Creator Journals: Henry Wu’s Life of Color

Designer Henry Wu (@henrykhwu) explains the struggles on finding your own style and creating consistency as a photographer.

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If you’re a color fanatic, there’s a designer in San Francisco that you’re going to love. His name is Henry Wu, and we recently sat down to chat with him about his journey into this colorful world he has created.

When did you become passionate about photography and design?

HW: Design has always been something that I’m passionate about. As a trained designer, I was taught to observe what’s around me and be inspired by what I see. My interest in photography started last year when I went through some challenging times and used travel & photography as an outlet. I was also fortunate enough to meet with some amazing Instagrammers to show me how impactful photography can be.

What are your favorite sources of inspiration?

HW: For inspiration, I LOVE going to different museums and galleries. You get to see how different artists and designers express their ideas. Whether it is painting, sculpture, or installation, they are all supposed to tell a “story,” and that’s what photography should be too.

I love seeing how artists create something spontaneous with the space they are given. I learn a lot from the different aesthetics and styles. I can find inspiration anywhere: an opening scene of a tv show, a fashion magazine, or even bloggers can teach me a thing or two.

How did you come up with the idea to stick to such a strict cycle of colors on your Instagram feed?

HW: Every time I come back from a trip, I go through all the photos that I take. One time I noticed that the majority of my photos had either a single color as the backdrop or as the contrast color within the frame. That is when I decided to sort all my photos in a color spectrum.

The color cycle varies. I usually select a color that is in contrast to the previous color, because by doing that, I can create a clear separation of each collection, as well as create that simultaneous contrast to train eyes to see the colors better.

What advice do you have for creatives looking to develop their own style?

HW: Consistency is the way to go. It’s the same as design: first come up with a few options, go through that iterative process, test it out, and focus on how you can achieve that. Because my content is heavy on color, I am always on the lookout for people in colorful outfits, buildings with colorful walls, environments that consist of a single color, and try to curate the photos to the way that I want.

Once you have developed a specific creative style, try to look at your world from that perspective. If you train your eyes in a certain way, it will soon become instinct. You will be able to think creatively wherever you go.

Tell us about your process, how do you plan out your color choices and images? How do you stay organized?

HW: When I’m shooting, I try to capture as many different colors as possible. I tend not to just shoot by color — because by doing so, I could be missing spots or items with different color. Once I’m done with a shot, I will edit the ones that I like, then sort them in my color folders on my phone. I have multiple folders in my camera roll with different color labels.

Planning has always been the challenge for me, it actually takes the most time sorting and selecting all the photos. There are times when I post a collection of color, then later find out that I’m in need of a few more to complete the collection, but that always pushes me to get back out there and shoot more!

You travel pretty frequently. How does traveling play into your aesthetic when you’re meeting different people and seeing so many different types of scenery?

HW: Before I travel, I always reach out to the locals to connect. At the end of the day, they are your best guide, and they can show you what’s best about their city and exactly what inspires them. Through their eyes, you can be inspired the same way the city inspires them. Most of the people that I reach out to are Instagrammers, so with them, they already have the best tips and tricks on where to shoot. Through their eyes, you also get to learn new ways of shooting that you can implement into your style. And on top of that, you made a new friend!

Sometimes my aesthetic will change a bit based on the location. Weather is also your best buddy when you are looking for a different aesthetic. The bright sunlight can cast interesting shadows between walls, while the fog can add some mystery to your photos.

Because you have such a specific attention to color, can you explain how important tones are when photographing things? What does one need to look for? And what apps and tools do you use to adjust tones in photographs?

HW: Tones definitely help set the mood and the aesthetic of the photos. A single photo can have a calm and vintage feeling just by adding warmth, whereas it can look sophisticated and elegant by incorporating just a little shade of blue.

When you already have the right tones of color in your photo, simply enhance that saturation to bump up the highlight of color. In terms of tools, VSCO, Priime, and Lightroom have always been my go-to’s. Three of them have their own pros and cons, I use VSCO when I want to apply a specific filter on top of the image. Priime for more granular control on contrast, saturation, and shadow. Lightroom for specific location of the photo that I want to enhance, or to change the main color of the photo.

One of the biggest struggles for any creative is feeling uninspired. How do you overcome these moments?

HW: Getting out there is the first step. Sometimes when I feel uninspired, that is when I will stop taking photos for a little bit, go on a road trip with friends to somewhere I’ve never been, find inspiration, and then come back later to shoot.

You need to constantly refresh your brain and how you look at things wherever you go in order to keep that creativity flowing and break out of routine.

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