8 Best Photography Portfolio Websites to Showcase Your Talent

Part of being a successful photographer is building an effective portfolio. With the advent of the digital age, it became particularly important to create an online portfolio website. There are a lot of different factors to consider when choosing a reputable provider like the overall costs, supported features, and file type limits. This article is going to cover eight of the best photography portfolio websites available based on user popularity.

1. Format

Format is one of the best photography portfolio websites to consider. It offers four different plans to consider starting at $6 a month and going up to $44 a month when billed annually. The most basic plan is designed more for personal use and supports up to 100 images and unlimited video uploads.

Where Format excels is in its large theme collection. They divide them into five different categories based on their display type and they are very easy to use. The online store feature comes standard with all package plans and is an excellent way to help grow your online business.

Format, best photography portfolio websites

2. 22Slides

Another one of the best photography portfolio websites available is 22Slides. One of the best features of this service is that there is no upselling and they utilize one of the easiest to understand pricing models. They only charge $10 a month for their services and there are no additional plans to pick and choose from. Their pricing includes a free custom domain name with one year as well.

Their templates are perfect for users who prefer to do a bit more customization and are very easy to use. The service is completely free to use for 30 days and requires no credit card information to try it out.

22Slides photography portfolio website

3. SmugMug

SmugMug is another one of the best photography portfolio websites. One of the nicest things about this service is that templates are completely customizable allowing for a more unique website design. For users who are a bit less technically inclined, you can still create a functional website using their predefined settings.

They offer four different pricing levels on their website that support various levels of website control and commercialization tools. One downside is that the user interface side can take a bit of adjusting. However, it is still a great site for new and experienced photographers alike.

SmugMug, one of the best photography portfolio websites

4. AllYou

For users who prefer a more simple approach, AllYou is one of the best photography portfolio websites for you. While it is much simpler to use, it is important to note that this also somewhat limits your website design choices. Their service currently only offers 25 templates to choose from.

However, their pricing plans do make up for it and are very easy to understand. The two plans they offer are Carbon and Titanium costing $8 and $12 a month when billed annually. All packages include a custom name, landing page, and mobile compatibility view. You also receive access to 24/7 email support as well.

AllYou photography website

5. Foto Merchant

With a variety of customizable photo gallery layouts, Foto Merchant is another one of the best photography portfolio websites available. Another one of the best features that this service has is the innovative store design. This is perfect for selling prints and other merchandise from your custom designed website.

You can also easily manage digital file licensing rights by using their platform as well. As far as pricing goes, they have four different plan levels. The lowest plan is $7 a month and the highest goes for $80 each month. New customers are eligible for a free trial on all eligible plans as well.

Foto Merchant website screenshot

6. PhotoShelter

If you’re serious about commercializing your photography work, PhotoShelter is likely the best photography portfolio website for you. They have a wide range of template options that support quick website creation. They also offer additional services that are very beneficial to setting up your online business like cloud storage and e-commerce tools.

They also offer an impressive selection of advertising solutions that can help increase the traffic to your website. Unfortunately, they are one of the pricier options available. Their base plan starts at $10 a month and their most expensive plan is $35 a month. It’s still an excellent choice for users who want a more comprehensive service.

PhotoShelter portfolio website

7. Cargo Collective

Cargo Collective is another excellent choice for photographers who want to start their own portfolio website. They have an impressive selection of customizable templates that can help you set up your own custom website in minutes.

One of the nicest things about this service is that it supports drag and drop customization making it an excellent choice for photographers. If you have a bit of basic HTML knowledge, you can further customize the look and feel of each page. This is also an excellent choice for users who do video work as well since it supports Youtube, Vimeo, and SoundCloud content.

Cargo Collective screenshot

8. FolioLink

FolioLink is another popular photography portfolio website service. One of its nicest features is that it supports batch photo uploads making it an ideal choice for artists who have lots of samples to share. Customer service is also readily available and can assist with a broad range of basic questions relating to their website design service.

They have two main pricing plans that cost $15 and $21 each month for the first six months. After the promotional period, the price climbs to $19 and $29 each month when billed annually. With their broad range of template options and numerous features, they are a great option to consider.

FolioLink screenshot

Summing Up

The eight services we covered are among the best photography portfolio websites available. They all offer a variety of exciting templates, are owned by reputable companies, and support many different types of files. Take your time browsing the selections we covered and pick the one that is most suitable for your needs. Once you’ve tried out their services, feel free to tell us about your experience with them.

How to Start a Photography Portfolio in 5 Easy Steps

If you want to learn how to start a photography portfolio, look no further! Follow the 5 easy steps presented and you will be the proud owner of a unique photography portfolio. First of all, you need to understand how important your portfolio is for your career: the portfolio is the photographer’s business card, so make sure that yours is professional, attractive, and creative.

image reading building a better photography portfolio

Source

Whether you wonder how to start a photography business or just want to display your work in a professional way, this article is the right tool for you. You will learn how to properly show your photographs for them to be appreciated, what theme you should choose and what design best fits your style. Take your time to read through and then opt for what best represents your particular personality and view, so you end up with a portfolio that speaks clearly about you and your abilities.

Step 1: Understand why you need a portfolio

Starting a photography portfolio might seem scary at the beginning, but to make everything easier, you need to first understand why you need it. A portfolio is a presentation the work you’ve done so far. Don’t be inhibited by the misconception that is should represent a sort of best of album. However, you should select the photographs you are most proud of while keeping an eye on a common theme that brings everything together.

Think of the reason for starting your portfolio in the first place. Is it a tool for you to get a job interview, an exhibition in a gallery or do you want to use it to make yourself recognized? Answer these question first and once you know why you need it, your mental image about your portfolio’s aspect will be much clearer.

Step 2: Decide on an individual, unifying theme

What is the invisible thread that brings together the work you will include in your portfolio? You have to know the main theme you want to pursue before even deciding on the photographs you will include because this way your job will get easier. Once you know your theme, you will find it much simple to select the photos, the style, and format of your presentation. Bearing in mind the theme, you will know what unifies your work, bringing a more cohesive aspect to your portfolio.

Step 3: Select the most suitable photographs

This part might be a bit difficult because an artist is not always able to judge his work objectively. You should resist the temptation of choosing your favorite shots, and try to select your best work. That means starting from a group of 100 photographs and then gradually eliminating those who are not perfectly executed. You should also keep in mind the theme of your portfolio in order to decide what fits and what doesn’t.

A good trick to help you ensure that your best work goes in your portfolio is to ask for someone else’s opinion. A friend you trust or a fellow photographer who has more experience can offer you valuable insight and help the process of selection. It’s always good to ask for their opinion because it will certainly come in handy and it will improve the general look of your portfolio.

photography portfolio of Jeremy Cowart

Source

Step 4: Decide on a great layout

For print portfolios, you should really think about the best presentation for your work, starting from the paper, you print the photographs on, how many you have on every page and the general aspect as a whole. Print them at a high resolution on good quality paper because even though it is more expensive, it’s worth every dollar. If you are careful with these aspects, you will be able to present the best version of your work that will improve your chances of getting noticed.

The best way is to keep just one shot per page, as it provides a fresh look and also ensures that every one of your photographs gets noticed. A more spaced out layout also adds to the value of your portfolio, making it easier for the audience to enjoy it. Keep the captions underneath your shots simple and direct, including only the title, location and the date when you took the photo.

Step 5: Find your audience!

After you have built your portfolio and you are proud of the work you’ve included and satisfied with the resulting product all you have to do is show it to people. If you created it as an attachment to your resume, then your mission is simple, just send it to your prospect employer and wait for a positive reply.

If on the other hand, you want to use it to make yourself and your work known, then your mission is a bit trickier. No reason to worry, though, you have an amazing portfolio, and there are tons of people out there who want to see it you just need to find them. Send your portfolio to local gallery owners and don’t forget to keep an eye out for the unconventional spaces that might host a future exhibition of yours.

How to start a photography portfolio might seem like a challenge at first, but after you’ve followed the steps in this article, your work will be a lot easier. All you have to do is realize the importance of a good portfolio that will launch your career and then start working on it. Browse through your shots and select the best ones that match your theme and then think about the layout. After you’ve made up your mind, head to the printing center.

