Interviews & Conversations: Michal Garcia – Photographer, Musician

I connected with Michal Garcia straight away. He’s a lively character and an impressive photographer & music professional from Texas, now in Hong Kong.

We met at the Creative Live workshop with Jasmine Star in August and he was helping out in the chat rooms, behind the scenes lending a hand and taking portraits of the Creative Live team throughout the 5 days (and nights).

We spoke several times about shooting, set ups, lighting and the strobist work we both enjoy doing. At times I felt I was interviewing Michal as I had so many questions and intrigued by his style and passion for photography.

I kept in touch with Michal after Creative Live and conveyed that feeling to him too and asked if I could actually interview him on my blog and share it with others. He was as excited as I was and a week later, here we have it!

Thank you Michal for taking the time to respond to my questions and sharing your knowledge with others.

Interview: Michal Garcia – Photographer, Musician

Portrait by Jing Jiang

Q. It was great to meet you at the Creative Live workshop with Jasmine Star. Can you tell us a bit more about yourself, what bought you to Seattle and what kind of photography you shoot?

I shoot music photography and atmospheric portraits, usually on location rather than in a studio. Chase Jarvis Inc. flew me over to Seattle from Hong Kong (I live in Asia) because I won a contest they hosted for an innovative book Chase published titled “The best camera is the one that’s with you.”

Big shoutout and thanks to Chase and his amazing team Kate, Scott, Dartanyon, Erik, Mikal, Jerard and Norton for that opportunity.

I spent a few weeks on the West Coast with them and also visiting friends and collaborating with various artists in Portland and San Francisco and on my way out, Sachin and I met at the Creative Live workshop with Jasmine Star and we instantly gelled.

Q.  You are also a musician as well as a photographer. What inspires you in both and how do these two complement each other and inspire you? Which musicians and photographers should we be checking out..?

Please note that some of the links below are NSFW (note safe for work)

I am also a music professional, working in both photography and music in various capacities. These two areas exercise the same part of the brain and the business-side is very similar when dealing with clients. I am inspired by a few musical characters and image-makers. Some good people you should check out musically are:
Visually, the music-video work of Chris Cunningham is extremely inspiring especially on Porthead’s “Only You.”
I actually had a very similar shoot concept before ever watching this video, but as Chase Jarvis would urge folks, you need to go out and shoot even if you don’t have the fancy cameras and underwater shooting tanks or a post-processing budget & expertise like Superfad. There’s real value just to getting out there and making images happen.
-Also check out visually:
The list is endless but I must include the high-concept portraits of Aimee Mullins by Howard Schatz.

Q. You have some great fashion photography on your website. Can you describe a typical shoot, set up, gear etc and how you plan and execute a shoot? Can you explain the lighting in this shot…

-I work in many different scenarios, sometimes with a lot of gear (studio strobes, pocketwizards, softboxes, an assistant), and other times with minimum gear. As I was shooting images for the New York Winter Jazz Fest this past January I was also hired to take these series of shots in Central Park at dusk. As Central Park isn’t the most secure of locations and the weather was bitterly cold, I opted to shoot with a minimum of gear.

-The above image was taken at an aperture of f2.8, 1/30th of a second, ISO 1600 at 33mm on a 16-35mm lens, Canon 5D body bouncing the 580exII flash off a nearby tree above me. This gives a flattering “Rembrandt” lighting style, while the slow shutterspeed enabled the skyline to shine through more.  The only enhancement to the image was a +1 exposure (on Photoshop’s Camera RAW) and +5 on the blacks, no image manipulation otherwise.

Q. I mainly shoot weddings and portraiture. Have you ever shot a wedding before and what was your experience.

I have shot two weddings and they were both Indian weddings. One was in Dallas, Texas and the other was in New Jersey (Indian bride, Japanese groom) overlooking New York. I had my most American moment the day of the latter wedding: I was coming from a balcony where I had been shooting a few peripheral images and caught a glimpse of the statue of liberty, and traditional Indian music began to play.

I really felt such a proud and loving feeling at that moment because in an instant I fully understood and embraced the beauty of what the United States stands for – the multicultural and eclectic nature of it; the love toward people from all nations in a very real and manifested way.

