New York City-based portrait photographer Dustin Cohen grew up in the Bay Area where his father was a newspaper publisher. As a kid, Dustin worked in the various news departments and, as a high school senior, he interned in the photo department. For a while he thought about a career in photojournalism but decided instead to major in photography at UC Santa Barbara. Perhaps because the program at UCSB was less technical, it taught him to think like an artist.
When he moved to New York City in 2005, Dustin made up for what he lacked in lighting skills by taking as many internships and unpaid assistant jobs as possible with photographers whose work he admired. He started at the bottom as a 4th assistant, then 3rd and worked his way up to first assistant. Seven years ago he started his own business creating portraits for advertising and editorial clients.
Dustin’s lighting skills come not only from working with other photographers, but also by being a careful observer of cinema and educating himself about equipment. Technical perfection, he says, is less his goal than the “moments” in the portrait which he achieves by getting to know the subject, which allows for a more relaxed session.
To create the portrait of singer-songwriter Valerie June for Southwest Magazine, Dustin says he did not have a ton of time. He made this image in the Brooklyn bar, LunÁtico using a Profoto B4 with a full CTO (orange) gel outside the building to produce the “sunlight” on what was really a dark night. He also used an umbrella with a diffusion sock on it to light the subject and another bounced light for room fill.
Dustin has a creative approach to lighting, often using what he calls “practical lights” (from the Home Depot lighting section) to create interesting lighting and catch lights for video and stills. His fantasy goal for his work is . . . more of the same. He says he loves his clients and would like to continue creating portraits for magazines and advertising well into the future.
See Dustin's work at dustincohen.com