“Competition is a weird and lonely thing.”
One of the most inspiring, talented, fun and kind creatives from the photography industry is surely Ben Sasso. Apart from his remarkably beautiful images, that stand out from any feed, he is also a teacher, always striving to share his knowledge and skills. He believes that the creative community can only grow through common work and by lifting each other up. It shouldn’t be a competition. So, be that through photo camps, workshops, educational courses or articles, Ben never seizes to challenge and inspire those who are around him, while pushing his own visions and work to new grounds. Keep reading to find out what fuels Ben Sasso, and how you can build your own recognizable style.
When and why did you begin your photography journey?
When I graduated high school my yearbook teacher gave me one of our old film cameras (a Canon Rebel) as a graduation present and my first thought was “I’m going to be an incredible photographer.” That didn’t quite work out how I was hoping, haha. I went out to shoot a few rolls under a bridge (because that’s what high school kids do), brought them in to Walgreens to get developed (because that’s what professionals do), and quickly realized that I wasn’t the hot shot I wanted to be. I stopped shooting for a while until about a year later when I was on tour and ended up staying in house of 6 people, all graphic designers and photographers. They were all my age, and working in these artistic professions full time. That’s when I first realized that what I once thought of as a hobby could actually be a career. I picked the camera back up and started devoting the time and effort I new I needed to, so I could actually have a career I loved.
You have a very distinct and recognizable style of editing your images. We scroll through our Instagram feed, see a photo, and before even looking at the photo credits – we know it’s Ben Sasso. So, the question is – how did you find your style? what or who inspires you?
Thanks! Consistency is really important to me and I’m glad that comes across! I landed on my style the same way I suggest that people find theirs. I continuously shot what inspired me, and I saw my style develop naturally. I started to see how patterns developed in my work (certain types of light, emotions, environments, camera settings, edits, etc) and those patterns became my style. As for what inspires me, I find a lot of inspiration in movies (lately: The Master, Swiss Army Man, Her) and music (I love the lyrics of mewithoutYou, Bright Eyes, etc).
Photographically, I’ve found myself drawn to unique images lately. I’ve been at this for about 9 years now and I can’t tell you how many shots I’ve seen repeated over and over (I do it too). When I see a new take on one of those repeated things or just something shot in an entirely unique way, it really draws me in. I’ve been trying to think more out of the box lately with my own work as well.
You are also well known for your educational sharing (articles, courses, Heck Yeah Photo Camp, etc). Tell us more about how and why this idea started, as not many photographers are willing to disclose their secrets.
Thank you! I’ve always loved teaching. In fact, and most people don’t know this about me, but I actually coached high school wrestling for a few years. Sharing what I know and pushing others forward is always exciting for me. Competition is a weird and lonely thing. We’re in an industry that thrives on creativity and it’s only going to be pushed forward as a whole if we work together to lift each other up.
Heck Yeah Presets! Can you show us a few before/after examples, describe some of the sets and their purpose. Which is your favorite set?
Absolutely! I launched Heck Yeah Presets pretty recently for LR and just launched the ACR versions too!
The Bright Pack is my favorite and is closest to my style but I’m pretty drawn to the nostalgia of the Film pack too. Check out below some before/after’s for each pack!
Do you think it’s a good or bad thing that more and more photographers start using presets, which makes it a lot easier and faster to edit photos? Meaning, photographers don’t have to spend days/years learning and developing editing skills, but instead they can buy your presets and get the Ben Sasso magic touch in a matter of a few clicks, when it took time and effort for you to develop this style.
One of the reasons I’m so open to sharing what I know is because we’re all complex human beings and no two people think alike. I can tell someone exactly how I do something, but that person will learn and then create something unique because they’ll add in their own knowledge and inspiration as well. I have an Editing + Consistency class that covers every single step of what I do in post (and why), and when I see images come back from students, I’m always so blown away to see how they’ve taken my steps and created something completely unique out of it. I think the same thing goes for presets. Sure, plenty of people use them but we all have different things inspiring us that lead us in different directions artistically.
I also think it’s important to learn what the preset does and how it does it. A preset won’t make you a good editor. Not even a little bit. If you don’t know your way around Lightroom, that knowledge should come first. You should know how to tone down overwhelming skin tones in an image (HSL), control how bright and dark your highlights and shadows are (tone curve), how to manipulate highlight/shadow tones (split toning), etc. That knowledge will help you determine if you need/want presets, and how to make the most out of them if you decide to get some. Heck Yeah Presets aren’t the “Ben Sasso magic touch” haha. If someone wants to learn how I get my images looking how they do, the Editing + Consistency class is the one for them.
Any future projects that you are really excited about and would be willing to share a snippet with us?
Hmm… I’ll share something pretty small, and education related :). I’m currently writing an educational post: Composition 101. I’m absolutely not the best at creating killer compositions but it’s something I’m actively trying to improve in my work so I wanted to share some basic tips on drawing your viewer into the frame and creating strong focal points. Here’s a brief excerpt from that one:
“One of the best bits of advice I’ve heard for improving composition is to look at the background first, not your subject. Think about it, where does you’re composition come from? Composition for most of us is all about how our subject fits into the rest of the scene (the background) and how we can use that scene to draw the eye into our subject. So focus on that first! Look for leading lines. Look for natural frames. Find that perfect spot in the scene to place your subject instead of just putting them in there randomly and then relying on the posing.
1. Study the background.
2. Find the perfect placement for your subject.
3. Bring in your subject and make something rad.”