Trying to pick the perfect time to start photography? There isn’t one. Danny here, impressively, is still in high school, but has developed his skills from bringing his camera around as a hobby. Check out his story below.
Say hello to Danny:
Where are you from? Where have you been?
I was born and raised in Gainesville, Florida, but my parents both immigrated from South Korea to pursue their college education in the U.S.
I haven’t been to too many places, but some of my larger trips were to California and New York in the U.S. and to Canada. Other than those, I haven’t been able to visit too many places mainly due to my age, but you can bet I will definitely going to travel a lot in the future.
What’s on your “bucket list” of ideas to create?
I would love to work with a fashion magazine or collaborate with clothing brands in campaigns since I am interested in fashion.
How would you describe your visual style?
It’s definitely on the brighter side with lots of white spots and a little overexposure. I also love integrating elements of nature into my photos.
How do you find your inspiration?
I don’t really go into a shoot knowing exactly what I’m going for. I get inspired through the environment and work with the things around me. It’s always fun to bounce ideas off of the model and such too.
Do you get photographer’s block? If so, how do you overcome that?
I just start shooting even if I don’t like how the photos look. Starting to shoot starts the spark of ideas for me as I think of things to adjust with the photos that I am working with.
What types of photography do you do?
I guess I could label myself as a portrait photographer, but even that title seems unfitting. I would’ve never guessed that I would go into portrait photography even five months ago. I originally started loving to shoot during my family travels and enjoyed taking photos in cities with the whole urban look. I occasionally brought my camera to school for larger functions to take photos of my fellow classmates and such. But only couple months back did I start bringing my camera to school every day and that was the transition period in which I slowly grew to taking and loving portraits. And now, I think a photo lacks something when there is no person in the frame. I would love to go back to doing more landscape/city photography because I think there is a lot of value in doing something that I am not the most comfortable with. It could push me out of my comfort zone and encourage me to try techniques I have never used before and would’ve never known about if I haven’t tried doing a different type of photography.
What has been your biggest setback as a photographer?
I guess it would be having my name tied to the word “photographer”. Sometimes that’s all people see in you. Yes, it’s great and I am very grateful in having so many people know and love my photography, but I often wish that friends would also see me as just a normal person and not associate me with being “the photographer” and always being there to capture their moments.
I think this goes with anyone with any talent. We all feel like we were sometimes not associated with the talent we have and not known as “the girl who plays tennis well” or “that boy who’s good at math”. I might be exaggerating a bit, but I feel it’s there.
Photography is competitive. How do you stand out?
A distinct style. I am still trying to figure this one out as I am not completely sure of my style. However, I don’t think a photographer needs to immediately start to think about “standing out”, but instead focus on taking photos and editing how they like to ( – whether it is inspired by another photographer or not). Trying different styles and even mimicking styles of other photographers will eventually lead you to your own style as you pick out certain elements from the different techniques and styles of other photographers.
What’s the best advice you can think of for someone just starting in photography?
So many people worry because they don’t have a nice camera or equipment, but I think you shouldn’t wait until the day you can buy a nice camera. Just start shooting! We all have smartphones today and the cameras on phones are perfect for getting started. For those new to the photography game – I think you should start off with photo composition which does not require any professional equipment. And just keep shooting wherever you go because you will constantly run into different obstacles which will force you to try different compositions.
What is the best thing a model can do to make the most of a photoshoot?
I find it really helpful for the models to bounce ideas back and forth with me. Often, the model suggests a pose that helps me get started on some foundation and I can think of other following poses. And being relaxed and just having fun in the shoot is the best. It creates a great, positive vibe throughout the shoot and both the model and I feel motivated.
How do you bring out your model’s personality in a shoot?
It’s always the small talks. Getting to know the model a little before shooting and asking what they did that day. It makes the model more comfortable and the photographer-model relationship turns into just a friendship, making the model more comfortable and naturally, the personality is planted in the photos.
What do you think is the biggest thing holding you back in your photography?
I think especially with social media and the Internet, it’s seeing other photographers doing really well. It often distracts me from the sole purpose of enjoying photography and just putting out what I like instead of trying to put out what “people on social media would like”. I often focus on getting “likes” or a good “following”. Yes, those are nice, but I think it’s more important to prioritize your personal enjoyment and just doing your own thing. The “followers” and “likes” will come naturally with your confidence and enjoyment in the photography you produce. People will appreciate your work for what it is.
What photography advice do you wish you had when you were first starting out?
I wish I had known sooner that reaching out to models should be something that no photographer should hold back on. Don’t hold back because the model might “reject” you. I thought that getting models was something difficult and a larger process when it is something much more simpler ( – especially with great social media apps). I was amazed by the openness in so many people that I would have only known through the steps I took for my photography business.
Do you have any projects you’d like to show off?
I would love others to see the photos I have taken at my high school. I took my camera to school one day and thought it would make me more comfortable shooting people (as I was not at the start of that time) and it would be great for my Instagram/portfolio with a variety of people and backgrounds. It resulted in something much more. This “idea” I had basically turned me into a portrait photographer, I heard so many positive comments from people throughout the two months I brought the camera to school, and it got me to interact with many people that I would’ve never interacted with if it hadn’t been for my photography. Shooting and editing photos every single day also helped me somewhat develop a style in my photography. This school series has been the main reason that has brought me to where I am today and has helped me gain confidence in my photography and portraits.
What is your most life-changing event?
It was actually last summer when I went to UC Berkeley for a Journalism/Mass Communications camp. It might sound a little confusing, but I will attempt to explain:
Before I went to this camp my “world” was basically school. My view was that I should be friends with people at school and hang out with them and try to get close with people at school. My life was centered around school and the people at school: I thought I had to work myself into this environment and try to “fit in”. I had quite a hard time as I was not the most social person and I would never be the first to start up a conversation.
However, everything changed at this camp where I met people from all over the country. They were all students my age and we all had one thing in common: no one knew each other. This foundation allowed me to try being more social and amazingly, I slowly grew more comfortable starting conversations with the person next to me. And I was even able to make friends that I felt more comfortable being around then my fellow classmates at school back home.
This camp changed my view. After that summer, I realized that school is not everything and that there is a whole world out there with plenty of people who have the same interest/passions as me. I don’t necessarily need to try forcing myself to “fit in” with the people at my school but I can relax and focus on leading my own life because life does not end outside of school but it continues. And there are plenty of people out there who would like my for who I am without me trying to be a different person.
With this kind of mindset I was able to create the photography club at my school (www.facebook.com/thephotographiccommunity/) and start my own photography business too.
What has photography done for you as a person? How has it changed you?
Photography has given me so much confidence in myself and has as a result led me to meet many great people just over the last couple months whether models or other creators or people I already knew but have grown closer to through my photography. Photography has helped me break my wall of talking with strangers as it showed me how open so many people are and the great number of people who are willing to support me in what I love to do. Photography has also taught me to not think about what others think but to continue to pursue what I love to do and put out what I want to put out.
What’s something you’ve always wanted to do but haven’t?
I would love to travel with a buddy ( – I don’t think I know who that is yet, nor does that buddy) in the future and not make any specific plans, but just enjoy the world. If we feel like going to Dubai, we go to Dubai or, if we feel like driving on the West Coast of California, we hop into a car and start the journey. And of course, I would document all the beautiful things and people we see or meet along the way.
For anyone that wants to get in touch with Danny, here’s some contact information:
Danny, we are really glad you entered our photo contest and thank you for sharing your story!