Outdoor photo interview

Full interview here: https://www.outdoorphoto.co.za/blog/organising-and-executing-a-photoshoot/

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I had an interesting experience just before I came to the US. A photographic site asked me to do an interview for their blog. I was surprised, I had a look at the other photographers that had done it and they were all really established compared to me. Like I'm at step 1 compared, so I told them that and said that if they were keen to do an interview with someone that's at the beginning and have questions structured that way, we could possibly do something really interesting and give some value to others that might be in the same spot. 

1) Please tell us a bit more about yourself: where did you grow up? Whatmade you unique/different as a child? Can you name something/someonethat helped mold the person you are today?

No doubt I'm a product of my parents and I love them for it. I grew up in Cape Town, with a South African mother and a Taiwanese father. I was often the translator in language and in culture between the two sides of my family and I think it made me really good at understanding another persons perception. I also grew up with my parents in the restaurant industry, this added to coming into contact with a wide variety of personalities.


2) Which paths lead to you becoming a photographer?

I hit a turning point at 30 where I knew I needed to do something different if I was going to get where I wanted to be. Even though at the time it wasn't super clear where/what it is I wanted to be. I had a long conversation while on holiday in New York with Justin Polkey, who later became an amazing mentor of sorts, about the production world and how due to being able to add value and that it has a perceived "glam factor" that it could lead to gaining access to higher levels of other industries than you would have otherwise. I've only recently realised how important that conversation was. After that I focused everything on getting good. I sort of chose photography since I thought I could learn it and then fell in love with it after. Lately I've been obsessing about colour and light grading. 

3) What gear do you use? (Cameras, lenses, accessories)

I started on a Nikon (D70 and then D5000 I think?) and then changed to Canon (1Ds m3 and now a 5D mIV) and recently I've been shooting a lot with Phase One to experiment with medium format. The better the lenses I can get the better, I shot with some loaned L series lenses recently and the quality is amazing compared. Although I'm really starting to believe that gear doesn't matter nearly as much as you'd think.


4) Please take us through the multitude of steps that go into organizing a photoshoot.

This is a really huge question. It can vary from as little as calling up a friend and asking if they're available to a big production. Assuming that you produce it alone. Depending on what the shoot is for you'd probably start with a concept, often based on how you'd like the image to make you feel.
With the concept in mind you'd make lighting and location decisions, light or dark, natural or strobe, in or outdoors, perhaps considering colours too. 
After this in no particular order:You'd have to make sure that you can get, rent, buy or sneak into the location you need.
You need to determine the team you'd need: model/s, makeup, stylist, hair, lighting, digital. And if you need anyone on set then do you need catering? Transport?
Then you start calling around to book those people. This part is often takes a few attempts since you have to get a day when everyone you need is available. You're basically calling once to find out what dates they're available and then again to confirm.
Once you have everything in place you realise that rarely does everything go to plan so you start to make plan b's for each scenario. It's a chaotic and rewarding experience pulling it off.


5) When organizing photo shoots there are terms that somephotographers/models may not understand like test shoot, mua,moodboard etc. What photography jargon do you wish more people in theindustry understood? Please take us through the words and their meanings.

Natural. Everyone understands this word differently. I'll regularly see shoot briefs that say they want a natural look and then all of the reference images are strobed. Spending some time to understand what natural means to someone else helps a lot. Natural hair, natural light, natural feel, natural environment all make a difference. 

6) Top photo tips when shooting in studio?

Know how much and when to follow your concept. Sometimes following it exactly is right and sometimes going with the flow and letting the concept evolve is right. Studio is a controlled environment, know which aspects you can control. Music for instance can change the mood in an instant.


7) Top photo tips when shooting on location?

Get the feel of the place. As you're going along, capture some images of the setting, the overall environment and the details. It helps to recognise and note what makes a place beautiful and then start to think about how you're going to incorporate it.

8) It’s safe to say that this year is in FULL SWING! What are your career-hopes for the rest of 2018?

I'm moving full time to New York City this year and I'm kicking off with a project "Making it or not making it as a photographer in NYC". I'm hoping it goes well.

Sherwin Liang