We Create

My Portrait Series

posted by on 17/01/2014

What happens when you step in front of a camera? Most of us, like myself, freeze up – act unnatural, squint our eyes and try to portray a better looking version of ourselves. Most of the time it’s not a true representation of ourselves hence why you have a plethora of Instagram bathroom stars. There’s also candid photography or as some may call it – catching the subject in a natural reportage manner. I’ve been doing that for a while now, it’s perfect for weddings, events and lifestyle shoots where you don’t have to worry about an artificial expression conjured up by your subject. However when you’re on set of an editorial or a portrait shoot, my role as a photographer (far from pro!) is to make the subject feel comfortable and give them direction where necessary or else you’ll end up with an uncle shot. By uncle shot, y’all know what I mean – those cringe-worthy family portraits where everyone’s stood like a statue. You all know which ones I mean.

So where did it begin? Work. Y&Y isn’t our full time job, it’s our side project which sometimes feels like a second job but the one that’s always fun. For the past two months especially in the run up to Christmas, my work ended up winning the battle of balance so my time to work on my other passions was extremely limited. Everything about how I fell into photography has been flukey from wanting a camera for my 21st to take cool Facebook profile pictures, to shooting the LDN.365 project and everything that I’ve shot for brands like Nike and Hypebeast came through meeting people and this site.

Work takes up a lot of time during the week and on weekends I’m focused on producing content for Yin&Yang which are usually projects that have been already been planned out. I wanted to shoot just for me; practice my skills and better my techniques from understanding my camera’s capabilities and the relationship between photographer and subject.

Due to the job and Y&Y restricting my time, I had to make use of the free time I have on a daily basis during natural sunlight hours – my lunch break. So I simply put out a Facebook status with the following ‘I want to practice my portrait photography. Who wants a photograph?’ within a few hours I received around 15-20 replies which surprised me. It shouldn’t have since everyone has a hint of narcissism and who can turn down an opportunity to get a new profile picture. Subjects wise, I was cool but now the hard part – how am I going to get people who feel awkward in front of the camera to act natural?

Though directing with my co-worker Josh doesn’t really count as he’s a professional model outside of work. Ya’ll will recognise him from our #socknslides lookbook from last summer, remember it? It was one of our highlights of last year and our/my first real studio shoot. Fun experience all around.

Now the process, it’s not as simple as getting someone to stand around and you clicking shoot on your camera. My way of doings is through communication, I’ve come to realise that asking people about their story, why they do what they do and understanding a bit about their personality makes it way easier to photograph them. Not only do they open up verbally about themselves but this is also translated into the photographs. The subjects engage more openly with the camera, portraying more of their character as opposed to an awkward photo face.

Two very special women in my life (above & below). Capturing my Grandma smiling was a first – she rarely smiles in photographs so had to make sure I caught her off guard.

I know some of you are probably wondering what I’ve shot these on. I’ve used my trusty Canon 5D Mark II with a 24-70 USM II lens for most of these, some may have been shot on my 50mm 1.4.

As for settings, I don’t really know since they’re all a mixture of different settings and exposure. You’ll have to figure that one out yourselves through experimentation.

Can you guess which of the below images were shot before I sat down and spoke with the subject? It’s an easy one.

That’s all for now. If you want to see more from the series, head on over to my tumblr where you can see the full set of images. If you have any questions feel free to hit me up at yin@yinnyang.co.uk and if you’d like your portrait taken hit me up, you’ll have to come meet me around work though!

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  • PHOTOGRAPHY AND WORDS BY: YIN
  • SPECIAL THANKS TO: ALL THE MODELS
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