Enjoy the inspiring conversation with full-time photographer Brandon (oak_giant). Brandon has shot many awesome places and people including the Grammy Awards... you'll want to read about this being one of his most difficult shooting sessions.

Tell us a bit about yourself?

I’m a full-time photographer based out of the Hollywood neighborhood in Los Angeles that focuses on portraiture of all types, commercial lifestyle, and the occasional landscape / city scape for fun. As far as my style goes, it’s something I’ve never really thought about, but if I had to sum it up in a few words, it would be: Striking, gritty and honest.


When did you start taking photos and what inspired you to get started?

I’ve been taking photos my entire life - as a kid I was endlessly fascinated with my fathers 35mm film SLR, and spent hours looking through the viewfinder and pretending to shoot on my grandfathers Brownie No. 2 when we went to visit them. One of my first purchases as a pre-teen with my allowance was an Eastman Kodak Hawkeye Brownie Flash model, and despite never finding film for it, it was one of my prized possessions as a kid.

Tell us about a difficult photo shoot session?

I was doing a shoot for Mastercard during The 58th Annual Grammy’s in Los Angeles, and the concept from the creative team was to shoot Miguel and The Chainsmokers while they performed at a nightclub in Hollywood called Create. A big part of the campaign was to post images from the event almost “live” to their social media platforms, which required me going out on the floor of the venue, taking snaps of various angles, and running back up to the office to hand off the images to my designer, Kriss Knapp, who would then get approval from the Creative Director to post to the social media platforms.

The problem came about from their popularity - Miguel and The Chainsmokers have a HUGE draw of energetic, passionate people. The venue almost immediately filled to capacity making it really tough just going from the office down to the floor in itself, let alone navigating the crowd of fired up people who were pretty keen on not letting anyone get a better position on the floor than them.

Despite having All Access credentials, the crowd just wasn’t having it, and when pushing my way to the stage I’d frequently get punches or elbows thrown at me, one of them striking me right in the nose. Thankfully the worst I suffered was a very, very short nosebleed and more than a few bruises on the body, so nothing too major.

All-in-all, however, the clients seemed to be very happy with the images that we were able to get, Kris did an incredible job handling the designing and the edits under a ton of pressure, and I learned a valuable lesson when it comes to navigating a crowd of hyped up people seeing their favorite band:

Avoid overshooting, and hold your credentials in your mouth for everyone to see, if possible, or befriend one of the bouncers to clear a path for you.. hehe!

Can you share three tips with your fellow photographers?

1. Never stop learning. Desiring personal growth for oneself is key to success… If you’re in it to just impress other people, you’re in it for the wrong reason.

2. Never compare yourself to another shooter. Stay honest with who you are and where you’re at and abandon expectations of what you feel you should be.

3. Understand that creative expression is inherently risky - there will always be critics, but know that expressing support to others is one of the most valuable and impactful things that a creative can give to another creative. It’s 100% free, it costs literally nothing, and is so incredibly valuable.

Please share some thoughts on your ViewBug experience as a photographer!

ViewBug quickly became one of my most favorite photography social networks. The community, curators, and format of the platform as a whole is phenomenal and I’m extremely grateful to have found it.

In one sentence what has photography done for you in your life?

Photography has given me an opportunity to connect with people all over the world who I never would have otherwise had a chance to interact with.

What has been your favorite thing to shoot and why?

That’s a very good question. All shoots that have some aspect of portraiture are my favorite. I love shooting ‘scapes, but there’s something about conveying an intent with a human subject that I find catharsis in.. conveying a feeling or an intent within a photo that someone can relate to is far more fulfilling to me than other types of photography. Also, I tend to come out of each shoot learning a TON, which is the most important thing in photography to me.

What do you carry in your camera bag?

It completely depends on the shoot. I learned a long time ago that overpacking can be an expensive burden both on the budget and on the back. Generally speaking I carry my EDC, my trusty tank-like Nikon D610, my 24-70mm Tamron f/2.8 VR, Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 VR II, and a 50mm f/1.8 prime, a pack of ND and CPL filters of various stops and sizes, a nice speedlight with Yongnuo triggers, and a rain cover. If I know I won’t need any one of those things, they stay at home or in the hotel room.


Do you have a favorite location and time of the day to shoot?

No, not really.. once again it totally depends on the shoot. A lot of people claim that they only shoot during ‘magic hours’, which to me seems like a completely avoidable constraint… I love magic hour as much as the next shooter, but I tend to gravitate toward locations and times that may provide a creative challenge.

I love taking risks and mixing up techniques, like daytime long exposures, mid-day OCF (off-camera flash) work, or even combining OCF with night time long exposures.

Please share one of your favorite photos with us with a short tutorial:

The photo is a portrait of an up and coming hip-hop artist by the name of Tre Money-Carsin while he was out in Los Angeles from New Jersey to record vocals on some tracks. I was invited to come into the studio to come take a few snaps, and after joining him in the booth we captured one of my favorite portraits of all time.

This portrait was shot in a booth at a recording studio in North Hollywood, CA. The lighting I used was the lighting that was available in the studio - the overhead lights from the room to frame right was coming through the glass in this very nice, soft glow directly on his face.

I used a Nikon D610 - Nikon 50mm f/1.8 lens. There’s a photo of Frank Sinatra recording vocals by Herman Leonard. Sinatra has his hands in his pockets, head tilted to the side, eyes closed and singing into the microphone as if it were as effortless to him as taking a breath of air. The image always stuck with me, and when I saw Tre in the studio delivering his lines with the same air of confidence as Sinatra in the Leonard photo, it just worked. I used a couple of layers of split-toning to achieve the old timey film look and a crop to center Tre in the frame, but outside of that it’s almost straight out of the camera.

Follow Brandon on Instagram, Facebook and ViewBug.