Photographer Stefanie Anderson: the Most Important Thing is Quality
“The most important thing is quality.”
Please you tell us a bit about yourself and how did you get into photography world? Hello, my name is Stefanie Anderson, and I am a German fashion and wedding photographer.
I was fascinated about photography since my childhood. I got my first camera when I was 9 years old, a Canon Ixus M1 with film. Special about this camera was, that it can take panoramic images, which I was using quiet often on holidays in the Alps to take landscape pictures. Nevertheless, I felt a bit depressed as the photos I took weren’t very good, or at least, not good enough for me. I thought, I’m just not talented so I stopped with photography.
It was several years later, when I was 19, I started again. During those years, I was modeling a bit as a hobby and had a lot of contact to other photographers. The moment of decision to take up again photography finally was during a trip to Ecuador, where I did my student exchange. The girl was doing a photography course and invited me to join a trip with her class to do landscape photography. It also was then, when I used for the first time a reflex camera. The teacher showed me some basics about photography and I noticed, it is not all about talent. It’s also about knowing some technical aspects as also image composition etc. which gives you the basic knowledge needed to actually be able to use your creativity and create great pictures.
Then in 2009 I bought my first own reflex camera, a canon 450d with a standard lense and started practicing and learning about lightning. I was always fascinated about people photography so I rented a studio invited some friends of mine to be my testing models. Step by step I improved my knowledge and got better. I got the chance to work together with models which participated in the German TV show: Germany’s next Top Model and also started to work with different designers. At this time, I took a semester abroad at university and studied in Madrid. There I had the possibility to participate in photography classes and work in the laboratory of the university where I did analogic photography in black and white. This time gave me a very good foundation and knowledge in this area.
Since then, I had several publications in magazines.
Nowadays, I’m living and working in Madrid, Spain, but I’m also very often in the South of Germany. So you can say, I’m based in this two locations.
How did you move specifically towards fashion and beauty photography? What does fashion mean to you? I always loved working together with people. For me it was clear that I wanted to focus on people photography. The possibility to be creative, do things in a different way than others, is what attracts me to fashion and beauty photography.
Fashion for me is the way to express myself and how I feel. For me, it’s is a type of art which allows you as a photographer to be creative and develop your ideas. It’s the way to express myself.
Stefanie, how would you describe your photographic vision? What kind of look do you try and create in your photos? With my photography, I try to transmit something to the viewer, emotions, feelings, reactions.
I like looks full of contrast. Tender and smart frames are something I definitively go for, however there are also those high contrast looks, which tend to be more mystic and create curiosity. Needless to say, depending on the topic I might as well use other styles but these are the ones I like the most.
What inspires you and what gives you ideas to create your beautiful images? Can your ideas change depending on the model you are working with? There are many things that inspires me. For example, the work of other photographers. It could also be a model the one to inspire me: her look, her aspect… Sometimes all I need is just to see a place, go shopping or let daily life bring me that tiny detail that sparks a whole new perspective on things. However, quite often and although there’s an initial idea, it’s during a session in collaboration with your team (Makeup Artists, Designers, Stylists etc.) that you get more ideas working together and get inspired. I think it’s then when you get the best results.
Fashion shoots are all about teamwork. Tell us what is like for you to work with stylists, models and designers. Yes, of course. It’s clear that teamwork is the most important part. From the model to Makeup Artists, Designers, Stylists etc. In the end, it’s the whole team what determines if the project is or not successful. In fashion photography it’s difficult to do things on your own. You actually depend on your team.
I have a team I’m working with quiet often and I rely on but it’s not fixed. There are several people as Makeup Artists, Models and Designers I’m used to work with regularly and I appreciate a lot their work. For me, it is very important to have a good team on which you can rely on in working together but also in which you have faith to realize more experimental shootings, trying out new styles, etc.. This is, in my opinion, what makes you grow as a professional and artist. Trying out new things in a good team where everyone owns a part of the final result.
Is there a different aesthetic/process you follow when shooting for portraits and when shooting for a fashion editorial? It depends a lot on the topic of the photoshoot.
Normal portraits, I have a quiet simple process in my shootings. I have my lightning-setups which I normally use for portraits. During the shooting, the lightning can change and I create different look/aesthetics of portraits. I don’t limit my images on one single style regarding portraits (in case it is not a beauty editorial).
On fashion editorials I use a more straight lightning once I’ve determined which kind of lightning fits best for the editorial. This is because the goal on a fashion editorial is to create a coherent and harmonious series. But actually, on fashion editorials I am more creative regarding using a bit more extreme or unique light setup. I also play more with different poses from the model, art work etc.
What is the starting point when you shoot and how do you work during a shoot? Before I start a photoshoot, if there’s enough time, I use to sit down for 15 minutes with the team, take a coffee, talk a bit and relax. The shooting should not be in a hurry and I want everyone to feel comfortable. So I think it is a good start first to relax before everyone gets into “beast mode” working.
Then I start coordinating the team regarding the work flow, the order of the different outfits / looks so that everything is organized and we don’t get problems later regarding timings, makeup changes, etc. (for example, it’s not recommendable to start with a dark makeup, when you also need a brighter one cause you have remove the makeup entirely, whereas if you start with a bright makeup, you can easily add colours or make it darker. Therefore it’s important to have a look first at the styling and decide with the team the entire process). While the models are getting prepared, I normally do the lightning setup.
For me, a photoshoot is a creative process, where every team member takes part of it.
So my photoshoots aren’t static and can change a bit during the process, as everyone participates.
In order to save time, I often have several models, so that I can shoot always with a model, while others are getting their makeup.
How important is it to stay up-to- date on the latest trends to be successful in what you do? Of course that is important but it is not everything. In my opinion it’s more important to keep your work and portfolio up to date and be present on social media as this is where you expose your work and possible clients get to know you.
