Please welcome Charles Hildreth!

I am excited about presenting yet another addition to our Photography Life family – please welcome Charles Hildreth! Charles is an amazing portrait photographer, who is coming back to Denver after spending the last several years working in Hollywood, California. I found out about Charles through my wife Lola, who showed me some stunning work by Charles on his 500px account (which happens to be one of the top). We will be closely working with Charles on some projects in the future right here at PL, so please give him a warm welcome!

Charles Hildreth

I asked Charles to write a short bio about himself and here is what he sent me:

My name is Charles Hildreth. I’m a portrait photographer born and raised in Colorado.

I love exploring natural light.

Charles Hildreth (1)

Charles Hildreth (2)

For me, portraiture work is about the connection a photographer has with the world. It is less about the camera or any lighting source, but precisely on what he/she is influenced by. Everything in a photographer’s life cultivates into a vision enhanced by gear that feels comfortable. There is no right or wrong in a photographic journey, nor is there in art. It just is.

Charles Hildreth (3)

I majored in Journalism and News Editorial at the University of Colorado at Boulder, where I put a strong emphasis on writing. My childhood consisted of a fascination with Hollywood heroes like Indiana Jones and an appreciation for Arthurian romanticism.

Charles Hildreth (4)

In 2006, I took a 90-day, 16-country tour of Europe where I explored as many big and small art museums as I could. It enriched the understanding I once had of world culture, opened my eyes to new cuisine, artists, and put my degree in perspective as far as objectivity was concerned. My portraiture work is a combination of any of these elements, mixed with an observation of humankind and an internal struggle for self-confidence in an opinionated world.

Charles Hildreth (5)

If I could one day fit in among other artists as a storyteller, I think it would be a better fit than photographer, but for now, this is the one medium where I can explore this desire to produce art. I have never wanted to pigeon-hole myself into one particular craft.

Charles Hildreth (6)

Charles Hildreth (7)

Charles Hildreth (8)

Charles Hildreth (9)

Charles Hildreth (10)

Charles Hildreth (11)

Charles Hildreth (12)

Charles Hildreth (13)


  1. 1) eric laquerre
    January 13, 2014 at 1:20 am

    Welcome Charles! I wish you were living closer! Im sure I would learn a lot just by watching you work! Welcome to one of the best photography site on the www!!! :)

    • January 13, 2014 at 12:45 pm

      Thank you for having me!

      Closer to where?

      • 1.1.1) Paul
        January 13, 2014 at 3:07 pm

        Wow, what is your mostly frequently used lens? 105mm?

  2. 2) Gary Clark
    January 13, 2014 at 1:30 am

    Welcome Charles,

    I look forward to reading your first article.

    I want to explore natural light portraiture but I have trouble finding a model to photograph.
    I have asked many friends but no one seems to want to help me out, if you have any tips I would love to hear them!

    All the best,


    • 2.1) Jon McGuffin
      January 13, 2014 at 9:31 am
      • 2.1.1) Gary Clark
        January 13, 2014 at 5:07 pm

        Thanks Jon, I will have a look!

    • January 13, 2014 at 5:03 pm

      Gary –

      What Jon said.

      ModelMayhem is one place to start.

      The other is practice with family members, or friends, maybe even restaurant servers or bartenders if you feel up to the approach.

      It’s all about how you present yourself, because beautiful men and women get asked this question several times, I’m sure. Sometimes people hear “I want to take your photo” as “I want to shoot artistic nudes” or they immediately feel shy because they imagine the word “modeling” as needing some experience in it.

      Best advice I can give you is be creative, charismatic and confident on the approach. A few strong images in your portfolio is a nice selling point, too.

      • 2.2.1) Gary Clark
        January 13, 2014 at 5:16 pm

        Thanks Charles,

        I am certainly not going to be doing anything too artistic just yet. Just a bit of practice will do me for now!

        I really want to try and figure out when the best light is around in the UK, from my previous attempts over the last couple of years I can say that for the vast majority of the year the UK gets quite dull and grey light, not great for portraits without artificial light!

        Many thanks again to both yourself and Jon,

        All the very best for 2014 and your time with PL.


