We are pleased to have Commercial / Editorial Photographer Jan Klier share his photographic vision and ideas with James Robinson Photography Blog. Thank you Jan for taking time with the readers of JRP Blog. Where is your home base Jan?
Jan Klier: I’m based in New York.
JRP: What led to you becoming a photographer? Do you have any formal training or assisting in your background?
Jan Klier: I have no formal training in terms of having gone to school for photography, but I have had many teachers, mentors, and individual classes.
I turned to photography after a long business career because I was looking for something more creative and independent that still allows me to work with people. Photography seemed to fit this very well.
JRP: Who would you say has been most influential in helping to shape your photographic vision?
Jan Klier: For this question people usually rattle off the same list of well-known names. Of course many of the past masters play a major influence, not one in particular but through the art as a whole. I regularly browse the work of others, and find images that I connect to. And there are themes in those images I connect to lighting, composition, negative space, geometry, color, and styling. In fashion photography, the end result is as much about the stylist and the model as it is the photographer. So the influences include fashion designers and models alike.
JRP: In your opinion how important are personal projects in developing a photographer’s vision and technique? Can you give us an example from your own work?
Jan Klier: A friend recently put this really well, “When you shoot for a client you are under pressure to deliver, so you stay in your comfort zone and give yourself a safety net.” Personal projects are when you can take risks, explore, and play. That is a critical part to advancing your vision and range, and not getting stuck in place.
I do at least one personal project a month. Often I revisit talent I’ve worked with before and have a good working relationship with. It becomes a personal project for everyone.
JRP: Do you have a regular support team to assist you with projects? What roles do they play?
Jan Klier: Yes, I have my list of stylists, models, and hair/make-up talent that I rely on regularly.
JRP: What would we find in your camera bag for a typical assignment shoot in studio or on location?
Jan Klier: I don’t get too hung up on that. I use what’s best suited for the job at hand. If I have latitude, I might shoot 120 film, if I need to control things real-time I shoot digital. Sometimes I skip the lighting and shoot wide open to keep the flow. I’m more about the creative process than the gear. But I know having the right gear for the job makes a difference, and I have a wide range from old manual to the latest digital to meet those needs.
JRP: Do you have a lighting preference, ie; artificial or available light? What would you say are your most used light modifiers when necessary and why?
Jan Klier: I shoot all variations: strobe, hot light, and available light. That of course leads to a wide variety of modifiers. I mostly rely on a softbox, beauty dish, silks, scrims, reflectors, and foam core.
JRP: Could you describe your digital work flow and the software you use?
Jan Klier: On set I shoot wireless into my iPad (if I shoot digital of course), then I download into Lightroom to manage my selection. Actual edit will happen in Photoshop. I don’t use any plug-ins. I prefer to retouch manually for greater control.
JRP: Do you make use of custom white balances and color checks when you shoot?
Jan Klier: No. In fashion (other than in catalog/product) white balance isn’t that critical. In fact I often tone my images in post. As it comes to skin color, I use specific CMYK ratios during retouch. From time to time I might shoot a gray card if I want to preserve a reference point just in case.
JRP: What is your preferred method of portfolio presentation?
Jan Klier: Print book for agencies, iPad for more casual meetings.
JRP: Image printing when necessary how is that handled?
Jan Klier: I print myself at home on an Epson printer.
JRP: For you, what is the most critical moment in the capture of an image?
Jan Klier: The mental frame of mind, so I can see in the camera what I have in mind, and can communicate with my team on what needs to happen.
JRP: To date what has been the best advice given to you by another photographer?
Jan Klier: Be yourself and don’t worry too much about others. You have to find an authentic and personal vision. That is what others will hire you for. Get known for something!
JRP: What advice would you like to share with those contemplating a career in photography?
Jan Klier: Be in it for the long haul. There is no overnight success. Focus on quality images and concepts. Always honestly answer the question if you were a business, an art buyer, or a photo editor would you be able to use the image. Would you be willing to pay for it with your own money. If the answer isn’t a clear yes, re-evaluate what and how you’re shooting.
JRP: Thank you Jan for sharing your thoughts and images with us. It has been a pleasure talking with you. Wishing you continued success. To view more of Jan Klier’s photography please follow these links: