David Jaan – I See People

Photography aside, David has more of a fascination with natural light that serves as the impetus for him to click the shutter. Focusing on portraiture, he captures the most honest and intimate moments of his subjects through a minimalistic approach. Check out his witty interview below.    

Say hello to David:

david jaan

Where are you from? Where have you been?

I’m from Buffalo, New York and have resided here my whole life. There’s a geographical misconception that New York State is made up of only NYC, however, there’s 7 hours of driving distance in between and we feature a slight Canadian accent.  

How did your love affair with light begin?

It’s a bit of an odd point where it happened. I was photographing my parents’ house they were selling, which was also where I grew up. I’m not sure if it was because I hadn’t been in the house for a while or I was seeing things differently now that I was into photography, but I stepped into one of the rooms and it hit me. The way the light was coming in through the windows and shaping the room with heavy shadows from the wood walls just made so much sense to my eyes. I immediately scheduled  a shoot in there before they sold, and it became the main turning point which guided me into what I do with my portraits.

How and when did your love affair with light begin

How would you describe your visual style?


Tell us about your career.  How did you get into it?

I was handed a camera and asked if I wanted to use it. I used it. I never knew I had an interest in photography until that moment. I even wonder sometimes if it hadn’t happened that way, if I’d have become a photographer at all.

What types of photography do you do?

Portraits. People are everything for me in a photograph.

What was the moment you decided to become a photographer?

I don’t think there was one. It was an unexpected intrigue that somehow built itself into a huge part of who I am.

What has been your biggest setback as a photographer?

Self doubt. I’m pretty sure every creative is faced with this at some point, but it’s an ongoing experience for me.

What are your favorite three photos you’ve taken?

1 david jaan
I always come back to this shot in my portfolio. There’s so many details I love about it. The expression, the connection, the details such as the hand on the ground. It’s also because the shoot involved constant laughter, which was an interesting parallel to this shot. I had met her once before for an unrelated shoot, but the connection in the shot suggests an antique familiarity.

2 david jaan
Each time I approach a shoot, I’m striving to make it my best yet. This image is from an unreleased set (at the time of writing this) and it’s my current favorite. As with most everyone I work with, it’s a person’s first time doing a shoot like this or their first time in front of a camera. This shot was of the latter. Again, the connection, expression, and small details make it for me.

3 david jaan
I also shoot weddings, which many people don’t know. A few months ago, the two worlds collided in studio for a bridal shoot which brought about this image. The lighting, pose, dress, and setting draw me to this shot. It’s also great to put yourself in a different head space from time to time to reignite creativity.

What’s the best advice you can think of for someone just starting in photography?

Shoot, shoot, and shoot some more. The comparison of my first portrait to my latest is laughable. However, the differences and improvements weren’t learned in a lecture or studying other photographer’s work, it was by getting out and creating.

best advice

What is the best thing a model can do to make the most of a photoshoot?

Move and be confident. So many times, I’ve gotten a shot because a person will be moving from one position to another. A good confident flow is everything.

best thing

If you could photograph anyone in the world, who would it be?

I’m currently binging on Downton Abbey and what I wouldn’t give to do a portrait session with Maggie Smith.

What’s your philosophy when it comes to being a great photographer?

Keep it minimal and keep it honest.


What’s a deal breaker for you when deciding to do a shoot?

If it’s not true to what I set out to convey with my images, chances are I’ll pass. I pass on those shoots not only because it isn’t what I do, but it wouldn’t be the best execution for their vision.

How do you bring out your model’s personality in a shoot?

Their personality completely drives a shoot. After spending the time shooting and getting to know each person, I can look at the images and definitively say “That’s them.” It’s not a blatant thing, but more of an underlying tone.

How do you express yourself through your photography?

Through the realness of it all. When I put myself out there, it’s an accurate depiction of who I am, and that’s what I hope to represent with the images I create.

What’s the most inspiring photo you’ve ever seen?

most inspiring
This shot by Ryan Muirhead which I feel needs no explanation.

What photography advice do you wish you had when you were first starting out?

To get closer. I spent so much time shooting long lenses when I started that I missed so much intimacy.

What are 3 tips you have for aspiring photographers?

Shoot. Explore yourself. Explore others.

What are 3 tips you have for aspiring models?

Be confident. Be reliable. Make suggestions, not demands.

What kind of gear do you have?

My favorite combination is the Nikon D750 and 50mm f1.8 with guest appearances from the 35mm and 85mm f1.8. Everything else is provided by the sun and occasionally a large reflector.

What’s one lighting tip you’d like to share with other photographers?

Chase it. Photography is nothing without light and the biggest improvement with images is using it in really spectacular ways. Challenge yourself through using different types from soft, even light to harsh, direct light. Learn how each affects the subject and the right way to handle all scenarios.

lighting tip

lighting tip 2

What’s one post-processing tip you’d like to share with other photographers?

Consistency! It’s always an odd thing to look through a portfolio and see several different editing styles.

Do you have any projects you’d like to show off?

I’ve recently begun doing video projects: https://vimeo.com/davidjaan

What has photography done for you as a person?  How has it changed you?

It has ruined movies for me. I spend more time contemplating how they lit a scene instead of following the plot.

What’s something no one knows about you that you’d like to share?

I cried at the end of White Fang. Hard.

Who’s your biggest hero in your life?

Anyone who can quote Kenny Fisher.

For anyone that wants to get in touch with David, here’s some contact information:

FStop: Profile

Website: davidjaan.com

Instagram: @david_jaan

Thank you so much for the interview, David! We are big fans of your work!

If any artists out there want to collaborate with FStop, don’t hesitate to reach out to us.

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