PHLEARN MagazineNicolas Bruno Shares What’s Needed to Turn Dreams into Real-Life

Nicolas Bruno Shares What’s Needed to Turn Dreams into Real-Life

Surrealist photographer Nicolas Bruno suffers from sleep paralysis, a condition that immobilizes him almost every night as nightmarish figures lurk at the foot of his bed or hover above him. As a form of personal therapy, Nicolas chooses not to let the condition debilitate him, however, and instead turns the terrifying scenarios into beautiful photographic works.

Here, Nicolas explains what equipment he uses to capture the images he will later composite in post. As most of his images are self-portraits, Nicolas needs to keep his camera bag light since he’s often lugging it to remote or difficult to navigate locations.


My gear philosophy is to bring only what is absolutely necessary. As long as I have my camera, one lens, and a way to release the shutter while I model for self-portraits, I will be able to create something interesting. When I shoot, I am normally carrying heavy props and wading out into murky marshlands. I avoid bringing excess gear that could potentially be ruined or weigh me down. To me, the artist’s mindset matters more than what gear they have in their bag.


Nikon D810

36.3 MP FX-format CMOS sensor, 51-point AF system

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I shoot with a Nikon D810. This camera creates monster-sized images and captures stunning imagery even in the lowest of light conditions. Zooming in on live view mode helps me get tack-sharp focus when setting up my scenes. The interval timer is a lifesaver when modeling for long duration self-portraits. In post, using the expansion technique of D810 files gives me the ability to print immaculate images at huge resolutions.


Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 50mm f/1.4G

Aperture Range: f/1.4 to 16, Silent Wave Motor AF System

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I have refined my approach to image-making by using only the Nikon 50mm F1.4G, which creates uniformity within my body of work. This reliable lens helps me capture crisp images that have a painterly feel when shooting at low apertures.


In my photo philosophy, I avoid using artificial light within my compositions. I rely on natural light, specifically overcast weather for ambient white light, or non-electronic light sources like candles and improvised torches. I keep my lighting situations rendered true to life and believable, while letting the surreal nature of my work have more freedom to deviate from the norm. If it is necessary for me to use artificial light, I will use flood lamps from the hardware store.


My Langly Alpha Pro has saved me so much hassle when traveling in inclement weather and thick woods. My bag has been through rain, snow, mud, salt water – you name it. The rugged canvas, leather, and brass hardware hold up to constant use which gives me peace of mind knowing that my gear is secure. My laptop remains safe within the cushioned compartment, and my tripod can be latched to the exterior of the bag via two tough straps.


When the weather permits, I like to use my CamRanger to help me see what is happening behind my camera during self-portrait sessions. The device tethers with my phone, which allows me to change focus, settings, and see live view directly on my screen.

For my tripods, I normally get them from the thrift store because my locations end up destroying them. I always have my camera on an a Manfrotto double ball joint clamp. This tool gives me the option to clamp low on my tripod while keeping full support, freely adjust to different angles, and improvise a tripod by clamping to branches.

Other than tech, I normally bring smoke bombs to paint my scenes with fog, extra memory cards, batteries, and dream journals.

Read our full interview with Nicolas to find out more about sleep paralysis, how he deals with it, and how he has connected with so many other sufferers since he started sharing his dream photos. Also, be sure to check out more of his amazing works of art on his website or Instagram.

Jennifer Berube

Jen is the Editor-in-Chief of PHLEARN Magazine, where she helps shape inspiring stories and handy tips for aspiring and seasoned photographers. She has worked as a photography writer for many years, contributing to numerous industry-leading publications. Proudly Canadian, sometimes globetrotter, self-taught photographer, Jen is temporarily settled in Spain.

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