Photography

Progress Journal | Impatience and Improvement

Portraits by  Ami Ford

Portraits by Ami Ford

It feels like only yesterday that I was sitting down to write February’s progression journal. In some ways it feels like not a lot has changed in a month, but on the flip side I think I’ve made a lot of helpful observations. Especially in these last few days. 

Progress in terms of booking in clients and building a steady body of work has been slow. I’ve found that a lot of jobs will come in all at once, or last minute, and sometimes they’ll be cancelled or rescheduled just as quickly as they initially landed in my inbox.

Now, I know this is normal. I have only been doing this for a few months and I fully appreciate that the process of becoming full-time freelance human does not (and will not) ever happen overnight, or even in the space of a year (or many more) in most cases… But, I would guess that, due to the hyperdrive-paced world we live in, if something doesn’t happen immediately it can almost start to feel like it’s not working altogether.

Portraits by  Ami Ford

Portraits by Ami Ford

Sian

Building a start-up and going freelance aren’t set in stone, nor do they come with a tell-all step-by-step guide. It’s something that I need to work out along the way, and tailor to suit me. Like many others, to figure out where I fit in, I have chosen to surround myself, via feeds and timelines, with people I admire and aspire to be like. Yet, I am starting to see their success as *the* benchmark, and am comparing myself to them as a consequence. No matter how many times I tell myself that successful photographers have been working specifically to get to where they are now for years and years, even decades upon decades in some cases, it seems as though this isn’t a good enough answer to reassure my overactive brain.

One particular self-criticism I have picked up on is regarding how fast I edit. I seem to punish myself for not being able to deliver images within a couple of hours, a day, or as fast as other photographers. I work 9am - 6pm (if not longer) every Monday to Thursday as an Editor, I’m delivering 100+ images in most cases, and am trying to uphold a work/life balance, but this all feels more of an excuse than a justification. And I think this all comes back to the fast-paced nature of the world, and the impatience that comes along with that.

I know I can meet goals and deadlines for a fact - I did it at school, at university, and do it every day in my job - and, yes, whilst I would like to be faster, I’m fairly speedy in my photo delivery given everything else I have to juggle. Because this has taken over my thoughts in March, it’s really clouded my mind, stalled my work, and stumped me when it comes to deciding how to move forward. 

I am grateful I have come to this realisation though. It has made me see that I need to return to the values I set out for myself when I started on this journey; to go at my own pace and put my wellbeing first. When discussing all of the above with my therapist, we came to the conclusion that it would benefit me to work on the business side of things - as this is not where my skills currently lie. With this in mind, I think April will be a great time to refocus, reconsider, and rework the plans and ideas I have. I want to stay, and slay, in my lane.

Portraits by  Ami Ford

Portraits by Ami Ford

Sian

To kick off a positive month, I want to give myself a pat on the back and appreciate my successes so far. In just a couple of months I have become far more experimental and inquisitive, which has led to me using angles and heights I wouldn’t have thought to try out previously; all of which have added a level of interest to my images. I have also tweaked aspects of my editing style, to help me move closer to a style that defines my work. Overall, I’ve seen a huge improvement in the quality of images I create, and I’m really proud of that.

Oh, and before I go, I have to give A BIG shoutout to the endlessly talented Ami Ford for making me look like a total badass babe in these shots, despite us being in the most sweltering building in the UK at the time. Thank you, Ami!

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Experiments in Self Portraiture: Jump

Experimental Self Portraiture
Experimental Self Portraiture
Experimental Self Portraiture

After loving the outcome of flinging myself around our back garden to create my first set of experimental self portraits, I knew I wanted my next set to have the same sort of theme, but be a little bit more dramatic by way of movement.

When another clear day arrived, I followed the first three steps as I did previously; set up a ten second timer, popped my camera on the ground (with a small object to prop it up, rather than it lay flat) and focused the camera as best as I could from a distance. This time I clambered up on one of our metal chairs, that usually sits huddled around a table with five others just like it, and promptly threw myself off of it.

My main concern was that I wasn’t going to be in frame and that the images would be out of focus. As the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV doesn’t have a flip out screen, and there was no one around I could ask to check, all I could do was line myself up with the camera as best as I could. Man, oh man, I wish you could have seen my delight when I saw these images in their RAW, un-edited state; I wanted to cheer when I saw that I was actually in every shot!

