Craig Hill is a gifted photographer with an eye for beauty in nature and women. Designer by trade, but a photographer at heart, Craig makes a very strong and lasting statement with his artistic work. His use of lighting on beautiful models in combination with lovely scenery always makes me want to pause and admire his images. Aside from his nature beauty shots Craig also shoots outstanding boudoir images, which perfectly combine feminine innocence with powerful seductiveness. After admiring his work for quite some time I could not resist and interview him about his craft to have a peak at his workflow and overall photo philosophy.
Tell us a little bit about yourself?
By day, I’m a Broadcast Designer and in my free time, a photographer working out of St. Augustine, FL. I’m from North Carolina originally.
How did you get started in photography? Any “formal” training?
My only formal training was back in college where I took one class in B&W photography… some time ago… let’s just say in the film days! About 2 years ago though, it occurred to me that I had a job and digital cameras had come a long way so I decided to buy one and I have been shooting an average of 3 days a week since probably.
How long have you been really passionate about photography for?
I’ve always loved it, back in college it was probably my favorite class but after college, I didn’t have a darkroom or money to buy any necessary equipment but since picking it back up, I’ve worked at it as much as I possibly can.
You shoot beauty/fashion/boudoir/artistic, sport, nature and family portraits but what would you photograph if you had to choose just one?
Hmm… I love sports & nature so much so I’d never want to put any of those down… but I really enjoy working with a models too much to choose them over model photography… and the beauty of model work is… you can put them in nature or shoot them playing sports so you could still cheat a little and get some of my other favorites in the photos.
How would you describe your style?
So hard to answer… and people often tell me that they love my style but it’s hard to know what it is… much in the same way you can never really see yourself how others see you, unless you just do the same exact thing over and over, then I guess you could easily talk about your style. I’m not sure mine has or will ever be so clearly defined as I’m always trying to do it differently, to perfect it somehow or experiment with different lighting or where I put the model in relation to the sun, etc. I’d say some of the characteristics I strive for in my photography though are crispness, strong composition & overall balance… things that my design career has probably helped with as I don’t really think that much about it while I’m shooting.
What camera(s) do you use?
I shoot Canon! Just got a 5D MIII about 2 months ago! Shot with a 60d before that & it’s a major upgrade.
If you had to choose one lens which one would it be and why?
My go-to is my Canon 24-70 L f/2.8. It’s a great all-purpose. Gives you some wide and a little reach too. If I have room where I am shooting though, I’ll use the Canon 70-200 L II f/2.8. That is the best lens I own.
You have a lot of photos taken at interesting locations; do you scout these sites prior to a shoot?
Most of the times, I have been to the location prior to shooting there, yes. I sometimes use the same location but a different part or something too though to keep them from looking the same.
Do you have your own studio, rent or shoot at home?
I shoot outside when I can, but I do have a small home studio that I use as well.
What lighting equipment do you work with?
Paul C. Buff’s Einstein lights are my favorites that I’ve used so far.
Do you use the same lighting equipment for studio and outdoor photography?
Only recently have I started taking my Einstein’s outside. I had been using some of Buff’s White Lightning light’s before & I just love the control you get with the Einsteins so they’ve come outside!
Do you do post processing on all of the “keeper” shots?
How long do you typically spend on processing an image?
It really depends on what it needs and how well I lit it, ha. Some folks need a little more work on their skin, etc. so they may take longer. Some have smooth skin and can be done in 5 minutes as long as the shot was lit well.
What is your favorite computer software/editing accessory, other than your computer?
I love Apple’s Aperture but if I could only have one… it’s still Photoshop!
How important is Photoshop for your work?
Very, at least 2/3 of my process is in Photoshop after I export from Aperture.
What is your most used Photoshop tool, plug-in, action set etc.?
Just some of my sharpening actions probably. I didn’t buy any, they were freebies I found along the way. I also enjoy some of the ones that give a certain look to my work. I rarely use them as they are written though. I might apply one, copy the image, then revert to the original, then paste the effected one on top and set it’s opacity at 30% to get a look I want, etc.
Do you use Mac or PC?
MAC! I’m a diehard Mac user!
Where do you get your inspiration from?
A lot of places probably, but nowhere specific. I always look at photography sites and I’m sure am constantly influenced by others work but nowhere specific.
Do you have an assistant/2nd shooter that accompanies you?
Not really, but my buddy, Rod, sometimes helps out. We often shoot nature & sports together so we work well together.
If you could photograph anyone, who would it be and why?
