I was really glad when Maarten agreed to be interviewed for Flickrista. We have featured quite a few of his shots through the years and not only is he a great photographer, he is also a really nice guy and has become a friend and a strong supporter of the site. I think you will really enjoy reading his answers.
How did you get interested in photography?
Initially by my father who created beautiful black and white photos from various themes. After that, during my first profession as an editorial designer where I discovered the significance of a speaking photograph in for example a glossy magazine. I learned that a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ photograph could ‘make’ or ‘break’ the identity of a magazine.
What equipment do you use?
Any favorite lenses or gear you couldn’t live without?
The camera I’m using is a Canon 5D Mark II. The lenses I use, are Canon 24-70 mm F2.8, Canon 70-200 mm F2.8/IS and Canon 85 mm F1.2.
Besides that, I have 3 flashlights by Elinchrom (Quadra Ranger), two soft boxes, a grid, some reflectors and a Sunbounce Pro Silver, for usage outdoors.
The Canon 85 F1.2 is really one of my favorite lenses. The quality of this lens is extremely good and the bokeh is awesome.
Why did you gravitate towards fashion photography?
Why I really gravitate towards fashion photography, is because I want to collaborate with the model to create a catchy image and by doing that, creating a story that stimulates the fantasy of the observer. In my opinion, the expression, the glance and the pose of the model are a significant part of that. Some models have the natural capability and the talent to create an expression or glance that is really touching. The search for these moments is very addictive and it’s like a gift, when you’ve captured that particular moment, like the example below.
What lessons from your background in graphic design do you use as a photographer?
When it comes to my background as a graphic designer, I attempt to pay attention to the graphic lines in the background, which support the subject in the composition. I also pay attention to invisible lines like the viewing direction and the pose of the model. All these elements have to be in balance to provide a well-composed image.
Above all, the most important aspect for me is the expression and the emotional value in a photograph and what it does to the observer‘s feelings. In my opinion, the expression and the emotional values are the most difficult aspects in making an ‘ordinary’ photo into an ‘expressive’ photo.
Do you still work as an art director/graphic designer or are you working as a full time photographer now?
I still work as a graphic designer. Photography is a loving spare-time activity and at the same time a creative extension of my job.
How did you get your first paid photo shoot?
My work as a photographer doesn’t exist of paid assignments yet. It’s still a spare-time activity and to be honest, I want to keep it that way for now. I am still looking to refine my style and to improve my capabilities in directing the expression of the models. During paid assignments, I have to work with clients who put one’s stamp on their projects and that could limit my creative freedom and personal growth.
Many of your shots look beautifully lit by natural light. For a shot like the one below, are you only using natural light or is it a combination of flashes and reflectors?
Thank you Andreas! The photographs I create exist mostly of natural light, filled in with a small ‘fill-in’ flashlight to lighten the hair and shoulders and to enhance depth in the image. Since I do like the ambient atmosphere, I work with large apertures and higher ISO-values most of the time. Using too much flashlights in my images will destroy the atmosphere and the image will become less sensitive.
How much time do you spend retouching your shots?
Concerning skin retouch, I do some standard corrections, like removing small blemishes on the face and shadows under the eyes. My goal is to create a picture as beautiful as possible, without losing the model’s identity and characteristics.
I used to spend too much time on an image doing color corrections. These corrections were driving me crazy sometimes. I think the reason for that is that the brains automatically get used to the color you see as you look at a certain color tone for a long time. For example, too much yellow on the screen is going to be normal yellow in your brains after a long while. As you view the color-corrected photo the next day, it doesn’t turn out to be the right color, so you have to edit the photo again. So, when it comes to color, you can really get fixated too much.
What inspires you?
From time to time I buy some glossies. I view some websites from other Flickr members and visit websites from other photographers outside Flickr. Last December for example, I visited an exhibition of a famous Belgium photographer in Antwerp and purchased a book full of his work. Furthermore, I visit Flickrista frequently and view your ‘Daily Update’ sent by mail.
What tips do you have for aspiring fashion photographers?
Above all, be yourself and follow your own way and create a style that suits your vision and personal identity. There are many photographers with a diversity of styles. Be inspired by those who improve you style and enhance your personal identity as a photographer. Personally, I do have respect for photographers with an unambiguous style and who are capable to uphold, in a matter of speaking, a consistent quality. This is, in my opinion, an advantage for models and clients, because they know what style and quality they can expect.
If you could go back in time and tell yourself one thing you wish you would have known when you started out as a photographer, what would it be?
That the quality of a photograph does not depend on the price of your equipment and how much equipment you have, but rather depends on the expression, the story and the emotion you can present to the observer.
Which projects are you working on right now?
At this moment, I have two dates set with two models. For both models, I am making a mood-board, on which the expression, styling and make-up are clarified. By means of that mood-board, the models can conceive themselves and prepare themselves for the project. Besides that, they have a rough idea what they can expect from the photo shoot.