Profile: Leia Blalock

It’s become very easy to whip out a smartphone of buy a camera to take high quality photos. But SILS second year Leia Blalock takes advantage of the accessibility of high quality photos and has made it her passion. She shares her photography journey with Her Campus. Follow @leiambphotography on Instagram to see more of her photos.

Her Campus Waseda: How did you get started in photography?

Leia Blalock: When I was really young, maybe in middle school, my dad bought me a Nikon camera for my birthday. I had that camera for a really long time, but I didn’t really use it throughout my high school years, and it would always be dusty in the back of my closet. After coming to Japan, all of my friends had really nice Instagrams and I thought “I want to do that too.” I got money for my birthday last year and saved up some money from my allowance every month so I could buy a really nice camera since I broke my Nikon. So I bought a Canon Kiss X8i, because a lot of my friends had it and I thought the design of the camera itself was nicer. It came with a standard lens and the body, and I bought a separate lens (f1.4, 55mm) that makes the background of the pictures blurry. At the beginning of this year, I started using my camera more. I would ask my friends if I could take pictures of them. I would also start posting pictures that I would take on my own Instagram, so I could build up a canvas. After that, my friends started asking me for pictures so I really got into it during spring break.

HCW: Do you have a different approach when you take pictures of people and scenery?

LB: For scenery, I take the photo of how I feel like it should be taken. You can’t really control what they do, so I just try to capture the beauty of it itself. With my portraits, I tell my friends to do certain poses. While I’m taking photos, I would be in weird positions with lower and upper angles. I would tell my subjects to try out different poses.

HCW: When your take photos, how much do you like to control the atmosphere?

LB: Sometimes I would have a vision after seeing someone’s photo and wanting to try something similar to that. When I take those photos, I would control the whole atmosphere. With random photo shoots, I would let the model do whatever they want to do and give them suggestions. Some people know which angles they look good in already, so I allow them to do what they know.  

HCW: What apps do you use to edit pictures?

LB: I use VSCO a lot, and if I post it on Instagram or other social media I would use their editing section of the app before posting [the picture], since VSCO doesn’t allow you to make really minor changes. I like VSCO because I think the filters are really nice. My only problem with VSCO is that I can’t make really minor tweaks.

HCW: What do you change when you edit a picture?

LB: I use basically everything. Sometimes I would use a filter first and then make the minor changes, [or vice versa]. I would change the exposure, contrast, sometimes crop it, tilt it from side to side if I would take it too much from the side. I also use clarity, sharpen, highlights and shadows. I think for landscape I would use temperature. If it’s a portrait, I don’t like when the picture is too orange, so I like to use the skin tone corrector or tint to fix those things. Right now, my favorite filters [on VSCO] are A6 and HB2.

HCW: What does photography mean to you?

LB: To me, photography started out as a hobby but it became a creative outlet. It was also a stress reliever. I enjoyed it so much to the point that I would concentrate so much that I would forget all of my stresses of that day. The whole process of taking pictures and editing is so fun for me. I used to do sports and dance, but photography really stuck with me. I don’t think I’ll ever get sick of it. In the other activities I have done, I felt like there were people better than me. There was a definite line splitting good and bad people in dance, but I think that photography it such a big genre that people have their own style and you can’t compare that so it’s impossible to differentiate between that. After starting photography, I feel like I have a place in the world and that I’m more grounded when I do it.

HCW: Where is your favorite place in Tokyo to take pictures?

LB: Sometimes I would look out from my window from my dorm and I would look out and see the sunset and it’s so beautiful. Every time I look back at photos with nature, I feel really good inside. You can always take those unless buildings are in the way. Some of my favorite places for taking pictures of people are Tokyu Plaza Starbucks in Omotesando, Daikanyama and Shimokitazawa. Something that all of these places that I take portraits have in common is that the atmosphere is quiet, calming and peaceful.

HCW: Are there any photographers that inspire you?

LB: I don’t have specific photographers that I really like, but I find pictures that I really like on Instagram. I would go to an account like @canonphotography and there would be pictures that a lot of other people took. I just like looking at different people’s pictures and not just one specific person.

HCW: How do you find new places to take pictures?

LB: [My friends and I] would usually go to a hangout spot and have dinner, and walk around and scan the area, so sometimes it happens very randomly. The number one thing for me [for a location to take pictures] is lighting, and I find that really good lighting can be found in front of vending machines since there is white light, or places with lights. I would also pick a place that doesn't look too dirty. Most of the time, I just go with how I feel. Or, I would be on Instagram and see someone’s photo and I would think “that sounds cool, I want to try that.”

HCW: Anything else that you would like to add?

LB: I don’t get why people are so afraid in trying photography or anything else. I would recommend trying it than not trying it, because you don’t want to regret anything. 

This article was written by HC Waseda Guest Writer, Megumi Kitamoto.