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Aaron Jay Young: On Learning, Creating, and Passion

We love Aaron Jay Young’s dramatic portraiture. Whether he is in the studio or on location his photographic style is recognizable and emotive. We had a conversation with him about his inspirations, his creative process, and how he connects with his subjects to achieve the intimate portraits he is known for.

“I describe my photography style as classic, timeless, elegant, and honest. I would describe myself as someone who is passionate about self-development, learning, creativity, and humanity. I'm also deeply passionate about animals. I love animals.”

“I am inspired by art of all kinds - movies, music, photography. I'm also inspired by psychology, how we as humans work, how our past affects our present, how we heal from trauma, and how we become the most powerful versions of ourselves. I'm inspired by people who have impacted the world in some big way. I am motivated by a deep desire to constantly learn and grow and by a desire to fulfill my purpose on the planet while I'm still here. I'm motivated by a desire to create work that allows people to really feel seen. I am motivated by a desire to help people.

Photography drives me crazy - constantly in that space of trial and error, successes and failures, feeling like I know what I'm doing one day and then feeling like I know nothing and have so much to learn another day. It can be quite maddening sometimes which is why you've got to have a deep love for what you do - that love and drive keeps you going, keeps you moving forward. I guess the whole process is a love-hate, but mostly love relationship that also motivates me.”

“When I'm photographing someone I put all of my focus and energy into that moment and into creating a space where the person feels seen and heard and feels safe whether I've got 30 seconds with them or 3 hours.

I'm always trying to capture a photo that gives me that familiar feeling, that feeling like you can feel someone's energy coming through the photograph, that feeling in that moment you feel your connection to humanity. I find this fascinating given that photography is such a visual art and I'm trying to capture an emotion. But the most powerful images of a person are the ones that make you feel something. For me, I know I've captured it when I can feel the person's energy and the energy of humanity coming through. I tell people that I really just want to capture them, who they are, so I don't really pose people that much. I pay close attention to their body language and try to capture moments where I can feel them relaxed, being themselves, being vulnerable, being powerful.”

“Last year I did an exhibit entitled "Beautiful Immigrant" that was portraits of people in the migrant caravan when it was heavily in the news. I wanted to give a voice to these people who had no platform to stick up for themselves against the many lies being spread in the news and on social media.

Another personal project I did last year was taking portraits of LGBTQ+ seniors in their homes. This eventually turned into a bigger project where I photographed LGBTQ+ Homeless youth as well. I've also had an ongoing project photographing drag queens at RuPaul's DragCon in LA and NY. I'm very excited that this body of work is finally turning into something much bigger as well (I'll be able to discuss this more in the future). And lastly, I've been doing an ongoing self-portrait series for a few years now that has taken on many different forms.”

“Right now I'm taking more action, I'm taking the ideas that I have and running with them. I'm challenging myself to expand how I see things, how I shoot things. I'm taking on a couple really big projects that scare me but also really excites me. My favorite part of the creative process is constantly learning something new and expanding, refining.”

“My lighting has evolved dramatically over the past few years. It's really due to 2 things - experimenting a lot and learning more about light through some amazing resources and friends. The more you actually take pictures the more you develop and refine your eye.”

“I currently have the ELB 500 Kit and the new ELC 500s. I'm loving the new ELC 500s. Having things like HSS and rear curtain sync built in is amazing. I've been using them for almost every shoot in the last few months. I'm very impressed by them and loving them so much.

Also, I'm loving the Elinchrom Transmitter Pro. Making changes to the light output is so easy. When it comes to modifiers I gravitate toward softer light so my favorites are the big Octas - deep and shallow. Always indirect mounted and sometimes with extra difusion. I just love the quality of light they give.”

