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Tim Tadder is an internationally acclaimed photographic artist. Most recognized for his highly inventive conceptual advertising photography Tadder has been ranked in the top 200 photographers worldwide by the prestigious Luezer Archive Magazine 8 years running. In 2015 Epson, the world leader in photographic printing technology recognized Tadder as one of the top influential photographers, producing a TV commercial and worldwide ad campaign featuring Tadder and his work.
When did you first know that you wanted to be a photographer? I grew up on the set of a commercial photographer in Baltimore, Maryland. I knew that I was fascinated with photography from an early age when I saw my father developing images for the first time in the darkroom. He had a black-and-white and a color darkroom in a small studio in Baltimore, and I used to watch him print pictures using an enlarger and chemicals. That was magical to me. I always thought it was amazing that you could re-create life from a camera and paper.
What was your path to becoming a professional photographer? I have a unique path to becoming a professional photographer. I was a high school teacher for five years, and during the summers I did mountaineering adventures. During those climbs, I would make images and host slideshows. People were really interested, and through the slideshows, I found that people liked the images that I created. I found I wasn’t a great teacher but that I really loved photography and so I decided to give it a try. I moved from South America where I was teaching and climbing to Baltimore where I grew up and had connections in the photography world. I decided I would see if I could make it for a year, mostly because that’s all the money I had saved. I worked out of my father’s studio in Baltimore but mostly for the local newspaper doing journalism while I was trying to learn the craft.
What formal schooling or training did you have in photography? After two years in Baltimore, I was really in love with photojournalism, so I decided to pursue a Masters Degree in photojournalism from the Ohio University School of Visual Communication. That program is amazing, and I highly recommend it. I learned so much in the short time that I was there not only about photojournalism but also about creating images that were capable of telling stories. I learned so much about visual communications while there. Truly so much of what we do in photography is at its very essence visual communication. Before I was aware of that, I was just making images that I thought looked interesting, but after the program, I started to make images that spoke and told stories. The resulting images were much more intelligent images, so to speak, and that process really helped me become a better photographer in a short period
Were your parents supportive of your desire to be an artist? Ironically my parents were not very supportive me at all. I think that my father was concerned I did not have the talent to make it as a photographer. I also think that he never really made a lot of money and I think he felt that money equated to success, and in some ways, he felt that I did not have tremendous talent, and thus would not “be successful”. There was a lot of clashing as to what I felt was a good photographer and what he saw as good or great. I can remember my mother delivering me the Help Wanted section with jobs that she thought I would like even though I was making great strides in photography. She continued to show me job openings that she thought would be great careers. I can remember her distinctly telling me that that there wasn’t any money in photography and that you couldn’t make a living as a photographer anymore but I didn’t care. I just wanted to make images, and I wasn’t concerned about money. I was working for peanuts as a photojournalist, and I was really in love with photography. I will say, though, that my father is super proud of me at this point and I think that he honestly just wanted the best for me and realized how competitive and how difficult it is to succeed in this industry. The reality is, that if you love something and that you are passionate about it I think in America you can succeed
Do you remember your first published image and how it felt when it first appeared? Not really, I don’t think that I was all that enamored with having a published image define me as a photographer. Ink on paper does not a photographer make. But rather the communicative value of the image. I can remember the first image I made that truly moved people and how that made me feel. I think that was always more important to me, making an image that people reacted to. I can remember getting many emails from viewers responding to how much the image moved them. From all over the world it was a powerful image, and I knew at that point in time I had important skills.
You shoot both stills and video. Are you more passionate about one medium over the other? I prefer stills for sure. I like the less is more approach, and with motion, it just takes more people more equipment more blah blah blah…I hate the fat in motion productions. Give me a camera and a lens, and I’ll make it happen, motion you need all kinds of stuff to do commercial work.
After all this time, what still makes you passionate about the visual arts?I think how freaking hard it is to make images that move people. Truly to make a great image, it’s very hard and takes a lot of things to go right. Sure if you are a photojournalist you can get lucky, but normally it takes a huge investment of time, energy, people, etc. Greatness comes from the communicative collaboration of energy revealing itself in the well-crafted moment. That elusive search for perfection makes me passionate. If it was easy, I think I would be over it by now. Knowing that I have not done my bet work yet keeps me grinding. I will not stop until my impact is undeniable and that’s the passion.
You seem to have so much creative energy in all your work. How do come up with the concepts for your projects? I consume imagery, from TV to movies to art and Instagram, I consume and consume, and I get inspired by what I see but more importantly what I do not see. I try to find voids. I try to find things that have not been visualized. Bringing new visuals to life no matter how absurd or different is a great challenge in our world today. It’s hard to have a visual impact with so much noise. So I try to fill the empty spots with something new.
When you go into a shoot do you have a detailed vision for the finished project or does it tend to be a collaboration with the subject to determine the result? Always. I am a great pre-visualizer. I know exactly what I want when I go into every shoot, but often I fall short. It’s one thing to see it in your mind’s eye, but it’s quite another to capture it. That’s the illusive search for perfection. We know what we want, but it is sure hard to get it. That’s search is what keeps me passionate. I can feel though that the more I do this, the more my mind and my visions are aligning…so maybe I am getting closer. I do feel I am much much better than I’ve ever been.
