Frank Doorhof: Why Fake it When You Can Create It?


Frank Doorhof is an well known photographer, instructor and blogger from Europe. He has built up his portfolio of work and has developed into a major professional. Frank has also recently been added to the Kelby Training lineup.

Frank took a bit of time to talk to us about how he grew as a photographer, and about some of the inspiration and lighting behind his fashion photography.

B&H: You’re a relatively recent addition to the Kelby Training lineup. How did it feel to be accepted amongst such an established and accomplished lineup of photographers?

Frank: For me it was like a dream come true. Let's be honest, these are the guys that almost everybody looks up to and learns from. To be part of that team is the best thing that has happened to me, and it has skyrocketed my career. Even before Kelby Training, I was already teaching in workshops/seminars abroad, but when you can associate your name with Kelby Training, things just happen easier.


B&H: You publish on your blog every day. How do you find time to shoot, edit, and blog?

Frank: To be honest, I'm still waiting for that upgrade to a 40-hour workday and 10-days-a-week package, but until that happens, it's a lot of solid time management. For example, we're in the States now for Photoshop World, and where you would normally come home after a day's work and relax, for me it's often taking some time to work out (I try to do at least 30 minutes a day on cardio), and then I will have to do my work, including answering emails, doing some things for the blog, and editing. It's a lot of work, but I love every minute of it. And let's be frank—normally someone goes to work, and then spends every single minute of their free time on their hobby. I never, ever feel like I'm working; I'm always working on my passion and my hobby, and that's the best thing ever. My wife doesn't always agree, but she knows it by now, and I always try to make time for my family.


The iPad has really changed my life: It takes off a lot of stress by letting me check my mail all the time.

B&H: Your editing style and lighting is much different than most of the work we see out there, and that helps you to stand out. From where do you get your inspiration and vision? And who influenced you to light the way you do?


Frank: First, thanks for the compliment. I think it's great if someone has his or her own style. To be honest I never view my work like "that", I try to switch between styles and looks, but I agree there is something there that might be called the "Frank look." I don't know, I just try to be the best I can, and I learn every day.

My inspiration for teaching was, without any doubt, Dean Collins. However as far as the lighting is concerned, it's more complicated. If I had to specify, it would be the old masters, like Rembrandt and Caravaggio. In modern photography, I love people like Erwin Olaf (who I think is one of the true masters of our time) but also Mario Testion, David Lachapelle, et al. Of the older photographers, without a doubt, Helmut Newton, Richard Avadon, Annie Leibowitz, and so many more.


Idea-wise, I just love Lady Gaga. I would love to be able to work with her one day. The way she has the styling down to an art form is almost surreal.

B&H: Your bio talks about your grandparents being very involved in film and photography. How did your grandfather influence and help to steer you in the direction that you’re in today?


Frank: Much to my regret, he died at a very early age of my development, I was just testing stuff out in the darkroom with him, and I hardly remember any of that, except that it inspired me immensely. I think my main influence lies in my passion for movies. I've always analyzed how the looks were created, and I always tried to solve the lighting/post processing.

B&H: You recently shot with Polaroids on your blog. Would you ever go back to shooting medium-format film?

Frank: Actually, sometimes I still do. I own a Mamiya RZ67 Pro II, which I use (next to my Phase One DF body) with a Leaf Aptus-II 7 digital back (love those backs), and on the RZ, sometimes I just love to shoot a roll of film. The outcome is totally different from digital, but so unique. I do have to add that most of the time I will try to shoot film that is not "good" anymore, which sometimes creates weird looking images, and when it works, I try to recreate it in Photoshop, using that as a new ingredient for my own work. So for me, it's my creative "playground."

B&H: As an accomplished photographer, you have to have goals that you’re checking in on, and following through on. How do you ensure that you’re always on the right path to accomplishing more?


Frank: I think that sometimes you just have to let go, and go with the flow. Don't get me wrong, I'm really on top of everything that happens around me, but setting goals is limiting yourself, and also frustrating. I know that one of my goals was to one day (in a future far, far away) join Kelby Training, and well, that has happened quite quickly, ever since I've decided to not set goals anymore, except to try to improve myself every day. When I don't shoot a good image, I'm really a bit disappointed with myself. This way, I still try to push myself forward. 

I've recently started doing the larger seminars with live shoots happening. That is a huge risk, because of the possibility that I might shoot "bad" images during a seminar, but the response of the audience has been great, so that pushed me forward, so to say.


I think the best tip I always give my students is, "Why fake it, when you can create it?” What I mean to say is, learn your basics and work from there into specializing. Find your own "voice/look," and build from there, but always do what you like. When I started out with the more "dark" look, people told me that it was not good—that shadows were too dark. I loved it and stuck with it, and now it's totally accepted, and trust me, I DID NOT set that trend. I think I spotted it in Vogue, and I thought, "if it can be done there, then I’m able to do it, too.” Now look at modern photography—you see it everywhere. I stuck to my intuition, and it worked out well for me. I was rather early with that look.

Same with the vintage look. As soon as it appeared, I just loved it, and it tinted my images. Remember that on many mediums the trend was still to do it as naturally as possible. Honestly, I think that a bit of "correct" tinting makes an image look more unique. I stuck with it. And now you see it everywhere.

Following magazines like Vogue could give you an edge, but music videos can also help. I always try to stay on top of new things in photography. I won't copy looks, but I will take out of them that which I like, and mix it with my own work, trying to come up with something that is different, and "me.” I think that's the correct way: Never copycat someone; you can do it in order to learn the technique/trick, but after that, you should really make it your own.


B&H: What big projects are you working on right now? Also, where do you see yourself in three years as a creative?

Frank: This year, I want to do some larger themed shoots. We're trying to pull something off with a burlesque team and some good dancers, but we'll see what happens. I'm always open for new ideas, but this year will be more about finding new locations, I think. I'm also working on a book that will hopefully be released this year, plus I'm filming two new Kelby Training videos this summer.

Frank was also at the Event Space recently, check him out in the video below!

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of B&H Photo, Video, Pro Audio