Location: workshop in Calgary, AB
Please tell us your name, age (if you wish), and where you are from. When did you start shooting, did you go to school for photography, and what made you choose to start photographing?
I'm Rex Szeto, born in Hong Kong, and have been living in Calgary for over 25 years. Whatever age you guess, just add 5 to it. I'm a software consultant by trade, photography was self-taught. I've had a passion for shooting landscape and nature whenever I'm outdoor/traveling since forever, and loved trying to make my images pop with simple editing. It wasn't until September of 2019 that I began my journey into portrait editing and shooting. (Yes, I started looking into retouch & editing first before shooting, lol.) I was fascinated with the ability to bring portraits to life and changing the mood through the use of colour & lighting.
What would you call your photography style, who has influenced your photography the most and what is your favourite type of photography to shoot?
There're still a lot of things for me to learn and improve on, so my style is continually evolving. For now, I lean towards a soft and sensual vibe, with warmer tones.
There have been a lot of amazing photographers who have influenced my work, but I owe it all to the one who first inspired me to start in portrait work - Alex Miller (@liquidverve). Her work with composites and use of colours was (and still is) super impressive. I picked up a lot of helpful things from what she shared.
Despite what you see in my work, I actually love shooting sunrises. I am NOT a morning person at all, but when I travel to somewhere with a killer morning view, I'm up before dawn, hoping for the perfect cloud conditions.
Do you recall the first photo you snapped that made you think that you really had what it takes to be the photographer you are today? What compelled you to continue on the path you are on, and which direction do you plan to take your career in?
Haha, I remember looking through the photos from the first shoot I did with a friend and thought "shit, 90% of these are blurry". I picked 3 good shots to edit and it took me over a week to get it to a point where I was happy with it, but I loved every minute of it! That feeling of accomplishment and being able to see the before/after took over, and it became a creative outlet for me. I just kept pushing myself to learn and improve because I enjoyed it so much. Happy to say I no longer take 90% blurry photos (just 89%) nor need a full week to edit one photo
Back to the first questions, the "photographer I am today" is still learning and exploring, and "what it takes" is just the drive to not stop. So in that sense, I knew I'd love it from the first snap.
As to which direction I plan on taking my photography. Aside from running my own brand/business, I would love to combine my two favourite things, travel and shoot.
What does photography mean to you? What is the most rewarding part of being a photographer and is there anything you find difficult about this profession?
Photography started as a creative outlet for me. It has since then also evolved into a way for me to showcase art and beauty, and to connect with so many talented individuals in the community! I love to be able to provide my own unique perspective and style to create something that clients/others enjoy and find captivating. There's nothing more rewarding than seeing others value my work and are proud to show it off.
There are definitely challenges with being a male photographer in the boudoir/glamour space, and I totally understand why, so it's important for me to set a professional standard for myself and stick to it.
Different photographers have different influences, which might not necessarily be other photographers. Is there anyone, directly or indirectly connected to you, that inspires your art? Also can you list your favourite photographers with their instagram handles.
My parents didn't have an artistic background, but growing up, they've always supported my siblings and my creative side, whether it'd be music, crafts or drawing lessons. I'd like to think that they helped pave the way for me to do what I do today. It was actually really funny telling my parents when my first-ever boudoir shoot got published in a magazine. I was excited to tell them I got published, but didn't tell them what specifically it was for until the magazine arrived in the mail and I took it out, haha.
Favourite insta-tographers! These are the ones who have inspired my work in different ways when I first started. @liquidverve for her creative edits and use of colour theory. @jon.snip and his love for details. @sean_archer_photo, the definition of sensual portraits. @trungywin and his OG work with @marooshk. And @sasserstillsboudoir for setting a standard for male boudoir photographers.
How do you make your models feel comfortable and safe when shooting with you? What measures are necessary to take?
It comes down to being able to communicate professionally and being respectful at all times.
With everyone I work with, models or not, I discuss the plan prior to the shoot so we're both on the same page. Creating moodboards definitely helps if it's a concept I want to try out. It's important to stick to that plan and not change it during the shoot.
If it's an implied/boudoir shoot, I find out what they are looking for and what they are comfortable with, then let them know how they can prepare for the shoot / what to expect if they're new to being in front of the camera.
During the shoot, it helps to break the ice, have fun, get to know the model, but keep it professional and not too personal. The last and most important philosophy I have when it comes to shooting is that there is never a need to touch the models. I use visual cues and verbal directions to guide them. If there are any adjustments needed related to clothing or on their body, I let them know and they can fix it themselves. There are rare occasions where I would ask permission to get something out of their hair.
Note for Models - Ask for references from the models the photographer have worked with or someone in the community. Ask to bring your best hype-woman/man along, be safe and have fun!
What advice would you give to an individual starting out in photography?
Be consistent in every aspect, celebrate those small victories, and don't forget to be a decent human being!
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