PQs Under the Big Top
Updated: Jun 17, 2019
Stephen Michael Nava Photography
Angel Cintron Photography
Jessica Marie Poulsen
Anna Vostrikova @Newmodels
Cheyne Hannegan @LA Models
Tomoko Miyamoto hair
We had the opportunity to interview photographers Stephen Michael Nava and Angel Cintron and ask some great questions. They shared some personal info for us to get a chance to know them and some amazing photography information. Enjoy...
Tell us a little bit about yourselves: Where is home?
We are two collaborated photographers (Angel Cintron, Jr. (“Angel”) and Stephen Michael Nava (“Stephen”) living in San Francisco, CA. If you could live anywhere on this awesome planet, where would you build your dream home?
We have been extremely fortunate to travel abroad to spectacular destinations across Europe, Asia, China, India, South America, New Zealand and Canada. There are so many beautiful places on this awesome planet, however, two of our favorite destinations to set up our dream home would be Paris, France or Lucerne, Switzerland. Both locations are a paradise for those who have a deep appreciation for the arts, food and fashion. What is your current state of mind before we continue with the interview?
We are extremely happy, confident and filled with excitement for what the future brings. What sort of work do you specialize in?
We specialize in two areas 1) editorial where your creativity really takes off and your able to explore the sexy, raw and edgy side of fashion while using approachable models. That is, “unpolished” models that relate to everyday people; and 2) lifestyle where life moments unfold before your eyes. This allow for us as photographers to interpret our unique vision to inspire people's life. Did you go to school to study photography?
Angel: attended San Francisco City College for two years and then transferred to the Academy of Art University in San Francisco and graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) Degree with high honors. He learned everything from darkroom to mixed-media and have accumulated a vast knowledge in retouching skills using software programs such as Lightroom and Photoshop.
Stephen: I earned his Bachelor of Science in Chemistry/Math and has been training in photography for the last 6 years. How long have you been a photographer?
Angel: I have photographing since he was 16 years of age. My sister gave me my first Kodak Digital camera on his 16th birthday. Over the years, my passion for photography increased.
Stephen: I have been training in photography for the last 6 years. For the last several years.
Both Angel and Stephen have been training with Kevin Michael Schmitz (instgram.com/traveltoearth), TV Host & Director and Advertising Photographer Represented in Los Angeles and New York.
What or who got you started in photography?
Angel: As a visual child, I found himself staring at images rather than picking up a book to read. During his late teen years, his brother-in-law was an adult photography for female models. He inspired me as I listened to his photographical journey which led him to capture tasteful images of female models. As a result, Angel created an inquisitive desire to focus on personal vision of life within his surroundings.
Stephen: My initial interest began about 12 years ago during my work travels throughout the United States, Europe, South America, Japan, China, South East Asia, and India. I would try to capture candid images of life unfolding as I walked through unfamiliar cultures and countries. Having grown up in the mid-west and never exposed to life outside the Great Lakes area, I wanted my family and friends to see and vicariously experience the amazing locations and people in everyday life, candid, raw and unapologetic. How would you describe your style?
Our style is creative, edgy, artistic, and is conducive to story-telling. We look through a generalized mind-scape and stretch the conceptual connotation of the theme presented in our mood-board. We continue to stretch our limits and try to incorporate fresh ideas when creating our editorial or lifestyle work. What type of cameras do you shoot with?
We both started out using Nikon cameras; However, we transitioned to the Canon 5D Mark III due to ease of use especially on fast paced photoshoots. Moreover, the color response really brings out the richness of colors and allows for more vivid and brighter images. What is your favorite photography accessory, other than your camera?
We believe “natural light” ensures proper contrast, exposure, and trueness of color on the screens available to us when editing in post-production. Natural light, in combination with bounce cards or various sizes of scrims, is my go-to when shooting on location. If you had to choose one lens which one would it be and why?
Angel: Amazingly, I do not have a prime lens. An 85-mm Prime would be the lens of choice. The angle of view within this lens really opens the portrait aspect for true features with no distortion.
Stephen: This would be the 70/200 mm lens which allows for that close detail necessary for portraiture.
What lighting equipment do you take on a shoot?
We use natural light whenever possible but also, we use the following: Profoto B1 heads with modifiers. Canon 580EX and 600EX-RT Speed lights. Sekonic L-358 flash meter. All these are accompanied by several soft-box modifiers, bounce cards and scrims. Can you describe how and when you use flash, video light, reflectors and natural light during a shoot?
As we like to shoot natural light with scrims and reflectors most of the time, unpredicted weather conditions or low light situations cannot be avoidable. That being said, We rely on my Profoto B1 heads along with Air Remote TTL. We do at times, use flash heads with modifiers when needed. What are your favorite computer/editing accessory, other than your computer?
Angel is the primary post editing person in our collaborative business. The tools used in our work flow are typically lightroom and photoshop. I start out in lightroom for overall tonal adjustment. The image is then uploaded to photoshop, where several techniques are used, such as, dodge and burn, frequency separation and liquify. We also find it more expeditious to create specific actions within the photoshop software which allows me to increase the efficiency of post product in the work flow process. Additionally, we recently invested in a Wacom Mobile Studio Pro 16 tablet. It must be the best software/hardware purchased for editing using Photoshop CC and Lightroom CC and Adobe Bridge. How important is Photoshop in your final images?