Many photographers take full credit for the finished product from a shoot, but you are quick to point out that without your “team” your success wouldn’t be possible. How large is your team, how did you build the team and how much collaboration is done with this group? I think when you start it’s a very big ego thing. However, as you gain knowledge and wisdom you begin to look around and realize that individually you can only accomplish small things, but collectively you can accomplish great things. True impact comes from people that can harness the collective spirit of passionate individuals and align that energy towards a defined goal. I saw this in the people around me and when I grew up and left my ego behind, I realized that I was only as good as the weakest link on my team. I realized that the people around me love what they were doing and that I needed to embrace not only their passions but honor their contributions. That’s when it all clicked. I can’t do what I do without the support of others. No way. I love them, and I hope they love me because they make everything possible. My core crew is excellent. They are the best, and I will put them up against anyone. My normal team is made up of a first assistant that has been with me for ten years, my producer, our production coordinator, stylist, hair and makeup (sometimes two people) and a gaggle of other freelancers that contribute. The productions swell when needed, by my core is four.
On average, how much of the finished product that we see in images on your website is done in camera versus in CGI or post production? That goes from zero to a lot. There is much of my work that is captured in camera and sometimes quite a lot of post. I would say what you see is 75 percent in camera, truly only what you see in the CGI section of my website is CGI. Yes there are composites here and there, but I find the less time in the post the better the image. Less is more.
How many man hours went into your Tecate Calendar project including the building of props, the shoot, and CGI/post? Now that project was very very CGI and post heavy. But my favorite image in that collection was all captured on camera (The Gemini Twins shot below), so the key is to mix everything so the audience can’t quite put their finger on it..there is a great Behind the Scenes video (www.timtadder.com) on my site that really shows how this was done. That shoot was huge, and I spent weeks in Pre-production on it. The wardrobe was custom stitched, the CGI sets crafted before the shoot, the animals cast, and the cast was pulled from all over the globe. That shoot was a mission…I would say three weeks solid of pre-production and four weeks in post…but it’s unique and quite amazing. Of course, you only see what was selected by the client and how hey wanted it to sell beer, but the images I love are far more subtle, but that does not sell beer.
Of all the athletes you have shot over the years, which one(s) would you say brought the most personality to the shoot? That’s too difficult to answer. There are so many levels of shoot energy, and sometimes the creative requires more personality than others. I will tell you Cam Newton was spectacular as a comedian and told the most jokes. Simone Biles was spectacular and amazing. But there have been so many. I love when I shoot athletes year after year sometimes for the same client sometimes for other clients, but they remember me. Sometimes they greet me with big hugs, and I feel like an old friend. That’s always surprising. I guess they liked the images.
Your personal projects are amazing. What inspired your Bella Umbrella project? Was that project as messy to shoot as it looks? This project was inspired by things I saw on Instagram. I had been following this LA street artist, and he did all this rad stuff with military smoke bombs. I wanted to do something with him, but he is really dark and quite theatrical. Then I saw this image with smoke and a vintage umbrella in a forest and thought that if I could simplify and elevate the elegance that I would have a beautiful collection of images. The project was a mess and destroyed some expensive vintage clothing. I think it looks easier than it actually was. We took the smoke bombs and taped them to the umbrellas, but when the umbrellas caught fire and the clothes burned, I had to take another approach. So some of these were in camera, and some were composites of smoke plates and the talent. The stylist freaked out and I freaked because I did not want to hurt anyone but we decided we could make happen without any risk.
What piece of camera equipment can you not live without? Hmmm, I don’t really have a piece of camera equipment I can’t live without. I don’t believe the tools make the image I believe that the concept, thought, idea the passion make the image. The camera and lens are no more part of the process than a burner on a stove is to a chef. A chef can make a meal with any type of stove, just as a photographer make can make an image with any type of camera.
From the behind the scenes video’s on your website, it looks like you have fun on the set when shooting. Do you find that keeping things fun puts people at ease and allows them to open up? Always. It’s a blessing and an honor to do what we do. It’s fun, but it’s really important to do a good job because people’s careers are at stake. We really must remember that we are doing something that is amazing, creative and fun. back in the day I used to get all worked up, but that never helped. It never makes a better image, so let’s make it easy and let’s make it fun so that people leave with a good taste in their mouth.
What does the perfect Tim Tadder day look like? Making pancakes for my kids, creating some amazing images that make people go “holy shit”, having dinner with my family and watching the Ravens beat the crap out of the Steelers on Monday Night Football.
What advice do you have for aspiring photographers looking to enter this ultra-competitive industry? You better absolutely love, love, love creating images. You must be willing to work 20 hours a day for years and years. You must be willing to lay it all on the line and never give up. You must have to have a thick skin, a really thick skin, and not be deterred by failure. You have to be willing to make thousands of mistakes and keep making them until you get it right. You have to be willing to produce new work always and you need to be planning your personal work all the time. It’s never ending even for me. You can never take the foot off the gas. If your not willing to do that, then it might not be for you.
