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Models, photographers take a shot at virtual photography during pandemic

Gisela Swaragita
Gisela Swaragita

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta  /  Wed, May 6, 2020  /  04:15 pm
Models, photographers take a shot at virtual photography during pandemic

More photographers are exploring methods of taking pictures of their models from afar during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Shutterstock/Witthaya lOvE)

Model Essy Pramesti, 22, just had her very first virtual photoshoot that took place at her house where she was quarantining with her mother and brother.

“I worked with my friend, a photographer named Mar’i Muhammad. He is in Yogyakarta while I am in South Tangerang,” she told The Jakarta Post on Monday.

She found virtual photography a unique challenge as she had to interpret the photographer’s directions into expressions and gestures while tending the lighting, makeup, wardrobe and decoration on her own.

“No one helped us in doing the shoot. I did everything on my own in the simplest way possible,” she said. “It became more difficult when the Wi-Fi at my house didn't work.”

More photographers have explored the possibility of shooting from afar amid the COVID-19 pandemic. This particular kind of photography requires a good, stable internet connection and proper gadgets both at the photographer's and the model’s end as the shoot is done through a video chat platform. Typically, the photographer instructs the model to strike a pose in front of his/her gadget’s camera and the photographer will take a picture on his/her laptop screen with a camera or by taking a screenshot.

In Essy’s case, she and Mar’i used Google Duo as their video chat platform. She then used her cellphone’s front camera and Mar’i received the image on his laptop and shot the screen using his Sony camera.

Essy, who has posed for brands such as Dana and Samsung as well as for her friends’ personal projects, said all her upcoming projects were canceled due to the pandemic.

She said she missed conventional photo shoots where her physical presence was required because such productions were where she felt at home the most.

“Not only because money-wise it is rewarding, but meeting friends [who work in] the same industry makes me feel like I belong. Being on set is one of the most insightful moments I've had in my life,” she said.

Read also: Life under quarantine: How COVID-19 is affecting Indonesian students abroad

Stage photographer Ananda Suryo has also opted to explore virtual photography to fill his time during the quarantine with his family in Bintaro, South Tangerang, Banten.

“It is fun because it is a new exploration field for me because so far, I've only worked in stage photography. [With this kind of photography] I have to try using a cellphone with a small [display] resolution. I also have to capture the models’ daily life instead of their profession,” he told the Post.

He said that initially, he shot his laptop screen using a DSLR camera, but he found that his gear and internet connection hindered his attempts in getting the best results.

“Now I use Facetime Live Photos,” he said.

Suryo is more attracted to capturing his friends’ daily lives. One of them was Dimas Ario, manager of Efek Rumah Kaca band, along with wife Nastasha Abigail and their newborn baby.


facetime /ˈfeɪsˌtaɪm/ series [04] . Dimas Ario + Nastasha Abigail + Saujana Musa.

A post shared by Ananda Suryo Anindyo (@anandasurio) on

“I believe that you can be your true self when you are at home. That's what I want to capture,” he said. 

Nevertheless, Suryo said he still missed taking pictures at music events and wished the pandemic to be over soon.

“I really miss touring, the feeling of euphoria from the audience, the backstage activity, everything,” said Suryo, who has photographed popular musicians such as Danilla, SORE, Isyana Sarasvati and Kunto Aji.

Prominent photographer Michael Fabian Cools told the Post that he considered virtual photography challenging and found it to be addictive when one had a solid grasp of the method.

“As a photographer, I can't direct the models on site like what I used to in studios. However, with the current technology and good communication skills, directing a virtual photography shoot is easier. Also, it's important for the photographer and the model to have good chemistry,” he said.

Michael, who recently photographed singers Afgan and Raisa in virtual sessions, said that photographers could use any gadget and create artistic images.

“I think photography is not valued by the tools we use, instead it is how creative a photographer can be. Any gadget is actually possible as long as you make the most of it,” he said.

“Many have tagged me on Instagram and I was surprised as they used basic smartphones, but the images were as good as what a pro camera makes.”

Nevertheless, he said virtual photography would need a strong internet connection and interesting props to make the pictures more alive.

“Don’t be afraid to start, don’t be afraid to experiment and always think out of the box,” Michael advised.

Gala Indiga, another photographer in quarantine, has started to offer free food photo sessions for emerging businesses.

“I open slots for free food photos for those who have just started their food businesses amid the pandemic and are without proper photos for promotional use,” said Gala, whose expertise is in commercial products and corporate photography.

Gala and four of his photographer friends in Jakarta, along with two of his friends in East Java's Surabaya, offer the photo slots with the hashtag #shootforhelp until May 15. Afterward, the photographers will evaluate their work and decide the project's future.

“So far, we have received bookings from 80 small culinary enterprises. We hope these F&B businesses can get good product photos to increase their exposure among consumers,” he added.

A brand can send two products to be photographed and they will be styled according to the photographer's preferences.

Gala said he could shoot up to five brands in one day and has received food from places as far as Tasikmalaya, West Java. 

He added that he would photograph any kind of food, but food with dark colors such as rawon (black nut beef soup) or beef rendang (slow-cooked beef in coconut milk and spices) could be challenging.

“I hope this initiative can be a trigger to help others in innovative ways. Not just today, but also in the future,” he said. (wng)