Behind the scenes shot courtesy of Gary Feng

Behind the scenes shot courtesy of Gary Feng

You’ve seen here in wrestling rings, you’ve seen her on The Tommy G Show and you’ve seen her in my portfolio if you’ve been paying attention. The time has arrived for another photo shoot with Venus and this time I took all of my rules and tossed them out the window. For instance I never really used a tilt-shift lens seriously before this shoot. I wanted to break that rule. I also rarely shoot with warm tones for an entire session. Broke that rule and stuck to warm tones. I also used a backdrop for simple portraits which is something I’ve been gravitating toward lately, but made a real point of doing it specifically for this shoot. I’ve also been using multiple flashes/strobes for a lot of shoots over the past couple years. For this shoot I went back to using one flash/strobe and working with ambient light.

Let’s get back to the tilt-shift aspect of the shoot. This is going to be a nerdier/technical take on the shoot, so buckle up if you’re not used to this kind of language. The lenses I used are manual focus lenses from an old Mamiya 645 PRO that I still use for medium format film. The aperture is manual as well. This lens is mounted to a tilt-shift adapter that allows the lens to move both horizontally and vertically using two separate knobs on the adapter. When you throttle this arrangement of plane shifts, the result is a dreamy composition with areas of sharpness surrounded by areas of creamy blur. It’s great for a less dramatic approach as well. Let’s say you want to have the face razor-sharp. You can adjusted tilt-shift lens to focus on the face and then gradually fall off to a blur as it approaches the waist.

Since I shoot in an old factory, sometimes I’d like to have the environment a little less competitive with the client. The tilt-shift lens allows me to concentrate on the client but not eliminate the urban setting. Working with the tilt-shift lens can be confusing at first. However, once you wrap your head around the idea of shifting planes, it opens up a whole new world. Shooting at f/2.8 on the 55mm lens can be daunting if you’d like to get a sliver of focus for a portrait. By introducing the tilt-shift I am able to get both eyes in focus at f/2.8 even if the person has their head turned from the lens.


  • Sony A7R II
  • Mamiya M645 55mm f/2.8
  • Mamiya M645 150mm f/3.5
  • Kipon tilt-shift adapter
  • MagMod grid and gels
  • Manfrotto Lastolite softbox
  • Yongnuo 560IV flash
  • Paul C. Buff Einstein E640 w/ 86″ PLM umbrella

Special thanks to Gary Feng for assisting and dressing like he manages a cafe in Brooklyn. Remember to visit Venus at her web site or risk being thrown into a volcano.

NJ Bellydancer Venus photographed at The Art Factory