A Photographers Interview with Ariston Collander

Please tell us about yourself as a person and as a photographer. Where did you grow up and what sparked your desire to photograph? Were you active with the photography department in high school? Where are you living now?

That’s a pretty complex question! To start I was raised in the high desert of Southern California and spent lots of time wandering around 10 acres of desert land looking up at the beautiful San Gabriel Mountains. I think that’s probably what got me started. I didn’t really pick up a camera until I was much older, but the memories of the mountains and the artwork my mother did really sticks in my mind as the formation of my current interest in photography. Surprisingly enough I never had an interested in any photography while I was in high school. I really came into photography in 2005. At this point I am living in near Redlands, California with my wife and two boys.

Can you describe the defining moment or image that made you want to become a photographer?

I really can’t identify any one image that made me want to become a photographer. I spent several evenings with my parents at photography club meetings so I was exposed to a lot of different genres of photography all of which contributed to my desire to become a photographer.

What was the first camera you ever owned and how did you come across it? Was it a hand-me-down, purchased at a garage sale, found on the side of the road?

My first camera that I was consider to be the one that got me started was a Sony DSC-F717 with the really cool rotating body so you could hold the camera high and point down. I have a small amount of experience with film, but as a child of the digital age, DSLRs have been my focus.

flower1smlWhat is the hardest part of the job when shooting for a client? What is the hardest part of the job when shooting for yourself?

I think the one part that affects me when I’m shooting for a client is time. I always feel that I need to rush to get the job done. Although it does not detract from the quality of the images in the end, it is important to simply slow down and let the creativity flow. Working with models, I’m always concerned about the getting the shot. I just need to keep remind myself to slow down and stay focused on the subject and less on my own thoughts. When I shoot for myself, especially for my project365 photo blog Photo Informatica, I’m always trying to find something new. After shooting everyday for half a year, redundancy can lead to a loss of attention from my fellow photographers. I always try to find something new and interesting to keep the viewers interested. I can’t, however, let that control my creativity.

Do you try to help others learn about photography? If so, please explain how.

I absolutely love helping other people learn about photography. For a while I was offering image critiques to my Twitter Followers and posted them on my blog. I know for a fact that by critiquing other images I learn so much more than just starting at photographs all day. I also love just answering questions about photography whether they are technical or creative in nature. I believe that by helping others we help ourselves and contribute to the art as a whole.

What and/or who inspires you in life and photography and why?

There are a few photographers who are I find very inspiring. Specifically Joe McNally and Zack Arias. I’ve seen Joe’s videos on Kelby Training and he just the kind of guy you really want to meet and hang out with in person. I’m hoping to attend one of his week long workshops in the future. Zack Arias has elevated the art of photography to a new level by applying simple one light techniques to create amazing images. I invested in his One Light Workshop DVDs and have implemented his techniques to create one of my favorite images of my son which consisted of a single Alien Bees 800 strobe and 30×60 softbox. I always tell people that I want to be either Joe McNally or Zack Arias when I grow up.

Do you consider yourself an artist first before thinking about the job ahead of you?

This is one of the challenges that I face. Photography is a part-time business for me. I work in technology to pay the bills and use photography as a creative outlet. As a result, I am an artist first. However, I do have a legitimate photography business which poses its own difficulties since I need to balance the artist with the business man. I have yet to master this particular challenge.

Ariston CollanderWhat is the best advice you would give a photographer just starting out?

If you are just starting out I would recommend that you test yourself with a daily photo project. Start with something short maybe a month or so. But get out and shoot everyday and see if you can keep it up. Challenge your creative mind before diving into photography and spending the hundreds if not thousands of dollars on equipment. Secondly, be conscious of your purchases. Don’t use the guise of a “business” as an excuse to get yourself into debt buying equipment you may or may not use in the end. I could definitely go on with other tips.

The key to creativity is…

Being willing to challenge yourself. Seeing from different angles. Finally, slow down and actually think about your shot.

What is your favorite camera that you have used or owned? What camera and lens combination do you use most of the time when photographing for a client? What about when photographing for yourself?

