Ladies Behind The Lens - Helynn Ospina
Helynn introduced herself to us earlier this year when we hosted our open call on twitter for this on-going series. She is a San Francisco based Colombian-American editorial photographer who explores her life through her camera. Her talent and skill shines through her work and her ability to convey storytelling through the power of light, in our interview she dives into what got her into photography and how she ended up pursuing it as her career.
F&A: Can you remember when you first started doing photography and when it became a part of your life?
HO: Photography has been of part of my life in same way since I was about 11. My first camera was a hand me down from my dad. As a kid I worked in the dark room a lot and shot for the school paper. I would always tinker here and there with taking photos but it wasn’t until 2010 that I finally took the plunge to get more serious about it. I was working in biotech/pharma at the time and I was burned out and looking for a new career path. I began thinking about the other things that I had loved in my life and decide to enroll in the MFA program at the Academy of Art in San Francisco. That was when it all really clicked. I was exposed to so many amazing genres of photography. It helped me see in new ways and really start to see the power of photography
F&A: Do you think that still having a physical Portfolio is the best option when showing clients work? How is your portfolio laid out?
HO: I’ve always loved printed portfolios. They are so beautiful to hold and flip through. They can give the work another dimension based on how the book is constructed. I think for face-to-face meetings a printed book is the way to go. For any other outreach a digital version is great. I have an iPad portfolio that sometimes goes with my printed to book to show additional work.
F&A: Do you feel supported as a woman in the industry?
HO: Historically, no. However, I do see that shifting in recent years. There are a lot of great organizations working specifically to support woman photographers and amplify our voices in the marketplace. I’ve been lucky to meet lots of great woman over the last few years that have become great friends and colleagues. I’m so grateful for them being in my life.
F&A: Do you make a living solely from your photography?
HO: Yes, most of my income is from my own photography or other photography related endeavors. I work as a retoucher from time to time, helping other photographers with their own work. And on occasion I will take on contract work that involves photography but isn’t my work specifically. Eg. I worked for Airbnb as post production lead last year. I’ve found that for me I’m happiest when I can split time between things. It helps me stretch different skills that I may not get to use when I’m working on my own work.
F&A: What steps do you take to get consistent work and how do you get new commissions?
HO: I work a lot on marketing through email promos, printed promos, portfolio reviews. A large part of my interiors work happens through referrals from previous clients. One thing that I have learned over the years is that it is incredibly important to just make work that interest you, aka personal work. It’s an essential part of evolving your style/eye/voice. The personal work is what keeps people interested in your work and leads to new commissions.
F&A: Do you work alone or have an assistant?
HO: It depends on the scope of the project. If there is going to be a lot of lighting needed I will usually have an assistant. However, my natural state is to work solo. That’s the part of photography that I adore. Getting lost in the images you are making.
F&A: What has been the highlight of your career so far? Why?
HO: This might sound weird but figuring out light. My voice as a photographer relies heavily on light for storytelling. When I first began, I only used natural light because I just didn’t understand how to use strobes. Eventually though I got to a point when natural light just wasn’t enough and I had to start using strobes to push my work to the next level. The first time I was able to visualize a quality of light in my head and reproduce it with a strobe was such an amazing feeling! It felt empowering to be able to recreate something that I had seen Mother Nature make.
F&A: What projects do you have coming up?
HO: I’m currently working on a job for a small boutique wine company. The project was originally going to be lifestyle photography of the winery but we had to pivot because of Covid and wildfires in the area. The project morphed into a product shoot, which I’m super excited about because the styling is going to be so much fun. On the personal project front ; I live in one of the areas that recently suffered massive wildfires. I’ll be embarking on a long form project about the effects of wildfires on our community.
original article can be found here