by Editor Miro Susta
Ralf Eyertt is a fashion and portrait photographer and since December 19th, 2013. He is a Member of Swiss Professional Photographers and Photo Designers Association.
Tell us how did you developed and improved your professional photography skill and what fascinates you about it?
As I have explained, on the beginning it was still a targeted photography, fixated on two major topics “Live and Event”, but the first cover productions led me more and more to studio photography.
Even though I was still working here as a photo assistant as I simply lacked the necessary equipment, I learned so much to think more and more of my own productions. But it was still a long way off. Between 1998 and 2005 I was too much involved in music management and then came a situation where I just wanted to reorient myself. And for me it became clear.
Now it's time to live out my own creative ideas in the field of photography.
But I never wanted to be a product, a landscape, a flower or an animal photographer. I have always been fascinated by people and cooperating with creative people. Fashion and beauty have always fascinated me, because this is where many creative people come together. From the make-up sector, designers for fashion, accessories etc.
Today you're a well-known photographer - what were the stumbling stones that you had to clear out of the way when you started? How did you learn to make such great shots?
Stumbling stones, there're plenty of them, references and platforms. You can have such great ideas, but if you turn to fashion labels to get high quality outfits, the first question is always, what are the pictures used for?
Model agencies ask the same question. Actually everybody wants to know what happens with the pictures? If you can't explain this conclusively, then it leads to a dead end.
My solution here was my success with online music magazine, I asked myself why it also shouldn't work in the field of fashion.
So I created another magazine called “Fashion World Biz” and that was my first photographer platform and also clear answer to the question: “What are the pictures used for?”
If you start in this field of photography then you have to orientate yourself. There are great master photographers in the field of fashion and beauty photography. Vogue, and many other fashion magazines are full of them.
The Internet had not yet initiated the great perishing of printed magazines, they still have the money to produce 6-digit fashion productions.
In the same way as many other not known photographers, I first had to join the ranks of the many nameless photographers, and so I only received orders that perhaps someone else did not want, but I just bit my way through it.
At the beginning in the style of what was simply in demand and then later more and more in the style that crystallized out in my work.
Today I call this style “Glamour Bold and Beauty”. A bit from the time of the 70's but with the technical means available today.
A change of location to the metropolis of Zurich also proved to be a successful step. Zurich is a little bit the centre of Switzerland and what happens here is perceived.
I was lucky to work with two magazines right from the start and produced some editorials for fashion houses like H&M.
I have noticed that a lot of your works seems to be portrait/fashion photography. Why are you so drawn by these specific categories?
When you work as a fashion photographer, the focus is always on the respective outfit. The photo distance always covers the whole person. But I was more and more attracted to close-up. I want to capture feelings and you can only do that with the face. Of course there is the Close-up Area Beauty but here you don't want feelings on the face because you want it to be wrinkle-free.
The Fashion and Beauty photography was of course my basis also financially, therefore I made once again a decision and adjusted the focus of my photography anew. I wanted to get out of the field of artistic services and immerse myself more in the field of photographic art. I wanted my pictures to become more surreal and no longer correspond to the general state of mind.
For this it was however necessary to find further artists who are interested in a cooperation.
I succeeded in doing this in the area of creative art make-up and design. For over a year now I have been photographing in the field of Creative Art and suddenly a whole new kind of success came up.
These pictures are not only popular in the forums of the photographers, but also in the magazines.
Free from commercial backgrounds, I am also supported by many model agencies and that once again enhances the quality of the artwork. Since this reorientation my photographs have been published in more than fifty magazines in a period over 1 ½ years.
Many of your works can be found for free on your webpages, or on various portals. At the same time you created photographs for well recognized fashion magazines as well as for other customers. What are your experiences with it?
A well-known photographer once told me that every customer expects you to have worked for Vogue and to be able to show such published pictures even if he only wants to have his sausage photographed.
For me this has now become true. My pictures are distributed in photography forums like 500px (where I stopped my activity) and Viewbug (here I'm active as a curator) but these forums are not really supportive, because they are closed in themselves.
