This week was spent talking with the one and only Leah Minium (@leahminium on Instagram) about Star Wars, photography, Mextures and everything in between. Here's what came out of it!
For starters, tell the Mextures community a tad bit about yourself.
Leah: I’m married with two little dudes and I live in Los Angeles. I was born here. I studied illustration and graphic design. Photography was just for fun but now it's kind of my job. Weddings, family and portrait stuff. Also, I love emojis!
So you studied illustration and graphic design? I think a lot of people can probably see that in your Instagram feed. When you started studying those things, what was your hope? What did you want that knowledge to turn into?
Leah: Well, I knew I wanted to eventually work in a creative field, exactly what, I wasn't sure. I'd see the painting/fine art kids drinking wine out of paper bags and hanging out on the lawn and that really appealed to me. Some of my favorite artists of all time are graphic designers and pursuing that also appealed to me. Illustration seemed like a nice middle ground to explore what I loved about both worlds.
So how did that translate into your mobile work?
Leah: Honestly I don't see a lot of my schooling in my mobile stuff. I like to tell stories and I like when photos have a dreamlike, cinematic quality.
When I graduated I did some freelance design work - mainly little drawings here and there and some website design. It was pretty unfulfilling creatively and the money was terrible. I got married and had a baby in my early twenties and decided to get myself a DSLR to take nice photos of my new little baby dude. In high school I shot a lot of 35mm, mainly to document things (friends, family, what have you). With the DSLR I started to experiment with and appreciate photography as a creative medium. Fast forward five or six years - I discovered Instagram and editing apps, which I am still unhealthily obsessed with to this day. When I first started I did a lot of experimenting, I think I had 20 or so go-to apps (Totally serious. I had to have all of them.) and Instagram was kind of just exactly that - A fun place to experiment. Now it has turned into an online portfolio.
Your feed is full of some incredibly different and unique subjects and perspectives but it all really flows well together. You have a distinct thumb print on Instagram. How did you come into that style? What is it that draws you to the way you shoot and edit?
Leah: My style… I'm not totally sure how it came about. I'm not even certain I have a style. I know it all looks cohesive to some, but to me it looks all over the place. I do know that I tend to fixate a lot on depth, tones and scale. Sometimes all three at once. But mostly two out of the three.
What is your favorite type of subject to photograph and why?
Leah: I like photographing my sons a lot. They're really funny and expressive and are always doing things that make me want to reach for my camera. Also, they're all about dressing up and hiking and exploring and so many other things that make for good photos. The toys are also fun. I enjoy trying to make them emote like real people would. Sometimes it works, often it doesn't. And you can't tell from my feed, but I love photojournalism more than any other type of photography.
You brought up the toys. It's a really fascinating concept. How did all of that come about?
Leah: Toys. I'm pretty obsessed with sci-fi. I've always had little Star Wars knickknacks and other types of toys, but just to own and look at. When my boys started getting into Star Wars and started doing their own collecting I would watch them play and position them (the toys) in creative situations. I had the idea that I wanted to photograph the toys and print and hang them in their room. So it kind of spiraled into Star Wars figurine photographing madness from there. But even before that, I enjoyed photographing their little animals - putting them in their "natural" environment, and trying to make them look as lifelike as possible.
When you sit down to edit a photo on your mobile, what's your typical approach?
Leah: Well I can't leave a photo alone if it doesn't already have some unusual, dreamlike quality. I try to be fun. I think I photograph a lot of toys to simulate a fun atmosphere, but sometimes my dark editing tends to zap out the "fun" in the photo. If I want the photo to have more depth than it already does, I use ArtStudio or AfterFocus to give it more depth. And I often do lots of blending using blending apps like Image Blender or Superimpose. I love blending, particularly with the miniatures, often blending two or three photos together. For tones I use Mextures and a few others.
What advantage do you feel like Mextures offers you as you try to get a particular look or feel in an edit?
Leah: Tones! I'm pretty obsessed with getting tones "right" and I love, love, love the tones I get from several of the overlays in the Landscape Enhance pack. Frosted, Greenery, and Winter Skies are responsible for a lot of my bluish/greenish tones. Fore, Kansas, and Lily from the Radiance pack are also current favorites. I still have those original Mextures overlays from before it became an app in my camera roll.
Who on Instagram are you inspired by?
I've always admired surreal photography. I like when my photos have that extra "graphic" element. Some accounts I love that have that extra element are @figment _ hf, @c_grizz, @lifewithart, @oveck and @postaljeff.