Frequently Asked Questions?
For some time I thought about a section for this website dedicated to my workflow. Because many people kept asking over the years what I do, how I take my photographs, how I retouch, what gear I use and so on. But then I saw a presentation by Studio Pandan. They made a whole presentation out of their FAQ which seemed a great idea. I will add more questions and answers over time. For now, let’s start …
Are you employed or do you work as a freelancer?
In 2013 I decided to work as a full-time photographer and retoucher on a freelance base. It’s not a hobby. It’s a job. And I really like what I am allowed to do every day.
Photographer is not a real job‽
“Photography? That's easy. All you have to do is push the button.”, This is a usual response when people learn what I do for a living. In addition I am often called an artist ...
Is photography an art form?
It depends on how you see yourself and your work. In my opinion I am not an artist. What I offer is a service. Normally when someone tells me about a project they already know what they want but usually they don't know how to get it. Together with my clients I try to solve those photographic problems. Whether it is a whole photo session or retouching of already existing photographs.
I don’t work in a vacuum. My daily work is characterised by constraints and limits. Limits like time, budget, and resources. If I were an artist, I wouldn't have to pay attention to that. Then I would take pink and blue photos with my Polaroid every day. No matter if there is a demand for it.
Are you interested in analog film photography?
Yes, partly. I took and developed analog film myself but nowadays I am 100% focused on digital imagery. Despite that from time to time I play around with Polaroids. But this is just a hobby.
JPG or RAW?
Always RAW! Sometimes I save additional JPG. But this is only for time-critical events. For a full explanation of what a RAW file is check out the corresponding Wikipedia article.
Do you manipulate your photographs?
Yes, I do. But I would call it enhancements and not manipulations. It is an essential part of my workflow.
We all have viewing habits. Also there is a difference in looking at someone face to face or at a photograph. The perception is totally different. You see more details, you pay much more attention to flaws, blemeshes, spots, wrinkles, dark under-eyes, you name it. In addition a camera gives its own interpretation of the real world that mostly is not the result you would expect and – more importantly – accept. Retouching helps to correct this.
Long story short: I match perception and reality.
C’mon, a bit of contrast and brightness is all you have to fix, isn’t it?
Very often the photograph that looks completely average is the one I have put a disproportional amount of work into it. Normally a lot of tweaking goes into perfecting my photos. Currently I use Phase One’s Capture One and Adobe Photoshop.
Why do you use Photoshop?
Because I earn my money with it. Over the years I invested thousands of hours into training my skills and I got used to it. I customised the whole experience including Photoshop’s shortcuts; don’t underestimate the value of muscle memory here. Plugins and actions speed up everything I do on a daily base.
Of course I am aware of “alternatives” like Affinity Photo. For a lot of people and a lot of easy tasks it’s quite all right. But 30 years of expertise in photo manipulation is hard to match and I have to admit: I ♥ Ps. It’s great. It’s overwhelming, confusing, and at the same time extremely fun to use. The first version I ever started was 5.5 and it got me right away. I get kicks out of pushing around pixels in it. Saving a final™ Photoshop document is a very rewarding moment.
Another very important factor is compatibility of workflows. You may heard of Photoshop as a de facto standard. But what does it mean? Over the last three decades a lot of people in the creative industry agreed on standards, e.g. Photoshop. When I have a .PSD file with dozens of layers, smart objects, and filters applied it’s important that my clients can rely on it. They don’t need to convert it to other formats; the workflow is seamless. That saves everyone a lot of time and money.
.PSD or .TIFF?
Mostly I opt for .TIFF because the file size limit is only 4GB instead of .PSD’s 2GB. More and more I find myself working with .PSB files because there is no file size limit at all. Which is quite handy when it come to product photography with dozens of smart objects, layers and adjustments.
Why are you showing off with your gear?
It might look and feel that I am showing off with the list of equipment but on the other hand it’s a very ordinary setup. There is no special medium format camera or other fancy stuff. Just the right tools for the job. For some of my clients it's important to know what kind of gear I use. They see that it’s light-weight, mobile, and versatile. This answers many questions in advance.
Windows or macOS?
15 years ago I would have said “Windows!”, six years ago “macOS!”, today I say “It depends.”. In the end it comes down to what works best for you, your workflow, and gets the job done.
I do prefer macOS. I like the eco system, the apps, and general workflow. In my opinion you can rely on the devices. That is an important factor. My daily driver is a MacBook Pro 15,3 as well as a Mac Pro 6,1. This is where I do all my retouching on. At the same time I do have to process multiple complex files (several gigabytes each) sometimes. For doing that I got a Windows machine with 24 cores and plenty of RAM. It does compositing jobs in Photoshop in a fraction of time compared to my laptop. But in my opinion Windows is not so elegant to use.
So, I can’t really recommend one or another. It depends on your profile. Maybe you are even happy with GIMP on Linux‽ Just try and find your config. Same goes with cameras …
It seems you take a lot of photos in and for the type scene, right?
It depends on the perspective. From within the scene it may look I am only taking photographs of type designers, studios, and so on. For me it’s just a small fraction of my time. And no, I am not employed by Monotype. It’s a client like many others, too. I just really like all things type.
Do I find your photographs in the wild?
Yes, you certainly do. Besides the client work you may find some photos on several websites like Deutschlandfunk, Deutschlandfunk Kultur, WELT, Havard Business Review, Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung, Wired Italy, Berliner Morgenpost, Time, Women’s Health, NBC Los Angeles, Deutschlandfunk Kultur, Engadget, Encyclopædia Britannica, and many more.
Let’s talk about music. What are your favourite tunes while taking photos and retouching?
During a portrait session it depends on the subject’s taste. When I am alone with a product / prototype or do some retouching I mostly listen to:
- Jazz in general
- Nine Inch Nails
- Marilyn Manson
- Front Line Assembly
- The Smashing Pumpkins
- Massive Attack
- Other Form
- Christian Löffler
- Andy Scott
- Sylvan Esso
- Sven Väth
(in no special order; November 2020)
And yes, I have seen most of them performing live.