If you weren’t a professional photographer what would you be doing? I’d run for President, seems like not a lot of people want that job these days.
Why did you choose Photo Folio for your website? I think the system is simple and presents my work in a clean and clear way. Clients can get right to the point. All I want is for my images to speak to the audience with nothing else getting in the way. The content management system is great and makes creating edits super easy.
Many of the world’s top photographers, like Tim Tadder, showcase their work with a website from PHOTO FOLIO . Isn’t it time you put the power of PHOTO FOLIO to work for you?
On September 8th Google announced that starting in January they will begin the process of showing all sites not using HTTPS connections to the Chrome browser as not secure.
This means sites not using the “S”, which encrypts the traffic between your browser and the server will show:
PhotoFolio is the first and only website software company to already have HTTPS protocol built into our websites. We love to innovate and this is just one example of how we keep our clients ahead of the curve.
Vincent J. Musi has been a regular contributor to National Geographic since 1993, covering subjects from the Texas Hill Country to hurricanes, volcanoes and mummies. A specialist in animal portraits, his recent work includes projects on domestication, intelligence and cognition. Musi’s work has taken him from historic Route 66 to the oldest temple on Earth in Turkey. He is also a contributor to TIME, Newsweek, Life, Fortune andThe New York Times Magazine.
When did you first know that you wanted to be a photographer? Probably when I realized I didn’t have what it took to be a musician, my first love. I own drums and have played them my entire life but that didn’t make me a musician. I was far better at getting a camera to say what I wanted to say than a drum.
Do you remember your first published work? How did it feel to see something you created show up in print? I was a kid working for the high school yearbook and then newspapers. A very exciting time for me, I often smelled of Dektol.
How did you get your first National Geographic assignment? I sort of bluffed my way into my first full assignment for National Geographic when I claimed to have a great love for landscape photography when they needed someone in a pinch. You might say I lied.
How nervous were you going on assignment for what many consider the “Holy Grail” of photography? I was very nervous because only a fool would lie just to get an assignment. It was just going to be a matter of time before they found out I was a fraud. I hope they don’t read this.
What was the emotion of seeing your work show up on your first National Geographic cover? My wife Callie Shell was working for Time magazine and we both had our first covers during the same month. It was a very special time for us.
In your TedX talk tedxtalks.ted.com, you go into some detail about some of the challenges of shooting animals. Have you come up with a pretty good formula for shooting live subjects over the years or does each shoot present its own unique set of challenges? Every animal and every day is unique. My formula is never to forget that.
Have you ever been on an animal shoot where the subject was impossible to shoot? There’s always a picture, just not always one you want to put in front of 40 million readers. That’s what keeps me up at night.
In your animal portraits, you seem to capture so much of their personalities. How much time do you spend with the animals before shooting to make them feel comfortable? Sometimes you’ll get “there” very quickly, other times not so quickly. I just spent a week trying to get near a Raven and I don’t think he was very comfortable until he saw me packing up to leave. That said, we try never to stress out an animal for a picture, so the process to befriend them can be very exhausting. I’m never in control; they just let me think so.
How rewarding is it when you can accurately capture and portray what makes each animal special? I’ve done a lot of celebrity animals, really famous ones that do extraordinary things. It’s an incredible honor to be able to make a photograph of them that represents that quality and character.
You have an amazing gallery on your website called “Big Cats.” How much time went into setting up each of these shots? You are very kind. We spent two weeks building sets to photograph each of these cats in small enclosures they occasionally spend time in. Often that meant we couldn’t put a light where we wanted to or have the angle you might think best. None of these animals were trained or under any control of humans, they ran the show.
Does shooting subject matter like lions and tigers create an extra element of anxiety? I always work from the position that this will be my last assignment because I’ll get found out and sent home for being a fraud.
What type of animals have you found to be the most enjoyable to photograph? Sheep. There, I said it, sheep. The have phenomenal eyes.
How do the animals react to studio lighting and flashes? It’s a bit disruptive for one minute and then they don’t pay attention. The light stands and booms and grip are more of a problem.
How much work do you do in post-production to get your images perfected? For National Geographic, I submit raw files, so I don’t do any post for them other than providing a guide to color. Natgeo does very little other than toning or dust removal, that sort of thing. For commercial work, I usually rely on professional retouchers to meet a client’s needs. I do print all of my own work for exhibition.
When you aren’t shooting animals, what subject matter are you most passionate about photographing? I like stuff, things, particularly when they represent some aspect of culture. My next work might be headed into still life.
Your “Sicily Crypts” gallery is quite the departure from shooting live animals. How was the experience shooting underground and what challenges did that project present? An extraordinary time for me. I really wanted to photograph the mummies as people not objects and Natgeo supported that proposal. Of course, I was sick for 6 months after that. Came down with a respiratory infection that doctors jokingly called the “King Tut virus.”
What advice would you share with aspiring photographers coming into the industry? Don’t let guys like me ruin it for you with talk about how things used to be. Enjoy it, tear it up and repeat.
