Wyn Wiley Interview: Shooting from the Heart and Believing in Your Own Brilliance

Wyn Wiley

I am not joking when I say that photography changed portrait photographer Wyn Wiley’s life. Before he took up his dad’s Nikon and started taking photos, Wyn was in a hard spot. He was being bullied and was unsatisfied. Comedically, he even admits that one of his favorite activities during this period were his “cookie + cat” times where he would treat himself to a whole bag of Chips Ahoy! with only the company of his cats (one of life’s hard-fought pleasures, I too must admit).

But now at 20, photography has — beyond any doubt — improved Wiley’s self-confidence and altogether helped him realize his talent. And it’s a good thing Wyn found his artistic expression. His portraits are full of positive energy and highly creative. And not surprisingly, he has established himself with it, working with the likes of  Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, Starbucks, and the University of Nebraska’s athletic program.

In this interview, Wiley explains how photography helped him find himself, talks about his approach to portraiture, and reveals how his cats are one of his greatest inspriations.

Shooting from the Heart and Believing in Your Own Brilliance

You’ve worked with some well-know clients and artists. You’re only 20. How did you get to where you’re at so soon? How did you get your start in portraiture?

Let me paint you a mental picture here- I was 16 years old, I weighed about 220 pounds, I was that kid wearing the t-shirt at the pool, I had my hair swooped over and down to my eyebrows, I was introverted, I was constantly bullied and my favorite activity was going home after school, unwrapping a whole roll of chips ahoy cookies and hanging out with my cats. This cookie & cat time went on almost every day for a majority of my junior year but one day in the spring, I picked up my dad’s Nikon d80 out of the blue and decided to take photos of the one thing around me, my cats. It was perfect, my cats were always around, they were beautiful models and they never talked back. After the first photo of my cat Pepper I was hooked and was taking photos of all three of them, all the time. The photos were all absolutely terrible but one day about a month after picking up my dad’s camera for the first time- I took a really good photo of Pepper and realized hey, if I spend enough time with photography, I might be good at this someday. Since then I moved on to shooting people and have been super lucky to have photography change my life. It’s showed me how to embrace and love on people, it’s brought a ton of happiness into my life and has let me create art. I’ve gotten to where I am through hard work, treating people well, always trying to do my best, and by having fun and not taking my job too seriously.

start in portraiture

Your portraits have a lot of energy. Everyone’s smiling and bright-eyed. How do you approach directing your clients to get them so care-free?

I try to be my client’s friend and get to know them as much as possible. If we can be friends, we can be comfortable with each other. Then magic happens. I also wear a lot of cat t-shirts. I also pay my clients to smile with cookies.

client’s friend

On your website, you say you have no set style, no niche. That you don’t want to shoot any one thing. There’s a lot of freedom in that, but how do you keep your skills sharp every single time? There must be a lot to remember.

There is indeed a lot of freedom in that, and that’s what I love. I just try to stay sharp by remembering that the work I’m producing needs to first and foremost be loved by the client. On the same tolken, I just try to invest as much as I can in the client. For example, I would rather get a photo of a bride and groom cracking the biggest most real smile ever than making sure that I have the most technically sound composition or exposure. So, I guess you could say I don’t remember a lot and just try to go with my gut and capture real moments.

capture real moments

Perhaps this freedom allows you to experiment with novel concepts. For instance, you like incorporating landscapes into your engagement portraits. I especially love the first of Kate & Dan. How you know which location will suit a particular couple?

I let my clients tell me what they love, then I offer my suggestions and we mush our creativity into a big ball of ideas. Specifically with Kate and Dan, I learned that Dan had rooftop access to the building because he’s a manager of the bank on the main floor. I’ve found that a lot of my clients have little secrets of awesome hidden in them and if I can get to know them we can learn what’s important to them. If there’s a cabin that they go to every summer so we’ll shoot there, or even that they both love water so we’ll hit up a lake.

Perhaps this freedom

You’re also a volume shooter. You have 10 categories listed (one even labeled uncategorized) and at least a hundred photos shown. How does volume shooting help your work? Any tips you could share with other portrait photographers?

Shooting lots ensures that I constantly challenge myself. Also, blogging lots definitely helps my business. Being in front of people’s eyes solidifies my work as a brand and product and shows potential clients who I am and what I do. I should also add that I blog 99 percent of my work. This ensures that I keep a constant level of quality with my photography and keeps me accountable that I’m shooting work I’m proud of.

portrait photographers

There’s some great travel/street photographs in your personal section. How do you approach this side of photography?

I find myself drawn to the unusual, the beautiful, the simple and cats.

personal section

What would you consider the most important advice any portrait photographer could receive?

Find what makes you brilliant as an artist and run like hell with it. Accept it. Love it. Let your light shine and then, inspire someone else to unleash their brilliance. I promise that life and the world will never be the same.

Be sure to check out all of Wyn’s work on his website and facebook!

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