Thank you, Orlando, for all your availability for this interview! Could you start by presenting yourself to our readers?
Hey everyone! I first would like to thank Fuji X Passion Mag for reaching out to me for this interview! My name is Orlando Asson. I was born and raised in Greer, South Carolina. I’m currently living in Brooklyn, New York. I’ve been shooting for about 10 years now and I’ve been a Fuji shooter ever since the release of the X100T.
When did you first become interested in photography, and what was your first camera?
I grew up skateboarding pretty much my whole life. I feel like skaters naturally gravitate towards film and photography because they want to start capturing footage of their progress. I think my first camera was a Sony Cyber-shot. I mostly used it to film skate tricks.
Scrolling through your Instagram, there’s an obvious point when you were doing a little bit of everything — a lot of street photography, for instance — and you started focusing on portraits, which we dare to say it’s your strongest approach. What led you to this? Was it a voluntary choice?
Ever since I moved to NYC, I usually start the new year only shooting black and white (and more recently square format) with my X100V. It feels like a reset from any outside influences that I may have unintentionally incorporated in my work. It helps me focus on the light and shadows in my compositions. I think the influx of street photography at the beginning of this year was because of COVID.
Once I figured it was safe enough to shoot portraits again, I decided to reach out to a few of my friends for some impromptu shoots. Around the same time, I was also commissioned for a few other shoots and the next thing you know, I went back to mostly shooting portraits.
Do you consider it essential to focus on just one genre to make significant progress on our photography skills?
No way! I enjoy shooting and studying different types of photography. I take the inspiration as it comes. If I have a connection with a moment in time, I’ll try to shoot it. I think bouncing around between different styles makes everything fresh when you revisit something old again.
Another genre might push your eye to see something different. Street is sometimes difficult for me because you have to recognize patterns that feel nonexistent or sometimes you’ll only have a split second to shoot something cool and you miss the opportunity.
We noticed that you shoot mostly using natural light in outdoor locations. What tips can you share with our readers about the use of natural light, making the most of it, and in the most flattering way possible for the models?
I’d say try shooting in all types of natural light. You have to go out and experience it all. Next thing you know, you’ll start realizing your favorite type of light to shoot in.
When I shoot a model in natural light, I like to study how the light reacts to their face in-between shots. This helps me find my favourite angles of them and how the light shapes their face. I think a good tip for sunny days is to position the sun behind the subject without shooting into the sun.
This helps soften the shadow on their face and you can shoot them against a dark background wall to help make them pop with the edge light. When it’s a cloudy out, you have more leeway on how you position your model to the sun since the shadows are more forgiving.
What about the locations? Do you have a close relationship with your city/neighbourhood since the streets seem to be one of your favourite places to shoot?
Sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t. I don’t really like seeing the same thing over and over because you can become blind to what’s around you. When I’m shooting with someone new I usually like to go to their area and see what it looks like. When I’m in a new environment, I’m keener to what catches my eye.
You currently shoot with the X-H1 and the X100V. What led you to choose the Fuji system and how do you choose what camera to use on different occasions?
For a while, I was only shooting on my iPhone back in South Carolina. It helped me focus on composition and less on the type of camera. There would be times I would find myself not being able to capture it as a DSLR would, but I didn’t want to haul around my Canon 7D all the time.
I needed a nice in-between that was just as good. The X100T caught my eye and I had read so many good things from Fuji’s predecessors. The fact I can take this camera everywhere without thinking twice made it an essential! Fast forward to now, I take my X100V everywhere I go. It’s a sad day when I leave it at home. In some situations, I would choose my X-H1 over my X100V.
If I was going out to an event, I would throw on my XF 16mm f/1.4 R WR and run with that. If I’m going for an intimate portrait session where I can slow down and shoot, I’d throw on my Mitakon Speedmaster 35mm F/0.95. Either way, I’d probably still have my X100V around my neck, even when I shoot with other cameras.
What is your current favourite portrait lens?
My fav portrait lens right now is my Mitakon Speedmaster 35mm F/0.95. I know most wouldn’t consider this as a portrait lens but this is my medium format fix for not having a Pentax 67. I’m able to get some incredible portraits with this fast lens. The DOF is very shallow. I’m also able to get some full-body separation as well for that “medium format” feel. This lens is slow to shoot with and hard to focus at times but when you’re spot on, it’s perfect!
What software do you use to process your images? Could you briefly describe your workflow?
When I first started shooting portraits, I was shooting raw and learning Photoshop so I used to over process my photos for the desired look. Nowadays, I’m usually shooting jpeg only on my X100V. I like to keep my process pretty simple. Pro Neg is my new fav besides the infamous Classic Chroma. After that, I’ll usually send it to my phone to tweak it further.
“My name is Orlando Asson, I’m a photographer born and raised in Greer, SC. Currently located in Brooklyn, NY. I started shooting photos after I graduated from Greenville Technical College. Majoring in Graphic Design, I also work studied in Photo 1 developing B&W 35mm film. As a Creative Content Producer, I work on the post-production side of advertising where I shoot, edit, and motion design for various brands across social, broadcast, and experiential content. Photography has been my passion outside of work for the past 10 years. I’m especially interested in portraits, street, documentary, and skateboarding photography.”