Paul Aylett’s regular contributions to the Phottix group on flickr of romantically infused portraits have been catching our eye. After being featured in last week’s journal we asked Aylett to reveal the stories behind his photos in today’s Q&A. With a focus on people and capturing moments of emotion and dramatizing them in his stills Aylett discusses how he strikes a carefully crafted artistic tone.
Name: Paul Aylett
Country of residence: Hong Kong
Brief Bio:I was born in England and came to Hong Kong in 1996 on a two year contract for a British plc consumer electronics company. I’ve been here ever since.
How did you first get interested in photography?
My father was a keen photographer. When I was 6 or 7 he bought me a self assembly pin hole camera for Christmas, itcame with a developer kit and that was pretty much my first camera. It wasn’t until my mid to late teens when he gave me his SLR (a Konica FT-1) and a couple of lenses that I really started to getseriously interested.
What do you like to shoot?
My real love is portraiture, I rarely shoot anything else.
What’s your approach to photography, your philosophy? What do you look for?
I try wherever possible to do something a little different with each shoot because it can be quite repetitive otherwise. I always like to start with an idea or concept that can be worked on and developed so the finished shot isn’t just another portrait. For me, that’s the real challenge; finding a little twist or idea that makes the end result a bit different to what I did last time.
How do you set-up a shot?
Ideally, I like know exactly what the finished product will look like in my own mind beforehand, down to the smallest detail: hair, make up, jewelry, wardrobe, even the colour of the nail polish(!) and of course, most importantly, the lighting, pose and the essence or mood I’m trying to capture. If we (the model and I) can figure all of that out before I pick up the camera then it’s actually quite easy because we’re both working on the same script and it’s just a matter of small tweaks and fine tuning. If I use a ‘turn up and let’s see what happens’ approach then invariably it’s hard work and the results are average. In fact, if people come to me and ask for a shoot without at least some vague idea as to what they want then I am more likely to refuse. I’d only make an exception if they have a very unique look that I think will work with an idea I already have but have yet to actually shoot.
What is the best photo you have taken?
I won’t use the term ‘best’ because that’s not for me to say but a personal favourite is probably this photo of Elle in a baroque style.
Why? Background and details, please…
It’s my homage to Michelangelo Caravagio who is my favourite artist. His use of dramatic light and colour has long fascinated me but it was the absolutely brilliant ‘Chiarascuro’ Caravaggio series by Diver & Aguilar that really prompted me to do this. Elle and I worked on it for a week or so and she did an amazing job with the hair, wardrobe and accessories. I can’t stress how much it helps to be able to work with a model who can not only pre-visualize the shot but also actively contribute ideas and help develop the concept.
What gear are you using?
I’m not a big collector. I use a Nikon D300 and a bunch of speedlights. I have half a dozen lenses but really only use a couple most of the time; an old 35-70 2.8 and a 80-200 2.8. My only real extravagance was investing in PocketWizard TT5 triggers but I wish I hadn’t, that was a big mistake, I find them as troublesome as they are expensive. In terms of lighting I pretty much use Phottix modifiers exclusively now, the 60cm Easy-Folder Softbox Deluxe with grid and mask is my go-to softbox at the moment because you can get several different looks with the one box so it’s very versatile, competitively priced too. I post process on an iMac with Lightroom and CS5.
What else do you want to buy?
I’m seriously thinking about some Phottix Odins *cough*, I’ve heard they are excellent!
Which area of photography would you like to explore further (macro, landscapes, portraits)?
I don’t really have any great desire to look at other areas of photography, at least for now.
Where do you see your photography 5 years from now?
There’s no master plan. I hope I can improve, continue to find inspiration and find interesting people to collaborate with. If I could just do that I would be very happy.
What’s the best advice you would give to fellow photographers?
1. Understand that it’s not the camera that makes a photo great.
2. Shoot fully manual until it becomes second nature.
3. Find an area of photography that you love and focus on that.
4. Have fun doing it.
Where can we find your images?