The Art of Texture (Story Contributed by Tamron)

Model posing with bright purple lipstick

Story By Jenn Gidman
Images By Taylor Brumfield

The Art of Texture by Taylor Brumfield

With her Tamron SP 90mm VC macro and SP 70-200mm VC G2 lenses, beauty photographer Taylor Brumfield’s focus on skin tones and color grading allows each model’s unique personality to shine.

View the previous Tamron story here.

The Art of Texture

Taylor Brumfield’s love of photography was born when she received her first point-and-shoot camera in her junior year of high school, and it continued into her college years at Florida State, where she started working behind the scenes for one of the fashion magazines on campus. “I learned how to structure a photo shoot, create mood boards, and work with models,” she says. “I then started shooting commercial shoots in the Tallahassee area. All of this fostered my love for stylized photography.”

Fast-forward to today in Virginia, where Taylor has since transitioned to beauty photography. She also hosts one-on-one educational sessions and does outreach via conferences and speaking engagements to teach photographers and others the art of retouching. “I wanted to become more passionate about my work,” she says. “I also wanted to start highlighting models who were different. And as a black photographer, I’m especially sensitive to honoring the skin tones of models of color. I learned the ins and outs of retouching and color grading, so that I’d be able to consistently nail the nuances of my models’ skin tones. I’ve been especially proud of my ability to achieve that.”

© Taylor Brumfield
70-200mm (70mm), F/13, 1/160 sec., ISO 100

For her editorial shoots, Taylor relies on her Tamron SP 90mm F/2.8 VC macro and SP 70-200mm F/2.8 VC G2 lenses. “Both lenses give me the beautiful skin tones I’m looking for,” she says. “I love the light weight of the 90mm macro and how sharp it is. The lens is very quick to find the points of focus that I set. As for the 70-200mm, because the zoom aspect is internal, this lens is also lightweight. With my carpal tunnel syndrome, it’s important for me to have a telephoto lens like this with a wide focal range that I can carry around all day. My photos are also cleaner, because I’m able to get a lot closer to my subjects; I don’t have to keep scooting back in order to zoom in.”

© Taylor Brumfield
90mm, F/13, 1/160 sec., ISO 100

For the shoot shown here with model Grace Nfor, Taylor wanted to highlight Grace’s inner and outer beauty and her unique look. “Grace is one of the best people I’ve ever met, and I wanted to show off how dynamic, interesting, and pretty she is,” she says. “What I love about Grace is the organic feeling that always comes through in our shoots. I didn’t instruct Grace on exactly what to do during the session; I literally just told her ‘go,’ and then gave her some feedback along the way. This was my fourth time shooting with her, and she always brings it.”

© Taylor Brumfield
70-200mm (200mm), F/13, 1/160 sec., ISO 100

With a background in cosmetic skincare, Taylor is able to speak the same language as her makeup artist, Camille Holly. “Camille and I have a very clear understanding of each other, and it’s become instinctual,” she says. “I have a really good feel for makeup and color theory in general, and especially how to apply that to different skin tones, on different textures and in different settings. That’s why I’ll often have an active presence while the makeup is being applied, as I’m very particular when it comes to aesthetics—not only in terms of how the makeup looks, but in terms of how I’ll approach the eventual retouching.”

© Taylor Brumfield
70-200mm (200mm), F/13, 1/3 sec., ISO 100

Taylor prefers an element of drama in her general approach to lighting editorial shoots. “I love Rembrandt lighting where there’s a triangle of shadow or darkness across one side of the model’s face,” she says. “It adds visual interest. I also like for my models to be sculpted, and for the colors to be correct right out of the camera. Obviously I’ll color-grade either warmer or cooler, depending on what the person’s skin tone is, but because I want those colors as spot-on as possible from the get-go, I’ll usually have my Kelvin set for whatever the lighting is in the room where we’re shooting.”

Making sure that the model’s head is well-lit is important, but Taylor pays special attention to hair texture. “I photograph mostly people of color, and they usually have very, very dark hair,” she notes. “I want the textures of their hair to come through in the image. I’ll also try to ensure the person isn’t underexposed. For example, with Grace, she has a darker skin tone, and it would be easy to lose information in her shadows. I had to make sure that if I graded the exposure, she wouldn’t appear noisy or grainy, and that if I needed to dodge and burn those areas, she wouldn’t be completely underexposed.”

© Taylor Brumfield
90mm, F/13, 1/3 sec., ISO 100

For Grace, Taylor used a strobe and a 51-inch deep silver umbrella. “It was camera left, pointing down at her,” Taylor says. “I positioned the silver reflector about 2 feet underneath her to create that nice Rembrandt effect. There’s still some dramatic shadow underneath her chin, but her chest remains properly exposed.”

© Taylor Brumfield

90mm, F/13, 1/3 sec., ISO 100
Click image to view larger

Taylor admits she can be a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to final retouching, but she also feels it’s important that skin looks like skin. “I don’t mind seeing a little bumpiness and the different aspects of a person’s skin, because it adds realism and dynamism to the person’s form,” she says. “That’s why I tried to preserve some of that texture in Grace’s skin. I shot at a moderately high f-stop using the 90mm macro lens, because I wanted that texture to come through. The textures I was able to achieve with her led to a quick and easy retouch, where I simply had to blend the colors a bit and fix minor blemishes.”

Playing around with long exposures was something Taylor had long wanted to experiment with, and this was the first editorial shoot she got the chance to do so. “I shot some of these images you see here at half a second to 1/3 of a second,” she says. “I instructed Grace to start to move when I pressed the shutter button, then stop moving by the time the shutter clicked open. That’s how I was able to get all of that glorious movement from the gold leaf eyeshadow and the gold earrings, yet still retain texture in her skin. I was pleased with how those images came out. I don’t know when I’ll be using this effect again, but I definitely will.”

© Taylor Brumfield
70-200mm (150mm), F/13, 0.5 sec., ISO 100
© Taylor Brumfield
70-200mm (160mm), F/13, 0.5 sec., ISO 100

To see more of Taylor Brumfield’s work, go to her website or check out her Instagram.

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