Happy New Year, if you haven’t noticed RAW has been on auto pilot over the past week while I was on holiday come photo trip. We got back yesterday and we are now in full swing. Starting off with this fantastic interview with award-winning photographer Chris Stets.
Tell us a little about yourself?
Here’s my professional BIO, then I’ll expand on that: Award winning photographer and creative director has honed his skills with some of today’s biggest companies and magazines. With over 300 major awards from the Professional Photographers of America, PPCO, PPO, and others include a Fuji Masterpiece and Four Kodak Gallery award for electronic imaging. Stets gained the PPCO’s Photographer of the year in 1998 and has won numerous awards for his commercial photography skills.
Christopher’s photography has been featured in Guitar World, Newsweek, SI, Golf Digest, Home and Garden, PGA on Tour, Columbus Monthly and other major publications. In 1999 Christopher received his Certified Professional Photographer (CPP) certification from the Professional Photographers of Ohio, and his Craftsman Photographer from the Professional Photographers of America. Notable celebrities have included Melissa Etheridge, Amy Lee, Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Tiger Woods, Brian McBride, Jorge Compos, William Jefferson Clinton, H. Ross Perot, Queen Noor of Jordon, Sir John Major, Simone Perez, Lech Walesa, Brian Mulroney, Fuel, Brian May, Dimitrious Stanley, Adam Darling and others. Companies have included American Signature Inc, DSW, American Eagle, BMW, BCBGirls, The Ohio State University, Dissident Apparel, and a host of America’s top companies, on top of that, Christopher released four new books this year, Punk Rock Revolution, The Barb Wire Dolls, All Access a look into central Ohio’s hottest rock bands Vol 1, ofHuman: A view through the lens and Sever: A View through the lens.
With all that said, I truly love what I do, I find ways to capture images that bring the subject to life for the viewer, and take great pride in the work I produce, from working with children to high-profile clients each project is unique and offers challenges, but I work with each in it’s own way.
What inspired you to get started in photography?
My Father was a big photographer, not professional but had the “Eye” for it, we had a darkroom from the time I was very young, I was fascinated by everything about it, my first go at professional work was about the age of 18, I had friends that modelled and I would shoot a lot of Black and White film at that time.
What gear do you take to each shoot and what lens can you not live without?
Gear: Canon Eos D1X, Canon Eos 1D MkIII’s, Canon Eos 5D’s, Lens, 15mm Fisheye, 20 2.8, 85 1.2, 16×35 2.8, 24×70 2.8, 70-200 2.8 IS, 400 2.8 IS, Extenders 1.4, 2x, 580 EXII flash’s, Elinchrome Rangers, or Monolights with Softboxes & Macbook Pro 15” depending on the shoot, for much of the music and sports, it’s typically 3 body’s 5 lens, 1 flash (on camera) Studio or on-location much more. My can’t live without lens is the 70-200 2.8 IS its become my staple lens for everything from in-studio portrait to on location event work.
How do you market yourself and has social media been an important part?
Social Media has given the photographer a unique opportunity to allow millions of people the chance to view their work, I use it to look for new clients, and such, from a marketing standpoint, I’m very active, and have actually been looking for a Rep lately to add more magazine and assignment work.
What’s your favorite photo that you’ve taken and does it have any significance?
My favorite shot, was taken with a Hasselblad 500cm, shot on Fuji 120 film with the Hasselblad Fisheye, the couple in this case a bride and groom were placed in the center of the State Capital Rotunda, the couple was lit with lumydine heads, 400 Ws, from behind, the camera was just 6” off the ground, almost pointed straight up towards the top of the rotunda, the distortion was incredible. It was my first PPA Merit print, scored an 85, I was more excited about the response from the bride and groom, and they were blown away. The shot was featured in several magazines, and still today is my favorite image, since doing this shot 18 years ago; I have seen other photographers replicate it. Always makes me smile!
Select a photo you have taken, explain how it was taken and how did you edit it?
Shot #1 Lead Singer Brandon Seymore of 8lb Pressure, shot with a Canon EOS1D Mk III with a 70-200 2.8IS ISO 1600 shot with available light during a concert performance, taken into Lightroom and levels were adjusted but no major color changes
Shot #2 Isis Queen, lead singer of the Greek Punk Rock band Barb Wire Dolls, show in concert, with a Canon EOS1D MK III ISO 800 with a Canon 70-200 2.8 IS taken into lightroom and converted to black and white, then levels pushed it High Key, also edges burned down.
Shot #3 Is a PR shot for the Barb Wire Dolls
What processing tool do you use and do you believe in the camera doing all the work or in post?
I do most of the work in the camera, I’m kind of old school, most of the cropping in the camera, but have become a huge fan of Lightroom, it’s essential for processing all the images, with out it I would be lost.
What’s your favorite photography accessory other than your camera?
My Fisheye lens, I have used it with Wedding’s, Entertainment, and personal work, it adds that wow factor.
Where do you prefer to post your photos online and why there?
I actually post some to both my blog and Facebook, and then my clients are sent a private link that allows them to search them in a preview gallery. With the changes to Facebook, I’m posting less and less due to copyright infringement. It seems that people will take advantage of you if they can.
Do you ever get photographers block and if so what do you do to get inspired again?
I do get artist block on a regular basis, especially when I working on personal work, I get an idea then can’t figure out how to make it work, or just can’t seem to get it going, by looking at retail environments, advertising, magazines, I get recharged, I also love looking at other photographers work, see what ideas they are working on and how they accomplished it. Then I revisit the work, and see if it’s going to spark or not.
Is there anything you wish you had done when you first started in photography that would of made a difference?
This is a great question, when I first started there was no digital, I used a Mamiya RZ67, this was a great camera, it was very used, and I kept this thing going as I learned the 120 film camera’s, I was focused on everything, from Weddings, Seniors, Commercial, Studio, it was too much and we got to big to quickly, so I would have liked to control the growth in a different way. I would have also planed things out differently so that we grew slowly and consistently.
Any advice for new photographers wanting to go pro?
The business has changed a lot from when I started, when I started every professional photographer was afraid that you would steal their ideas, clients, anything, so it was more cut throat, and they were less likely to help you. It seems different now, with digital everything has changed, the overhead is not the same, and the business has changed greatly. Going Pro is a mind set, it’s getting paid for your work, not giving it away, remembering that you cannot take it personally if someone does not like your work. Find your passion, and remember that as artists we have to love what we are doing, sometimes when a hobby becomes a job, everything changes. When we as artists are having fun and loving what we do we create amazing images.