instagram stories and also on his website. This is helpful as you can have a feel of what the image should look like before the editing process and how much it they can change using the right tools.His style is inspiring, yes! but don't get caught up in it for too long as it will slow you down from finding your own...Good luck