Rukes: Behind The LensJune 23rd, 2011 ⋅ News, Tech ⋅ by Ryan
Rukes is the number 1 photographer in the electronic music industry. Drew Ressler, known to you as Rukes, has provided the world with absolutely incredible photos. He covers the best DJs and the biggest gigs across the country and has also gone on tour recently with names including Deadmau5 and Steve Angello. As the photographer for EDC, Rukes will have some hard work coming up and soon we’ll have some amazing new pictures from the festival on his website where you can find countless other albums. In an interesting and in depth interview, Rukes gives House Music Essentials some great words of wisdom from his experience in nightlife photography.
In an industry where photography is so important, how were you able to set yourself apart from others and become probably the best and most known photographer in the industry?
I think it’s a combination of many factors. The main one being the style of photography I do seems to appeal to a majority of people, especially “epic” pics with crowds and a DJ.
I think my style is a bit like photojournalism. I try to make my images as “frozen in time” as possible with no blurs or streaks. I definitely like to make my pics look as close to reality as possible, so I don’t like any retro filters (like emulating old analog cameras or film).
Unlike most photojournalist pics, however, I try to bring out the colors a bit to make the picture look slightly unreal, or get really shallow depth of field with spot-on focus. I really like to use colors, but not way too colorful where it looks like a painting. I like to try to find colors that bring out certain aspects of the photo that I like to make it a little more striking.
I try to avoid black & white wherever possible, since it’s pretty easy to take just about any pic, no matter how bad, in black and white, and make it look amazing. There are so many difficult factors in creating a good low-light color pic that you can easily ignore with black and white. I kind of go halfway with split toning, more towards the color aspect. Of course sometimes only black and white looks best, but that’s usually a last-ditch effort for me.
I prefer 99% of my photos to be landscape. Portrait is great for individual people, but since we naturally see everything “landscape” it just feels weird to me to take pics in portrait; almost like watching a widescreen film in “pan & scan”, it’s just not right. Of course there might be a few pics here or there that I take in portrait because that’s the best way to take it.
Tell us about a typical project, how do you go about deciding what angles and locations to take shots from? Is everything planned beforehand or do the ideas just come to you?
If it’s a venue I have worked at before, usually I have ideas of what works best ahead of time. Other times I usually try to look around during sound check when on tour, or just wing it when I get to the gig.
After the gig in post, I load up all the RAW files in Lightroom after going through every pic and deleting ones I don’t like.
I used to just leave the pics straight out of the camera when I did JPEG, but I got a little bored with the large galleries with good pics surrounded by OK ones. When I switched to RAW, I decided to mostly leave the good pics as-is, and touch up the OK ones so they look a little different, or stand out a bit more with different colors that focus on a certain part of the photo.
You have toured with Deadmau5 countless times, what has it been like seeing him grow so rapidly over the years?
When meeting him for the first time in late 2007 at his first LA gig for only a few hundred people, I never thought I would be able to witness someone to grow so quickly in such a short period of time. It gets pretty crazy each time he has his “biggest gig yet” to shortly be trumped by an even bigger gig. With the upcoming tour with some cities having up to three days in a row, it’s insane!
You can read the rest of the interview here.