Readers Shoot Back: Sergey Zaytsev

You can easily kill an afternoon scanning the excellent work that readers upload to the site's Flickr group. Every now and then one will really stop you in your tracks, as did photographer Sergey Zaytsev's homage to Georgia's Queen Tamar, seen above. Very cool that it was done with more creativity than dollars (or lari, I should say?) and with a strong historical inspiration, to boot.

Would it surprise you to find this was done with a Nikon D300s and a few bare Cactus KF36 Vivitar 285 knockoffs? 'Cause that's what he used.


Zaytsev, based in Russia, specializes in portraits and some of the most creative wedding work I have seen in a long time. I love that the diversity of readership of this site is so broad, and am very pleased to occasionally cross-pollinate you guys' brains with the work of other readers.

(Also, is that an awesome avatar pic or what?)

Back to history class. Queen Tamar was the first woman to rule Georgia and in doing so presided over the apex of Georgia's Golden Age around the turn of the 13th century. As such she was a natural inspiration for Sergey's portrait.

If you are looking for a little creative seed, try cracking an art history book. Or even a normal history book, as did Sergey. All those books you probably overpaid for in college and have rarely opened since can be a gold mine for ideas.

By riffing on themes or people, it gives you a path to proceed. I.e., how would you photograph [insert historical or other inspiration here] were they around today, in 2013?

Sergey's portrait above is actually a composite of six pictures, with the actual portrait part being the bottom center of two stitched rows of three. Here's how it splits up:

Long-time readers will recognize this technique, also having been exploited (in more detailed posts) by photographers such as Ryan Brenizer and Jarek Wieczorkiewicz.

It essentially turns your camera into one with a medium format chip. (Seriously, there's a lot of real estate to be had there) and as Ryan has shown, can also emphasize the narrow depth of field afforded larger chips.

The lighting, courtesy the afore-mentioned Cactus KF36's (don't even think about it) is actually very cool and contributes to the crisp, three-dimensional look of the photo.

Sergey has one firing straight-on, just a little higher than her face. The others are working as side fill, coming in at right angles. The backlight is courtesy the sun. You can see the setup here:

Also, you can see how a couple of speedlights can drastically alter the look of the ambient by allowing you to dramatically underexpose it.

Zaytsev brings a similar unique, hard/overlit approach to much of his wedding work, also frequently choosing to create top-view, 360-degree panos to very cool effect. To see more of his work, click thru to his Flickr stream.

Photos ©2013 Sergey Zyetsev. Used with permission.


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