3 Minutes with Photographer Kelly Castro

3 Minutes with Photographer Kelly Castro


Viewing great portraiture can be an extremely rich experience. Great portraiture takes on many forms and styles, but some of the most moving portraits are done in Black & White. A perfect example of  this being the portraiture of Yousuf Karsh. While Karsh was a master of lighting and film, new photographers are emerging that are pushing new envelopes in digital photography. One such photographer is Kelly Castro who is today’s guest on “3  Minutes with…”

1. Describe your photography in 100 words or less.
Black & White – emphasis on the black. Simple. Sharp. Textural. Maximum detail within minimal composition. I’m always trying to pull more out of my portraits in post-processing — more tone, more contrast, more detail. As a result, they often end up looking like a cross between a relief map and an X-ray when you see them close, but I like that. I’m also aware that they aren’t everyone’s cup of tea.

2. What gear/software do you use?
My main cameras for the last couple of years have been the Canon 5D Mark II and the Ricoh GR Digital 3. I use lenses from Canon, Tamron and Lensbaby. For studio lighting I use Profoto and Alien Bees, though I’ve been working with small flash more recently.

For software, it’s Adobe Lightroom & Photoshop. I love playing around with apps and plug-ins that simulate film looks, so along those lines I really like the NIK Silver Efex Pro plug-in for Lightroom. For color film effects on snapshots, I’m digging the little JPEG preset app “Lo-Fi” from Alien Skin. Hardware is a Mac Pro and I output to an Epson Stylus Pro 3800 – which makes beautiful prints.

3. What’s one quick tip that you’d give people interested in portrait photography.
Shoot as many frames as your subject has the patience for. The smallest change in gesture can be the difference between an average or extraordinary portrait.

4. What photography sites do you recommend?

American Suburb X
A dream site for those obsessed with the history of photography.

The Online Photographer
Some great content and writing.

A good mix of current photography news and information.

My new favorite site for photo-sharing – the overall quality of new photography posted there is inspiring.

To view more of Kelly’s photography visit his portfolio kelco at 500px

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category

Jim Goldstein is a San Francisco based professional photographer. An author as well as a photographer Jim has been published in numerous publications including Outdoor Photographer, Digital Photo Pro, Popular Photography and has self-published a PDF eBook Photographing the 4th Dimension - Time covering numerous slow shutter techniques. His latest work and writing can be found on his JMG-Galleries blog and on 500px

Some Older Comments

  • Mei Teng June 30, 2011 10:34 am

    Inspiring interview and beautiful portraits.

  • Benn Brown June 30, 2011 08:56 am

    Great photography Kelly! I think I need to revisit B/W with fresh eyes!

  • GradyPhilpott June 30, 2011 03:49 am

    This is very beautiful work. I would be very pleased indeed, if I could produce anything of this caliber.

  • scottc June 30, 2011 03:30 am

    I like this "gritty" look (perhaps the wrong word, don't misinterpret) style of portraiture, a subject I have no skill in whatsoever. Some great tips hidden in this interview, the one regarding frames, patience, and the small changes in gesture stands out.

    For now, candids will have to do.


  • Jason St. Petersburg Photographer June 30, 2011 02:23 am

    I like Castro's style of extreme detail, high contrast black & white portrait photography. As the examples in this post show, I think it works much better for male subjects than it would for female subjects, however.

    I was also pleased to read he is a big fan of Silver Efex Pro. Here is why I love it:


  • THE aSTIG @ CustomPinoyRides.com June 30, 2011 01:36 am

    Oh I totally agree about shooting as many frames as your subject has patience for. In my case, since I shoot car photography, sometimes its shooting as many frames before the tires get completely obliterated.

    Just like what I did on this photoshoot to get a cover shot for my site. I was shooting the Rockstar Energy Drink Drift Car and its driver doing a total burnout of the tires. Snapped as many frames as I can to get the tire smoke, hand gesture, and facial expression just right. And if you compare it to the rest of the photos on the gallery, it totally made the difference.

    Here's the photoshoot:

  • Erik Kerstenbeck June 30, 2011 12:28 am


    Interesting article. I have not really considered extra contrast, darkening and sharpening to make portraits ultra detailed. This is something I will have to try - really depends on the subject. This often does not work very well with women, you dont want to accentuate wrinkles. I like a softer approach like this shot:


    PS I agree that NIK Silver EFEX is The Bomb for B&W