Your portfolio  should develop into an interesting story that engages the viewer, so let the photos speak for themselves. Keep the captions brief and don’t forget to include a presentation of yourself and your professional achievements. You’re almost done! All that is left to do after you’ve built your portfolio is to show your work to future employers, fellow photographers, and gallery owners.

Be proud of yourself, you now have a visual resume that will ensure your success. Good luck!

Bokeh Photography 101: Tricks all Pros Should Know

water drops on plant captured in bokeh photography Bokeh photography isn’t just a craze, it’s the aesthetic quality of a photograph’s out-of-focus areas. The word bokeh is derived from the Japanese boke, defined as blur or haze. What is bokeh in photography?

One of the most comprehensive definitions of the bokeh effect in photography describes bokeh as:

“the effect of a soft out-of-focus background that you get when shooting a subject, using a fast lens at the widest aperture, such as f/2.8 or wider”.

The essentials of bokeh photography are already hinted at in the tentative definition above. While bokeh is used to describe a photograph, it is in fact determined by the lens. Bokeh photography is quick to learn and difficult to master. This is list of bokeh photography tips all pros should know.

What Is Bokeh Photography?

With all the attention it received in the past years, bokeh photography is still somewhat misunderstood. There are hardly any specific settings on the camera which can render the bokeh effect. The out-of-focus areas of a photograph are pleasingly blurred thanks to the lens.metal beads in bokeh photography

More specifically, it is the shape of the diaphragm blades and the aperture of the lens that determine the quality of bokeh.

In photography bokeh is visible in highlights. The bokeh photography shapes (such as the orbs, backdrops, soft hexagons) are determined by the shape of the diaphragm blades. Circular blades will render the out-of-focus soft orbs highlights. Alternatively, hexagonal lens will render the hexagonal soft highlights.

Technicalities: It’s All About the Lens

To achieve the bokeh effect, it’s recommended to use fast lens. As such, an f/2.8 aperture is good. An f/1.8 or f/2 aperture is even better.

By using different aperture shapes and aperture sizes and experimenting with different depths-of-field and lens designs, the rendered bokeh effect may be quite different from one photograph to the other.

Visible bokeh occurs in the out-of-focus areas of a photograph, as the prime subject is well defined in the depth-of-focus region. We’ve established that the bokeh effect is rendered differently by different lenses. This is a short and by no means exhaustive list of lens designs that offer the best results.

  • Nikon 85mm f/1.4D – the lens renders good-quality bokeh
  • Canon 85mm f/1.2II USM – exceptionally good bokeh
  • Nikon 85mm f/1.8D + Canon 85mm f/1.8 USM (cheaper versions of the lenses above) – are also great to have for good-quality bokeh
  • Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art – this is one of the best lens on the market. Praised for its sharpness and fantastic microcontrast, it surprisingly renders soft, creamy orbs reminiscent of a cinematic scene.
  • Zeiss 85mm f/1.4 Otus – arguably among the best 85mm lenses on the market. It’s not as sharp at the lens above, yet the bokeh effect is flawless.
  • Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 VC- render good quality bokeh when used at longer focal lengths

Tips and Tricks to Achieve the Photography Bokeh Effectbokeh photography poppy

One key term in bokeh photography is the shallow depth-of-field. The shallow depth-of-field results from shooting the subject at close range with a large aperture. The soft orbs resulting in the background are light reflections rendered as such by the lens.

Some people believe the bokeh effect is all about the soft orbs light reflections’ quality. However, a pro tip is to consider all of the out-of-focus area when thinking of the quality of bokeh.

There is both good bokeh and bad bokeh. A distracting out-of-focus area of a photograph is considered bad bokeh. The point of the bokeh effect is to bring the subject in a sharp, depth-of-field plane, while the background is aesthetically blurred to prevent distractions.

There’s a great deal of subjectivity concerning good bokeh and bad bokeh. Nonetheless, based on your own photographic style and needs, you need to find the right lenses and your own bokeh style.

Tip: scenes which include specular highlights or difficult lighting conditions are challenging from the perspective of bokeh photography. Natural sunlit scenes are almost perfect for bokeh photography. Christmas trees and cityscapes at night make good scenes as well.

How to do Bokeh Photography?

  • Tip number 1 is to shoot the photograph with lens wide open. Manual or Aperture Priority are perfect modes to create the settings necessary for good bokeh. With the Manual mode you can choose the shutter speed and the aperture individually. Aperture Priority mode enables the camera to choose whatever shutter speed it deems necessary for the given exposure. You can choose the f/stop with the Aperture Priority mode.
  • Tip number 2: in the absence of fast lenses, increase the distance between your subject and the background you’re shooting against. This ups the likelihood of visible bokeh in the photograph. A shallow depth-of-field means a more out-of-focus background.bokeh photography night city landscape
  • Harsh lights become diffuse, pleasing and soft when they are out-of-focus. Lens aberrations as well as aperture will influence the way the bokeh effect is rendered in the out-of-depth-of-field areas.
  • Tip number 3: bokeh isn’t all about the luminous highlights. The bokeh effect applies to all areas of a photograph that are out of focus.
  • Tip number 4: how to get heart bokeh photography? Some photographs feature soft heart-shaped light reflections in the background instead of the typical blur, the soft orbs or hexagons. Achieving heart bokeh photography isn’t difficult at all. As a matter of fact, it could be called DIY bokeh photography. Cut out a heart-shaped design in a circular cardboard just under the diameter of your lens. Attach it to your lens and let the magic happen. Whether it’s a heart, a star or any other shape, the light will reflect in that particular manner. Bokeh love photography? It’s all in the improvised heart-shaped lens cap.heart bokeh effect  
  • Tip number 5: bokeh isn’t spectacular just in color photography. The same tricks apply for black and white bokeh photography. Even if it’s a black and white portrait, bokeh will bring forth all its strengths.

Bokeh photography implies a great deal of subjectivity. Get out and try different settings, lens designs and backgrounds. There is no perfect lens for good bokeh. Share your bokeh photography with the rest of the world and continue practicing.

Image Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

How to Copyright Photos: a Short & Comprehensive Guide

A professional photographer’s work is his or her signature. Before you distribute and share your photographs online, it is important to understand what copyright protection and image safety mean. In this short guide on how to copyright photos, we will try to answer the following ardent questions:

  • what is copyright?
  • what does a copyright infringement mean?
  • how can you protect your photos online?
  • how do I get a copyright for my photos?
  • how to watermark your photos.
  • how can you make photo copying more difficult for Internet users?
  • what is the difference between buying a print and purchasing the copyright?
  • how can you check where your photos are being used across the Web?
  • how to encourage people to share your photos and protect your rights at the same time.  
copyright stamp reading intellectual property
Copyright Stamp

Understanding Copyright: How to Protect Your Photos Online

What Is Copyright? To put it simple:

Copyright is a legal term that refers to the rights given to a creator for his or her artistic work. This can be literary (books), visual (photographs, paintings), audiovisual (films), sculptural, or performative (plays).

*Computer programs, maps, and drawings are also included.

Secondly, copyright is classified as an intellectual property (IP) right. IP is defined as a product of creativity, the creation of one’s mind. Besides copyright, intellectual properties include patents and trademarks.

What does a copyright infringement mean?

A copyright infringement is the use of a work protected by copyright without the author’s permission.

By “use”, we understand the distribution and reproduction of the work, as well as the production of derivative works. Examples of copyright infringement:

  • copying an image by using photo printers for commercial purposes;
  • publicly displaying an image online without crediting the author.

Naturally, a photographer is interested in spreading his work through diverse mediums of communication not only on social media. While it is difficult to control the printing and actual reproduction of your images, it is not only easier but also essential to protect them online.

Posting and promoting your images either on your website or on social media pages has the advantage of targeting a broader and more accessible audience. The disadvantage, though, is that it is much easier for people to “steal” your work. Smart sharing on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr and so on, should thus be accompanied by a copyright notice.

How to Copyright Photos?