What has changed the most in the photo industry since you began? It’s gotten a lot easier to make pictures and much harder to make a living.
How do you stay passionate about photography? I’m challenged every day to create something whether it be homemade pasta or a photograph.
Why did you choose Photo Folio for your website? I’ve always gravitated to the best tool for the job. Working with APF was an easy decision and I’ve never looked back.
Many of the world’s top photographers, like Vincent J Musi , use a PHOTO FOLIOwebsite to showcase their work. Isn’t it time you put the power of PHOTO FOLIO to work for you?
Taylor is an award winning photographer based in Chicago. His work focuses on conceptual and portrait photography – often times with a bizarre and comical twist. He’s worked with top advertising and editorial clients ranging from Nike, Hilton, Pepsi, Canon, Mars, and Ally Bank to E.S.P.N. The Magazine, New York Times, Fortune, Fast Company, and Men’s Journal.
Taylor’s style is a blend of dark humor and everyday hilarity. Even when he’s trying to be serious, he can’t help but find an excuse to laugh. Laid back and detail oriented, Taylor creates a fun environment on set and encourages everyone around him to play a part in the creative process. He believes his best work comes when the spirit of collaboration is omnipresent.
When did you first know that you wanted to be a photographer? I was a sophomore in high school, taking my first photography and film making classes. My friends and I were getting way into Terry Gilliam movies which was really having a huge impact on my creativity, imagination and extra curricular activities. At the same time, my photo teacher showed us a Jerry Uelsmann documentary, which just blew my mind. I started to gravitate more towards still photography, especially black and white, and by my senior year of high school I knew it was what I wanted to pursue.
What formal schooling or training (if any) did you have in photography? I started at Columbia College in Chicago my freshman year of college. I basically just took pictures of my friends smoking weed in our dorm bathroom and a lot of crappy alleys. To be honest, I lost a lot of my motivation for photography at this time and wasn’t sure what I wanted to do anymore.
I decided to move out West for a girl and settled in Eugene, Oregon. I took an intro to studio lighting class at Lane Community College which revived my interest and reignited my passion. Totally green, I started working for my processor as an assistant, which led to an introduction to a pretty successful architectural photographer in Oregon. I assisted him for six months or so on a variety of gigs, and gained a solid technical foundation and critical insight to the commercial photo realm. In that time he got me interested in his alma mater, Brooks Institute of Photography, which seemed like the ideal place for me to hone my skills. I moved to Santa Barbara to attend Brooks, which lasted off and on for about three years before I decided to quit school entirely and move back to Chicago to open my own studio.
Were your parents supportive of your desire to be an artist? Absolutely. I was raised by a single mother who was a very happy and successful interior designer. She loved her job and cherished the creative outlet it provided her, so she has been nothing but supportive of my endeavors throughout my entire career.
Your Dark Humor Gallery has so many images that tell an entire story with just a single frame. Where do your ideas for these shots come from?It’s a bit of a mixed bag, I guess. I really love to satirize current events, fads, and political/religious/social issues. These ideas just sort of come naturally and can be the byproduct of something I read, hear or see. I try to write things down in my little idea Diary (iPhone) the second I think of it. These can be loose thoughts, or something much more developed and concrete. I also get a great deal of inspiration from design and illustration. I love the simplicity and open-ended concepts you often find within it. I really strive to make my conceptual photography function in the same way. I love basic messaging, simple humor, and giving the viewer a path for them lead the narrative.
You have the gift of being a comedian without ever speaking a word. How do you find the comedy in everyday situations? I’m a pretty sarcastic dude by nature, so I often find great joy and humor in how I react to and engage with everyday occurrences. I’m actually rather shy in public, so I love me some people watching and eavesdropping. A lot of the characters I create in my work are manifestations of these observations in fact.
Based on the images found on your website it looks like you have a lot of fun when shooting. Do you find it hard to be really serious when behind the lens? You know I sometimes try to force myself to be the serious guy on set, and it never goes well. When I’m on an assignment I’m very focused on what I have to do and how I have to do it. I really believe that my work is an extension of my personality, so If I’m not being myself, I’m not doing my job to the best of my ability. I know that my energy is infectious to everyone I’m surrounded by and that in turn helps create the atmosphere where I do my best directing. There certainly are times where I need to crack the whip a little bit, but for the most part, I’m pretty fun and goofy guy.
Some portrait photographers believe that they need to provide all the direction for the shoot while others prefer collaboration with their subjects. Which style works best for you and why? Both, and I sort of feel it out as I go. It’s important for me that we’re all on the same page before even starting. I always ask for the talent’s input and try to riff off it to see what can come about organically. If I’m working with skilled actors or comedians it’s definitely more collaborative, and I really thrive in that design. Professional models can be great too, but often times they’re so used to doing it one way. I usually have to work a little bit harder to break them of that mold, and to get them to understand the uniqueness of what I’m attempting to create compared to some of the routine work they’re more accustomed to doing.
