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Inside My Camera Bag | Stephanie Rodgers

I’m Stephanie Pearl, an artist and surreal conceptual fine art portrait photographer.

It’s a mouthful, I know; I often throw dark into the genre, too. But all these elements are crucial to my imagery.

I usually create stories that express how I feel about certain topics. Concepts can range from current affairs such as environmentalism to inclusivity, mental health, or just self-expression.

I like to use my artwork as a platform to speak my truths, and I hope it’s a form of release or a feeling of unity for my viewers.

I’m from the UK, live in Edinburgh, and have moved around the UK a lot.

I use a Canon EOS 5D Mark III to create the base images. I started with Canon and always got along with it. I connect with the softness of it.

My main lens is the Canon EF 50mm f/1.4

I’d like the f/1.2 because I hear it’s more robust, and I will purchase it if my current main lens gives up the ghost.

These lenses allow a lot of background blur, adding to the painterly style I like to incorporate.

I like the background to indicate the backstory to my image while remaining somewhat of a blank canvas so the subject stands out. This is especially important when I’m trying to tell a complex story, or the subject is highly detailed.

The 50mm f/1.4 is just great for portraits. It doesn’t warp the face or body excessively, allowing sufficient space around the person to include scenery or bokeh.

This is especially true when you expand the frame with multiple images in Photoshop.

I think the effect is dreamy, and I would like to experiment more with wider frames, though! Stitching images together takes a substantial amount of time, but it increases the photo quality and print size.

I also love how the stitching creates a subtle tunnel effect around the subject from the warping. But it would be fantastic to get a setup that could do that for me!

I sometimes use a Sigma 28mm f/1.8 to achieve this effect. However, I’m more obsessed with my 50mm and tend to use my 28mm only in tight and bright spaces.

My main preference for my tripod is that it needs to be light. This is because I often climb up high or hike long distances for the perfect angle and location.

This is especially true when I incorporate urbexing into my portraits.

So my Manfrotto MKCOMPACTLT-RD is great for me. If I get a heavier camera in the future, I might need a more industrial version to hold the weight. However, this tripod serves me well for now.

And now for some unwanted detail control. A tip is that bulldog clips and safety pins help to control clothing fit or can pull away unwanted details from the frame.

I also try to bring a dustpan and brush if the scene needs cleaning!

I rely on pliers to clip away distractions such as foliage and wires. They’re definitely the most versatile tool for the job!

I also always have biodegradable wipes. My models’ feet get really dirty because I often shoot them barefoot and design messy concepts. Having wipes helps me control these factors.

Now for the creative accessories, the weird stuff!

I always have eyelash glue in my bag. It allows me to stick elements of nature safely to my models on the fly. This can be anything from insects to moss.

I usually have a few body paints in my bag, along with different-sized brushes for applying them. The kabuki brush is the best for the smooth application of body paint across large areas.

I’m especially into body paint because it creates more otherworldly characters, and you can convey many stories using colours.

I pre-plan and bring a few small props, such as bones. I also carry invisible string in case I want to hang extra details or support a prop.

I always have my idea books with me. I have four of them, but the ones pictured are my main ones.

There’s one for outdoor concepts, which usually require certain landscapes to set the scene or to juxtapose with humans and manmade things.

Then there’s an indoor book, which includes concepts needing enclosed space, a feeling of captivity, or a scene to bring the outdoors inside. As you can guess, I get a real kick out of creating surreal scenes.

These books are packed to the brim with sketches of ideas, scribbles of inspiration, and artwork title ideas.

My main book has my favourite quote, which I live by… “LEAP! And the net will appear.

To me, it means to be fearless and not let anything hold you back.


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