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Louis Lay: “Shoot in black and white”

It’s all in the eyes, as you get to know people you can see the moments reflected in the eyes. Silhouette is crucial, I was taught early that if you were to draw an outline of the subject in a photo and create that silhouette, it should be a beautiful shape. Shoot in black and white. […]

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It’s all in the eyes, as you get to know people you can see the moments reflected in the eyes.

Silhouette is crucial, I was taught early that if you were to draw an outline of the subject in a photo and create that silhouette, it should be a beautiful shape.

Shoot in black and white. Shooting in black and white allows you to focus on composition and feeling, without being distracted by colors or shades.


As a part of my series about “5 Strategies To Take Stunning Photos” I had the pleasure of interviewing Louis Lay.

Louis is an internationally renowned fashion and commercial photographer, having worked in North America, Singapore, Australia and France. His eye for capturing beautiful and compelling images while staying true to fashion and art has set him apart from the pack.


Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I was drawn to photography due to my original career in modeling, which took me to places like Asia and North America. Having been lucky enough to work with some of the best photographers in the world it sparked my interest and passion for photography. This grew over the years I spent working in a fashion which eventually led to me returning to Canada where I made the career change from being in front of the camera to where I truly felt at home — behind it.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

I was recently published in L’Officiel Australia for a shoot and concept that I conceived many years before. To see it come to fruition with such a talented team of creatives was a dream come true. Then to have it published in an internationally recognized magazine of this prestige — which had always been a goal — was an amazing feeling.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I have an amazing ability to misplace things when shooting (lenses, strobe triggers, memory cards) Also forgetting to remove the lens cap from the lens and trying to understand why the image is all black. They’re beginners mistakes, but trust me, sometimes you can make them even as a seasoned professional! I learned to be more organized and set everything down where I picked it up otherwise you can end up looking quite foolish on set. It’s just like looking for your sunglasses when they’re on your head.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

The knowledge and experience from years of being on the other side of the lens as a model, allows me to connect and relate to the people I am shooting. From guiding posing to the expressions and finding the right way to convey the concept we (the team or client) are looking to achieve. Shooting new faces or models that are in development has been one of the most rewarding experiences because you get to teach and coach young models and watch them grow. You can see the moment where they get that inner belief and shed their self-doubt and embrace that feeling of confidence.

It’s also been so helpful being able to understand what a client is looking for when I’m not shooting personal creative projects. Having worked on the other side of fashion for so many years, I’ve learned that you are hired for you and your vision, sure compromise is sometimes necessary, but your vision as a creative is the unique thing you bring to a set.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Always be learning and searching for inspiration be it from other photographers, stylists, Pinterest or photography books of legends past. Don’t be happy or settle with what is comfortable, always look for the opportunities to be pushed out of your comfort zone.
In terms of not burning out, seeking creativity in other places is a great way to stay grounded to your art. I take breaks from my creative process when I feel like it’s becoming too arduous or my heart isn’t in it. Then I can come back to it at a later time with fresh eyes.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

I have been fortunate enough to be helped by many. From my modeling agency (Richards Models) in Vancouver who have been supportive and nurturing of my ideas and endeavors to my friends who let me test things out on them. The person I am the most grateful for though is my wife. We met when we were both modeling, and without her patience and constant encouragement, I would not be the photographer I am today. Having a highly experienced “live-in model” who knows how to pose and move really helped me to focus on the composition of images I was creating without having to direct or worry about posing.

Are you working on any exciting projects now?

I am working on a new personal series shooting models with no makeup. In a world so fixated on perfect beauty, I found that everyone was starting to look the same, using the same filters, doing the same “on-trend” makeup looks or having cosmetic procedures. I wanted to bring the focus back on what makes a model or human being stand out, their unique qualities and features without the makeup. I want to empower models and people, in general, to have confidence in themselves and love what makes them unique.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Again being able to teach new faces on-set work etiquette, and helping them develop their self-confidence and inner belief has been a wonderful way to pass on my skills and knowledge to the next generation of models. I make a point of telling new models it’s always okay to say no on set if they are made to feel uncomfortable. A good modeling agency will always support their models and a good photographer would never push a model to do something they didn’t want to do. It’s something I learnt only after years of experience in the industry. On shoots I try to pass on as much knowledge as possible to help new models from making mistakes that are avoidable.

Can you share “5 Things Anyone Can Do To Take Stunning Photos”. Please an example for each.

  1. Connect with the person you are shooting, be curious, ask questions, get to know the subjects.
  2. It’s all in the eyes, as you get to know people you can see the moments reflected in the eyes.
  3. Silhouette is crucial, I was taught early that if you were to draw an outline of the subject in a photo and create that silhouette, it should be a beautiful shape.
  4. Shoot in black and white. Shooting in black and white allows you to focus on composition and feeling, without being distracted by colors or shades.
  5. Forget all the rules and do what you love. Once you’ve learnt the rules then throw them all out and push yourself to try new things. Most of the time they might not work but when they do it makes them all worth it.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

I would start a movement encouraging people to ditch the filters and the makeup. Having grown up in a world pre-instagram I find it heartbreaking that so many people have a tough time seeing their beauty. I blame the invention of filters. I really believe that if people can find the things in them that make them strong and unique and embrace them they truly can take over the world and that in my mind would do the most amount of good to the most amount of people.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

My Instagram is @photobylay

Website: www.louislay.com

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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