#1. Register Your Photos with the U.S. Copyright Office (or a government body that deals with intellectual property rights and copyright infringement in your country) 

While most of your photos are automatically protected from the moment of their creation in the US, UK, and Canada thanks to the Berne Convention, you may want to register your high-value works with a government body. The advantage of such registration is that you can recover damages in case of unauthorized use of your photos.

Registering your copyright involves three steps:

  • an application for copyright registration that will include personal and non-personal information such as your name, address, title and year of your photographic work, date and country of publication.

Note: you can also register unpublished photos.

  • an applicable fee you can pay online – you will be required to make the payment before you get to the next step;
  • a deposit which implies sending one or more copies of your photos. You can either upload photos electronically or send hard copies by post to the Copyright Office.

Registrations of photographs (visual arts works) should be sent to the following email address:

Registrations for visual arts works should be addressed to:

Library of Congress
Copyright Office- VA
101 Independence Avenue, SE
Washington, DC 20559-6000.

Official Source: Chapter 4 of the Copyright Law of the United States of America. Also, more eCo tips are available in a less difficult language (not so many legal terms and definitions as the actual law statement).

Pro tip: If you are about to sue someone for copyright infringement, and you haven’t registered yet, consult a lawyer first. If it’s a fair use, there is no point in paying the application fees. On the other hand, an illegal use of a copyrighted work is subject to fines starting at $2,500 and reaching $25,000.

Copyright symbol made from a collage of images

Copyright Sign – Conceptual Illustration

#2. Use the Copyright Symbol on All Your Photos – ©

The copyright symbol is part of the so-called copyright notice. There are three essential parts to it: the “©” (or its substitutes – “copyright” or “Copr.”), the year of publication, and the name of the copyright owner.

Although it is not legally required to use the © symbol on your work, it is a way to declare ownership and improve the visibility of your name.

#3. Watermark Your Photos

We have to admit that watermarking your photos may affect the aesthetic experience of your viewers. Yes, it is a free method of advertising your work and of building your personal brand as a photographer. If done improperly, though, it can actually have a negative effect on the overall aesthetics of your image.

On the other hand, the Internet is not a safe place. Almost any user can download your photographs posted on social media sites like Facebook or even Flickr. There are settings that allow you to control which images are free for download, but any Internet savvy can easily copy them.

Adding a watermark to your photos may be, then, one of the solutions to protect your photos online. We have a few tips of you:

  • make sure it is a subtle, unobtrusive watermark.
  • place your copyright notice at the bottom of the photo and never on the entire image.
  • use either your brand name or your website’s URL: e.g. David Hughes Photography or davidhughesphoto.com.
  • use a nice font.

How to watermark photos in Photoshop: 

If you are an Adobe Photoshop user, this process can be very easy. Just use the Type Tool and place the copyright notice in gray at the bottom of your photo.

You can also watermark your photos by creating a new layer, create the watermark text or design there, adjust transparency, and apply any effects you want (Outer Glow, Bevel and Emboss).

You can, of course, add a watermark to your work with the help of the software you commonly use to edit photos. A popular alternative to a watermark is creating a frame and placing your copyright notice within it.

How Can You Make Photo Copying Difficult for Netizens?

If you promote your photography business online and wish to protect your photos from copying, there are other two methods you can apply:

  • disabling the right-click option prevents users to quickly save the image on their computer. Instead of the “save as” option, they will get a notice stating that the photo is protected by copyright.
  • using a hidden foreground layer; place your photo on a blank foreground image and whenever someone right clicks to save it, they will download the blank image.
  • breaking the image into tiles – this is a time-consuming image protection method as it involves separating and uploading the image as a sequence of smaller tiles. If someone wants to download it, they will get only one tile. Although effective, this way of protecting your photos another disadvantage: it may result in slow loading time for your website.

Is There a Difference Between Buying a Photo and Purchasing the Copyright? 

What we want to highlight here is that when someone buys a work of art or simply pays for a print, it does not mean he or she becomes the copyright owner.

Consider, for instance, the selling photos websites across the web. These sites sell images that are in between the full restriction of “all rights reserved” and the public, free use. The principle is simple: you pay for a high-quality photo, but you do not become the creator of that visual product.

Copyright ownership can be transferred for a fee. Similarly, you can pay for a license to use a work protected by copyright by negotiating with the owner. Any copyright transfer or license needs to be recorded with the Copyright Office.

Can You Get or Display Legal Copies of Fellow Professionals? 

How can someone, then, copy, distribute, publicly display, or reproduce the work of a photographer without the risk of a copyright infringement? Photographers and authors of other types of artistic products are happy when their work gets recognized. Equally, most of them are happy to discuss options for reproducing their images.

What you should do is check the image you want to use for copyright information. The image may be subject to a Creative Commons license which allows you to distribute the copyrighted work freely.

In any case, you can also contact the author, and kindly ask for a photocopying permission.

Learn more about the six types of Creative Commons licenses and their agreement with the copyright law, on the CC official website.

How Can You Check Where Your Photos Are Being Used Online?

Checking where an image of yours is used across the web is not that difficult as you think. You can use TinEye, which is a free image search tool based on a 13.5 billion image index. All you need to do is upload your image or type your image URL and you will be provided with pages of results pointing to its online locations and uses.

How to Encourage People to Share Your Work and Protect It From Copyright Infringement

One of the non-restrictive image protection options you have in this case is using a Creative Commons license.  This will allow users to distribute your work for personal or noncommercial, editorial purposes.

Also, you can kindly ask your followers to share your images together with an attribution.

How to Copyright Photos: Essential Things to Remember

  • Your photographic work, published or unpublished, is protected from the moment of its creation in compliance with the Copyright Law of the United States of 1976.
  • Note that if you want to benefit from the recovery of legal fees and other damages in case of copyright infringement, you need to register with a government body such as the Copyright Office in the US.
  • Copyright is a legal right given for a fixed period of time. To be more precise, in America any work created after January 1978 is protected upon copyright registration during the life of the author and 70 years more after the death of the creator. If the copyright is expired that means that the work belongs to the public domain and it is free for use. 
  • A copyright infringement may result in civil and even criminal penalties.
  • It is important to control the reproduction of your photos as they can have a significant impact on your income. This is particularly important for professionals who rely on photography as their primary source of income.
  • Watermarking your photos should be subtle as not to affect the viewer’s experience.

We hope our guide on how to copyright photos will point you to the right direction. No matter what method you choose to protect the images you share online, total safety cannot be guaranteed.

That is why we recommend you to keep a close look-out over your online photos and take action in case of any violation of your rights. While only large scale copyright infringements are worth taking legal action, you can reach out to the people using your work and ask them to remove it or pay for it.

For any other questions or suggestions you may have in mind, do not hesitate to leave a message in the comment box below. Keep your photos safe! Cheers!

Interview with Street Photographer Patrick Joust

Patrick Joust is a Baltimore-based self-taught street photographer. His work documents the people and places of Baltimore but at the same time it creates what the photographer describes as a magical realist world of his own.

I feel like I struggle a bit internally with the desire to document and the desire to create, through a sequence of images, my own world that’s dominated by my imagination.

What makes Patrick Joust’s photography unique is his passion for shooting with old mechanical film cameras. The camera, however, be it mechanical or digital, is a medium of exploring the world around him.

portrait of Patrick Joust street photographer

Patrick Joust, 2015 © Christopher Hall

I do feel that film is almost like treasure. A lot of people who use it feel that way. It’s a luxury in more ways than one.

I am grateful for the opportunity to have interviewed another talented artist. Patrick’s work, both documentary and subjective, has won be over. Needless to say, Patrick Joust is one of the inspirational street photographers out there you should follow today.

G.M. Could you please tell us about your first encounter with photography? What made you start as a photographer?

P.J. Moving to Baltimore is what inspired me to take up a camera. I came here as a volunteer (AmeriCorps) for a small nonprofit. It involved going to many different parts of the city. I found myself wanting to take pictures of much of what I saw. It took many years for me to really figure out how I wanted to express myself with a camera, but it all started in Baltimore.

photo by Patrick Joust

Still © Patrick Joust Photography

G.M. Most of your street photographs are captured with film cameras. Is there a story behind shooting on film? What is it that makes it better for you?