You have portraits that were taken in studio and others taken on location. Do you have a preference as to which environment you are shooting? Not really. I’m much more calm shooting in the studio, but I also find that I get stifled easier as well. Shooting on location brings so many variables and the chaos of it all can be vexing, but my mind is working much faster and ideas can sometimes just flood in. I’m a pretty calculated shooter, and love to have complete control of my variables, so the studio is my sanctuary. But I also love the unexpected quirks that come with shooting in uncontrollable environments.
Do you find that shooting outside the studio gives you more options for creativity? Yes, It certainly can, but It really depends on the environment, who I’m shooting, and how much time I have to shoot outtakes. I don’t enjoy a rushed production, so I’m much more prone to simplify my options rather than expand on them if I’m not in my comfort zone. A tech scout is always preferred so that I can come in with a solid strategy, pre-visualize my shoot, and start to generate other ideas before I even show up on set.
What advice would you share with aspiring photographers coming into the industry? Be confident, be fearless, and be hungry. Find what you love, and keep shooting it. Figure out your weaknesses and make them strengths. Study the history of your art, and stay current with where it is lives today. And for the love of god hashtag everything.
What motivates you to get up each morning and shoot? Dark roasted coffee and a breakfast burritos.
As a Chicagoan, do you think this is finally the year that the Chicago Cubs will win their first World Series since 1908? Yes. Absolutely. It’s happening. There’s no way we are not going to win this year. Nothing can stop us. It’s definitely our year.
What does the perfect Taylor Castle day look like? A toddler who is super excited to get up and go to day care, and agrees with every outfit decision I make for him. A bid request in my inbox when I get to the studio. Maybe a corned beef Reuben for lunch. A surprise royalty check in the mail in the afternoon. A 72º walk along Lake Michigan. Tacos for dinner, and 2 episodes of Game of Thrones for dessert.
How important is your website to the success of your business? It’s paramount. It’s what drives almost every opportunity I get. I don’t get hired because I have a cool name. I stay busy because I work hard to create good work. My website is the conduit to my vision, my passion, and my brand.
Why did you choose Photo Folio for your website? Wonderful functionality, smart design, great customization options, powerful SEO capabilities, ease of use on the backend, and most importantly how beautiful my photography is displayed on the site. The support staff has been stellar as well and handle all of my stupid questions and requests so graciously.
Many of the world’s top photographers, like Taylor Castle, use a PHOTO FOLIOwebsite to showcase their work. Isn’t it time you put the power of PHOTO FOLIO to work for you?
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Photo Folio client Dan Winters is known for the broad range of subject matter he is able to interpret. He is widely recognized for his unusual celebrity portraiture, his scientific photography, photo illustrations, drawings and photojournalistic stories. Dan has won over one hundred national and international awards and won the World Press photo award in the portrait category, among others. He was also awarded the prestigious Alfred Eisenstaedt Award for Magazine Photography. In 2003, he was honored by Kodak as a photo “Icon” in their biographical “Legends” series. Dan has photos in the permanent collection at the National Portrait Gallery at the Smithsonian. Dan is the chief staff photographer for WIRED. His clients include Esquire, GQ, Vanity Fair, The New York Times Magazine, The New Yorker, New York Magazine, TIME, Texas Monthly, Fortune, Discover, Details, Premiere, W, Entertainment Weekly, Rolling Stone, Newsweek and Golf Digest
You attended film school in Munich. How was that experience? I had a romantic idea about attending university in Europe and immersing myself in a new culture while going to school. It was a fantastic experience, but after the initial shine wore off I was ready to head back to the states and get started on my career.
How did you get started in your career in photography? I got a job working for a newspaper in Ventura County, north of Los Angeles. I initially worked as a lab tech and after a year was hired as a staff photographer.
You have a very unique style of shooting portraits that really seems to show people differently than we see them in traditional portraits. How would you describe your portrait style? I would say that my style is to shoot the subject in a manner that is quiet, pensive and shows their vulnerability. I really like simple, elegant lighting and shooting in a way that allows the subject to occupy the environment. I try my best to be reverent to my subjects.
What made you focus on shooting portraits early in your career? I began spending time at newsstands studying magazines. Portraits occupy the pages of magazines, and new photographs of people are in constant demand. I also sensed a renaissance in magazine portrait photography in the late 80’s and early 90’s. It was an exciting time. I never wanted to focus my efforts on one specific subject as it seems counter to the diverse nature of the photographic medium. However, I knew that having the ability to create compelling portraits was of value. I started by shooting portraits of everyday people and friends. I wasn’t shooting high-profile subjects, but I was working with very interesting people.
How did you get your first assignment shooting a celebrity? My portrait work was being recognized by a small group of Photo Editors and I started getting assignments to shoot people that were noteworthy and a part of the public consciousness. Karen Frank at GQ hired me to photograph John Thompson (Famous Georgetown Basketball coach during the Patrick Ewing era) and musician Branford Marsalis. From there additional assignments started to come and I began photographing high profile subjects with more regularity.
You have shot some of the world’s most prolific celebrities. How challenging is it to shoot these high-profile subjects? Working with celebrated folks is enjoyable as they are typically very professional and understand that we both have a job to do. I have shot some celebrities numerous times and I have developed a rapport with some of them due to our shared interests. I rarely have any unusual circumstances shooting high-profile people. My ultimate goal is to create a likeness that is a fair and accurate representation of my subjects. I understand that their image is often their commodity so I am very respectful of that when shooting and do everything possible to capture portraits that are mutually agreeable.
