Copyright Karl Shreeves 2012
When shooting actors and models, the wonderful talent you tap into is their ability to create the persona you're trying to capture. These professionals have an innate understanding of what angles and light capture them best, and combine that with emotion, mood and expression to transform into the character you want in front of your lens.
As much as I enjoy shooting with models and actors, there's something special about the genuine article. That's what makes shooting dramatic portraits of real people with distinct traits so magical. I met the subject, Joe, a couple of years ago and in about two seconds, realized that the camera would love his distinctive look, which tells you that he's a rancher and cowboy. You can tell he's the real deal, not an "urban cowboy," model or actor, just from this shot. See how his hand caresses Babe's (Babe is his horse) chin? Babe clearly knows and trusts him -- and vice versa. He's no stranger to horses. His clothes just look right . . . not a costume, they fit but they're not overly tailored. They look like what he'd wear working his ranch because they are what he wears working his ranch. This was my favorite from several I love in a series with Babe. Although it's easy to overuse sepia toning, I think it works here as the final touch on a classic cowboy-and-his-horse portrait.
I won't deny that a skilled model or actor, backed by production team, could pull off this look with equal credibility. But, while I'd love to shoot Kurt Russell decked out as Wyatt Earp like he was in Tombstone, given the choice, I'd rather shoot the real Wyatt Earp -- and that's no slam on Kurt Russell.