Well, I started with film, so that’s part of it. I was born in 1978. Digital didn’t enter into the mainstream until I was well into adulthood. When I bought my first digital SLR, in 2005, I did go through a time when I thought I might not shoot film again. It seemed logical to conclude that this was the next step in the technology and that film was obsolete. The fact that you could shoot digital and not have the expense of buying and processing film was pretty attractive too. Frankly, at that time, I thought of film as just a medium to record images on. Even though I had been shooting for a couple years, my appreciation of photography was limited.

photo by Patrick Joust

Still © Patrick Joust Photography

It wasn’t until I started shooting medium format film in 2008 that I began to get a broader sense of the variety and depth film offered. I just loved the results I was getting. Shooting medium format actually made me appreciate 35mm, instant film, and other formats. I appreciated both what I had been missing but also what had been right under my nose all along. One of my favorite photographers, Toshihiro Oshima, said

“I don’t think film will be completely dead but it could possibly become one of the most luxurious things in the years to come.”

I do feel that film is almost like treasure. A lot of people who use it feel that way. It’s a luxury in more ways than one.

All that being said, I’m not an either/or kind of person. I can’t give up film, but I enjoy shooting digital. The economics and convenience of digital are hard to ignore. I’m passionate about film photography, but I think it’s wrong-headed and unnecessary to put down digital. You don’t have to spend all that much to take decent digital pictures. I’d say the economics of digital have helped my film photography since I’ve been able to expose thousands of digital frames without the frustration of spending a lot on film. That was especially useful in leaner years when I was an AmeriCorps volunteer or a student working part time.

This is art, after all, it’s not about the latest technology. The materials we use should be about how we want to express our personal vision, that’s all.

There are a lot of different factors that contribute to my continued interest in film. It’s not nostalgia or about slowing down the process. It’s just the aesthetics. I love the way it looks. I’ve long felt that digital is just another format for photography. It’s great and powerful, but it doesn’t replace film.

photo by Patrick Joust

Dundalk © Patrick Joust Photography

I just watched the documentary Time Zero: The Last Year of Polaroid Film. One of the most basic points being made by the advocates of instant photography is that its qualities can’t be replicated digitally, which is true.

It’s amazing how obviously fake digital polaroids are.

I’m sure it’s possible for someone to be so good at editing their digital photos that they can trick someone into thinking it’s the real deal, but it doesn’t seem easy and of course, there’s no replicating the physical product you get from shooting instant film. That’s not to disparage digital; they’re just different. Both have value.

This is art, after all, it’s not about the latest technology. The materials we use should be about how we want to express our personal vision; that’s all.

G.M. What photographic project is held dearest to your heart and why?

I’m not really all that project oriented though I do enjoy organizing my work into sets and collections and thinking about the different connections between my images. I guess the closest thing I have to a project is my ongoing chronicle of the people and places of Baltimore. The longer I’ve lived here, the more connected I feel to the city and the more opportunities I see.

photo by Patrick Joust (Baltimore Folk)

© Patrick Joust Photography

I’ve been thinking about this for a while, but since the Baltimore Uprising, I’ve been trying to figure out how to create a book on much of my Baltimore work. It’s hard to narrow things down, but probably my 6×6 portraits. Time is the challenge, but I’d love to have something together by next year. We’ll see.

Ideally maybe I can do a little bit of both. Create a sort of magical realist world of my own while also a more straightforward (though still subjective) view of Baltimore that encourages empathy and inspires.

I feel like I struggle a bit internally with the desire to document and the desire to create, through a sequence of images, my own world that’s dominated by my imagination. Of course, every photographer comes with a subjective point of view but I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the photographs that I don’t take. Photographs that would probably be good, but that don’t fit into my own ambiguous vision for what I want to do through photography.

photo by Patrick Joust Baltimore-based photographer

“surreal density” © Patrick Joust Photography

I recently watched a short documentary on Daido Moriyama in which he said:

“I am creating my own home by connecting pieces of images from my imagination and things I saw as a child. That’s how I feel about my work.”

I think that gets at what I’m trying to do, and maybe what a lot of my favorite photographers are doing as well. I like to connect places I’m from and places I visit to where I live now and somehow create a new world from those elements that work together.

Still, I get tugged back into more straightforward documentary work, especially because of the recent events in Baltimore. I feel a strong desire to give something with my photography though I’m not sure that’s possible or is something that’s wanted/needed. So there’s a little struggle there, which I’m not articulating too well, but that I think about often. Ideally maybe I can do a little bit of both. Create a sort of magical realist world of my own while also a more straightforward (though still subjective) view of Baltimore that encourages empathy and inspires.

photo by Patrick Joust on film camera

Still © Patrick Joust Photography

G.M. How important is post-processing in your work? Is there an editing software you prefer using?

P.J. It’s important. I’ve used Adobe Lightroom for years. I basically have a hybrid film/digital process. I’ve made a few darkroom prints, but my approach is to have my film developed and then scan the negatives/positives. I then run everything through Lightroom where I take care of issues like dust, exposure correction, straightening, etc.

There are limits to what you can do in digital post-processing, but there’s still a lot of latitude there and I’ll do whatever it takes to try and make a picture work. One of the pleasures of shooting film is that the emulsion you choose limits your options but also creates less work in post-processing. So post-processing is important, but I’m glad I don’t have to spend a great deal of time on it, the way I might have to if I only shot digital.

photograph by Patrick Joust street photographer

“surreal density” © Patrick Joust Photography

G.M. What camera gear do you currently use? Do you take with you any additional equipment on a shooting day?

I use a variety of different cameras, but ones that get the most use include my Mamiya C330, Fujica GW690, Olympus XA, Konica Hexar, Ricohflex, Rollop, and Canon 6D. I use a tripod and cable release for my long exposures, but that’s about it in terms of extra equipment.

street view of Baltimore photographed by Patrick Joust

“surreal density” © Patrick Joust Photography

G.M. Where do you find inspiration? Could you name a few photographers that you consider influential for your style?

P.J. All over the place. Robert Frank is one. I don’t think I have a lot of pictures that look like his, but he was an early influence, largely because of the social aspects of his work. Wendy Ewald, Greg Girard, Milton Rogovin, Saul Leiter, Vivian Maier, Justine Kurland, Gordon Parks.

photo by Patrick Joust street photographer

“surreal density” © Patrick Joust Photography

G.M. How would you define your photography in three words?

P.J. skipping this one

G.M. If you could start again as a photographer is there anything you would do differently? Are there any sectors you’d like to explore more?

P.J. I don’t like to dwell too much on things I’d do differently. I got into photography pretty late, only in my mid-20’s and even then it took me years to get “good” at it. I sometimes wish I’d gotten into it sooner when I was a teenager, especially since I took several trips to Europe and around the country and it would have been great to capture some of that. But I had a completely different mindset at the time, so it’s not so much that I didn’t have a camera in my hands but that I didn’t think of myself as a creative person.

photo by Patrick Joust street photographer based in Baltimore

Still © Patrick Joust Photography

I looked at a lot of art, though. I was obsessed with going to the great art museums of the U.S. and Europe. I was such a nerd that I skipped school to go to the Vermeer exhibit when it was in Washington, D.C. I also read a lot and watched a lot of movies. Maybe all of that was a kind of preparation for now, even if it didn’t directly involve taking my own photographs or making other types of art.

G.M. If it weren’t for photography, what else would you do?

P.J. Maybe paint or write or something. I would hope I’d find something creative to do. I wrote bad poetry for a while. Photography has been an especially good fit for me. I enjoy writing, but it also tires me out. I could never maintain a proper blog dedicated mostly to writing. Maybe I’d really get into video games. I dunno.

G.M. Any words of wisdom for photography enthusiasts at the beginning of their journey?

P.J. Have fun.

Baltimore folk - photo by Patrick Joust

Baltimore Folk © Patrick Joust Photography

G.M. Can you tell us a bit about your future projects?