Ha Ha, wow… anyone? So many ways I could go… I shoot a lot of beautiful women so a famous beautiful woman would be great… but I think I’d go another way if I really got to pick anyone. A president maybe… Steve Jobs would have been high on my list or someone with some great character in their face… like Morgan Freeman. I think I’d have to go with Michael Jordan though, a hero of mine and someone so iconic. I see some great B&W portraits in all those guys.
How do you find your models?
Usually word of mouth or they find me via my webpage or social media. I have some great model friends that I shoot with often that I love working with & their friends sometimes find me and through them.
How often do you use Makeup Artists?
Not as often as I should. A good MUA brings so much to a shoot. I intend to use them more but I don’t do it as much as I’d like.
How do you make your models feel relaxed during a shoot?
Mostly by just being relaxed myself and being easy going. Hopefully they pick up on my vibe that I’m not out to do anything other than make great images with them & have no intentions other than making them look their best, within their comfort levels. I do often say when I can tell a model is nervous, if maybe she’s inexperienced that “we are gonna take a lot of pics, some will be good, some not so much, we are gonna throw those out!” to let them know it’s ok to take a chance, make a silly face or silly pose if they think it might work. If it doesn’t, we’ll toss it.
Have you ever had anything go wrong at a shoot and if so, how did you handle it?
I have had lights blown over but they’ve always still worked even though they were bent, ha, but once, I had my trigger battery die on me during a shoot kind far out in nature and we had to pick up and drive about 30 minutes to find the right battery to replace it. My model wasn’t happy with me I don’t think at the time, but we got some great pics after so I think she’s forgiven me, ha.
The first photographer that comes to your mind and why?
Robert Alvarado, I just love his work. The lighting & processing are so great!
If you could make enough money with photography to live comfortably would you do it as a full time job or would you rather keep it as a part time/hobby?
If I could shoot what I want & make a great living at it, I would absolutely do it full time.
What advice do you have for somebody who wants to pursue model photography?
Ask a model to shoot & do your best with the equipment you have, then ask another one and do it a little better. Repeat as necessary!
Is there anything you would have done differently during your photographic career?
I would have kept at it after college. I feel like I’m behind now and trying to catch up.
What one superpower would you choose?
Flight… I could get about any angle I wanted then.
What are you still learning?
Lighting… always lighting. People tell me they love mine but I always seem to like other’s better. I’m always trying to make mine better.
What do you love most about photography?
When people really enjoy my photograph.
Is there anything you don’t like as a photographer?
“GWC’s (Guys With Camera’s) who give model photographers a bad image by being inappropriate with their models… and photographers who literally go out and shoot just where you did and take practically the same image.
What is your greatest fear related to your work?
Disappointing the person I’m shooting.
What do you do on a typical Friday night?
If I don’t have a model shoot, you’d find me either editing my pics or out shooting some long exposures with friends probably.
Would you still shoot if you won a lottery, if so how would that change your photos?
I often joke with my models that if I won the lottery, I’d buy a house in an exotic location with lots of rooms. It would be a model commune, ha ha, where they could come stay and we’d shoot all day. I’d have a staff of editors, makeup & hair people & assistants too so we could just shoot! I’d have a fleet of 1Dx’s, all the crazy expensive lenses I could want, crazy expensive filters, all of it. Would be plenty to play with to keep me exploring.
Where do you see yourself 5 years from now?
Hopefully making even better photographs, with 5 more years of experience!
What is your favorite photo you have shot recently? Can you describe the process behind it (location, equipment and setting used), as well as your thoughts about creating the image and what it means to you?
My favorite recent image was for a Hooter’s Calendar submission. Shot with a great model, Lois, who doesn’t have a lot of experience but she is a natural beauty & going to be a great model. The location was just this nature trail out near a beach. I used my Canon 5D MIII with my 70-200mm f/2.8 L II Lens. We shot in the late afternoon so the sun would be low in the sky and not so harsh. I used an Einstein strobe with a beauty dish at very low power, just to fill her with the sun hitting her from behind to highlight her hair and to provide a rim light. I shot it at 200mm to blur the background as much as possible and my settings for this one were f/3.2, ISO 100 & my shutter speed was 1/200. My thoughts going into this shoot were that I wanted to give her something as good as the photo’s you see in the Hooter’s calendar. I actually bought one from our local Hooters and checked out the photos inside. They always have a nice location and most have very shallow DOF to make it more about the subject so I tried to keep the shoot closer cropped and more about her… and am hoping she makes next year’s calendar!