It is with great pleasure I have the opportunity to interview Don of Ronin Photo Design, from Boise, Idaho. He is one of the top glamour photographers in the modeling industry today. He openly shares his technical expertise with models and photographers that are striving to reach the next level. Everyone always walks away feeling enthused and enriched after working with Don. What is equally as unique is his degree of professionalism and rapport with the team with which he works. We look forward a long association with Don, valued member of the GlamModelz Magazine family!
GlamModelz Magazine: Let’s get started Don! Tell me about your background…how did you get started in Photography? Don: Wow that was a long time ago! I started photography when I was in 8th grade. My school offered a beginner, intermediate and advanced series of classes so I enrolled thinking it would be an easy “A”. Well 35 years later I’m still doing it!
I loved the darkroom when I started photography. It fascinated me what you could do to manipulate the images that came on the film. I was truly hooked! I continued through high school although other activities started to get in the way. After that college and then the corporate grind. Other than taking snapshots I actually lost photography for about 12 years but when DSLR’s emerged my interest got stirred again and once again I was hooked because of the digital darkroom. I actually started my studio while still in the corporate world as a part time hobby business in 2003 but have been doing photography full time now since 2008.
GlamModelz Magazine: Why Glamour? What other genre’s and styles interest you? Don: I started out like many photographers doing a lot of landscape and creative work. I never had any interest in portrait work of any kind. Then I was asked to do a senior photo session for an acquaintance (no pay of course) and realized what a fantastic challenge portrait photography can be. I was naïve in my prior thought process thinking that portrait work would be “cookie cutter” photography but boy was I wrong! After that I couldn’t do enough portrait work and that evolved into glamour.
Glamour to me represents all the challenges portrait photography offers. Lighting, composition, and perspective are the elements I teach my students and live and die with. The fantastic challenge of creating the most beautiful and creative visual art is what drives my glamour work.
I still enjoy street photography and landscape work. I’ve really gotten into architectural work lately as well. Like portraiture, I underestimated the challenges of making creative and interesting architectural pictures. Now that I’ve been doing it commercially it’s become a great diversion from portrait work.
GlamModelz Magazine: What or who inspires you as a photographer? Don: Complicated question! There is of course the obvious answers like Ansel Adams. What he did in the darkroom always inspired me to create.
Another obvious choice is Pompeo Posar who did so much beautiful work for Playboy and really created that classy, nude style of glamour that we associate to Playboy style glamour.
Maybe a little less obvious is Ruth Harriet Louise who was the Chief Photographer for MGM studios in the 1920’s and really pioneered “glamour” photography. Through that evolution we then get to George Hurell who really created the style that we associate with Hollywood Glamour with the likes of Veronica Lake, Ingrid Bergman, Humphrey Bogart, and an endless list of Hollywood Royalty from that generation.
To other genres of photography, Kevin Kubota inspires my wedding photography.
GlamModelz Magazine: What would you consider your personal preference, location or studio and why? Don: I enjoy both studio and location photography but if I had to choose I would easily go to location photography. Why? It’s because of the challenges and variables that each unique location or environment offers. Studio lighting takes skill, but once you have a set established you know what to expect from all the variables. Location shooting you have to react, be creative, and flexible to get the shots. I like that dynamic style of shooting. My style reflects that I think. I don’t like using tripods for portrait work because the dynamic, fluid action of a slight angle or perspective change can make or break a great shot in my opinion. That’s what location shooting does as well.
GlamModelz Magazine: What challenges do you face in this industry? What would you change about it, if you could? Don: As someone who makes a living doing photography full time, the biggest source of frustration are the multitude of amateur photographers posting essentially free photography on Craigslist. It’s really commoditized photography which is detrimental to photography in general.
What I try to do is educate potential clients via my blog to what good photography is. The only reason any of the “CL” photographers get traction is because people don’t have a perception of quality. Most of the work you see from CL photographers is very poor (there are exceptions of course). It really is a situation of “you get what you pay for”.
GlamModelz Magazine: What equipment is essential for you as a glamour photographer, to capture your “best shot”? Don: Light. Be it the sun, reflector(s), speedlights or moonlights, the light source is key. Also for me it’s my chair cushions that come along because I’m always either on my knees, lying on the ground, or sitting on my butt.
GlamModelz Magazine: Paid vs. TF* shoots – What are your views and preferences? Don: Trade shoots are great as long as it’s an equitable trade. The equity I bring is the photography, retouching, and visibility. The model’s equity needs to be not only her looks and talent, but her professionalism…meaning communication, punctuality, and reliability.