Angel: I am a strong believer that every image needs a little love. If parts of an image need to emphasize, Photoshop can help the appearance. While we shoot mostly on location, distractions may impede common areas within a scene, Photoshop can remove these unwanted items. You can say I produce plastic surgery on my canvas. Are you a MAC or PC lover?
Angel: I am a MAC user. But, the Wacom Mobile Studio Pro 16 is windows based. That’s all I have to say on that.
Stephen: Bad habits die hard, PC. Do you plan on buying any new equipment and if so, what do you have your eyes on?
Angel: a 85-mm Prime Lens would add nicely to my inventory.
Stephen: A drone!
Can you briefly describe for the readers your photographic workflow?
For starters, we collaborate on a mood/inspiration board to help determine the type of models as well as the feel and direction of the shoot. The board is then narrowed down to a few select images to relay the story that is then discussed with the various stylists e.g., hair, make-up and wardrobe. With each phase of the planning, there is a mutual exchange and acceptance of ideas. Not all ideas make the final cut, so egos are checked at the door! Next, location, location, location! This is essential for storytelling and determination of the necessary lighting to support the shoot. On the day of the shoot, energy is high, and loads of people are surrounding the set. Have enough support assistants e.g., grips so that you can move quickly with set and light changes.
Don’t be afraid to give direction or pull a model from a scene, if it’s not working out according to your plan. When shooting, we always shoot in RAW format.
The images are uploaded in lightroom for overall tonal adjustment, then uploaded to Photoshop. In photoshop, several techniques are used, such as, dodge and burn, frequency separation and liquify. I also find it more expeditious to create my own actions within the photoshop software which allows me to increase the efficiency of post product in the work flow process.
The last thing I do, would be to archive the completed images in a named file onto an external hard drive. How do you feel about cropping an image?
Cropping an image tends to degrade the image; however, when it’s necessary, it’s best to try to crop in-camera. What gives you ideas and inspires you to create such great imagery?
Inspiration comes in many ways e.g., people-watching, locations, lighting etc. By putting certain elements together, creative juices start to flow. Success is demonstrated, if a story unfolds in one image. What has been your most memorable assignment and why?
We recently directed and produced our first major Editorial and Lifestyle photoshoot in the San Francisco Bay Area. Props did not show up, it rained and one of the models cancelled at the last moment. We had to adjust the entire direction on the spot. However, with each experience you learn how to refocus your shoot to compensate for a modified or new direction. Refocusing your vision can be a real challenge, but f critical. Confidence is key when commanding a set. Don’t be afraid to give direction or pulling a model from a scene if it’s not working out according to your plan.
Do you have an assistant?
Absolutely! Have enough support assistants e.g., grips so that you can move quickly with set and light changes. This makes the photoshoot run smooth and efficient. Where would be your dream destination assignment?
Angel: I have always fantasized of a High Fashion Beauty Photoshoot in Cairo, Egypt. The City has an epic ancient appeal that allows for a spectacular Pharaoh, Goddess themed glam backdrop.
Stephen: I would love shooting in Berlin. The energy, nightlife, art and fashion scene are awesome. Shooting a raw, edgy editorial by the Berlin wall would be epic. What is your favorite image you have shot recently?
Angel: Fine Art photography can be fun at times. It brings a fantasy come to life. I must say, I was able to be creative in a personal shoot entitled, “BeaAlza's Brunch.” This was a creative look of a portraiture of one man with 9 individual character looks sitting at one table having lunch. It was done with one Profoto B1 strobe light. The set was simple, a dining-room with 8 chairs. The characters were photographed 1 at a time in different seats expressing unique charismatic actions. Using Photoshop, I then manipulated/merged each character seated at various locations around the table. The characters fit into place seamlessly.
Stephen: In collaboration with Angel, we shot a Circus themed editorial at L.A. Circus (location for the movie “Water for Elephant”) with model, singer and actress Scarlett Burke known for her work on Lethal Weapon (2016), Animal Kingdom (2016) and Ray Donovan (2013). She wore a flowing blue chiffon dress, amazing. However, the heat was super intense and there was no wind to provide movement of the amazing dress, the natural lighting was incredibly hot contributing to overblown images. We had to compensate for air movement and lighting using two huge wind fans and 8-foot scrims, respectively. The shot was so successful, it was published in several publications. What do you think of the photography industry at the moment and where do you see it in 5 years from now?
Angel: It’s sort of scary that anyone, in today’s environment, can create an amazing crisp image on a smartphone these days. The smartphone’s microphone, gyroscope, accelerometer, thermometer and other sensors all contribute data as needed by whatever downloaded application calls on it and combines it with the visual data. The average user no longer needs digital DSLR cameras. Future advancements in photographic technology will obviate the need for anything else but your smartphone, software or downloadable applications.
