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Interview: Photographer Dave Willems (Netherlands)

Can you tell us a little about you?

My Name is Dave Willems, born in Heemskerk, a village near Amsterdam in the Netherlands. I work as an IT engineer and my hobbies are sports, football, programming and photography. I like to listen to British rock bands also I love to eat Pierogi and drink Belgian beers!

How and when did you get into photography?

The first camera I bought was somewhere in 2002 a 3.1 Megapixel compact camera, the Kodak DX4330. At this time I made a lot of photos of football matches of my favorite football team Feyenoord from Rotterdam. A few years later for some reason I got interested in astrophotography and for this purpose I bought my first DLSR the Canon EOS 350D. I used the camera for everything except astrophotography. From this point I started to learn about light, exposure, shutter speeds, aperture, ISO and the relationship between them. 5 years ago my girlfriend at that time wanted portraits of us, instead of going to a professional photographer I decided to buy a cheap studio light set with soft-boxes to make the portraits myself. I was amazed at the quality you can achieve with a cheap studio light set. I liked it so much that I started to shoot female friends, this is how I got into portrait photography.

What does photography mean to you?

For me photography is a hobby which gives me joy on several areas. It’s a driver to learn and develop myself and I enjoy the whole process from begin till the end. Strolling the internet for inspiration, selecting models, the communication with the model, preparation, shooting, post processing and publishing. Making portraits is a social thing, you meet new people, something I really like. For me a beautiful portrait has atmosphere, detailed definition and a connection with the model. I care less about a story in a portrait.

Please briefly describe your photography style for our readers.

In one sentence: Feminine Fine-art portraits of natural models in dramatic light.From beauty portraits I like the retouching but I’m not a big fan of the light setup, the light is to clean for my personal taste. So I shoot in dramatic light and spend hours of beauty retouching in post processing. The combination of dramatic light and beauty retouching gives the portraits a specific style.

Where do you get inspiration from?

Dutch painters like Rembrandt van Rijn and Johannes Vermeer inspired me because of the use of light and atmosphere in their paintings and a few Russian photographers showed some retouching skills I like.

Do you think in advance what you want in the picture?

My girlfriend Nataliya is a big support for me, she helps with styling, make-up, hair, communication and planning. Together we talk about what styling we want for a model. This gives a certain direction but I like to keep things open for improvisation as well. Every model has unique characteristics and shapes. Because of this the style, light-setup and pose can be different than you had in mind.

Studio, on location or both?

Studio! I tried both and like the unpredictability of on location but I noticed I’m better off in the studio. I envy the photographers who are good on location.

Would you consider yourself a hobbyist or a paid professional?

Hobbyist, I do this purely because I like to do it, not for the money.

What has been your most memorable session and why?

I live in the Netherlands and have a long distance relationship with my girlfriend. She is based in Wroclaw – Poland. I visit her once per month and when I am in Wroclaw I make use of the opportunity to have sessions with Polish models. My most memorable session was the one with Rita, it was my first session in Wroclaw and I didn’t have a lot of experience, there were not much photos on my portfolio and because of this it was not easy to arrange models. Thanks to Rita and her reference things started to get easier.

Nikon or Canon? Favorite lens?

I am used to Canon but I see the most beautiful portraits of photographers who shoot with other brands, it really doesn’t matter which brand you use. I shoot a lot with the Canon 85mm 1.8 and the Canon 24-105 F4 for the studio portraits and I am really charmed by the character of the photos from the Sigma 35mm 1.4.

What is one piece of advice you would like to offer new photographers looking to start their own business?

You will get opinions about your work from a lot of people, it’s nice but the most important opinion is your own.

What do you think of our new magazine?

I have seen a lot of photos from the models and photographers on Modellenland, it’s nice to get to know the person behind the photo. Furthermore it’s a nice podium for the people who are putting a lot of effort in their passion.

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