This week on the blog, we interview the professional photographer and retoucher Aaron Anderson from Colorado Springs, USA.
Specializing in Sport, Portrait and Composite imagery, Aaron's photographs are always shaped by amazing lighting. Let's discover his work in this series of 17 photos powered by Prodibi!
A few words about you, how did you start photography?
I tried photography back in high school, on a film camera, and hated it. I remember getting my horrible pictures back after waiting a week and thinking “I’m never doing this again”. Fast forward a few years and I bought my wife a camera for her birthday, a Nikon D40, and then I ended up really liking it…and that’s how I started my career, stealing my wife’s birthday present!
After that I wanted to learn so my friend Zak Shelhamer (@zakshelhamer on IG) took me out to a park and showed me how to shoot on manual mode. I remember him saying “Never shoot Jpegs and always shoot on manual.” So that’s what I did! Once I started experimenting with off camera flash I realized there was a whole world of photography that I wanted to explore, so I went to school at the Academy of Art in San Francisco…and the rest is history as they say!
Can you briefly explain your creative process for a great portrait shot?
I’m a firm believer in community and personal connection, which is where I think any good portraits starts. If people trust you, and believe you have their best intentions at heart, you’ll be able to take better portraits of them. Typically, I sit down with the person I am photographing before hand and get to know their story, and either we come up with a concept together or I have something that I think is a good fit for them. I became a photographer to connect with people, taking there picture and telling their story is kind of a bonus. After that there’s lighting and such, sure, but the lighting is just a small piece of the puzzle in the grand scheme of things.
Where do you find your inspiration?
Lots of places. I love movies and music if I need to envision something or see lighting and composition. Recently the movie Joker has been a huge source of inspiration. I tend to shoot kind of Low Key/Dark images, so anytime I see that being done at a high caliber it’s inspiring. I also love looking at magazines like Vogue and Harpers Bazaar, such incredible artists working with those magazines. I don’t get to do it as often as I like, but walking around a city and seeing all the people is how I refuel myself, if I’m feeling burned out I’ll drive to a big city and walk around…that’s my calm space for sure.
Any advice for beginners who want to start portrait photography?
First and foremost learn to be a good business person. I’ve always believed if you want to be a photographer you should be forced to go to business school and take a full load of classes, then take photography courses on top of that and do it all at the same time, because that’s what it’s like. No one tells you that what you’re really doing is starting a business, taking pictures will be a small part of what you do, especially in the beginning, so you need to learn to enjoy the process early on.
I think some other tried and true advice is to always be creating, especially for yourself. I shoot all the time, always trying to push or grow in certain areas. Don’t be afraid to shoot for the fences and try something new, to FAIL BIG! You’re going to fail, so you might as well do it as big as you can. After you fail, or even after you succeed, you should learn to honestly evaluate your images. Where did you do well? What could you have done better? What should you never do again? Then, get feed back from a handful of people you trust and keep moving forward. I have thousands of images the world will never see, either because they’re horrible or they were so I could learn, but those images are the building blocks for what you do see.
Is there someone in the world you dream to photograph?
I would love to work with Keanu Reeves. I’m sure that sounds random, but I love what he stands for and I feel like we would get along. If anybody out there wants to connect us I’d be stoked! I get to meet so many radical people and athletes though, I’m blessed, people are really incredible.
About your photography gears, what are your favorite tools?
This question is always a funny one for me. My first answer is always to make sure you’re creating with what you have, there’s a lot of great gear out there now, and what ultimately sets you apart is the fact that you’re YOU! However, I do love gear, it’s like toys for grown ups! I’ve recently fallen in love with Fujifilm cameras and had the chance to shoot on the GFX 100 and the XT3, both are incredible. I shot on a 56mm 1.2 (definitely my new favorite) at a skate park on Venice Beach and had a blast. I also shoot on a Nikon D850 and I love the Tamron 85mm and 35mm, in a weird way I think shooting on a 35mm prime makes me feel cinematic…I hope you’re laughing at that, but it’s true. On the lighting side I use the Elinchrom ELB 500’s all the time and my favorite modifier is the 53” Octabox, I use it all the time, maybe because that’s what I started with, but it’s very versatile and I love the quality of light it puts out.
Do you have projects for the future like workshops, personal series or travels?
I always have projects! Right now we are working on some really fun ones with Noah Elliot and Kara Winger, both Olympians and amazing people. As a family we have also decided to sell our house and move into an RV fulltime, so 2020 will be a year of travel and adventure for us! Our hope is that we can connect with more people and be together as a family more, which is really exciting to me. There’s a lot going on next year honestly, stay tuned for some crazy stuff!
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All photographs copyright Aaron Anderson and used with his permission.
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