An Interview with Bound for Style’s Creative Director
Although he started off with a film camera many years ago, Bound for Style’s creative director Gemree Mangilit has come to embrace the advancements of digital photography. Fast forward to today, Gemree has earned years of valuable experience shooting fashion, conceptual, events, and even cosplays. Reflected in his work are his visions that are simultaneously striking yet believable.
Anyone these days can take photos with a camera and call themselves a photographer, but what makes them stand out? Gemree shares with us his thoughts onwhat makes a photographer an artist, the difficulties photographers face, and how he continually improves in his craft.
How does one become a Photographer?
By definition, a photographer is a person who takes photographs. In this very basic sense anyone with a camera and takes a picture can be considered the photographer of that photo. A photographer can be a hobbyist, someone who does it for fun. He or she could also be a professional, someone who does it for a living. I think the more important aspect of being a photographer is, when does the photographer become an artist?
For me all good photographers have the same characteristic: they all have a vision. Before clicking that shutter button, a good photographer already has some outline in his mind on how the final output will be. What’s the lighting going to be? What pose is captured? What mood will it convey?
The true measure of a photographer being an artist is control, even in cases where something unexpected happens. For example, when a studio lacks the equipment you need or when the location doesn’t cooperate, a skilled and passionate photographer will still be able to control the situation so that the final output will still bear his artistic vision. A good photograph, in most cases, is created not taken.
What makes the good picture stand out from the average?
In technical terms, it’s when the photo is lit properly, the composition and concept is good, the subject is in focus. These things are the basics. They are the necessities of having a good photo, image quality-wise.
However, we also have to consider that photography is also art. A good picture does its intended purpose. It serves its purpose. If it’s a catalogue/product picture, it should display the product well. If it’s a beauty shot it should convey beauty in the finest and most realistic way possible. When it’s a portrait, it must show the character of the person being photographed.
I’m not a believer of the popular quote “Shoot to express, not to impress.” That’s a very selfish way of putting photography. Photography is a shared art, specially nowadays with social media. The more you stir up the emotions of the audience, the more meaning the pictures have for them. When you shoot to impress, you put the viewer’s appreciation in the back of your mind. You should want them to be happy or at least satisfied with your output. This is very important when doing photography professionally. The success of a photo lies in the photographer being able to carry out his unique vision, meet the photo’s intended use, and stir up the viewers’ emotions.
What kind of tools do you use for post-processing? Explain your work flow.
Before, I used Lightroom exclusively because I didn’t have photoshop then. That was a blessing in a sense because I was able to maximize what Lightroom has to offer. Now I use Capture One to process my RAW files. First I process the raw files to extract as much detail and dynamic range as possible, then open either the TIFF or DNG file on photoshop.
On photoshop, I start with removing blemishes while retaining texture. Then I do dodge and burn to even out skin tone. I then adjust the contrast and saturation. Only after that do I do the tedious process of color grading a photo, taking into consideration the colors of the clothes, objects, and environment. It has to have color harmony.The last thing I do is to slightly sharpen the image, but only if needed.
What is the influence of digital technology on your photography?
I was able to experience using film for a while before I was able to own a DSLR. Digital technology makes a lot of things quicker and more convenient, the process of learning included. When you use a DSLR, you can immediately see the output as displayed on the LCD screen. It’s free. On the other hand, for film you would have to buy a film roll everytime you want to shoot something, then you have to spend extra for the film development before you can see your output.
Digital technology makes photography more accessible to people, as you won’t have to spend everytime you want to take a photo. With regards to post-processing, you have more control, as you don’t let other people “develop” the photo for you. You do it on your computer with a digital dark room software like Lightroom or Capture One. A photographer will be very hands on with turning his vision into reality from start to finish.
Digital or not, it’s the person behind the camera that matters most.
How do you educate yourself to take better pictures?
I read almost everything photography-related. I guess that comes with my love of learning! I watch Youtube videos, read online articles, and download tutorials if Youtube doesn’t have what I’m looking for. I also buy books every once in a while.
Among your works, which one is your favorite? Why?
I don’t have a single favorite photo. I love all of them in different ways.
What do you want your viewers to take away from your work?
That good photography just doesn’t happen. It is a process of creation. And that what you shoot is equally as important as how you shoot it.
Whose work has influenced you most?
I don’t have a single influence, there’s too many to mention. Being a fan of many local and international photographers and retouchers, I take aspects I think I can apply and combine it with another. One benefit of that is flexibility and variety. I’m not bogged down with one single look.
What is the one thing you wish you knew when you started taking photos?
Starting at the very bottom is very tough, a lot of people will only pretend to support you. You just need to hang in there long enough and keep pushing your skills to know the difference of people who truly support your passion. Stick with those who share your artistic vision as much as possible.
What is the most challenging part about being a photographer for you?
Getting the respect of those who are in the same industry is hard. Just to get skilled HMUAs and stylists to collaborate with you can be challenging. Even if you produce good output, a lot of people will still put more importance in the name or buzz you generate.
If the impression you give is that you’re well connected, then people are more likely to take notice of you. You have to have at least a feel of how it is to market yourself. Good connections earned through sheer hardwork and excellent output is not instant, it really takes time to have a snowball effect.