QCanon EOS 5D Mark II, Canon 70-200 2.8 IS @200mm, 1/160s, f/11, ISO100.


I always was drawn to symmetry, it’s a primal thing, and it’s only natural for me to seek it in my shots. Sometimes it comes natural with the photographic subject being perfectly symmetrical and sometimes I feel the need to crate it, this was the latter.


The plan was to create a makeup session, with long eyelashes and use this big beautiful eyes and symmetrical face of the model – Stella Vasilashko, and with the experienced and talented makeup artist – Xenia Brudko. The idea for this image came to me only after the shooting, in the post-processing stage. This was while shooting “Black” image, which was later published on numerous magazine covers and exhibitions.



I shot this entire set in my house. The scene was covered with a black back-drop. I used to work with fabric in the first year of my studio shooting, then I have discovered paper and I don’t use fabric any more. The light set up was very basic, all you see there is the modeling light from a single softbox. This was at second stage of shooting when I shot “black”, I wanted to shoot from above and get a black floor as well and this is why it’s setup like that. The set up for “queen of spades” was simple: black backdrop, the model was relatively far from it, so it won’t catch light and remain as black, rest of the studio was dark with one single softbox aimed at the model from the right side tilting to the left. I was shooting from the center.



Since Stella and Xenia had worked before, and Stella and I had worked before, the connection was only natural for all of us to bond well. Atmosphere on the set was fun.

PhotographerOren HaymanModel: Stella VasilashkoMakeUp: Xenia Brudko.

Stella and Oren

Stella and Oren


After we decided on a look, I took some test shots and came up with this one: Didn’t think about it at the time, this was just in the “warm-up” stage of us all, but Stella made a great expression in this one, and after I saw the raw images, this one just popped out and catch my eyes. Thinking to myself: “I love the expression and her face in that image.” As I looked at it more and more, it looked like a card, a hearts card of a queen, this is where the title came from, she is the queen of spades, and I had to recreate this image as a card. So I had to just dive in and did a little experimentation with it.

Test Shot

This was shot in 2009; I was a bit inexperienced back then, so the method may seem obsolete or amateur. Today I would have done it differently. The first things is setup; in this setup I have got a little shadow on the model nose, and that might not be a problem by itself, but at the finished image, I had to separate shadows going in two different direction, so I would fix that by placing the softbox as center as it can be, ideally with a boom stand so that I can get even light coverage and have the accessibility to shoot from the center with light above me with no stand in the way. I also could have tackled it on post processing by coping and flipping the shadow to the other site to correspond with the light.


1)    This image was shot in black and white but in RAW, so I had the option to go with colors if I choose to, I decided to keep the black and white. I used “-100” saturation in the camera raw setting, just when I load the photo to Photoshop.


2)    “+20” on highlight, to get more of a white face. And the same for contrast.

3)    Some liquefy was used to level the chin, just a touch.

4)    I have duplicated the layer and flipped it once horizontally and again vertically (under edit -> transform -> flip horizontally / vertically) under 50% opacity it should look like that:


5)    I needed room for both heads to fit in this image, so I used canvas sizes, under “image”, and resized it up to 200% wide, just to be on the safe side. I will crop the excess canvas once I have decided on the proper composition.


6)    Once satisfied with the position of the heads, I started to delete every element I didn’t want in the photo, i.e. the hands.


7)    To get rid of the hair at the neck, I used the “clone stamp tool.”

8)    I cropped it to the new composition.

9)    The burn tool was used to darken the black eyeliner and eyelashes. (See left site of photo for after burn tool and the right side for before).

10)    Very little use of the healing tool for skin and makeup. Final adjustments in contrast and highlights till I was happy with the outcome.


Since I haven’t planed it, I was very happy that this image turned out to be what it is. I try to avoid heavy manipulation on my images; I like it clean, and as close to the original as possible. This was a nice experiment for me, and it gave me the confidence to try again with my next photos.
Queen of Spades

Queen of Spades


Experiment! I cannot stress that enough. Don’t go by the book, try new things, I didn’t know what I was doing until I did it. And I kept that spirit ever since, sometime I have nothing and that’s OK, but other times – I win!


Work with someone you know and trust, for me, it’s mostly myself … but in this case, I knew the model, we are friends till this day. And this played a major roll in the expression you will get from your model; “all you need” is total devotion from your photographic subject. Today, more experience photographer that I have become, I can work with people that I don’t know and develop that kind of connection… great photo needs a connection between photographer and model, that’s a basic thing, so If you are a starter photographer, gather experience from the ones who close to you first, take an image of you sweetheart or your family, start with that, then later move on to photographing complete strangers.


Work hard to get it right on camera, never think while shooting “I’ll fix it later with edit”, do what you need to do to fix what ever you can on set, light, hair, makeup, etc. the edit part will go much smoother. And you feel much better about your work process.



My name is Oren Hayman, I was born in 1978 and I live in Israel,  I’m a self-taught photographer, in 2008 I bought my first digital camera and immediately fell in love with it; photography became a consuming passion for me. Quit my day job as a hi-tech executive and pursuit the dream of doing something I love for a living. I draw my inspiration from the people I am photographing, in my opinion; it is impossible to produce authentic portraits without connecting with your photographic subject, even momentarily. Every day is an opportunity to make something new and beautiful, and I can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings. Full Bio here.