“Magic can be found when encouraging vulnerability and intimate connection to everyday people,” explains photographer Ezlan Powers to us in an interview. “Always be touching in some way or doing an activity together. Have them hold hands, close their eyes, and take some deep breaths before kissing softly.” Ezlan (they/them), formerly identified as Jillian, works with their clients to create an energy in the scene that’s really unique to them. In turn, it reflects incredibly well through the lens.
The Essential Camera Gear of Ezlan Powers
I’ve had a 5D Mk III for almost ten years now and don’t really want to switch to a mirrorless system. The full frame sensor on my 5dmkiii has much better colors and saturation than you’ll find in any of the newer files coming out of the mirrorless community. I’m a professional editor during the off season so I’ve spent a lot of time inspecting the quality of various file types and camera options. I don’t see a need to upgrade my gear to mirrorless anytime soon.
At the age of 12, Ezlan knew they wanted to be a photographer for a living. And since then, we’ve featured Ezlan’s boudoir work. The special connection and empathy for humanity they showed through their work touched us. And we’re happy to see that, even despite a global pandemic, Ezlan endured. What’s more, the humanity in their work continued to shine.
“If they are both cracking jokes? Lean into their humor for some genuine laughter, laugh with them and make them feel comfortable to relax. Are they self-proclaimed introverts and awkward during photos? Assure them awkward is your forte, and encourage them to let go as the session goes along. Verbally praise them for what they do right and they’ll eventually become comforted enough to be intimate on their own. It’s all about creating a safe, comforting space for your clients to be whoever they are in that moment.”
Ezlan believes photographers need to be both alert to the moments and have an emotional understanding of what’s happening during their couples’ shoots. “You need to both anticipate their needs and reactions as well as be alert for sudden changes during a session challenging you as a photographer,” they explain. “Part of being a professional is adaptability to sudden changes in mood, lighting, comfort, etc. Our industry values outdated, distant notions of professionalism rather than valuing the intimacy of getting to know your subjects enough to capture those subtle emotions.” Ezlan continued to note that creating art is about telling a story of your subjects. To that end, art is supposed to be emotional.
A few extra tips: do questionnaires, meetings, and understand the nuances of email communication. Otherwise, you’ll be unfocused or sometimes sloppy. When you understand the details involved, you’ll understand how your client work. This can help you create better art.
On the subject of creating art, many photographers sometimes add Black and White imagery to their portfolio. But when I looked through Ezlan’s work, I couldn’t find any. Instead, it’s incredibly colorful. We learned it’s part of their desire to be consistent. Ezlan includes black and white copies of images for clients, therefore giving them two options to work with. For them, color photography just happens to sell more.
With that in mind, Ezlan believes that the real beauty of Chicago comes out in the fall. “I’m partial to the temperature due to my disabilities, but nobody could deny how pretty the leaves get when fall hits,” they tell us. “It is a very busy time of year for engagement sessions. It’s a very narrow span of time, and I can only book so many folks, but the photographs of the surrounding nature framing my couples’ emotional connections creates this peaceful calmness to my work.”
To create their photos, Ezlan keeps gear minimal. They’re still using a 5D Mk III, and they shoot a lot of portraits with a 24mm lens. For Ezlan, filling the frame reminds them of older film cameras, distortion and all. Further, they like to keep the vignetting for the more vintage-inspired look of older film cameras. Beyond this, they use prisms and split diopters.
“When learning my artform, I was always told to center the frame and compose my photographs in a way that directs attention to the most important point of focus. Doing this with composition, intentional blurring, and freelensing has led me to create some truly artistic work I’m proud of. I’m almost starting to feel like images without these things don’t feel as compelling unless there is a vibrant emotional reaction being captured.”
About Ezlan Powers
Ezlan Powers (they/them) is an award-winning wedding and boudoir photographer based in Chicago, Illinois. They primarily serve the queer/trans community with a focus on comfort and gender-neutral language. You can find them mentoring, coaching, and doing activism-related artwork in their community. They have a knack for creating safe spaces for community gatherings, as they are extremely passionate about raising awareness of various types of marginalized people. Their artwork has themes of intimacy, vulnerability, and emotional interaction.