I think something that really helped to achieve these shots was repeatedly repositioning and refocusing throughout the process. Making sure to stop every so often to review, rather than shoot continuously until I was ready to stop, made the shoot far more calculated. That being said, from having this experience I have learnt that the subject doesn’t need to be central in frame or sharp.

If an image is aesthetically pleasing, or conjures a mood or idea, then that’s all that matters. Framing and focus are merely tools for creativity.

As a side note, despite the main purpose of these shots being to sharpen my skills, I was drawn to how I didn’t focus on or scrutinise the way I looked when reviewing them. I wasn’t thinking about the areas of myself I am conscious of, or if an angle was unflattering, but the shapes I could contort myself into, as well as the freedom and passion I was able to project through my body. It was pretty neat to see myself as a piece of art.

On the whole, I adore these images. From how the natural gradient of the sky looks as a backdrop, to the final colour palette. They feel like such a bright and hopeful set of photos; making my imagination run wild with shoot ideas.

I definitely feel like there is so much more I can do in this style, and will be on the hunt for a subject to experiment with, but for my next set of self portraits I’m thinking light prism filters…

Experimental Self Portraiture
Experimental Self Portraiture

Three Ways to Immediately Improve Your Photography

If you are looking for some simple ways to improve the photos you take - and fast! - look no further. Below are three quick wins to help you reap big results, and totally up your photography game…

This shot was lit entirely by natural light through a skylight.

This shot was lit entirely by natural light through a skylight.

Look for Light

Etymology of the word “Photography” always points to the word “Light”, and sometimes even “Drawing with light”, which both ultimately signify light’s importance in photography. We constantly adjust the settings on our camera to brighten or darken a shot, to avoid under or overexposure, but how often do we actually go in search of light itself?

Light creates depth and patterns, impacts how vibrant colours are, highlights various shapes and textures, and can even conjure up an overall mood or tone as well.

I often see creatives complain about the light, or lack thereof, when trying to shoot during the darker winter months. If your blog is your hobby or side hustle, that you can only get to in the evenings or at weekends, it can be frustrating when the days are short and you can’t manage your shooting schedule around when the sun is out. My solution to this would be taking the time to notice when and where the sunlight is strongest, in and around your house, at different times throughout the days you shoot on - and then utilising that.

From doing this myself, I have noticed that the best light for shooting appears early (sunrise, 6am - 8am), at midday (12pm-2pm) and in the evening (golden hour and sunset, 4pm-6pm in Autumn/Winter, and 7pm-9pm in Spring/Summer).

Morning sun casts pink and orange light, which makes my room feel almost dream-like, and the gorgeous shadows created by my Venetian blinds are reminiscent of a sexy noir… As the sun is at its highest point in the middle of the day, the skylights cause our living room to be flooded with gloriously bright midday light. Then in the evening, just before sunset, golden hour creates ethereal light outside as well as orange-tinged hard lighting, with dark shadows, inside.

So, when you are next shooting, look for light, study it’s intensity as well as how and where it falls and do your best to incorporate it in every shot.

BONUS TIP: If you are shooting people, try your best to shoot them with light reflecting in their eyes. This will bring so much life into the shot, and your subject, to transform your images.


Before: Unedited RAW shot.

Before: Unedited RAW shot.

After: Edited and exported as a .jpeg.

After: Edited and exported as a .jpeg.

Shoot in RAW

Whilst you can take brilliant photos on a smartphone nowadays, if you take all of your photos on a camera, you will likely have the capability to shoot in RAW. 

Cameras are usually configured to capture images in a .jpeg format. Now, .jpeg files are great - they are a widely recognised format, are perfect for sending to others, or uploading online - but they aren’t the most editable, nor are they of the highest quality. 

When you take a photo in a .jpeg format, it takes all of the image data captured and compresses it into a file that is small, manageable and instantly ready to share. Whereas a RAW file saves all of the image data, which consequently creates a far bigger file, but provides complete control over the final photo, and endless editing possibilities as a result.

