Being a New Jersey photographer now has been such an eye opening experience and blessing. I prayed before I tracked all the way from Texas. I prayed that God would place people in my life that fit my new lifestyle and shared my love for Christ. WHEW! He blew me away with this little lady. She is quirky, sincere, passionate, Jesus filled and talented! We do completely different types of photography, but we share so many of the same passions. We both are crazy about people. We love to service women and make them feel extraordinary. I am very happy and pleased to share one of my very talented friends with you! Everyone show her some love!
Denisse Benitez Photography
Portrait & Fine Art Photographer
Tell us something about yourself that has nothing to do with photography.
When I’m not taking a photo of absolutely everything, I’m nannying my two beautiful girls Sefan & Nell in New York. I also have a very unhealthy obsession with Tea. Well I suppose it’s not too unhealthy… I mean how unhealthy can leaves and spice be?
What or who inspired you to be a photographer?
Oh boy, okay.. So before I even get into that I will share a tiny funny thing that I think is so ironic when I look at where I am now. I got a camera for Christmas when I was 16 and I lost it. I also got a camera the next Christmas and I lost that too. Therefore I never would have dreamed of being where I am now. Okay so 17 year old me is in High School ready to graduate and my homeroom teacher Mario Peña who is a photographer for NBC and a portrait photographer offered me some gigs with him. He really opened the door to a world I had no idea existed. I’m extremely grateful for him and his guidance. He’s still teaching me things every day. Learning is a beautiful, beautiful thing.
How long have you been a professional photographer? And when did you know you wanted to do photography?
I have been a professional photographer for about 3 years now. I knew I wanted to be a photographer when I worked art galleries in NYC. If you ever want to feel inspired, drawn, or refreshed, stand in the middle of a gallery shoulder to shoulder with people who could purchase your entire block with their pocket change. Watch their reactions to art and listen to them speak about the depth of what they see. I wanted that the second I saw that. I felt I had so much inside me I needed to release and share. What a better way to do it than art? So with my first tax return I purchased a Canon T-2i off of Craigslist and I’ve never looked back since.
What does your photography focus on?
My portrait photography focuses more on the client, and what they desire in a session. My fine art on the other hand focuses a lot on emotion. I try to personify my feelings through my fine art photographs. So for example if I’m going through a rough patch, the photograph will show that.
What would we find in your camera bag?
Camera bag! Okay ready set GO! Canon 5D Mark II, 24-105mm 4.0, 85mm 1.8, 50mm 1.4 .. My favorite favorite favorite is the 50. That’s my baby. The 85 is my second favorite because it’s so personal and for a 1.8 it’s super. I also carry (ready for this) all in my camera bag I will add… gum, lotion, a lighter (for smoke bombs), smoke bombs, chapstick, wet ones, bobby pins and safety pins. Sometimes and lately I have been carrying my ipod. It has like 64,000 songs on it because I’ve had it since my freshman year of high school. If my model is nervous I have him/her listen to a ridiculous song, close his/her eyes and dance like no ones watching. No nerves after that.. I promise!
Where do you go to learn more about the art of photography?
I just want to start this off by thanking the internet for being so amazing and providing so much inspiration and knowledge. Thank you internet, we love you. Okay I don’t really do tech blogs although I do want to get into them this year. I mostly search for inspiration so.. For inspiration I love the following:
- http://www.quiescentmag.com (An Online Photography Magazine)
- http://www.vogue.it/en/photovogue (Photo Vogue) SO MUCH INSPIRATION!
- http://fstoppers.com ( I read everything but the tech stuff lol)
- Flickr (I can sit there and browse forever)
- CREATIVE LIVE! (I recently just got into this when I saw a Jennifer Hudson session.. CHANGED MY LIFE)
3 Words that describe your style-
DARK, EMOTIVE, RAW
Your photos are very artistic! What inspired you to dive into this type of photography? Where do you continue to find inspiration?
Thank you! Okay, inspiration for my artistic photography. I’m a very strange person when it comes to emotion. I say strange because I don’t sulk, or become overjoyed or super super down. I analyze my feelings and immediately try to visualize them. I’ve been like that since I can remember. I used to write a lot of poetry when I was in middle school and high school. Photography is like poetry for me. So to answer your question, I was inspired by my emotions. I recently broke down 5 of my photographs for a class at NYU you can read more about it on my blog here THUGNANNY. I continue to find inspiration because I continue to feel. I browse the net and stuff for inspiration, however I always try to make my photographs very personal.
When it comes to styling for a shoot, how do you decide what the theme will be?
Usually with a themed shoot the client will come up with the idea and I build on it. I do research and we bounce ideas back and forth. However my personal shoots are very seldom themed out loud if that makes any sense. What I mean by that is, as I previously shared my photography is very personal. So I will usually ask them to wear a certain color and fabric and show up. After that I shoot in the present where I don’t really premeditate anything but it sort of just flows.
