Expert tips by Rutger Pauw
Date Posted: 23/02/2011
What initially triggered your interest in photography?
I think just being able to create something that’s entirely mine, a photo is a view that no one else has, it’ll always be different. I was always a bit intrigues by out of the box thinking I guess.
How long have you been in the industry?
About four years.
Do you have a particular style?
In action shots I use a lot of flashlight to set the subject apart from the background, and the background itself always plays a big role, sometimes I have to be careful about not ending up with a postcard landscape with some dude flying around in it. I like backgrounds that are kind of surreal, so you can’t really tell where it is.
Which photographer do you admire most?
That’s a tough question, I enjoy work from a lot of photographers, which are hard to compare, for portraits I’m definitely a fan of Richard Avedon, but Lachapelle is also brilliant. I think I just take a bit of what I see from every photographer.
What’s more important; your equipment or your knowledge?
Knowledge is always most important, you can make a brilliant picture with the cheapest camera, it’s just a tool.
Is it easy to find work? Is it hard to get settled in the industry?
I ride freestyle BMX for about 12 years now, so with that background a lot of things came naturally, it gives you a certain advantage because you know the movements, other sports like skateboarding are easy to adapt to too.
From the start everything came just really naturally I guess, it would be difficult to get settled without such a background though, people will not be so stoked to throw them selves down a 15 stair set if the photographer doesn’t know anything about the sport.
How do you prepare yourself before a job?
If I can, I’ll always do a location scout, it makes all the difference, because on the shooting day all you have to focus on is the subject. Making up a cool concept is part of preparation too, it’ll set you apart from the rest of the photographers. Usually I have to do about fifteen shots a day, so I try to make at least one of those a concept shot, which will carry the rest of the shoot.
What makes a great action shot and how do you capture it?
I guess it should lift the action to another level, you make something look higher, or use a longlens to show how big the landscape is.
How do you take a great portrait shot?
There are many ways, I assisted a good photographer for over three years, and I once asked him the question what a standard kind of light would be, and to my surprise he said he didn’t know. It’s always different, you just go by feeling, which sounds very Mister Myagi but it’s true. The thing that’s pretty set though is that you get only one chance if something unique happens, you can’t reenact it, so you always have to be really focussed.
Before an event what do you do to make sure you are prepared?
Charge the batteries haha, if I can do a location scout, and try to get a preshoot, because then you already have a high quality shot you don’t have to worry about in all the mayhem of the contest day.
How much earlier than the event do you arrive?
Whatever time it takes to do the location scout, so usually half a day.
How do you get into the best spot for taking photos at events?
That’s what the location scout will tell you, I usually make a list of my shots. Sometimes you get little cool opportunities like shoot from a helicopter, or being rigged up in a crane somewhere.
How do you back up your work when on an event?
At Red Bull Photofiles we are supported by Sandisk, which is great I must say, when I switched to the 5D MarkII my raw files went from 12 to 25 MB, so all my 4 GB cards were too small all of a sudden. I always used to bring an external hard disk, which is a dangerous operation, because they’ll break easily, I actually fully hate them. Now I have compact flash cards, and back up on those, because they have a Firewire 800 connection, so they’re faster then a hard drive anyway, and will not break. Also they take up considerably less space when travelling.
How many photos do you take on average at an all day event?
Usually not many, I tend to look around a lot before taking a photo, so I’ll know what I’m looking for and the job will be done fairly quickly. So I’d say from 15 good shots a day it’ll take anywhere from one up to thirty tries.
Do you select the best shots from the day or does the employer?
The selection is made by me and the client together. I’ll make sure to make a pre selection, because I don’t want any action shots in there that are not exactly timed right, that would be embarrassing to both the athlete and me.
Have you ever been crashed into?
Yessir, more then once I’m afraid, usually it’s just the flash on the tripod that get’s worked. The first time shooting motocross and finding out they make a huge dirt spray isn’t exactly a highlight either when you’re in it.
It’s crazy, I’m so used to being so close by with the fisheye, it completely freaked me out when a friend took a photo of me riding my bike, it feels so sketchy riding when someone is less then a meter away.
What’s the most exciting job you have ever done?
I’d say there are several, the Access all Areas shoot at Sealand was definitely a highlight, so sketchy but adventurous at the same time (check out some pictures of the shooting in the gallery below).
The first day I spent shooting from the helicopter, then went to the platform the second day, having only an hour to shoot, because bad weather was coming in, and it could leave us stranded at the platform for several days.
What is the bare minimum equipment you could get away with?
A point and shoot pocket camera, or an Agfa clack. Fun.
What do you consider as the most important characteristics of a photographer?
Your personality, no one likes working with an asshole. Always be patient, a respect other people take on the situation you’re in. also ask people for advice if they are expert on something, it’ll make them more motivated to work with you, and the result will be better.Last but not least of course just trying to do things a bit different.
Which 3 things would you tell everyone who would like to become a photographer?
- Number one would be to have loads of fun. Nothing good has ever come from not enjoying what you do.
- Number two is always try your best, if you feel like the job will not be interesting, and you can’t give 100% don’t do it. You’ll feel shit at the end of the day. Refer to point one.
- Number three is get a job assisting a photographer you like. It’ll teach you all the things school will never do. Very important. Also don’t get caught up in all the technical nonsense, Nikon is exactly the same as Canon, it’ll only distract you from taking photos.
For further information check out Rutger’s website