One of Aaron's favorite quotes is:

"True understanding is to see the events of life in this way: 'You are here for my benefit, though rumor paints you otherwise.' And everything is turned to one's advantage when he greets a situation like this: You are the very thing I was looking for. Truly whatever arises in life is the right material to bring about your growth and the growth of those around you. This, in a word, is art -- and this art called 'life' is a practice suitable to both men and gods. Everything contains some special purpose and a hidden blessing; what then could be strange or arduous when all of life is here to greet you like an old and faithful friend?” - Marcus Aurelius

When we asked Aaron what his biggest advice to photographers is he said:
“Don't let fear stop you from creating the work you want or having the career you dream about. Seriously. When you can make peace with the fact that fear is just a part of the process, or even just make enough peace with it that you keep moving forward, even with baby steps, you are already succeeding in a huge way.

Creativity can be scary, we take ourselves way too seriously sometimes as artists, we put a ton of pressure on ourselves to be great without failing, and all it does is stop us from creating at all. It stops us from BECOMING great. It's a process with many failures along the way and I think the biggest advice I could give is to pick up your camera and take pictures often. Fail often. Learn from those failures, that's what they are there for.

There is no substitute for simply having the camera in your hand and taking that damn photo. We are all still learning and growing no matter where we are on our journey, so experiment, succeed, fail, feel your feelings, then get back out there and try again and again and again.”

To see more of Aaron’s work and to keep up on his future projects
Find him on Instagram at @aaronjayyoung
or his website www.aaronjayyoung.com

Aaron’s current lighting kit is:

  • ELC 500 Studio Monolight with TTL, HSS and Smart Pro-Active Cooling

    $899.99More infoAdd to cart

    ELC 500 Studio Monolight with TTL, HSS and Smart Pro-Active Cooling

    EL20619.1.US

    The Elinchrom ELC 500 Studio Monolight is a modern 500 Ws compact built to handle your next adventure reliably and consistently. Featuring TTL with Manual Lock, HSS, Smart Pro-Active Cooling, Auto-On, and direct compatibility with Elinchrom's world-renown light modifiers. Always Prepared The ELCs are ready to go the moment inspiration strikes you. With Auto-On, the unit is always in stand by mode with your previous settings saved, and the onboard TTL speeds up dialing in your next exposure. The Manual Lock function enables a quick switch from TTL to Manual without losing exposure settings for quick adjustments or to explore creative effects. Engineered to Last Every aspect of the ELC 500 has been designed and rigorously tested to deliver maximum reliability and extended lifetime. Elinchrom created the ELCs to last through your next adventure. And the one after. And many after that. Stay Cool Under Pressure With Elinchrom's Smart Pro-Active Cooling, the ELC's learn your shooting style and adapt their cooling cycles around it, never interrupting your creative flow. Plus, their cleverly engineered airflow design and low-noise speed-controlled fan can handle the heaviest of workloads. Explore More As important as a solid studio strobe is, the light modifier is where the real magic happens. The bayonet Quick-Lock system grants you direct access to Elinchrom's world-renown light modifiers. Combined with the ELC's bright, Daylight LED modeling lamp to aid your pre-visualization. The potential to evolve your lighting style is endless. Unlimited Flexibility Your equipment should never limit you. Whether you are experimenting in your living room or working in a large studio, the ELC 500 can acclimate. ELCs can be powered down to 7 Ws so that you can reach your desired depth of field or add only a hint of light. Plus, with HSS, you can freeze motion, overpower ambient light and darken backgrounds. Edit Less, Deliver Faster. Elinchrom's precise colour science and accuracy over the whole power range enables you to deliver professional and consistent results to your clients with less wasted time and money in post-production. Wireless Freedom Never miss a shot with Elinchrom's Skyport radio-frequency system compatible with 7 camera brands. You also get intuitive control of flash settings from your camera and your computer. Even non-Elinchrom units and speedlights can be integrated into the wireless setup via the Elinchrom Skyport Receiver Plus.

