What made you want to become a photographer?
I think it was the ability to capture something in real life and make it greater-than-life, that initially made things interesting! Originally, I started doing macro photography and landscape, before discovering that capturing characters and people made for varying and interesting subjects. Now, my brand involves highly stylized portraits- but I am hoping to start a second portfolio with more realism involved.
What has been your proudest moment as a photographer?
I think my proudest moment was being published in Vogue Taiwan. That will be something that stays with me for a long, long time.
How and why are you using Lume Cube 2.0s in your work?
I first started using my single Lume Cube because I was often shooting outdoors, and was limited by where the sun was in the sky and was at the mercy of even vs uneven lighting. It was an attractive item to me at the time because of its size as well, since I was always on the run and traveling. As a student then, I had neither space or money for a studio outside of my other expenses, so having the luxury of a predictable and consistent setup was something I did not have.
Initially, I used my little cubes to even out shadows (or incidentally, to create shadows), act as a punchier, sharper light for illuminating the face (with my then-improvised “diffuser” in the form of tissue paper), or to lighten up dark shadows and spaces- but now, I’ve been able to expand into some creative work indoors as well thanks to the amazing amount of accessories available for the Lume Cube! I’ve tried doing a few shoots with the Lume Cube combined with other lights, then shoots lit exclusive by Lume Cube- and now, I’d love to experiment with Lume Cube as an accent and extra detail within a shoot (whether by providing outlines of color, or providing extra “glow,” etc). I’ve recently moved into a new space that gives me the freedom to have a studio- and I’m so excited to play with colors and to use the Lume Cubes creatively. The Lume Cube Panel Go is also a gem for close-ups!
Who are you inspired by?
I’m heavily inspired by painters and illustrators and their use of light vs shadow! Ironically, it was my lack of proper lighting that allowed me to develop some good editing skills to fake this element- but nevertheless, my Lume Cubes and other lights now give me much more freedom.
What is your go-to camera?
You have many titles (Pianist. Photographer. Retoucher. Model.). Which is your favorite and why?
I think the most relevant are the first two! They are also my favorites, as they are the two things I do the most. I find the most joy in constructing a shoot and being present for it, and while playing my instrument. Everything else is secondary.
Any advice for new photographers?
I think it’s important to understand how your equipment works- but to not let yourself be limited or bound by it. Don’t have fancy lights? Gift-wrapping tissue paper or translucent baking paper over a lamp will diffuse your light, or only start with 1 or 2 continuous lights in your kit. Starter camera? Experiment in different lighting and environmental situations to see how it responds. Don’t have a studio? Use painter’s tape and stick up some fabric on the wall. Not sure how to retouch? Spend time playing and editing just to learn how to make your own workflow intuitive. You can be creative to work around your limitations- and slowly upgrade as you go.
I have retouching and painting as a heavy component of my brand- but even then, I need to have a picture that’s strong enough to stand on its own prior to starting. By understanding what my camera can and cannot do in specific situations, it allows me to think ahead and plan my execution!
What is the best part of your day?
Coffee or tea?
Tea. Every type of tea. I drink at least 2-3 pots of tea a day.
What’s your favorite photo you’ve taken and why?
Each photo is like a child- unique and loved in its own way- but I think my favorite has to be “The Bard.” I had the most incredible makeup artist paint my model’s face perfectly to the point where I barely had to do any retouching. There is something about the synergy in lighting, pose, and aesthetic that really speaks to me!
If you could photograph anything in the world (person, place, thing, etc), what would it be?
Haha tea. No coffee, no energy drinks.
What’s your favorite photo you’ve taken and why?
I love armor. If someone would let me into a proper military museum for a few days and let me play around, I would die happy. The one in Vienna has the coolest horse armor!
You have done a ton of fantasy work, where does your vision or inspiration come from when coming up with a new setting?
Character. The audience needs to find it believable, to be immersed. Body language, color, costume, and execution...all need to work together. I tend to think, “who is this person?” And then build from there!
Follow Lillian Liu on Instagram!