Ron Timehin: Instagram star and street photographer talks about his inspiration and what it takes to win on the social media platform
“I really love the fact that Instagram is another form of self-expression. I love meeting people, I love the number of people I’ve met through photography. It’s amazing. Instagram allows you to connect with others around the world, and that’s really great,” explains Ron Timehin to Pocket-lint.
Timehin is a freelance photographer and Instagrammer who specialises in cityscape and portrait photography. The 24-year-old didn’t always have photography as his number one career choice but is now one of London’s leading Instagram photographers.
“When I started I started taking pictures I used a camera phone. It’s good to learn the fundamentals: composition, light, and focus, and I would recommend anyone looking to get into photography to master those first and then master what your camera can do afterwards.”
Timehin normally shoots with a Sony DSLR camera, but has gone back to his roots for a special one-off shoot for Pocket-lint in London.
We’ve challenged him to use the Honor 10, a £400 Android smartphone, to see if he’s still got the magic using something that isn’t a fully fledged top-of-the-line DSLR camera.
The results, which you can see above and below are stunning and astonished Timehin himself.
“I was really surprised,” the photographer tells us when we caught up with him after the shoot. “I used the Pro mode to shoot these pictures. I liked how the Pro mode allowed me to control every aspect just like I do with a DSLR.”
Shooting at a maximum 800 ISO, the phone copes incredibly well with low-light photography giving the images Timehin’s trademark atmospheric feel. Even when printed in A2 format, the photos are crisp and sharp.
But Timehin also likes the simplicity of shooting with the phone’s intelligent AI mode too:
“I think the AI mode on the camera is a really good starting place for people that aren’t used to using professional cameras because it allows you to focus on taking a great picture without the knowledge of how a pro camera (DSLR) works and acts.”
The mid-range phone camera is a far cry from Timehin’s usual shooting apparatus. By day he is a Sony Imaging Ambassador based in South London.
His work has been included in several publications including Hypebeast, Highsnobiety, The Evening Standard, The Hungry Eye Journal, Disorder Magazine and Resource Photography Magazine, but it’s not always been high-profile gigs for magazines and brands such as Apple, Adidas, Adobe, American Express, Nike, Mercedes Benz, or Honor.
“I used to be a musician playing the trumpet. When I was 16 I completed grade 8, which is really high. That led me to travel a lot with bands and orchestras all around the country and Europe. On my travels I saw amazing places, so started taking pictures with my phone and putting them on Instagram.”
Gaining a few followers here and there, it was nothing, Timehin tells us, that was ever going to pay the bills, then one day Instagram highlighted him as “someone to follow” and his follower account skyrocketed. Two weeks, and 20,000 followers later, Timehin had hit the big time.
“It was exciting and scary at the same time,” remembers Timehin. “It meant that when I finished uni, I bought a DSLR camera and the rest, as they say, is history. Getting featured changed my life.”
Since then the young photographer has accumulated 58,500 followers and counting. And along the way Ron has become known for his moody and atmospheric cityscapes of places like London and Chicago.
“I prefer it when the skies are dramatic and mysterious,” explains Timehin. “When I played the trumpet I used to play a lot of jazz. Jazz can be sad yet beautiful at the same time, and that feeling likes to come through when I shoot with the camera.”
But unlike some, that are keen to quickly cash in on their status on the social media platform, Timehin sees the platform as just another way to showcase his work.
“For me, it’s still all about art, about imagery, rather than being a public figure in Instagram. I am now shooting for a living, which is amazing, but I would still class myself as a photographer that uses Instagram to show his work rather than an Instagrammer hoping to be a professional photographer. At first, it was probably the other way around. I was an Instagrammer who took pictures.”
And that future looks bright. Timehin is currently working on a number of projects including a couple of books coming out next year, and a documentary he’s been filming for the last 6 months that is hopefully going to be on Netflix soon.
But don’t think it’s just about getting highlighted by Instagram to become a success. Timehin says it’s not an overnight thing and takes years of practice to become good – something he says he is still, modestly, striving for.
“Practice makes perfect – get your 10,000 hours in,” says Timehin before going on to explain about a study with violinists. It found that the kids who put in 10,000 more hours in training went on to become the best in their field, having greater opportunities. “For me, I’m about halfway there.”
You also need to make sure you are networking, collaborating with people, and helping others grow too.
Talking to Ron, he admits that he’s had a lot of help from friends and other photographers and that he “wouldn’t be where I am today without their help.”
You can see Ron Timehin’s work at www.instagram.com/rontimehin