Behind the Lens: with Ken Kaminesky

by Alicia Taggio

Over the last ten years Montreal based photographer Ken Kaminesky has been shooting commercial lifestyle images for stock photography agencies such as Picture Arts, Jupiterimages, Corbis and Getty Images. After drooling over his photos, I sat down with him between his travels to pick his brain and find out what people and places around the world have inspired him most along the way:


1. How long have you been a photographer for and what motivated you to first pick up a camera?

Photo Credit: Saleh Nass

In my first year of college I took an introductory course to photography, and after developing my first roll of film, and making my first black and white print, I was hooked. I had never taken any other kinds of photography courses, nor had I owned a good camera. I was a late bloomer, but once I got started with taking photos, there was no looking back. My real goal was to be a cinematographer, so learning photography seemed like it would be a good base before diving into motion pictures. I guess my main motivation to pick up a camera, was to get into the movies. Needlessto say, I did not end up working in cinema.

The second thing that motivated me was wanting to photograph pretty girls. My sister had been modeling in Europe, and when she returned home she introduced me to her agent, and I began shooting portfolio photos for models. I did that for a few years, while I was working as an assistant for some fashion photographers in Montreal, and when I moved to Miami I did a lot more of that kind of work. I stopped assisting in 1998 and since that time I have shot mostly fashion, and then lifestyle stock photos for agencies like Corbis, Jupiter images, and Getty. The travel photography is relatively new, but I’m enjoying this kind of work more than any other kind of photography I have ever done. There are so many special places in the world, and I want to photograph them all.




2. Who are some of YOUR favourite photographers and why?

I like all kinds of photography, so I have a variety of styles that I really enjoy. Some of my all time favourites are:  Nick Brandt– Fine Art Black and White Wildlife Photography. Nick’s work is the most touching and visually perfect wildlife imagery I have ever seen. When I look at the photographs, there is a deep visceral reaction. I immediately care about these stunning creatures. Nick’s brilliant photography captures the nobility ofthese animals like no other photographer I have ever seen. In myopinion, Nick is the best wildlife photographer in the world.

Jill Greenberg: Portrait, Celebrity and Fine Art Photographer/Photoshop Master. Jill’s website is called, and for good reason. Open up any page on her website and you will be absolutely blown away with what she can do with a camera, some lights, and a computer. In particular check out her series called “End Times” and her series of Monkey Portraits. Jill is a lighting genius and Photoshop Ninja. You may recognize her work from countless magazine covers and advertisements.

Last on this very short list, but most definitely not least, is Albert Kahn. In 1909 Albert Kahn set out on the most ambitious photography project in the history of the world. Yet today, not many people even know who he is. Kahn was a French millionaire, a banker and a philanthropist who’s goal was to create a photographic archive of the cultures and people of the planet… In colour!! Keep in mind that this was 1909 and that colour photography did not become commonplace until the sixties. Khan was not so much the photographer on this project as he was it’s leader. He hired and sent a talented group of photographers to over fifty countries to capture over 72,000 colour autochromes. In my opinion, this is the most important photographic collection in history. If you have the chance to go to the museum in Paris , or even watch the BBC documentary on this project, then do it. You will be amazed and inspired.


3. How important is social media to your brand?

It is becoming more important as time goes by. I believe that LinkedIn, Facebook and especially Twitter can help you get your message out there to people that you want to reach. Having a blog as the centerpiece of my online and social media presence also helps a lot. It’s a great way for current and prospective clients to see what I’m up to, look at new work, and get a chance to get to know the guy behind the camera.



4. What are your essential camera gear items on the road?

Besides the obvious camera and lenses, I rely heavily on my tripod, F-Stop Camera bags, a rain cover for the camera, iPhone for taking notes (and getting GPS coordinates), laptop, camera cleaning kit, and tons of memory cards. A small towel is also far more important than you might think, and baby wipes, ziploc bags, and garbage bags come in very handy for so many reasons.


5. What is your favourite thing to shoot and why?

I usually say: “Whatever I’m photographing at the moment”. That’s not always true though. The most serene thing in the world to shoot is a lake surrounded by mountains, but that too can be less than enjoyable if you’re being devoured by mosquitoes. Taking a photo of a spectacular historic location or amazing modern building is also one of the best things ever. However, being chased away by police or overzealous Napoleon complexed security guardscan ruin that moment too. Sadly photographers are being harassed for no reason these days by people in uniform. So in the end, I think the best thing is shooting in a big city, at night, or first thing in the morning just before sunrise. That way, I have the places I want to photograph all to myself at a magical timeof the day for light and tranquility.

6. You’ve captured some amazing things around the world. Which place was the most memorable?

Italy, without question. The whole country has this polished, manicured, designed look to it. I would like to spend a few months just touring Italy slowly. That would make for a wonderful roadtrip and some stunning photos. Rome in particular was the most impressive place, in terms of historical significance, art and architecture.


7. Which place surprised you the most?

New Zealand was a pleasant surprise in so many ways. It was just a last minute addition to my trip to Australia a few years ago, and Iwas only able to spend six days on the South Island. Those six days were incredible, I had no real idea about New Zealand at the time, and now I can see why so many people say that it is the most naturally beautiful place on Earth. I could see myselfliving in New Zealand, and I don’t often say that, even if I love the place.


8. Aside from your camera, what things can’t you live without on the road?

A good pair of shoes and wool hiking socks, to prevent blisters. I used to get so many blisters from walking that it made the days of exploring new locations rather painful. Now I rarely get them, even if I walk 25-30 km in a day. Also, my iPhone, and while I rarely will use it as a phone while overseas,  I will use all the cool apps for translation, maps, points of interest, calculations, weather, sunrise/sunset times, fun photos, subway maps, music, etc…


9. Where are you off to next?

Innsbruck Austria in August and hopefully Vienna afterward. Both of which sound like amazing locations to photograph. One for the quaintness and charm of a town nestled in the Alps, the other for the rich history, art, and architecture of a city that gets placed on so many top ten lists of best cities in the world to live in. Other trips in the planning stages are Italy, Mexico, Florida, South Africa, and I’m looking to do an extended trip to South East Asia in the next year.



10. What is the #1 tip you would offer a budding photographer who is about to hit the road?

Take some business courses. While photography is an art form, commercial photography is a business. You will be dealing with business people more than you will be with artists. It’s wise to know their language.


To check out more of Ken’s travels, be sure to check out his Travel Blog! We love getting lost in it 🙂