I talk to the talented fashion and portrait photographer Anastasia Volkova. We discuss her background and her technique for creating photos with such amazing lighting and compositions.
Andreas: Tell us a bit about your background. Where do you come from and why did you start shooting photography?
Anastasia Volkova: My name is Anastasia Volkova and I’m a portrait photographer from Moscow, Russia. I got into photography about 4 years ago and I am completely self-taught. I started taking random pictures of myself and my friends to capture memories (as my dad did with a film camera when I was a child), mostly just for fun. I didn’t start taking it seriously until the summer of 2009 when one day I realized how passionate I was about photography. That’s when I really started growing. Taking a photo everyday really pushed me to get more innovative and to learn the tricks behind the editing process.
Where are you right now and what are you doing today?
I just got back home from a photoshoot we had earlier this morning. It was a portfolio shoot for a young beautiful lady at the studio. It’s too cold outside (about -15C) and I can’t stand taking photographs at the other locations during this season, so I prefer shooting in the studio.
Do you work as a professional photographer or is photography mainly a hobby for you?
At first it was a hobby and it still is. I don’t like to call it my “job”. As I said, I took pictures just for fun and never thought about it too seriously. After two years of posting my works on Flickr (this site has given me a lot of daily inspiration for the last 4 years!) I decided to move forward and started shooting other people, but it was still a hobby as well. Then in 2009 I realized that I couldn’t combine two jobs at once and quit my official job. Since then my life has been completely about photography and now I work as a freelance photographer.
What camera and lenses do you use?
One of the most popular questions I receive every day! It’s a Canon 5D Mark II, 50mm 1.2L (my favorite lens), TS-E 45mm 2.8, 70-200mm 2.8L and 24-70mm 2.8L. I’m going to add one or two lenses to my collection this year.
A lot of your photos have amazing lighting. Do you use flashes or mainly natural light? If it’s mostly natural light, how do you find such a great lighting conditions?
It’s natural light (or available light) most of the time. Even when I have a shoot in the studio – I prefer to take pictures with daylight through the window. I don’t use a flash when it comes to weddings or something (but I have Canon Speedlite 580EX II flash always in my equipment bag), because I love natural light and use it as much as possible. You just need to choose the right position or to turn the model in the right direction to take a good shot at the location. Sometimes it’s hard “to see” the RIGHT light, but no one said it would be easy. Locations are full of natural light when it’s a sunny day.
I just discovered your photo blog anastasiavolkova.blogspot.com. The photos there look really good but have a more relaxed feeling than your fashion photos. Do you always bring a camera with you or is the blog a project in itself?
It is my personal blog which I try to update on a regular basis with what I see every day, behind the scenes and random photos. It’s not about full versions of my commercial works or personal projects, it’s sort of the full version of what surrounds me everyday. Still life pictures. I always try to take my cameras (Canon camera, iPhone 4 and film camera – my new experience) with me, because you never know what you will see or whom you will meet during the day.
I love the composition in your photos. Do you decide the composition before you start working with the model or do you adjust the composition after everything else looks great?
It’s always an improvisation. It all depends on my mood or what I see in a person I work with. It’s all about the inspiration that women can give me while I’m shooting them. I never know exactly what I want to see as a result of our collaboration, but sometimes I already have a few images in my mind to create. In the the end, there is always something beautiful and fresh.
Do you work alone or with a large team?
I almost always work with a team. It’s not too large: I work with a make-up artist, hair stylist and an assistant, and currently I’m looking for a good wardrobe stylist. I’m trying to find something new for myself in photography and my team is really creative and helpful in each photo session we do. I’m really thankful for all the great artists I work with.
You use sites like Flickr and 500px quit a bit. What impact has that had on your career?
Flickr is a large platform to show the world who you are and what you can do. I’m not kidding, it’s amazing stuff. I remember the first time I saw people’s work on Flickr, I was so inspired and shocked. It was a time when I knew nothing about photography and I thought that it’s some kind of magic to take pictures like those people did. I’m a huge fan of Cindy Loughridge’s (aka *Cinnamon on Flickr) work and she’s one of those people who pushed me to take photography more seriously.
If you could go back in time and teach yourself something that would have made your career as a photographer easier, what would it be?
I don’t think that my career as a photographer is too hard, I enjoy it. “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” as Confucius said. I love what I do, I practice every day and I’m happy about it. I’m not sure yet where I hope to go with my photography, I find something new for myself in it every day and I know I want to say something with it.
What tips do you have for aspiring photographers?
Follow your heart. Don’t ever think any dream is too big. Practice more. Practice whenever you can and believe in yourself. And don’t do it for anyone, just do it for yourself.
Where can readers find you on the web?
My website: anastasiavolkova.com
Main blog: nastya_volkova.livejournal.com
That’s it for this interview. I’d like to thank Anastasia for a great interview and I hope you enjoyed reading her answers as much as I did – Andreas