Stephen: Advancements is photography from analog to digital have turned the industry upside-down in a short period of time. It’s quite amazing to be able to perform in camera manipulations rather than shooting with film not knowing if you “got the shot.” What tomorrow brings, is a great question. It is possible that the industry will shift from the traditional use e.g., to capture images of special moments to share on social media or as a real work horses for professional purposes, to using it for data-collecting.
A photographer who inspires you?
Angel: Gregory Crewdson - During my studies at the Academy of Art University, I wrote a paper on Mr. Crewdson. His methodology of capturing one image to tell the story on a huge film set, simply blew my mind. He has a full film production team to capture his dramatic and cinematic look within his photography.
Stephen: I believe there are many great photographers, but David LaChapelle sticks out and has influenced my work and love for taking risks. A website and/or blog you visit often?
There are many informative websites we visit from time to time. Our first bookmark on our Safari web-browser is “F-Stoppers”. This website offers access to tips, articles, reviews and tutorials that has been extremely helpful.
The information provided is useful to intermediate and advanced photographers. The first photographer that comes to your mind and why?
Angel: Annie Leibovitz. The detail in her imagery of major known figures are simply flawless.
Stephen: David LaChapelle sticks out to me. He was known for shooting celebrities adorned with various baubles, flowers etc as well as staging religious scenes to con-vey a social message. Each of these images would explode with eye-popping colors that really draw your attention and often very surreal to look at. Covers of fashion magazines would often feature his work.
His creativity was just so inspiring and with a single image, a story is told. I love the unapologetic use of imagery and color to convey a message either for fashion editorial, lifestyle or portraiture. You should never be afraid to take risks, it satisfies the creative hunger. The last workshop or seminar you attended and why? We both attended an Elite Master Class Photography 3-day Workshop, created by Kevin Michael Schmitz. These workshops are huge commercial production set using industry top models, stylists (hair, make-up and wardrobe) and art direction. Our goal was to advance our skills, increase our confidence and command of a large-scale production set. The attendees are limited to 8 photographers and include discussions and critiques of your work by some the top agencies, creatives and decision makers within various industries. One way you market your photography?
Using social media like Facebook, Flickr and Instagram seems to promote and reach hundreds of individuals. Placing direct website links on these platforms entices the viewer to view all my images and hopefully land interests. How important is an awesome website for your business?
Extremely important. I like the unique, clean and stunning display of a professional formatted website. You can check ours out here:
We would love to photograph an editorial of women in power e.g., Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a new U.S. Representative for New York's 14th congressional district.
What advice do you have for somebody who wants to pursue photography?
Angel: Always do your best and never give up. Explore and be creative. Let your eyes focus on the beauty of what is in front of you, and don’t let your mind contradict your vision. Have that, “I Can Do This” attitude.
Stephen: Believe in yourself. The most successful photographers have confidence in their ability to produce good and inspiring work. Don’t be afraid to fail because with each failure, there is an opportunity to succeed and build the confidence for the next shoot. Can you tell us the true basis of your inspiration?
As we look at our environment, everything becomes noticeable. Ideas are outlined by creating stories that are fantasized by unique and creative aspirations. Is there anything you would have done differently during your photographic career?
Angel: I would have studied film and darkroom techniques more.
Stephen: The thought of sharing information was not even a consideration for fear of losing a gig or a competitive edge. However, through the years collaborative relationships have become extremely valuable. If you could be invisible for one day with your camera…
Angel: It might not sound interesting enough, but I would like to do an 8 hour stop-motion video of challenges experienced at major model agency.
Stephen: the behind the scenes preparation activities during Paris fashion week. I’ve learned the most from…
Angel: Believe it or not, trial and error.
Stephen: my mistakes What talent would you most like to have?
Angel: To have the ‘gift’ to gab.
Stephen: I would love to speak multiple languages. Something you’re still learning?
Angel: I learn new things every day. That said, I’m still mastering non-flash RAW dim or low light photography in-camera.
Stephen: How to sign big campaigns! Something you’re saving up for?
Angel: a digital Hasselblad camera.
Stephen: Vacation If you could have lunch with anyone, who would it be?
Stephen: Warren Buffett Your favorite film (movie) of all time?
Angel: 2001: A Space Odyssey
Stephen: The Hobbit First thing you would do if you won the lottery?
Angel: I would first have to purchase a ticket before I can be a winner, (smile). If I played and won, I would make sure all debts are payed for our immediate families. If we had a nice substantial amount, I would move to Paris, France and start a mix-media photography and model agency.
Stephen: Travel! What photographic ambitions have you not yet achieved?
Angel: Underwater photography. I am claustrophobic, so I never pursued the marine animals up close.
Stephen: I would love to run huge advertising campaigns What would you like to be doing in 5 years from now? We would like to grow our brand and be recognized as two photographers working in fashion and lifestyle. And the last questions, if you had one wish…
Angel: To have a better relationship with family
Stephen: To live a loving healthy life and inspire people Your readers can find out more about us: Angel’s Website: angelcintronphotography.com Angel’s Instagram: instagram.com/angelcintronphotography Angel’s Facebook: facebook.com/AngelNetProductions Steve’s Website: stephenmichaelnavaphotography.com Steve’s Instagram: instagram.com/stephenmichaelnava