The work of Zach Alan has caught my eye for a long time on Facebook. After trawling through selfies, pictures of peoples dinner and photos of cats, it’s always nice to see one of Zach’s eye catching images to pop up.
DIYP: Tell us a little of how you got into photography, and who your influences are?
ZS: I began shooting professionally about five years ago, after working various soul-sucking jobs in my twenties I realized that I needed to pursue a life where my job is something that is truly fulfilling to me, and something that I truly valued putting my time into. My influences at the moment are Reuben Wu, who creates stunningly lit nightscapes with a drone and medium format gear, and Mark Fearnley, who creates beautiful ultra contrasty B&W street photography in the UK.
DIYP: Your light painting photos are amazing! Did you start out shooting like this or was it a style that evolved over time?
ZS: Thanks Clinton! This was definitely a style developed over time. I started off doing night time cityscape photography, and eventually moved on to light painting large abandoned industrial spaces with simple tools like cheap speedlites and the small LEDs on a cell phone’s flash. Ultimately I began incorporating models into my photography after seeing the beautiful work of Eric Paré, who later became a great friend.
DIYP: What tools do you use to create your light painting images?
ZS: One of the great things about light painting is the sheer amount of everyday objects you can use to create. I’ve used everything from bottle caps and clear plastic tubes all the way up to expensive programmable LED sticks. Primarily I use a home made wood and cotton torch for my work with fire, and a wide range of tools made by Light Painting Brushes, a company here in the US that makes tools tailored specifically to light painting.
DIYP: For anyone starting out with the desire to create images like yourself, what advice would you give them about finding inspiration?
ZS: Instagram and other social networks can be a huge resource for people starting out in this genre. Most light painters I know are very friendly and willing to share tips about how they create. Simple hashtag searches can yield a huge amount of various styles and techniques!
DIYP: How important is Photoshop in your workflow after the shoot?
ZS: Photoshop is a hugely important part of my workflow, and I think it helps to set my work apart from other light painters. I start off by using the curves tool to enhance contrast in various parts of the image in order to bolster my composition, then I move on to the color grading and touch ups.
DIYP: What other genres do you like to shoot, if any?
ZS: I really enjoy shooting landscapes and portraits. Landscapes are important because I’d say that 90% of what makes a good environmental light painting is where you place your subject within the greater composition of the landscape.
DIYP: Out of all your projects, which had the most impact on your life?
ZS: I recently completed a shoot for a major league soccer team here in Houston, light painting unique portraits for all of the star players. Being able to bring the team’s marketing campaign to life by creating a set of images that captured the players in action using light painting was a really rewarding experience.
DIYP: If you were only allowed to give one essential piece of advice to a beginner, what would it be?
ZS: Don’t be afraid to experiment. The absolute best way to learn is to do it yourself and really learn the mechanics of what you’re trying to do. I am frequently asked what camera settings I use, which is probably the least relevant part of the overall image. So much of light painting is planning, precision, and muscle memory.
DIYP: What cool projects do you have lined up for 2018?
ZS: I’ve got a few concepts I’m working on at the moment which I plan to have finished by the end of the summer. One is using a drone to film a time lapse light painting from the air, and the other is a series of environmental light paintings using a simple mirror.
DIYP: Where would you like to see yourself in 10 years time?
ZS: My ultimate goal is to have my own studio and full time staff. For now it’s just me, Juli, and a couple of flash lights.