If you are a photographer offering workshops, then you are right here, but if you are looking for publishing media, high-quality designers, etc. then you also have to turn to the public forums. Instagram has crystallized into a deal maker, Instagram has completely replaced Facebook. I also have a profile at 1x, but I didn't really understand this platform and was probably too busy with the other platforms. But I know that 1x is one of the highest quality photography platform.
Which international magazines published your work? Name few of them.
Okay, that's a very long list now. My first one was actually the Vogue Business which published my portraits.
And here are the others - Rest Faddy Mag, Evon Magazin, Scorpio Jin Magazin, Shuba Magazin, Manuka Magazin, Beautyforum Magazin, Eloque Magazine, Salyse Magazin, BLouder Mag, Picton Mag, Elegant Mag, Imirage Magazin, Ellements Magazin, Surreal Magazin, Furore Magazin, House of Solo Magazin, Huf Magazin, Kaygod Magazin, Polka Magazin, The Editorial QC, Neah Magazin, Zürich Deluxe Magazin, Attika Magazin, Vogue (German), Trinidad Woman Magazin, Schweizer Illustrierte, Flashizblack Magazine Paris, Display Magazin Schweiz (Print), Mannschaft Magazin, Magazin Kosovarja, St Galler Tagblatt, Switch Magazin Italien, Vanquish Magazin.
You have produced excellent portrait series which follow a strict concept. What is the idea behind it? What moved you to perfect light/make-up/decoration setup? How do you make your models smile? What else is there to say?
The concept always stands at the beginning of a Creative Art Production. I collect templates (so-called moods) and then use these moods to find models that fit. Thinking about a suitable setup and determine the outfits and also the suitable make-ups.
After that I still have to consider the timing. A shooting starts at 10 am and should not last longer than 8 hours. Set changes, make-up changes etc. cost time and a model has only a limited time to maintain the necessary tension when taking pictures.
All participants in the photo session are important. My motto is, “if someone doesn't fit into the team, things go wrong”.
Often the models come into an already functioning team and therefore I can fully concentrate on them. It's also about trust. Sometimes I have people who feel uncomfortable, show that and will not work with me, especially not go beyond their limits.
However, overcoming boundaries is the salt in the soup. That gives the pictures that have the WOW effect.
And how I make model to smile? I like a natural smile without necessity to make or force the model to smile, I believe in the motto “natural smile is the most beautiful smile”.
There is a very smooth bokeh in your photos and clear shapes in your design. Your style seems much focused on photo artwork, do you have own special philosophy for your image design?
Glamour Bold and Beauty. My technique has more and more approached a 3D effect. Sometimes I love to play with the open aperture or with the natural light but these are exceptions.
I work with a lot of light. I'm not looking for the dramatic lighting I'm not a Hitchcock. I am still a beauty and fashion photographer and here light is simply used. Not even reflectors, I also illuminate the shadows with a light to easily determine the depth.
Your portfolio is just so colourful, however it seldom looks exaggerated. In contrast, black and white shots are rarely found in the portfolio. Does the appeal of colours predominate?
Yeah, I'm coloured... I live that way, too. I love the information in the colours. It is important for me. And I have learned to deal with colours.
Even as a graphic artist, colour harmonies were very important to me. Colour blocking etc. are very important stylistic devices that I don't want to miss.
I understand photographers from the field of nude and body landscape... they often work with natural light and that often makes the skin unattractive... I often get a lot of compliments about skin toning.
I have to say, use the right light and a person's skin starts to shine... But the light source must not be more than one-and-half meters away. Otherwise it becomes pale.
Black & white is so rare for me because I always work with coloured setups, sometimes I create a black & white image from it, but when I then compare both, the colour always wins. Honestly saying, I don't follow very much this discussion about black & white photography.
I know that photography started with black & white and that black & white pictures were the first to get the status of art... But I don't know any painter who goes into nature and suddenly paints in black & white.
However, we have to agree that the photography is not art because it is black & white or coloured.
The portrait/fashion photography is certainly not the only area in which you move? Are there any other photo-topics that you are dealing with?
Portrait photography has become the essence of the many areas I have already photographed. In my opinion it is also the most difficult kind of photography.
Technically you can of course make the same mistakes as with any other kind of photography, but you have to deal with people and they react immediately to the result. You can't discuss that away or move it to Photoshop.
