Kirk Mastin is the founder of Mastin Labs, an innovative company that – through their love of analog film – made really accurate film emulations for Lightroom and Photoshop, and even for iPhones through Filmborn.
He’s a well known Seattle based photographer, that has shot for both The LA Times, The New York Times and National Geographics
Kirk Mastin’s philosophy is to treat your photography (and especially your equipment) like a Bonsai tree. Take away everything that is unnecessary or unimportant. Only use the absolute necessary equipment for you, and learn how to use it well.
I got very inspired by Kirk. For a long time I’ve scaled down my equipment, in both size and quantity. Kirk just put words to what I already was doing and gave me motivation to push further.
Do you know which question photographers get all the time and most of us hate?
“What a nice camera you have! Does it take good pictures?”
I’m not going to judge you, if you find yourself guilty of asking that question sometime in the past, but from now on – please don’t!
Well, consider asking a chef, “What a nice stove you have. Does it make really good food?”
My point is that it doesn’t really matter what camera you own. It’s all about what you see and how well you capture what you feel. The photographer create the image, not the camera.
The camera is just a tool. The single most important thing for the final image is the photographer’s vision, personality and skills. Personally, I want as little equipment as possible, between me and the person I photograph. I thrive on all things authentic and I’m always look for the genuine. To do that I have to remove as many distracting elements as possible.
Another important thing Kirk teaches, is the importance of consistency. Whenever you look at work from photographers considered legendary, they all have one thing in common. No matter the genre.
You will recognize their images because they stand out, and will catch your eye among the millions of images we see every day.
How is that possible? What makes you immediately reconize as a picture created by Annie Leibovitz, Sally Mann or Richard Avedon? You just guessed it! Because they have a consistent style and doesn’t compromise.
Whatever the industry is telling you you should/have to do, is inherently meaningless. You should always do what your heart knows to be true. Never pretend to be someone you’re not. Always compare yourself to who you were yesterday, instead of comparing yourself to others.
All industries follow trends and photography is no exception. We all remember how anything green suddenly went grey a few years ago… or how cool it was to leave just one detail (like a red bouquet) in color, making the rest of the picture black and white… or (my personal favorite to hate) when every photographer would tell their couple to peek out behind a tree.
Anyway, trends never age well. It might be fun for a while, but if you’re being serious about growing as a photographer, you should ignore trends. Instead, find your own, consistent style and commit yourself to doing it well.
It was extremely interesting to listen to you at Way Up North in Cologne, and much of the things you shared stuck with me. Some of the things I think about and practise every day. I want you to know that you had great influence on my work and how I look at business today. I’m also very grateful that I got to know you on a personal level. That genuine connection is extremely important to me.
From the bottom of my heart, thank you Kirk!
Next time we meet, I will take your portrait “my way”. Deal?
Read part 1 here: Inspiration Is For Amateurs
Read part 2 here: A Wild Escape
Read part 3 here: Magic
Read part 4 here: Carmen & Ingo
Read part 5 here: Jai Long
Read part 6 here: J
Don’t have a ticket for the next Way Up North yet? You can find them here! (And no, I don’t get paid to say that, I say it because I want to see you there).