My latest gear is my Nikon D300. Coupling that with a Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 VR lens and you’ve got an amazing setup. This rig is what lives in my hands 90% of the time I’m shooting. When needed, I will rent a Nikkor 17-55 f/2.8 lens for portraits if I don’t have the space for 70-200. If I’m feeling particularly creative then I will reverse mount the Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 lens for some crazy macro shots on the cheap. I picked up the reverse adapter from Amazon for around $20.

What is your favorite time of day to shoot outdoors?

If it involves photography then I don’t care when I shoot. I love it all. You hear photographers always talk about “The Golden Hour” but creativity and imagination can hit you in the middle of the day and you just need to know your equipment and the techniques to handle that much harsh light. Also since I love shooting in a studio it could be the dead of night and I’d still be shooting.

Ariston CollanderHow do you deal with rejection of your work, losing a job, not making a sale or a negative comment?

How to handle rejection is a matter of self-esteem. It is crucial that you feel confident about your work. For me, I have had several images rejected whether it be from a stock agency or just from people disagreeing with a method of shooting. Every person who views an image will have their own opinions. There are some technical factors that can’t be denied: “this part of the image is blown out”. The histogram doesn’t lie. But something like the choice of aperture to get a certain depth of field is simply a matter of perspective.

Do you prefer RAW or JPG and why? If RAW, would you prefer a system that uses the DNG RAW format?

Raw, raw, raw…if there is any potential for change in your lighting then raw is the way to go. I think maybe once I set my camera to shoot JPG and it was probably when I first took it out of the box. During my workflow, I use Lightroom 2.4 to import photos and convert to DNG at the same time. I’m still using Photoshop CS2 which is not compatible with D300 NEF files. By converting to DNG I eliminate the problems with compatibility.

What music sparks your creativity? Do you listen to that when shooting a job? Do you listen to music at all? Do you listen to what the client likes?

I always try to play music during my modeling shoots. So far the models I’ve worked with have a very similar taste in music that I do. The younger crowds like some of the latest artists like Lady Gaga and similar. I am willing to admit that I am still a fan of Britney Spears so that usually gets me going during a shoot. If a model/client is interested in a different genre of music, then it is always in my interest to make them feel as comfortable as possible.

What is your favorite band? Movie? Book? Museum? Website? Who is your favorite photographer? Artist?

Band: Britney Spears, Basshunter, Movie: Hunt for Red October, Website: AllTop Photographer, Photographer: Zack Arias/Joe McNally

tristansmlWhat is your favorite photograph you’ve ever taken?

My favorite photograph is one I took of my son Tristan in my garage studio. I have an 11×17 print on Kodak metallic paper and a 16×24 on canvas of the same photograph. It captures his essence amazingly well and is technically one of my best.

If you could take your art in any direction without fear of failure or rejection, where would it lead? What new thing would you try?

For some reason I have an interest in high fashion. The crazy outfits and intense makeup that capture the essence of the clothing with the beauty of the models. Glamour photography and fine art nude have become my latest passion as they both capture the female form in all its beauty.

Do you find yourself always looking at the World wondering how it would look as a photograph?

Most definitely. It’s the primary reason why I take a camera with me wherever I go!

Anything you would like to add for our readers?

I can’t emphasize enough the possibilities that open up to you when you challenge yourself with a project. For me its my 2009 Project365 photo a day. Give it a shot and see what you can come up with.

View more photographs by Ariston Collander: aristoncollanderphotography.com, twitter.com/whoisariston, photoinformatica.com

Thank you for reading the interview. This interview was presented to the photographer with questions asked by me and submissions from other photographers. The photographer is asked to answer only what he/she is comfortable with. If you would like to contribute to future interviews, please submit your your questions to me on Twitter, Facebook or on the Interview intro blog post, What would you ask a photographer?. Thank you for reading and enjoy the interview.

Some questions supplied from the following Twitter users:
@pjtaylorphoto, @ishootinraw, @donkeymaster, @GrfxGuru

Some questions supplied from the following Facebook users:
Brian Walter, Faylin Myhre, Leslie DeLorean, Patrick Connor

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