Quentin Caffier

A male model wears a Japanese silk kimono. Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark II by Canon Ambassador Quentin Caffier.
"This picture comes from a series called Onnagata, inspired by male actors playing women's roles in traditional Japanese Kabuki theatre," says Canon Ambassador Quentin Caffier. "Alex Wetter is a male model who works both as a man and a woman in the fashion industry, so he was perfect for this project." Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark II (now succeeded by the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV) with a Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM (now succeeded by the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS III USM) lens at 1/125 sec, f/14 and ISO160. © Quentin Caffier

Beauty and fashion photographer Quentin Caffier counts an eclectic mix of influences on his unique portrait style. He has won as many awards for his cinematography as he has for his still images.

French-born Canon Ambassador Quentin started out studying social sciences but has worked as a professional photographer since 2008. He specialises in studio work – largely portraiture and fashion photography for advertising campaigns – and fine art.

Canon Ambassador Quentin Caffier with his Canon camera and lens on a tripod, under a tree.

Location: Paris, France
Specialist areas: Portrait, beauty, fashion photography
Favourite Kit:
Canon EOS 5D Mark IV
Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM
Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM

Quentin won the award for Best Cinephotography in a Fashion Film at the 2016 Canadian International Fashion Film Festival, and was a Finalist at the 64th Bourse du Talent by in the same year. His images have been exhibited numerous times in Paris and in Tokyo, where he spent a year from 2014 to 2015.

Quentin says his work has been highly influenced by counter cultures such as punk, gaming and manga, with his artistic influences ranging from photographer Erwin Olaf to filmmakers David Cronenberg, Wes Anderson and Darren Aronofsky. He also cites musicians David Bowie, Bob Dylan and Trent Reznor as having a big impact on his work.

On top of this, he says he finds inspiration in subjects such as contemporary dance, which inspires the way he may ask models to hold themselves or pose.

A woman in red stands beneath lush foliage, lit by a red light. Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV by Canon Ambassador Quentin Caffier.
"For my Venomous Flowers project, I was looking for a background where the flowers would be the model. My stylist found clothes with colours and materials that enhanced the moody universe created in the studio. I also wanted the model to have a strong face to avoid the reference to 'fragile' flowers," says Quentin. Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV with a Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM lens at 1/125 sec, f/2.2 and ISO400. © Quentin Caffier
A close up of a woman's face, with bold purple makeup and glitter, and fishnet fabric on her face. Taken on a Canon EOS-1D X by Canon Ambassador Quentin Caffier.
"For this beauty series, I gave my makeup artist carte blanche to create a look that mixed the highest number of skin aspects," says Quentin. "So she mixed oil, gloss and matte foundation and glitter in one of my favourite colour schemes: shades of purple." Taken on a Canon EOS-1D X with a Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM lens at 1/125 sec, f/16 and ISO100. © Quentin Caffier

Over the years, Quentin has become well-known for the distinctive way in which he captures skin tones. His aim, he says, is to make skin look ever so slightly shiny, almost like it's creating a reflection, and he achieves this using a technique he developed a few years ago when he began to shoot more beauty images and nudes. Quentin says it immediately became clear to him, when going in this direction, that he had more work to do in order to find the right look for skin textures in his images. He then embarked on an experimental phase where he shot numerous styles of images, incorporating elements like oil, glitter, wax, painting and pantyhose onto his models' skin.

In the end, Quentin found his muse in the form of a talented makeup artist who helped give him direction, and working together they created striking designs that enabled Quentin to master the skin-texturing look he had been seeking. To light subjects' skin in his images, Quentin avoids using some of the more popular lighting accessories such as soft boxes or beauty dishes, and instead he opts for diffuser gels and ring flashes. These help give him better control over the contrast in his scenes, enabling him to create that signature look.

While Quentin has always appreciated complexity in his studio setups, craving the control he can take over lighting and colour, he's now simplifying his approach and venturing more outside the studio. In fact, it was a shortage of studio space during his year spent in Tokyo that showed him the benefits of shooting outdoors and working with natural light, as well as flash.

A model wears a combination of traditional Japanese Samurai armour and modern Japanese couture fashion. Taken on a Canon EOS-1D X by Canon Ambassador Quentin Caffier.
"This shoot in Tokyo was inspired by the Onna-Bugeisha: Japanese warrior women," says Quentin. "I was looking for an androgynous model, and I wasn't expecting this to be so difficult in Tokyo. At this time, the modelling agencies only represented 'Kawaii' [cute] models so the casting took me a while." Taken on a Canon EOS-1D X (now succeeded by the Canon EOS-1D X Mark III) with a Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM lens at 1/125 sec, f/8 and ISO100. © Quentin Caffier

What advice would you give someone doing studio work for the first time?
"Don't focus on the technical aspect too much; try to add one light at a time and keep your mind on the model's feelings. With experience, you will master your gear enough to forget it."

How do you ensure you get the best from your models?
"I don't think I am great at driving models precisely, so most of the time I try to explain what I have in mind and let him (or her) make proposals. I keep the atmosphere as relaxed as possible by chatting and joking, and when they feel comfortable people tend to open up."

Do you prefer complex lighting setups or keeping it simple?
"I love complex lighting! For instance, I might include natural, continuous and flash lighting all on the same set. But sometimes you can focus too much on lighting at the expense of other details. So I am forcing myself to cut down on my lights these days and create lighting schemes that allow the model to move."

Where can photographers find inspiration outside of photography?
"Cinema is the closest cousin of photography, especially for lighting and frames. But I think every creator can find inspiration in everything he or she sees (or listens to)."

One thing I know
Quentin Caffier

"I gather influences from comics, manga, video games and paintings, even nature. This very eclectic mix helps me find good colour schemes for my pictures. Colours can be used in styling, makeup, hairstyling or lighting. Most of the time I am looking for complementary colours to create more contrast in the image, especially 'cold' shadows with 'warm' highlights. Even if I love very saturated colours in my personal work, I try to use more subtle tones for commercial jobs. I would say my favourite personal palettes are purple and teal."

Facebook: Quentin Caffier
Instagram: @quentincaffier
Twitter: @quentincaffier
Vimeo: Quentin Caffier

Quentin Caffier's kitbag

The key kit that the pros use to take their photographs

The contents of Quentin Caffier's photography kitbag are laid out: two Canon cameras, lenses, a tripod and filters.


Canon EOS 5D Mark IV

Trusted by the pros, tough and yet relatively light, the 5D Mark IV is ideal for stills or video – making it great for reportage. "I also use EOS 5D Mark IV and EOS 5DS R for beauty and advertising shoots when I need a little bit more resolution," Quentin explains.



Lens filters

"I carry a few filters everywhere," says Quentin. "Typically a polarizer, mist and star filters."


Quentin likes to pack a tripod for many of his shoots.

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