Do you want some technique tips, some interviews from yours truly, and any other articles that don’t fit the rest? It’s here, come and check it out!

Always try something new

As you know, my main style is the black and white urban photography, with often a very strong graphic content. Graphic as in geometry, lines, and pretty good contrast, not… something else 😉 I just love to find the place, spot the subject, wait for the right moment… It’s really my main craft and I love it.

Ghost_02. Part of the Ghost project. Cluj-Napoca, Romania, 2017.

Ghost_02. Part of the Ghost project. Get a print!

Have your own identity

I have always considered very important for a photographer to get its own identity. That way to frame, to shoot, to process, that will first of all make your work stand out, but that will also make it recognisable. One of my best achievements in the last few months is to have people tell me “I knew it was your photo, I recognised your style”. I can’t say how happy I am every time I hear that. First of all, it means that some people are interested in my work (and not being a big shot, it’s always good to know 🙂 ), and maybe more important, it means that my work can be differentiated and identified amongst the other photographies. It may not be everyone’s taste, but at least it exists by its own. And that is good. I now have my own identity, my brand.

And try something new

On the other hand I don’t want to limit myself to this style. I still want to do other styles. This is for example why I’ve started my Ghost project. Besides the street/urban work I’m used to I really like to do urbex: urban exploration. Finding old buildings, abandoned factories, in the state they were left alone years and years ago. The decay, the dust, the rust everywhere. Some find it creepy ; I think it’s just fabulous. The place itself tells a story. But I didn’t want to do the classic urbex (e.g. shoot wide in the room), I wanted to introduce a human element as for my street work. And the idea appeared. Why not introducing an inhuman element in the scene? The ethereal, weird, eerie feeling of a ghost in these abandoned places. I found a great place. I was sold.

 

Ghost 03. Cluj-Napoca, Romania, 2017.

Ghost 03. Part of the Ghost project. Get a print!

The benefits

I had to learn everything again. I had to change my way of shooting. Shooting indoor vs shooting outdoor. Direct models, which was something totally new to me. Or put myself into the scene, which believe me is far from being that easy (and I just can’t thank enough the shoot by wifi feature of the newer cameras). Looking for photo spots reached a whole new level, with all the security and legal matters that go with visiting this kind of places. I challenged myself, and it was so great!

My processing skills jumped dramatically, mainly on Photoshop. I went from just polishing a few street shots into creating complex, multilayered composites. Some may not like it, and I totally understand it. It’s at least to try once, for educational purpose. I loved it. But, while talking about processing, one thing remained constant: my black and white style remained. I didn’t want to let that go. I still want to produce a constant and identifiable body of work, and my graphic style is a very important part of it.

 

Ghost_05. Part of the Ghost project. Cluj-Napoca, Romania, 2017.

Ghost_05. Part of the Ghost project. Get a print!

And now what?

Well, the Ghost project is still ongoing. I want to raise the bar even higher with a few ideas that I hope will materialise, and look good. Working on this project is a good way for me to progress, and also to raise the bar for my urban work. It also helps me a small lack of motivation on the street side of things, and keeps me going.

This is definitely something I will pursue: always trying something new. Expanding your range of abilities can only be beneficiary for you. And, worst case scenario, it can confirm your aversion for some genre (like portraiture for me 😀 ).

Keep in touch for more news about the Ghost project!

2nd place at the 2017 National Awards of the Sony World Photography Awards!

Surprise! Cluj-Napoca, Romania, 2016.

Surprise! Cluj-Napoca, Romania, 2016. Get a print.

It’s another outstanding day for me! Surprise! has won the 2nd place at the 2017 National Awards of the Sony World Photography Awards! The Sony World Photography Awards is the biggest photography competition in the world and The National Awards is a global program to find the best single photographs taken by local photographers in 66 countries.

It’s such an incredible feeling to have my work recognise in such a way. After being published in 2 books, WeStreet 2016 and the Street Photographer Book vol.2, I am so glad that this photo has been selected amongst 227,596 other amazing photos. My only regret is that I won’t be able to go to London for the Sony World Photography Awards & Martin Parr – 2017 Exhibition at the prestigious Somerset House, London, 21st April – 7th May, 2017, where all the winners’ photos, including Surprise!, will be displayed.

I just want to say thank you to the jury for giving me such an honour, and congrats to all the participants, and to all the winners! I know a few of them, both in real life and virtually, they are all great photographers that deserve to be here. And I’m glad to be next to them 🙂

The full selection of photos can be seen here. More info about the Sony World Photography Awards there.

Get a print!

Wouldn’t it be awesome to admire all the complexity, all the details of a winning photo, at your home? Hanging on your wall? Why not getting an original, signed fine art print in limited edition?

