Mike Calvino: DP/ Photographer: Sydney

My teachers in high school told me I would never go anywhere, but actually I’ve been everywhere and worked with so many great people and brands all over the world.


Name: Mike Calvino

Occupation: Director / DP / Photographer

Hometown: Sydney

Current Location: Gold Coast


What do you do? Why do you do it?

Basically I capture images, that’s the simple truth, and hopefully within each image something else is also captured, I don’t know what, but hopefully something unique. 

Why do I do it, because it’s what I’ve always done and because it feels good. When you capture a moment where things are just right, you know just a fleeting moment but there’s something special about it… that feels good.

Did you study anywhere or self taught?

I started as an intern almost thirty years ago and pretty much new nothing but I was lucky to work with some amazing old school cinematographers who shared their knowledge and I learnt so many basic fundamentals about exposure, composition and in particular how to work with and appreciate light that it set me up with such a real solid base that I'm forever grateful for. I did also go to film school after having already spent a decade in the game, because I thought they could teach me all sorts of stuff, but in the end I feel it was kind of a waste of time…the best way to learn is to work work work as much as you can on all different sorts of shoots will all different sorts of people. 

What’s your favourite camera and/or equipment to work with?

I like to keep gear as simple as possible for the shoot I'm on. I really feel a camera is a pretty simple tool, like a knife to a chef or a chisel to a carpenter, that’s what’s so beautiful about it, and once you figure out the basics then all the technical thinking can be kind of put aside and you can focus on how you wish to approach and capture a particular moment, place or situation. Once you kinda master the technical you are just left with the creative, which is way way harder to master…

Who are your favourite photographers?

So many legends out there….Emmanuel Lubezki, Matthew Libatique, Christopher Doyle, Rodrigo Prieto, Rina Yang, Dimitri Basil, Henri Bresson, Steve Baccon, Slim Arrons … so so many.

Who or what else inspires you?

Fiction, a well written story always inspires me… and cool shit other people are doing…

How did you manage during Covid times? Did you create or reflect?

I pretty much spent that time surfing and playing around in the garden trying to grow things. It was amazing. I love to work, but also love to not work!

How have you evolved over the years?

When I started out I worked on lots of documentaries and shot all sorts of stuff, different subjects, locations, light, weather etc and had to deal with the elements as it happened but I always tried to make each shot as beautiful and cinematic as I could. After years of shooting like that I did get a bit frustrated and felt I wanted more control of the elements and so I began to do a lot of controlled filmmaking, which was cool but then that I started to feel like I just couldn’t find the truth, everything felt fake and forced and I struggled with that and so now I’ve kinda gone full circle, back to where I started, back to realism, trying to capture things as they are but always trying to capture the inherent beauty of a moment whether it’s set up or not I always look for the magic that’s right there in front of us most of the time, that’s my approach.

What are you listening to atm?

Pretty random and obscure stuff from all over.. but also hip hop, always hip hop…

What websites do you frequent?

Hmmm… probably Google is number one! I think I type a question into that thing everyday… I really should find a better way to learn stuff.

What tools or apps help you get your work done?

I’m pretty basic.. different cameras depending on the project and just premiere to edit. I just cut, dissolve and fade to black! But I also use some film emulsion plug ins that give me access to to all sorts of film stocks that I use to try and escape the digital look and feel. 

Are you reading or watching anything right now?

I just finished reading ‘When We Cease to Understand the World’ by Benjamín Labatut. A brilliant book that merges fact and fiction into something that will teach you so much about many things and blow your mind while doing so.

Where are you travelling to next?

Bali in a couple of weeks for a surf/fashion shoot. Little bit excited and anxious at the same time as I’ve kinda lost my travel fitness these last couple of years…

What is your greatest achievement?

To have made a living from being creative. My teachers in high school told me I would never go anywhere, but actually I’ve been everywhere and worked with so many great people and brands all over the world.

One thing you would like to achieve this year?

I’m trying not to achieve anything really. My current goal is to abandon ambition as much as possible. It’s not easy.

What advice would you share to others wanting to get into your profession?

Work for free to start out and be nice. Ask questions, lots of questions. When I started out working as a 1st AC I remember asking the DP where I could get Black & White Video tape from. The DP laughed at me, but then told me what’s what. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. It's the only way to learn. 

Website | Instagram | louisand.co/mike-calvino