I’m not one for traditions or upholding them simply because they exist. For me, tradition, titles, rules, boundaries, and classifications all deserve to be challenged. These days, everyone and their brother has a highly-capable, powerful little camera in their pocket. Because of that, a lot of people view themselves as photographers. While this is true from an objective perspective – you’re certainly acting as a photographer when you take photos – most of us wouldn’t call ourselves a photographer when we’re not taking pictures. In this same vein, I’m not a hockey player simply because I’m capable of holding a hockey stick. The stick doesn’t make the player, and the presence of a camera doesn’t make a photographer.
We came across Bella’s work and were immediately in awe of her creative vision. The attention to detail, the subject matter, the set design, the inspiration was palpable. From looking through her portfolio and talking with her about her work, you can immediately tell that photography is present in her thoughts and her everyday life. She breathes photography and her growing audience and fan-base is proof.
Photography like hers also has a lot to do with trust. From the shots we’ve selected as part of our Eye Candy department feature this issue, you can tell her models trust her to not only get the shot, but there’s also an unspoken translation of appreciation and assurance you can feel when you look at her work. I’d argue it’s this relationship with your work that makes you a legit photographer. Bella has no doubt earned that title.
We caught up with Bella to talk about studio work, spontaneity, compassion, and developing her craft. Enjoy.
RR: There’s a beautiful high-class aesthetic in your work that sometimes features some tasteful nudity. Being a photographer can sometimes call for the ability to direct or help guide a subject through a shoot to get the right shot – explain what it’s like to support and guide your subjects through something like a Boudoir shoot when they’re showing a little more than they might be used to. Does the shoot take on a different energy when there’s skin involved?
Thank you so much! Boudoir and self love sessions are one of my favourite sessions that I offer. It is a magnificent way of expressing the beauty of the human body. My self love sessions are all about embracing your truest self. I think everybody’s body should be celebrated. I believe I am a very caring and compassionate person and I recognize the fact that a lot of people feel very vulnerable when they are in the nude, or even semi nude with a total stranger. That is why I focus on building friendship and comfort in my relationship with each and every client, especially when they are going to be in little to no clothing with me.
There are always laughs and continuous smiles while shooting any type of session with me, clothes or not. My motto is ‘Good Vibes Always!’ I’ve witnessed all of the emotions throughout the years, even tears as people start to open up and begin to see their own true beauty.
The entire process is about stepping out of your comfort zone, so it’s normal to feel a little bit uncomfortable or overwhelmed at first, but I will always reassure the model how perfect they look on camera, and how great of a job they are doing. I show the client the photos as I’m capturing them. This provides reassurance that the session has resulted in beautiful art that has been created together.
It is a very empowering experience for my models to see themselves in the poses I have created for them. Everyone’s body is equally unique and beautiful in their own way and boudoir gives one the ability to see themselves in a new light. It allows one to embrace, love and admire their own body image.
RR: You have your studio at home, and from what I’ve seen there’s a ton of variation in your studio shoots – in the age of work-from-home post-COVID19, what’s it like to house an entire studio at your home in Wiarton and how do you separate work from down time?
I do have a studio at home! It was meant to be a temporary quarantine experiment as I continued to grow my portfolio and see if there was a market for my type of work in such a small town. I knew I needed to invest in a large variety of equipment to execute the best quality work. As people reached out to me for studio sessions I found there was a much larger demand than I originally thought, and people were willing to travel to me in order to work together. So, my business has continued to expand and more opportunities have arisen. It has now been a full year of having a studio in my home and I couldn’t be happier.
When it comes to separating work and down time, I definitely still struggle with this, but I am learning to set boundaries and give myself well deserved breaks. It is tough because the majority of my work is done on my computer, so I find myself working at all hours of the day making mood boards, chatting with new clients, editing galleries and doing promos and social media.
RR: When I was diving into your work on your website, I was really drawn to the stylized on-site portraiture tab. We’ve written and discussed the importance of being able to put great content in front of the camera lens to create great work, so location can play a huge role. What’s been your experience shooting more spontaneous content on-site as opposed to a controlled environment like a studio, or even at a wedding or engagement shoot where there may not be a ton of room for innovation? How does it change how you work as a photographer?
Location does play a huge role in a photo shoot. I have always experimented with landscape photography. At the end of the day, I always picture a subject in front of the landscape to curate the best shot. I always find myself seeing potential in locations all over, whether I am far away traveling, or just driving throughout Bruce County. When it comes to shooting spontaneous content on-site, I find there is lots of room for creativity. I love pushing the limits, trying new poses or capturing new angles; for example, aerial shots from my drone. I love shooting near or in the water, as we have so many rivers, waterfalls and of course the Great Lakes close by.
The Niagara Escarpment is also beautiful and has lots of opportunities. I love abandoned locations, and big open spaces. I know weather is always unpredictable and the chance of random people being in your frame is likely with tourism rising in our area but I try to plan as much as I can to avoid issues like this. I find shooting very early in the morning is not only calm and breathtaking, but very few people are out and about at that time of day, versus sunset when the crowds come out. Obviously, when I am in my studio with controlled lighting and heat, things are almost always seamless, but I love the element of surprise, as sometimes that makes the best shot imaginable!
RR: Tell us about your current camera set up and what you’ve found works for you from a technology perspective.
I shoot with a mirror-less Canon R5, and I adore it. I have always been a sucker for my 35mm and 50mm prime lenses but recently have been experimenting with my 16-35mm f2.8 lens and love having the ability to capture a much wider shot. I also use my 70-200mm f2.8 for wildlife and wedding work. I have a range of lighting equipment, but my current 3 light setup with strobes is my preferred method.
I also have a set of continuous, colour-changing LED lights, which are great for experimentation. I edit all my photos in Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop. I’m pleased with my current setup and have come to terms and accept the fact that there will always be more equipment to purchase. Also, technology is always improving, but cameras and equipment are NOT what defines a good photographer!
RR: Tell the people what’s next for you and where they can find your work.
I have plenty of goals for the future. I hope to continue working with more creators, musicians, and brands while traveling more for work! I hope to do a few big trips in the next year and continue making powerful art work wherever I go!
People can view my work on my website bellabrough.ca or on Instagram and Tiktok @bellabroughphoto. All inquiries can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org
Photography by Bella Brough
Interview by Nelson Phillips