Stanislav Puchkovsky (aka Sean Archer) is a Master of Natural Light Portraits

Stanislav Puchkovsky (aka Sean Archer) is a Master of Natural Light Portraits

Merely two years ago, Stanislav picked up his first camera: a Lumix G3 for $600. From that point forward his inspirational journey began. The majority of his mind-blowing work was taken in his attic using friends as models. Now he is known as Sean Archer - a natural light photographer who specializes in female portraits. His work is proof that it’s not about gear. It’s about the photographer; it's about the vision of the artist.

Two years ago, I opened a 500px account and the first person I followed was Sean Archer. His work had a signature look that I instantly fell in love with. He used natural light, and all the photos were taken right there in his own home. The fact his gear cost half of mine at the time was in itself inspirational to me.


The first question everyone asks Stanislav is how he got the nickname Sean Archer. "Sean Archer is an agent from the movie Face Off. I took the nickname and created a 500px account when I wasn't sure if I was any good at photography."


Stanislav picked up a Lumix G3 after showing interest in photography at the end of 2011. He had just graduated from architecture school and knew nothing about photography. "I shot in auto mode every day just for fun, my first subject was my moms dog.I knew absolutely nothing about photography, absolutely nothing,” said Stanislav. At the beginning of 2012 a friend asked him to take portraits of her, “To my big surprise,” Stanislav said, the “result was better than her photo from some professional guy before. And I realized that I like the process a lot, from shooting to post processing. It’s like drawing, but much faster. I never had patience to be a serious artist, but just enough to be a photographer.”


"Everything I know now came from taking thousands of images, hours of processing and fooling around with every setting on the camera." Stanislav pointed out numerous times that everything he learned came from his own experiences and mistakes.


Living in Yekaterinburg, Russia, he doesn't have much of a choice other than to shoot indoors. "It's not the warmest place on Earth and I started shooting in winter. Indoors was a natural choice for me. I just use what I had - light from the window, wall as a background."


One of the first question that came to mind was the fact his photos have so many different color/textured backgrounds. Puchkovsky overlays textures in Photoshop to change up the backgrounds of his images.


In the beginning he started off just photographing friends but as time went one I branched out to their friends. some have modeled in the past but none of them do it professionally. “It’s fun. I never try to be dead serious or something like that. I don’t do preparations. It’s always improvisation. Just, “let’s start and see what we get.”


A trick Stansilav has taught me over the years to making people feel comfortable is simply by showing the really good shots every once in a while on the camera screen. "Everyone loves it, people see how great they look and they immediately want to take more."


He uses a single window without any reflectors. If the sunlight is too strong he has a few sets of window shades that he uses to control he light.
Do you retouch and how much retouching do you do?

"Of course I do retouching, I remove spots and any issues in skin tones. It's very important to keep skin texture, but making it clear and bright. Keeping it natural is the key. I don't like the "fashion" style retouch, that makes skin lifeless, like it was processed by sandblasting machine…In portraits you have to be an artist, too.”

What gear are you using?
"My first camera was Lumix G3 it really shines with the Olympus Zuiko 45mm. If you have good light condition it's very good. Now I'm using Canon 6D with two Canon lenses, 50mm 1.4 and 135mm L 2.0. This combo works very well in low light."

Aside from photography gear, Stanislav loves using a fan to add volume to the hair and trying it at different angles to add interesting looks to his subjects. He adds that playing music is a must for shoots like this.


"A lot of people thought my Lumix G3 wasn't a serious camera and that you can’t take good portrait with it, my goal was to prove them wrong."

Stanislav finally let me create a Facebook Page for him so you guys have an alternate place to follow him on social media - Sean Archer Photography


Dani Diamond | Facebook Facebook Page | 500px | Instagram

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Previous comments
Ovidiu Oprea's picture

how about you comment less and use your camera more?
I have been to one of his workshops.. and he didnt unse liquifier.. no frequelcy separation and if you know photoshop (looks like you do not). And its not about the perfect model XD
its not his fault you dont know how to talk to girls.. of you improve your skills and shoot your friends first, you have pictures you can show. And you can be sure to get nice girls like these posing for you if you show them what you have done so far.

Non Photographers are easily impressed ;)

Sean T's picture

So you actually don't use "I dont use masks, frequency separation etc" you work destructively? Mask that is? thanks

Phil Stefans's picture

Great photos, gorgeous models, but is it still really a great natural light portrait if you have to extensively retouch the photos to balance the exposure on faces, brighten eyes etc? Not having a dig at the tog as he is obviously really really talented, just the terminology...I always believed great natural light photographers relied on spotting great lighting, reflectors etc, not great retouching skills...

Justabeginner photographer's picture

Photography is all about retouching these days because with the new technologies every idiot can take out of focus natural light portraits. For the average joe even my shitty picture in my profile looks just needs to look like you didn't shot it with an iPhone and then you can call yourself a professional photographer and charge people a leg and an arm for workshops lol.

While the models look great and the photos are good, I find them uninspiring. There are many togs out there that make me want to get out and shoot but these photos don't make me linger for more than 2-3 seconds. All his photos look...well, the same. This may be by design/style but it gets boring quick.

I do need to add that I am referring to his complete portfolio as seen on 500px. The ones included here are excellent and stand out.

Absolutely lovely! I'm now thinking of moving to his neighbourhood though - his models are stunning! Stanislav, really well done.

JOHN PARISI's picture

although I have been photographing for 100 years, i still cannot get this kind of results but after the initial desire to throw my camera away, the work is inspiring. ...something to strive for. I does help to have lovely models but everyone deserves a beautiful portrait and hopefully they are beautiful in someone's eyes.

Justabeginner photographer's picture

Then you should invest some time in post processing techniques. His work is all post processing skills more than photography skills.

He is cheating. All beautiful excuse me ladies come pose for my Nikon

Humberto Vinícius's picture

Hello! No doubt Sean Archer is a photographer who deserves the acclaim they give you. Use natural light coming in most of the time a window, this is very creative. And be creative in artistic means assures the top. Congratulations Sean Archer.

A curiosity. In addition to Adobe Photoshop (PS), there would be other softwareis that you assist in the production of imangens or would only PS plugins?
Thank you for listening.

Russell Pearson's picture

Love both your guys work, Sean and Dani...amazing, such an inspiration to me, not just portrait but all kinds of photography, just had one of my images used in this months UK Lonely Planet happy...thats for inspiring thousands of photographers..

Con Guerrero's picture

Great article, Dani. I had long admired Stanislav's work, but had no idea it was all naturally lit and shot with inexpensive gear!

Karthik Thorali's picture

such a beautiful work they are. I have been following Mr. Archer and Dani for a while now, and study different portraits to findout how it works

user-163604's picture

Hello guys, hello Sean Archer, I'm your fan, congratulations for your photos, I'm always amazed. I apologize for my bad english. I hope Sean Archer will answer this question of mine. I realized that you shoot inside using the sweet and natural light coming from the window, but I did not understand one thing, behind the models are real backgrounds or in post production overlap a texture that then trimming around the subject in a very professional? If you answer my question, you would do me a great favor. thank you

hello everyone!!! does anybody know about a Sean Archer Tutorial ?? and where to purchase it?? thanks