How do you find the beautiful clothing and props? Do you partner with other professionals to style your shoots? How does that work?
Thrift stores are like heaven for me. I find a lot of my pieces at thrift stores. When I don’t shoot with thrifted pieces my models will bring their own clothing. Which is usually something very simple like a black dress or a white dress. If I’m looking for something very specific I’ll order off of a website like Etsy, or Ebay. I style all of my shoots and I usually provide all of the props. I get props from thrift stores… I am also a vintage loving type of person so if I need something, I’m pretty sure I’ll find it in my room. I ALWAYS have a makeup artist for my styled shoots. This year I am looking forward to partnering with stylist and other professionals.
5 Pieces of Advice for putting together a Styled Shoot
1. Detail is KEY. I find that it is very useful and important to know and understand the pieces that you are using. For example, I found a vintage wedding dress from 1915 and I did some research on the brand. It made me appreciate the piece so much more and it became more than just a vintage dress.
2. Always run a trial. If you are able to, run a makeup trial and wardrobe trial. When I have a very detailed shoot I have makeup done a few days before just to make sure it is exactly what I am visualizing in my mind. I also have my models try on the clothing before hand just in case I have to have an altering done. Vintage pieces are usually never true to size. If my models are providing the attire, I have them send me photos of what they pieces look like on them. A fit for them may not be a fit for your vision.
3. Have TIME. Time is so important in a styled shoot. I have done styled shoots in about an hour and a half, and I’ve had styled shoots that have taken up to 5-6 hours. You never want to feel pressed for time. I always advise my models that they can be there for a while. It would be the worst to invest all of that time in setting up and makeup, etc., only to have to wrap up in the middle of it because of being on a time constraint.
4. ASSISTANCE. I always have a friend assist me. I don’t think I could ever pull off any of what I pull off without the help of people who take their time out to come along and help me. Sometimes they catch things I don’t catch because so much is going on. It’s great to have a right hand man for support and help.
5. HAVE TONS OF FUN.. I know this is always the corny part of advice but seriously have fun. At the end of the day you don’t want it to be a super tense experience, or a stressful one. I try to make it as fun and comfortable as possible for everyone on location. It makes everything run so much more smoothly. Also, everyone’s enjoyment is reflected through the work and it’s just a beautiful thing.
Where do you find models? And how are they compensated?
I’m shooting my first actual model this Sunday. Everyone before that is a friend or acquaintance. Like 8 out of 10 of the people I shoot have never done anything like that before. I usually do TFP (Time for Print) and if I purchase anything for the shoot clothing wise, the model will often keep it. Monetary compensation has yet to make it’s way into my world. I’m sure soon enough though!! I’ve got my eye on a few models I am dying to work with.
We heard you had a gallery of your work displayed recently! CONGRATS! Tell us more about that!
Thank you so so much. AHH it was one of the most surreal, exhilarating, nerve wrecking, bizarre moments of my career and life. A friend of mine Khalil of Razorsharp Barbershop & Shave Parlor in Metuchen, NJ suggested I show my work at his shop. I knew eventually I wanted to show my work but I didn’t even dream it would be in 2014. I came up with a theme that was already sort of existing in my photography. I titled it “Now you see Me” and in all of the photographs everyone had their eyes closed but one photo, which happened to be part of the session I debuted at the show. People loved it!! I invited a bunch of my friends and family, even clients. Everyone came out to support and it was so surreal. I was just so excited to see everyone enjoying my work and mingling. I was like “OMG ALL THOSE PEOPLE ARE HERE FOR ME!??!?!?” It was really a blessing and I also got to celebrate my birthday with all of those people so it was amazing. Best birthday ever!! I also got to see tons of folks I hadn’t seen in years. So exciting.
Have you considered selling your photography?
I sold my photography for the first time at my show and that was a huge thing for me. I had a lot of people tell me it would be very hard to sell any of my work ever because ‘no one wants photos of random people in their homes’ and so I became really discouraged. However after my show that opened up a whole new world, so now I’m working on an online shop.
What is your favorite marketing strategy?
My favorite and most effective would have to be instagram giveaways. I get a ton of people who respond and sometimes people don’t know I actually shoot portraits or things that are “normal” as they call them haha. So they will say hey I want to book you anyway, can I email you? I would say about half of the people who enter and do not win e-mail me to book a session. It sounds bizarre but it works for me.
What are you most proud of professionally?
I think professionally I am most proud of my features, specifically my Vogue Italia feature. Submitting my work, having it reviewed by a panel of editors and then having it approved and published online was a big deal for me.
What are your goals for the future?
For the near future I would really love to learn studio lighting. I think it’s extremely necessary to know at this point of my career. I would also like to begin traveling and doing some photojournalism. Also sky diving.. that’s a goal. It just has to be. OH! And I’m currently on a never-ending hunt for studio space haha. It’s a very crazy learning experience but I am so excited for what the future has for my craft and I.
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