I think it’s worse not to have a good and versatile portfolio than to be 100% up to date with every new trend.
From your experience, what is the key to getting the best out of someone? For me, the key is motivation. If you know how to motivate your team, they will boost themselves to the maximum level of performance they can reach because then everything becomes more than a job. It becomes a proper project you are part of and the illusion you have creating something amazing makes it possible to take out the best out of someone and capture a great shoot.
What are you usually looking for in a fashion model? What is an “aha” factor for you? For me, one of the most important factors of a fashion model I look for is that she has an interesting expression and look. She should be very flexible and able to change. I mean, the capability to slip into different roles. As I try to transmit something with my photos, the model is of course the most important factor. I can’t say specifically it must be this or that which provokes the “aha” factor. It’s just a feeling I have.
What would be your tips/advice to models looking to expand their portfolio? The most important thing is quality. They should look for photographers, which have a good portfolio. It’s not worth to waste time on tfp shootings (shootings where every participant charges with his costs and does not get paid for it) to expand the portfolio with photographers with a lower photo quality or just don’t do the type of photos the model needs for her book. So the selection to work with what photographer is really important.
It’s also important for a model to show a portfolio full of variety, in which she can show different sides of her and areas of photography (as beauty, portraits, fashion, commercial) she has experience working in. The more alive, evolved and versatile, showing her mastery with different styles, looks and expressions, the more interesting her portfolio will be and more possible clients will attract. Such is the way to always offer something closest to what they require in every specific project.
From your point of view, what makes the shoot successful? In my opinion, there are several points that make a shooting successful.
First of all you need a good team, as I already mentioned. Then, you need a good idea and concept for the shooting itself and, of course, a good plan to get everything in time.
If you have it all, you have already covered the most important points to make a successful shoot.
What is typically in your camera bag? My camera bag is quiet boring 😉 It always contains my camera body (5d Mark II, Canon) and my 2 main lenses (24 -70,mm, 28 and 70-200, 2.8), plus a reflector. Of course memory cards, backup batteries and battery recharger will always be ready to use as well as a card reader and sometimes also my “Lensbaby”. If I have enough time, I love to play around with this lense.
How do you feel about digital manipulation and post processing programs? What is your retouching/production philosophy? For me, post production is part of the workflow as a photographer. But the intensity depends a lot on what type or kind of pictures are you taking. If I’m doing a wedding shoot or a wedding reportage, the main focus for me is to develop the pictures in a natural way. Adjust contrasts colours etc. Whereas, the retouching process on fashion or beauty pictures for me is different. My focus is less on natural but on expressing myself, on perfection. I don’t want to create unreal images, but I tend to make them “perfect”.
In your opinion, what makes the good picture to stand out from the average? How do you choose which images you provide to your clients? A good picture must transmit on its own. In my opinion, a good picture is a picture, which captures the beholder. Although you remove from the image everything that could distract (for example colours or photographic (colour looks), a good picture must keep a viewer captured. If a picture is still impactful in black and white, then it’s a good picture because you don’t need to add (colour) looks to make it work.
Besides the image quality based on technical aspects, the selection of the images I provide to my clients depend on what are the pictures for. I think really hard about which ones fit most for every project.
In some cases, if the client explicitly asks for, I provide him with a contact print with pre-selected images from which he can do the final selection by his own and then, based on his selection, I provide him with those images retouched.
Are there any other photographers you look up? Why? Actually I love the work of Kristian Schuller. He is really great artist. The clothing that makes his wife for his shootings are amazing! His ideas, setup and the way he works are impressive in my opinion.
I also look up to people photographer Felix Rachor. He is doing a great job, but what I admire most is how he achieved his targets, how he plans and realizes his work. He is very creative and uses every kind of things to create great images.
What role does social media play in your photography business? Social media is actually the main platform of communication for me. It’s where I expose my work and where I can communicate with my community.
Nevertheless I think social media isn’t everything. There is also an important factor for my business that are the recommendations from people who already worked with me.
From your point of view, what are the most difficult aspects of professional fashion photography? For me the hardest part is the selection of photos I will retouch. I usually can’t decide which photo I want to keep hehe. However I don’t think this would be the answer to the question 😉
The most difficult aspect I think is the managing, ensuring that everything proceeds alright and works without problems. This includes time management, organization of team members, location etc.
Where can our readers keep up with your work and get connected with you? My readers can find me on different social media accounts as Facebook and Instagram. The most actual work they will find on Facebook. They can also see my work on my website, but it’s under construction at the moment.
What is your dream in terms of your career? I’m working towards getting international jobs where I can travel around the world, to different and exotic places, work together with the best in this area. My goal is to have the potential to realize great projects and ideas, without the normal resource limitations, which you are normally faced with. For me, working in something I really love is a luxury and a goal to achieve, without depending on other jobs you get which you like less.
Stefanie, what project is held dearest to your heart and why? Actually there are two projects. The one which I got published for the first time in a magazine. For me, I felt that this was a huge step in my career and made me really excited.
A more recent project, which I really love to remember and which I’m holding very dear to my heart is the trip to Ibiza we did last year, my team and I, to spend several days and make several fashion editorials in fascinating places. As it was my first longer trip for me and my career it was an important and wonderful moment, too.
What’s the most important thing you want potential clients to know about you? I’m human, feel free to contact me if you have any questions or doubts. Anything you are unsure about a project or idea you have in mind. I’m sure I can help you make it possible the way you really want it to be done.
Share one surprising fact about yourself. I’m very curious and can’t stop learning so I actually started studying a master in Data Science, something completely different.
I love animals, especially horses. Well, perhaps that’s not so astonishing…