Shayne has been published in British Vogue, Vogue Italia, Vogue China, GQ Brazil, and has an incredible career in the world of photography. He has worked with Google, IKEA, YTV, TVO, Century 21 and many others. On top of all that, Shayne is an amazing instructor here at GTA Photography Classes! Shayne teaches Photo 301 and our brand new workshop, Off Camera Flash.
Here’s what Shayne had to say about his passion for photography!
When and how did you fall in love with photography?
It was a long process. In my family we always laugh because as a kid my mum made me stand somewhere to take photos. She was into photography and had a decent camera with a few lenses so it was one of those, “go stand by that tree and look longingly into the distance” things, which as you can imagine wasn’t my favourite at the time. It was handy that she had the camera though and I ended up taking classes in high school, although I stepped away from it for a while before coming back to it more seriously about 10 years ago or so. I started really getting into different things from light painting, wire wool spinning, crazy photoshop experiments, etc. and…I eventually discovered lights! Everything changed from there….
How would you define your photography style?
I always think it’s a compliment when people see a photograph of mine that looks serious at first glance (especially when it’s of me) and they see the humour in it. I love all things ridiculous and try to have a bit of fun with it. I’m also not afraid of shadows and in fact I think they’re wildly underrated! Any time we take a photo, we squish those 3 dimensions into only 2. Think about that: one whole third of your image just disappears! That means that where the shadows fall is just as important as where the actual light falls to give the illusion of three dimensionality to cheat that third dimension back in.
How did you become interested in commercial/conceptual photography?
I used to retouch high end hand bags like Gucci and Prada and so partly just through learning Photoshop. We really are limited to our own creativity! Also it occurred to me somewhere along the way that we’re all running around with pretty much the same gear. So the challenge is really…what are you going to say that’s any different than anyone else? I worked hard on creating concepts and always enjoyed coming up with challenging (and often ridiculous) new ideas for myself. At some point without really planning on any kind of a career in photography, much to my surprise people started to ask what I would charge for specific projects. I count myself very lucky to think that people hire me to play with photography and be creative in that way.
What was your most memorable photoshoot or photograph?
There really are so many and it’s been an amazing ticket into places I would never have seen, people I never would have met and otherwise so many crazy, fun and enriching experiences. I think the one that’s definitely gotten the most attention is the conceptual Canadian flag. It’s a funny one…compositionally it’s not great, but the main part is recognizable so I suppose that’s what hits the mark for people!
Which piece of gear (lens, tripod etc.) is your favourite?
Honestly I’m not sure I have any one piece of favourite gear, but I do keep a couple of pieces of hocus pocus in the camera bag – I like to shoot through things like even simple gels. I like the way the randomness of flare effects can turn out when you shoot into a light source or having a light source just out of frame. I’ve gotten heavily into video work the last few years and do it probably a lot more than photography these days. For that I love my gimbal! It’s become a really popular tool but it’s not hard to see why – they’re so much smaller than ever before and the quality really is great. I have to say I love my drone as well.
What’s your next photography purchase?
This one always gets me because the marketing is always so good! I have to resist the urge to just plain buy everything! I’m actually looking at some fancy higher quality video lights and modifiers that I’ll likely order this week. It’s an investment, but I think they’ll pay for themselves before too long so it’s all good.
What advice would you give to amateur photographers or anyone looking to get into wedding photography?
There’s always so much to say, but one of the big ones is not to worry about the gear you have so much and to use what you have. I often joke with GTA Photography students that nobody ever exclaims proudly, “I have a Rebel!” Instead I always get, “oh, I just have a Rebel.” The HUGE lesson for me has always been the number of absolutely astonishing images I’ve seen with a really great idea, solid execution and…a Rebel with a kit lens. The other part of that is that I’ve seen some very poor images from photographers boasting $30,000+ medium format gear! Honestly it’s not the paintbrush that makes the painter as they say. Use what you have and upgrade when you need to or when you outgrow your gear. If you’re learning lighting, buy one modifier and use it for a year to really learn it and then add to your collection instead of buying a whole pile of gear at once and not really understanding the subtleties of what it does.
What do you love about working at GTA Photography Camps?
This is going to sound really cliché, but before I heard everyone else say it I had already long since formed my own opinion that it’s honestly the people! Any time I met an instructor I hadn’t crossed paths with it was always the same and I think that’s probably strategic on GTA’s part. That definitely reflects in the atmosphere because the people that come to take classes with us are always amazing nice as well. It says a lot about the welcoming environment when I ask people which classes they’ve taken before and everyone pulls out a such a long list. I can genuinely say we honestly do have a lot of fun in class!
Just so we can find out a bit more about the person behind the lens, could you tell us…
Who is your favourite photographer past or present? Ooh, again so tricky! There are so many and even here in the city of Toronto there’s a ridiculous amount of talent, but I aside from often going back to some of the great masters, I really love Norwegian fashion photographer, Sølve Sundsbø. He always manages to top his own creativity.
If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be? Also hard to say. I lived in Europe for many years and did a lot of travelling then, although I’ve never entirely given up on the idea of moving back some day. Maybe even Berlin, but we’ll see. Maybe somewhere even warmer would be smart.
What’s your favourite movie? The question reminds of The Favorite that everyone’s raving about right now, so maybe I’ll have to circle back to answer this question. That said, one of the best told stories in the documentary category I would have to say is Searching for Sugarman, although I’m not sure I have an all-time fave.
What would you do if you won the lottery? The measure of living life with real purpose is to answer the question, “would you still do what you’re doing if you won the lottery” and as hokey as it may sound, I know I would still do photography/videography because I was already doing it with zero promise of a paycheque. I think I might combine the answer from the “if you could live anywhere in the world” question though and head somewhere warm to do it. I’d definitely miss Toronto though so maybe just for the winter.
What’s your favourite hobby outside of photography? I’m actually really nerdy about the way I’m so fascinated by the very underrated sport of snooker. I’ll take straight ahead pool anytime too though. It’s the geometry, but the super interesting part is the manipulation of physics. I also studied music so I love that as well. Wine, cooking, bike riding, languages, travelling…you can see I won’t be bored when I win that lottery!