As you can access all of the different aspects and details of a RAW file, you can tweak the smallest aspects of a photo; such as shadow brightness, how vibrant a specific colour is, or enable profile corrections. This can even mean that an image, that would usually be left on the cutting room floor if shot in a .jpeg format, can be revived. Check out the pictures above to see what I mean!

I’ve set up my camera to capture images in both RAW and .jpeg formats, so I have both options, but mostly stick to editing the RAW files in Adobe Lightroom - although they can be tweaked in Adobe Photoshop too. Once I’m happy, I’ll export the final images as .jpeg files for sharing.

So, if you constantly find yourself heart-eyed over someone’s editing style but don’t have a clue how they implement it, want to brighten images so that whites really pop, or are just looking to create content with a real punch, consult your camera’s manual, change your settings, and get shooting in RAW!


Watch Your Edges  

When in the midst of shooting, it can become very easy to focus wholly on the subject; whether it be a person, object or location, and how they look in shot. Yet, sometimes, it isn’t until you return home and start scrolling through your photos to edit, that you are met with some unwanted surprises...

It could be a tree branch poking in frame to ruin an otherwise clear sky, a passerby captured half in and out of your shot, or just something odd that once you have noticed it you just can’t un-see. 

With digital cameras providing us with the capability to shoot and shoot and shoot, it’s easy to become a little trigger happy. Whilst we can focus on our subject, and click away in the hope that one of the photos is usable, I learnt a long time ago not to leave “fixing” an image until post production. Taking the time on my shots when shooting has made me a better photographer, and leaves me with a lot less work to do when editing!

Therefore, rather than spend time meticulously trying to crop the photo in a way where you don’t lose a chunk of it, or going ham with the clone tool to no avail after shooting, once you have lined up your shot, pause and survey your edges. If there is something sticking in where it shouldn’t be (ooer), reframe until you are happy to shoot.

In this initial photo, there are trees sticking into the left and bottom of the frame.

In this initial photo, there are trees sticking into the left and bottom of the frame.

After reframing, I still have the layering effect I wanted, but in a way that appears much cleaner.

After reframing, I still have the layering effect I wanted, but in a way that appears much cleaner.


If you give these tips a go, please be sure to tag me in your photos on Twitter or Instagram, so I can see your magic and share!

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Progress Journal | The First Bump in the Road

Ella

I ended my last progress journal on a total high. I had just shot Ella, who was a total star to shoot with - we chatted our way around Portobello Road and Notting Hill, having a laugh as we went, and she even kindly treated me to a spot of lunch too - which I’m super grateful for! And I came away with 50+ images I was totally stoked with. 

Entering that shoot, I felt pretty nervous. It was the first I had done with someone I hadn’t met before, and, as I lived with crippling social anxiety not so long ago, wasn’t sure how things were going to pan out. Thankfully my fears quickly shifted to make room for a bigger desire; to get the most out of the experience and create images that we were both thrilled with.

From having such a positive experience, understandably I was already itching to get out and shoot more! Aaaand that’s when it all went a bit tits up.

A couple of fun self portraits from one of three sets I took this month.

A couple of fun self portraits from one of three sets I took this month.

I am LOVING playing with movement!

I am LOVING playing with movement!

Starting February, I roughly had around one shoot a week booked in. As I am currently still in a full time job, and trying to live a balanced lifestyle (as explained in my previous progress journal), this felt like a good place to start... But then the heavy snow appeared, and the first shoot was rebooked. Then a client’s work schedule changed unexpectedly, and the second shoot was postponed. And then sadly personal things happened, so the third client had to reschedule too.

Cancellations were something that I had always anticipated, and knew were going to be a part of this career. Situations change, shit happens, and life can just be completely out of our hands. I get it. I totally get it. And, to be honest with you, I’m seriously grateful they all rescheduled, when they could have just cancelled altogether... but, it still sucked and left me feeling a little blue.

When I am so early in the game, wanting to get as much practice in as I can, to sharpen my skills and build my portfolio, knocks like these hit a little harder than I would like them to. That being said, I have learnt a couple of lessons to take forward - which is the most important thing! 

