Adventureous, thoughtful, talented, determined. These words sum up my impression of Miller Mobley, a 25 year old portrait photographer who stopped by Atlanta as part of a commercial shoot for Regions Bank.
Originally from the southeast, Miller moved to New York City, about a year ago, with his wife and business partner Jana. New York is obviously ‘a good place to be’ for a photographer, and while they’ve been enjoying big city life, he’s keen to pay homage to his hometown, Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Miller went to school at the University of Alabama where he studied Studio Art. The curriculum covered photography basics, but the self-study program he embarked on is what ultimately propelled him into the industry.
During a phone interview, I had the opportunity to chat with Miller Mobley about his fast-moving career. His answers were candid and his style laid back.
How was your experience shooting in Atlanta?
My job with Regions Bank was a 13 day, ‘music tour-like’ route through Florida, Tennessee, Alabama, Louisiana, and Atlanta, Georgia. The photographs I took feature small business owners that received loans from Regions Bank so they could get their businesses going. The photos will be featured in several prominent business magazines. We had a lot of fun traveling around the southeast together. I was able to bring my wife, my producer, and my lighting assistant. We worked hard, had fun hanging out afterwards, and got to explore new places. Plus our experience with Morel Studio Support made things easy. You provided us with amazing equipment. There’s nothing better than having equipment delivered to you when you show up in a big city. Honestly, I’m not used to it. I’ve traveled with a bunch of gear in suitcases in the past and it can be a hassle. Working with you guys was pretty cool”.
Lately I’ve been a big fan of using beauty dishes with grids. The light is focused and makes the face pop. In this shoot I used five beauty dishes with grids…so I can light everything with those. I also used a 7ft pro big umbrella behind the camera for fill.
I noticed that some of your past work has been pretty dark and has a lot of shadow.
I once heard someone say something along the lines of, “It’s not how much light you put on the subject. It’s about how much light you can take away.” That stuck with me and I love playing with that idea. It creates a dramatic look. Well, I also tend to like dramatic pictures and movies and music. Some people don’t know how to respond to it. I’ve heard “this work is too dark” before. So I know that I need to show range and I’ve been making an effort to lighten things up a bit.
Well, honestly, I’m dying to take a photo of someone well known. I have a few people in mind but I’d have to say my number one would be Kanye West. There’s just something about him. I would really love to take his picture. I also think Jack White would make a cool portrait and Tim Burton.
I hope you get that opportunity soon. I think that would be pretty cool. What made you decide that you wanted to take pictures as a career? What inspired you?
My biggest inspiration came from my stepdad’s copy of Richard Avedon’s book, In The American West. His portraits moved me. They are powerful and authentic. Then when I was 15 years old I really wanted a video camera. My parents got me a cheap video camera and I’d take videos of my brother skateboarding and us doing kid stuff. One year later I decided I wanted a serious camera for Christmas. This one cost something between three and four thousand dollars. My stepdad, who is no longer living, wanted to buy it for me but my mom was opposed to it. He bought it for me anyway. It was exciting and meant a lot to me. Because of that I gained experience with video.
I originally intended to be involved in the film industry but my college didn’t offer any film classes. As part of my Studio Art major I took photography classes and enjoyed taking still photos. Then I just went for it. With camera in hand and some new Profoto gear I started playing around and taking pictures. And I took a lot of pictures. I would walk up to strangers and ask to take their portrait. To learn about lighting I would set it up, experiment, fail, and start again. So at 20 years old I put a book together and showed it around to ad agencies. Then paid jobs started coming in. After a while I began spending more time taking pictures than at class. Ironically, I started failing my photography classes. I had a discussion with my dad and together we decided that it made more sense for me to pursue my photography career full-time then to continue school.
Wow. That’s pretty amazing. There are a lot of inspired artists out there trying to make it. You definitely did some things right to get where you are now. What is one bit of advice you have for budding photographers?
Lately, I’ve been aware of how important relationship building is in this business. I think some people go into it thinking that they can just be behind the camera and make pictures but I’ve found that people want to work with people they like…people they want to be working side-by-side with. That was how I got this last job which has been my biggest so far. So my advice is to remember that relationship building is still really important and you’ve got to continue to get out and meet people. I’m really lucky because my wife, Jana, is great with our clients and helps to build and maintain our relationships with them. I tend to be more reserved so she balances me out. She studied and worked in accounting and takes care of the business end of this job, she’s a great teammate. So like I said, I’m really lucky.
Thanks for that. Do you think you’ll be back in Atlanta anytime soon?
Well I’m here about five to six times a year. So I’m sure I’ll be back down there soon.
Cool! We look forward to seeing you around. Anything else?
Just that I found Morel Studio Support through the blog. I was researching something and it was there. I like that your website is clean, fresh, and easy to navigate. The blog is fun and informative…so keep it up!
Make sure to check out Miller Mobley’s webpage and the rest of his work.