Inspirational Photography from Benjamin Von Wong

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If you’ve never seen the work of Benjamin Von Wong before, you’re in for a treat. In another nicely edited, short video from the popular Cooperative of Photography, Von Wong proves that you don’t need expensive equipment or a huge studio to create incredible images…

Cool huh?

My Take On It

My newsletter readers know that I like to learn something from every situation. I’m told I have an unusual take on things. So here goes:

When I first started out in photography I blamed my environment for my poor photographic skills: “I don’t have a studio” or “I don’t own a good enough camera”. (And I know many people today who still make that excuse.)

If Von Wong had met me back then I suspect he’d have called me out on my attitude. He’d have told me that it’s not your equipment, it’s your head!

Today I agree with that.

What I noticed in that video is how Von Wong wasn’t limited by his environment. He made his environment. Simple lighting, pretty standard equipment and a head full of ideas made some beautiful images.

Environment

The studio in which the UV images and flour shots were taken looked pretty small to me. It could be the back room of the local church or community center. You could hire a room that size somewhere in your local area for a donation or a promise to take some photos for an upcoming charity event.

Equipment

You could easily and cheaply replicate Von Wong’s use of a highlighter pen and a blacklight to create a stunning UV portrait. In terms of photographic technique, there’s very little to it: a blacklight and (probably) a UV (blocking) filter over the lens. (Most DSLRs have these built-in but using your own to be sure the UV light doesn’t affect the image is a good idea.)

Generating Ideas

Don’t worry that what you shoot has been done before—the flour idea has been done dozens of times before by the likes of Steve Richard and others.

Just because someone else has done it before shouldn’t stop you. Artists have been ‘inspired’ by others for centuries. There are countless examples of photographers and artists producing images that have very strong similarities with previous works.

The important thing is that you put your ‘take’ on it. Your models will be different. Your set-up will be different. Your lighting will be different.

By all means use other people’s photography as an inspiration. So long as what you’re doing isn’t a blatant copy that you then claim to be your own idea, you’re following a long tradition.

You’ll learn from every shoot. You’ll improve your photography with everything you try that’s different to what you’ve done before.

The Key Factor

What makes Von Wong’s photography amazing is his mind not his equipment.

Okay, you do need to have a little inside knowledge:

  • Who knew that coffee creamer* can be used to create explosive fire effects?
  • And all it takes to make realistic rain is a hose with some shower roses. (Notice as well the simplicity of the lighting in those shots).
But where does creativity come from?

I suspect that Von Wong has a huge number of interests and knows a lot of people. Or maybe he just spends a lot of time on YouTube. Whatever his research methods, he knows a lot of cool stuff.

If you’ve ever been SCUBA diving, as a photographer, didn’t you always want to put people down there and take their portraits? Because this guy knew about free diving, he was able to do this—with stunning results.

The Take Aways

It’s important to have broad interests. You never know when something you know because of another hobby or interest is going to be applicable to your photography. Feed your creative mind by absorbing everything you can (including the fact that coffee creamer is explosive!).

Lighting doesn’t have to be complex. Equipment doesn’t have to be expensive. All you need is a blank sheet of paper (or your mind’s eye) and a few ideas to get you started. Then go out and practice.

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*By-the-way: quite a lot of common powders, when suspended in air, are flammable. Be careful out there!


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