Which celebrities have been the most enjoyable to shoot over the years?I have always enjoyed shooting artists, musicians, painters, actors and writers. I like shooting subjects that really understand and appreciate the creative process. I have really enjoyed shooting people like Sandra Bullock, Ryan Gosling and Hellen Mirren. Al Pacino and Tom Waits I have built great professional relationships with people like Tom Hanks as we share a love of WW2 history and spaceflight.
Have you had any subjects that have been extremely challenging to work with when photographing? How do you handle challenging subjects? I have only had a couple shoots in all my years that were really challenging and those were due to baggage the subject brought to the shoot. Once the subject appreciated that I was a professional and had a job to do they were fine. It is a matter of gaining their trust and getting to work. I have even been forewarned before shooting certain celebrities that they can be difficult to work with, but I haven’t had any problems working with any of them.
In your portrait work you have a great blend of shots taken in a natural environment and shots taken indoors with unique lighting. If time wasn’t an issue, what is your ideal place to shoot portraits? I was originally intrigued by shooting in the studio as it provided mystery for me. It was a bit daunting as I wasn’t sure how best to populate a wide-open, empty space. I started creating my own sets for shooting and painting my own backdrops. These became a way for me to control the environment and create a vessel that could be occupied by the subject. Over time I have become a huge fan of shooting outdoors as well as the environment is alive and ever-changing.
Tell me about the Honeybee gallery on your website? I started raising bees in 4H when I was 9 years old. After high schooI, I sold off my hives but set up a small apiary about 6 years ago. A few years back a phenomenon known as CCD (Colony Collapse Disorder) began destroying commercial Apiaries. After doing some research it became clear that Texas apiaries were being affected by CCD. I pitched a story to Texas Monthly about the disorder and they let me work with scientist at the University of Texas to shoot images through microscopes of the bees that were being studied.
What made you decide to shoot the “HELLS UNION” project? I have a love of history. My friend Jeff Decker, who is an artist and historian has amassed a large number of outlaw motorcycle vests or “cuts” as they are called, as they started as denim jackets and the bikers would cut the sleeves off. Jeff’s collection is one of a kind and I felt compelled to create a photographic record of this unique collection of american folk art. The look of the cuts evolved over time and the photographs help document the transition from denim in the 40’s and 50’s and 60‘s to leather in the 70’s. This project was much more about my desire to showcase a bit of American History than is was to highlight motorcycle culture.
What is it about photographs that moves you? Since a photograph is a moment in time it becomes the only way to truly ponder stillness. The ability to absorb the content of an image at our own pace creates a powerful platform. I am surrounded by photographs and they are something tangible that I can enjoy all the time. I still have binders of my archived work, next to my desk that I can open anytime and instantly be transported to the place and time that particular image was captured.
You have some amazing illustrations in the “Works on Paper” gallery. Did you do these all by hand? These are drawings done by hand. I have always had an interest in illustration as it is another creative outlet. These drawings are just an extension of what I love to do, and it is a great was to mix things up.
Do you have trouble leaving the camera behind when you are on vacation or not working? I photograph every day. It is my passion and I always find something to photograph. My family has a strong connection to photography and it is an inherent part of what we do so it is part of our vacations and has been a great way to document our lives. I am a gentle photographer and don’t go overboard so it doesn’t become a distraction from what we are doing. I see my ability to photograph as a blessing so it never feels like work when I am making pictures for myself.
How do you unwind and relax? I really enjoy building models, especially Sci-Fi models from scratch. Right now I am rebuilding and improving upon a model I made many years ago.
Describe the ultimate Dan Winters day. Eating breakfast on my porch while watching the deer, taking a long bike ride with my wife, having lunch, working on some models, working out with my son, having dinner and a walk and then finishing the night with some more model building.
Many of the world’s top photographers, like Dan Winters, use a PHOTO FOLIOwebsite to showcase their work. Isn’t it time you put the power of PHOTO FOLIO to work for you?
Jason Hawkes has specialized in aerial photography since 1991, he is based just outside London, and shoots worldwide.
His clients include brands such as Virgin Atlantic, Amazon, Rolex, Microsoft, HP, Citi, Siemens, Red Bull, Nike, Coca-Cola, American Airlines, Toyota, Samsung, National Geographic, and BP.
He has produced over 50 aerial photographic books for publishers such as the BBC, Random House, and Harper Collins.
What was your path to becoming a professional photographer? I studied photography at college and then went on to assist in a London studio where we shot fashion and still life work. At the time, I was looking to move into studio still life work as that was my main focus whilst studying
You specialize in Aerial photography. How did you find that niche? Whilst assisting I was looking for something interesting to do at the weekends. A couple of friends and I started jet-skiing but then came across an advertisement for microlight (ultralight) lessons. I remember standing in a field in the middle of the countryside and seeing this tiny black microlight glide out of the sky and land next to us. I was just 21 years old and thought it was the coolest thing I had ever seen. The instructor took me up flying, and whilst the flying was pretty fun, what I remember more than anything was the amazing patterns of the landscape from 1000ft. About six weeks later I had a bank loan and one of my own.
