Coloratti Profile – Frank Doorhof
by Dave Mobbs – June 1st, 2020
Let me start by introducing myself. My name is Frank Doorhof and I’m a photographer/content creator/educator. This is the story of my journey into professional photography.
How it all began
I grew up in a family where my grandparents were very much into everything connected to photography and video. Not on a professional level; just for fun. Let me put it this way: I learned darkroom techniques from my grandfather because the walk-in-closet in their room was transformed into a full featured dark room (well, at least in my memory).
I still remember seeing a piece of paper being put in a bucket with stinking water and to my surprise an image appeared. For me, that was pure magic and I was hooked.
When MTV was released in our home town I was staying at my grandparents’ house (they lived a few houses from us) because the cable company would first connect them and I really wanted to see MTV before it hit our house. Yes, I was that interested. And my life changed.
Videoclips were bright, fast, loud and amazing. Storytelling in 3-4 minute. Oh my, the world had really and truly changed for me!
What drives me
Then cancer struck and I lost my grandfather. My parents split up and after a dark period I decided to stay with my mom. She (always) supports me in my passions and gave me the room to grow and explore my passions. Although we didn’t have much, she always made sure that when I wanted something really badly and I worked for it, she would make it possible one way or another. I think this embedded a huge sense of “what you want, you have to work for, and what you have is priceless” in me.
This drive is still with me. I feel guilty when I don’t work a day. I believe every day in good health is a gift and should be optimized and used to the last second. Every product or relation you have is something that is valuable and should be treated like this.
These basic foundations are important for every entrepreneur. It’s how you build, but most of all keep a business alive for many years.
My first passion was music, the guitar. When I was 18, I started teaching local kids and even adults, and I loved it. Seeing people grow and understand the instrument better just by me pointing out stuff that I struggled with too. It’s still the most satisfying thing in the world.
Next to music I loved animals, and the original plan was that I would become a veterinarian. In our area this meant mostly farms and pets. But that didn’t happen. During my teens I was taken out by severe allergies and after an examination it was clear I had to change my future ideas. Being a vet was out of the question. I tested positive for about every substance I would encounter daily (cats, dogs, dust, house mite and pollens, yeah good luck with that Frank in a rural area as a vet).
Becoming an entrepreneur
Because both my grandparents and parents were entrepreneurs, I went to business school which, was easy compared to the vet school. But I didn’t complain, this was the time I had time to enjoy my guitar, play in bands, record music and start teaching.
After school I joined a good friend of mine in a recording studio. My dream had come true. I still miss being behind a huge recording desk and recording a band and discussing their music or just music in general. It was an awesome time. But a good company needs to earn money and this was not doing it.
During that time, I also decided to move on settle with my future wife, Annewiek. So earning money became a priority, which most of you probably know.
Bye music, hello computers
During my early twenties, Personal Computers were launched and found their way into every household. I loved programming games on the Amiga 500 and later a PC (I started with a Comx35), so the first step into our own business was quite logical, a PC shop. We started from our home and the company grew exponentially, giving us a great foundation and a lot of lessons for the future. When our son was born, we bought our first better cameras.
In the meantime we moved to Emmeloord, to the house we still live in today, and our company grew even more. At one point our PCs appeared in national magazines as “dream machines for a dream price, the fastest 486 ever tested in our labs”. Yep… we compiled and built our own PCs!
A meeting with fate
Around 1997 we started Home Theater as a side business. I always loved movies and seeing them in your home on a big screen was awesome, of course. But at that time, companies that sold projectors to clients at home did not really exist in The Netherlands. So, we tried to fill that gap. It was a fun time but also difficult because it was a very new market. In 2001 this resulted in our visit to the USA. I was there to get my ISF (Imaging Science Foundation) certification and visit a HT tradeshow, but it didn’t go as planned… The date: 9/11.
Luckily, we were in Indianapolis, but at that time I only brought a film camera with me. I actually found out that still image can be way more powerful than a video and I began to switch from primarily video to photography again. In those moments you also realize how important “hiding” behind the camera works in stressful situations.
My first camera
I bough my first digital camera, a Kodak, around 1996. You had to empty the camera when it was full, and the quality was an amazing 0.5 MP but, in TIFF, so great… (ah forget about it, it sucked).
