With London Fashion Week still underway, and Milan Fashion Week coming up next, we wanted to talk to another fashion photographer about their work and using PortraitPro, so we enlisted the help of fashion photographer and photo editor Veronica Lounge for some more tips on how to break in to fashion photography, and how to survive in such a competitive environment.
PortraitPro: What is your name and where are you from?
Veronica Lounge: My name is Veronica Lounge and originally I'm from Russia, Saint Petersburg. Right now I am both living and working in Finland, but I do travel abroad occasionally for shoots.
PortraitPro: You've won multiple awards, been exhibited as far away as Korea and have worked with some amazing and influential people; what has been your proudest moment so far?
Veronica Lounge: When two of my early advertising photos were selected for "200 Best Ad Photographers Worldwide" in 2012 by Lürzer's Archive. Definitely, that was the first time, as I was then only moving into advertising and also because I shared this book with some amazing famous photographers such as Erik Almas and Tim Flach. I've been in this publication twice, but I still remember my first reaction after receiving a confirmation that my photos would be in this book. But, honestly, I am more happy, rather than proud, every single time when I have connection with a model or client and after each successful shoot, when they like their photos - at moments like these I know I did something right, and that the style I shoot and my skills are being appreciated.
PortraitPro: You have an art background, tell us about your early art experience.
Veronica Lounge: I've always been very creative. Since my childhood days, I remember always doing something art-related. I attended music school, where I played piano; I sketched and wrote stories and poetry. I used to do all these things on a daily basis and it seemed very natural to me, so when I finally got to do these at school, I started to receive high grades that were always best for music, arts and writing. I had a wide range of things that constantly kept interesting me and so I wanted to try them all and sometimes it felt like I would never settle. Then I discovered photography.
PortraitPro: How did your interest in photography develop?
Veronica Lounge: It started by chance. I had never planned or even thought that I would one day become a professional photographer but as soon as I started, I was drawn to it completely. I fell in love...It all started when I traveled to Finland in fall 2008 and at the same time I found a course in professional photography at a local Institute and was lucky enough to be able to attend it with 30 other photographers, who were already doing it as their job... I was the only one who had no understanding even about my first camera settings. It was a tough period of learning and I wanted to become one of the best, so it took me twice the effort to get to the desired level, considering I had absolutely no experience in photography. Luckily, I developed my photographic style very early... and the effort paid off in the end.
PortraitPro: Was there a moment when you began to consider yourself to be a photographer?
Veronica Lounge: I think it came naturally to me. When I started to shoot, I soon realized that I had finally found something that keeps me interested all the time. Maybe because of the variety of things I was constantly doing. It got serious when I got my first decent shot - it was a composite of three photographs which later won Bronze Award in 2009 in a professional photography competition. After that I started to see things differently. There were absolutely no excuses for not trying to do the best I could with my vision and style. Also, when I started to see good results and real development in my works and their quality, I could finally say that I'm a photographer.
PortraitPro: What is it that drew you to fashion photography?
Veronica Lounge: Fashion - and also advertising - suggests some sort of a fairytale lifestyle to a viewer, which I like. And in fashion photography there is always space for improvisation. You cannot set harsh lights or for example a direct camera flash in front of the subject when shooting a product to make it look right, but in fashion you can. It's all about the feeling. That often gives the wrong impression that being a fashion photographer is very easy and does not require much skill, and that is why there are so many fashion photographers nowadays. Along with the chances to improvise and use my creativity, I've also had a personal interest in fashion and style - since the age of 16 I've been following magazines to build my aesthetics. And I love shooting women and making them feel and look beautiful, so it was a natural choice for me.
PortraitPro: You're often the photographer, retoucher, make-up artist and stylist all rolled into one. Are you hoping to work more with a bigger team in the future or do you prefer to have creative control over all of the elements in your image?
Veronica Lounge: Though I am used to, and like to keep control over these things when shooting, I do work with teams occasionally. Especially, I never do hair for my models and for bigger shoots I prefer to have another make-up artist to do the job. Even then, when I have a team of make-up artists and stylists, I still always say what I want to achieve and work very closely with team members to ensure that the result is a reflection of my vision and is beautiful. When it comes to styling and retouching, most of my clients trust me completely with the concept and are asking me to create images that will have my final touch - whether it’s an idea that I want to shoot or a feeling I want to create in post-production. Of course, when there are many shoots, time is very limited and so many photographers have to outsource their post-production elsewhere, but to me it has always been a way to express my vision and I find it very relaxing; so even when busy, I prefer to do it myself. I've recently started to shoot unretouched still-life, which helped me to save a lot of my time and I try to do the same and limit my use of post-production in fashion images as well.
PortraitPro: Your portrait work often has a dream-like quality, was this a conscious decision or did it happen organically?
Veronica Lounge: That’s a hard question to answer. I guess it's my style and continuous process, that makes things happen during the shoot. Sometimes it’s planned and sometimes magic just happens - seriously, I never know. When I'm getting ready for a shoot, I do lots of research and planning, but for each project I already have an image in my head - it is often just visions and associations, the mood, the color, which I then try to create. To me, even in a basic portrait there has to be something interesting about it that is different, otherwise I am not happy and not satisfied with the result.
PortraitPro: As well as shooting portraits, you also shoot still life images, such as jewelry. How did you start doing this and what are the biggest challenges in this type of work?
Veronica Lounge: I think at some point I got tired of shooting people and I wanted to learn some more. Another reason for such a big change was also the increase of fashion photographers everywhere day by day... while there are only few great still-life and product photographers in the world. Maybe because, apart from fashion, the lighting in this has to be very precise, and there are rules you cannot break if you are wanting to provide good still-life photography. The biggest challenge to me was to start from scratch with marketing and lighting, and also styling a product within a shoot is very hard, because the options for styling are very limited, compared to fashion photography. All you have is this particular product, which you then must make look organic within its environment. Often there is just a product and the background to play with, so to make a composition look natural and interesting without making it feel too heavy is very important, and sometimes it can take hours to get a beautiful result. Technical quality for these also has to be very, very good, and the lighting often makes the shoot.
PortraitPro: If you could share one piece of advice with aspiring photographers, what would it be?
Veronica Lounge: I actually have three - know your worth, believe in yourself and never stop learning. The first one is because this industry is now going through some dramatic changes. Especially for a beginner, it is extremely hard to not just get in, grow and survive, but also to stand up for their rights daily. Therefore believing in yourself, and that your work is good enough to be showcased and paid for, is very important. Also, I would suggest, to define first what you would love to shoot, and focus on that only, and eventually it will bring you success - together with practice and hard work.
Check out Veronica's work here: www.veronicalounge.com.
We’re still running our Fashion Competition, and we’ve had some great entries so far, so don’t forget to send us your before and after fashion images, to be in with a chance to win this month. Download your free trial of portrait editing software PortraitPro, and see what great fashion images you can get too.