The MISSBISH Photography Workshop | Paolo Azarraga

Photographer: Paolo Azarraga

Instagram: @paoloazarraga

Location: I'm based in Toronto, born in the Philippines. Toronto is where I built my foundation and will always be home. The music scene is amazing. There are so many emerging talented people in the city, I’m glad to have witnessed it and have been a part of its growth.

Style: My main focus on photography features fashion, beauty, and portraits. It's hard to say what my style of photography is. It changes for different clients and art directors I work with, in order to bring their vision to life. The creatives I shoot for myself are genuinely the ones I enjoy the most. I developed my style through imitation and constant research. Like Yohji said, “Start copying what you love. Copy copy copy copy. In the end of copy, you will find yourself.”

Equipment: Digital: I still use my old Canon 7D. Film: Canon A-1 and Mamiya 645 1000s. Lenses: Canon f/2.8L 24-70mm, Canon f/1.8 50mm STM, Canon f/1.8 85mm and Canon f2.0L 135mm. For post, I just use photoshop.

How did you get into photography? Tell us about your first experience.
I originally went to school for graphic design. After graduating, I interned as a designer for an online magazine, Inqmnd Magazine. I started becoming curious about photography based on the photos the creative director took. Eventually, my barber at the time sold me a camera and I started taking behind the scenes photos during shoots. I fell in love with photography instantly and started taking photos of anything and everything. I started a blog with my photos and not too long after, a clothing brand, Ransom, approached me to take photos of their shoes. I did it for free and the photo was later used as an ad in Sneaker Freaker magazine. I didn't know what I was doing, but they seemed to like it and so I gained experience. They gave me a shot and kept asking me to work with them on their lookbooks.

Photography is all about capturing that moment. What’s the secret?
There's no real secret. Just let life happen and snap away. Everyone looks at things in their own way. The more you take photos, the more you realize what you like and dislike. Just keep taking photos of the things you like.

“Keep practicing and never stop learning. Patience is key when trying to improve. The reason why you don't like your photos is that your skill set doesn't match your taste level, so keep studying."

Tell us the story behind one of the most memorable photos you’ve shot...
One of my most memorable photos was from a creative beauty shoot with make-up artist, Mila Victoria, titled Black Noise. It was my second beauty attempt, but first to use an agency model from Ford. I was still learning how to use studio lighting, but everything seemed to fall into place. It ended up being accepted by Photo Vogue. This shoot propelled me into building relationships and working closely with agencies.

What is a constant source of inspiration for you as a photographer?
I'm most inspired by photography from the '90s, movies, anime, my friends, and overall life experiences.

Who has been a great influence or mentor to you and what did you learn from them that you still carry with you today?
My friend, Greg Washington. He was the creative director at Inqmnd Magazine at the time and the only photographer I have assisted so far. He taught me the hustle and importance of following your passion -- I'm very thankful for that internship.

Tell us three photography tips.
1. Lighting is everything. Pay attention to where your shadows fall, it's what can make or break your photo.

2. Never say I'll fix it in Photoshop later. Fix everything in real life before taking a photo, you can only alter reality so much.

3. Keep practicing and never stop learning. Patience is key when trying to improve. The reason why you don't like your photos is that your skill set doesn't match your taste level, so keep studying.

Finish the sentence...
If I weren’t afraid I would... probably watch more scary movies.

I wouldn't be where I am today if... my friends didn't believe in me.

I've been listening to... Johnny Cinco's John Popi 2 Mixtape.

Kids these days... need to chill on wanting to become an "influencer."

I look and feel my best when... I wear black.

When no one is looking I... pick my nose or let one loose.

Traveling... to Hawaii was sick!

I respect... my mom. She raised me on her own. God bless you, ma!


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