After this, everything happened fast. I loved shooting nature, animals and especially birds. The “Apenheul” in Apeldoorn is a large zoo where monkeys run around free and I was a frequent visitor because I loved shooting there.
Of course I joined a local photo club and that’s where it happened. We had to follow a workshop and as I remember, I had two options :1. Go into the forest with someone to shoot trees (I knew one of us wasn’t coming back if I did that), or 2. Shoot models. And oh my, I hated that idea.
But in all fairness when I did it, I fell in love (not with the model). You could move the light source around, which was awesome and I could determine when to shoot and how. The girl wasn’t that bad either, maybe, just maybe…
A week later, while visiting my parents (my mom remarried) I sat on the couch the moment a documentary about David LaChapelle started. And that changed the way I looked at photography and styling forever. David is still one of my all-time heroes and I would love to meet him one day.
During that period my health played up. For years I had been busy, busy, busy and I found out the hard way that a mind can only take so much, and I was running on reserves probably for years. The solution? Play games or I decided to start TFP sessions. I had a lot of “free” time because Annewiek took over the computer business including the staff, so I could focus on clearing my mind and playing with my photography. Let the record state that it was never my intention to continue professionally.
However, my work got attention. Especially the lighting and I was more than willing to talk about photography with everyone that would listen and tell them my experiences and secrets. And it didn’t take long before another life changing experience happened.
Wibi Soerjadi is a Dutch piano player and one of the best in the world. Due to our Home Theater business I got to know him pretty well. One day he was telling me he hated photoshoots and was not looking forward to one. My reply was “Did you know I shoot too?”. Before I knew it, he was my first real celebrity I shot, and I was nervous as could be.
An immense love for teaching
The lighting did it for people and questions kept pouring in if I wanted to teach workshops. My answer was very short “NO” and sometimes longer “NO WAY”. Don’t get me wrong, I love teaching but I also take it very seriously. I still feel that a lot of workshops are a total waste of time and money, so I didn’t feel comfortable with teaching if I was not a master myself (and in all honesty I still don’t feel like a master but I love to teach :D).
At one point, I decided to do it once, but only once. This was not possible, we had to divide the students into three groups, because my studio was not that big. And in no time, I became addicted to teaching again. I love to get a like on social media (hint) but teaching was way more rewarding. Hearing that someone changed their way of looking at photography thanks to a workshop was the best reward ever. For some people, this is something that’s hard to grasp but I’m one of those guys that love to see others succeed and be part of that.
The workshops kept growing and at one point I decided that this was what I wanted. Clients like celebrities are awesome because you can be creative but magazines… I sometimes felt like a copy machine: “Hire Frank, he can do that”. But it was never a Frank Doorhof image. Plus, the magazines I would love to work for didn’t hire me and trust me it’s not you.
I came in and was judged but the editors “best portfolio we ever saw”. “Wow you’re talented, but we already work with someone, so sorry”…. So don’t feel bad if that happens. It’s all networking and I didn’t have any connections and getting through. I decided I loved teaching too much to even bother.
Working with brands
So, I started the workshops on a regular basis, once every two weeks to two per week. Brands noticed this and started to approach me to ask if I would be willing to work with them. I was stunned at first but accepted the offers, but only from the companies whose gear or software I already used.
In my opinion, it’s important that people online trust me, also with their wallets (wink). If I promote stuff that I do not support 100%, I destroy not only my own credibility but also the reputation of those companies. As an ambassador, that is not what you should want. This led to me being very brand loyal. In all my career I only used Elinchrom and Hensel for example (I’ve shot with all brands on demos etc. but those are the brands I used myself).
I started with Canon and switched to Sony very early. I was the guy that tested the first A99 and got it to tether with the help of an awesome software company I found online. And after the press introduction in Dubai, I switched to Sony, which was pretty obvious at that time I think, seeing I did the introduction. Although, in Sony’s defense, they asked me to do it while I was still shooting Canon and they didn’t ask me to switch, which I found pretty cool for a company like that.
I also shot with Fuji and PhaseOne/Mamiya/Leaf. Both had their own spot in my workflow and I still love those brands (Still eager to try the MF from Fuji).
