Ever come across this hottie on Instagram?
If you have, you’re certainly not alone.
This wildly talented, brilliant, hotter-than-hot man is my friend, famed photographer Douglas Friedman.
He’s photographed some of the most famous faces in the world.
He's even photographed me.
But his real passion is shooting interiors.
Like this beauty of a cover for next month’s Elle Decor, out today.
People are sexy, interiors aren’t sexy, right?
Wrong. They’re sexy when Douglas Friedman is behind the lens.
But before we get to all of that, first thing’s first.
ALINA CHO: I didn't know that you originally wanted to be in film.
DOUGLAS FRIEDMAN: I did. I got a degree in anthropology and a minor in film. My main aspiration was to be a great documentary filmmaker.
ALINA CHO: Wow, okay.
DOUGLAS FRIEDMAN: I graduated, and I very quickly got sidetracked by getting a job with [famed director] David Fincher.
ALINA CHO: And you worked on Fight Club.
DOUGLAS FRIEDMAN: Fight Club, Seven, The Game, such important films with such an incredible man and his amazing team of people.
ALINA CHO: So, then why didn't you continue with that?
DOUGLAS FRIEDMAN: Well, I feel like you're put in a position where you're working with one of the greatest filmmakers of all time, and you see the dedication, but you also see the challenges of making a movie in Hollywood. I was like, "He's having trouble doing this. I can't imagine how much trouble I would have doing this. So, maybe I'm going to look for something else."
ALINA CHO: Well, you bought a one-way ticket to Indonesia.
DOUGLAS FRIEDMAN: Yeah. I backpacked around Southeast Asia for almost a year.
ALINA CHO: Did you know that you were interested in photography, or you wanted to go find yourself?
DOUGLAS FRIEDMAN: I think a little bit was, I need to go find myself, because I didn't know what I wanted to be. It's like, "Should I be a doctor? Should I be a lawyer, like my parents want me to be?”
ALINA CHO: Right.
DOUGLAS FRIEDMAN: My brother had a little scuba diving operation on this small island in Indonesia, so I went to visit him. Then, I went to Nepal, and I climbed the Himalayas. I did all this crazy stuff, but I was taking pictures the whole time, never thinking it would be a career.
ALINA CHO: So, at what point did you decide, "Wait a minute, this could be a career.”?
DOUGLAS FRIEDMAN: I came back to America after that first trip, and my ex-boyfriend, this brilliant fashion stylist, Sean Spellman, got me a job assisting [fashion photographer] Gilles Bensimon on a top model shoot with Bridget Hall. I was his fifth assistant. I was fired after a day.
ALINA CHO: Wow.
DOUGLAS FRIEDMAN: That was my first time understanding that you could have a job as a photographer. Then, my next job after that was — remember that movie, Stepmom? With Julia Roberts and Susan Sarandon?
ALINA CHO: Yeah.
DOUGLAS FRIEDMAN: [Julia Roberts] plays a fashion photographer. So, for some reason, maybe because of my connection with the film world, I was hired to be Julia Roberts's technical advisor on Stepmom, like to show her how it's done.
ALINA CHO: Oh my God.
DOUGLAS FRIEDMAN: I had no idea what I was doing.
ALINA CHO: You’re hot, though.
DOUGLAS FRIEDMAN: Thanks, Alina. I made it all up. But that piqued my interest in photography. So, I gave myself a few years to work as an apprentice to as many photographers as I could, catalog photographers, still-life photographers, food photographers, fashion photographers. I had an amazing run with David LaChapelle. I was his third assistant.
ALINA CHO: I didn't know that.
DOUGLAS FRIEDMAN: Yeah, that was a real eye opener. David is so brilliant.
ALINA CHO: I think many people know you as a photographer who specializes in interiors. How did you land on that?
DOUGLAS FRIEDMAN: It was the craziest thing, Alina. It’s always what I wanted to do.
ALINA CHO: Why?
DOUGLAS FRIEDMAN: I just loved interiors.
Of all the photographers I assisted, the stuff I really responded to the most was traveling and taking pictures of people's homes. I love [looking at] the way people choose to live their lives, exploring that, and documenting it. But the world around me wouldn't let me do it. I was constantly pushed into doing fashion. Fashion, fashion, fashion, fashion, which isn't what I wanted to do.
ALINA CHO: Interesting.
