Happy Monday! Today an interview with multi-award winning Spanish fashion, advertising and architecture photographer Mikel Muruzabal. Enjoy.
Tell us a little about yourself?
I’m a fashion, advertising and architecture Spanish photographer. Since I was a child I was determined to devote myself to something that gave meaning to my life. I believe that photography is not “another” occupation or career, but a way of seeing and understanding the world, of communicating with others and involving them in my view.
What inspired you to get into photography?
I have been always inspired by the city and its architecture, but also by surrealism and comic books. Those things, added to my passion for drawing, made me get my own style when I started with photography. For me, taking pictures is like drawing with a camera, and Photoshop represents the painting. I also love the way of working with photography, it’s clean, it’s relatively fast, and you can deal with totally different subjects in a single day, so getting bored is not allowed!
Are you self taught or did you study photography?
Yes, I’m self taught. Getting your own way of learning gives you different ways of doing everything, so it’s more probably that you will finally do different photographs. I honestly think that everybody (with a lot of hours of hard work, of course) can be a decent photographer. It’s not like an engineering, you can learn by yourself, but yo have to be a bit curious and read some books and look at every picture that you can get in your hands and, of course, do a lot of photos.
What gear do you take to each shoot and what lens could you not live without?
I have Canon gear and sometimes I rent Phase One digital cameras and backs. If I could only choose one lens, I would pick my Canon 85mm f/1.2, it’s present in most of my works.
Flash or Natural Light?
Although I use both in architecture, advertising, and portrait photography, I prefer flash in fashion, because it’s not an “ordinary” light, and, well used, it becomes an immediate escape from the “ordinary” world.
Can you describe how you use a flash, reflector, natural light when your shooting your portraits?
In studio with flash I use a few light shapers, usually a fresnel or a beauty dish as main light, sometimes a giant umbrella (that I use other times as a big fill light) or a big box with grid, and for the rest (effect lights, back lights…) I use normal reflectors, sometimes with grids or snots. White and gold reflectors are my favourites. With natural light and “standard” family portraits I have a very simple way of doing; I put my best lens on the camera and I shoot against the sun or at 90 degrees. I like that kind of effect, with pleasant bokeh… it results, well edited, in very luminous pictures.
What’s your favourite photo that you’ve taken and does it have any significance?
I don’t have a special or favourite photo I’ve taken, some of them represents different moments of my career. The most important photos for me in terms of significance or meaning are the pictures of my daughter, most of them done with a mobile phone and blurred!
Select a photo you have taken, explain how it was shot and how you edited it?
I’ve selected this picture from the last series I’ve done, Bubble Shooter. First of all I’ve retouched the image as I do normally for fashion shots, in terms of skin, wrinkles, age spots… I didn’t like how she has her hair, so I changed it to a ponytail hair I photographed with the same lighting that was the scene. I also corrected the colours of background and swimwear to better harmonize. After that, I created the bubbles in Cinema 4D, I lightened them as the main scene, and I included them as if they really pass in front or around the model, so that the distortions caused by the transparent fluid look real. This is achieved by the settings of the material assigned to the bubbles render. Finally, I gave the entire series a slightly vintage tone via curves, and I added a very soft grain layer at the top to remove the “digital” aspect of the scenes and give it more authenticity.
What processing tool do you use and do you believe in the camera doing all the work?
I use Photoshop and I also learn everyday to get the most of my camera, studio flashes and lighting. I believe that the camera is a processing tool, and Photoshop is another processing tool, and when you mix these two tools properly is when you can to play with reality in a surreal way. Surrealism is specially well fitted to the Photoshop era, because it plays with figurative or real models (like photography) to scape to the world of dreams, now thanks to the cut-and-paste digital techniques. But of course you can play with reality without Photoshop, I recommend Chema Madoz photographer, he will amaze you!
What’s your favourite photography accessory other than you camera?
I like to use less gear as possible, although in architecture, for example, tripod is mandatory.
Do you crop in camera or during post?
Usually in camera. Sometimes I know that the final size of the picture is not going to be proportional to the size of the sensor, so I have this present along the shooting and I give it enough room to crop after.
How do you go about learning new techniques?
When I was starting I bought a lot of photo-technique books, with diagrams and explaining texts, but now I prefer to experiment by myself in the studio, or inspired by pictures I’ve seen.
Where do you prefer to post your photos online and where?
I’m in the social media, like almost everybody, but I don’t like the time waste that represents to have to deal with a lot of social or creative networks, so I decided to be in Behance, that I think is the best so far, along with my website, Facebook page, Twitter, Pinterest and LinkedIn accounts… so much!
Do you ever get photographers block, and if so what do you do to get inspired?
Honestly, in terms of ideas I’ve never get blocked, I have a lot of them in a notebook waiting their time to come… time is the problem!
How much personal work do you shoot?
That’s my weakness… I’ve been focusing on assignments since I started 7 years ago, because I needed immediate income, but now I’m trying to leave a little space in my workday to carry out some personal ideas. In any case, I give my personal touch to every assignment I do.
Do you plan on purchasing any new gear? If so what are you eyeing off?
I would have a digital back to use it daily, but they are very expensive, so I rent one when my clients ask me for that extra bit of resolution.
Is there anything you wish you had done when you first started in photography that would made a difference?
Yes, I wish I had started earlier and not having the pressure of having to earn money from the moment I started to make a living with photography (I was 30, I was paying my home, and most important, I had a girlfriend!), so I had to be focused on assignment works from the beginning, but I’m happy because I love my job and I enjoy working for clients in areas as diverse as fashion, advertising and architecture, my three specialties.
Which photographers inspire you and why?
There are many great photographers that inspire me daily (some of them are Miles Aldridge, Tim Walker and LaChapelle in fashion), but honestly, I do not usually look to the work of other photographers too much, because it gives me anxiety! I prefer to take inspiration from movies or comics, although it’s impossible not to take notice of what’s doing a lot of people out there! and there are absolutely amazing people doing amazing things…
If you weren’t a photographer what would you be?
If I had not been so bad student, I would surely have been an architect. I also would love to be a comic artist. Or a professional skateboarder!
Any advice for new photographers wanting to go pro?
It’s easy to do photos, but it’s very difficult to get a life with photography, so… take it seriously, if you have the opportunity, take your time in getting a very good portfolio, do not waste time, learn something about image (not only photography) every day, make photography the centre of your life… and smile!