Trade shows, Kelby One and writing
At one point I got a message on my blog from Scott Kelby. Of course, I knew of Scott and was a huge fan. He was visiting the Netherlands and the Professional Imaging trade show and wanted to meet me. Fast forward a bit and I had the honor of becoming the first European Kelby training (now Kelbyone) instructor.
In the meantime, I was doing a lot of trade shows and Professional Imaging. Then, after years of trying and doing other major shows and stages, I was asked to do one show on the main stage. Towards the end of the day, after a few very good demonstrations, I was nervous as could be, but the room was jampacked. People were standing in the hallways and the row was standing on their toes to see me. I’m still very humbled by that experience, especially in my own country.
Throughout the years I’ve become part of the organization of the Professional Imaging and for some years I was responsible for getting the best names in the business on their stage. I loved that part of my job, again working with people and giving the audience what they want/need is just awesome.
Looking back, it’s been a rollercoaster ride. I just wanted to photograph some models, teach workshops and record some instructional videos. I never set goals, I just worked and pushed where I could and wanted.
Thanks to my love for movies/videoclips and a solid color background via the ISF, I started to teach the more technical stuff with a heavy dose of storytelling. From there on it just took off.
When Scott Kelby gave me the option to write a book, at first, I didn’t want to do it, but ended up writing “Mastering the model shoot” which is now translated in over 5 languages. Our publisher in The Netherlands just released my fifth book in Dutch.
One thing however stayed: I never ever work a day in my life (although I work 24/7). I love what I do, and I do it with passion. I promote the heck out of brands I love but do it in a personal way and most of all, I try to keep in contact with all the social media sites and the followers on those sites.
Sometimes it’s just a like I give, but I always try to also answer questions or remarks. It takes a lot of time but in the end it’s those guys/girls that make my work possible, so thank you.
Becoming a Coloratti
I chose X-Rite long before I worked with them for the simple reason that as an ISF tech I knew their products (we use heavily modified analyzers from X-Rite for my calibrations). So I was immediately willing to go on their Ambassadorship program, the Coloratti, when they asked; I’ve been with them for many years now.
My photography? I love people, but real people. When I shoot extremely stylized models, I still try to not shoot a model, but a story. During the years I started attending Professional Imaging I met Nadine, who we hired as a model for this show when my model called in sick. She never left :D! We still work together and when we work together we somehow just draw the best out of each other. It’s bizarre but it works like a charm.
Because we do travel a lot, I also love travel and especially street photography. One could say I’m the stereotypical tourist, always with a camera, but always looking for something else than that Kodak moment shot that everyone takes.
Photography is freezing unique moments in time that never come back. Our task as photographers is recording the world for future generations. We have to take that task seriously and having proper gear and calibrated monitors, in my opinion, helps with getting a time frame and vision to the public that fits our creativity. And with products like the ColorChecker Passport Photo or Video and the monitor calibrators, it really helps me to create a standard in my output that is up to my vision.
The future? is tomorrow and we will see what happens then. But I will take a photo of it, that’s for sure!
Photographer and KelbyONE trainer, Frank Doorhof teaches workshops model photography in his studio in Emmeloord, but also worldwide, in unique places like castles, museums and urbex locations. Frank will teach you how light works. Because if you know what light does, you can meter and steer it to your will, always, everywhere. This guarantees great model pictures. Frank works with small flashes, big flashes and LED.
His bestseller “Mastering the Model Shoot” is available in multiple languages like Chinese, Dutch and Czech. He also wrote three other books in Dutch, about small flashes and on how to shoot in every location.
Frank Doorhof has several instructional videos and presets for sale on his website about model photography, the light meter and street & travel photography in both Sweden and New York.
On social media Frank makes vlogs and videos with reviews, tips and tricks all photography related. His vlog “Behind the closed DOORs” takes you behind the scenes of his workshops and the results.
Monthly he and his team broadcast “The Digital Classroom”, a free, online, interactive live shoot straight from his studio. His YouTube channel (YouTube.com/FrankDoorhof) is full of reviews (“Quite Frankly”), interviews (The DOORhof is always open) and a lot more.
Frank is also on other social platforms like Instagram, Flickr, Facebook, Twitter and MeWe.
Check out www.smugmug.com/frankdoorhof