Interview with photographer #20: Kobe Michael (Philippines, Portrait Photography)Artem Beliaikin
When did you start shooting and how did this love for photography happen? What is your view about photography?
I want to say, where I am today is thanks to my older brother, he didn’t directly influence my love of Photography and Film-Making, but it was just one of those days, when we were much younger, that he had to do a school project for his class about what he did during the summer.
This one during the times of Windows XP being one of the biggest operating systems in the world, or something like that. My brother was using Windows Movie Maker and he was just making a slideshow of pictures of a beach with Moby’s ‘beautiful’ as the background song. For some reason as a kid, I thought that was like the coolest thing ever. Watching the video of just pictures of a beach with some music gave me such a relaxing and happy feeling, and my brother made it so easily, and I wanted to create something similar.
From there, my love for the camera and to create art, started to blossom.
I was always a film-maker first before I was a photographer, but when you spend plenty of time analyzing video, you start understanding the meaning of the individual frames in a video.
I finally found something that I would consider art. It was very simple, anyone can take a photo, but if you really put the time in understanding other’s works and knowing all these “rules”, you then start to understand the complexity of what can appear in front of a sensor. It doesn’t anymore become just a picture or just a video, but it is a window to another reality or a moment in time.
I always took pictures from my phone for granted, but you start learning the intricacies of framing and composition, and you can make any cellphone or 10 year old camera take photos or videos that can have an emotional impact, which is something I have yet to achieve, but one day hope I can do.
Apart from photography, tell me about your hobbies and interests?
As I mentioned I’m a film-maker. In my past time I really enjoy shooting short clips and practice my color-grading in different scenarios. It’s something that requires a lot of understanding of what is ‘cinematic’.
I think color is one of the most underrated skills anyone can learn if they want to enhance their artwork. Most people and companies think resolution is all that matters, but I’m part of the small percent of people that care about the new cameras coming out with 10-Bit sensors, which allow us to stretch and play around with colors on our videos and our photos.
Which genre of photography do you like/practice and why?
I don’t have a specific style of photography I practice. I always just take pictures of what I think looks nice. If I see something online, I want to try if I can achieve something similar or if not more “me”?
Though I enjoy portraits, because its simple yet depending on how it was taken, can really speak about the thing being shot in the portrait, it may be a girl or a guy, or maybe even a puppy.
Portraits, in my opinion, are a way of showing off the personality of an individual without any words.
Almost 90% of photographers find it hard to earn money out of photography. Any tips that might help photographers to earn money?
Something I learned from LinkedIn, it wasn’t about photography but about programming, “Leave a big digital trail of yourself on the internet”. It’s so much easier for someone to invest in you if you have the portfolio to show if you are worth their money. If you don’t have anything to show, then you make something. It only takes 1 good photo, or 1 good film, to impress a client and make them invest their time and money in you.
When I first started out doing this, I didn’t do this for money at all, actually I maybe did most of it for free, because it never was really about the money, but because I really loved the art.
What mistakes did you make when you started taking pictures?
Not knowing what the camera settings were sooner. I’d always set, the camera I’d borrow, to auto and just take photos like that. The photos were always either a hit or miss, and I depended on auto for so long.
Learn the strengths and weakness’ of a camera, and shoot according those. Most people I notice who buy a SLR always assume their photos look better because the camera is bigger. Skill will always beat a nice camera.
A photographer with a cellphone can beat a normal person with a Hassalblad.
Which photo are you currently most proud of? Tell us a story about this photo please.
The story of getting this photo wasn’t very exciting. I had my friend, Hannah, just standing next to me and our group of friends at the car parking lot. I noticed the marking on her hands and they seemed interesting enough, so I asked if I could turn her into a hand model, as a joke of course.
I found a small flower and asked her to hold it, and I was excited! The pictures came out amazing!
That wasn’t what made me proud, but it was when I started tweaking around with the colors and started to adjusting it to fit the tone. After much tweaking and adjusting.
I told myself “I don’t think I could ever beat this”. I’ve never been more proud of a photo, something so simple but colors and the ambiance, it almost looks and feels like a painting.
What do you do to keep motivated, and not lose your passion for photography?
Don’t force yourself to ALWAYS try and take good photos. I used to have an old Instagram account, and I posted EVERY SINGLE DAY. I thought it would get me likes, and yes it did, but it forced me to grow tired of the art.
Never rush art, art is something you create at your own pace and nurture into something beautiful. As much as possible don’t also force working as a photographer if that’s not the style you’re into.
There are many types of styles, some get paid more than others, but the moment you work as a photographer and the style isn’t suited to you, you’ll only grow more tired of photography. I’ve had my fair share and so I have learned my lesson.
Why are you giving away your photos on Pexels/Unsplash?
I have a stable job so money isn’t an issue right now, but I also believe holding these photos in my hard-drive for no one else to see would also be a waste.
Posting it on Instagram is a little too much pressure and the quality that comes out isn’t that good, so its only good for looking at on something small.
I thought it’d be more useful if people could use my art for something that could help them. That’s why I post on Pexels, my art gets shared around and people can use it. Simple.
Light, decisive moment, content, ambiance, a good gear, according to you which is the most essential element in photography?
According to Casey Neistat on Youtube, “Content is King”. I believe the quality and what camera you use is important to an extent, but its the art, tone, and mood you can feel when you see a photo and almost all cameras, any form of shape and size,
can help us tell a story with our photos.
How fo you promote yourself as photographer?
I normally just take plenty of photos of my friends, since their very comfortable with me, and after they always want to use their photos for their display picture for sites they go on (LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, etc.).
They always credit me, even if they don’t have to, and then more people outside of my friend group want photos that are similar.
Share your goal in photography?
My goal, even if this sounds very weird and cliche, is to some day see my photo as someone’s wallpaper. It doesn’t matter where, but a wallpaper for a phone or a laptop or anything. Nothing would make me happier.
It only tells me, that my photo was something pleasant to look at daily.
Is there a photo you dream of taking?
There are certainly photos I wan’t to take, but the thing with Photography is that, there is no limit to what we CAN take. If ever I had a budget of a million dollars, I’d go want to go the Golden Gate bridge and block both sides of the bridge and take a nice semi-wide angle (maybe 16mm) portrait of someone in the center, it doesn’t matter who, but a view like that with the big tower of the bridge in the background would be so epic.
Do you know where your next mission or project will be?
I have a small film idea I would want to make, but I’m waiting for the right opportunity to film it.
Kindly share top five Instagram account everybody should follow?
Final words of wisdom you would like to share?
Always keep dreaming. Dreams are the only place where your art can roam free without any doubt. It’s up to you how you can bring those dreams into reality.
Thanks a lot Michael! I wish you the most juicy shots!