Successfully combine motherhood and profession is possible — Iwona Podlasinska proves it
Photographer from Poland, mother of two children, openly demonstrates that the decree is not the reason to put paid to a career, but rather then time to try yourself in a new one. One of the most popular photographers of 2017 on Flickr talks about approaches and techniques in their work, master classes and main models — her children.
Iwona Podlasinska told us how she created the photo, which became one of the most popular on Flickr in 2017 and about all the difficulties of working with children in the shot. We recommend reading her interviews to professionals and amateurs of photography. At the end of the article, our heroine recommends several sites for everyone involved in photography.
— You create very warm and mysterious photos. They evoke a sense of comfort and tranquility in the viewers. Why did you choose this kind of mood in photography for yourself?
— Thank you. I'm happy you feel this way about my work. First of all, I want to have that feeling when I create. If it passes on others too, then it makes me happy. I guess my work was mostly created to ease my creativity and let me express my own feelings. I wanted to show the viewer a piece of my heart and soul. I was always fascinated by magical feeling of light and mood, it was somewhere in my dreams since I was a child. When I started taking photos of my children I discovered that I could take it onto a different level that allowed me to not only photograph what I could see with my eyes but also transmit some feelings that I had in my heart. This mood is not forced anyhow into the photos. I guess this is the way I want it to look. I'm aware that there are different styles, different techniques in photography and I'm quite interested in that, but when it comes to my work I like to keep one well-defined style and look to it.
— In your photos we can see children. Please tell who these lovely children are?
— Those are mostly my own children — my two boys, also my brother's daughters. Those children are always around. I spend a lot of time with them and it's natural that I use them for my photos. But also two years ago I started running workshops around the world
(in Europe, USA, Latin America and China) and sometimes I post photos taken on those workshops. I still love photographing my own children the most so I try to keep my portfolio focused on them.
— Is it difficult to work with children? How do you manage to attract children so much to do your work as a photographer and have realistic photos?
— I think that many people don't even realize how difficult is to work with children. They never pose and if they do — I'd rather they wouldn't :-) (usually make faces or look really tense and unnatural). So working with children is based on observation and patience, taking many photos, waiting for the perfect moment, playing with them, finding interesting things for them. It that matter I believe it's more like working with animals rather than with models. I can even use bites to attract them to the place where I want them :-) but that's an extreme situation. Usually, it's a lot of observation and a lot of photos taken to capture the one perfect moment. I have to adjust my ideas to what they do. Sometimes I'd rather see them in a different place to create a better composition but I learned through experience that a good pose- relaxed and natural is better than a perfect composition. So it's better to adjust yourself to the children then force kids to serve your idea.
— Please tell us the story of the photo on which the boy is looking at a train which is passing by. How you did this shooting?
— This photo was taken during the workshop in Germany in October 2017. This photo became really popular and was the TOP-25 photos on Flickr
in 2017. The train was not moving. It was just standing there. Otherwise, it would be dangerous for me and the child. My friend, a photographer from Germany, Agnieszka Rygula, rented the train for the day for that shooting. We went there the day before to tell the train-keepers where we want the train to be and to take some test shots. I wanted the train on a curve to be able to see it when I shoot close to it. We started shooting in the evening but we were shooting quite long because I wanted to wait until dusk. We asked to turn the lights on the train. I put a video light on the train. One of the model's moms was holding it. We also had a smoke generator placed under the train. I had a vision of a scene similar to Polar Express when the train arrives with all the steam coming from it and the light coming from the windows. It needed some work in post-production. For three reasons. One was that the light inside the train (in the windows) was not that bright as I wished, that the smoke generator was not working all the time and that it was still not that dark. The last thing actually served well the quality. But I darkened in PP to achieve a more dramatic effect.
— The plot, mood and the final result in your work you think through in advance or everything happens spontaneously?
— I remember that when I started I had a goal to take photos to which you can easily add a title. I didn't want to take and show people another photo of my cute son. I wanted a little bit of a story. Something that would remind me of my childhood and take me to my dreams in the daytime. So when taking a photo I use my eyes and imagination. I see things in front of me and instantly tell myself a story and shoot. Maybe 10-15% of photos I can call planned. Mostly because when working with kids plans are plans and they always take over and I have to follow them. So I believe planning is very difficult. It’s easier to just go with the flow.
— Could you tell the story of creating any of your photos from beginning to end? Starting with preparation and finishing with post production.
