PermaJet ambassador and award-winning portrait photographer and make-up artist Malou Reedorf grew up with a camera in her hand and is a natural-born storyteller. Here she talks about inspiration, emotion and why printing is so important…
How did you first get into photography?
Photography has always been a part of my life. My whole family are professional photographers, from my mom, dad, brother, my brothers’ father and all the uncles. When I was younger I was in front of the camera and as I got older, I moved behind it. I would help my father in the darkroom and entertain customers when they were in the studio. I participated in all the photography conventions and was the one handing over the trophy for ‘Best photographer of the year’ from the age of five. So, it’s hard to pinpoint when exactly I got into photography. It’s always been there, holding my family together. My grand passion really came when I discovered make-up as a tool for creativity – it was here I started participating in competitions and winning them.
What inspires you?
The world as an adventure inspires me, both the happy sides and the dark. I find beauty in decay and pastel colours, the rough and the natural beauty. I tend to get my inspiration from many places and I try to get as many experiences as possible, good as well as scary. I believe that we as photographers work the same way as philosophers and authors – you have to experience the good and bad things the world contains to make meaningful pictures.
My greatest inspiration comes from my models and locations, especially from the special qualities they possess. I try, however, not to limit myself and make it a challenge to discover new inspirations, such as a song, clothing or a pattern. The world is full of inspirations from the moment you open your eyes to the moment you close them. Sometimes, I find that there’s too much inspiration for an artist to handle!
What do you think makes a good photo?
It needs to tell a story or convey an emotion. It doesn’t have to be the same emotion, however – I’m happy when the viewer sees and feels one thing, even though I see another. I’m old school, so I don’t always appreciate the idea that rules are made to be broken. I very much believe in the rules of photography and how to compose a picture, and I live by that when I function as a competition judge.
What’s your favourite piece of kit for portrait work?
I love to experiment. I love working with one softbox to achieve simple but powerful lighting, and a spot to create heavy shadows and a strong direction of light. When I shoot outside, I usually just use a reflex screen. I also experiment with coloured filters for the light, which can make for some interesting portraits. I almost always use my Nikon D800 with a 105mm lens.
You’re very creative with your post-processing - how big a part does Photoshop play in your work?
Photoshop plays a big role. It gives me the tools to be extra creative and really bring forth the picture I have in my mind. I don’t see it as a ‘manipulation’ of a picture, but rather as a tool for me to realise a beautiful picture. I never put much weight on keeping pictures natural - I find it much more interesting to create a new reality.
What advice do you have for aspiring photographers?
My biggest advice is really to not listen to ‘trolls’, especially when you post something online. Instead, find a photographer that you admire and get some feedback from them instead. Another piece of advice is to keep feeding your creativity and keep exploring new techniques and models. A good way to do this is to become a member of a photography club where you can develop your skills together and go on field trips.
What do you think is important about printing your work?
Printing is everything. In my world, if it’s not printed it only partly exists. You add another dimension when you print your work. You get to add texture by finding the right paper and you get to find the right shade with choosing your ink. There’s so much that gets lost when you only have it on the screen. You don’t spend nearly as much time looking at it, and all the small details get lost. When you print a picture, the image becomes real and tangible, something you can truly admire. You put so much work into making a picture, and it’s not fair to you, the picture or the client or model if the picture only lives in cyberspace. This is why I only print for my clients - if they want digital files, that is ok, so long as they also have a printed version they can appreciate.