Dalton Stiles is a contemporary, editorial portrait photographer based in Pennsylvania, specializing in contemporary magazine-style portraiture for men, women, and couples. Follow him on Instagram @stilesportrait and his personal website.
I would describe my style of photography as…
My photography used to be separated by commercial portraiture and conceptual fine art driven work. But as I am growing and maturing, it’s getting harder to separate the two. I weave traditional rules of portraiture and conceptual aspects into my images, and finding that balance is something that takes time. Visually I am drawn towards black and white most often, and color when needed. I shoot on both film and digital and usually flip between both to the match the needs of my current projects.
What was your first camera, how’d you get started in photography?
My first digital DSLR was a Nikon D3100 that I had begged my parents to buy me for Christmas in 2010. Actually, because I wanted to shoot video at the time, I had always been creative and wanted to put out content from a young age so the next step was acquiring the tool of a camera to help me.
Why did you want to become a photographer?
I never originally planned to be a photographer actually, I was and still am a traditional fine artist (drawing, painting, etc.) and when I discovered the joys of photography I realized that the camera was a tool that I could use to convey my artistic vision in a quicker way. In fact, you could say I was seduced into photography for its convenience. One of my favorite things to say is if you took my camera away from me, I would pick up my pencil or paintbrush and continue to communicate the best I can with what I’ve got.
What’s your most memorable shot or shoot, be it challenging to capture or interesting subject?
I feel like the most memorable shoots are the ones when you are working together in a beautiful location and racing against losing golden hour. Besides the aspect of stress, there is something amazing about the magic that comes out of the pressure that the model and photographer’s relationship has in those moments. That small window of time often ends up resulting in the best images from the shoot.
What image are you most proud of from your photography portfolio?
One of the more memorable shots I have taken is probably my most recognized, it is from a conceptual series I did called “Wars Youth” that focused on a WWII soldier mid-embrace with his lover on a concrete staircase. As well as an accompanying close up of the soldier with a cigarette in his hand, and deep connection in his eyes to the viewer. I feel like these images really clarified where my art was headed at the time, and sort of shaped what could be the future of my conceptual photography. I also loved creating my “Can you hear me?” portrait series. As someone who is hearing impaired, I wanted to bring others’ stories about their hearing loss to light in a series of studio portraits.
My dream gig would be…
My dream gig would be getting paid to photograph other artists and people of importance, in beautiful locations and deliver authenticity and emotional honesty in my work. But also I would love to teach and help other artists in photography, i have a passion for sharing knowledge and helping others grow and transform. I would love to create a platform that lets me help others. In return it would result in me having the freedom to create conceptual work that lets me balance the line between reality and construction and produce a body of work that I am proud of.
My favorite piece of gear is…
My favorite piece of gear would probably be whatever gear that gets the current job done. But if I had to choose would be My Nikon D850 and my 35mm Nikon F5
Do you shoot tethered?
Yes, I prefer when shooting studio work. I feel the immediate reflection helps you achieve your look in a more efficient way.
My favorite piece of Tether Tools gear is…
My favorite Tether Tools gear is the JerkStopper camera support, it’s such a tiny piece of gear but it makes a HUGE difference in that extra step of protection against your tether cord being ripped out mid-shoot.
What’s on your photography gear shopping list?
I have had my eye on an Oliphant backdrop for a long time now, all portrait photographers love a good backdrop.
The best advice I can offer a fellow photographer would be…
Teach yourself as much as you can by finding those who do what you want to do, and find out how they do it. Always stay humble, and only take to heart the opinions of those whose work you admire.