Divergent thinker…  Charles Hildreth

Charles Hildreth, having majored in Journalism & News Editor at the University of Colorado felt his transition to photographer was a natural evolution due to his love of storytelling.  He’s a strong believer that art is subjective and has never had the desire to sit in a room and chat about camera logistics and ratios.  He simply let’s his work and the emotion that generates from his photographs speak for themselves.

After hours of reading up about him and studying his work we asked him 10 questions and he was eager to answer.

Dark photo of a girl standing in front of a window with beautiful bokeh in the background

Photo Credit – Charles Hildreth

1)  You have stated that you are an observer of beautiful light; so, understanding light and shadow and using it your advantage is critical.  How would you describe beautiful light?

Beautiful light is subjective.  I feel the golden hour light is the most flattering, but you don’t have to wait until it appears to fully utilize it.  There are plenty of ways with a wide-open lens to take advantage of it during any time of the day.  I prefer shooting in a busy downtown area with high-rise buildings, so I can search for where the shadows are the weakest, and where the light is the most even – especially over the shoulder of the subject.  I used to blow out a lot of the backgrounds on my images having a wide-open aperture, but now I am more conscious of having a full image.  Some people would shame me for constantly using a shallow depth of field, but to my critics, I never thought of myself as a photographer’s photographer.  I hope my photos have a story within them, even if its a simple portrait.

2) You majored in Journalism, how did you transition from writer to photographer?  Was it just a natural progression because of your love of art?  Telling a story using a different medium…?

I think the journalistic side of writing made the journalistic transition into photography a natural one.  It allowed me to remove myself from many of my early images and capture whatever the natural scene was.  That’s why I love shooting wedding photography, everything is set up, now I have to tell a story of the day and this couple’s love for each other.  I can let the events unfold and capture genuine moments happening rather than staging a model against a backdrop and asking her to create an emotion for the image.

Photo of a girl sitting on a bathroom counter

Photo Credit – Charles Hildreth

Photo of a girl staring at light coming in from a window

Photo Credit – Charles Hildreth

3)  Harsh light is a common problem with Natural Light Photography, any other problems you have encountered throughout your career?  Do you have any tips or tricks on how to overcome those issues?

It’s true, harsh light can be troublesome in an image.  I like to make sure I have enough stops to try and retrieve some of that blown out light (maybe from a mid-afternoon window, or field) by combining RAW images with a 2 stop difference.  I have a way of masking I was taught early on in my career that allows me to do so without the result looking forced.  My biggest challenge is always getting reception lighting the way I want it to look, as each venue differs.  That’s part of the fun of photography though, no single setting will take every photo.  I like the thrill of overcoming the harshest overhead light to the darkest indoor light through the day of weddings.  Though, nothing will ever take the place of wandering around and taking natural portraits of people, for me.

4)  Please tell us a bit more about your thoughts on Natural Light Photography as well as the Post-Production thereof.

Most of the times I feel like I shoot photos just so I can post process.  I love Photoshop.  I actually had a job in Hollywood working in post-production of movies and found most of it translated from what I do in photography.  I think learning both helped me shape the vision for how I see the batch process in post production of photography.  It’s helped me to keep my files organised, backed up, and all having a similar look to them as I continually try new color combinations.  I feel that no matter how subtle the post-process is on an image it is 100% essential to the success of the image.  That’s where the photographer gets to add their own personal touch to an image.  Whether its burning/dodging in a dark room or just finding that nice balance in Photoshop, its what makes a photographer stand out in this world full of them.

Photograph of a red head girl with green foliage in the background

Photo Credit – Charles Hildreth

5)  You’ve mentioned before that you are not a photographer’s photographer, and that you don’t want to be confined to one particular craft.  Are there any fresh projects in your future/ Any seemingly ridiculous dreams?

Honestly, my only ridiculous dream right now is creating a large scale collectible card and board game.  I’ve been working on it this last year and have hand-cut over 300 cards to play test among a small play group locally.  I love all type of gaming and it has always been one of my dreams to create one.  Alongside that, I’m in a few voice-acting and acting classes, because eventually I’d love to try my hand in acting on screen, or doing voice overs.  Acting has always been an early dream of mine and I even dabbled in on-stage Whose Line Is it Anyway style improv comedy.

6)  Describe your life as an atypical photographer in 5 words or less.

Your personality is the portrait.

Photo of a girl with long blond hair and a red tank top

Photo Credit – Charles Hildreth

7)  Summers and freshly cut grass go together like braai and good beer;  we can truly resonate with those fond childhood memories of yours.  What would you say is a memory that defines the artist you are today?

I feel like that memory is way before I even picked up a camera.  It really has to do with my imagination and my childhood as a whole.  I was always exploring and playing make-believe roles with friends.  As I got older, this desire to visit fantasy worlds through literature or art never ceased.  I watched thousands of movies in my youth, trying to study the way people acted, the composition of scenes and so forth.  I even dabbled in music lessons and stage acting briefly before I realized I could channel all this through one medium: photography.  The next step is making the transition into movie making, but that is not on the horizon this year.

Photo of a girl with long dark hair in an alley

Photo Credit – Charles Hildreth

Photograph of a girl in nature

Photo Credit – Charles Hildreth

8)  It is strange how some memories are so much clearer compared to others.  If you could go back in time and take a photo of one special memory, can you explain to us what the photo would look and feel like?

My first real portrait session was one I had to be sneaky with.  My grandmother, who was in her 70s at the time, was asking me about my day while she stood across her dining area in the kitchen.  She raised me in that room, cooking homemade everything for my Grandfather and I.  I loved the way the light came in from a window behind her while she stood in a contemplative pose on her own.  I placed my camera body on the kitchen table, but her vision was poor enough to not know what I was doing.  I had to cough after each loud shutter and I only snapped 10 photos.  I managed to capture one where the frame was in a perfect thirds alignment, framing her in the kitchen she loved.  After I had the photo, I knew I had captured something I will be able to remember my whole childhood and her with.  I thought to myself, if I can do that on accident, how can I do this for people to capture the same memories of their life when I’m actually trying?  I’ve always wanted to offer a service that was more about the people in their environment.  I made an attempt to do that for a couple of families who let me into their home, but I find more people feel better outdoors, in a field or park, to capture their family moments.

Black and white photo of Charles

Photo Credit – Charles Hildreth

9)  Changing schools can be very difficult whether you are a young free-spirited child or a shy, scared teenager.  What did you learn from changing schools that have influenced you in life and especially your career?

It taught me to survive among different groups of people.  It strengthened my social skills, trying to adapt to the world, and how to view myself within it.  High school was a real identity struggle, which is common, and it wasn’t until later in my 20’s that I found my confidence, a voice even, through photography.  It finally made me feel like I knew what I was supposed to do in this world, something I could do fairly well, even if I was just making it up as I went along.  It allowed me to take everything I learned about trying to please people and make them laugh to create friendships, into a dynamic I can utilize to capture genuine portraits of people.  People feel at ease around me, I’ve noticed.  I also like to dabble in bar-tending on the side for the constant interaction with new personalities.

Portrait of a girl with short blond hair

Photo Credit – Charles Hildreth

Photo of a girl with red hair in nature

Photo Credit – Charles Hildreth

10)  Have you ever thought of visiting South Africa?

I have thought about it!  I’ve been to several countries in Europe.  South Africa looks like an amazing place to visit.

Photo of a girl with short dark hair and beautiful blue/green eyes

Photo Credit – Charles Hildreth