I do very few trade shoots. If I do it’s to try out a concept for an upcoming commercial shoot or something I specifically want to add to my portfolio. Paid is the best option as I’m trying to make a living doing this. My market is a huge trade market for glamour work so that’s a challenge.
GlamModelz Magazine: What are your goals for your photography? Other goals? Don: I have basically two goals for my photography: First, I want to create the absolute best product and art for every single client I work with.
Second, I want to continually improve my skills. I look at photography as a challenge that no one ever truly masters. When you strive to master it however, you get closer and closer and create ever-improving products.
GlamModelz Magazine: What qualities should Models/MUA’s/Stylists, etc have to work with you? Don: I think a good sense of humor is always a great place to start. I like to have a lighthearted set with interaction and lots of fun with free flowing ideas. I see the shot I want to accomplish in my head, but I’m more than willing to try anything that might get a better result. Another quality is flexibility. Certainly the physical attribute but specifically in this case the mental flexibility to not let distractions or interruptions kill the shoot. That leads me into patience and a strong work ethic. Although I mentioned that fun and humor is important, the professionalism to always realize that we’re there to do a job is critically important.
GlamModelz Magazine: What advice do you have for new/amateur photographers who want to shoot glamour? Don: One word…LEARN. Read, look through glamour magazines, attend workshops, do everything you can to give yourself a clear vision and the tools to achieve that vision for a glamour shoot.
Also make sure that your definition of “glamour” is consistent to what you want to achieve. Nudes, implied nudes, swimwear, lingerie, and fashion all have glamour elements. In other words…realize the context that you will be shooting glamour. The analogy I like to give is if someone asks you to draw a car, what do you draw? A convertible, a hatchback, a sedan, a coupe, a luxury, a sports car, etc. etc.. See what I mean? Without the proper context it’s hard to have a vision of what you’re trying to do.
GlamModelz Magazine: Tell us about your biggest accomplishment to date or what makes you most proud. Don: I think my biggest accomplishment in photography is the shear fact that I’ve been able to survive being a full time professional photographer! It was a frightening and exhilarating decision I made in 2008 to do this full time. Especially since the economy essentially tanked right at the time I decided to do this. It wasn’t quite as scary because I did have photography as a hobby business prior to 2008, but not having my main income source anymore scared me to sleepless nights! But, I’m surviving and feel like there’s momentum in a positive direction right now.
GlamModelz Magazine: What advice do you have for new models who want to shoot glamour? Don: First, hire a great photographer in your area to create art for you. First impressions are ever lasting so the first pictures someone sees of you should be the best possible. I know budgets are a problem for some aspiring models but be willing to offer sweat equity as payment or partial payment for shooting with a top photographer in your area. Be willing to assist on a few shoots or do hair and makeup if that’s what it takes to get that top work in your portfolio.
Second, be professional. Don’t flake out, always show up on time, be sober, timely communication, are all things that will indicate to the photographer that you are willing to work hard to get the art.
GlamModelz Magazine: In addition to photography, do you have other skills/interests/talents in which you excel? Don: I was a competitive clay target shooter (Trapshooting) for over half my life. Although I don’t have the time to do it now, I was considered to be the best in Idaho when I was in high school and was invited to Colorado Springs in 1980 to try out for the 1984 Olympic Trapshooting Team. Probably one of my biggest regrets as I turned it down because of a girlfriend. Ouch!
GlamModelz Magazine: What other interesting facts would you like GlamModelz readers to know about you? Don: I’m a huge animal lover! My absolute favorite model is my boy Tomo. He’s a Malamute and Wolf mix rescue dog from the Idaho Humane Society that came to me 9 years ago that is my absolute best friend! I champion animal rights and I live in a state that is absolutely last in animal rights legislation so it’s a source of frustration and satisfaction all at the same time.
GlamModelz Magazine: Do you go through any special rituals before or during a photoshoot ? Would this effect a new model’s first shoot, or all models and all shoots. Don: I never shave the day of a shoot so I’ll look a bit stubbly. Its just become a ritual for me ever since I had the best overall shoot of my life when I woke late, couldn’t take the time to shave, and got to my set out of breath. Since then I just don’t on the morning of a shoot.
GlamModelz Magazine: Where can we see more of your work? How can models who wish to shoot with you contact you? Don: You can find me at the following places: www.roninphoto-design.com www.roninphoto-design.com/blog www.modelmayhem.com/roninphotodesign www.facebook.com/RoninPhotoDesign http://twitter.com/#!/Ronin_Photo www.youtube.com/RoninPhotoDesign
Ronin Photo & Design
Photographer: Don, Ronin Photo & Design
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