Q. What advice do you have and can share for up and coming photographers?

If you are new to photography, here are my top 5 tips for you:

-1. Never buy a kit lens. Instead buy a prime lens (fixed focal length) and let your feet be the zoom (Walk!). You’ll save money and automatically be much more creative
2. For learning, look no further than the blogs of Vincent Laforet, Chase Jarvis, The John Greengo Photography show (on American Itunes) and
3. Use a lens hood or throw it away, don’t put it on backwards. That coffee-cup holder type thing that fits on the end of your lens helps guard against lens flare and when used incorrectly, it inhibits optimal use of your camera. It also looks way cooler when you put it the right way around.
4. If in doubt, don’t buy more gear. Invest in your skills and take time to do personal work.
5. If you’re going into the business of photography (and even if you’re not), don’t study photography at a formal school.
Go get some interesting experience in the world, study anything else (including business) and come at the subject in a non-reflexive way. That means you should bring something new into the world from your vision. It’s too easy to fall into the trap of melding yourself into another photographer’s style or simply geeking out on camera gear.

Q.. Can you share an image you have shot recently that you love and that you can share with us?

I’d like to leave you with an image I shot in Portland, Oregon during my meeting-Chase-Jarvis-&-friends-in-Seattle trip. The image is a portrait of Laura Trimmell, a visual artist who designs for Nike and does crafts and screenprinting at The Pull.

– The image is shot against the sun, blowing out the sky and maximizing lens flare, thus giving the image a more chemically processed vintage look. Sometimes the imperfect is perfect. Note her hands are cutoff in a way that’s not very rule-of-thirds friendly. So what. It looks cool, and Laura loves it.

-Thank you!

Thanks Michal for sharing so much with us!

You can see Michal Garcia’s blog here and contact him via email: michalgarcia [@] gmail [.] com


By the way, I’ll soon be interviewing others, including the awesome London based photographers Fabiana & Carlo Nicora of The Round Peg. Stay tuned …

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  • Photobyneil - Thanks for sharing useful outline on your blog. one thing sure have I learned in photography, is fewer the gear creative you get, above all you have less gear to lug around.

  • A busy past few weeks .. Vancouver, Seattle & London | Sachin | Khona - […] a new website, changing the format of my blog, adding different elements to my blog (such as Interviews and Conversations) and trying to develop a style that is consistent and true to what I want to achieve with regards […]

  • simonj1970 - Sach, if you go for another 50mm, check out the Sigma f1.4, it's so much nicer than Canon or Nikon's versions. Big and heavy, but the bokeh is so smooth and creamy! I did hear of some AF issues on Canon bodies though…

    I'd be interested in hearing your views on your Sigma 70-200mm sometime if you got the chance, I just can't afford a Nikon one.

  • Audrey Smit - Thanks for sharing Sachin, loved the article! I too wished I took more time to connect with Michal and pick his brain more….so thanks for sharing with all of us so we can all benefit from your conversation.

  • Laura Trimmell - I like what you said about not needing a ton of camera gear. I think your creativity will take you way further than equipment. The same is to be said about buying fancy software.

  • sachinkhona - Can I come to HK when you go?… I would love to visit/shoot there!!

  • sachinkhona - Thanks Victoria! How awesome was the chat in the cafe after Billy & Laura's wedding?

    Michal is definitely very humble!… Wanted to re-live that talk again somehow…

  • sachinkhona - Definitely, I agree… I've wanted to buy a better prime lens than the 50mm 1.8 for so long, but I love it so much and there's a lot that can be done with that lens.

    I think the next purchase will be a prime wider lens…

    Great tip!

  • Ajay - great interview!
    the advice on buying (or not buying) gear is spot on. it's an easy trap to fall into.

  • Victoria de Martigny - What a GREAT blog entry Sachin! After our late-night drinks with Michal at the Red Door in Seattle, I too, wished I had been picking his brains more throughout the week. He is such a wonderful photographer – and so humble and willing to share his knowledge & experience. Bummer that Hong Kong is so far away… but thanks for bringing Michal a little closer with this interview :-)

  • Kenna Klosterman - awesome interview Sachin & Michal! i had a ball spending time with Michal behind the scenes for the creativeLIVE Jasmine Star workshop, while joining Sachin on camera at times too. Michal's work is stunning and he is SUPER down to earth. I hope to visit Hong Kong some time and I know I'll be seeing Sachin again in the Pac NW! cheers boys.

  • Interviews & Conversations: Michal Garcia – Photographer, Musician … | Musician Gear Finder - […] Go here to read the rest: Interviews & Conversations: Michal Garcia – Photographer, Musician … […]

  • Nadine Burzler - Hey! I found this quite useful. Thank you.

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