Alberto Santiago: Randomly Organized

Born and raised in Chicago, Alberto Santiago is a photographer and musician. His rule for life is that there is always time and space to learn from others.

To be honest, I kind of have a similar story of my journey in photography as the talented photographer, Ricky Powell. I started photography out of spite for a girl I was talking to who was also into photography. She ended up dumping me for another dude who was a photographer. Consequently, I decided to buy a camera while telling myself, “I can take pictures too.” Eventually, what I initially intended to relieve my insecurities, developed into a passion. Now, I take photos because of my desire to capture moments that tell a story.  

When I started photography, my first camera was a Nikon D3300 with two kit lenses: 18-55mm, and a 55-70. After 8 months of using it, I was able to upgrade to a Canon 6D with a Tamron 17-35mm f/2.8, and a Canon 50mm f/1.8. To some extent, transitioning from a crop-sensor to a full-frame has allowed me to see things differently. As I think about it now, I believe this usually happens when you make such transition. Your eye isn’t always accustomed to different focal lengths. In my opinion, the more options you put in front of your eye, the more you’ll end up seeing. That isn’t to say that is the only way to gain a different perspective.

I’d like to think of my style as “Randomly Organized”. My approach can be a mix of dull and muted tones. I like muted/low saturated colors. I also love working with harsh light and dark shadows. 

What inspires me about Chicago is the diversity you encounter within the city. You see people from all backgrounds. I also love the classical aesthetics of the architecture. 

I had the privilege to shoot for a Daddy Yankee concert. Being of Puerto Rican decent makes me proud to be able to capture one of the greatest artists of Puerto Rico through my lens. 

When I started photography, I didn’t have a laptop and Lightroom. So I downloaded a few apps such as: VSCO, Snapseed, Filterstorm, and Afterlight. Those apps helped me for a short period of time, but they are very basic apps for anyone to use. After installing Lightroom, the game really changed on my editing ability. I would spend hours (still do at times) on my laptop experimenting with my photos. There are times where I’ll edit a photo in 4-5 different ways just to see how I can manipulate it. 

Social media has been a place where I’ve always found inspiration. There is so much talent around the world, and Instagram is the place where we see everyone come together to share their stories through their lens. My philosophy is to learn from everyone. It doesn’t matter how long they have been shooting; there is always something to learn from someone.

I am someone who enjoys the simple things of life. Photography is proof that you can be whoever you want to be only if you’re willing to do the work. I was born and raised in Chicago, and I don’t have any plans to move. I am a current student at the Illinois Institute of Art Chicago, majoring in Graphic Design. As a former musician, I’ve learned to apply the basic principals of discipline of my musicianship onto my photography journey. Learning something new each day always keeps me going. 

I stay inspired by trying to exercise my eye to see things differently. I truly believe you can find beauty in almost any photo. Doing so motivates me to stay out of the box. 

Besides traveling around the world taking photos, my dream assignment would be to recreate the famous 1942 painting “Nighthawks” by Edward Hopper.