Atte Tanner: The Fish Professor

The Image

Atte Tanner

Lahti, Finland

Time / Date:
16:15 / January 6th, 2014

The Technical

Camera: Canon 5d Mark II
Lens: Sigma 35mm f/1.4
Lighting: YN-560 speedlight fired into 60 x 60cm soft box

Camera Settings:
Shutter Speed: 1/80s
Aperture: f/1.8
ISO: 400
Focal Length: 35mm

The Story


This image was created during a school course we had in lightning. I didn’t want to make anything too ordinary, so I went back to my roots within photography – self portraiture. I created a story in my head of this crazy professor, living in this abandoned factory. The imaginary professor spends all his days researching fish. This drives him more and more insane by each day that passes. The professor has got huge respect for the fish that he researches, so he dresses up for work appropriately.

The Scene: 

This winter I’ve noticed my style becoming a bit darker. Because of this I’ve ended up location scouting for a lot of abandoned places. When I got this idea of a crazy fish professor I knew this old factory would make a perfect fit! The location itself is already so good that I only had to find the right angle for my shot. The only modification that I did for the scene was a smoke bomb, which gave the air a good texture. I love using smoke together with windows like these, because the smoke allows you to see the light better.

When I arrived at the location I noticed I had forgotten to bring water for the shot. You may be asking what water? Exactly. My original plan was to use a fish bowl filled with water for the fish to be in. When I noticed I was missing the water I decided to rush back home to fill the bowl. I finally made it back home and filled the bowl, but I somehow managed to hit the bowl against our sink. This resulted in total disaster with shattered glass around and blood coming from my toes.

This forced me to change the concept a bit. I was first devastated because I really liked the form of the bowl together with water. Situations like these are educational, because they force you to rethink the scene and in the end I’m happy how it turned out this way as well.


I’ve owned the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 for three months now and haven’t touched my other lenses since. It’s a perfect fit for my style, because it allows me to show just enough of the background. On top of this I packed a light stand, a speedlight, a soft box and radio triggers. Because my location was so remote I really had to travel as light as possible. This made planning really important.

Making the Shot:

I’ve got quite an extensive background when it comes to self portraits, so the setting up process was fairly straightforward. I started by searching for the best camera position and locking down the camera on a tripod. At the same time imagined myself into the frame. I had a friend who was photographing at the same factory help me get the perfect focus, having someone check those little things helps a lot!

After the overall composition and my own position was locked I began experimenting with light. I ended up using a rather simple light, with a 60x60cm soft box coming from far camera right. What took most of the time was getting the magnifying glass in a good position.

Editing & Processing:

The frame with the best expression happened to be one with my friend walking in the background. I started by simply masking her out. This was simple to do in Photoshop, since all the photos were taken on tripod. After my friend was cleaned out I did some minor tweaks to the photo in Lightroom. This included correcting the exposure, adding contrast and clarity. The most radical adjustments that I did within Lightroom was changing the hue of the blue a bit more towards cyan.

I always do the final touches to my images in Photoshop. This time I started by dodging and burning. I used this to bring out the texture from the smoke and to increase the contrast on myself. I also spent some time darkening areas around me, to better focus the viewers attention on the subject. To add even more contrast and bring the saturation down I ended up using a black and white adjustments layer on overlay blending mode.

Looking Back:

Before this photo I hadn’t done a self portrait in a long time. It felt really good to explore this field once again. Especially because they have played such an important role in my early years within photography. I also think this particular shot combines the dark and moody style together with my new wild vibes.


The location here is what really makes the image. My advice would be to scout for locations more actively and keeping a record of them. Having a large amount of locations with variety makes planing photo shoots so much easier!


I don’t know how many photos I look at per day, I’m not even sure I would like to know because the amounts are huge! I love to collect good photographers to follow on 500px. This is one of those places that I check daily and I’m always blown away by the talent. To name a few photographers: Alex Stoddard, Katerina Plotnikova and Mert & Marcus.



About the Photographer

I’m a 21 years old photographer from Finland. My speciality is creative portraiture on location. As a photographer I’m constantly searching for new and interesting ways to see things.

Facebook: /AtteTannerPhotography
500px: /AtteTanner
Instagram: @attetanner

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