Behind the Lens: Interview with Lani Parrilla


Behinds the lens is a blended series which digs deep into the artistry of visual creatives.

Lani Parrilla is an NYC-based, 20-year-old music and lifestyle photographer. They recently photographed musician Donna Missal for Unclear Magazine and produced the cover art for Cameron Dasher’s new song “The Zone.” Blended’s Brooke Bell sat down with Lani to discuss their artistic journey and work.

Where did your interest in photography start?

For my 6th birthday I was gifted a Polaroid i-Zone camera — it was instant film and I took photos of all my friends and family. From that moment I knew I loved taking pictures. But growing up my interest has always been film. I would throw at home talents shows with my cousins and recreate movie scenes on a point and shoot then edit them on Windows Movie Maker. I went to college for filmmaking and directing, but when I had to leave school I felt so lost. I took photos here and there but never felt like I could pursue a career in photography.

From 2017-2018 I neglected that interest for a while because I was also in the process of adjusting to major life changes and transitioning into adulthood. I was lucky enough to meet someone along the way that allowed me to fall in love with photography all over again. I love to take photos of my friends and have mini photoshoots on the whim - that person was the only subject I felt comfortable photographing at the time and they helped me so much with rediscovering the magic in photography. I truthfully wouldn’t have picked up my camera as frequently again if it wasn’t for them. 

How did you get your first job and how old were you?

Not too long ago actually — I was 20 years old. It wasn’t really a job but the first concert I photographed. Everyday I would sit at the desk of my day job and daydream about what I wanted to do. I didn’t know what direction I wanted to go in with my photography. One day I thought about shooting a concert — I’ve never photographed a show before. I started looking up shows that were happening in NYC but I couldn’t find any. The closest show was a Noah Cyrus concert in Philly the next day. I reached out to her opener Maty Noyes about photographing her show but it was too late to get a photo pass. I still wanted to do it anyway so I bought a friend and I concert and bus tickets. I impulsively went to Philly the next morning. I snuck my camera in (thanks for the tampon trick Ms. Muriel Margaret ) and took the worst photos because I didn’t have the right equipment. I was bummed that the photos couldn’t be used, but I learned so much from that experience. I’ve grown a lot as an artist since then.

How would you describe your photographic style?

I don’t think I have a definitive style right now, I’m still learning everyday. I’m not too focused on having a certain style right now, I am always changing and evolving along with the art that I produce. I feel like if I am focused on building my own style, I‘ll start comparing my work to others. I know I’ll be able to describe my style one day. I was showing my mom some photos I took at a concert and she told me that my photos made her feel like she was also at the concert — it felt personal. But now that I’m word vomiting I’d say my work is personal and fluid.

What’s your favorite part about your job?

Being able to capture moments through my perspective. I want whoever sees my photos to feel like they’re apart of it because that’s what I love about it. It’s personal, vulnerable, and immersive.

What equipment do you bring to shoot at shows?

I shoot with a Canon 5D mark II & a 50mm 1.4. It’s beginners’ gear but I don’t have the budget for super great equipment. I’d love to get a better lens in the near future but I’ve been working with what I can now!

How do you post process?

I haven’t had a laptop for over 5 years so I edit all of my work in Lightroom on my iPhone! I edit all of my work on my phone. 

PHOTO: Samia

PHOTO: Samia

What was your favorite concert/tour experience and why?

I haven’t been on a tour yet [but] I’d really like to in the near future. My favorite concert was Paramore back in July. I didn’t photograph it, I just went but it was one of the first concerts I saved up to go to. I really loved being there with everyone who also loved their music as much as I did. The band is so electric and I’d love to have the opportunity to photograph their shows one day.

Can you describe the process of photographing a show?

Adrenaline. So much adrenaline. All day I think about the shots that I want and how I want to edit them later. Stepping into the pit is one of the best feelings and I just know I’m supposed to be there. I never take my eye of the viewfinder. My favorite shots to get are of musicians interacting with the crowd. Those are always sweet and magical moments.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a photographer?

I think I would pursue a career in makeup artistry or design. I love playing with colors and even now I implement shapes and color into my photography. Makeup is just another outlet of self-expression for me and I love it.

Who is your dream artists to work with?

Hayley Williams. She’s a Capricorn and I’m a Virgo — we would make magic together.

Who influences you creatively?

Strangers. Listening in on strangers’ conversations. I have hundreds of notes of dialogue I’ve heard on the train, in the park or even in public restrooms. I start building off the small pieces of dialogue I document and create a story from it. That allows me to think about how I’d like to translate it visually. People are so interesting and everyone should carry a journal with them everywhere.

What band should we all be listening to right now?


PHOTO: The Aces

PHOTO: The Aces

How has social media enhanced your connection to fans (of the artist or yourself)?

Before I entered the world of music photography I just thought it was nice for artists to have photos of themselves performing so they can post it and their label can use them. But as I started shooting more and posting my work online, I’ve gotten so many messages from artist’s fans saying “this photo makes me feel like I was there.” I think that’s really important. To create a world within a photograph and have people feel like they’re apart of that world.

What is your advice for future concert photographers?

If people don’t know who you are then make yourself known. You have that power. You’re going to get told “no” a lot of the time and people are going to think your ideas are insane but don’t ever stop pushing through. Your strength, dedication and perseverance will get you so far — I promise. 

Lead Image Credit and All Photos: Lani Parrilla