All images by Markus Kretzschmar. Used with permission.
Photographer Markus Kretzschmar is a lifestyle photographer in Berlin that mostly shoots with his Fujifilm X100s. It helps him out when he wants to transition to street photography. That–and Markus likes using natural light a lot even though he used to use flashes.
All this, and he used to hate photographing people.
But these days, Merkus shoots for fashion designers, brands, and agencies. He tells us that he loves to work outside, but during this time of the year he tends to focus more on street or studio shooting. His goal: to not copy anyone, any to create unique work.
Phoblographer: Talk to us about how you got into photography.
Markus: I’m 26 years old and I started at the age of 14, when I got my first small compact Canon from my parents. I totally loved it because of the tilting, rotating screen. My first photographs were (as with most of all beginners) mostly flowers and other still objects that were patient with my constant trying of new techniques. I did that until I started studying media technology and noticed that these still objects I use to portray don’t really satisfy my need for changing anything with my images – in terms of my art being something important. So I started to photograph people that where thankful for my work.
I got me a Canon 500D DSLR because I learned about shutter speed, ISO and all that stuff due to my studies. Fortunately my university had a photo studio for everyone to use – free of charge. So I practiced as much as I could and build up a small business on my campus. I studied in Mittweida and grew up in Leipzig (both Saxony / Germany). Now I live in Berlin with my lovely girlfriend.
Phoblographer: What made you want to get into portraiture?
Markus: Very early on I hated photographing people because it reminded me of the typical snaps that you do of your family and friends. Also my work just wasn’t good enough to stand out from the usual party images. Then some 4 or 5 years ago from today I noticed all these awesome images by other photographers that managed to portray not just a person but a certain young, rebellious lifestyle that I loved. It was that time of university life – so my mind was full of parties, people at my age, love, friendship and so on. It was so incredibly shaping of who I am that I just had to integrate that into my work.
I always like to say: As long as you photograph the things you love – nothing can go wrong and it will be fulfilling to you (or something like that – I’m not much of a poet…especially not in the english language). So I loved my young university life and that’s how the urge to capture that in images came up.
Phoblographer: How did you first go about getting into lifestyle portraits?
Markus: The images I admired where all done with natural light, apparently no posing, energetic movements and so on. They all looked like a beautiful snapshot of someone just taking pictures of his life and his beautiful friends. E.g. I loved (and still love) images by basilvargas.com. So my idea was: „That doesn’t seem hard!“ – proved me wrong! It took me quite some time and a huge number of shootings to get close to what I wanted to achieve.
My goal was not to copy anybody so I had to come up with something unique that defines my idea of a great lifestyle portrait. Fortunately I did after a few years of practicing and some clients that wanted to see exactly that. At the beginning I was struggling to communicate my idea. It sounds a little strange to talk to your model like: „So, act like you have a ton of fun! Jump around, throw your hands in the air, feel like you’re having an amazing night with your friends.“ – not what you usually say to your model. Sounds more like a recent techno song lyric to me. But I practiced working with models and now I feel very comfortable with a lot of different kinds of people and personalities.
Phoblographer: Creatively speaking, what inspires and motivates the specific photos you take?
Markus: Is it the light? Sometimes in your photos it looks like the eyes and other time it looks like you’re trying to tell us something about these people. So there are two different kinds of situations: One is the client that approaches me and has a quite an extensive mood- or storyboard. So I just contribute with little details. That’s how most of my fashion shootings work.
The other situation is when I notice a model (mostly online, agencies, Instagram and so on) and decide to do a shooting just for my portfolio and the fun of it. Models that catch my attention usually have something special in their look that I never saw before. Like the male tattoo model that you find on my website (the rooftop shooting). That guy just looks so badass that I had to portray him. So I start with the model and try to come up with an idea to accent what that model made me work with her / him in the first place. Another good example for this is the girl with the asian look that I portrayed in the asian gardens here in Berlin ( Exhibition called „Gärten der Welt“) to enhance her beautiful far eastern look. In terms of details like clothing or make-up I work together with the model and ask her / him what they would like to wear. Usually I can’t effort extra wardrobe for a shooting that I don’t get paid for. So both of us work with what we have. To answer your question about light: I like to work with natural light so I pick the right daytime and position of the sun that I think fits the idea best. Lighting is something that I consider at the end of my brainstorming.
And in terms of the eyes or the personality – yes, if that is what made me like to work with that model. It is important for me to get to know my models in advance so I learn about their personalities and also try to accentuate some of this in my final portrait.
Phoblographer: To you, what makes for a great portrait. When you go about editing and reviewing the images you have after a shoot, what does each final image have that specifically makes it one of a kind?
Markus: Sometimes I’m sad that the internet and photographers and all these different people that write about photography mostly ask for lighting or equipment. What people should focus more on is the process of shooting, what I say to the model and how I make her or him feel when I portray him. What happens between us – since a picture of someone is something very intimate and personal. So for me a great portrait is a picture of a person that tells me that persons story, something that makes them unique. I want to feel the relation between the shooter and the model. I think every portrait tells me not just about the person in the image but about that persons relationship to the photographer and how they feel about each other.
And feelings – any kind of feeling that I have looking at an image. Weather it’s jealousy, astonishment, happiness. If that photo makes you feel something than it’s probably a good photograph.
Phoblographer: Talk to us about the gear that you use. Why do you choose this setup?
Markus: I enjoy being very flexible during my shootings. So I hardly use any additional lighting (but in the Studio of course). Flashes and this kind of extra stuff make me slow down. I want to completely focus on my model and no stupid channels or stands or something. Sometimes I work at locations that aren’t made to be a photo location in the first place so I like to be able to run quickly – if you know what I mean.
My go-to camera is the Fuji x100s. I love the image quality and the small form factor doesn’t make me lose my connection to the model because there is no heavy chunk of metal in front of my face. Don’t get me wrong – I really liked my Canon 500D and 50D that I had before. I just like the Fuji better. And let’s be honest: Fuji mirrorless cameras look damn sexy. I like the limitation of having an 35mm equivalent to shoot and the optical / electronical viewfinder is awesome.
Phoblographer: How do you want to improve your portraiture in the next year and how do you plan on doing it?
Markus: I’m still very confident about all of my work – even the “old” ones some four to five years ago. But some seem a little bit to colorful and playful to me. Recently I learned a lot about color theory, complimentary colors and video color grading. So I would like my images to look more cine-like in the future. A little bit more grown up and less rainbow-ish. In the past I hardly cared about color in clothing and backgrounds. Therefore I’m teaching myself to have an eye for color details in wardrobe, location, hair and make-up. For my shootings as well as when I look at other artists work – not just photography. Furthermore I fell in love with the analog look of Kodachrome recently. So bottomline I’m trying to improve the color in my images.