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My Process: Photographer Edition (Part 1)

A lot of times people ask me what I look for when I go out and take my portrait shots. What is my thought process? My inspiration? To start, having a background in graphic design has really helped cultivate my eye for photography. Composition, color, perspective/angle, foreground, background, lighting, texture, all come into play in the overall design of each photo. When I try to get the perfect shot, I will usually need to have at least 3 of these elements working together. Mood is also a big factor. For example, in my recent photoshoot with stylist Ray Garcia (pictured below), you can see two different ways I combine some of these mentioned elements. In the left photo, before I added in some text to the background, it was a rather plain photo against a blank white wall. I had good lighting, but I needed two other elements to really help make this a dynamic photo. My solution was to add orange text, to not only add some texture, but to also add in a color that compliments the blue from her blazer. This wasn’t planned previous to going out and shooting her, and to be honest, it would still pass as a decent photo had I not added in the text. But it goes to show, you can always try to find ways to improve a photo in post production. Have fun with it, and push your creativity!

Ray shot downtown Santa Ana

Next, the picture to the right uses more of her environment, and is intentionally composed. The placement of the subject in relation to the lines in the crosswalk, as well as the traffic signal pole, creates some nice leading lines throughout the photo. Leading lines are a composition technique and what helps guide your eye throughout a piece of artwork. The harshness of the lighting was used to bring out deep blue tones in the sky, as well as strong shadows to add more definition to the subject. [Side note: Shooting during mid day when the sun creates harsh lighting is actually my favorite time to shoot. I love playing with deep shadows, and the vibrant tones it allows me to create in post production as well.] The photo to the right, in comparison to the left, overall has more depth, and is typically the type of shot I try to get while out shooting with my subject. As you can see, I also played around with some photo manipulation and added in a cutout (placed to the back right, behind subject) from another photo into this one. I wouldn't typically do this to an already good photo, but I wanted to have fun with this set, and fill in a bit of the negative space behind her to balance the photo a little more.

Now that I covered some of the more technical elements, I want to cover MOOD. My subjects usually aren’t professional models, so along with focusing on capturing certain design elements in my photos, I also try hard to capture a certain mood. I don’t like to capture forced smiles, or have my subject look awkwardly posed with their hands on their hip. I try to allow my subject to be either more purposely posed and create shapes with their body (Example pictured below to the left), or to be more natural and fluid, and even have some type of movement (Example pictured below to the right)—usually whatever they are most comfortable with. As for facial expression— I prefer either a more relaxed face, or an emotional face. If eyes are coming out too wide and excited, I ask my subject to relax their face and lift up their chin— this usually allows them to lower their eyelids and have a softer expression. If I find they aren’t comfortable naturally posing or creating shapes with their body, i’ll ask them to create movements with their body, such as swinging arms, or throwing hand/foot toward the camera, or just walking. It’s all about finding what works with your subject and what makes them come across the most comfortable on camera.

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Lastly, is style. I LOVE playing with my subjects different styles and helping that shape the direction of the shoot. Often there is pre-planning involved, like what color scheme or vibe we want to go for (street, editorial, etc.), but sometimes it’s just me showing up and working with what I have. I enjoy both. I prefer working with different artists and letting them express their own style in my photography. It helps a lot with them being comfortable throughout the shoot and having confidence in how they look. To me, the weirder the better! But I love both streetwear looks, and high fashion.

So there you have it. This is a brief overview of my thought process behind photoshoots. What I look for when I shoot, and some solutions to problems that may arise during. I will expand more in future blog posts, and even show some bts, as well as show my editing process! If I missed anything that you may have a question to feel free to ask in the comments below!