We had the good fortune of connecting with Austin Villegas and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Austin, is there something that you feel is most responsible for your success?
The most important factor behind my success is making my work my own. If you look at my past edits, it’s not the conventional way of editing portraits or landscapes. Having my own style is what drives me though, finding a look and making it my own. Ive always been a big fan of horror movies, and I like to incorporate an element of that in every edit I do. If all my work looked the same as everyone else’s I wouldn’t have the drive to keep doing it. I want people to look at my work and think that’s something Ive never seen before. All of that, and a constant need to push myself to make sure Im improving over time. I want to be able to look back and critique myself and think of what I could’ve done better at that certain point, I put that both into my photography, and my life in general.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I really think what sets my art apart from the others is the way and amount of time that I put into editing. I love taking landscapes when the time is right, but I mostly have a specific focus in portrait photography. Although my portraits start out the same as everyone else’s, most likely even the same settings the majority of portrait photographers shoot with, it’s the editing where I set myself apart. Ive always had a love for old horror movies, I even went to school for film; so a lot of what I learned lied in color grading and lighting. So I take that love for horror, and my knowledge of color grading, and I apply it to my photos. My friends like to joke with me all the time that my style is dark and moody, but I take that as a compliment, its the exact look that I’m going for. The shoots that I end up being the most proud of are the ones that embrace this style, by darkening the shadows, flattening the lighting and muting the colors, it gives a chance for the subject to speak for itself and tell a story. How I got to where I am professionally is the amount of time I put in to it. There are weeks and sometimes months where my schedule turns in to go to work, get off and edit for hours, go to the gym, and then repeat it all again the next day. What drives me to do this every day is I don’t look at it as a job, I look at it as a a way to express myself creatively and share with the world my certain style. It’s not easy doing it everyday, and sometimes it gets in the way of my social life, but if I want to some day do this professionally, I need to put in the work now. The biggest lesson Ive learned along the way is no matter what, stick to making everything you do your own. If you follow the status quo and do what everyone else is doing, or in this case edit/shoot the way everyone else is, you’ll fall into a sea of common place and you’ll constantly be looked over. To quote one of my favorite movies Into the Spider-Verse “don’t do it like them, do it like you.” What I would want the world to know about my brand and story is that I’m going to continue doing what I love for the love of it. With every single shoot I do I constantly see myself improving and honing that specific style I go for, and Ill keep doing it until thats what the world knows Austin Villegas for.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Easily I think that any journey in my area should start at Infusion Coffee and Tea. I’m a huge coffee shop guy, it’s where I get some of my best work done, and I know the absolute best ones in town but hands down, Infusion is the top of the line in my area. Tempe is a college town first and foremost, with ASU sitting in the heart of the city so after that I think its important to explore the downtown area, one of my favorite spots to shop is Buffalo Exchange. Being a higher end thrift store sitting right down the street from ASU they see a lot of great pieces come in, its a great way to keep your wardrobe fresh and try new styles.
Following that funny enough the best places to get something to eat is at the 2 biggest breweries in town, Pedalhaus and Four Peaks. Both are great places to grab something to eat, and a great drink at the same time. One of my favorite time of day though is sunset, and Tempe has a couple of ways you can enjoy it. If you’re looking to grab drinks with friends, the best place you could go for that is a bar called Skysill, located on top of a Westin hotel. One of the best spots in town to catch a gorgeous AZ sunset. Or if you’re looking to get a bit of exercise in, Hayden Butte (lovingly dubbed A Mountain locals) is the quintessential part of town to watch the sun go down behind the mountains in the distance, all while having planes go right over head due to being so close to the Phoenix airport.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
The person who deserves the biggest shoutout at this point in my life would have to be my high school journalism teacher Brain Taylor. Coming in to high school I had no aspirations for a future, no plans, no goals and I genuinely didn’t enjoy school. Mr Taylor was the first person who ever gave me a chance and put the tools in my hand in order to find success. Without him I would’ve never have gone to college, never had found an interest in journalism and the arts, and most importantly had never had found a drive for success and to prove myself.
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