Bernard Brand – Dakota lee Tattoo Parlour Shoot

A little while ago Eslie approached me about shooting some portraits of the artists at Dakota Lee Tattoo Parlour.  I like working with other artists, so naturally I said yes.

I tend to approach each shoot differently or at least I try, because each subject, person or group is different. I did some research, checked out the artists and the parlour and after some back and forth on dates we finally came to a day that suited most of us. (Unfortunately Ryan (the owner) was off on holiday, so I didn’t get to photograph him).

On shoots where I am my own assistant I like to keep things really simple and use a minimal amount of gear. So my gear list was as follows:

  • Fuji X-T1 with 35mm 1.4
  • Fuji X100T
  • YongNuo YN-560 IV Speedlights
  • 1.2 meter Octobank
  • 101 centimeter Shoot-Through Umbrella

I like using one light to create moody portraits. The problem with the umbrella is that light just spills everywhere so I ended up shooting with it half closed to help focus the light a little more.
So I jumped between those two modifiers on the shoot for the individual portraits, plus whatever ambient spilled in from the windows and I used two lights for the group image.

I wanted to shoot everyone at their individual work stations and use the environment to my advantage with it being a tattoo parlour by day and a rockabilly bar by night.

In regards to the retouching; I didn’t want to spend hours on it so I did the majority of it in Lightroom and then dragged it over into Photoshop for some colour toning and blemish removal.

So, those are all the technical details on how I approached making these images. Thanks to Eslie for roping me in and Dakota Lee, affording me the time to come and shoot in their awesome space.

Ryan Lee, founder of Dakota Lee traveled extensively and during these travels he would get a significant tattoo from one of his destinations.


He has seen many tattoo parlours during his travels but nothing comes close to Dakota Lee.

Dakota Lee is a mix of a venue, live entertainment, bar and tattoo studio.

Let’s face it says Ryan, tattoos are painful and sometimes the odd drink helps, he decided to mix all the above elements to create a lifestyle culture whereby you cannot only mix a tattoo experience but you can hangout and mix with like-minded folks.


You can find Dakota Lee on 011 051 5267


  1. Ah! I want that tshirt in the second last shot!!!

    Amazing work once again Bernard, kinda goes without saying though, stay winning!

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