Tyler Shields: The New Face of Celebrity Photography
By Ben Trivett Posted Feb 20th 2010 10:50AM
This past week, we had a chance to catch up with one of our photographer friends, Tyler Shields. The 28-year-old hails from Florida and is currently based out of Los Angeles. Tyler has photographed A-list celebrities and bands alike, while cultivating a unique style that celebrities crave. Tyler always takes it to the next level, even if that means covering Zachary Quinto in milk or locking Gary Busey in a straight jacket. These over the top antics combine art with editorial and advertorial photography to create a whole new category of awesome. Tyler was kind enough to take some time and talk to us about what goes into making these incredible photographs and what he has coming out in the future. See what he had to say after the jump.
Tell me a little about your background, your education and how you got into shooting professional photos?
I started out directing music videos, and then I took a photo that became really well-known. I didn't know anything about photography at the time; I had just taken this one photo. I didn't even own a camera, my roommate was the photographer. Then all of a sudden, people started asking me to take their picture, and I said, 'Ok.' I took a couple others and then celebrities started hitting me up, and I was like, 'Alright.' These were actors that I didn't know or didn't know who they were and didn't realize it was a big deal, so I just started shooting people and it just started snowballing. I didn't have any training; I had just taught myself. And my shoots are definitely conducted in a very different way, I think that's what people enjoy so much, and that's why they continue to come back, and they tell their friends and it kinda becomes a story for them. Like, 'This is what I did, this is what I'm a part of, you should be a part too,' and it just snowballed like that.
What makes your shoots go differently? Tell me about a basic shoot for you.
Basically, 95% of my shoots happen at night. Generally, someone will hit me up and say, 'Ok, I want to shoot.' Take Quinto, for instance. The first time I shot Zach, we had been friends, we'd hung out. He said to me 'let's shoot,' I was like, 'Perfect, I'll pick you up at 10:30 at night,' so I went and picked him up and I had my crew with me and we broke into a bridge that was being built. We climbed around, we shot all through the bridge, and he was like, 'Whoa, I've never done anything like this before.' So we shot there for a while, we jumped around; we hopped on some trains and rode around for a while. It was just interesting, it was very 'We're going to do this and then we're going to do this.' So we did that and then we came back to my house. On the way back, I had some people pick up some milk, and the milk shoot was born that way. And before, he didn't know anything; he didn't know what we were going to do at all. He just knew that we were going on an adventure and that's what it was going to be. And it all just ensued from my mind, and I just let it go. I try not to tell them anything beforehand, especially the first time I shoot someone, because I really like reaction, ya know? And after the first time I shot him [Quinto] he said to me, 'I've never done anything like this before, I can imagine you hear that every time.'
You mentioned earlier that you shoot a lot of your friends, are a lot of these personal projects or commissioned work?
Most of it is people come to me. You know I'm doing the book -- 'The Dirty Side of Glamour'? A lot of people say to me, 'Oh, I'd love to be in the book,' then they come to me and what will happen is I have these shots that I'm going to use for the book and a lot of times magazines will purchase the other shots from me. So basically, I shoot whoever I want, however I want, and they have the option to buy or use some of the photos and the rest I use for the book.
So that sounds like a pretty ideal, photographic life. (Laughs)
(Laughs) Yeah, pretty much.
Do you do commissioned work though? Like shooting portraits specifically in your style for assignments?
Totally. I will do that, and sometimes magazines or whoever will hire me straight out to do something, and I'll totally do that. A lot of the times though, it's literally referrals that get me work. And, you know, people that I've shot will introduce me to somebody who will want their photo taken, like Zach or Hayden. We were at his house hanging out and she was like, 'Oh, let's go back and shoot right now.' and that was around one o'clock in the morning. And it's really interesting because people want to be a part of it because it's different. And they were really excited to be involved with it. They enjoy the process of it.
Photos By Tyler Shields
Zachary Quinto is photographed by Tyler Shields. Click through to see more of Tyler's work.
Getty Images North America
Tyler Shields Talks To Popeater
Yeah, so how I'll do that is I'll shoot the video and then there will be a moment where I'll say, 'There.' And it's funny now, because people know about the video portraits and if we don't do one they'll say, 'Whoa, why didn't we do a video portrait?' So I pretty much get the video ready and I say, 'Ok, this is what's going to happen, this is what we're going to do.' Then I'll shoot that before going back and shooting the stills. Because I have to shoot that myself, then I'll go back and shoot the stills.
What types of equipment do you use? Are you a film guy? Digital? Do you use Strobes? Or continuous lighting?
I do both, all different kinds really. I have to use movie lights when we do the video portraits. It really just depends on what I'm shooting. I love shooting film, I really love digital; I use HD for video. I think it gives me a really nice look.
And of course, the cheesy question, who would be your favorite celebrity to shoot? Either who you have or who you'd want to.
Oh man, (Laughs) that is so tough. The thing is there are so many people that I want to do so much crazy stuff with. Obviously, there are the Keira Knightly's and the Scarlett Johansson's, but also there are really weird people who are up to doing really strange things. You know? Gary Busey -- that was a crazy shoot. (Laughs) I learned how to speak Busey. I really did. I mean, it's a whole different language. And I like really getting into things like that with, you know, characters. There are just so many of those people out there that would be so interesting.
It seems you have quite a few A-list people in your portfolio; do they give you the same kind of freedom to work as your friends?
So you'll just come up with a crazy idea and they tend to just go with it?
The thing is, if someone comes to me, they know before hand, they know. They're coming to me saying, 'I want to do something different, I want this to be crazy,' and I have stuff on people that hasn't come out yet, but it's the craziest stuff I've ever done. By far. And it'll come out sometime this year.
Check out more of Tyler's work at TylerShields.com!
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