Exposure: Oli Sansom

A master of high and low key, designer-turned-photographer Oli Sansom takes us through his favourite photo moments.

Lexy Savvides
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(Credit: Tamara Erbacher)

Photographer: Oli Sansom

Speciality: Portraits, weddings and editorial.

Biography: Oli is a creative director at a digital health startup. While his background is in cartoon and animation illustration, he has also dabbled in the craft of hand-building truck seats and pillows, before giving his creative life the attention it deserved. He never considered photography until 2009, when he was inspired by the work that was produced by his fellow designers.

Oli soon learned how to work with light after shooting his friends' bands in erratic and ever-changing conditions. Weddings came next, when he found himself shooting an entire season of couples as he honed his skills.

Oli aims to stay focused on portrait, documentary and editorial themes, while further developing his distinctive visual style.

"I love the small stuff. I love trying to make boring normalcy an engaging part of a story, and giving everything its place with context."

Equipment: Canon EOS 5D Mark II, Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L, EF 50mm f/1.2L, EF 70-200 f/2.8L, 580EXII, Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop

Video interview

More of Oli's work can be seen on Briars Atlas and you can follow him on Twitter.

This was part of a "morning couples" shoot with friends. I love catching little pockets of natural light, then casting them across human forms. Paul Barbera is amazing at that, and a big inspiration.

Exposure: 1/2000, f/1.4, ISO 320, 35mm

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Driving a friend to work, this is a snap of him pointing at something while under the bridge at Hoddle Street and Swan Street in Melbourne.

He's an interesting dude with a curiously odd sock collection — that's part of another set I'm working on. Like most of my favourite shots, and certainly those from this series, this was candid and wasn't part of the morning's plan.

Exposure: 1/1000, f/1.4, ISO 160, 35mm

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Anastacia and James

This one is cropped from a much larger image. I try to compose in-camera always, but I liked how this worked out; as far as Anastacia taking the frame, with James gazing from the corner.

Exposure: 1/320, f/1.4, ISO 500, 35mm

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Portrait of Cheryl

I shot the talented Cheryl Lin (or, to her legion of blog fans, BusiChic) at a great warehouse space in Richmond.

Exposure: 1/5000, f/1.6, ISO 400, 35mm

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Jill carrying chair

This is Jill. Carrying a chair. Jill was the first of my friends stuck with a 7am shoot. It was my first attempt at a "low key" shoot and, in the two months since starting to think about light more critically, I've learned more than the last two years.

Exposure: 1/320, f/1.2, ISO 100, 50mm

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Jill lowering chair

Remember that chair? Here it is again, being lowered. I kind of like pairing images of simple "before and after" moments. Simple human moments — and sinks — are two of my favourite things to shoot. Stuff gets really awesome when someone is buttering toast in front of a sink. I'm glad I get excited by the small stuff.

Exposure: 1/320, f/1.2, ISO 100, 50mm

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Anastacia and curtain

A little earlier on, in the same couples set with Anastacia and James. People doing ordinary routine things in beautiful light — just how I like it.

Exposure: 1/400, f/1.4, ISO 400, 35mm

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Jill close: Black and white

At Jill's shoot, I wanted to get a little more creative with vantage points.

Exposure: 1/320, f/1.2, ISO 100, 50mm

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Kid pressing against the window

This was at a wedding reception. I love the loop of the parents looking at their boy pining after the perfectly-posed girl at the front. I got pretty lucky with this catch, and had to move like a maniac to get it.

Exposure: 1/800, f/1.4, ISO 100, 35mm

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Anastacia and James kiss

I wanted to get a sequence of more intimate shots, these guys handled the camera up close, pretty well.

Exposure: 1/1000, f/1.4, ISO 160, 35mm

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Anastacia and James in black and white

I was going for something a little more old-school and dramatic here. Quote: "Oli, you've made James look like a sex god!" I sense another career angle here.

Exposure: 1/3200, f/1.4, ISO 320, 35mm

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This is probably my favourite bride shot yet, and maybe the biggest reason why I'll miss my 70-200 when I get rid of it. Being able to catch moments like this, is one of the biggest reasons I do weddings.

Exposure: 1/500, f/2.8, ISO 125, 200mm

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Jill's hand and chairs

I love the chair colour and texture, then Jill's hand in the corner.

Exposure: 1/125, f/1.4, ISO 125, 35mm

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Anastacia combing hair

I haven't shown much of it here, but I love shooting the backs of people's heads. Removing the distraction of a face makes you think much more about their own context, and the rest of the frame on its own merit.

Exposure: 1/500, f/1.4, ISO 640, 35mm

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Anyone that hasn't been to Underground Cinema, needs to get down there. This old-school taxi was a prop at one of their amazing events. Talking to people and putting up the hand to shoot anything and everything, can get you into a bunch of interesting places.

Exposure: 1/1600, f/1.2, ISO 3200, 50mm

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Max splashing face

My pal Max was another target for my morning shoot set. This is him trying to wake himself up. A lot of homes around Fitzroy are filled with amazing texture and light.

Exposure: 1/125, f/1.4, ISO 640, 35mm

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My mate doing some car park sprints. Some kind of lighting would've been handy here, to drop the ISO.

Exposure: 1/400, f/1.4, ISO 1600, 35mm

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Anastacia and James

Just playing with staggering them, in the same way as the banners.

Exposure: 1/60, f/1.4, ISO 500, 35mm

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