Monday, June 27, 2011

Featured Photographer: Stephen Dantzig

Models: Angelika Marr, Tasha Johnson, and Kaitlyn Metcalf
Main Photographer: Steve Dantzig, Assistant Photographers: Orlando Benedicto and Chris Ward
Swimsuits by Blue Nalu, Wardrobe Stylist: Jane Metcalf of JAM Designs

I decided to do a little Q&A with Stephen Dantzig, whom I have worked with on multiple shoots before, and he was one of the first photographers I ever worked with when I first entered the business. I chose him, because he has a vast amount of knowledge that I feel is so valuable, especially for us makeup artists, so I picked his brain a bit =) Steve is a lighting expert, and literally, I mean expert! He has taught a lot of other photographers I have worked with also, and he even has his own School of Photography here in Hawaii!

How long have you been a professional photographer?

I have had a camera in my hands for over 40 years and started formally photographing people as a sophomore in high school in 1978 (sheesh, I sound old!) I opened Stephen Dantzig Photography in 1993.

What type of camera do you use? A favorite brand?

Oooh! The "Brand Question!" I actually enjoy watching the Canon vs Nikon debates. I think they are funny. I own and have used cameras from Olympus (my first digital cameras), Nikon and Canon. I am a bit of a nut--I own at least twelve cameras! I am now shooting Canon with an adapter that allows me to use my old Bronica medium format lenses. It is an amazing combination. I switched from Nikon because Canon took a big lead when it came to shooting HD Video. Nikon caught up quickly, so now it just a matter of how the camera feels in your hand. I don't see any difference in quality. I personally like where the controls are on the Canons.

What is the best part of your job? Worst part?

I love to create images! A new image exist the second that you push the shutter! I have some physical limitations and fine motor activity is not my best area. Photography has provided an outlet that allows me to create art--whether it is a beauty headshot or a beautiful landscape. The worst part? Hmmm...sometimes post-production can be a drag. Every digital image needs some post-production work. Sometimes it is a simple color correction while other times you are working on an image for hours...but can also be part of the creative process. Photography is a very competitive field, so finding consistent work that will pay the mortgage can be tough.

Where do you get your inspiration from?

How much time do we have?!!! I don't have any particular photographer that I look to for inspiration. I just enjoy images and I'll often see a photograph that I really love and it will spark some ideas. There are so many amazing photographers out there all doing different things. I credit a guy in Los Angeles for pushing me beyond my comfort zone. Harry was helping me in the studio and I was shooting "comfortable" work. He kept asking "Great, but what if...?" There is a guy I met through the Hawaii Photo Forums who is doing some amazing HDR landscapes. I might not necessarily want to do go out and recreate Kenway's look, but I sure enjoy his daily FB posts. My late mentor Bill Higgins also pushed and pushed me some more in my "early days." Sometimes I'll get ideas while teaching a class. I never know.

Why did you decide to start the School of Photography and when?

Good question. I truly did not set out to write books and articles. It's too long of a story to tell here, but the writing aspect just fell into my lap. I started to teach seminars about 14 years ago while working and living in Los Angeles. The irony is that I actually learned much more about photography once I started writing and teaching. Hawaii School of Photography seems like a natural progression. June 1st was the first anniversary of the school. It is a small school geared for the recreational photographer and/or people who want to improve their commercial skills. It is open to the public and we have classes from very basic to advanced lighting techniques. There is no college affiliation--yet! I just started publishing a bi-monthly (or so) newsletter as well, so things are happening. It's exciting. Here are some links to my first three newsletters:

Why is lighting so important in a photoshoot? Do you prefer studio lighting or outdoor?

Light and lighting IS photography. You cannot "fix" bad lighting in post. The lighting is going to dictate the "look" of the image. I am a self-proclaimed lighting geek! There is an awful lot of physics and math involved with truly understanding how and why light does what it does. I was never a huge fan of science and math, but I love applying those principles to creating images. In fact, I think that a great deal of my creativity comes from manipulating those rules to get the image that I want. Studio and location each have there own set of unique challenges. The studio is an empty room when I arrive. I have all of my toys at my disposal so I can create anything I want. Outdoor shots are very different because you are dealing with a constant light source that is constantly changing. My job is to work with the many moods and colors of sunshine and manipulate that "given" light to make it work. The sun is an ugly light source for much of the day, so I need to find ways to soften it and make it a pretty light source. I then often need to bring in a studio strobe to add light to keep the foreground and background in balance. But, remember, I'm a lighting geek, so that's the fun part!

Favorite movie? Food? Music? (just a fun question!)

I don't get to the movies very often, but I'm pretty good at the Caddyshack Trivia Game! Food? I think it would be easier to list what I DON'T like! I am a living testament to that old "Seefood" joke: I see food I eat it! I am a product of the 70's so I mostly listen to what is now called Classic Rock" (ouch!). The Eagles are still my favorite band, but I also love Hawaiian music. Raiatea's voice is unbelievable and I enjoy the "older" music of Olomana. I could also listen to slack key all day!

Any tips for us makeup artists?

Make up artists are often the unsung heroes of a successful shoot. It is important for the photographer and the make up artist to communicate. The images will be much stronger if the make up and the lighting are in sync.
Link to Steve'g Blog:

Model: Samantha Chung Photographer: Steve Dantzig
Model: Yumi Photographer: Steve Dantzig


Steve Dantzig said...


I think I meant bi-weekly rather than bi-monthly for the newsletters!


Vulcan_Butterfly said...

Neat interview!