© Austin Rhee
Austin Rhee’s Squarespace website
Scrolling through photographer Austin Rhee‘s Instagram feed, you’ll see the same word commented over and over again: “WOW.” You’ll also find “Sweet!” “Crazy!” and the occasional “Stoppppppp!” And that pretty much sums it up. Rhee takes impossibly beautiful photographs of impossibly beautiful places.
Whether he’s in his hometown of San Francisco or navigating a snowy day in Norway’s Lofoten islands, Rhee has an enviable understanding of the whims of nature. He knows when to wake up so the light falls across the terrain in just the right way; he chases mist and sunrises and dewy, silent streets.
Rhee represents the rising generation of photographers and influencers in that he has both a powerful mainstream appeal and a vision that can’t be reproduced. He’s been commissioned to photograph some of the most breathtaking places on earth, and he’s done it on his own terms. We interviewed the photographer about his adventures, his social media stardom, and his gorgeous Squarespace website, which he uses to share his work with potential clients around the world.
How often do you travel? What has been your favorite trip to date?
“I don’t travel nearly enough. I always seem to be planning the next big adventure, whether it be a weekend trip to Yosemite, or a long, multi-week trip to Norway. If you ever get a chance to travel to Norway, do it. I was lucky enough to travel to there with some close buds. It’s an insanely beautiful place, filled with super nice people who are always willing to lend a hand.”
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve face photographing in some of these wild landscapes? The weather alone must be something you contend with regularly.
“You’ve named it. Weather is absolutely a key element in how a photograph comes out. Sometimes you travel to a destination and you only have one visit to luck out on good conditions. Sometimes you have to wake up at 3:00 in the morning and hope for low fog or sunny weather. But in the end, it’s about working with what you get and making the best out of the situation you’re given.”
© Austin Rhee
What’s the one place you’ve never visited that you most want to explore?
“Believe it or not, I still haven’t been to Iceland! Although it’s been overposted on Instagram (and probably everywhere else), I still list this as one destination I MUST see myself one day. I have FOMO [Fear of Missing Out] about Iceland.”
How do you shift gears from photographing sweeping landscapes to more intimate portraits, like weddings and engagements?
“In the past, I definitely did not enjoy portrait photography as much as I enjoyed shooting landscapes. But I’ve grown a passion for shooting portraits in recent months; in many cases, actually, I feel more excited about a good portrait than I do about a good landscape photo!
“Landscape photography and portrait photography can be two very different things, but they can also be very similar. A lot of the time, clients reach out to me because they enjoy the way I blend the two mediums and combine natural elements in the people’s portraits.”
You have nearly 80K Instagram followers. How has this platform changed your career?“Instagram has connected me with so many awesome, creative people in a way that I didn’t think was possible. Thanks to Instagram, I can call many of these people close friends who I can lean on for photography advice and a sense of community. As a side effect, this has opened a lot of new doors and opportunities!”
What’s your favorite trend you’re seeing these days on Instagram? What trends are you not so crazy about?
“Good Question. I have to say I’m not too crazy about these accounts that take other photographers’ works and, usually without permission, ‘feature’ their work. In essence, they are stealing their hard work in order to promote their own ‘feature’ account and gain influence on the Instagram platform. I’d like to see these accounts really try and partner with the artist or photographer. A short caption shoutout for ‘exposure’ doesn’t cut it, sadly enough.”
“On the other hand, I’ve just been seeing such a high level of photography being shared on Instagram. Not sure if this is because of Instagram’s explore page is getting better or if there’s more talent (or both), but I constantly seem to be stumbling on new accounts week after week, with jaw-dropping photos. As a photographer, inspiration can never be undervalued, and Instagram continues to fulfill that purpose for me.”
When you’re commissioned by tourist boards, how much creative control do you have over your shoots and adventures?
“I’ve been fortunate to have worked with clients that encouraged creative freedom in how I shot my photos. Of course, they ask for certain shots of particular destinations and such but nothing that hampered the creative process. It’s important that both the photographer and the client both share in the same or similar vision; otherwise, neither is going to happy working with the other.”
What advice would you give to young adventurers and emerging photographers hoping to follow in your footsteps?
“Hustle! Hard work! Keep at your craft. There’s always room to improve. I feel like the times where I grew the most as a photographer were when I invested the most time and effort into shooting. Don’t think it was a coincidence.”
Why did you choose Squarespace to build your website?
“I needed a platform that was quick and easy, but also matched my high aesthetic standards. Squarespace helped me get my website up and running, so I could show prospective clients my portfolio with ease. It’s succeeded in giving me a good foundation that I can use to pitch to clients and find projects.”
How was the website building process like with Squarespace? How long did it take you to set everything up?
“Once I chose the template of my website, building a website was straightforward and easy. Just had to decide what photos I wanted to share and how to group them.”
What website template did you choose and why?
“I chose the template Wexley, mainly because I liked how it was able to give the viewer a general feel and pattern to my photography. This way, it gives the viewer a clear vision of my style. I’m also a fan of the asymmetric design, with photos displayed in an uneven grid pattern.”
What do you like most about your Squarespace site?
“The responsive layout of the site is a big plus. To be able to view my website both on mobile and desktop puts me at ease, since I know many people enter my website from their phones via Instagram.”