Are your images taken primarily from helicopters or do you use other devices to gain the vantage point needed to shoot aerials? I shoot all my work from helicopters. They are such a great platform from which to shoot. You take the door off or just slide it open, and have yourself and all your kit harnessed in. I shoot from anywhere between around 400 ft to 10,000 ft day and night, it is a great buzz.
Flying in helicopters is extremely expensive. How do you maximize your time once you are airborne? They are quite expensive but when you are flying over a city you can cover so much in two or three hours they are actually very cost-effective. It’s just a question of knowing exactly where you need to be at what time, making sure all the permits are in place, the pilot is incredibly well briefed, and of course that you are flying in very nice light.
How long is a normal flight when you are shooting? Over cities a normal flight will be around 2.5 hours. When we are shooting a whole range of locations, you might fly six hours in a day, but you’ll probably only be shooting for two of those.
How will drones change the landscape of aerial photography? Any aircraft and any camera come to that are just a tool. Personally, I’d rather be flying than looking at an iPad screen, but there’s no getting away from the fact that given a decent drone, and nice location you can get fantastic shots. I’m amazed how many people are buying into the drone idea. In the past year, I must have been emailed by at least 100 people asking for advice as they want to start a drone company. Most amazing of all are those who say they are learning to fly them on a course but mention nothing whatsoever about the photography side. They seem to have not thought about what they actually doing is becoming a photographer.
You have a lot of images that show patterns in the landscape. How do you shoot these images to give some sense of scale? I really like including people in my graphic landscapes If at all possible, even if it’s just a single person you can pick out in the corner of the image to give scale.
You have exceptional aerials from many places, but London dominates your portfolio. What is it about shooting the city from the air makes it so special for you? I live very close to London, and it only takes me ten minutes to fly into town from here, so it’s my most obvious subject to shoot. I first flew over it many years ago shooting a book for Random House. Like all cities it changes dramatically with all the new buildings going up. It’s a beautiful place to fly with the huge green expanses of the Royal Parks dominating the West End and, of course, the Thames meandering through the middle that on an amazing day can sometimes even look blue!
Aside from London, what is the most spectacular location you have shot from the air? Hong Kong and New York are great cities to shoot, but I also remember shooting right up in the very North of Norway. It was incredibly cold and covered in snow and ice. Really quite bleak in many respects but just an amazing location to be sent to shoot.
What place is on your photographic bucket list? Dubai and Iceland. Very different locations but both so dramatic.
What are the inherent challenges to shooting from a helicopter? Well first and foremost you have to think about the safety aspect. I’ve shot in a few locations over the years, (http://www.jasonhawkes.com/Behind-the-lens/Stills/1) and been in a few crazy helicopters, where I was glad to get back on the ground, but on the whole, things go as expected. I suppose like any photographer you just have to know your kit back to front and plan things down to the last detail. Obviously shooting at night, or doing 360 panoramas or filming like this (http://www.jasonhawkes.com/London-/London-Portfolio/7) present challenges of how you mount the camera, but apart from that its really just up to the photographers eye to get great shots, just like it is on the ground.
What does the perfect Jason Hawkes day look like? Firstly great visibility, secondly great light. Without both elements in place there’s not much point getting off the ground.
Why did you choose Photo Folio for your website? Well, I asked quite a few photographers and art buyers around, and it was always on the list of companies to look at, was really a no brainer.
Lucas Gilman is one of the leading adventure photographers and filmmakers in the industry. He currently resides in Pismo Beach, CA. His powerful and incisive images run in top publications & advertisements worldwide. A love of adventure and an addiction to a color creates his distinct style of photography and filmmaking. Lucas documents subjects ranging from expedition kayaking in India and Costa Rica, Surfing in Brazil to backcountry skiing in Wyoming, Alaska and South America. He has covered international events such as the Tour De France, Kentucky Derby, ESPN X-GAMES, IRONMAN® and NFL Playoffs. Lucas regularly works with advertising and editorial clients that span the globe including Land Rover, Nikon, SanDisk®, Red Bull, G-Technology, Garmin™, GORE-TEX®, National Geographic, Sports Illustrated, ESPN Magazine, ESPN.com and Outside Magazine.
What was your path to becoming a professional photographer? I was the kid in the family who always wanted to take the family photos on vacation. I went to college at CU-Boulder to be a writer and never knew that photography could be a career until I took an intro to photojournalism class. We had a spot news assignment and I happened upon a really bad car accident one night. It ended up running the Denver Post, which is Colorado’s largest newspaper. From there I began working part time for them through college.
You shoot both commercially and for editorial. How do these types of shoots compare and do you find one more stressful than the other? Both have their share of stress in different ways. The commercial shoots are generally more scripted with the end result planned, storyboarded and tend to have more people involved. The editorial is fun, but you are there to document what happens and don’t have any control of the outcome, which can be stressful. I enjoy both for very different reasons. I have also jumped into video and filmmaking recently which has a whole new set of challenges.