P.J. Well I recently returned from a trip to northern California. I’m scanning the pictures as I type. I’m from California originally and visited some places I haven’t seen since I was a kid. I also went to Yosemite for the first time, and it was beautiful. There are so many places I want to go and so many places I want to revisit. I’d also like to photograph more in Pennsylvania, where I went to high school and college. As long as I’m healthy and able, you can definitely expect more from me.

Thank you, Patrick, for an inspiring interview and fascinating insight into the art of street photography. 

Discover more of Patricks’s photographic stories on his official website, Facebook page, Tumblr, Flickr.

Disclaimer: All images featured in this post belong to Patrick Joust and are protected by copyright. Exception makes Patrick’s portrait taken by Christopher Hall.

I hope you enjoyed reading the interview. For any questions or suggestions, feel free to drop a line in the comment section below. Cheers! 🙂

Christmas Photography: The Ultimate Guide to Capturing the Holiday Magic

We know there’s still a few weeks until the winter holidays, but it seems to us that it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas! To get you inspired and well-prepared for your holiday photo session, we have come up with a series of Christmas photography tips, tricks, and ideas.

Christmas photography guide featured image

Just to give you a quick overview of our holiday photography guide, here are a few of the things we hope you will enjoy trying out:

  • photographing Christmas lights and magnificently decorated houses;
  • capturing the holiday mood in group portraits;
  • telling the story of your family holiday celebration in candid photos and time-lapse series;
  • spread the holiday cheer with some Christmasy photographic gift ideas.

Part I: Christmas Set-up – Photographing the Preparation Stages

Christmas is all about enjoying time with your family and friends. That is why we encourage you to start capturing the festive mood from its early stages. Tree decorating, gift wrapping and holiday cookie baking give a sense of the celebration scene and you shouldn’t miss shooting any precious moments spent with your dear ones.

Chapter 1: Enjoy Family Time

Start documenting your holiday with a few shots of the preparations going on around the house. This should be the starting point of your Christmas story in images.

Pro tip: prepare your camera too. Make sure you empty your memory cards and have the batteries fully charged.

Take wide shots to present the scene, medium shots to get a closer sense of the action, and close-ups to emphasize meaningful details.

In part II of our Christmas photography guide, we will focus on introducing the characters to the story too. Stay tuned :).

christmas photography - happy family portrait

Christmas Photography: Joyful Family Portrait

Recommended Settings & Techniques: The Use of Composition, Balance, and Frames

We don’t want to get all technical, but in order to transcend technology and get creative about photography, you first need “to rule the rules” (rules of composition, settings, techniques).

In other words, you should know your camera and use it to its full potential. Without further ado, here is what you should keep in mind when it comes to taking technically perfect photographs:

  • Find the perfect balance – the difference between an ordinary photo and an extraordinary one lies in achieving a balanced composition. The rule of thirds come into play here. When taking a shot try to split the image into three (imaginarily) and to place your subject along one of the lines. This trick will create a harmonious balance.
  • Use natural frames to draw your viewer into the festive atmosphere. These can be anything from tree branches to beautifully decorated window or door frames.
  • Layer your shots. Pay attention to both the foreground and the background elements in your shots. For instance, you can play with the mood and atmosphere in your photographs by achieving a diffuse background. All you need to do is set a wide aperture (between f/1.4 and f/2.8) and get closer to your subject in focus.
  • Avoid cluttering. The ultimate tip we have for you here is to avoid cluttering your images. We all have a tendency to exaggerate during the holidays, be it with food, presents or decorations. Don’t stuff your images too much, though. Let your subjects breath.
  • Combine wide, medium, and close-up shots to give a more dynamic sense to your photographic story.
Christmas Baking wide, medium and close-up shot

Christmas Baking Time

Recommended Photo Equipment: Use More than One Camera. 

  • Use your DSLR for portraits and more sophisticated shots such as close-ups and Christmas tree pics.
  • You can use your smartphone camera for fun, spontaneous shots around the table.
  • Also, don’t hesitate to take a more portable, compact camera with you for outdoor shooting. Be it a mirrorless or a point and shoot photo device, it will come in handy if you go ice skating with your friends and wish to immortalize the moment.
  • Share the joy of photographing with the little ones in your family with a Polaroid-style, mini instant film camera. If you don’t have one, put it on your wishlist. Santa might see it.

Chapter 2: Capture the Magical Atmosphere

Next, consider exploring the outdoors more. The holidays give you the opportunity to hone your street and architectural photography skills. Everything is beautifully lit and decorated, but there are more challenges than you can imagine.

Tree lights, candles, fireplaces, or bonfires – winter holiday lights can make for memorable photos. This diversity of light sources, though, may be overwhelming as capturing it perfectly in your shots is one of the hardest things to achieve in photography.

bokeh christmas lights

The Bokeh Effect

One of the most popular shooting techniques when it comes to photographing Christmas lights is Bokeh. Bokeh is that blurry effect you achieve in the out-of-focus areas of your shots by using a wide aperture lens. Your Christmas lights will appear like little, colorful and diffused balls of light.

Commonly, the Bokeh lights are placed in the background. For a more powerful effect, though, we encourage you to put them in the foreground even if they will cover your subject a bit.

Christmas is also that time of the year when people magnificently decorate their houses. Go out there and capture your town’s holiday mood. What a wonderful time of the year to explore the streets and use your photo equipment to the fullest!

Recommended Settings & Techniques when Shooting in Low Light 

You’ve got the perfect lights, but how do you find the perfect light for your shots?

  • Setting the ISO and Aperture right: during the day you should profit from the natural light coming from your windows. We all know, though, that the Christmas magic begins at dawn. What you should do is turn off the flash and increase your ISO as much as you can without altering the image accuracy (ISO 800 would work well if you use a DSLR). At the same time, you should lower the aperture (somewhere to f/2.2) and shutter speed.
  • Setting your camera on Night mode: most digital cameras have this function. The use of long shutter speed allows you to capture scene details in low light conditions by freezing the subject. The only inconvenience is that this mode automatically fires the flash to illuminate the foreground. You might get some interesting effects, but it may also affect the quality of your shots dramatically.
  • Using the flash – when and how: when shooting Christmas lights or portraits near the Christmas tree it is best to turn off the flash. However, if you still need to use it, there is a way to improve the quality of that light. A diffuser or white paper taped over it will soften the light and enhance the look of your subjects.
  • Add an artistic touch to your outdoor night photography with slow shutter speed techniques. The key to achieving an abstract look for a stunning Christmas street lights pic is slowing down the shutter speed to about 1/2 s. Use a tripod to hold your camera still and that’s it. For a more dramatic effect wait for a card to pass by.
Christmas Lights and Decorations

Photographing Christmas Lights

Recommended Photo Equipment: Macro Lenses, Wide Angle Lenses & Tripod.

  • A good bokeh effect can be achieved by using a macro lens. This will make your subject stand out sharply against the diffused background.
  • Also, when shooting in low light, a tripod is an absolute must. The benefits of using such a tool range from stabilizing your image to taking amazing panoramic and night shots.
  • For broader scene views, we recommend using a wide angle lens as well.

Recommended Read:

Part II: Documenting the Big Celebration Day

This section continues with a few more storytelling tips & ideas for your Christmas photography focusing on the celebration day.

Christmas Tree Decoration

Indoor Family Photo While Decorating the Christmas Tree

Chapter 1: Take Memorable Family Portraits

Since Christmas is a holiday you best enjoy with your loved ones, you should also tick off a few group portraits from your checklist. Besides the traditional poses around the Christmas tree or around the table, try to give a fresh look to your shots.

Consider the location beforehand. Taking both indoor and outdoor group photos will require different settings and adjustments.

