Huang: The Hasselblad H2 with the Leaf Aptus back or a Canon EOS 5D Mark III, depending on the job. I have a bunch of cameras like any photographer, and the camera I use the most is my iPhone. We had a beautiful girl last year, and I've been trigger-happy with my phone's camera. She has her own Facebook page, and I Instagram almost daily. Someone said the best camera is the one you have on you at the time. It's so true.
DPP: Between the medium-format and the 35mm, when do you go with one system over the other?
Huang: Whenever I'm in the studio, I try to use my medium-format camera with the Leaf back. But when I need fast focus or I'm shooting in low light on location, I use my Canon. The thing is, I shoot fast. That's one trick when photographing celebrities. They don't have much time. The faster you do a great job, the better. That's why I originally chose the Leaf over the Phase One because of the capture rate. But I've yet to test the new Phase One IQ2 and the Leaf Credo side by side. I usually will choose the fastest capture rate over the largest sensor. If you missed the moment with a 100-megapixel back, you might own an amazing piece of equipment, but you still missed the shot.
DPP: What's your typical lighting setup?
Huang: I try to match my background light when I do the compositing work, so I usually shoot it first and then match the lighting in-studio with the model. I often use grids to control the light and create contrast. Sometimes I use a ringlight flash set to a low power setting to catch a little shine on the skin, especially with darker-skinned models. I often have a top light and backlight. I own a bunch of Dynalites, which I've been using since school. They're small and easy to transport. I also have some Profoto 7Bs that I use on location. I usually rent all Profotos when I shoot on location or in other studios, especially when I need fast recycle times and short flash durations. I have a live/work loft in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. It's not too big, but good enough to do the small shoots. I'm near Fast Ashleys Studio, so I often rent there. And there are a lot of other studios in my neighborhood, too. If the client wants to be in Manhattan, then there are, of course, even more options. I recently shot in China, and it's all Broncolor there. I liked using them, too.
DPP: How are you able to get such vibrant colors in your work?
Huang: I'm using some gels, and I'm doing some post work to add some colors to my liking.
DPP: Do you still retouch and composite all your own photos?
Huang: Yes, mostly. But now I have assistants to do some of the cleanup work, and I do all the compositing and finishing touches on them. It's hard to tell people how I want a certain contrast—darker here, a little lighter there—as well as positioning and blending composites just right. It's a long process, but it's like painting, so I do enjoy it.
See more of Howard Huang's photography at www.howardhuang.com.
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