How I Shoot: Making Portraits with @benjaminheath
How I Shoot is a series where we ask Instagrammers to tell us about the set-up and process behind their photos and videos. For more of Benjamin’s portraits, follow @benjaminheath on Instagram. For more portraits from photographers across Instagram, browse the #makeportraits hashtag.
For Los Angeles Instagrammer Benjamin Heath (@benjaminheath), portraits are an artform. As he explains it, “Making a good portrait is hard, much harder than making a pretty landscape. I wanted to challenge myself. I felt a spark and I wondered if there were other folks in the Instagram community that shared that spark. The answer is a resounding ‘yes!’—there are!”
To Benjamin, there’s a difference between a portrait that you make and a photo that you take. “Make is such a strong word. I think it connotes a methodology or a particular rhythm to creating. If it’s going to be worthwhile you have to take time to make something. You have to hone your craft.” Benjamin, the creator of the #makeportraits hashtag, shares some of the methodology, craft and planning that goes into his own process of making portraits below.
"I use an iPhone 5s for mobile photos and shoot with a variety of digital and film cameras otherwise. I probably own too many cameras but I like picking up a camera I haven’t used for awhile. It’s like catching up with an old friend."
"Getting inspired with an idea is step one. I have a collection of photo books that I study for inspiration: Bruce Davidson, Alex Webb, Dan Winters—Philip-Lorca diCorcia blows my mind. I spend a lot of time studying photographers I love and am influenced by. Once I feel like I have an idea or some thoughts on what I want my photo to look like, I’m ready to go.
"Finding a good location is important. I like to shoot portraits that are more environmental with a sense of time and place along with the subject. For me, giving some background and environment adds depth. I think of these portraits as little 1/250 second plays that I’m directing—and this can be difficult or easy. Sometimes I’ll find something wonderful when I’m out and about and will make a mental note to come back when the light is right. Sometimes I see something online that I like and will add it to a running doc that I keep. And, you know, sometimes you stumble onto something terrific as it is and you’re fortunate to have a friend with you.
"Shooting with an experienced model is extremely helpful. I’ve been lucky to work with some great ones. That creative exchange between people is such a charge for me. I love working with people like that."
"I really don’t edit too much. I use a few of the VSCO (iOS and Android) filters pretty consistently, but like to add my own touch to each. My general view is that if I’m spending a lot of time editing a photo, I did a bad job of making the photo and it’s probably not a keeper.”