Tell us a bit about yourself.
Hello, hello. My name is Laura and I’m a portrait photographer and artist from Trinidad and Tobago. I’ve been capturing portraits since 2006 and painting professionally since 2012. I also teach painting classes now and then. My household consists of one husband, one son, and two cats (three if you count the stray who keeps jumping through the kitchen window). I mostly shoot at my home studio and my most treasured piece of equipment is the coffee warmer that sits next to my monitor.
Is it correct you’re self-taught? Tell us how you went about learning your trade?
Yes, I was always an ‘artistic child’, and I never wandered from that path. At 21 I was an expectant mother and would play around with photography after work. It all started there; experimenting with light and whatever I had lying around. It was all trial and error. I got friends to model for me until I felt courageous enough to take up actual work. I remember how utterly nervous I was on my first paid shoot.
Your work is always so vibrant and energetic, would you say your work is a reflection of your personality?
It could very well be. I love humour, fantasy, art that really punches you in the gut and dark themes (I loved horrors when I was younger—I’m a lot more of a chicken now). I suppose they do come into play in my work. I have many vibrant images with dark undertones.
Do you think your home country has influenced your style?
I think we can’t help but be influenced by our environment. Trinidad is a colourful place, and many of my favourite pieces come from shooting Carnival costumes that are designed by amazing local talents. I’ve done shoots in underground caves, abandoned leper colony churches, and the largest roundabout in the world (I just looked that up to see if we still hold the title, it seems Malaysia has something to say). All these places are part of Trinidad’s culture and history and it’s a part of our lives.
Talk us through your editing process post-shoot.
After a shoot, I’d upload the images to my PC (yes, I don’t use a Mac—the shock!) and go through the images picking out the ones that stand out. I go through those again, and maybe once more until I have THE image. I’m not a fan of doing more than one or two from a set so I look out for what I think is the best. I then open it up and start cleaning the skin a bit. Then it’s colour and value adjustments. I end it off by treating the image as a painting; zooming in and cleaning anything that irks me.
It was your first time trying out Affinity Photo—how was your experience with the app?
The only programs I’ve used are from Corel and Adobe, with Photoshop being the main man for about 18 years now. It wasn’t very difficult to get the hang of Affinity. I loved the layout and immediately fell in love with the hover previews of adjustments and the forever undos. It felt smooth and snappy. I edited the image much faster than I thought I would. What I had to overcome was my memory of keyboard shortcuts in the previous program. I don’t click on dropdowns very much, so that was really my main thing to overcome and relearn which wasn’t hard.
Talk us through how you go about planning a shoot?
For personal work, I usually start with a poorly drawn sketch of an idea (on whatever is nearby, such as a grocery bill) and I build it from there. If I’m feeling fancy I’ll sketch on my computer and add the colours that I’m thinking of. Then it’s getting a model, setting a date and of course, getting it done!
Where do you find inspiration for shoots?
I follow quite a few traditional artists on Instagram, and I love scrolling through their work and admiring their talents. I get most of my photography inspiration this way. Artists have a deep understanding of light and human anatomy. I learn so much from staring at a figurative piece.
What made you get into photography?
Survival. It was a time when I was a young soon-to-be mother, with no money to further my education and photography was my passion at the time (I used my father’s old digital camera to practice with self-portraits). I had to make it work so I put all my energy into learning how to pull an idea from my head and turn it into a photograph.
Talk us through your photography setup.
I try to keep it as simple as possible. I work out of a corner of my home where I have a collapsible backdrop stand and a grey backdrop. I balance between natural (from a large window) and studio lights. At most I’d have a three-light setup, and may throw in a speedlight if I need something extra. I primarily use a Canon 5D MK3 with a 70-200 lens.
What photographers would you say you admire the most?
I don’t usually like commercial photography, so I enjoy seeing personal work from photographers. Those who are constantly shooting their ideas really inspire me, because I get busy with life many times and fail to take the time to do my own thing. I admire their dedication.
What’s the ultimate ambition for your work?
I’d like my work to make someone feel happy or inspired. I think that’s what most artists want.
What do you like to do with your time outside of photography?
I love painting, gardening, spending time with my husband and son, liming with friends (a common term in Trinidad and Tobago for hanging out), watching the cats be idiots (when the two cats annoy each other it’s our entertainment), and who doesn’t love travelling and meeting new people.
If you could photograph anyone at all past or present who would it be?