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About Me

I have loved photography and graphic design for years. I went to college and majored in graphic design while shooting weddings, portraits and model portfolios. I developed my own film and practiced the art of the darkroom. But then the realities of life called me to a different professional path. I sold my cameras and darkroom in 1990.

I picked up the camera again four years ago. Things that used to be impossibly difficult to do through professional retouching labs in the past can now be done in camera and Photoshop. I was hooked again. What you see in my portfolio is my journey in the new world of digital creativity.

I shoot at my home, on location here in Tennessee, across the US and abroad; wherever I am able. I hope you join my quest for creative excellence and allow me to help achieve your vision.

My wife is a make up artist/hair stylist who works with me at home and when we can travel together. We are a team! If she is not able to travel with me, I have other make up artists, hair stylists, designers and stylists who work with me to achieve specific looks.

How I Work

I believe in using the best equipment and resources to create the desired end result. Sometimes the simplest ambient light offers the ideal mix of mood and illumination. At other times, complex multi-light setups are required to tell just the right story.

I shoot with a Canon 5D MK III body combined with the best “L” lenses. I use Elinchrom Quadra portable strobes that allow me to bring their great quality of light and power to any location. Combined with the correct light modifiers like the Rotalux Deep Octa or Lumodi beauty dish, just about any combination of lighting solutions can be achieved.

Following the shoot, I process the RAW files and then finish in Photoshop CS6. Using techniques I learned through the study of drawing and painting, I finish each image to a high level of perfection and detail that cannot be detected by the naked eye. But to me, many details that are not easily seen build to a climatic finished image.

My Inspiration

I have been greatly inspired and influenced by renaissance masters such as Leonardo Da Vinci and Michelangelo and the use of chiaroscuro (lights and darks). One purpose of  recent trips to France and Italy was to further study their work. One can see their influence in many of my images that use a lot of dramatic shadows and color.

For 1930’s and 1940’s genre photography, the work of George Hurrell shaped how I shoot those portraits. Olivia De Berardinis and Alberto Vargas are my go-to references when I work on pinups.

Studying the work of Annie Liebovitz has helped me look at light in a different way. And amazing photographers such as Ellen von Unwerth have shown me the power of subtle eroticism behind some image concepts.

Great locations have sometimes gotten my creative juices flowing. During a shoot, a model who really “gets” the concept and knows how to “be” the character creates tremendous chemistry and inspiration.

If you have specific requests, please email me using the contact form or at Paul@zhenimages.com. I look forward to working with you!

-Paul Zhen

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