It’s time for another RAW interview. We’ve been a little slow on interviewing over the past few months but I’m happy to say that the interviews are starting to flood back in and we are kicking things off with the amazing Alex Lim. Just a heads up this is not safe for work (NSFW).
Tell us a little about yourself?
I’ve been a photographer about 7 years, primarily working in Seattle and the west coast. I started after leaving college with an unfinished degree, and jumped in full speed working at building a book and establishing a reputation.
What inspired you to get started in photography?
Nothing really ‘inspired’ me, it was just part timing/part natural evolution. Originally it was the mix of tech-fascination, the thought of working for myself, and the excitement of photographing strangers that peaked my interest and quickly became a career choice.
What gear do you take to each shoot and what lens can you not live without?
I generally only have two lenses 99% of the time, my 85 1.2 prime and a 24-105 zoom. This encompasses the vast majority of shoots and assignments I do. However I prepare for any contingency, so sometimes that means renting a 70-200 or wide prime, etc. I don’t think I’d be able to shoot without a superwide aperture lens like the 85, there are simply too many low light situations, or times you need strong bokeh. It’s color, contrast, and natural ‘what you see is what you get’ perspective is also really perfect for portraits and headshots.
What’s your favourite bag and why?
I’m more a case guy than a bag guy. Typically, that means the Pelican rolling 1514 carry-on sized case, to make it easy peezy to grab and go. I have a few bags, large and small, but none really feel like a great all-around bag. It’s all about specificity, you want the best fit for the task without added bulk or weight, and without sacrificing the features you need. I’d actually love a sit down with camera bag manufacturers so I could complain about the ‘missing link’ bag that would actually suit my needs (and I suspect a lot of other photogs out there).
How do you market yourself and has social media been an important part?
Aside from sending out mailers or dropping portfolios at agencies or editors desks, is there really much that photographers do to market themselves these days Besides social media? Not that I know of. Search engine ads perhaps. I’m not much of a marketing force, I’ve always just done whatever feels natural and simple, allowing word of mouth and basic social media sharing to spread my images to new eyes. I think it’s rather unfortunate how dependent we are on good social media presence to survive. It doesn’t really always reward quality or substance, and the loudest most obnoxious Pushers tend to make the biggest waves. I divide my time between shooting and peripheral activities that also serve as marketing tools. I host local industry networking events at my studio, produce photographer and model workshops, volunteer time at local educational institutions, etc.
What’s your favourite photo that you’ve taken and does it have any significance?
Probably a photo of my girlfriend, Mai. It’s one of my favorite photos I’ve taken aesthetically, but also obviously has personal significance as well. We took it in the mountains north of SF, at a Shakespearian amphitheater shrouded in fog. Very ethereal and dreamlike. If only locations like that were easy to find.
Select a photo you have taken, explain how it was taken and how did you edit it?
I did a ‘torn’ effect editorial series, that was a clear example of conceptualization to execution. I’d seen an inspiration photo with torn edges where the effect was basically to show some skin of the model in strategic spots. The result was very rough, somewhat one-dimensional, and looked like it might not have even been planned before shooting and was the result of an afterthought during image selection. I decided to add another degree by adding model interaction to react or facilitate the ‘tearing’ effect. We shot it by simply posing the model under the same lighting and setup as a separate nude and clothed shot, then overlapping and using best judgement to add the tears. The main difficulty came from trying to get exactness in posing. In some cases deviations were forgivable, in others we had to be very precise. You also run the danger of having flat/static posing and expressions since the model can’t feel free or spontaneous. Overall the effect worked, and it made for a high impact series with not much effort.
What processing tool do you use and do you believe in the camera doing all the work or in post?
Just photoshop, like everyone else. I’m a sliding scale between how much it should be in capture versus post. I think ‘to whatever end’. Meaning there is no right or wrong, in anything really, there is only potential and opportunity. Photographing a subject, like everything else, involves trade-offs. Taking time to get every single 1/10 of a F-stop perfect might mean being less attentive to your model or slowing the pace of the shoot, or other simple minute differences. I think the flexibility technology has afforded a photographer today, is a great thing. It’s not about being sloppy, it’s about expanding the range of possibilities.
Whats your favourite photography accessory other than your camera?
No idea. A… tripod? lol
Do you ever get photographers block and if so what do you do to get inspired again?
I tend to Not post or push new images these days unless I feel they offer something new or a quality worth showcasing. They’ll probably hit facebook, my personal website, 500px, and tumblr. To get inspired, I try to Not view other photographer’s work. And instead focus on myself, get out in nature, go for a drive, sleep for 20 hrs, whatever. I think removing distractions can garner inspiration just as much as seeking and absorbing new visuals.
Is there anything you wish you had done when you first started in photography that would of made a difference?
I wish I would have started younger, in high school or instead of going to college. The technology wasn’t there yet at that age, to make it affordable… so I think kids today have a huge advantage. I also would have tried harder to find a quality apprenticeship. I’ve never done regular assisting to another photographer, but I should have pursued the idea more rigorously. I think the right relationship and mentor could have sped up the process considerably and opened more doors.
Any advice for new photographers wanting to go pro?
Don’t take it lightly, and don’t dabble. Figuring out exactly What you want to do as a career, in life, or even within photography itself is neither easy nor quick. So if you feel you truly have the energy to follow-through in your career choice, and more importantly you enjoy photography above all else, then jump. Go full force, sink or swim, but don’t dabble. It has to be something you’d do anyway if no one paid you, because odds are a lot of the time, no one will.