        • January 13, 2014 at 5:27 pm


          The UK light sounds ideal to me, actually. I thrive in gloomy days. Overcasts are your friends, believe it or not. Grab a prime lens and utilize the 1.4 – 1.8 aperture settings within a few hours before sunset. Even if the light is dull or rainy, the sun is up there somewhere. Find out which direction it is in and have your model face towards it. Overcasts are great for keeping a subject’s eyes open. It also adds a gritty, moodier feeling to urban backdrops.

          • Gary Clark
            January 13, 2014 at 6:01 pm

            Thanks for the tip Charles,

            I will keep that in mind and get the nikkor 50mm f/1.8 out for a bit of a practice.

            I was in London for new year and believe or it not my best shots were taken on a night! During the day it was so grey that the sky and the concrete were almost the same colour!

            I will need to get some courage and ask some people if they will give me a few minutes of their time. I have found that with my 50mm wide open the subject’s eyes will be in focus but the end of their nose will be out so I stop down to 2.8-3.2. I am using a D3200 but the DX format sensor shouldn’t make any difference to this problem, I believe that the lens is fully compatible with my camera body, its the AF-S 50mm f/1.8 G lens and I do love the detail I can get out of it, it has a nice softness to it too.

            Many thanks again,


  3. January 13, 2014 at 3:36 am

    Welcome Charles…looking forward to learn from your vast experience ….

  4. 4) Esenam
    January 13, 2014 at 4:40 am

    Welcome Charles!, you do great work indeed. Can’t wait to read what you have to share with us.

  5. 5) Motti
    January 13, 2014 at 7:05 am

    Welcome Charles,

    Would love to learn more about your post processing! Hopefully you will be kind enough to share some of your techniques here.


  6. 6) Ricardo Vaz
    January 13, 2014 at 7:34 am

    Welcome to photographylife!!! Canon or Nikon?? =)

    I hope you share your postprocessing workflow, your images are just outstanding, congratulations!!!

    • 6.1) Jon McGuffin
      January 13, 2014 at 9:36 am

      Maybe you can share with us if you prefer to ship with UPS or FedEx too? (Equally as relevant..). ;)

      • 6.1.1) Ricardo Vaz
        January 13, 2014 at 9:55 am

        I desagree. I began to read photographylife because of the great nikon reviews from Nassim, then I realized that this blog is much bigger than that. Anyway, I find interesting knowing what equipament and setting photographers use and I think most people do. If something isn’t relevant to you, that does not mean that is not relevant for the whole world. By the way, I love DHL.

        • Jon McGuffin
          January 13, 2014 at 2:23 pm

          Knowing a photographers choice of focal length, aperture, shutter speeds, focal point, are all pieces of information we can learn from. Knowing the brand of camera when were talking about two very equal and comparable camera systems does nothing but fuel a silly fire between two brands that don’t deserve the credit.

          He shoots with a Nikon D700 as you can see in the EXIF of his images at 500px. Good for him, I do too but his work can every-bit as much be accomplished with a Canon, Sony, and even the new mirrorless stuff. It may matter to you and that’s your prerogative but I’m telling you, having been around the block a bit on this, it makes absolutely no tangible difference.

          The good equipment enables him no question, but he’s better than the equipment could ever be without him.

          • Ricardo Vaz
            January 13, 2014 at 2:47 pm

            I didn’t see much of brand wars here in Photographylife, in general people here are very nice. Again, what is not relevant to you doens’t mean that is irrelevant to another persob. There are thousands of photographers that can take better photos with a iPhone that I can do with my DSLR, I still want to know how they get to that photo, whats the technique and whats his gear, I’m curious. Many people in this blog loves to know about gear, that’s why there is so much reviews in this website, I see no harm in asking what brand or gear people around here use.

    • January 13, 2014 at 4:57 pm


      I’m a Nikon guy!

      I’ll be sharing some tips on post-processing.

  7. 7) Shajus
    January 13, 2014 at 8:20 am

    Welcome to Photographylife…

    Beautiful Pics.. and looking forward to hear from your tips..

    Congrats n All D very best..


  8. 8) Jon McGuffin
    January 13, 2014 at 9:35 am

    Welcome Charles,

    What a fabulous body of work you’ve put together over there at 500px. An awesome addition to this sure no doubt! I too look forward to seeing articles from you and hopefully an opportunity to pick your brain; particularly when it comes to your processing.

