In the second instalment of our ‘What I’ve learned as’ series London-based photographer Hermeilio Miguel Aquino chats to Nikon magazine about his growth within the last four years, the fashion industry and why every photographer should be constantly learning
If there’s one word to describe Hermeilio Miguel Aquino, known as Kino, it would be truthful. The creative director, fashion photographer, filmmaker and Nikon Ambassador from New York is a man on the move. The owner of Kinography, and co-owner and creative content producer of creative agency Defiant, has photographed for the likes of Vogue, London Evening Standard, Contributor magazine and brands such as Fender, Range Rover, Russell & Bromley, Jaguar and Deliciously Ella. Here, he reveals how he makes his models feel like the ultimate hero.
Success doesn’t happen overnight
“I was an actor for a very long time – from the age of four all the way up to 30,” Hermeilio says. “When I moved to the UK at 28, my father-in-law handed me a film camera. I started taking pictures of London and I really loved the idea of creating art – of course, no one could class my pictures then as ‘art.’ For two or three years, I learned how to use a camera and then, one day something clicked and I understood exposure, shutter speed, ISO and other settings.
“I started getting paid very small amounts – enough to cover the price of the film – for street photography. I didn’t really know what I was doing! I pitched to many magazines, and they all rejected me. Then, in 2015 the men’s magazine Pink Prince asked me to shoot Fashion Week and there I was, suddenly standing outside 180 Strand street. I didn’t have a pass, but I went inside and spoke to the head of marketing for the British Fashion Council and convinced her to give me a pass and explained I was with Pink Prince. And then, I was in! I stayed for ten hours and shot all backstage too. And then I came back the next day and did the exact same thing.”
Shooting backstage is invaluable
“Once I was in, I was in. I started going to every Fashion Week season, shooting a lot of backstage and by then, I had upgraded to a digital camera with a flash. I began to feel more confident and that’s where I learned to take backstage shots. I learned how to build a rapport with models who don’t have that much time to be photographed before they go on stage. I experimented with shooting the models in different locations and editorialising the photos with artificial lights.”
Train in all areas – not just photography
“When I was starting out, I was rejected by a lot of different photography studios. And then, a studio called West London Studio hired me to be a lighting technician and a studio manager. Sometimes I’d also be an assistant to the photographer. I learned a lot about the business side of photography there and how to control different types of lighting like strobes and continuous lighting. It was a fantastic opportunity to pick the brains of amazing photographers and shadow them. By this point, I was far better than when I started out, but I was still learning. I kept studying and studying until I felt more confident in the studio.”
An in-house job will increase your confidence
For Hermeilio, being in-house is invaluable and a quicker way to gain contact with established photographers and brands. “Ultimately, this career is 50 per cent business and 50 per cent photography. My suggestion is to work in-house first, learn how to contact brands and then email them, ‘Hi, I noticed you produce a lot of social content, can I shoot for your brand?’”
He got a position as a junior content producer at an agency and dealt with budget, clients and getting shoots off the ground. “This was where I started building my style while I was shooting different social assets for great brands. Ultimately, I learned how to shoot something that looked amazing within a constrained budget.”
When budget is restricted, you have to get creative
“When I couldn’t rely on a big budget, I had to rely on my composition skills,” Hermeilio explains. “I had to build a rapport with the actors and make them look good.” The key is to practice, and you’ll become better at directing videos.
Shoot manual and invest in lights
“If I’m shooting in the studio and I have lights, my settings will depend on my chosen depth of field,” Hermeilio says. “I often shoot products, so I set a high f/stop to make sure everything is in focus, and I’ll tweak the colour balance. I’d always suggest when shooting outside to look at the White Balance and figure out the tone you want.
“My favourite f/stop is 2.8 or 1.8 as I like to take portraits with beautiful bokeh. Sometimes, I like to freestyle with a NIKKOR Z 14-24mm f/2.8 S on my Nikon Z 9 or I’ll use the NIKKOR Z 85mm f/1.8 S for a full body shot. I also use the NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f/2.8 S and often shoot video with the NIKKOR Z 35mm f/1.8 S.
“I use continuous lighting in my studio and create cinematic lighting with deep shadows and saturated colour. Outside, I like playing with shadow and natural light and I always shoot in RAW for its ease in post-processing.”
Treat models as artists
“I treat models with the utmost respect. I treat them as artists and I advise them on my creative vision right from the beginning. I prep them by saying I want to see ‘this or that’ in their face or posture. You must be polite and always ask them if you need to move them.”
What I’ve learned the most over the years is…
“I’m 34 now, but I’ve only been a professional photographer for four years. I’m proud of what I’ve achieved in those years. It’s a hard industry, not to mention the effect of Covid-19, but if you’re determined, do your research, become an expert in what you do and learn the trade, you’ll succeed. In reality, despite working for big brands and magazines such as Vogue I’m still in my infancy stage! I have a lot more learning, hustling, and networking in front of me. For example, the partnership with Nikon only happened because I emailed them three times! Only you can make it happen.”