If the "out of the cam" picture does not arrive then you have a problem.
This is also my answer to your question, I became professional portrait/fashion studio photographer.
My next step may be fashion outdoor photography. I leave the other topics, landscape, wildlife, nature, etc. to other, in this field more experienced professional photographers.
Of course, a bit of technology is also part of photography. I can well imagine that you also learned with analogue equipment. Does analogue photography still play a role in the 21st century?
I do not think that the analogue photography will play any serious role in 21st century.
I was one of the first ones to walk into the shop and get an EOS D 20 from Canon. That was still in the time of stage photography but I never returned to analogue photography.
However, I can still remember the many test series I made to learn the image effect, today I photograph tethered in a colour checked monitor and can immediately judge whether my light setup has the right effect.
Outdoor I have an I Pad for it and on location a laptop. This small camera image on the Canon is a little bit lying, however they managed to include a correction program that shows the image already optimized.
The bad awakening comes much too often when you look at it on the right screen.
How important is the digital image post-processing for your photographs. Tell us a little about your way of working.
I work in RAW format, so an image needs to be developed. Here I use the program CaputureOne Pro. For me it's the best development program currently on the market.
One can do a complete image editing in this program, but it's too stressful for me.
I then transfer the adjusted image to Photoshop and start with the final work. At the beginning there is the clearing. All elements that don't belong in the picture will be removed. Especially with humans this is a skin retouch. Since I work very sharp it can come here to overdrawing.
Then I level and homogenize the image again, following by a very extensive process called “Dodge and Burns”, creating small differences between light and dark, the prerequisite for the later 3-D effect.
This process can take up to 2 hours or longer.
Then the toning comes, here I define the contrast and colour look. This look is crucial for the first picture, because everyone has to follow this look to be perceived as a story or editorial. If the first look is there, it's quite easy with the rest of the pictures.
You are present on Facebook and Instagram. Does social media play a big role for you as a photographer, or do you just use it to showcase your works.
First Instagram then Facebook, but more and more Instagram. Even most of the prestigious magazines go the way of marketing through Instagram. If you have a profile then you will be linked, of course to increase your own reach.
Almost all my comrades-in-arms are on Instagram, I even have the feeling that the bigger your profile (followers and likes) is, the more magazines are interested in your work.
This is also true for models etc. Designers only follow that. It has become a big player and unfortunately Mr. Zuckerberg knows that and gets paid for it.
Who is/are your favourite photographer(s) and more importantly, how has your appreciation of his/their work affected how you approach your own photography?
Russel James an Australian photographer who does the main work for Victoria’s Secret. I like his style and attitude and his way of staging women, it's always very respectful and always aesthetic and I like John Rankin the British portrait and fashion photographer, his creative performance has influenced me.
Of course there are the old classics like Peter Lindbergh and Mario Testino but they are no longer innovative.
The same goes for Anne Leibowitz, but I still like her work. I also like the colour explosions of a Kristian Schuller and am always overwhelmed when I see his pictures.
But influencing is not the right word for me, everyone has found his style and I don't want to be a copy... But I let myself be inspired and that is often a mix of many and a shot of my own personality.
Are there any specific directions that you would like to take your photography in the future or any specific goals that you wish to achieve?
At the moment I still work a lot in the studio... as time allows I want to work more outdoors. But in order to be able to work under stable, acceptable weather/clime conditions, you have to work in countries (regions) that allow it.
I would also like to make a book that shows or harmonizes the human beauty in spiritual places.
Finally, I would like to ask you following 4 W questions. What was your best experience when taking pictures? What, When or Where else would you like to take another photos?
Learning by doing... almost every shooting leaves new traces and leads to the next one. I'm not finished yet, especially not in my development. I would like to continue to be guided here, from one to the next.
And when we do another interview in 5 to 10 years... then I can look back and tell who and where it took me.
Dear Ralf, thank you very much for this interesting and informative interview. I am sure that the readers will be inspired by your answers and beautiful photographs.
I wish you continued success and great pleasure in your work. I’m looking forward to see your future shots also in 1x-photo gallery.
Thank you very much Miro for your well considered questions and also for your wishes. And with pleasure I will again familiarize myself with 1x-photo gallery.
With your help it will work for sure.