Pro Photographer Marilyn Hue on Smartphones, Colors, and Authenticity

Marilyn Hue interview featured image -- portraits, samsung galaxy smartphones

Los Angeles-based designer, creative director, and photographer Marilyn Hue has wooed big clients and generated a large online following thanks to her unique style and creativity.

Winning a Photo Competition Show and Becoming a Samsung Galaxy Creator

PetaPixel chatted with Hue because of her role as a Samsung Galaxy Creator, rubbing shoulders with fellow influencers and content creators like Mr. Beast, Dude Perfect, and Demi Bagby. While Hue creates a lot of incredible work with cameras of all kinds, from smartphones to interchangeable lens cameras, many of her photos seen throughout this article were captured using a Galaxy smartphone.

In fact, Hue, while a talented and prolific designer and creative director, landed on Samsung’s radar thanks to her photography skills, which she tells PetaPixel grew from a combination of her dad being a photographer and her need for high-quality photos to use as part of her design work as a teenager and young adult.

Photographer and Galaxy creator Marilyn Hue
Marilyn Hue self-portrait

In 2021, Hue was a contestant on Exposure on Hulu, a streaming show featuring Samsung Galaxy smartphones that pitted eight photographers against each other, vying for the title of “America’s Best Mobile Photographer” and a $250,000 prize. Battling it out against very talented competitors, Hue came out on top.

“I have now been on Team Galaxy for the past three years, which has been amazing being able to do what I normally do as a photographer, but on a more simplified scale,” Hue explains.

However, long before taking the top spot in a photography competition show, Hue created art across multiple disciplines.

Photographer and Galaxy creator Marilyn Hue

How Hue’s Other Art Informs Her Photography

“I started off with graphic design and I have [been doing that] since I was 14, I’m turning 34 this year, so it’s been a long time on the computer,” Hue tells PetaPixel over Zoom.

“I picked up photography to kind of boost a lot of my graphic skills as well. Photography is something that was always a hobby to me. My dad is a photographer as well, so I kind of always followed in his footsteps but really took it seriously after I realized all the stock photos and everything that I wanted to use for my graphics weren’t really up to par,” Hue says. “I was designing a lot of graphic T-shirts for clothing brands, and so the type of photography I got to do was more experimental, was more artistic.”

Photographer and Galaxy creator Marilyn Hue

These experimental roots have grown and blossomed into a prolific photographic career, with Hue building a large audience, both personal and professional, on Instagram. She cites her social media presence as a significant factor in her success.

“And then I decided to share some of my personal photography work on Instagram back in 2011. So that was, I think, when Instagram was first starting out. By 2014, my account was growing rapidly, to my surprise. I think posting consistently and just being very vulnerable and open with my work on socials had really connected me with a lot of different people I never thought would.”

While building her audience through her photography and other visual arts online, Hue has continued to work across other artistic fields, including as a creative director for musicians and artists. “I do a lot of different things,” she admits.

Photographer and Galaxy creator Marilyn Hue

But for Hue, everything connects.

“It goes hand-in-hand: photography, graphic design, videography. In terms of how I see it all connecting, it’s all about composition, color, style. I learned a lot with graphics, knowing that you want people’s eyes to kind of bounce around, leading lines in certain ways, to direct people toward areas of focus. I carried a lot of that into photography.”

“When I’m looking at shadows or looking at the way people’s bodies are moving, I’m creating a shape and trying to fill or add negative space, which is a lot like what I do in design. And more recently, I’ve been working on video. And that, to me, is a moving picture. So in addition to the leading lines and the composition and the lighting, it’s now another layer to it, which would be the storytelling part,” Hue says.

She thinks telling stories through video is easier than storytelling through still frames. A photographer must tell a complete story in a frame, or maybe several frames, while there’s more flexibility when she dons her videographer hat.

In all cases, Hue says photography has been foundational to her success. “Without photography as my foundation, I don’t think I would’ve been good at either design or video.”

Photographer and Galaxy creator Marilyn Hue

Staying Authentic When Doing Commercial Work

Given that Hue has professional obligations to clients but still wants to create personal work, PetaPixel asked how she balances these concerns. How does a photographer or any other visual artist stay true to their style while creating commercial work?

For Hue, she says that clients generally want to hire her because of her established style, so she doesn’t feel like she has to pretend to be someone she’s not. If she has to go too far outside her aesthetics, the work could fall apart. Fortunately, that isn’t a problem for her, as her clients hire her precisely because of her style. Staying true to herself has opened up a lot of doors. However, Hue still significantly emphasizes taking the time and energy to spend time on personal projects.

Photographer and Galaxy creator Marilyn Hue

“Without the personal work, everything else kind of falls apart,” she explains.

She also says that social media has shifted a bit over the years, with users preferring more behind-the-scenes content and caring more about Hue as a person and artist. The emphasis is less on the final, finished product on platforms like Instagram and more about how something was created.

But no matter what content someone creates, Hue says, “having a strong personal style is the biggest foundation.”

Photographer and Galaxy creator Marilyn Hue

Smartphone Cameras, AI, and Democratizing Artistic Tools

“Everyone could have the same pencil, but not everyone’s going to draw the same [picture],” Hue says, emphasizing the importance of the person over the artistic tool. Although some photographers have looked down on smartphone photography as being lesser, Hue certainly doesn’t.

“Yes, there was a time period where everyone was looking down on mobile photography, but I feel like it’s just a tool. I mean, you could give me a phone, you could give me a DSLR, you could give me a Pringles can with a hole in it, and I’m still going to shoot something pretty cool, I think. It doesn’t really matter.”

Photographer and Galaxy creator Marilyn Hue
Like the other images in this article, this photo was shot on a Galaxy smartphone, in this case, a Galaxy S23 Ultra

“To me, the more creators, the better,” Hue says, hypothesizing about kids in less-developed countries, who may have access to a cheap smartphone but couldn’t afford a full-blown camera kit.

Someone could have the “biggest ideas” but no way to bring them to life. Smartphones are a much more accessible avenue for people to create art. To that end, Hue thinks that artificial intelligence could open up many doors for people lacking the technical skills, software, or know-how to achieve their desired goals.

“I think AI is kind of cool,” she says. It is certainly something that Samsung is going all-in on with its latest Galaxy S24 series smartphones.

Photographer and Galaxy creator Marilyn Hue

Finding Your Style

No matter what a photographer creates or uses to make it, Hue says aspirational up-and-comers must think about their personal brand.

Photographer and Galaxy creator Marilyn Hue

“For you to do that, you have to create a lot, even if it’s bad. I think it’s about just putting things out and then eventually, over time, you refine what it is. For people to find their style, I think they just have to create every day, no matter what.”

To see more from photographer, designer, and creative director Marilyn Hue, visit her website and follow her on Instagram.

Image credits: © Marilyn Hue