The first being that, whilst I know I’ll never be able to stop myself from getting my hopes up, I do need to find ways to soften the blow when cancellations happen. Two resolutions I’ve found so far are: rescheduling with the client as quickly as possible, so there is another date to work towards, and then, in the meantime, making the most of dry, bright weather to experiment with self portraiture. I currently have so many ideas for what to shoot next bubbling around in my head - even if I am terrified about the Summer-like weather in Winter.

Lucy

And the second solution is to start implementing a non-refundable deposit fee. I know a bunch of full-time photographers who use this as a contingency for cancellations, and if I’m going to pursue photography as a full time career, I’m going to need a bit of protection against financial losses. I’m also hoping this will dissuade people from contacting me to arrange a shoot, and then flaking after I begin to discuss pricing - which ultimately costs me time, and slots for clients who definitely want to work with me.

Thankfully I do have a happy note to end on though! My final shoot of the month was a complete success, and it was my first ever paid portraiture shoot too - woohoo! Lucy and I shot four outfits in a couple of hours, and utilised different areas of a single location to give each look a unique backdrop. Being creative, thinking on my feet, and joking around throughout was a total joy, and I’m thankful to Lucy for booking in with me... And being up for trying some silly poses! 

The shoot was exactly what I needed, and put me back on the right track. Fingers crossed March will be a better month for me…!

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Five Things to Remember When Being Photographed

Ella

As someone who has taken photos of people, and been photographed, I can fully appreciate how nerve-wracking it is to be in front of a camera for the first time. Or even twenty-first time, if it’s not something you are used to. I know that I often have the same questions running through my mind; what should I do with my face? Where do I put my hands? Is everyone looking at me?!

With everything, being comfortable in front of the camera is something that takes practice and confidence built overtime. But, what do you do when you’re all out of ideas or have no clue where to start? Well, here are five things to remember when being photographed…


I am working with you!

When shooting, I want my subject to know that we’re a team. I want to produce shots that we are both happy with, and so am always on a mission to create an environment and safe space that allows for this to happen. If joking around throughout, playing some music to pump you up, or walking you through the experience as we go is what it takes, then BRING. IT. ON.

Additionally, it’s always worth telling me if you would prefer to shoot in quieter areas, or would like to take a break to have a breather. Keeping me posted on how you are feeling allows for me to be as accommodating as possible.

This also extends to the editing process. The first thing I do following a shoot is sift through the images for the best ones, and delete those I don’t think you’ll be happy with. Eyes half-open, a gormless mid-sentence-style, or just an expression not quite turning out the way we had envisioned in our heads; we have ALL been there. But have no fear, any photos that could be deemed as unflattering will be left on the cutting room floor - never to be seen again!

Rowena
Luke

You can tell me the look you are aiming for or ask for help

Sometimes people come to me with a specific idea in mind for a shoot, other times they don’t have any ideas past wanting their photo taken. Let me tell you now, I am a total people pleaser! I love it when I can bring a vision to life, or work with someone to create one. And if there is ever the opportunity for a mood board, you can bet that I’ll be running face first into it with my arms outstretched. 

If we’re shooting on location, and you find yourself (like me) unsure what to do with your face or limbs, don’t be scared to ask for direction. This just means we can be more experimental! The more I play around with my camera and you with poses, the more likely we are to find something that clicks. When something magic catches my eye, I can give prompts to direct you, and we can work on capturing that spark.

Or is a simpler vibe, without a big song and dance in front of the camera, more your style? That’s cool! I get it. Instead, we can have a big ol’ chat. I find that talking throughout a shoot not only builds a relationship between photographer and subject, as well as ease any nerves, but also create opportunities for natural-looking shots. As our conversation ebbs and flows, you move around and I snap away, there will be pauses that offer the perfect chance for capturing relaxed portraits.

Something else worth noting is that when I first had my photo taken, I let the photographer know parts of myself I was conscious of, and that I would be grateful if they could avoid shooting in ways that would highlight them. Just knowing that they knew and respected this calmed me, and let my mind wander to other things. So, ask questions, make suggestions or voice concerns throughout the process. If we’re both clued in on your thoughts and feelings, it will help us achieve rad shots!


