Process 074 ☼ Trust Your Instinct + Other Advice
GIVEAWAY: A Mystery Bag of Fresh & Expired Film from my fridge
In this week’s letter I share some pieces of foundational advice with an extra emphasis on the benefits of trusting your instincts.
This week’s PROCESS GIVEAWAY comes to you from the coldest place in my home. That’s right, with film being impossible to find most places I am sharing a mystery bag of 35mm film from my freezer, some of it fresh and some of it expired, including some rare stuff. For subscribers only.
I recently opened up a limited number of mentor session slots for the current quarter. Since they were snapped the same day and it seems there is more of a need I created a waiting list for when I have more time towards the end of the year. If you’d like to be on the list just email me with the subject line “Mentor Session Waitlist”. Read more about how a mentor sessions work here, they’re all customized to your needs.
Below is a picture from a recent session with photographer Jop Verheijen who had this to say about the experience:
“During the mentorship session Wesley helped me to clarify my goals and give me the direction I needed to proceed with my project. Wesley’s knowledge and his creative choices really opened up possibilities I hadn’t thought about before. The session was effective because of the process Wesley follows and super fun since you can learn from him in a really hands-on way.”
Trust Your Gut, Use Your Voice
A few weeks ago I had a great experience taking press photos to support the release of What’s Left?, a documentary by directors Juul op den Kamp and Johan Fretz, and producer Anne van der Ven.
The shoot was set in the same historic building where the documentary was to have its premiere later that week. I arrived early to scout for the best location. Juul had sent me some of their favorite images from my portrait portfolio the day before so I knew what vibe we were going for: bright and professional, with an editorial feel.
Press photos are a particular niche because generally they exist right in between an editorial portrait and a headshot. Not quite as artistic and narrative as the former, but also not as straightforward and clinical as the latter.
Producer Anne was already on site so I took her along to take some test shots and evaluate the light in various parts of the building and get close to our creative brief. These are some of the ones in the area that had the type of light that felt safest.
There is nothing wrong with these images. They’re perfectly nice and clean and safe and would do the job of a “normal” press shot. But…they were a bit boring and not particularly my style or aesthetic. At the time, I pushed those thoughts out of my mind because when you’re working for a client it’s not about you but about their needs.
Once co-director Juul arrived I showed her the test images and thankfully she was of the same opinion. Effective and nice, but could be more exciting and cinematic. That’s when I told her about a less traditional location I spotted earlier but had dismissed as probably too artsy for today. I showed her a scouting snap on the back of my camera:
Juul loved it and we decided to nix the “safe” location and go for the artsy cinematic one. In hindsight I should have trusted my instinct and presented the staircase location first as it’s so much more alligned with the aesthetic of my work as well as Juul’s. I could’ve kept the “safe” location as a second suggestion and let the team pick.
We started off with Juul’s solo shots. The sunlight streaming in through the window was perfectly placed to isolate and highlight Juul’s expression and present her as the confident, professional, and creative director that she is.
Up next was producer Anne who, despite not being used to being in front of a camera, did a great job. Juul took the behind-the-scenes snap on the right with her phone.
Up next was co-director Johan whose main creative output over the last ten years has been the written word as a journalist, and performance theatre. We brought out some slightly more moody artsy GQ vibes for these shots to best reflect that.
Up next was the co-director’s duo press shot, see below.
Since the main purpose of the group shot would be presentational I took a different direction with the light and presented it in a brighter and more optimistic way.
The shoot was a lot of fun and the final results have been rolled out to the media as part of interviews and reviews of the doc, including in the Vara Gids, see below.
As a bonus, here are two other test shots from when Anne and I were scouting the place. The light was too harsh for Anne to keep her eyes open properly and the vibe is not quite press pic appropriate but they’re still lovely personal portraits.
This shoot was a great reminder to trust and lead with my instinct. This is easy to do with self-assigned personal projects, but when working in service of a client it can be easy to temporarily forget we are hired for our vision and experience. My experience told me that the staircase location would result in a more original and impactful press photo, but I still showed the “safe” option first. Thankfully Juul also has good taste and it all worked out perfectly.
Below are some more pieces of advice. Please share it with anyone who needs it.
Advice From Readers To Their Younger Self
Some months ago I asked the Process community what photography advice they would give their younger selves and here are five of my favorite answers.
Take More Photos — You build your eye by taking photos. You can look over the things that you did and decide what you like and what you don't like. The only way to learn is to experiment and try new things! — M. Michon
Let Go — Let go of expectations and know that every image you take will surprise and delight you at some point in time because your perception of what's “good” or “bad” evolves just like you. " — Carolina Mariana Rodriguez
It’s A Marathon — Don't get discouraged by not being an expert within a year. Or two. Or three! Also, don't believe your own hype. The photos in your first few years are not as good as you think, so stay humble. You need to learn how to speak the language before you will be able to write full sentences and paragraphs. The best projects will be the ones you put the time into, so be prepared for years long endeavours. Keep working on your own projects and don't be swayed by fads and trends. — Jeremy Bryant
Be Bold — Be bold in the moment. There are so many photos I can see clearly in my head that I regret not taking over the years. Moments when I talked myself out of approaching an interesting stranger, or lazily watched a perfect strip of light vanish before my eyes. With a camera and intention to document, one can be bold. — Ashley Garrels
Make Original Mistakes — Try to make the mistakes no one else is making. Experimentation is the best way to discover a style of your own. — Trey Duplain
That’s it for this week!
Next Week: The launch of my new portfolio website!! I am so excited to share it with you after many weeks of hard work and great help from friends.
Keep shooting and take good care of yourselves and others.
PS Dutch-speaking readers of Process can watch the documentary “What’s Left” on NPO2.
This week’s prize is a mystery bag of amazing fresh and expired 35mm film from my own freezer. I have collected a lot of amazing and unusual film over the years and this week I’ll share some of the wealth, including some rare film.
To enter this Giveaway visit the Process Flip page and answer this question:
Who are your three favorite photographers, ever? And why, for each.
For example, my answer is: Mary Ellen Mark, Richard Avedon, and Gordon Park. I’ll mention the reasons why in the video I’ll upload to the Flip page myself.
ENTER THIS WEEK’S GIVEAWAY HERE before 11pm EST on September 10th.
The winner will be randomly drawn. This giveaway is for Process subscribers only.
Major shout out to the team over at Flip for partnering with Process.
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