Tyler Bainbridge: Film Portrait Photography and the Reddit Community

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All images by Tyler Bainbridge. Used with permission. This is part of a collaborative series with the Sub-Reddit R/Analog

Photographer Tyler Bainbridge is only 20 years old, but he’s got the #1 photo of all time on the sub-Reddit R/analog and #5 of all time image on R/itookapicture. He accomplished this goal with the above photo of his girlfriend Jennie (who is a model) taken during the golden hour. Tyler’s work has a nostalgic look to it and he tries to keep it as simple as he possibly can.

His roots in photography started to sprout when he was a child and shot on disposable spider-man themed cameras. This interest grew into a fascination with movies, lighting and composition.

Later on in life he would begin skating professionally for Omen Longboards and was constantly photographing and filming his teammates. To that end, he’s always had a predisposition for photographing people.

Phoblographer: Talk to us about how you first got into photography.

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Tyler: I had always been interested in photography, even when I was a child shooting on a disposable spider-man themed camera. As I grew older I became very interested in movies and more specifically the lighting, composition, and overall mood of a shot. This led to me saving up for my very first camera, a Canon T3i, which was the perfect tool for me to mess around, tinkering with the manual settings and getting instant feedback. At the time I was skating professionally for Omen Longboards so I was consistently photographing and taking video of my teammates. This is where the vast majority of my style developed.

Around Christmas of 2013 I purchased a Canon AE-1 which renewed my passion for photography. I put much more thought into my composition and exposures since there were only 36 shots per roll and not the mention the expense of film and developing so the quality of my shots increased through careful precision.

Phoblographer: What got you into analog shooting and portraits?

Tyler: Since the majority of what I was shooting when I first got my camera was skateboarding you’d think I would be into action photography now, but the funny thing is I found myself enjoying shooting candid portraits of my friends more than photographing the skateboarding itself. When I met my girlfriend, Jen, in the summer of 2014 I began shooting portraits of her very consistently since she’s been modeling since she was fifteen. This led to me constantly shooting and improving my portraiture through trial and error over the course of the last year. When my photo of Jen was rising on Reddit there were many comments pointing out how the photo made them experience nostalgia which is something I love to hear, knowing my work is bringing on emotion.

“I think the Instagram community is far less critical of my work, but at the same time less appreciative of some of the things Reddit seems to praise.”

Phoblographer: Let’s talk about the way that you see the world in a creative way. What motivates you to actually pick the camera up, compose, and actually create an image? Is it the lighting? A feeling?

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Tyler: When out shooting I find myself searching for nice lighting. Something about composing a portrait in beautiful light is something I love. Knowing the person is going to be happy with the shot and seeing the smile on their face when they see it for the first time is something I crave.

Phoblographer: Where does your creative inspiration come from? You seem to do lots of golden hour work.

Tyler: Most of my inspiration comes from movies. I am a huge fan of Paul Thomas Anderson and think the cinematography in his films is astounding and certainly something to strive for. Stanley Kubrick’s style of symmetric shots and a one-point perspective, usually composing the subject in the center, is also a technique I find myself emulating in my own work.

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Reddit is a huge source of daily inspiration. I save all of my favorite shots from r/analog and browse them when I find myself lacking inspiration.

Phoblographer: Talk to us about the gear that you use and your film choices.

Tyler: Currently I am shooting almost exclusively on a beat up 1981 Canon AE-1 that I scored on eBay with a Canon 50mm f/1.8 for $50 total. I love everything about it, its size, its big bright viewfinder, its rugged design, and its satisfying snap of the shutter. I could go on and on about what draws me to it. I love the look and feel of a full frame 35mm image, which has led to my Canon T3i collecting dust in my room. I primarily shoot on Kodak Ektar 100, which, contrary to popular belief, I think works fantastic as a portrait film. Occasionally I’ll find myself messing around with some Cinestill for a cinematic look or Kodak Tri-X 400 for when I’m craving black and white.

Phoblographer: What are your goals as a photographer? Are you looking to become famous?

Tyler: My goal as a photographer is to create timeless images for friends, family, and clients that can be enjoyed and put a smile on their faces.

Phoblographer: You’ve used Reddit quite effectively to promote your work, but how do you feel the Instagram community is with your style of work?

Tyler: I think the Instagram community is far less critical of my work, but at the same time less appreciative of some of the things Reddit seems to praise. I find myself posting my more casual images on Instagram and saving some of the more artistic photographs for Reddit. For example the same photograph that yields a bunch of likes on Instagram may get no love on Reddit and vice versa.

Phoblographer: What are the five biggest things that shooting analog has taught you about portraiture?

Tyler: I’ll be honest, I can’t really think of a good answer for this.

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