In the hopes of becoming proficient in Photoshop while training to become an architect, Bella Kotak took up photography. Since, this nature enthusiast from England has made photography her career. Often using her friends as muses, her portraits of women seem to embody the regal spirit of mother nature herself. The soft color palettes lead to photos so serene and graceful, it's as if you have entered a fairytale world. We wanted to catch up with Bella with a behind the lens look into her series “In Bloom.”
Tell us a bit about yourself.
Hi! My name's Bella and I'm a fashion and conceptual photographer currently based in Oxford, England. I'm also a trained architect, traveller, and nature enthusiast.
How did you become interested in photography?
Ever since I was a child I've always loved to express myself, be it through dance, drawing, art, playing make believe, writing stories or recording our home life with my father's camera in my hand. I already knew back in my youth that there was something powerful about capturing a moment and having a tangible recording of it. A few years ago, whilst in my Architecture course, I was introduced to Photoshop and also to Flickr where I saw many young artists using the program to realise their visions. Excited, I figured a fun way to learn the software was by setting myself a 365 photography project, taking one photo a day for 365 days, which I hoped would make me better at Photoshop and in turn help me realise my designs in my course. As each day of my 365 slipped by, I became more and more obsessed with the camera, lens, composition, colour toning and it didn't take long before I was hooked!
Where do you find inspiration for your “In Bloom” series?
The main inspiration for In Bloom comes from nature, flowers, the beauty and colours of ever-changing seasons, my beautiful muses (often friends), pre-Raphaelite paintings which I love so much, greek nymphs and their stories, royalty in fairytales and ideas of a character's journey in a darker nature driven world.
What are your most important photography tools? What is on your must have list for each shoot?
I guess, first and foremost my camera! Alongside that, my 50mm f1.4 lens, my 24-70mm f2.8 lens, bobby pins (millions of them! as I use these to pin flowers and leaves onto hair/ clothes), safety pins, scissors, pruning shears, and a reflector.
How much planning goes into creating a piece?
It depends on the picture. Sometimes I'll be planning a picture for a couple of months, preparing the props and waiting for the location, weather and model to align. Other times, I create the props moments before we head out to capture an idea I've had.
How do you choose your models?
I love to capture girls who are smart, passionate, kind, and excited with life. This passion radiates and really shows in the photos and ultimates brings the character I envision to life.
What do you look for in a location?
I look for patterns, for symmetry, how the light falls, the details, and if the location as a whole tells it's own story.
Can you share with us a bit of how you post process your images?
I begin by going through the images and making selects making note of the different “pieces” of the image I like, for example, her face in one photo, her body language in another, the flow of fabric or how the smoke curled in this picture, and so on. Once I have a collection ready I open everything up in Photoshop and meticulously begin to piece the puzzle together until the image I see emerge is the one I could already see when shooting.
Once I have the composition finished, it's then I begin to play with colour toning and cleaning up any distracting details.
Do you have any plans for the future of the series?
I'd love to showcase the images in an exhibition and for them all to one day come together in a beautifully presented book.
Do you have any advice for aspiring photographers?
Keep shooting and try different styles and genres of photography. It's the only way you'll improve quickly and also find exactly what direction your artistic voice leads you in. I'm a firm believer that practice makes perfect. Also watch what other people you admire are doing, the steps they take and emulate that, for example, shooting regularly, uploading consistently, connecting with other creatives, attending workshops etc. It's little steps like this that will help lead you to the photographer you want to be!