Becoming an Artist Photographer



We spoke to the acclaimed photographer Frank Doorhof about inspiration, developing a style and continuous creative learning. With a distinctive flair for portrait photography, Frank has shot many artists and musicians over his career. Clients include Wibi Soerjadi, Penney de Jager, Annemarie Kremer, Sarine Voorn, Sarina Kay and Ali B. In 2010, Frank was the first European photographer to join Kelby Training (now KelbyOne), a group of the world’s best instructors in photography. This milestone was followed by the release of the bestselling ‘Mastering the Model Shoot’. The book reveals his creative process, from discovering models and shoot locations, to re-touching techniques. Frank is currently an X-rite Master Colorrati, Adobe Influencer and DxO image master. He maintains a strong working relationship with companies such as Sony, Leaf and Phase One. Frank travels the world, giving seminars, courses and workshops on photography.

 4 min read

How did you get started in photography?

I grew up in a family obsessed with photography and video. From a young age, my grandfather would take me into the dark room and demonstrate the magical process of image development. Although I now mainly shoot digital, I am still fascinated by analogue photography. 

My family were very tech savvy and sought the first models of VHS. I experienced the excitement of new technology first-hand, and that feeling has really stayed with me throughout my career. As digital tech continues to advance in leaps and bounds, it is great to see how the artistic possibilities of photography are revolutionized.

How do you define your style?

I have always been heavily influenced by the movies and how they use colour and lighting to create a narrative. For me, an image is created 99% by camera work, proper lighting, styling and the set. I always approach a shoot like a film set; I want the character to come alive and tell a story. The remaining 1% of the image is enhanced using Photoshop. I endeavour to keep re-touching to a minimum. 

In James Cameron’s epic 1997 film Titanic, the movie's image is tinted with a reddish hue. Likewise, The Matrix uses a green tint to indicate the inside of the matrix. Colour evokes universal emotion, so the final tinting and re-touching processes really complete the story. 

How have you educated yourself to evolve your photography?

It is impossible to say that an individual taught themselves a skill. Nobody lives in a bubble- we are constantly being exposed to stimuli and being influenced by others. We learn via examples and inspiration. For me, watching Dean Collins teach (on video, he had already passed away) and seeing David Lachappelle’s work, were turning points. These two have greatly shaped my work, as have Carvaggio, Rembrandt and all the classic films.

As to whether I went to art school? No.

I still think that ‘real’ photography is very hard to learn in a formal school environment. If you are motivated to develop your art by going to school, I am not sure that the creative part is really you. I feel quite strongly that going to school for 5 years wouldn’t make you a better creator than someone who lives and breathes their passion every day. In my experience, workshops are the way forward. They balance theoretical and practical learning in a tailored environment, letting your individual style flourish.

Have a look at the photography courses and workshops on Dedico.

Whose photographic work has influenced you the most?

As mentioned before, David Lachappelle, but also guys like George Hurrell, Erwin Olaf, Annie Leibovitz, Helmut Newton and Richard Avedon. 

Who is the celebrity that you would most like to photograph, that you haven't yet?

Brian May, without a doubt.

I have shot him several times live as a fan, but I would fly across the world to photograph him in a 1:1 setting.

Tell us about your upcoming workshop in New York, what can students expect from it?

You never know…

No kidding. All my workshops are completely unique and tailored to each group’s needs. I always start with a Q&A to encourage participants to voice any particular topics or questions they want to raise. I always work with small groups to ensure that everyone gets a customized learning experience. 

I try to balance the workshop between creative and technical elements. I will address lighting, metering, workflow and model coaching and also lightsources, gels and motion.

We have rented an insane studio space in New York with really cool lighting and backgrounds, so we have all the means to create some spectacular images. 

Do you have any workshops in the Netherlands?

 Aside from shooting artists and creating powerful portraits, I really love teaching photography. I teach throughout the year in our studio in Emmelord. Our normal schedule is twice a week, unless I am travelling for work.

I am currently offering two different workshops in the Netherlands:

Do you have any tips for young photographers aspiring to photograph celebrities, musicians and artists?

Remember that everyone is equal. The people in front and behind the camera are born the same.
It might sound a bit cliché, but as soon as you get to know a famous person, you realise that they are just like you and me. It might be tempting to start gushing to them about how much you admire their work and how you are their no.1 fan. In my experience, it is always best to keep the encounter professional. They'll be more comfortable and you'll get better shots.

I would also say that you don’t have to say yes to everything. If a client makes odd demands (and believe me, I’ve had a few), I don’t do the shoot. An exception would have to be made, I admit, if it was Brian May. 

Molly has traveled in America, Asia and Europe, where she discovered that learning new skills is the best way to experience a foreign place. Molly is a journalist and content creator at Dedico.

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