ATYPICAL: Garth Milan (Photographer)
Title: Photo Director, The Medium Creative Group
Q: Where do you live and why do you live there?
A: I live in Laguna Beach, California, and I choose to live there mostly because of the great climate, beautiful surrounding nature, and small-town charm. If you can’t be inspired to be creative in Laguna, something is wrong with you.
Q: Describe your style of photography
A: I would say that my style is very action-oriented, not only in subject matter, but also in the overall style, in the sense that I like to put the viewer as close to jaw-dropping action as possible. I love wide-angle lenses and getting right in the middle of it all (as evidenced by the fact that I am currently recovering from being jumped on by a runaway motocross bike…). I try to pay close attention to my framing, and make sure that everything in the frame serves some sort of a purpose to the composition and feeling of the overall image. As for my portrait and lifestyle work, again, I like to not only capture the subject’s personality, but to do so in an eye-pleasing manner. I love all of the classic rules of composition that I learned in basic design principles class in junior college, and I still apply much of this in my shooting today. I am also a stickler for technically correct shots, as far as sharpness and exposure. Basically, I never let myself justify an out-of-focus picture as art! lol
Q: When and how did you start shooting?
A: Although I have always had a fascination with photography since getting my first camera in grade school, it was in junior college that I first began thinking of photography as something more than a casual hobby. A couple of classes quickly turned into absolute obsession, and before I knew it, I was hooked and never looked back. That was 20 years ago now.
Q: When and why did you make it your “job”?
A: I went from bartending and shooting freelance while also going to school full-time to becoming a full-time, employed Photo Editor when I was about 23 or 24 years old, and I’m now 39. From the moment I became officially addicted and infatuated with cameras and photography in junior college, though, I knew I was going to somehow make it happen, and began dedicating myself to it and living the life of a pro photographer. As for why, I truly feel that it is my calling in life, as it’s such a natural thing.
Q: What would you say you get most your work shooting? And what do you enjoy shooting in your free time?
A: I definitely get the bulk of my work shooting action sports, things like the X Games, motocross, mountain biking, etc. If I’m shooting it, the subject usually involves some sort of excitement or death-defying action. But with that comes a lot of commercial and catalog work in these endemic industries related to the action, so I could find myself shooting anything from products in a studio, to clothing/lifestyle with a model, to a guy breaking a world record by jumping his motorcycle over a football field, on any given day. I am lucky enough to have these action sports also be my favorite subjects to shoot, and not just what I shoot most. All of this keeps me so busy that I simply don’t have much time for any other type of photography, besides taking silly pics of my wife and dogs with my iPhone.
Q: How is your approach different between the two?
A: My approach to any type of shooting rarely differs, which is what I feel helps keep me a very versatile photographer. It all starts with the subject and what he/she/they are doing, then it comes down to the setting, the lighting, angles, lens choice, etc. Each and every shoot combines at least slightly different ratios of these things to produce a different challenge or opportunity, which is why photography is always changing, always fresh, and always fun. So whether I’m shooting my dogs or I’m shooting a rock star, I get inspired and work off of all these elements and more. My approach is to take all of these factors into account, and try to make the most out of them for the best shot I can get, given the circumstances.
Q: Where do you find inspiration? Other photographers? Athletes? Locations? Etc?
A: I draw my inspiration from all sorts of different things, but by far the most important and best source of inspiration is from the athletes or subjects themselves. Nothing makes a shoot more successful than when everyone involved is willing to do anything and everything it takes to get the ultimate shot. Scenic locations, of course, also inspire me, along with seeing other people’s work and applying some of those ideas to what I do.
Q: What are your personal top three photos that you have taken?
A: That is just WAY too hard of a question. Actually, one of the biggest challenges I face is editing my own work; I have way too many favorites. I have so many memories of so many great shoots that it is tough to narrow it down. If I really had to, it would be a shot of James Stewart doing his signature Bubba Scrub that I took recently in Florida, a sequence I took of Travis Pastrana back-flipping his motorcycle from one rooftop to another in Los Angeles, and … Wow, that last one is just too tough!
Q: What are your personal top three photos from other photographers (or three favorite photographers)?
A: Just like picking my top-three favorite photos, picking my top-three favorite photogs is pretty much impossible. Let’s say that I would start with Christian Pondella, Phil Ellsworth, and Mattias Fredriksson, along with Ryne Swanberg, Ryan Fudger, Jeff Z, Mike Blabac and Sterling Lorence, for starters… I can keep going all day.
Q: Where do you hope to be in 5, 10 years. Any goals you want to achieve?
A: I want to continue to make a living with my camera, doing all of the same things I am doing now, but on an even bigger scale, for bigger clients. I would like to start working more with clients like Nike, Adidas, etc., but overall, I am extremely happy with where I am at and don’t want to get too greedy! Haha, but in all seriousness, I would like to continue to expanding our business at the Medium Creative Group, working with bigger clients and extending our creative reach to a much larger scale in both still and motion imagery.
Q: Any advice for shooters just starting out and finding their own style and learning how to make a living shooting photos?
A: The biggest thing I see a lot of young shooters lacking is the 100% commitment to make it. You really have to work your tail off do make a decent living in action sports photography, and photography in general. It involved lots of long hours, and if you try to count them and resist being 100% immersed in just getting “the shot” and making the absolute best images you can make because you love doing it, regardless of time or effort involved, you’ll never truly realize your full success. Dropping the ego and giving yourself wholly and truly to the project, whether you’re assisting or operating main camera, is just as important. Always be easy to work with, professional, and hard-working, and you can’t go wrong!