Remotraits: Shooting Portraits via Facetime Through Various Materials

Because of the quarantines currently sweeping the country and world, creatives have had to get especially creative to make collaborative art in spite of distance. I’ve seen photographers shooting portraits of people from the sidewalk and through windows. I’ve also seen photographers shooting via conferencing apps. I, too, recently conducted my own remote portrait sessions, which I’ve decided to call Remotraits.

After exploring a range of different techniques, I found a sweet spot when I began shooting through different substances and materials (a technique I’ve been exploring in my Strata series this past year). The resulting images look exactly how they would have had the subject been standing in my studio.

By hooking a projector up to my laptop while I’m on a call with my subjects — who are often not just in a different state but sometimes in a different country — I can project their face onto a backdrop in my studio. Then I shoot through a range of different materials and substances, throwing the subject slightly out of focus, which takes the focus off the poor video connection and puts it on the texture, helping sell the illusion that the subject was actually in my space.

In my latest remotrait, I collaborated with actress and singer Aleksa Palladino. Aside from revisiting techniques and materials from my previous sessions I also tried out several new ideas. I projected Aleksa onto a large sheet of plastic trash that was laying around from my “One Man’s Trash” shoots.

Next, I bounced the projector into a broken mirror and photographed the reflection. After that, I shot through vellum on a laptop screen to give the appearance of a tilt-shift lens. I even poured honey onto a 1/4 CTO gel, laying it on the laptop screen.

Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at my setup:

I’m super excited at all the possibilities of this medium and believe this is only the tip of the iceberg.


P.S. To book a session, head over to this project’s webpage.


About the author: Nick Fancher is an editorial and music photographer who specializes in dramatic lighting, often employing the use of bold colors and experimental camera techniques. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. You can also find more of his work and writing on his website. His popular books can be purchased on Amazon. This article was also published here and here.