Aileen Luib is a portrait photographer who has been featured in publications such as the Press-Enterprise and IE Style Magazine, as well as published in Imagine Publishing’s (Digital Photographer Magazine) new book, “The Complete Photography Book” and the G.O.O.D.S Magazine’s 1-year anniversary issue. Aileen’s young eyes have captured subjects in such a light that surpasses her age, and aims to photograph enigmatic beauty that haunts and captivates the viewer’s mind. We sat down and discussed career tips, whats in her camera bag, the industry as it stands today, and more! Read below for the full interview…
Having worked as a professional under the age of 20, what are your methods for having clients taking you seriously? Is having a good book only half of it?
Aileen: My portfolio is what initially brings the clients in, but the way I carry myself and how I conduct my business is extremely crucial. Clients are usually always cautious of hiring me because of my age, so phone calls, e-mails, and meetings must all be professional; first impressions stick forever, and in the end, that’s what gets your foot in the door. My age is a stigma when it comes to getting clients, but I also try to use it to my advantage. With everything we do, younger people almost always break out of the traditional standards and are willing to take risks and try new things; we break the old rules and introduce the new trends. My youthful and edgy approach is beneficial to my portfolio, but maturity is essential for handling business and keeping relationships. It’s a 50/50 split.
With the over-saturation of affordable camera equipment in the market, do you ultimately feel that there will be a gradual shift in quality photography in the future (in terms of commercial usage)?
Aileen: It’s scary that there are so many different kinds of professional cameras coming out, especially with prices becoming more and more affordable. But from what I’ve seen, the fashion and commercial markets really only hire experienced photographers (since they’re forking over thousands of dollars and putting their reputation in the hands of one photographer), and not just that, but only ones who have a distinctive style. There are many people who pick up cameras for the sake of wanting high-quality images, but the only way to pursue a legitimate career as a photographer is to work hard, thoroughly understand your equipment and learn to define and separate your style from others.
You are a pretty big advocate for exposing/revealing ones true self without having to hide behind smoke & mirrors. As a photographer were you always this confident or has your career behind the camera, in turn, guided this transformational change in yourself?
Aileen: When I first started out, I resorted to lots of make-up, extreme angles, heavy photo-editing and many other smoke-and-mirror methods to create a photograph I thought was good. But since then, it’s been different. I enjoy having a deep connection with my model; having them release their insecurities and be their real self in front of you is a feat in itself, since the camera can be so intimidating to look perfect for. Having the model as comfortable as possible for the camera reaps much better results than slopping a bunch of make-up on them to make up for their discomfort. During a shoot with a friend, I played some pretty emotional music and she actually wound up crying. Of course, I didn’t shoot her crying, but the fact that she felt the music and the mood really helped portray the atmosphere I was initially going for. Emotion is a key element, and like they say, the eyes are the mirrors to one’s soul. It’s all about feeling with my work; if I can’t share an emotional connection with a model, the photos will appear lackluster and empty.
You had a chance to shoot a past interviewee of ours, Yaya Han. What is the dynamic like shooting a cosplayer versus a normal photoshoot? Do you have to be more critical of the environment and landscapes?
Aileen: The past projects I’ve shot with cosplayers, I tried to treat the costume the same way I do with outfits for fashion work—the environment must compliment the attire, but never overpower it. If you are shooting portraits, it’s important to never drown your model in your backdrop. Let your subject speak for itself.
As a young photographer, and the uprising popularity of amateur photographers enrolling in college, do you feel formal education is necessary to gain longevity in a career?
Aileen: Not at all! I finished my photography program in community college, but I feel that everything I learned in all those classes were things I could have taught myself. In fact, I made the decision to no longer attend school, and instead, pursue photography with everything that I have. In our society, it’s always been the “right” thing to pay for education because that path provides a career at the end of it, as well as substantial income. But the arts have been craftily mass-marketed and monopolized in schools, and in the end, I really feel that they just take your money without giving you a worthy education equal to the weight of your tuition. Money aside, art is a multi-faceted thing; there is no single right way to do something. Becoming a lawyer or a doctor of course requires procedural work that is essential to those career paths, but creative careers do not. If you research the backgrounds of the industry’s most successful photographers, most to all of them either went to school and dropped out, or never enrolled at all. School can’t teach you your style, and it definitely can’t teach you how to deal with a lot of the letdowns you experience as a growing artist. You have to find your own style and experience those disappointments in order to learn from them. Sure, school can teach you how to market yourself and how use your equipment, but you can also learn that stuff yourself through trial-and-error and researching online; better yet, you’ll learn the same stuff without a biased professor preaching their personal beliefs to you. Money and formal education can never replace passion and drive.
What is your best photography tip?
Aileen: Use the Internet and do your research! There are so many websites like DeviantArt and Flickr to keep you constantly inspired and wanting to try new things. Online communities help me learn new things and discover new tricks, and I find that following many artists’ growth online is inspiring. You have to expose yourself to other photographers’ work to see what the new trends are, which techniques work and which to avoid, and know what makes a good photo good, and a bad one bad.
I know you love Anime! Give us some of your favs.
Aileen: I would have to say my top three is Gurren Lagann, Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood, and Evangelion. These three have, believe it or not, influenced my life and my photographic work! GL taught me to never give up, while FMA and Evangelion taught me about humanity. For laughs, Full Metal Panic! is my favorite, with Mitsudomoe close behind. For drama and action, Angel Beats!, Valkyria Chronicles, and Soul Eater.
Having researched what is already out there and worked to find a style that is unique to yourself, how have you set yourself apart from the rest? Is it your equipment? Your ability to capture lighting? What is your secret?
Aileen: To be honest, I feel like I’m still in the midst of defining my own personal style. But just recently while seeing my works on an exhibition wall, I noticed that reoccurring themes in my work are color and light. For every piece I have, there is a working color scheme, or washes of color here and there. Light-wise, I shoot using natural light about 90% of the time, and in order to prevent becoming redundant, I try to play with light and use it in a different way each time. My style isn’t totally set in stone yet, but I do see it developing with each image I put out.
If you had to choose one lens, which one would it be and why?
Aileen: Canon 50mm 1.2. I have a Sigma 85mm 1.4, but it’s a little too long for my taste, where 50mm is just right. Having an F-stop of 1.2 would also be nice, so I would be able to open up further if I need it.
Can you describe how and when you use flash, video light, reflectors and natural light during a wedding/portrait shoot.
Aileen: I always use natural light since I don’t have a studio to call my own at the moment. My studio-esque shots are taken with a cheap $200 continuous light (video) kit; other than that, I’m always outdoors with natural light. Otherwise, if the sun isn’t cooperating with me, I have someone hold a reflector or shoot against the sun. I’ve been forgetting to bring my reflector to shoots lately, so I’ve often had to cut open a chip bag and use the silver insides for a reflector…
I usually end these interviews requesting advice, but lets switch it up a bit. What is the best piece of advice YOU have been given?
Aileen: Learn to take criticisms, hatred, and rejection like a champ. It’s still really hard for me to do this day, but it’s something that is vital for your endurance as a photographer, an artist and a person. You can’t just give up on your passion because of a rejected request from a company or blatant criticism from your peers. There are times when I’m surrounded by people who doubt me, or I’m constantly slammed with rejections for work requests. I am only human—sometimes I feel sad or even cry. It hurts a lot, but you have to learn how to grow a steel heart, follow it, and keep going.
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