Sue Bryce is one of the world’s most influential fine-art portrait photographers and educators. Her contemporary fashion-inspired portraits have earned her many of the industry’s top accolades and awards. She is the most-watched instructor on CreativeLive. She has also created her own innovative educational platform, where she shares her 27 years of experience with a global audience.
Sue is a fan of Exposure and has used it since 2010 to edit her work. She took time out of her busy schedule to talk with us about the art and business of professional portrait photography. Thanks again, Sue!
What made you decide to become a portrait photographer?
As of August 15th, I have been in the industry for 27 years. My Mum was a professional retoucher. I don’t imagine doing anything else. I have lived and breathed this industry for more than half my life and I am incredibly proud to be part of it.
What’s something you know now about the art and business of photography that would have been helpful to know when starting out?
My life mission is to teach photographers how to value themselves. I learned the hard way I just couldn’t sell my work. It gave me great pain and I came close to failing many times. Learning to price and receive money is vital and frankly life changing. That’s when you have sustainability.
How do you nurture your creative inspiration and keep growing?
I always want to be creatively stimulated. Sometimes you evolve a little with your shooting and then you evolve a little with your business, and you definitely have to keep working at both. I stay interested by creating goals for my business and shooting, and then doing personal projects for creative stimulation.
How has photography influenced the way in which you see the world, in your daily life when not in the studio?
I feel that photography is capturing life and that’s not always beauty, as all life is beautiful even pain. How lucky are we to capture stories and generations and portraits as people move through life! Capturing love and relationships and moments that will be treasured in the years to come. Business has taught me to open up to all people, to be confident, to value myself and my product, to be a strong business owner, a good boss, and a leader in my industry. Business is personally the most transforming experience of my life.
What advice do you have for professional photographers who want to better balance the art and business of photography?
Don’t get caught up too much in the ‘art’ of photography: a business is a business. If you are nurturing the art side and avoiding the business side, you need to find a balance so you can be sustainable. You either have to learn to sell your work or find someone who can sell it for you.
What is Sue Bryce Education, and what inspired you to create it?
After 20 years mastering my craft and then the business aspect, I started teaching. I love teaching and it comes very easily to me. I have an encyclopedia of knowledge that I am happy to share. I have been teaching for seven years and I have enjoyed watching my students build businesses. What makes this time in our industry so remarkable is that I can literally connect with people all over the world online. Nothing compares to this reach and accessibility.
What are a few ways that male portraiture differs from female portraiture?
Stay away from makeup on men. They don’t need it. Use less reflector, and instead use more shadow on the face so that it looks stronger and more masculine. Open shoulders and knees and elbows is stronger male body language, with the chin up, not down.
If you could shoot anyone, anywhere, who and where might it be?
I love studio portraiture so it doesn’t matter where I shoot. I would like to build more elaborate sets. I want to keep developing my skills. I am excited by learning more and growing my business, too.
What would you like your artistic and educational legacy to be?
I know I have changed the face of contemporary portrait businesses. I don’t know that I was groundbreaking…someone would have done it. I felt portraiture was lagging behind and needed a facelift of sorts. I developed my business based on a complete passion for taking portraits and wanting to move with the times and be more fashion inspired. I would like to keep developing portraiture and business over the next 20 years and be known as someone who created supportive, life-changing education.
What role does Exposure play in your creative editing process?
I use Exposure daily and it’s where I create my finished images. I process everything through Exposure, even if it’s a little wash at 20 percent. Basically, Exposure is every action I’ve ever wanted, all in one software product.
Exposure helps me bring a painterly, Old Masters-feel to my images with one click of a button. I also love Exposure’s overlays, such as the textures and old scratches, and being able to adjust them so they don’t cover the face of my subjects.
Do you have any favorite go-to looks or editing steps in Exposure?
As an old-school photographer who used to shoot film, I am very much enamored with Exposure’s color film looks, especially their Polaroid selections. I love their dense richness. The SX-70 blend film really takes my fancy.
I also love the color photo filters and the Kodacolor 1942-1953 filter. It has an old-world feel to it that I’ve never seen in any action, and has a tonality to it that I love.
Exposure’s black and white film looks include film that I used to shoot on, like Ilford Delta 3200. I spent five years shooting on this film, and Alien Skin has captured it perfectly.
What new features in Exposure do you most enjoy?
Exposure has continually improved, from the interface to the overlays, which I love. I can batch edit multiple images by easily applying multiple filters to a set of images. And the fine-tuning in the Basic and Tone Curve panels is extraordinary.
Exposure is the bomb!