Opt for a look and poses that suit you

Oh, ho, ho. This is something I wish someone would have told me before I chose to wear a fitted dress that highlighted my sweat patches, Dr Marten sandals I hadn’t worn in, and have my make up professionally applied for a shoot. Picture me slathered in suncream, my eye watering from either the sun or the heavy falsies in my eyes, wading through a lavender field whilst trying not to anger any bees… It is a credit to the make-up artist and photographer that the photos turned out well, but let’s just say I felt WAY out of my element.

My choice to try a new look was intended as a confidence booster, but it soon turned into something for me to worry about. Whilst it makes sense to me now, I hadn’t considered that fixing lashes that are determined to fall off, pulling the skirt of a dress down for the 3758th time because it keeps riding up, or trying to get along with rubbing shoes could make me feel all out of sorts... Yet the discomfort I experienced held up a magnifying glass to things I wouldn’t normally batter an eyelid at.

From having this experience I now opt for clothes that I love and feel comfortable in, because they are what I look and feel good in. If you aren’t sure what to wear, I’d suggest putting together outfits you would rock every day or during a night out, and style your hair and make-up in the ways you would normally.

Gregg
Eleanor

They are called a ‘passerby’ for a reason

Sit for a second. Cast your mind back to the last time you were in a public place. Can you picture five people you walked past? Do you remember their faces? Could you draw them from memory? I sure as heck can’t, and not just because I don’t have the drawing skills to.

When a camera is pointed in your direction, it can suddenly feel as though all eyes are on you. When in reality most people are so caught up in their own lives that they walk on by; not realising what is happening or being interested enough to take the time to find out.

On vary rare occasions, someone may stop to watch. This seems to born from curiosity or, from the look in their eyes, an attempt to work out if they have seen you on TV before! Whilst I now use this as fuel for confidence (because if they think your famous why not act like you are?!), understandably it can feel intimidating. 

The main thing I suggest to keep in mind is that a ‘passersby’ is called that for a reason. They pass you by; both physically and mentally. Meaning the likelihood of you seeing them again, outside of the shoot day, and them remembering you is so very minute. I also use this mentality when dancing at gigs because, quite frankly, it’s good to know that no one will remember me or my Dad-dancing.


It takes time to get comfortable

Lastly, not not leastly, it is normal to feel overwhelmed. 

Having your photo taken is a whole new experience, and it can feel unfamiliar time and time again. It can be nerve-wracking the first time, feel a little odd when getting back into the swing of being in front of the camera, or a bit unfamiliar if you are working with a new photographer and learning how they work. 

It is important to remember that, like every single thing you have ever done for the first time, and felt as though you would never get, it takes time. And on that note, let me leave you with these two portraits from the first and most recent shoot where I had my photo taken. Almost unrecognisable, huh?

If you have any questions or concerns that have been unanswered in this post, please feel free to get in touch with me via email or on Twitter. I would be more than happy to talk them through with you!

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Progress Journal | Pursuing portraiture

Portrait by  Kaye

Portrait by Kaye

The first time I took portraiture photographs, outside of a bunch I snapped for my Mum’s work way (way, way) back when, was in Summer 2018. On a whim, I rounded up a group of friends during golden hour, and we shot in the fields near where we live. That single decision, and the session that followed, sparked something off inside of me and that was it. I wanted to pursue portraiture.

Between then and now, I have been scheduling in all the practice I can get. From shooting on the fly at Pride and at night with Luke, to continuing to work on my skills with Rosie, Eleanor, Rowena, Gregg, Lizzie and Ella; who all kindly let me take pictures of them! I am learning, and gaining more confidence, every time I shoot… Even if I do feel the fear that I will walk away with no usable photographs beforehand - something that has never happened.

January has already been an exciting month for my me, but things are just about to get better. February sees me doing my first ever (not one but two) paid shoots! It has been incredibly heartwarming to receive good feedback about my work on Instagram, through comments and direct messages, but having people go out of their way to book in and put their confidence in me, is such a boost. To have this happen so quickly is helping solidify that this is the right path for me. Which is making me feel ALL OF THE THINGS.

Portrait by  Kaye

Portrait by Kaye

At this point, I really want to continue practicing whenever I can - sorry in advance, friends and family - in order to experiment and improve. I would also like to grow my social media networks in the hope my work will reach more people, and to put together some physical materials I can give out when networking. The biggest barriers I am facing at the moment are directly impacting my ability to do the aforementioned though. The cost of travelling for shoots, rallying up people I know, and making time to work on my socials and networking are all areas that I need to work on.