A few more tips: get as close as possible so you can focus on the eyes of everyone in the picture. What you want is to express the relationship between them. One of the well-known tricks is to ask everyone to hug or lean their heads in close.

outdoor family portrait

Outdoor Holiday Family Portrait

Recommended Settings & Techniques when Taking Group Portraits

  • Take multiple shots so to make sure that if someone blinked you’ve got them covered.
  • Shoot from above to avoid capturing double chins (asking people to raise their chin might transform into unnatural posing).
  • If you don’t use a wide angle lens, you can play with the aperture settings. Set the aperture around f/8 (medium) for a greater depth of field. Always make sure your ISO values are set accordingly.
  • It is desirable to shoot in natural light, but what about taking group photos during the Christmas party? Let’s see how you can avoid washing out skin tones and Christmas lights when shooting indoors. If you have a DSLR, we recommend you to bounce flash off the ceiling or a wall. This way the light will be diffused and the flash won’t fire in everyone’s eyes.
  • Switch to Night mode if you don’t have a flash you can bounce.
  • Switch from auto White Balance to a more suitable preset for indoor shooting like incandescent or tungsten.

Recommended Photo Equipment: Wide Angle Lenses.

  • If you got yourself a wide angle lens (55mm max), the wide focal length will allow for perfectly taken group portraits. This type of lens is ideal if you want to shoot big family portraits as you can zoom out and capture wider scenes at the same time.

Recommended Read: Perfect Christmas Family Photo Ideas.

Chapter 2: Get in the Middle of the Action

Apart from all those traditional poses on everyone’s checklists, you can take one step further and try to be more spontaneous. There is no better occasion for taking candid photographs than Christmas.

Keep your camera close and take photos when friends and family expect less. Wait for them to be distracted or focus upon something that drew their attention like an ornament, book, or cookie.

Also, the key to candid photography is adding emotion to your images. Wait for everyone to get comfortable and absorbed in conversation. Then capture that natural, beautiful human interaction, and add a sense of story to it.

christmas candid photo

Spread the Christmas Cheer with Candid Photographs

Recommended Settings & Techniques for Stunning Candid Photos

  • Turn of the flash as there is nothing like it to ruin a spontaneous moment.
  • Take multiple shots as you never know which one is he perfect one.

Recommended Photo Equipment: Telephoto Lens.

A telephoto lens is ideal to get really close to your subjects without ruining their intimacy.

Chapter 3: Go Macro – The Magic Is in the Details

Don’t forget to focus on details and take a few close-ups which you can then transform into cute Christmas cards.

Recommended Settings and Techniques: Switch to Macro Mode.

Set your camera on Macro mode and focus on all the small things around the party that make a difference: tree ornaments, table and doorway decorations, holiday cookies and sweets.

Recommended Photo Equipment: Macro Lens. 

If you have a macro lens, now it’s the perfect time to practice using it for sharper and more detailed images.

Recommended Read: Food Photography Tips

Christmas close up on white candles

Going Macro with Your Christmas Photography

Part III: Get Yourself in the Moment

Chapter 1: It’s Time for Presents!

One of the key moments of a Christmas gathering is the opening of gifts. Now it is your opportunity to capture a wide array of emotions, moods, and facial expressions.

Recommended Settings and Techniques: Switch to Burst Mode

  • Set your camera to continuous shooting mode and take as many shots as possible. You will end up with series of photos that tell the story of each gift. Plus, the facial expression on everyone’s faces, be it joy or disappointment, is priceless.

Ask someone to photograph you as well when opening your presents. One of the mistakes photographers make is  missing from the holiday photographs. Take a break and enjoy the festive moments!

Chapter 2: Create Christmas Videos and Time-lapse Series

Christmas Selfie Photo

Christmas “Selfie”

To make your Christmas story more dynamic, you can also shoot videos with key moments, from early preparation stages to unwrapping gifts and partying.

You can also create time-lapse series for each moment mentioned above. This way you get to be part of the scene too.

Pro tip: place your camera in one corner of the kitchen to capture some baking fun moments, as well as in one corner of the room during the day. If you use multiple cameras, that’s even better.

Recommended Settings & Techniques for Shooting Time-Lapse 

  • Pay attention to framing. Visualize the scene before placing your camera on a solid surface where you can leave it for a few hours.
  • Perform the necessary settings according to the light you have available and other conditions that may alter the image quality. You can use manual exposure or set your camera on priority mode.
  • Have greater control over the results by shooting in RAW format. 
  • Focus according to the elements of interest you have in the foreground.
  • Choose the right lapse. The interval between the shots is important for determining how long the time-lapse will take. For a 10 second-footage you will need 300 frames (it takes 30 frames to create one second of video). Let’s say you will choose an interval of 5 seconds. Multiply it by 300 and you know how much time the time-lapse creation will take.

Recommended Equipment: Tripod

A tripod is a photographer’s best tool when shooting time-lapse or videos.

Recommended Read: DSLR Guide for Beginners – more tips on how to use your camera to its full potential.

Chapter 3: Sharing, Giving, and Receiving – Spread the Holiday Cheer

Your Christmas photography work doesn’t end up when your guests return to their homes or when your little ones go to bed. Your friends and family will be waiting for you to send them the holiday pics.

Besides sharing your best shots on Facebook and Instagram to get everyone excited, you can create an online gallery for them to see a selection of best pics and even download the ones they like the most.

Sample of Christmas Post Card

Christmasy Post Card Idea

Here is a nice post-Christmas gift idea for your loved ones: print out your best family shots to create a photo album or have them framed. Also, you could make nice holiday cards and send them to your friends by post. Besides the actual gifts, there is also the almost forgotten experience of holding photographs in one’s hands and that adds up to your holiday priceless moments.

To Be Continued…

We hope our Christmas photography guide will help you hone your skills and make your holiday photo session more enjoyable. Stay tuned! We’ll get back with some awesome New Year’s Eve photography tips and tricks.

Image Source: Bokeh Effect

Interview with Cato Lein: Poetry in Black and White Photographs

Cato Lein is a Swedish photographer born in Båtsfjord, Norway, not far from where the Russian Tundra ends. Author of intense, original, and sometimes even disturbing images, he is a master of BW photography.

What defines his art is the belief in artistic freedom and the power to surprise viewers with a different, personal, yet neutral approach to the art of portraiture. When looking at Cato’s black and white portraits, Ted Grant’s words spring to my mind:

When you photograph people in color, you photograph their clothes. But when you photograph people in Black and white, you photograph their souls! [Ted Grant, Canadian photographer and photojournalist]

Cato Lein’s work portrays authors and artists from around the world, but also unique narratives of seemingly forgotten landscapes.

His portraiture is pure poetry. His craft – testing the limits of the possible. 

Cato Lein Portrait taken by Knut Koivisto

Cato Lein. Photo Credits: Knut Koivisto

To be a Photographer is like being a Pianist. You have to practice every day. [Cato Lein]

G.M. Could you please tell us about your first encounter with photography? What made you start as a photographer?

C.L. It was when I moved to Stockholm, and saw the great American photographers Richard Avedon, Irving Penn and Diana Arbus on exhibition – The Essence of Black& White Photography.

John Fosse photo by Cato Lein

John Fosse, Author and Playwriter, 2015 © Cato Lein

G.M. You have taken portraits of people from different corners of the world. How do you interact with your subjects? Is language ever a barrier?

C.L. It should be a barrier, but I never had that problem. I have a Camera and they understand.

portrait of Madalina Ghitescu by Cato Lein

Madalina Ghitescu, Romanian Actress © Cato Lein

G.M. How do you choose the location for your projects? Is there anything that fascinates you about Eastern Europe?

C.L. I never like seasons on the pictures, I try to keep it neutral. Eastern Europe has a great history (Architecture, Streets) to fill in the background. Also a nostalgic touch that is gone a long way back.  In “Western Europe” everything is so clean and mainstream…

photo by Cato Lein at Centrum for fotografi

Stockholm © Cato Lein

I´m not a Teknik Photographer. More emotional and on intuition.  [Cato Lein]

G.M. What camera gear do you currently use? Do you take with you any additional equipment on a shooting day?

C.L. I use two analogue cameras. Nikon. Digital: Fujifilm x-pro1. Never flash.

G.M. How much time do you spend on retouching your shots? How important is post-processing in your work?

C.L. When I do the Photoshoot, and see the situation we are in, I can see what kind of Atmosphere I will work for in the retouching after. I work very easily in Photoshop. I´m not a Teknik Photographer. I am more emotional and on intuition.

the singer photo by cato lein

The Singer © Cato Lein

G.M. Where do you find inspiration? Could you name a few photographers that you consider influential for your style?

