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Interview with Photographer David Olkarny

First off, I would like to thank David Olkarny for agreeing to do this interview, it’s been a great read.
For those of you who don’t know who David is, he was listed earlier this year as number 1 on Expert Photography’s Top 20 Young Photographers, and his work is truly inspiring.
You can check out his website here, his massive Facebook page here, Flickr here, and Twitter here.

A little about David Olkarny

It was only during David’s second year of study (cinematographic) that he discovered the world of photography by buying his first digital camera. At first, he planned it for shootings and various recordings.
Amazed by the quality of the pictures that resulted from his new toy, and the simple idea of having the ability of catch intense scenes or even to create them, made him shiver.
From then on, it was obvious that he was going to be a photographer.

The Interview

One thing that really stands out to me about your photography, is your concepts, with some really unique ideas that I’ve not seen too much of before. How do you come up with your ideas?

I think that I’m impulsive and I sometimes imagine scenes and situations, without asking myself if they are reasonable or even realistic. This can give rise to unexpected associations.
My inspiration can come when I’m at the cinema or simply in my daily life. While I’m driving my car I mark places, when I’m in the store queue I’m sometimes struck by a face’s expression, when I’m in the forest I watch the trees with the eyes of “White Snow ;-)” or when I’m at home I feel like the furniture seems to be too static and it makes me want to “move out”.

The lighting in your photography is very good, and something that a lot of people seem to struggle with, can you provide some insight into how you work with your lighting?

My technique consists of relatively improvised work at the time of shooting, with a research of beautiful light. Next I go to the production to retouch the pictures and sometimes modify radically with the use of a photomontage.

Comparing where you are now, with where you are when you first started, what could you have done differently to get to where you are sooner?

Given the speed of my climb, I wouldn’t change anything about my career.

Describe a typical shoot for yourself.

Everything that is technical, such as the order of material, is all prepared in advance, but the rest is not. I prefer to leave a big location to intuition and improvisation. I don’t know in advance what in a place or the model will inspire me… I select models principally online, Facebook being ideal for this approach. I favor people who have a “real face”, not necessarily a pretty girl with a symmetric face, but rather a suggestive person capable of bringing a wide range of expressions of all styles. During the shootings, I’m often accompanied, which allows me to realize “backstage” videos with the help of Rafael Deprost.

What do you consider to be the main difference between yourself and others like you who have failed to get to where you are?

Tough question: maybe the boldness? I’m not afraid to think outside the box while preferring the outside to the atmosphere of the too cozy studios.

How much time do you spend taking photos, versus retouching photos?

I think that for each picture, the importance of each step can vary. If the model and the light are excellent, it’s obvious that there will be less work of retouch. Sometimes the place is so amazing that it will be the master piece of the picture. And sometimes a photo which was mediocre at first can create the surprise after a careful work of mounting.
The whole is greater than the sum of the parts: the gestalt law no? 🙂

To what degree do you retouch your photos? Is there anything that you like to do in your photos in particular, such as add certain curves?

I use Lightroom to sort and pre-retouch my raw files and when these are proudly selected I send them to Photoshop for a further retouch. What I principally use in Photoshop are the two tools “Curve” and “Level” which guaranty me beautiful colors and strong contrast focalized to accentuate the parts of the image that I’m interested in.

Who would you like to work with most?

With unknowns during their photo book, it’s always more honest and spontaneous :).

Quick Fire Questions

Biggest inspiration?

Humans, in all their forms.

Which camera do you use the majority of the time?

A Canon 5D mark II.

You can only have one lens for the rest of your life, what is it?

The 50mm f/1.2l.

Which photo are you currently most proud of?

The lonely girl above the roofs (below)

Prime or zoom?

Prime.

You could have anyone in the world take your portrait, who is it?

My mother.

What was your proudest moment in your photography career so far?

My latest photography exhibition.

If you could tell yourself anything when you first started out, what would you say?

Rush!

Where are you from?

Belgium, Brussels.

Favourite photography website?

http://www.christophegilbert.com/

Who have you learned the most from?

From my bestfriend, photographer Bagrad Badalian.

How old are you?

24.

That’s right, at just 24 years old, David has already put together a huge collection of work, which will either inspire you to go out and take much better photos, or have a sinking feeling that you’ll never be as good. I would encourage you to opt for the former, because with even just a little bit more effort, you can start to see big changes.
If you’re just getting started with photography, then I would suggest you read my Beginner’s Guide to Photography, and if you’re looking to improve your photography, then have a look at the Beginner’s Guide to Composition. There are plenty of articles in the tutorial archive to get you started.

One final point.

David hasn’t gotten to where he is today sitting by his computer reading about photography.
He hasn’t amassed an incredibly large, diverse, and interesting portfolio just looking at his camera.
He actually got up and took photos.
By all means, learn how to use your camera first, but if you want to see the same sorts of results as David here, you need to have the commitment.
It’s not easy, but that’s what separates the good photographers from the bad photographers.
Once again, you can check out his website here, his massive Facebook page here, Flickr here, and Twitter here.
Interview with Photographer David Olkarny

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