Ken W has been working in the visual arts for over twenty years. He aims to create compelling work that excites and inspires. His photography has been displayed around the world and has generated extensive media interest. He has also received many awards in portrait photography including the prestigious yearly Photo Annual for Communications Arts.
Tell us a little about yourself and your photography.
I’m sort of modest, so I let the bio on the site and images speak for themselves, but I started with my own darkroom at eleven years old. I learned how to develop film and paper with an enlarger. I then took photo classes in high school and did real well. Later I got a conventional BA in history, but returned to photography after college and assisted many great shooters in LA. From there I started my own business and have been learning new things ever since.
Why did you start taking photos?
I started like anyone else – for fun. Professionally, photography mixes creativity and challenges one in a satisfying way. It’s always interesting to meet new people and help them with their careers. I also enjoy the artistic aspect of it all — creating something from nothing. This is what art is all about.
What is your secret when photographing portraits and headshots?
It’s a combination of the lighting, composition and the direction of expression. You communicate with the subject before and during the shoot. You guide them along, hoping to capture that spontaneous and real expression that is them walking through the door to that audition. The goal is that if they don’t get the gig, it’s not because of the headshots. It’s because of another factor, maybe they already found someone with that look, or are looking for a different type. Conversely, you hope the shots gets people excited and opens some doors.
How do you bring forward the character of a person?
It’s about just directing them in a thoughtful and intelligent manner. Hopefully, they see you are an artist like them and feel comfortable expressing who they are. It’s all about interesting and fluid communication between the two parties.
You work with some pretty famous people in LA. How are these people different than the rest of us?
They have more money! Just kidding. It’s another life being that famous – I cannot imagine it. Really, they are not that different, except for the breaks and then the lifestyle that ensures. At first, you may be a bit nervous with a celebrity, but later that passes.
What are some other photographic projects you enjoy working on?
Fine art and personal work. Even more than commercial work, you have to keep shooting for yourself or you die like a stagnant shark who is not moving anymore. This is not a career one should choose for the money, hence, a great photographer should be shooting more for personal work than commercial work. That’s just my opinion though.
What kind of a camera and lenses do you primarily use and how do you select your equipment?
Canon for the 35mm cameras, and I just got Profoto D1 kits for lighting. Canon had the edge over Nikon when digital came out, so I switched to Canon and have not looked back. I just bought several Profoto kits for light as their selection of modifiers looks dazzling, and I look forward to testing a lot of their equipment out.
Can you name some tips for those who want to start taking photos of people?
Assist many photographers who do what you do. Read a ton of books from the library on photography and ask questions of the people who work in the photo stores too. Read blogs, websites, there is a great deal of into out there now. And keep shooting and working.
Thanks Ken for giving us a peak into your world at the edge of celebrity
Check out Ken’s wonderful photography at his sites: