Yancey Hughes Interview

Making Photographs

By Jean Cunningham

Today, nearly everyone has a camera on their phone and takes some photos; perhaps, many, many photos! We are all “photographers” in a basic definition sense. But there are a few who don’t just take photos, but “make” great photos through professional preparation of the site and subject, knowing how to adjust high-end cameras for the best result, and manipulating the raw photo image after the shoot. Yancey Hughes is one of those few, a professional photographer making beautiful, professional grade photographs. He shoots weddings, milestone anniversaries, special occasions, and corporate events. He also produces actor/actress comp cards, 

Hughes works at his large studio in the Noyes Cultural Art Center in Evanston, picture below. There he has natural light as well as equipment to produce a range of artificial light. He has materials to create backgrounds of various color and styles as well as several props. In this large space, he also makes commercial product still life, fashion accessory, and artist display photos used in catalogs, websites, etc. He has space for large family or social group shoots and can create an environment for model or graduation photo shoots. Professional photo shoots are not limited to the studio. Hughes service offerings also include off-site shoots for a variety of occasions when a special ambiance is desired. 

Most of Hughes’s photographs are for commissions, but when not “working”, he creates photographic art works. His art photos are typically a series of black and white images using a consistent photographic theme. For example, one series is based on uncropped images taken of public settings using the same camera. Each of these images has a message that he brings out by his framing, use of camera speed, and lens adjustment. 

Hughes begins a commission project with a client discussion of the purpose, the location, and the theme desired. Based on these factors, a location will be determined. For instance, if a Lake Michigan scene is desired, Hughes will suggest a location that he has experience with knowing it will create a great image and experience. Also, he will make need-based suggestions concerning style, clothing, or any props. Once a time and location are set, the next step is to meet for the shoot.

Not everyone is comfortable in front of camera. So, to get a better shot when the subject is posing, Hughes will make spontaneous suggestions and banter with the client to reduce any stress: step closer, hold hands, chin down, jump in the air, etc. On the other hand, if the subject is active and not posing, he will judge the timing of the shot to avoid an undesired facial expression when possible.

After the shoot, Hughes reviews and, when needed, edits the photos for lighting, color, and size. This expertise is critical to making a great photograph. He will ultimately delete many photos and retain the ones that best fit the commission. 

Next the photographs are shared with the client and selections are made. Lastly, decisions are made on how to provide the images. Does the client want them as a digital file, in prints, bound in a book, etc. Post-project, Hughes stores the finished files digitally for many years so the clients can re-order as needed. 

There is much more to photography than clicking a button when you desire to have a special set of photographs made. Luckily for Hughes’ clients, he has the experience, expertise, and many examples to help clients decide which kinds of images will create the best lasting memory.If you would like to know more about Yancey Hughes, visit his website at yanceyhughesphotography.com, his Instagram at #yanceyfoto, his Evanston Made web page, or on Facebook at Yancey Hughes Photography.

Jean Cunningham is retired after a career in business management and finance. She has written three books and authored many articles in her field, was a speaker at conferences, and taught at the university level. While traveling for business she began painting and drawing for relaxation and collecting art. She and her husband have lived in Evanston for 11 years and are avid walkers of the town and lakeside. She has a BS from Indiana University and an MBA from Northeastern University. 

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