Soulful storyteling

Professional photographer Rebecca Miller strives to produce thought-provoking, unique and memorable imagery

As fresh and unpretentious as her work. Rebecca Miller is the first to admit that teenage self-portraits were part of her introduction to photography, alongside taking pictures of her high school friends at a local abandoned military base. It’s easy to describe what she does as shooting portraits and fashion, but more specifically than that, she explains that she’s “trying to tell stones that involve people. Within these stones I like to capture colour, light and texture.”

In such an image-saturated age. it can be hard to maintain a personal, niche style while still being inspired by others and Miller thinks the easiest way to do this is to avoid imitation. “Inspiration is important, but don’t try and duplicate anyone because it just won’t work. The only way to stay consistent is to shoot what makes you happy, not what’s trendy at the time, or what someone else is doing, you have to stay true to yourself.”

Miller herself recognizes how hard it can be to stand out however, especially “these days when we are just overwhelmed with imagery and seem to have less and less time.” How then, does she hope her images come across to others? “I want there to be something in the images that keeps you looking at them and then thinking about them again later on. I don’t want you to just look at it quickly and then move on.” Her first high-profile job came when shooting the band Sonic fouth for Flux Magazine, “you

can imagine how nervous I was. I had a few hours with them and I was so young and inexperienced I nearly broke out in hives from the stress of the experience.” In the end she loved the results of the shoot, but thinks a little bit of nervous energy is good, as long as it doesn’t take over. Despite her experience, having shot high-profile names from Vivienne Westwood to PJ Harvey. Miller admits she still

“Everything is planned out so fiat on the day of the shoot everyone knows exactly what to do”

gets tense before a big commission. “It’s no surprise that I used to not be able to sleep the night before a shoot, but now I’m much better. For the most part I treat my commissions like personal projects: I’m always thinking about how the job will work in my book.”

While some professional image makers try to keep their personal and commercial work separate. Miller’s ultimate goal is “to have a portfolio full of both commissions and personal work where you can’t see the difference. I want all the work to have a soul and to feel as though it’s part of one larger story.”

Commissions are often a back and forth process and when they do come in. her first step is always to ask a lot of questions. “I think it’s important to have everything very clear up front. I’ve had clients ask for things like’iconic imagery’ or‘vibey imagery’ both of which mean nothing when you think about it. Once you’re at the point where everyone knows what they are looking for. then I start to plan out the shoot.”

Usually, this starts with Miller sussing out the location herself, where she’ll then spend some time trying to figure out what the final images might look like. “I take loads of photos, then spend a few days brainstorming ideas.” with these vitally important planning stages often involving sketches, commissioned illustrations and sometimes even collages. “My ideal is for the photograph to almost be finished before I take the picture – everything is planned out [beforehand] so that on the day of the shoot everyone knows exactly what to do.”

While planning in such detail might seem to stifle creativity. Miller admits that there’s always room for surprise during a shoot, which for her is “kind of the best part, when something happens that you didn’t expect. I’m always a little sad at the end of a big project because I love the process so much.”

After the shoot. Miller’s images are retouched by Kasia Stret at Studio Invisible and for her (there are some reasons to outsource) . this is a new luxury. “I actually don’t retouch my own work anymore. It really is a full-time job to be great at it. There’s a huge backlash about retouching at the moment and I do understand why. but it’s not all about airbrushing skin and thigh gaps. For me it’s everything else: the

“I think knowing what to do with the kit is more important the actual kit”

colour treatment, making the lighting more dramatic and making the images feel like film. This is a very popular service for photographers that now is provided by different studios, such as this one. ” When she’s not photographing famous faces. Miller looks for models herself. c|r with the client. “A bad model can ruin the shoot. I feel like I have to relate to her and she has to understand what I’m trying to say.”

She’s a photographer most at home when she has full control over the lighting and doesn’t shoot outside on location often. “The most important thing for me is diffusion. I want the light to be soft and natural. I tend to bounce the light off a few different surfaces and then through multiple layers of diffusion before it hits the model.” Like many talented photographers however. Miller doesn’t think what kit you use

is as important as what you do with it. “I have a simple lighting kit that I use on smaller jobs and I rent big. heavy lights on bigger jobs: I think knowing what to do with the kit is more important the actual kit. Make sure you are comfortable with your camera and your lenses so that the technical aspect doesn’t get in the way and you can just shoot.”

Although there’s no doubt that Miller is a creative who’s comfortable behind the lens, every industry has its challenges. Though realising that the topic is enough for an article in itself, she explains how male-dominated the field still is. “As a female photographer you need to be confident. Confidence will make everyone feel at ease when they are working with you. [though] it’s something I’ve struggled with in the past.” She’s quick to note, however, that “there’s a big difference between confidence and arrogance.” Miller feels as if she’s still trying to work out herself what the best advice is for aspiring pros, but notes that being a successful photographer isn’t always about pure talent. “It’s a cocktail of ambition, drive and resilience.

I think if the talent is there then keep pushing yourself and try new things, don’t just keep doing the same photograph over and over.”

“Staying ambitious is important, as I feel people lose this when they get older.” she says. “Keep contacting new clients and thinking of new ways to get your work out there. Being resilient is very important [and] I think a lot of people give up too soon. It’s a hard career path, but if you really want it you will stick it out.”


Family portraits

“I had the pleasure of photographing Vivienne Westwood (more here)…

I loved Vivienne’s mannequins, which were everywhere and wanted them to be part of the images. These images feel almost like family portraits with the mannequins”

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