    $899.99
    QTY
    Add to cart

  • ELB 500 TTL Dual To Go Kit

    $2,124.95More infoAdd to cart

    ELB 500 TTL Dual To Go Kit

    EL10310.1

    The Elinchrom ELB 500 TTL Dual To Go Kit is supplied with two flash heads. This kit is the ideal way to take full advantage of the ELB 500 TTL's fully asymmetric power distribution. Other features include High Speed Sync, Active Charging, and built-in Skyport compatibility.


    The Power and Performance of 500 ws in an incredibly portable package.


    The ELB 500 TTL is powerful enough to overpower the sun, delivers 400 full power flashes on a single charge and has a fast recycling time of 2 seconds at max power. All in a package that weighs just 8 Lbs including the battery and head.

    $2,124.95
    QTY
    Add to cart

  • Rotalux Octabox 175 cm (69")

    $399.95More infoAdd to cart

    Rotalux Octabox 175 cm (69")

    EL26649

    This is the biggest Rotalux Octa.

    Very popular among beauty and fashion photographers, as they prefer the round catchlight given by this softbox. It's a great folding beauty dish when removing the front and inner diffusers and adding one of the optional deflectors.

    Another innovative feature which distinguishes Elinchrom softboxes from others is the lightweight dedicated speedring, which utilizes knurled, spring-action sockets to connect the four stainless rods which form the frame of the box, to the ring. This allows easy assembly of the box in a de-tensioned state. The user then simply pivots the sockets 90 degrees until they lock into place to tension it for use.

    The 69" (175 cm) Deep Octa shape features a large surface area which renders a "wrap-around" light quality especially when used at close range. It is ideal portraiture.


    Shape

    The 69"" (175 cm) Deep Octa shape is ideal for head-and-shoulders portraiture for a group of people, as a hairlight for groups or for reflective products and glassware.

    Quick Setup, Breakdown

    Lightweight, dedicated speedrings utilize knurled, spring-action sockets to connect the 8 stainless rods which form the frame of the box.

    Storage

    Fits assembled but de-tensioned in the included case, ready to set up again in seconds.

    $399.95
    QTY
    Add to cart

  • Rotalux Deep Octabox 100 cm (39")

    $289.95More infoAdd to cart

    Rotalux Deep Octabox 100 cm (39")

    EL26648

    This narrow shaped Deep Octa reduces the spread of light and offers sharper shadows compared to standard sized octagonal soft boxes. It provides a very even diffused light over the front screen and a very direct crisp light when used without diffusers to give a beauty dish look.


    The Elinchrom Rotalux Deep OctaBox 39" diameter softbox emits a more focused soft light than most OctaBoxes when used with its included inner and outer diffuser. With either, or both of the diffusers removed, this box acts like a super-large reflector for your flash head. Another innovative feature which distinguishes Elinchrom softboxes from others is the lightweight dedicated speedring, which utilizes knurled, spring-action sockets to connect the stainless rods which form the frame of the box, to the ring. This allows easy assembly of the box in a de-tensioned state. The user then simply pivots the sockets 90 degrees until they lock into place to tension it for use.The 39" (100 cm) Deep Octa shape features a large surface area which renders a "wrap-around" light quality especially when used at close range. It is ideal portraiture.


    The 39" (100 cm) Deep Octa shape is ideal for head-and-shoulders portraiture for a group of people, as a hairlight for groups or for reflective products and glassware. Because of it's deep shape when the light comes out it appears more "punchy".


    Lightweight, dedicated speedrings utilize knurled, spring-action sockets to connect the 8 stainless rods which form the frame of the box.

    $289.95
    QTY
    Add to cart

  • Litemotiv Direct Octa 190cm

    $1,299.00More infoAdd to cart

    Litemotiv Direct Octa 190cm

    EL28005

    190 cm (75") of pure deepness. This Litemotiv is the deepest softbox available in the Elinchrom range.

    The Litemotiv bracket is not included and must be ordered separately!

    $1,299.00
    QTY
    Add to cart

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