TSB chats w/famed photographer, Laretta Houston

I’ve known Laretta for many years as we both used to lived in Atlanta and are in the business. I’ve always admired both her and her work and eventually got the chance to shoot with her. Since then, I’ve had the opportunity to collaborate with Laretta numerous times and I’m always blown away by how quick and efficient she is as well as how multi dimensional her talent is. Her eye for detail is truly incredible and I’ve personally learned a lot from being on set with her. The universe eventually brought us both to LA at different times and I’m proud to call her a friend and creative inspiration. She recently shot the cover of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit w/Tyra Banks and continues to make a name for herself as a powerful female photographer.

Hi Laretta, thank you so much for taking the time to contribute your knowledge and experience as a photographer to the breakroom. Let’s start off by having you tell us a little bit about yourself.


Where are you from?

I was born and raised in Angeles City, Philippines until I was 15 years old. Daughter to a military father and Filipina mother. We would move in and out of the United States where they would station my father at times but we always ended back in the Philippines. Tagalog was my first language and English was my second for a long time until we moved to the Long Beach, California permanently. From there, I have lived in Seattle and Atlanta for many years before returning to Los Angeles where I reside now.


How long have you been a photographer?

I have been a photographer for 13 years. It has been a roller coaster as it’s something I never expected to do in life. It started as a hobby during a stressful time in my life and it quickly evolved into something I could never have imagined.


What’s your favorite thing about photography?

I think I have several favorite things. First, I love to transform people and to show them something they never would have imagined. Second, it has put talented people in my life. There's something about being around other creative people that feeds my soul. But I think what’s really my favorite thing about photography is that I am able to be my own boss. To be able to set my own schedule, travel, meet different people, to actually wake up everyday in good spirits and love what I do.

What has been your biggest hurdle to overcome as a female photographer?

I think one of the biggest hurdles is that the photography industry is so saturated with male photographers that hiring a female photographer becomes a second thought at times. I think we need more women to support other female photographer to raise our value in this industry. We have a long way to go but I think we are making great strides to get there.



What is your biggest career accomplishment?

I have shot numerous campaigns but I must say it has to be Sports Illustrated Swimsuit. I was the first female to shoot the cover and the first black female photographer to shoot for the magazine. The whole experience was surreal for me. I mean...they flew me to the Bahamas to shoot models that I had on my bucket list to shoot. On top of that, to shoot Tyra Banks was my ultimate dream come true. Did you know she used her platform to make this happen? I will forever be grateful for all that she has done for me.



I mean...stop holding out and let me get an autographed copy!


Ok, Laretta. Let’s talk collaboration with hairstylists. One of my favorite things about your photography is how well all elements come together - from the model, to the lighting, wardrobe makeup and of course, hair. We both know that if any one of these elements are off it can really reduce the quality of the overall image. Give us some insight into how you ensure the hair is always on point.


Although lighting, makeup and wardrobe are very important, I think having good communication with the photographer is far more important. A lack of communication can lead to failure despite having everything together. That means having meetings to make sure everyone is on board with the vision and mood.


What makes a good hairdresser from a photographer’s perspective?

For me, it’s someone who is quick with their thoughts and very creative. I like to be on set with someone that can come up with ideas on the whim.



What advice do you have for hairdressers when working with professional photographers?

I think someone who is quick. Time is money and if you are slow, it will drive up the cost for the client or photographer. So it’s best to evaluate the model's hair and make a quick decision on how to move forward in a timely manner.


Another thing I love is to be well prepared for the shoot. Bring extra hair and accessories because things do change due to time limits or maybe the model came in with too much product in their hair. You should be able to always be ready.



Who are some of your favorite hairdressers to work with and why?

The two is Christina McCarver and Oliver Shortall. These two, I have bonded with over the years. They love what they do and it shows. They make my soul sing when I am on set with their creativity and they are open to my advise which even more of why I love them so much. We sync and it’s a vibe! :D


Ohhh stahhppp! (I did not pay or ask her to say that!)


Are there any hairdressers you'd like to work with in the future?

Not specifically. I am open to anyone who has great work ethics and creative at the same time.


Thanks again for sharing, Laretta. You are a force to be reckoned with and I adore you!


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