Do you have an agent, or do your own representation and marketing? I’ve never had an agent and have built my business with the idea that personal connections and relationships will win out in the end.
What percentage of your time is spent actually shooting compared to editing, post-production, submissions, billing, marketing, etc? I spend 80-90 percent of my time taking care of the business side of photography and as I’ve become more successful the projects tend to be larger with longer lead times and more pre-production. I still do personal projects throughout the year to try new techniques and get back to the roots of why I got into photography originally: taking pictures.
You have a lot of great images of kayaking. Did your drive to shoot kayaking come from being an avid waterman yourself? I sort of fell into shooting kayaking. I was living in Jackson Hole working on my portfolio, and a buddy was going to Costa Rica on an expedition. He asked if I kayaked and I said no, but I can bushwhack. I was lucky enough that they were some of the best boaters in the world. I got an image published after the Costa Rica trip as an opening spread in ESPN Magazine and from there on out I did a lot of kayak shoots around the world.
Many of these kayaking images are athletes paddling massive waterfalls. How much scouting and planning go into these shots? How critical is timing and finding the perfect water flow levels for these projects? Many of these waterfall projects take years of planning to come to fruition. For instance, our crew went to the same waterfalls every year for five years in a row until the 128-foot-tall Big Banana Falls in Veracruz was run. It takes a lot of patience and dedication to see these things through. They only run the big ones once, so there is not take two or second chance and timing is everything.
How often do you get into situations where you are setting up a shot and the athlete wants to back out because they just aren’t confident in the conditions? It happens all the time. You have to go into it knowing that there is a good chance you’ll walk away with nothing. But, you have to remember that you are a human first and part of a team. I’d never talk an athlete into doing something that was outside of their comfort zone. Athlete’s are the key to making amazing images and they need to trust you; not only to get the shot but also to be there for them if something bad goes down.
You also have many epic shots of skiing. Do you enjoy shooting a variety of sports across multiple seasons to keep things fresh?I started out shooting skiing as it was what I knew from growing up in Colorado. Kayaking was my second season and now I’ve branched out into shooting a lot of surfing. I feel like it helps to shoot different sports to keep a fresh eye.
On your website, there are also some shots of horses. How does an action sports photographer get into shooting equestrian events? I used to do a ton of editorial work for ESPN and shot the Kentucky Derby for many years. It’s a huge event and has a unique set of challenges. To cover it properly you need many remote cameras. I spent five years trying to get approval to put a remote camera above the crowd at the finish line. Finally, I got approval and that year Barbaro won by the most lengths in current history. I was the only one with that shot and the shot summed up the race in once image. It’s pretty cool when something like that works out.
What is the standard kit you take when you are out on an action sports shoot? Nikon D4s, Nikon D810 , AF-S NIKKOR 24 f1.4, AF-S NIKKOR 24-70 f2.8 VR, AF-S NIKKOR 80-400 f4.5-5.6, Nikon TC14-E III Teleconverter, (8) Nikon Batteries, (12) SanDisk Extreme Pro CF & SD Cards, F-Stop LOKA UL Backpack with ICU, Gitzo Systematic tripod + Head, 15 Inch MacBook Retina, (2) G-Technology G-DRIVE ATC, (2) Profoto B1 Strobes, Pelican 1510 + TrekPak Inserts
How much weight do you carry when you are out in the field shooting action? As little as possible. It really depends on the day. For a backcountry ski mission, I may carry one D810 body and two lenses in addition to all the safety gear. For a big waterfall drop, I’ll have at least two cameras and preferably three, so I can get horizontal and vertical shots of the drop, which helps in layout and sales as you never have an art director say we loved it, but we wish we had a vertical for the cover. I use strobes often as well, and the Profoto B1’s are great as they are battery powered and have wireless TTL so I can control them from my camera with the transmitter.
You have some great people shots. How do you work with your subject to create great portraits? I love portraits. Much of my work is big landscape with little person, so it’s a joy to get to hang out with people and connect. To make good portraits it’s worthwhile to find something you have in common with your subject. Every little bit helps to build that bond of trust. Face it. Being in front of the camera is a vulnerable place to be and the more the subject trusts you the better the results.
What is the one piece of photo equipment that you can’t live without? Ironically, my iPhone as I do a lot of research: weather, lunar cycle, water levels, surf reports, sun tracking, hyperfocal tables, location scouting, shot lists, etc.
What does the perfect Lucas Gillman day look like? I’m on the road around 200 days a year, so It’s always different, but usually involves an early start with some strong coffee and a weather check.
If you weren’t a professional photographer what would you be doing? I’d be a chef. I almost went to culinary arts school instead of college. I love cooking when at home. It’s my way to relax and catch up with my five-year-old son and wife.
Why did you choose Photo Folio for your website? Photo Folio has the cleanest layouts and really lets the work shine through. The last thing an editor or art director wants when they look at your work is to have a poorly laid out page with Justin Bieber blaring in the background. As in my images, I like to keep it simple and clean, and Photo Folio allows me to do that.