C.L. I love Japanese Photography. Yutaka Takanashi, Takuma Nakahira and Daido Moriyama, to name a few.

portrait of Katarina Wennstam by Cato Lein

Katarina Wennstam, Author © Cato Lein

G.M. How would you define your photography in three words?

C.L. Intuition, Heart, and Curiosity.

G.M. If you could start again as a photographer is there anything you would do differently? Are there any sectors you’d like to explore more?

C.L. No! I work the same way as when I started, and I´m still proud of those first ones.

In the Alley, Marseille © Cato Lein

In the Alley, Marseille © Cato Lein

G.M. If it weren’t for photography, what else would you do?

C.L. I had so many jobs and education before Photography – Bricklayer, Offset-printer and Hospital worker.

G.M. Any words of wisdom for photography enthusiasts at the beginning of their journey?

C.L. To be a Photographer is like being a Pianist. You have to practice every day. 

The Northern Silence Project by Cato Lein

Batsfjord, The Northern Silence Project © Cato Lein

G.M. Can you tell us a bit about your future projects?

C.L. I am happy to be finished with my long-time project that I started in 1984 – “The Northern Silence”. I will have an Exhibition in Katowice, Poland with those pictures, hopefully, a book as well. I will also have an exhibition in Stockholm next year with my Poland story “Black Soil”. I hope I will finish my 5 different projects next year.

Needless to say, Cato Lein is one of the portrait photographers out there that I admire the most. I wish to thank him for the wonderful opportunity of gaining more insights into his work.

Black Soil, Katowice, Poland by Cato Lein

“Black Soil” Project, Katowice, Poland © Cato Lein

Discover more of Cato’s work on his official website, Facebook, Instagram, and Tumblr.

Disclaimer: this interview has been proofread and slightly edited for style purposes. All images featured in this post belong to Cato Lein and are protected by copyright. Exception makes Cato’s portrait taken by Knut Koivisto.

Interview with Sarajevo-Based Photographer Maja Topcagic

Maja Topcagic is an unconventional freelance photo retoucher and one of the most inspirational portrait photographers of the new generation. Currently based in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, she works as a self-taught professional, holding a degree in a completely different field: Mathematics and Computer Science. For Maja, taking and editing photos is all about dedication, passion, and love. “I think you can feel it when you look into my photography”, she says. And she is right.

Her creative portraits have been featured in major photography magazines like Digital Photo UK, EOS Magazine, Photography Week, Digital Camera China and Popular Photography. Also, her beautiful photos have been showcased in many digital exhibitions and been published on book covers worldwide.

Portrait of photographer Maja Topcagic

Maja Topcagic: Sarajevo-based Portrait Photographer and Retoucher

Being different is beautiful. [Maja Topcagic]

G.M. Could you please tell us about your first encounter with photography? What made you start as a photographer?

My first DSLR was given and sent to me as a gift, by a person that I actually have not met! That was one of the most beautiful moments in my life; I finally could pursue my love for photography. Back then, I was taking photos with my mobile phone, Sony Ericsson k8ooi, and I would retouch them in Photoshop. Then my dream came true. From that day, I always say: ´If you dream about it long enough, it will come true.´

I am entirely self-taught photographer and retoucher. I never took classes, but I have learned some things online. The thing that led me to all I know is experimenting. Even if you make a mistake, you have learned something, and gained experience, which is precious.

Portraits with a Soul: The Story Behind Maja Topcagic’s Photography

Maja Topcagic Portrait Photography

G.M. Your ‘Freckled’ portraits are hauntingly beautiful. Who is the redhead ‘inspiration’ behind the project and what made you choose this theme?

The model on most of my photos is beautiful Asima Sefic, a redhead with freckles and blue eyes, who become my greatest inspiration. The facts say that only 2% of the population on Earth has that combination. These images are part of a personal project that I started almost two years ago. My redhead database is still growing month by month.

Freckles used to be considered undesirable and unsightly, but today they have reached full splendor in the world of photography.

I want to show the world that if something is different, it doesn’t mean it is ugly or wrong. The real beauty is in being different, and redheads with freckles really are. I´ve got a lot of emails saying thank you for showing the beauty in redheads with freckles, because they were a subject of laughter in their childhood and after. I´m glad I made some people smile watching my photos! It makes me smile too :).

Freckles Maja Topcagic Photography

Freckles © Maja Topcagic

G.M. What camera gear do you currently use? Do you take with you any additional equipment on a shooting day?

Now I use Canon 5D Mark III digital camera, Canon 85mm f/1.8, and 50mm f/1.4 Canon lenses. I mostly use natural light in combination with a portable silver aluminium reflector. It´s a very cheap thing that you can carry around in your rucksack, but it gives awesome results with natural light!

G.M. How important is post-processing in your work? Is there an editing software you prefer using?

I edit photographs in excellent Adobe Photoshop CS6. I do a lot of retouching, and I’m used to spending 10 hours or more in front of my computer editing photos. Programs for processing photos release a person’s creativity and allow you to be different from others. I love to compose several photos into one, or play with multiple layers.

Freckles Maja Topcagic Photography

Freckles © Maja Topcagic

G.M. Where do you find inspiration?

I find inspiration just by passing down the street. I imagine moments frozen and captured by camera. Also, I write down my dreams. Sometimes an idea bumps me in the head, but mostly I find inspiration looking the world through my eyes. Most often it is interesting, weird, and extraordinary. Movies, books, music, videos, ordinary people and conversations inspire my work too.

G.M. How would you define your photography in a few words?

M.T. Creative portraits with soul.

Follow your heart. Do what you love and love what you do. Because. When you do what you love, you don´t have to work a single day in your life!

G.M. If you could start again as a photographer is there anything you would do differently? Are there any sectors you’d like to explore more?

M.T. I would like to travel some more. I would like to have the opportunity to be a professional photographer and retoucher. Even though it ?s pretty hard to achieve that in my country, I will put my effort in it, and really try to change it!

beautiful freckled model

Freckles © Maja Topcagic

G.M. If it weren’t for photography, what else would you do?

M.T. Photography changed my life completely. If I didn´t fall in love with photography, I´d be a teacher of math and computer sciences. But I always knew I would somehow be involved in the process of creating art.

G.M. Any words of wisdom for photography enthusiasts at the beginning of their journey?

M.T. The most important thing is that you don’t need to have the best camera and a lot of lenses, it’s the e m o t i o n s that count. If you make an artwork, which will touch other people’s hearts, then you have succeeded. Follow your heart. Do what you love and love what you do. Because. When you do what you love, you don´t have to work a single day in your life!

Beautiful Redhead - photo by Maja Topcagic

Freckles © Maja Topcagic

G.M. Can you tell us a bit about your curent and future projects?

A few projects are coming very soon. But I must keep them a whisper. I can only say that one involves publishing a ´Freckled´ book, and the other bigger project is finished, and it involves Canon Europe. I can´t say much more! 🙂 Also, I traveled to New York City in August, so if anyone wants to collaborate with me, feel free to email me.

Thanks to Maja for the opportunity to discover more about Freckles, her spectacular photo project that travelled the world. Discover more of her beautiful portraits on Maja Topcagic Photography website, Facebook, Instagram, 500 px.

Disclaimer: This interview has been proofread and lightly edited for style purposes. All photographs featured here belong to Maja Topcagic and are protected by intellectual rights.

Interview with Travel Photographer Colin Roohan

Colin Roohan is a passionate travel photographer and one of the brilliant professionals I had the opportunity to interview this year. His photographs showcase vivid and rich cultural experiences documented along his travels around the world, from Peru to Croatia and all the way to India, Vietnam, and United Arab Emirates.

More than that, they capture what the photographer calls “moments of true bliss”:

Moments of true bliss typically occur while I’m traveling, whether conversing with a sadhu or belting out “99 Luftballoons” in a singing room packed with Koreans, I am at peace – my chi nice and centered.

Colin Roohan is a creative individual who has the power to inspire those who witness his work. So, let’s discover more about the story behind his craft and travel experiences.

