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Transforming An Ordinary Guy Into A Manly Man, Von Wong Style

By Chris Nachtwey on October 7th 2014

One of the things that I love about photography is it allows us the ability to transform the ordinary into the extraordinary. We, as photographers, are only limited by our imagination. Sure, you need some basic skills, but truth is, if we posses the basic skills needed to light and create images, it’s only our imagination that is holding us back from creating something phenomenal. Personally, when I think of extraordinary portraits that excite, inspire, and capture our imagination, one man always comes to mind: Benjamin Von Wong.



In the video below, Von Wong uses his wild imagination to transform an ordinary 9 to 5 programmer into what Wong calls a “post apocalyptic manly man.”



Mamiya Credo 40mp with 645DF+ Back
Schneider 55mm f/2.8 LS
Broncolor Para 133
Broncolor Move 1200L



Von Wong is using some of the best gear in the game during this shoot, but gear aside, his lighting and composition is fairly simple. Von Wong’s imagination is what I think has always made him stand out in a crowd. When you combine the imagination he has with the technical skills, you get the great images he always creates.

My favorite image from this Von Wong shoot is the one below. Von Wong used a three light set up, a fully focused Broncolor Para 133 camera left and to the front of his subject for his main light. A gridded softbox camera right and behind his subject for fill light, and a carefully placed light and smoke machine out of view behind his subject and the car to create and light the smoke we see in the image. Using a Mamiya Credo 645+ DF allowed him to shoot at 1/1600 of a second. This fast sync speed allowed him to nail his exposure and have crisp bright flames coming from the torch vs. blurry flames at a slower sync speed.

Final settings: ISO 50, f/5.0. 1/1600




As with any of the projects Von Wong produces, I’m impressed. I  really like the concept behind this shoot: to take an ordinary guy and make him look like one bada** dude (in a good way) is so much fun. I love how everyone, but the makeup artist are people Von Wong had never meet, but found to help him via social media. I think the most important thing to take away from this Von Wong shoot is this: even though he is using some of the best gear in the market, with a great imagination, team, and determination, you too could create awesome images even if you just have basic gear. It’s the vision that is the most important element.

Von Wong goes into great detail about this shoot on his blog. Check it out for more images and lighting diagrams.


CREDITS: Photographs by Von Wong have been used with permission for SLR Lounge. Do not copy, modify or re-post this article or images without express permission from SLR Lounge and the artis

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Chris Nachtwey is a full-time wedding and portrait photographer based in Connecticut. He is the founder and creator of 35to220 a website dedicated to showcasing the best film photography in the world. Chris loves to hear from readers, feel free to drop him a line via the contact page on his website! You can see his work here: Chris Nachtwey Photography

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Matthew Kitchen

    For some reason this is the first thing from Von Wong that I’ve actively seen. I love his style and his energy on shoots, and I definitely feel inspired to push myself further!

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  2. Clare Havill

    Von Wong is very creative.

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  3. Kurk Rouse

    Love Von Wong’s images

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  4. Austin Swenson

    I really want to try this even though I don’t think I would shoot like it very often… I think it would be a great chance to get some inspiration for other shots.

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  5. Jim Johnson

    Von Wong’s stuff is so over the top. It’s not really my taste, but you can’t really argue the talent and craftsmanship.

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  6. Steven Pellegrino

    Benjamin Von Wong is the perfect example that you need more than a camera to be a great photographer! I love (and am jealous of) his imagination.

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  7. Ant Motton

    That’s basically how I see myself when I’m working on my car…….. :o

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