When I am not working my full-time job as a video editor, I am balancing my time between the above, spending time with loved ones, and taking the time to carry out self care. As someone who struggles with mental illness, it’s vital that I take my time rather than push myself to the limit, and hurt myself in the process. So, as much as I would love to shoot, and shoot, and shoot, it just isn’t the feasible or healthy option for me. But, that’s okay.

From not knowing what I wanted to do last year, to feeling dead-set on making freelance photography a thing, I have already made such huge strides - none of which I should, or want to, overlook. To continue improving and progressing, I feel as though my next steps involve taking what I have discussed on board, and then building it into a workable plan. One that allows me to manage my time, achieve what I would like to, and stay afloat. I’ll keep you posted with how that goes!

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Why Portraiture? Talking Career Choices and Finding my Passion

Portrait by  Kaye

Portrait by Kaye

At the end of 2018, I enrolled in on-going talking therapy. Despite making great strides in overcoming social anxiety and managing depression, I was in a slump. I was exhausted, I had lost my drive and I felt lost. If 2017 was the year of riding high, 2018 (for the most part) was the year of coming down.

In these sessions, we spoke at length about my chosen career path in film and television production. Whilst I am grateful for what I have, I am unhappy working in this field. The lifestyle clashes with my personality, the structure messes with my wellbeing, and, ultimately, the work itself leaves me feeling unfulfilled. 

It was rough to say those things out loud and let myself finally begin to accept them. I had studied to work in this industry for five years. At one point I was working three jobs so I could get my foot in the door. I got involved with some incredible work experience opportunities, which I will be forever thankful for, and feel so lucky to have had... but my love for working in the industry had revealed itself as more of a lust.

I was disappointed in myself. I DIDN’T KNOW WHAT TO DO. I felt like A FAILURE.

Portraits by  Kaye

Portraits by Kaye

Sian

Further sessions came and went, but somewhere along the line, the conversation turned to photography. I told my therapist about some photos I took with friends in the Summertime, after getting a seemingly overnight itch to try my hand at portraiture. As I explained the buzz I felt when going over the photos from the shoot, I could feel myself lighting up all over again. I may have gone into the shoot as an excuse to spend time with friends and try something new, but I came away from the whole experience beaming with a pride I hadn’t felt in years.

It was this conversation that caused a weight lift, after spending months feeling stuck. Doors I closed way back in my teens, in the belief I was destined for different things, were suddenly bursting open, and the contents locked away were starting to make sense years down the line.

When I was in Junior School, I took photos of friends and family on a Polaroid OneStep, and overtime gradually upgraded through cameras to a Canon 60D; which I used when studying A Level Photography. As a kid I was naturally drawn to programmes with actors in over cartoons - hellooo That’s So Raven, The Amanda Show and Zoey 101 - and as an adult, this interest has blossomed into learning more about real people and their stories. So much so, I chose to specialise in Documentary filmmaking in University. And, even though I chose not to pursue Photography in education, I never stopped taking photos.

This realisation has given me a whole new lease of life. And whilst I initially had no idea where to start, I suddenly have a clear idea of where I want to go. I want to go out and shoot.

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Luke

On the same day I shot Rosie, Luke also generously offered up his time (and self) to be photographed. Despite my initial nerves, the photos from this shoot gave me a confidence boost so huge I felt I could legitimately pursue portrait photography as a career.

After seeing Kaye Ford (Fordtography) highlight the effectiveness of using props in portraiture, I tried to think creatively about the ways in which we could use those Rosie brought along.

The framing using the umbrella happened completely through trying different things. Watching my edges has always been something I have tried to master in photography, and so was chuffed when I reviewed the image to find Luke and the umbrella filled the frame in its entirety.

A lesson learnt from this shoot has been to buy and try shooting with a reflector. Whilst I lightened up shadows in post, using a reflector would have lifted the shadows to a more favourable extent.

Whilst shot humorously, as explained over on Instagram, I find the third image striking. Luke’s rigid pose is held with purpose, and you can see through the look on his face his commitment to it. Serving major Jonathan Van Ness vibes... Can you believe?

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