Be a critique and become a better photographer

By being a critique I don’t mean being an arrogant knows it all 😉 It is actually the opposite: be able to share with the others your view on their photos and progress together (yes, together). And ultimately, make yourself a better photographer.

Strangers in the dark VII. Cluj-Napoca station, Romania.

Strangers in the Dark VII. Cluj-Napoca, Romania, 2016. Get a fine art, original print in limited edition.

This photo has gone through several critique processes, internal (by me) and external (by peers) before reaching its final form.

Critique the others’ work

I just love to give a constructive feedback on my peers’ photos. Try to understand the strengths and the weaknesses of the photo, share your findings and propose eventuality a different approach. It’s a very enriching experience for everyone: you help the photographer progress, and you develop your skills by analysing other people’s photo. By understanding how this shot was done, you educate yourself!

The harder, by far, is to find the correct context. The people has to accept the fact that you are giving a feedback that is not 100% praises, and you have to formulate this feedback correctly in order to avoid shaming him/her. And keep things objective, constructive, whatever the reaction is. It may lead to some very interesting discussions and debates. Another way to progress on your communication skills too 😉

My experience is that is works better in smaller groups, online or IRL, rather than in large group. Knowing the persons involved allows a much easier communication. I have been part of a group of this kind for years now, it has helped me a lot by being critiqued first, and then being the critique. Knowing ourselves quite well now has really made the process much easier and to the point.

Be your own critique

And here is the best thing: be your own critique. After years of analyzing other people’s photos I started to go through the same process with mine. It’s way tougher as you are never totally objective about your own work. But being able to detach as much as possible from your work and look at it with a real critique eye is really mind blowing.

The gain? I am now able to filter much better the work I display, online or IRL, in a way that I am much more able to identify the strengths of my photos against the emotional attachment I may have. How often did I think a photo was good because I had a particular connection with it… but it wasn’t that good in the end? Way too often. Therefore take your time and give a second, critique look to all the photos you’ll leave in the wild.

Take away

As a short take away from this article:

  • Don’t just look at the photos, also try to understand it
  • Share your findings with others and discuss it
  • Critique your own work!

Take your time, it’s going to be better!

We all know this feeling. You’ve been taking photos for a few hours, the whole day maybe. Your memory card has tens, hundreds of new photos on it. Some are test shots, some are “why not?” opportunistic shots, some are good or maybe even pretty good ones… But there are always those 2, 3 photos that you’ve spent so much time owning the scene, waiting for the right moment, you made the stars get in line to make this happen. And it happened, you got them. And like a kid at Christmas, you want to see them, post process them and, obviously, share them on your portfolio, your Facebook page or you Instagram account.

Yes? No? Well, at least, I know I do.

Or at least, I know I did.

Because when you unload your memory card in your computer, you do not look at the whole picture (pun intended), the entire session. You go directly to those few shots, that you know at the ones, that you want to edit right know, the way you imagined them. Before you forget, before it’s too late!

The result? A few pretty good photos indeed, quite a few “like” on your favorite social network, and that’s it. A bit underwhelming actually, face to what amazing photo you thought you had in your hands.

Exactly, what you thought you had. What I often thought I had.

Arashiyama bamboo forest, Kyoto, Japan, 2015.

Arashiyama Bamboo forest. Kyoto, Japan, 2015. The original, processed-on-the-day file was an ugly HDR-ish photo. Redone 15 months later, it’s a classy black and white shot. Get a print.

The emotional link between a photographer and a photo he has just taken is not always right. It is more often linked to how difficult, how long it took, what skills he had to use rather than to the actual content of the photo. Unfortunately, a photo that was hard to take is not necessarily a good one. The effort spent, the complexity of the shooting is not a warranty of success. When judging with your heart rather than your brain you are not critical enough about your work. And trust me, being able to self critic his own work is a fantastic tool for a photographer.

Furthermore, one tends to overprocess the photo they work on just after a shoot, trying to recreate the scene that remains in memory, and maybe make it even better. The result, often, doesn’t meet the expectations. Over saturation, high contrast and excessive clarity are a frequent “rapid edit” mistake.

In the other hand, an easy shot doesn’t mean a bad one. Those are the ones you won’t necessarily remember after a session, you’ll maybe look over and forget because of those few other “awesomely awesome” shots, but…

This is something I figured out with my Long Legs photo from Prague. I totally forgot this photo. It is a “snapshot” I’ve taken while trying to get a totally different scene. I wanted to have the sun right were I wanted, as little crowd as possible… and I took this photo while waiting. Back home I’ve processed the few 10-15 photos I thought were the ones of that day, including a few of this scenery. And guess what? The 3 photos I really do like from this selection are not even from the scenery I waited for a long time to shoot! I was emotionally link to them, but as a result and after a few days, this link has faded, they weren’t such good shots in the end. BTW, I found Long Legs almost a month after I came back from Prague on my hard drive, totally forgotten. I almost broke my head on the wall when I figured out what I missed.

