Behind the Lens with the “CiNava”

By Fred Karimi

Angel Cintron and Steve Nava are two of the most highly sought-after photographers in today’s fashion industry.  Collectively known as CiNava, they are prized for their highly produced editorial images that are creative, edgy, artistic, fresh, and often drawn from their own environment.  “We notice everything around us,” Steve Nava explains.  “People, locations, lighting, colors, wardrobe… We combine them all to develop a story that is told within a single image.” 

We spoke with CiNava from their San Francisco studio.

How would you define your photographic style?
Angel Cintron:  We aim to manifest beautiful imagery that tells a story. We hope the person flipping through a magazine who lands on our image is captured and emotionally triggered in one way or another. 

How did you get into fashion photography?

Steve Nava:  While in art school, when Angel needed help with lighting or holding bounce cards, I was there to assist. Essentially, I became free labor. However, it was such a great experience working together, that almost a decade later, we remain a duo that plays off one another, kinda a ying to the other’s yang. 

Do you have a preference as photographers in shooting men or women? 
Angel Cintron:  As the male physique has a desirable appeal in many ways, we find ourselves exploring the edgy and sexy side of men.

What are the most challenging aspects of fashion photography?
Angel Cintron:  Outdoor lighting comes with challenges. Sunlight is often the enemy. When balancing light, we use an off-camera strobe, scrims to block harsh light, or a bounce to override the extreme shadows. 

Where do you get your creative inspiration?
Steve Nava:  First and foremost, the mood and the vibe of the shoot.  It’s impacted by so many things:  the location, wardrobe, models and the story we’re trying to tell.

What is typically in your camera bag?
Steve Nava:  We love our Canon 5D Mark IV cameras, but that seems like a standard answer. Everyone loves their camera. If we think about a really useful piece of equipment that can be easily transported and can, in some instances, replace the need for carting around heavy lighting equipment, it is the LED ring light with remote trigger! This powerful and lightweight light can be used on location or in studio. It’s amazing. The light path creates a beautiful catch light on the talents eyes while emitting an even diffused light to eliminate shadows. This piece of equipment is essential for every photographer. 

Nick Sandell and Nick Topel by CiNava Photography

Can you recall your favorite photoshoot?
Angel Cintron:  The most memorable photoshoot was for a men’s summer editorial in Brooklyn, New York. The location was on top of an 8-story creative artist building.  Of course, there was no elevator. We had to carry sandbags, c-stands, and lighting equipment up eight flights and on the first day of the shoot, it began to snow.  Lightly at first. Then, an hour into the shoot, we were in full snow storm. Not the best look for a summer shoot!   Nevertheless, as one does on location, we quickly adapted. The surrounding buildings were wrapped in epic graffiti.   They became our backdrop and the shoot was more awesome than we had originally envisioned.

Michael Scanlon by CiNava Photography

Of all the men you have shot, who has the most potential to be fashion’s next top male model?
Steve Nava:  Thomas “The Boxer” Canestraro.  A former World Champion Kickboxer, he is now an actor, fighting coach and model. He has a boyish yet manly appeal that lights up newsstands.  

Thomas Canestraro aka The Boxer by CiNava Photography

What advice do you have for aspiring fashion photographers?
Angel Cintron:  Once you have the shot, move on! Believe in your skills as a photographer. The crew and the talent do not have all day for you to chase the perfect shot.

What advice do you have for male models interested in shooting with you?
Steve Nava:  Be your true self. Don’t feel that you need to hold back in front of our camera lens. We strive for unique, bold movements. As photographers, we try to keep the energy going and engage with the talent. This allows us to connect and bring out the best in the model.