    Thanks for taking the time to share with us!

  9. 9) Gerry C
    January 13, 2014 at 2:20 pm

    Welcome Charles! I just saw your photos on 500px and… Instant follow!

    I couldn’t agree more when you wrote: “It is less about the camera or any lighting source, but precisely on what he/she is influenced by… There is no right or wrong in a photographic journey, nor is there in art. It just is.”

    I’m eagerly looking forward to reading what you have to share! :-)

  10. 10) Ali N.
    January 13, 2014 at 4:37 pm

    On behalf of all the mod’s in NR Forum, welcome to PL Charles.

    Looking forward in seeing and reading your comments.

    Best wishes :D

  11. 11) james kern
    January 13, 2014 at 5:20 pm

    Hey Charles
    Checked out your work at 500 px – very nice! Look forward to seeing more. I noticed that you have a very distinctive look to your shots – would almost call it a “Charles” effect in that you use it so often. (No disrespect or any such thing intended.) I am always interested in other photographers post processing work flow and am constantly asking myself “…how did he do that…” If it’s not violating a trade secret whats the “secret sauce”? My guess is a Gaussian blur for the “glow” effect and occasionally a colored layer set to soft light (or a photo filter) to accent a particular color that you want be dominant in your color pallet for that shot. I also think I saw the use of a radial gradient on a mask (or some brush work?) to knock out or reduce the effect in specific areas on some of your shots. Am I close? If you are ok with sharing your post processing I would be interested. Thanks and Welcome!

    • January 13, 2014 at 6:12 pm

      James –

      I do use soft light color layers. No blurring effects. I mostly stack curves and mask as I see fit. Images have anything from gradient maps, selective color layers, curves, and so forth. Everything I do is accessible within the basic tool set Photoshop provides.

      For me, post processing is 50% of why I love photography, but it’s also the easiest thing to gain control of.

      These tend to be harder to master: environment composition, emotion of the subject, and the eye for light/color.

      • 11.1.1) james kern
        January 13, 2014 at 6:24 pm

        Couldn’t agree with you more – the post processing, while it can be technically challenging to learn, is easy to control, but if you don’t have the latter (subject, etc.) you can be the greatest post processor in the world and you still won’t have a great photograph. Thanks for sharing and look forward to seeing more of your work!

  12. 12) Tal
    January 13, 2014 at 6:31 pm

    …welcome aboard Charles! It is definitely a pleasure having talent/experience such as yours here!! Any plans on providing tutorials of any kind (sorry if I missed this answer elsewhere)? Take care…

  13. 13) NikJ
    January 13, 2014 at 6:42 pm

    Charles, A super welcome to you. I must have looked at your portraits for over an hour this morning. They are wonderfully artful! As I visit photography websites I can easily find technical information, but the art side of photography is much harder to access. I look forward to following any discussion of your workflow … everything from the way you relate to your models, to the way you post-process your images. Your photos speak loudly; they tell us that you have the knack/the knowledge/the experience/the rapport/the eye, etc to create a sensitive portrait, and I hope you are able to communicate some of those intangibles to us.

  14. January 14, 2014 at 1:50 am

    Welcome Charles! Wonderful postings on 500px!!

  15. 15) hemangster
    January 14, 2014 at 2:15 pm

    I have been following Charles on Flickr for quite some time now. Glad to see your work profiled here and looking forward to your posts.

  16. January 14, 2014 at 3:33 pm

    Welcome Charles!

    I am really looking forward to reading your articles! Portrait photography is my favorite branch (if we have to categorize…) and it is great to have such talented artist at Photography Life.

    If I may suggest a couple of topics, the use of natural / ambient light, posing (of the model), and post-processing would be great to be covered.
    Be it any of these, the most interesting are the thoughts behind a process, not the mechanistic steps. “I made such a curve because…” and so on. Especially for post-processing a tool-independent explanation is always welcomed.

    Thanks in advance for all of your time!

  17. 17) Shibesh Roy
    January 20, 2014 at 10:47 am

    Welcome Charles. I use panasonic lumix fh4 point and shoot camera. Please tell me how I shoot better portrait photos, specialy at night. I have so trouble to shoot portraits at night.

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