DOUGLAS FRIEDMAN: But it's what I was doing. Glenda Bailey, [former Editor in Chief of Harper’s Bazaar], gave me my first big break. Some photographer wasn't available, and she needed someone the next day to shoot Diane von Furstenberg at her [then] new Meatpacking District home.
ALINA CHO: So, you stepped in.
DOUGLAS FRIEDMAN: I stepped in. The next day, I was like, "I can do this."
It was the big break, because Glenda loved the work, and then for almost 10 years, I was in Harper's Bazaar. But the stories I loved doing the most were called A Fashionable Life.
ALINA CHO: [People in their homes], sure.
DOUGLAS FRIEDMAN: I would love shooting these people's homes, and then doing these super-elevated portraits of these amazing women in their incredible homes, in incredible fashion.
It was this hybrid of fashion portraits and interiors. That's how I was able to build a body of work over 10 years.
ALINA CHO: For the average person who wants to take an amazing iPhone photo, what are the dos and don'ts?
DOUGLAS FRIEDMAN: If you're going to expect people to spend some time with this picture, you've got a responsibility to give them something worth spending time on.
ALINA CHO: So, how do you create something that people will spend a little time on?
DOUGLAS FRIEDMAN: Be thoughtful. Just be thoughtful about what's in that picture with you. Maybe take a few more seconds to shift slightly to the left or to the right. Then once you get that, listen, there’s some little things you can do.
ALINA CHO: Like what?
DOUGLAS FRIEDMAN: I find that making the picture a little bit brighter and adding a little bit of contrast, maybe some vignetting around the side, just a couple tweaks here and there, to make the picture pop. It shows you put a little effort into it.
ALINA CHO: But what about when you snap the photo? Obviously, you want the light in front of you, right?
DOUGLAS FRIEDMAN: Or to the side, like 45 degrees to the side or a hard flash on an iPhone, and then you make it a little bit brighter and add contrast. It's such a sexy look.
ALINA CHO: Oh, good to know.
DOUGLAS FRIEDMAN: And don't use the selfie side of your camera. Turn it around and then shoot with the actual camera.
ALINA CHO: Why is that?
DOUGLAS FRIEDMAN: Because it's a better camera and it's a stronger flash. You end up looking at the lens and not the camera screen. So, I think there's more of a connection with your viewer.
ALINA CHO: So, then for the people who are going to be on the other side of your camera lens, how can you bring it for Douglas Friedman on a shoot?
DOUGLAS FRIEDMAN: The best thing is to not use your selfie face and know your best angle.
ALINA CHO: How did I do?
DOUGLAS FRIEDMAN: You're so amazing, because we're such old friends, and you trust me. So, you relax into the moment, and you let me do what I need to do to get you to be at your most vulnerable and honest. That's when you get the best portrait of someone.
ALINA CHO: I never thought about the psychology that goes into getting a great photo. What are you looking for? Is it in the eyes?
DOUGLAS FRIEDMAN: Yeah, it's in the eyes. Alina, 100 percent in the eyeballs. You'll have five frames where the expression and everything is exactly the same, but in one of them, it's that connection. This is the thing. It's the connection between the photographer and their subject where there's a little bit of sparkle magic that happens, and then you know you have the shot.
ALINA CHO: And you know right away.
DOUGLAS FRIEDMAN: Every time. I know exactly where the frame is, I know exactly when I got it. We only had 10 minutes at the State Department to shoot Hillary Clinton.
ALINA CHO: Wow.
DOUGLAS FRIEDMAN: But in those 10 minutes, I got to spend the first five minutes just having a conversation with Hillary Clinton.
ALINA CHO: Why is that so important? Because it's the same thing for me when I interview someone on stage or for television, I always want some face time before.
DOUGLAS FRIEDMAN: It’s so you just have a little connection.
ALINA CHO: That's right.
DOUGLAS FRIEDMAN: Some type of something personal between you two that is an anchor for the business side of what you're about to do.
ALINA CHO: Exactly.
DOUGLAS FRIEDMAN: I had five minutes to chat with Hillary Clinton, just [the two of us]. The thing is, she was interested in me. She was asking me questions about how I grew up. So, all of a sudden, there was a little chemistry between us that we were then able to bring into the shoot. You're trying to get a portrait of someone. The moment needs to be revered, and I think you need a moment to try and connect with the person before you shoot them.