No Fuss Photography with Dani Diamond
We finally had the chance to sit down and have a chat to the inspirational and laid-back photographer Dani Diamond. He enjoys tea, a lot, and eats tons of candy and chips. One of the most important things he’s done for himself, to be a better person, is sharing everything he knows about photography and retouching.
Man of many talents
The people in Dani Diamond’s hometown don’t actually know him for his photography; they know him as so much more. After being a hairstylist for 9 years he now dabbles in carpentry and electronics among other things. He enjoys fixing and building and is constantly working on his house. Photography was really just one of those “Let me buy a camera and see how it works out” kind of scenarios. So after putting lots of time and effort into learning more about photography it lead to becoming a full time job.
Music for the people
Anyone that has worked with Dani knows that he can’t work without music. He loves music so much that he will even go as far as carrying along a speaker when shooting in the streets! Whether he’s in studio, on location or working in his own space retouching photos, there has to be music. A while back he started a group on Facebook called Epic Remixes for Retouching where a bunch of photographers would share the music they like to listen to, while retouching. He specifically likes Chillstep, a more relaxed version of Dubstep and adds, “because if you listen to Dubstep for more than half an hour your brain can turn into tunafish”.
When asked how his preference for natural light photography came about he answered, “It’s very simple, just like most photographers who use natural light he found that strobes were really complicated to learn, expensive and worst of all, heavy to drag around in the streets and to have people wait for you to set up your lights.” But since he wanted to create amazing images for which you need amazing light, it forced him to learn what times of the day is best for shooting, where to go to shoot and how the sun works, reflecting off different objects. For example how the sun bounces off a white ‘van’ is like having a big source of light, so he’ll then use the light reflecting off the ‘van’ to light his subjects. Over time he learned how to use light well, creating photographs that people can’t really tell if he used strobes or natural light, which he would say is his goal. “I use the environment to create amazing light.”
I Shoot To Edit
The world knows Dani for his astonishing skill at retouching and in the earlier days he used his photography mainly for his retouching, meaning that without his photography he would have nothing to retouch. He’d go out and shoot just to come home and edit, “it was all about the editing” but as time went on, he kind of evolved to where he now shoots images that he is pretty much happy with, without retouching. Photography allows him to go outside, get fresh air and meet new people.
Even though certain aspects has changed, to this day he still wants to run around in the streets, wearing a t-shirt that says ‘I shoot to edit’. He really loves editing; being able to go home, sit in his space with no one around him, just his music and going into his own world. “I can be at my computer but be at any part of the world I want and I love that.” Continuing that you can’t have one without the other.
Dani thinks that this generation that is starting out with photography is really lucky, when he started out there weren’t nearly as much recourses as there are available today. It took him 3 to 4 years to master what he’s doing now. He describes his tutorials as very specific, teaching people how to use natural light and retouching with a specific workflow to allow the user to create work very similar to his own. He promised himself that if there ever comes a day that people care to know how he does what he does, he will be an open book and share everything he knows.
Not about the Gear
Not very interested in the technicalities of photography, he prefers to keep things simple and wrote an article on Fstoppers, 30 Mind Blowing Images taken with Entry Level Gear. He encourages people to go out and take photos with whatever gear you have available.
The Business of Photography
In the past, Dani has studied up on makeup techniques that have contributed to the way he retouches his photography. When we asked him what other complimenting professions he thinks would be good to study up on he quickly, without hesitation replied, “Business”. He states that going to business school was the key factor that helped turn what he does into a career. “You have to know how to market yourself” and having a background in business, was able to apply it to his photography.
Plan B – Artificial Light
Since he’s started out in photography, he has invested a lot of time and money into artificial light stating that he has a “whole arsenal” of strobes and modifiers. When shooting for big fashion houses everything is indoors and you have to know how to use strobes, you can’t give the excuse that you only shoot natural light. “When natural light works I use it, if it doesn’t work you have to be able to pull out strobes and know how to use them.
Learn wherever you can…
There is a little bit that he has taken from a few different photographers when it came to developing his style. From Sean Archer he learned how to shape light and to pose models. He has learned a lot of his retouching from Scott Kelby and Michael Woloszynowicz. How to connect with people and make them feel comfortable he learned from Peter Hurley and the amazing results you can get by blurring the background from Amanda Diaz’s earlier work. He also mentioned that you can find a lot of amazing photographers on 500px and suggests we read his article Top 48 Photographers to Follow on 500px.
When we asked him if he has made plans to come to South Africa he said that although he has no plans yet, he would really like to come and visit. Hope he does that soon…
“You have to find what speaks to you. It’s okay to look at other artists work and get inspired but I don’t think that it’s healthy for a person to just go and imitate another person’s art. The most successful artists out there came up with their own unique, signature look and I think that it’s one of the most important things”