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Welcome to the Instagram blog! See how Instagrammers are capturing and sharing the world's moments through photo and video features, user spotlights, tips and news from Instagram HQ.

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how i shoot, portrait, makeportraits, user feature, benjamin heath,

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.

Camera

"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."

Planning

"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 WintersPhilip-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."

Editing

"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.”

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Location Feature, God's Own Junkyard, User Feature, how i shoot,

God’s Own Junkyard—where Neon Never Dies

For more photos and videos from God’s Own Junkyard, browse the #godsownjunkyard hashtag or visit the location page for the Junkyard’s previous premises.

God’s Own Junkyard is a little slice of heaven found in Walthamstow, North East London. Newly relocated to a new premises, the unique space on an industrial estate is the workshop and showroom of Chris Bracey, a neon artist who collects and hand-renovates neon signs for art, shows and collectors items.

Chris has been creating and collecting vintage neon signs, old movie props, found objects and waste light for the last 37 years, and his work has developed a cult following. Some of his most famous signs have appeared at Alexander McQueen shows and in Stanley Kubrick films. After a short period of closure, the new site continues to attract Instagrammers from around the world. One of his neon creations is currently on display at Selfridges in central London.

Photographer Adrienne Pitts (@hellopoe) recently visited the Junkyard before it closed to relocate. Here are her tips for getting the best from your photos in the Junkyard or of any neon signs:

  1. "Play with your exposure settings: by tapping on different parts of your screen, you can expose for lights or for darks. Neon is so dramatic and gives off such a beautiful colourful glow, it often looks best surrounded by darkness, so tap on a light area of your screen to make sure the rest of the scene is dark.
  2. "Play with scale and shadow: some of the pieces in God’s Own Junkyard are pretty big! To give a sense of scale, try including people or playing with creating interesting silhouettes against the colourful neon.
  3. "Get in close: a lot of beauty can be found in the detail—the curves of the neon, the hundreds of tiny lightbulbs and the gorgeous colourful glow that the neon gives off can all make for a beautiful image."