Thomas Zehnder | December 2013
The ambassador of the month is the German Photographer Thomas Zehnder! We’ve asked him a few questions that you can read below!
How did you start your career in photography?
I started my career in photography in 1986, with an internship in the traditional portrait studio of my aunt, after quitting studying for being a teacher after 2 years, because I thought I had nearly no chance to get a job later.
Before my decision to be a photographer I did absolutely nothing related to photography – it was just an idea. My learning was very traditional, taking portrait photos with large format cameras, film lights in black and white, developping the films and making prints on baryta paper in the darkroom. So this is how I’ve learned to work with lightings in the traditional way, but the photography style was very traditional and non creative, and so were the clients.
In 1991 I went to Hamburg to take my Master in Photography and stayed there for two years. This was the first time I got in touch with modern photography and a lot of other photographers – so I can say this was my first time being really creative and using new and modern techniques, like cross processing with film and slides, etc.
After my aunt got ill, I came back to Stuttgart and took over her studio. I tried to modernize the style of the studio a bit and it worked very well, specially in wedding photography.
In 2005 I opened a little studio of 60 squaremeters in my hometown, Schwäbisch Gmünd, to see if I could be sucessfull. Three years later, I had to move to a bigger studio (of 140sqm), but running two studios with an our drive distance (I live in my hometown) was too much for me, so I decided to close my studio in Stuttgart (it was too expensive and less prosperous) at the end of 2010 and moving completely to Schwäbisch Gmünd, where I grew my studio to 240 sqm.
How would you define your photography style?
I try to keep my style always modern, knowing what my clients like, looking at pictures in newspapers and magazines, watchings videos online, watching TV and desiring my pictures to come out like that. But I also try to transport my roots of traditional photography and my knowlegde about lighting to these modern styles. So, simply said: modernity in tradition.
What are the biggest challenges you face in your profession?
Nowadays, the biggest challenge for a portrait photographer is to keep in touch with all the new styles and possibilities that the digital photography brings. Today, you can’t “just” be a photographer – you have to be a blogger, a facebooker, a twitter, a youtuber, etc. Being a social media self marketing machine consumes a lot of time and energy, but this is what the market and the clients want. Standing still in our profession means moving backwards.
What resources do you use to keep up to date?
To be updated I primarily use the Internet – looking at blogs, facebook pages of other photographers, youtube channels, etc. Several times per year I attend seminars and workshops of BPP, for example. Looking at magazines is another means of inspiration and, last but not least, I use my imagination and my fantasies.
What is your best advice for new photographers?
My best advice for new portrait photographers is:
– Learn how to use light (indoor and outdoor) because this is the tool for creating pictures and emotions – attend workshops and seminars – invest in your future. Do a lot of free projects to improve your skills and to learn what is right and what is wrong.
The other one is:
– Learn how to get a connection/key to the people you are taking pictures of, because without their help, their trust in you and your work, you can’t make good/perfect pictures. Maybe you don’t create fast relationships to people, so, in my opinion, portrait photography is not for you. But if you are openminded and enjoy the contact and working with people, you are where you’re supposed to be.
Why did you chose to work with Koy Lab?
I have choosen Koy Lab because of the superb quality of their products – I tried a few vendors before, in Germany, but they didn’t have the quality of Koy Lab. The service is superb – if there is something wrong, you immediately get an email or a phonecall to solve the matter. This is something I’ve never seen before. The price and what you get for it is unbeatable.