— I had a lot of trouble choosing one photo to talk about. I chose this one- this is the photo that is the most recognizable I believe.
This was taken in Kraków (120km from where we live). My brother was running in a charity business run and we went to cheer him. We arrived to the market square around 11am. It was rainy all day but it started getting heavier when we reached the market square. My younger one taking a nap in a baby carriage and my husband was with him. Me and my older son went to see the pigeons. I got the seeds from a man that was also feeding the birds there. I gave some to my son and jumped back to take some photos. I was shooting with a manual Samyang 85mm 1.4 on a Sony a7
. So I repeated that ( giving the seeds and taking photos) many many times until it was raining to much for us to stay uncovered. The pigeons on the market square are not afraid of people. They would sit on your head if you have food. My son was a little disguised on most of the photos. But on this one I was lucky to capture his calm expression and the bird flying in the air. This plus the rain and the soft light created a magical setup. In post-production, I gave it my colors and that extra punch to make it stand out. I also cleaned the background from unnecessary color. You can now rent a video on my website where I show how I edited this.
— What brands of cameras do you prefer to use and why?
— I shoot with Sony. I started with Sony many years ago and never decided to change that system to anything else. First it was great because I could use manual lenses. And for first couple of years I couldn’t afford expensive AF lenses. Now I’m just so used to the small body and electronic viewfinder that I’m not tempted to change. Also I’m not very much interested in technology of photography or gear. I always say that it’s like with me and cars. A car for me is something that takes me from point A to B. It just has to be comfortable and trustworthy. I'm not interested in what's under the hood. The same way with photography. I'm only looking for something that will allow me to express my creativity and not worry about how it works. It has to be easy to use and trustworthy.
— Is photography work for you or a hobby?
— I started taking photos of my children at the beginning of 2014 when I was on a maternity leave. I went back to work in September 2017 and continued photographing my kids just for fun. I loved to create my visions, capture the moments, and shared my photos on Flickr with other passionate photographers. I didn't even think of making this my job. I'm an architect by trade and I had a partnership with my parents in building industry. In 2016 I was invited to run a children photography workshop in Warsaw and the invitations kept coming from other places, even outside of Europe. I was happy that people wanted to learn from me and I thought of it as an adventure and a way to make some money aside from my day job. But after a year of working full time, taking care of the kids and house, creating my photos in the evenings and nights and workshops on the weekends I was very tired. I was sick all the time- from one infection to another and I had to slow down. I decided not to take any architectural projects for some time and focus only on photography and running workshops. At the time this is my only source of income. But I do not take clients so far. I had only two clients sessions last year — both for a cloth diapers company. I'm happy that I can travel the world and meet other photographers, realize my visions with them and thatI'm able to make a living on this.
— Do you work in other genres of photography? For example, advertising or reporting.
— I do sometimes try to take some landscape photos, I played with macro photography but all those things just for fun. And only for me to see the results.
— What do you think is the main thing in the work of the photographer?
— I believe that the light is the most important thing in photography. If you see a good photographer you see a good light in the photos. Understanding and controlling light will take your photography to another level. I also put a lot of attention to composition, mood, and story. But always start with looking for a good light.
— Which famous person inspires you? Photographers, musicians, actors…
— I'm not excited by people — people are just people. But I'm always inspired by those with passion. Whenever I see or hear a person that has a passion I'm drawn to them. I believe that true passion in a way to become better in what you do. No matter what those people do - play an instrument, create sculptures, even grow plants. I'm always interested in talking to people who are passionate about something.
— Have you ever been to Ukraine? Would you like to make an exhibition of your photos here?
— I have never been to Ukraine before but it's on my list of places to visit. I believe it's a perfect place to find beautiful views and amazing shooting locations. I hope to go there one day.
— What can you wish for people who are just starting their own career?
— I would say to them — be your greatest fan and critic. No one will love your photos more, and no one will understand your vision as you do. Do not ask on the internet for people opinion. But look at your own work with a critical eye. Create a gallery of your own photos and take time to analyze.
— What books, sites or video channels would you recommend to regularly watch novice photographers?
— КWhen I was just starting I watched a lot of YouTube tutorials and definitely liked Phlearn
the most. Aaron Nace really knows how to explain photography and photo editing in a simple and entertaining way. I also liked Adorama TV
with all those challenges on how to create certain photos. It taught me to think and imagine first what I want and how will I take and edit the photo before even taking the camera into my hand.
By Sergey Gutakovsky