Philosophical question: If you don’t flex the sneakers you’re wearing on Instagram, did it even happen? The answer is one that many sneaker collectors in the age of social media have been pondering.
Whether you like it or not, sneaker selfies have become an ingrained part of the culture with publications (like this one) dedicating hashtags, galleries, and so forth solely to perfectly curated photos.
But what does this look like to the outsider? We shadowed five people as they set up fire sneaker shots to show you.
Why sneakers? The whole sneaker culture has changed ever since Instagram started. Now you see kids just buying sneakers to flex on the ‘Gram. I really feel like Instagram has pushed and sold more sneakers for these companies because everyone’s trying to flex on everybody and they’re all trying to get the coolest pictures and get featured. Instagram really fueled the fire for flexing sneakers.
Key to the perfect shot: Making sure everything is centered. I do a lot of product photography, so for me, it’s making sure it’s centered or the shoe is completely in focus. I've got to make sure it looks good when you post it because it’s a reflection of myself.
Worry about what other people think? I use to in the beginning, but not much anymore, just because it's my job to take photos of sneakers and it's what I get paid to do.
Weapon of choice: Canon 6D
The shot has to be something that means more than just a shoe.
Why sneakers? They can be really personal. People always feel a connection to them when they come across the timeline. Everybody has a story about why they collect sneakers and people like to use photos to show that.
Key to the perfect shot: I try not post things that people are posting all of the time. If the Yeezys came out, I probably won’t post those sneakers for another three or four months. I like to shoot shoes in my collection that people know less about or something that’s personal to me that I can attach a story to. The shot has to be something that means more than just a shoe.
Worry about what other people think? Here in New York, you see people just stopping to do photo shoots in the streets all the time. I’m more comfortable doing it because everyone here has a camera and is shooting someone, whereas when I'm on the beach people stare at me when I take my Vans off and put them by the water. I don’t let it get to me that much.
Weapon of choice: iPhone 6S, selfie stick
Instagram really fueled the fire for flexing sneakers.
Why sneakers? The vibrancy of the colors and the different textures of sneakers make for pretty good photos. I don’t like to overload my feed with sneakers. I’m more of a landscape photographer, but I’m wearing different sneakers everyday, so they’ll fit in there from time to time. I don’t like it when it feels like an advertisement. Engagement is kind of shitty on that. If I’m posting a sneaker, it’s because I like it.
Key to the perfect shot: When I’m shooting on a camera, I like low aperture because it makes for great focus on the shoe. I like when it’s super sharp and I like a little bit of grit when things are dark around the shoe so it pops.
Worry about what other people think? If you have a camera and you’re shooting a scene, people are always kind of weird about it. I don’t know why. That’s what cameras are for. The sneaker community in general is a small population and the people that shoot sneakers are even smaller. If you’re crouching down in Soho or on Fifth Avenue, people get a little freaked out. In the beginning, I was hesitant and maybe I’d pace around a little bit, but now I don’t give a shit. I just know what the end result is going to be and I don’t care about anything else.
Weapon of choice: Canon 6D
If you’re crouching down in Soho or on Fifth Avenue, people get a little freaked out.
Why sneakers? Sneakers, even more so than clothes, tell what a person is. I kind of feel like a sneaker photo is a badge of honor. If a person is posting mad Jordans, it shows what they stand for. Shoes are the best statement piece that you can make.
Key to the perfect shot: The shot has to be clean. Everybody is trying to make their iPhone shots clean like they shot it on a Canon and they layer it up too crazy with filters. I always take a shot that I wouldn’t see scrolling through a blog.
Worry about what other people think? I got to be honest. Sometimes I do think of what other people think. Sometimes I’ll see a cool wall or a cool scene spraypainted in the ground and I want to take a shot, but I’m in a crowd of 20 people. But, other times you’re in those moments where you feel comfortable in your skin and you just don’t care.
Weapon of choice: iPhone 6
I kind of feel like a sneaker photo is a badge of honor.
Why sneakers? They’re collectible, designed things that are beautiful, and they’re also wearable. They’re these photos you can take and imagine yourself wearing them. The outfit photograph gives an experience that is more than just a portrait because it puts the viewer in a position that they can own, without owning the shoe.
Key to the perfect shot: I don’t know. It’s gotta be cool. Color and clarity is always very important. If there’s a watermark on it, you can go fuck yourself. It’s really just about having a point of view, selling it, and making it work.
Worry about what other people think? I don’t really do it in public. There’s an embarrassment factor about it. Why am I focused on something like this? The reason I tell people around me that I’m about to take a sneaker photo is so that I own the embarrassment of it. When I’m in public I try not to be seen photographing my own shoes. There’s something about being discovered in the deifying of a commodity that is embarrassing. You have to figure out where you’re going to own it and where you just have to let it go.
Weapon of choice: Canon 7D, kit lens