Laura Helena is a household name
in fantasy people photography and playful romantic Photoshop art.
She regularily bends the rules of reality as she’s working,
while also being an open, down-to-earth personality herself, a trait her
students obviously highly appreciate. As compagnon ambassador she’s about
to share personal insights to her work. The kind of work that makes her
stand out from the crowd everywhere, not only here on the compagnon blog:
“compagnon of inspiration” – part 15
Laura, being only 26 years old, is already far from being an unknown. Starting in 2014 when she had her first massive speaking engagement at Photokina fare, she’s an acclaimed photographer and trainer in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. If she has time for a relaxed film night at all, she picks, who would have thought, some visually stunning fantasy flick like Lord of the Rings or the Potter franchise. The matching snack is brussels sprouts, just because it sits neatly between other archenemies like Voldemort or Sauron.
compagnon: Good morning, Laura, thanks for stopping by today. Noone could argue that you stand out from our other interview guests so far. Your fantasy style is really unique. So we kind of asked ourselves what was there first? Your excitement for that look, the costumes, props and so on or your passion for photography?
Laura Helena: Good morning, thanks for having me. The camera was there first. Chiefly because I wasn’t able to create such costumes back then. I started out with people and portrait photography but I grew out of that really really quickly. It wasn’t satisfying me anymore, the images didn’t excite me. Something was missing and I wanted more. So only a couple of months in I started working on easy-to-make props like wreaths of flowers and similar things.
compagnon: Once again we’re reminded that the performance behind the camera only tells half of the story. The work you put in for a certain motif can make the difference. How did you learn how to create these sophisticated dresses, hats and so on? Is that ability self-taught?
Laura Helena: Yes it is. I started learning a lot from Youtube tutorials but also by trial and error. And I like to work with designers to borrow their pieces. I scratch their back, they scratch mine, they get to use my images, I get to use their dresses. That’s a great way to get hold of amazing costumes. But making them yourself is big fun and also widens your scope of creativity. That’s why I’m going to learn how to sew this year, just to improve the costumes in the future and keep new designes coming.
compagnon: That’s impressive. The dresses are not the only key element in your images. Your work as a Photoshop artist puts them over the top. How did you start with Photoshop? How did you learn how to get the best out of it? Your ability has turned you into a requested trainer and tutor, mind you.
Laura Helena: I was interested in Photoshop right from the start of my career. Reason being, maybe, that I used to draw a lot back in the day. So during my photography work Photoshop set that part of me free again like some kind of balance. Especially as I started using a drawing tablet I felt reminded of how it felt to draw. Again, many things I learned for myself using CS3 back then. Also I went to photography school, kept creating my own style, improved on my workflow constantly. Today, Photoshop and my photography are inseparable. Doing staged fantasy photography, Photoshop will help you past the limits of reality and get you closer to your actual vision.
compagnon: You say you’re using Photoshop to get past the borders of the real world. Does that mean your base image that comes out of the camera in less important? How many shots do you usually take till you got the raw file you need? Is it easier to get in a controlled studio environment or outdoor?
Laura Helena: That’s one big misconception right there. The raw file is immensely important. If it’s perfect right out of camera, taking it further in Photoshop is easy. All I have to do then is get creative with it instead spending time repairing and fixing things. That’s why I need a perfect shot. And that doesn’t necessarily take a long time. If the concept is there, we’re through after about ten shots, especially if it’s a personal project. Working for a customer I usually take 60 images. I try to limit that number as much as possible to make the decision easier for the client. 90 percent of my work happens outdoors, I even shoot some composings outdoor. That’s why I love having compagnon products with me. If it’s too cold outside for a client we use printed backgrounds in the studio to achieve the romantic, dreamy look.
compagnon: That’s one misconception eliminated already. Is there another question you keep hearing during your work as a teacher or workshop tutor and what do you answer to it?
Laura Helena: Oh yeah, there’s another one. I keep hearing that as self-employed person not just in my role as a trainer. People believe that you get to sleep in everyday if you want and have a relaxed, easy work life overall. That’s baloney. My day starts early in the morning every day. It’s a lot, lot, lot of work to organize your days as a self-employed photographer. Many people underestimate what needs to get done besides the photographer/trainer work itself.
compagnon: You just spoke about a concept you like to have ready before the shoot starts. Where do you get the ideas and the inspiration for the concept from? Do you lock yourself in some designer’s sewing room and let the dresses soak in? How do you do it?
Laura Helena: No no, of course I don’t. Sometimes inspiration just hits me out of nowhere but I also like books, movies and music as incredible sources of inspirations. Also browsing hardware in shops for decorating supply can help me get into the groove. Once I’m there it usually results in costumes like these.
compagnon: You like movies as a source of inspiration. The possibilities to achieve high visual impact are often unlimited when it comes to filmmaking. So our final question is how a perfect shooting would look like for you? You get to pick from your personal magic lamp. Models, props, gear, places, scenery, team… the lot. Money no object. Take us there…
Laura Helena: That’s a tough one, usually one tends to limit oneself to the possibilities you have available. But if I could do what I wanted for one day I’d charter a jet, get the model Maria Amanda on there, she’s an incredibly beautiful model, I can’t pick a certain designer right now but it’s gotta be someone that does great vintage fantasy things. And of course a make-up artist, too. And then I’d try to visit as many countries as possible while shooting in each of them for one or two hours. This might be a horrible thing for the environment but it’ll be absolutely memorable and special. First touching down in Ireland, because it’s mountainous, rugged and beautifully green. Norway might be even better with those amazing cliffs and fjords. After that we’d go to Romania. The mystic, old woods there are special. After that a stop by the sea, maybe to the Azores. The vegetation there is one of a kind. I don’t think you could pack much more into a single day. My goal would be creating harmonious images and having all those amazing elements stand out in the image rather than achieving some storytelling.
compagnon: Thank you so much for that open and direct talk and the insight you granted our fans & followers. Let’s hope many creative people will get to know you and your work in 2017 and also decide to learn from you how to improve their own work. Have yourself a successful and healthy new year. Great to have you as a part of the compagnon ambassador family.