Alluring FaceTime photo shoots won’t stop when quarantine lifts

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Nick Fancher's FaceTime portraits
Nick Fancher's portraits are "remotraits."
Photo: Nick Fancher

Photographer Nick Fancher has been photographing models in his studio at a time when COVID-19 social distancing rules have forced his contemporaries to cancel portrait sessions.

But the only chances the Columbus, Ohio-based Fancher takes are creative ones. In the very spot where models normally stand for him, Fancher is projecting live images of sitters following his directions via FaceTime.

He calls these the “Remotrait” sessions.

Photography with FaceTime is a new genre emerging from the unprecedented shutdown orders put in place to slow the spread of the virus.

Like a lot of non-essential businesses, work came to a standstill for photographers. FaceTime is feeding the need to create for a growing number of idled artists. In Italy, one photographer has been doing FaceTime fashion shoots and posting them to Instagram.

Fancher, who routinely shoots magazine covers and can count Apple Music among his clients, said he has been coasting on fumes. Good-paying jobs on the calendar are now on hold. The nature shots he was recording on walks weren’t cutting it for him creatively and the idea to shoot in FaceTime came as a request from his first subject.

FaceTime photography, the Nick Fancher way

Fancher’s use of FaceTime is unique. Rather than grab screenshots, Fancher projects his models on a studio background and photographs them through screens of color, texture and, in some cases, honey.

“I didn’t want the pictures to have the poor quality of the video connection,” Fachner told Cult of Mac. “One person had an iPhone 5 and the camera was not great. So I shot out of focus.”

To get a studio-quality image, he sets his focus on the item in the studio that provides a unique look to the projected model. It could be water droplets on glass, black lace or, in one look, a broken mirror. The blur of the model’s face reduces the otherwise noisy quality of a video image.

From limitations come ideas

Nick Fancher's FaceTime portraits
Not the usual FaceTime chat.
Photo: Nick Fancher

There are limits to what Fancher can control. None of his models have studio lights or even a way to change the color of the light. So if the mood calls for color, he will project the FaceTime call onto a particular color or color scheme (check out one of his shoots in the video at the end of this post).

His subjects get energized when he shows the back of the camera to them after the first couple of shots.

“It can take an hour to set up. There’s a fair number of limitations,” he said. “It’s different from person to person. (One) only had this real narrow hallway to use and so I had her hang up a black cloth. The other thing is the wide-angle can distort so you have to coach them on how far back to stand.”

“I definitely walk in with a loose plan.”

Fancher did his first three shoots last week and has three more lined up in the coming days. He blogs about each shoot, showing off the results and has created a page on his website for anyone to order a “remotrait” session for $50.

Fancher said FaceTime will likely remain part of his repertoire long after social distancing ends. He is constantly exploring what he can shoot through to cast different moods.

“I was trying to find a way where I can collaborate with people who need content,” he said. “I didn’t have great hopes. I just wanted to be happy and creative.”