And I can tell you that I missed quite a bunch of good shots, being to emotional, and too fast, after a day shooting. Now, I take my time, there is no rush 🙂

Long legs. Prague, Czech Republic, 2016.

Long legs. Prague, 2016. Almost forgotten in a corner of my hard drive. Get a print.

So, what is the take away of that story? To just take your time 🙂 Of course, it may not apply to everyone, I refer to pros that need to have a very rapid turnover. But, well, they’re pros for some reason, right? Let’s resume it like this:

  1. Let things cool off. I just do after a session a backup of the photos of the day and a basic culling with Photo Mechanic: I want to get rid of the blurred/not in focus/duplicated photos… ASAP. There is no point on keeping them.
  2. Edit when you’re cold. A few days later is another culling session, from an editor(-ish) point of view. This is were the heavy lifting is performed. However, I have broken, or at least reduced, this emotional link. I can be more critique about my work, and I have a much better view on what I have achieved then. I am led by my brain, not by my heart.
  3. Then, the post processing can start. On a much lower number of much better photos.

The beautiful thing with digital photography is the instant feedback, and the instant gratification that goes with. This is an awesome perk, but I’ve also figured out it could be my enemy. This is one of the reasons why I like to shoot digital like I’d shoot film.

Shoot digital like you shoot film

At some point in photography, you need to refresh you point of view, try something new, see differently. I’ve tried that by starting to shoot film. I got a Canon AE-1 last Christmas, and shot only half a roll of Ilford HP5 Plus in the first 6 months of the year. I love the mechanical aspect of those old cameras, the fact that you must think twice if the shot is worth it, how to take it, how to expose… It’s less opportunistic, it forces you to push your craft further on. Digital cameras are much more comfortable to use, maybe too comfortable sometimes. I think it’s good to remember how things actually work and not rely on too much automation.

Electric stairs. Bucharest, Romania, 2016.

Electric stairs. Bucharest, Romania, 2016. I used there my “shadow measure” of the day. Get a print.

Well, I finished my first roll, enjoyed the result, even if it was not perfect. I then spent the end of the summer and the autumn shooting much more film for some personal photos and projects, trying different kinds of film (Kodak Tri-X 400, Kodak Portra 400…). It’s so fun. And also refreshing to not worry about settings. I usually measure once for the shadows, once for the highlights, and switch between the 2 settings depending on the scene. Either changing the speed or the aperture.

Then came this idea: why not trying to do the same with my digital cameras? Measure once, and keep it this way until the light changes dramatically. Film is much more forgivable than digital, but I have Lightroom, so… 🙂 And that’s what I’m currently doing. For daylight, I set my ISO to 400 (my favourite film speed, to keep it consistent), I measure once for the highlights, once for the shadows, and I’m good to go. I know how many stops there are between the two, with only 1 finger I can change my speed or my aperture. During the night, I crank my ISO to 3200 or even 6400, I measure once for the streets lights, once for the shops’ indoor lights, and I’m good to go. Easy, right?

Sometimes, it’s even easier. I’ve host my recent Oser flea market photo essay with the very same method. It was an overcast day, only 1 measure was needed, I could even forget the dials and focus on the content of my photos. Once again, content is the key!

Why bother? you could ask. My camera’s metering system works great! you could add. And I’d agree 🙂 Here are my findings after a few weeks:

  • I am much more focused on my work. I know what my settings are at any time. I’m the one in control.
  • Being even more content driver has helped me raise my keepers rate. I actually take less photos, but they are globally more interesting.
  • I get a consistent exposure. No more surprises because the metering system was spot instead of evaluative.
  • It helps me train to shoot film, I can make mistakes at no cost.
  • All of that results in less time spent in front of the computer, which is always a blessing!

The last point is very important to me. For example, the whole flea market set was processed in around 20 minutes, including the photos that are not published here. And the majority of the time was spent to straighten the photos, as they were taken from the hip. The exposure was spot on, +/- 1/3 stop, every time.

Oser flea market. Cluj-Napoca, Romania, 2016.

Old film cameras shot by a new digital camera used as an older film camera 🙂 I kept a single setting for the whole day. Cluj-Napoca, 2016.

Of course, it doesn’t mean I will never ever use my cameras’ automation. It is sometimes a great help, it would be stupid not to rely on if it actually helps me. But for my kind of photography, I feel that shooting with a modern digital camera like I would shoot film with an older camera helps me raise my level.

So there it is, a little challenge for you, dear reader: try to shoot digital as you’d shoot film with an old camera, for a few days at least:

  • Fix your ISO
  • Measure your scene, once for the shadows, once for the highlights
  • Forget all the other dials
  • Enjoy 🙂

And don’t hesitate to share a feedback of your experience!