EXCLUSIVE: Our Interview with Ryan West

Photos courtesy of Ryan West We interview Ryan West, a photographer with a knack of capturing beautiful portraits. He has photographed ce...

Photos courtesy of Ryan West

We interview Ryan West, a photographer with a knack of capturing beautiful portraits.
He has photographed celebrities such as Adrian Grenier, Russell Peters, Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, and Foster the People.

Read on for our exclusive interview!

Hi Ryan! Tell us a bit about yourself!
Just a simple guy trying to make his way in the world. Wait, that might be from a movie trailer, lol. Okay, I'm just a creative guy very lucky to make my living from what I'm passionate about, mainly photography and music. Being a freelancer can be challenging at times but ultimately I love the freedom it provides. Oh, and I'm from Vancouver, Canada. And yes, I say 'eh' a lot.

When did you discover your passion for photography?
As a kid, my parents bought me a compact film camera. I used to play around with double exposures and putting different colored gels in front of the lens for effects. That was mainly for fun, but in my later years I bought myself a SLR camera and fell in love very quickly with photography, especially the more artistic/fashion/edgy type of shots. That inspired me to learn more about lighting and after that it was a wrap, I was hooked!

Where do you get inspirations for your shoots?
It depends, sometimes I'll pre-plan something if I have an idea in mind, or the subject might have an idea, or in the case with some of the celeb shots I've done a lot of it is on location so I don't even know what I'm going to do until I get there, which obviously puts some pressure on me to make something happen. That's where the technical know-how comes in handy because If you only have a few minutes with a celeb then you need to quickly set up and get the shot. Another big factor for quick on location shoots is don't be afraid to move stuff around. If I'm shooting a celeb for a magazine or something and I get to the venue I'll usually check in with their agent or whoever is in charge and then I'll look around for a spot to shoot and make sure it's okay for me to set up there. But once I get the go ahead I take full liberties with arranging around the place. I've moved couches, tables, paintings, whatever it takes so I have a shot that I'll be happy with. There's an old quote by a photographer I think named Newman, and it goes "photography is 1% talent and 99% moving furniture", that can be very true at times.

You have photographed musicians and actors such as Foster the People, Adrian Grenier, Russell Peters (whose show we attended when he was here in Malaysia!) and many more. What was it like working with them?
These were mostly shoots for magazine articles. I didn't get a lot of time like you would if it was for an ad campaign or something. They were pretty cool though, sometimes they are extremely tired from doing press and stuff and then you have a few minutes to shoot them and you have to be good at getting them to perk back up or get into the shoot. I usually do that by cracking a joke or commenting on something they've worked on that I like, plus I'll show them one or two shots as we go, it's all set up in advance so I know the lighting will look good and then when they see it they'll end up liking the photo and tend to get more into it... which really has to do with the psychology of photography, very important stuff that I'm still learning.

Do you get starstruck or nervous whenever you work with celebrities?
Starstruck? No, not really. Maybe because of my music background I've been around quite a few celebrities. Especially having done major US and Canada tours you get to know some of these people and at the end of the day you realize we all have the same basic needs and are all cut from the same cloth. As for nervous, it depends, I'd say it's more like general concern. After all you want to do a good job, give them something different, and you know it'll be seen especially with the internet these days so you want to make it as good as possible.

What are your favourite tools and equipment to work with?
I don't really have favorites. My camera is nothing crazy, it's no medium format Hasselblad or anything like that. And my lights are pretty basic Paul Buff White Lightnings. At the end of the day it's not so much the equipment but how you use it and how you execute your vision. However, I will say I pretty much only shoot with lights (strobes) at this point. Maybe that'll change in the future but for now I love having full control of the light, and I love the way it looks in photos.

If you could only work with one colour, which one would it be and why?
Hmm, I love color so that's a hard one. Can I say black? Although it's not technically a color but black and white photography is very classic and beautiful. Still something I have to get into more. If I have to pick an actual color than I would say blue. It's been my favorite since kindergarten. I love the range from light cyan to dark navy.

What do you do during your free time, besides taking pictures?
Good question. I don't get a lot of down time. As a freelancer you have to be constantly marketing yourself, looking for new work, doing the work, invoicing clients, and keeping track of it all for tax time. But when I do get free time, I usually work on music, read a book, or watch a movie.

What would you do if you’ve won a million dollars?
Probably buy a decent sized studio and throw a big party for all my friends and family. No wait, it would probably get trashed, so I'd throw the party first then buy a new place. But work wise would definitely continue doing what I do now. And would likely go on a trip. I would love to go around the world and take pictures of all the interesting people I meet

Ryan West's official site
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