Portrait of Colin Roohan Travel Photographer

Colin Roohan – Travel Photographer

G.M. Could you please tell us about your first encounter with photography? What made you start as a photographer? 

C.R. My mother was an avid photo hobbyist so growing up I constantly remember wanting to use her camera. There is something so tactile about old SLRs; you want to pick them up and play with them. Later in life, I moved and worked in Seoul, South Korea for a few years. It was here that I truly immersed myself in the craft. I became part of large ex-pat photo group and began competing in competitions and joining photo-shoots to learn all that I could from a great group of talented people.

G.M. What is your favorite travel photography destination? 

C.R. I would have to say India. It is a place that is very challenging to travel in, but I feel that makes any valuable material you shoot there more rewarding. In addition to that, South America has been good to me as well. The people and the scenery are phenomenal there, and I feel it is a country that evokes so much emotion in every facet of life.

Nashik, India, Travel Photograph by Colin Roohan

Nashik, India © Colin Roohan Photography

G.M. What project is held dearest to your heart and why? 

C.R. I worked on a book that documents the Seoul subway system, and that will always have a place in my heart. It was the first big project I worked on and it really helped me elevate my photography as I started to cater and conceptualize my work toward publication.

G.M. How important is post-processing in your work? Is there an editing software you prefer using? 

C.R. I’d don’t put a huge emphasis on post because honestly I find it boring. I generally use Lightroom and enjoy the occasional VSCO preset. To be frank, though, I try to get the image right the first time in-camera that allows me to spend less time on the computer and more time in the field.

Squid Boats by Colin Roohan

Squid Boats, South Korea © Colin Roohan Photography

G.M. What camera gear do you currently use? Do you take with you any additional equipment on a shooting day? 

C.R. I generally travel with a few Nikon DSLR bodies, a few prime lenses and a mid-length zoom. Most of my assignments require me to be out on my feet for roughly 10-12 hours a day so I cannot be burdened by cumbersome gear. Other than the cameras a speed light and a tripod are the other items I sometimes bring along.

G.M. Where do you find inspiration? Could you name a few photographers that you consider influential for your style? 

C.R. I love a lot of classic photojournalists: McCurry, Abercrombie, Smolan. In addition to those guys Flash Parker and Chris Burkard‘s works always move me.

Colin Roohan Travel Photography

© Colin Roohan Photography

G.M. How would you define your photography in three words? 

C.R. Nostalgic, classic, reminiscent.

G.M. If you could start again as a photographer is there anything you would do differently? Are there any sectors you’d like to explore more?

C.R. I wish I would have studied photography in school and earned a degree in the field. I think having a diploma would have opened up a few doors for me along the way.

Photograph by Colin Roohan

© Colin Roohan Photography

G.M. If it weren’t for photography, what else would you do?

C.R. I love surfing but, funnily enough, I never take a camera with me to a session. I love being able to enjoy life and unwind; leaving my camera, phone, other gadgetry behind.

G.M. Any words of wisdom for photography enthusiasts at the beginning of their journey? 

C.R. Shoot a lot! When you first start out shoot as much material as you can; try different cameras, different films, different subjects. It is important to experiment when you’re first starting, and I think it can play a vital part in helping you narrow down an area you may want to really focus on.

picture of cholon market by colin roohan travel photographer

Cholon Market, Saigon Vietnam © Colin Roohan

G.M. Can you tell us a bit about your current and future projects?

C.R. My recent assignments have been for a large organization based in the USA that helps countries grow their tourism sector. In May, I went to Peru and in August to Brazil.

Thanks to Colin for sharing his experience and enthusiasm for travel photography with us. Discover more of his beautiful photographs and projects at Colin Roohan Photography, on Facebook, Twitter, or Tumblr.

Disclaimer: All photographs featured in this interview belong to Colin Roohan and are protected by copyright.

Interview with Fashion Photographer Alessio Bolzoni

Alessio Bolzoni is one of the avant-garde fashion photographers redefining both the concept of beauty and visual art in the fashion industry today.

“The real challenge for me is to find a way to do something new and unique.” [Alessio Bolzoni]

Born in Crema, in 1979, the Italian photographer is now based in Paris, France. Alessio has received international acclaim for his high style, yet simple and elegant fashion photography. His work has been widely featured in top publications like Marie Claire, Elle US, Harper’s Bazaar UK, Grey Magazine, Numero, Glamour, Stylist Magazine, Vogue Russia, and many more. If you take a look at his portfolio, you can see client names such as Dior, Kris Van Assche, and Bruno Magli.

Alesssio Bolzoni's photo for Stylist Magazine 2015

Stylist Magazine, January 2015, “Courir le risque” © Alessio Bolzoni

Inspired by cinematography, theatre, street life and street photography, Alessio transforms images into dynamic pieces of art. His philosophy is to be truthful to himself, as well as to capture reality in a precise and energetic manner.

Let’s discover more about the vision behind Alessio’s photographic art and style.

G.M. Could you please tell us about your first encounter with photography? What made you start as a photographer?
A.B. The first thing I needed to shoot was the reality. I was 14. And everything around me was interesting. The microcosm was my macrocosm: flowers, my town, bees.

photo by Alssio Bolzoni, fashion photographer for Marie Claire Italy 2013

Marie Claire Italy, May 2013, “Promenade, una giornata open air” © Alessio Bolzoni

G.M. What are the challenges of working as a fashion photographer?
A.B. The real challenge for me is to find a way to do something new and unique. I sometimes achieve it, and those are great moments.
G.M. What project is held dearest to your heart and why?
A.B. I think it is the work for Kris Van Assche. Mauricio (Nardi, the stylist) and I were totally free to create the images of the campaigns, and Kris supported our ideas.

backstage photo - Kris Van Assche's spring campaign 2014

Alessio Bolzoni shooting for Kris Van Assche’s Spring campaign, 2014 © The Kinsky

G.M. How important is post-processing in your work? Is there an editing software you prefer using?
A.B. The editing part is very important to me. I capture pictures in movement so that the selection creates a story. So, I spend a lot of time on it. Then the retoucher knows my taste. We discuss the light and colors, but he knows I like a light retouch on the images.

G.M. Where do you find inspiration? Could you name a few photographers that you consider influential for your style?
A.B. My inspiration are the streets, the real life, movies, theaters and the street photography from the 60s and 70s, but also the contemporary one. They all capture movements in a natural, realistic way. Photographers that have influenced my work: Friedlander, Winogrand, Meyerowitz, Kitajima, McDonough, Graham, Valerie Jouve, Eggleston.

photo by Alessio Bolzoni, fashion photographer, for Bon Magazine 2015

Bon Magazine, 2015, “I spin so ceaselessly” © Alessio Bolzoni

G.M. How would you define your photography in three words?
A.B. Dynamic, energetic and elegant. 

G.M. If you could start again as a photographer is there anything you would do differently? Are there any sectors you’d like to explore more?
A.B. I always admired the reportage photographer. The wars and social investigations reportages are important historical testimonials. They do an incredible work.

photo by Alessio Bolzoni for Marie Claire Italy Nov 2014

Marie Claire Italy, November 2014 © Alessio Bolzoni

G.M. If it weren’t for photography, what else would you do?
A.B. I think I could be a cook. Cooks’ kitchens are their protected world. It would be nice to have a smaller world to live in.

G.M. Any words of wisdom for photography enthusiasts at the beginning of their journey?
A.B. Find yourself. Your unique point of view it’s the key. Find it. Be faithful to yourself.

photo by Alessio Bolzoni for Emilio Pucci

Emilio Pucci Resort 2016 © Alessio Bolzoni Photography

G.M. Can you tell us a bit about your future projects?
A.B. I am working on a book of flowers. It’s a small project on reality, life and death; Identity somehow. It’s almost done. And I’ll start another one soon. Something closer to my research.

Many thanks to Alessio for taking the time to participate in my interview and share insights into his magnificent work. Discover more fascinating photographs and projects on his official website.

Disclaimer: This interview has been lightly edited and proofread for style purposes.

Photographs featured on this post belong to Alessio Bolzoni and are protected by copyright.  The picture showcasing the photo shooting for Kris Van Assche belongs to TheKinsky.com.