All images in this piece are copyright of Danny Santos. Used with permission.
Chances are that you’ve seen the work of Danny Santos II–specifically you might be more familiar with his street photography. Danny is a person who I would call one of the most inspirational photographers of our time–as bold a statement as that is, consider his background. He’s super friendly, shoots all the time, documents people even in the rain, and was able to translate his skills into wedding, fashion, and advertising work. Danny did all this through social media spread and by creating genuine work as opposed to knowing people in high places–which is another way of working your way up the creative ladder.
We were thrilled to head that Danny is a fan of the Phoblographer, so we reached out to talk to him about his work, finding paying clients, his gear and more.
Phoblographer: What got you into street photography?
Danny: I’ve always wanted to do photography in general since I was in college, but I just never really had the chance. When I moved to Singapore a few years ago, I finally got to buy my first DSLR and pretty much started to shoot anything, from flowers, cats, sunsets… anything. I realised I didn’t know what I wanted to shoot, I just wanted to shoot. But then I discovered street photography in Flickr, and I realised “this is what I want to do.” I researched the work of the masters like Gary Winogrand, HCB, William Klein, Daido Moriyama, Philip Lorca Dicorcia, and was just amazed at what can be done in the streets. And for the next 4 years, I went to shoot street almost every weekend.
Phoblographer: What makes you choose the subjects in your street photography photos such as those in your City Strollers project?
Danny: Shooting street for me is always a subjective thing. I pretty much just photographed anyone whom I thought was interesting, anyone who stands out for me.
Phoblographer: Your Bad Weather photos went viral a while back. What are some tips that you can give to photographers that are too scared to go out and shoot in the rain?
Danny: Don’t be too careful with your equipment… coz it just takes the fun out of it. I’m not encouraging recklessness, though… be careful, but not too careful. Plus, it’s just a camera. If it breaks down, have it fixed or buy a new one. The keeper shots I think are more important and valuable than your equipment.
Phoblographer: As a photographer who gets excited by and goes out to shoot in bad weather myself, do you agree with me that a totally other side of humanity comes out in the rain? Why or why not?
Danny: Absolutely. It puts everyone outside of their comfort zone, and you see a lot more range in emotions. I couldn’t ask for a better catalyst in the streets than rain.
Phoblographer: Your beauty portraits were astonishing; what made you want to get into shooting beauty from shooting street?
Danny: I remember on my 2nd year of shooting, I got my first paid shoot. I was excited, but I was a nervous wreck during the shoot, and I didn’t know what to do most of the time. That’s when I realised I was used to observing and capturing moments, rather than creating them. So I told myself I need to learn how to interact with the subjects, and start being creative in a way that you can actually orchestrate a good photograph.
Phoblographer: You’ve been an extremely busy man as of late. How do you find your clients and adapt to new shooting situations/genres such as shooting sports?
Danny: Actually, they find me. I guess they find me through google or maybe they just come across my blog and find something interesting in it. It’s funny coz I get jobs for genres that I’ve never done before, like product shoots, or sports… and if I find it interesting, I’d go with it and just wing it hahaha 🙂 I find that all of my client work so far has been a learning experience, which is the best part.
Phoblographer: You’ve also been shooting fashion as of late. Do you feel that shooting fashion lets you combine your knowledge of street photography and portraiture into what might become your best work yet? Also do you personally try to set up scenes or try to casually photograph the person as they go about their business?
Danny: I’m quite new with the fashion thing, and I have so much to learn still. So yeah, I ended up sort of combining what I’ve done with street photography and portraiture. After shooting a couple of jobs, I realised this might be something to play around with and see if I come up with something interesting. During the shoots, I just put the models in the middle of the crowd and try to direct her, and hope that the crowd in the background doesn’t notice what’s happening.
Phoblographer: The work you did for Totes was quite beautiful. How did you capture the image of the three ladies standing and walking towards the camera with their umbrellas deployed?
Danny: We were just trying different things that afternoon.. and with that particular shot, I asked them to jump and more to random directions on the count of 3.
Phoblographer: Lastly, tell us about what’s in your gear bag please.
Danny: Oh I seriously don’t have an interesting gear bag. While shooting street, I have my Domke F3 bag, with my Nikon D300 and one lens (24mm f1.4, or 20mm f2.8, or 85mm f1.4 – depending on what and how I want to shoot that day). On client shoots, I rent out my equipment depending on client needs.
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