Ben, also known as bluewaterandlight, is a talented portrait photographer from Germany. His interest in people is very evident in his images, which vary from heartwarming portraits to emotional works of art. In this interview, Ben talks about his working process, how he feels about human interactions, and what he believes aspiring photographers should know. Please enjoy this fascinating conversation.
Tell us a little about yourself and what you do.
Hey, my name is Benjamin, but I prefer Ben. I’m a portrait & people photographer from Germany. I wanted a new toy to play with, which I couldn’t understand directly, so at Christmas, in 2014 I decided to buy a camera. And the journey began. Since I got this camera I knew I wanted to photograph people, but my introversion and shyness made it impossible. But with every little step, I noticed more and more that I must photograph people and not landscapes, so I spent time with other people and I found the most interesting thing in our world: humans.
Landscapes are really beautiful but without people they are dead. I’ve learned to see the beauty in every little piece of God’s nature. The beauty is there, everywhere. But unfortunately, most people can’t see it. If every earth inhabitant could see this beauty, we would not enslave and destroy our nature, but live in harmony with it.
Photography for me is the best therapy and way to express myself. When I am sad or full of anxiety I create a picture of myself or another person with these feelings and put all my sadness and anxiety in the picture and then my heart is ready for happiness and love. I love people and I think this gives me the power to work hard and follow my dream, to be a worldwide working photographer.
Your portfolio is filled with gorgeous portraits. How do you make your models feel comfortable in front of your camera?
I start my photo shoots with a hug for my models to create a friendship. I’m really interested in people and this is one of the reasons my pictures look so natural. During the shoot, we talk a lot about life, love, anxiety and other things. My shoots look like this: two friends talking about their life and creating “a few” pictures.
In addition to being sharp and well-lit, your photos are beautifully edited. What does your editing process consist of?
My editing process begins during the shoot. I alway try to get the perfect exposure directly in the camera. Great make-up is also very helpful. At home, I import my pictures to Lightroom and choose the best pictures, if I didn’t do that already at the location together with the model. Then I import my/our favorites to Affinity Photo to edit the skin and if necessary, I remove distracting elements. Then I go back to Lightroom and edit the color, brightness, etc. Here I use my own or the VSCO presets.
Many of your images were shot using a limited amount of light. What do you think is the most important thing to consider when shooting in darker locations?
Shootings at dark locations are really hard because my Canon 6D’s autofocus isn’t good, and at dark locations, it’s extremely bad. So I mostly focus with manual focus and focus peak (Magic Lantern). Often, I use a reflector or even a flash. Many people don’t like noise/grain, but I love it because it gives the portrait a bit of a painting and creates a symbiosis between the model and the background.
Are there any photography genres you’d like to experiment with more?
In the future, I want to take more “Fine Art” pictures because I want to tell the world what’s in my mind. I want to travel more to talk with people all over the world and take pictures with them. And I would love if I find a model to take pictures of her/him crying, it’s one of the strongest feelings.
What do you find most challenging about portrait photography?
For me, people photography is the masterclass of photography. It’s extremely hard to make people familiar with you and your work and make them trust you. In my preparation for a photo shoot, I listen to my “power playlist” to give myself certainty that the photo shoot will be awesome. You should create your own “power playlist” filled with songs which give you energy and self-confidence.
If an aspiring photographer asked you for advice, what would you tell them?
You’re a fan of black & white photography. What do you find most appealing about it?
Black and white photography is the origin of photography and the most natural photography. It puts my focus on the model/subject and away from color. For me, it’s the essence of photography. It makes the light and structure more important.
If you could meet your favorite artist and ask them 3 photography-related questions, what would they be?
What has been your most challenging creative obstacle so far, and how did you overcome it?
Every single time, it’s hard to transfer the image from your mind to the reality. My most challenging picture was the picture of my best friend Ante. I was inspired by the pictures of “omerika” (https://www.instagram.com/omerika/).
The act of sleeping fascinated me all time because during sleep you solve problems you can’t understand in the real world. During sleep, you can be every person you want. You can be an astronaut, race car driver, a bird and even the doctor (knock, knock. Who is there? Doctor! Doctor Who? Correct. 😛 ) In this picture I wanted to create a symbiosis between a sleeping girl and mother nature. First, I tried to use a tree as a symbol of “mother nature” but then I didn’t like the picture. So I put it away for a few days, and later I decided to use a forest and merge it. It was so beautiful. I love this image.
A few last words from the photographer:
Don’t do what other people want you to do. Do what you love and never give up!
“The limits in photography are in yourself, for what we see is only what we are.” -Ernst Haas
Good light and great ideas,
With love, Ben