ARTISTIC BRILLIANCE: FELIX KUNZE
New York, NY
Style: Soft, polished, graceful
@felixkunze | felixkunze.com
I get hired for shooting images that feel softly
lit, rather than the commercial punch. In the
early days of my career, I was shooting a lot
of portraits in the UK. Dealing with the cloudy
conditions and shooting regular people meant
I had to develop a style that would work
universally. Over the years I’ve become known
for my particular style of shooting. What was at
first a desperate chase for a universal lighting
setup has turned into an obsession for making
subtle lighting look beautiful.
I tend not to use lighting diagrams or ratios,
and while I have a couple of “go-to” setups, I
try to vary them each time. I get bored with my
own work so quickly that I’m always tinkering.
This is why I tend to tell students, “This is how
I light—by no means should you aim to use the
same exact setups.” Don’t get bogged down in
numbers, ratios, stops. Just test, test, test, and
if you don’t like how the image looks, change
something. That approach has gotten me far.
MY FAVORITE TOOLS
• Elinchrom ELB 400 packs and heads. They are battery-powered, light and small
enough to fit into my hand luggage, yet powerful enough to use in the studio and to
overpower the sun.
• Oliphant backdrops. I’ve got a costly obsession with them, but I just can’t help
myself—their painted backdrops make everything look beautiful. I use them for 90
percent of my portrait work, including on location. I am known for “that Oliphant
look” and I have gotten jobs because of it.
• Phase One’s Capture One software. Shooting tethered into it was one of the biggest
jumps forward in my career. Not only does Capture One do such a better job at RAW
image interpretation, it also has powerful color-manipulation tools I use to
get the look I’m known for. I have been working with them to spread Capture One to
photographers around the world via my AMBFELIX promo code at captureone.com.
The wonderfully charming John Douglas
Eason, an interior designer I met at a
dinner party, graciously agreed to pose
for me. I shot him in the studio nook in
my old apartment in front of an Oliphant
background, with my Photek Softlighter
umbrella and Elinchrom ELB 400. The sun
was streaming through the window, always
finding a crack in my scrims. Eventually I
gave up trying to control the sun and simply
let it bounce off the wood floor onto him.
He already had that kind of Renaissance
Man vibe going on, so the light really
played into that beautifully.
This image is of Avalon Petersen, an L.A.
model I used on a lighting class I taught
(I do small classes on occasion). We
actually ended up in Sue Bryce’s studio
and used her dresses and backdrops, a
wonderful challenge for myself and the
students. The soft pink of the backdrop
inspired me to light this with very soft
light. With Elinchrom’s Rotalux Deep
OctaBox pointed into the ceiling and the
Rotalux Mini Octa Softbox feathered onto
her, I was able to make a soft and dreamy
image using the same tools I usually use
for more dramatic light.
Don’t get bogged
down in numbers,
ratios, stops. Just
test, test, test.