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Interview: Photographer Dennis Claes (Belgium)

Can you tell us a little about you?

My name is Dennis Claes, 38, and I operate around Leuven, Belgium. I shoot beauty, fashion, boudoir, art nude, erotic art and I'm currently having a lot of fun with virtual reality model photography.

How and when did you get into photography?

I took my first images in 1996, when on a school trip to Paris. I used a disposable cardboard camera and took images of all the great monuments. When I came home, I was excited to share the images with family and friends, but I noticed that it was not at all as majestic as I remembered it. I came to realize that it wasn't about the buildings, but about the people. It's people that create memories. So I started shooting my friends, people from school, and after a few years, I evolved to shooting models.

What does photography mean to you?

I think that photography started out for me as a way of coping with my insecurities. Finally, something I could do better than most of the people I had around me. It made me “somebody”. Now I'm past all that and photography is more something that gives me purpose. They say you can only be happy in life, as long as there is something to desire. My desire is to grow. As a person, as a photographer, as a businessman. Photography is giving me those opportunities, that purpose.

Please briefly describe your photography style for our readers.

I think that in everything I do, the model's beauty is central. I use light, composition, depth of field, and retouching techniques to draw the attention to her face.

Some photographers have a natural raw talent for what they do, they “feel” photography. I don't have that talent. My work is coming from learning what works and what doesn't work and pouring that in some kind of “ruleset” for myself. I think it's that ruleset that makes people say “I recognize that style”.

Where do you get inspiration from?

For beauty and fashion, what I mostly do is find a MUA whose work I really like and give her a carte blanche to do a project she likes. Because that's the essence of TFP for me. They don't work for me, I work for them, or at least with them. I work with them because I love what they do, so it makes sense to just trust them to do a good job, while I focus on “my part”. Of course, you do have to talk and co-ordinate, but so far, it has worked well for me to give a lot of creative control to the people I work with.

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

For beauty, yes. As I said before, the MUA plays a big factor in this. She will send me some Pinterest images, tell me which colors she wants to work with and then I start constructing the image in my mind. What background will I use? What light? How will I frame it? After a while, I do tend to have a pretty detailed image in my mind.

For other work, like nude and erotic, I tend not to go into too much detail. I do have a setting in mind, a type of light I want to use, but a large part is also just going with the flow. Again, I hand out a lot of control over my shoot to the model. I do tell her how the light will hit her, what the most flattering angles will be, and then just let her do her own thing.

Studio, on location or both?

I used to only shoot in my studio. However, over the last year, I've come to love shooting on location even more. So if I have to choose, give me a nice location please.

What has been your most memorable session and why?

Oh man, so many come to mind … But the first one that pops up, is one with model Lorraine Selie. We went for a nude shoot at night, outside. She was crazy! She practically dragged me out in the middle of the street and on the public parking lot of the local supermarket to take some nude shots there. Even when cars were coming by, she just waved at them. I did get some amazing shots though, so I love her for making do something I would otherwise never have dared to do.

Would you consider yourself a hobbyist or a paid professional?

I consider myself an experienced hobbyist first and foremost. However, I do have my VAT number and I have many commercial activities. I shoot both private customers and sometimes businesses. I also organize monthly shoot events with professional nude models in my studio, both One on One shoots and Group shoots. I also have a website with a subscription model for my erotic work. And I'm also earning money with my virtual reality work.

The passion still comes first, but I do love “building” something and earning money with my work is a good indicator of my progress in what I'm doing. So it's a balance I have to strike between being a hobbyist and a paid professional.

Nikon or Canon? Favorite lens?

I have a Nikon D800 and a Nikon Z7. But I don't do the whole “brand X is better than brand Y” thing. Today it's Sony, tomorrow it's Canon and the day after it's Panasonic. At the end of the day it's just a tool to get the job done.

My all-time favorite lens is the Sigma 85mm F1,4 art lens. It's just so beautiful. However, because I regularly shoot inside in smaller spaces, my most used lens is the Sigma 50mm F1,4 art lens.

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

Focus on one niche and make sure you are the best at that. Make sure you are the “go-to guy” for that niche. And when you've chosen that niche, be active in that community.

Take me for example, I'm shooting virtual reality images. I'm very active in a lot of VR communities. VR Gaming, VR content creation, even VR health communities. And not to promote my work, but to help other people, giving them advice and listening to them. And sometimes, yes, I sneak some promotion in there. Like when someone doesn't know how to watch VR images, I create a short movie for them, explaining how it works, but I use my own website as an example. It's small things like that, that makes that community appreciate you and remember you when they need something you, as a businessman, can provide. At that point, don't do it for 50 euro / shoot. Know your worth.

What do you think of our new magazine?

I generally don't submit images to online magazines anymore. I've done a few in the past and other than stroking my ego, it didn't have that much value. However, when I did some research, I was pleasantly surprised about the quality of the work other photographers are submitting. I'm honored to be in the magazine. I wish it a lot of luck and hope it keeps evolving.

Model Judith Valentina

Model Judith Valentina

Models Cadavre Exquis en Raven Rotten MUA Cadavre Exquis Styling Cadavre Exquis

Model Seraphix MUA Annie de Brue Styling Cadavre Exquis

Model Seraphix MUA Annie de Brue Styling Cadavre Exquis

Model Viktor van Pelt MUA Nadia Mazzaccaro

Model Sara Scarlet MUA make up & hair Joke van Praet Hairstyling Julia Lion Hai

Model Raven Rotten MUA Lucifera

Model Sara Scarlet MUA Lieve Humbeeck

Model Maude Sélia MUA Coralie Verbruggen

Model Lady Louiza MUA Nadia Mazzaccaro

Model Judith Valentina MUA Lieve Humbeeck Flower arrangement Sumerya Acitel

Model Jisca Bosmans MUA Sofie Vancauwenbergh

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