Tell us a little about yourself, and how you became interested in photography!
I grew up in the midst of cultural differences and riches; in a large family which had strong leanings towards the arts. I received university education in various fields, first in fine arts, then in economics (on the insistence of my father, who worked at a bank) and finally in informatics. I still work full time doing software design.
While studying fine arts, I took a class on photography. My childhood was spent in a large city, in the 90s, at a time where everywhere was full of black and white fashion photography. There was almost nobody at that time who did not decorate their room with these high contrast black and white pictures! However, I started my own photography much later. In 2007 I started working with Dia films with an analogue camera.
Photography is my escape from the tumult of daily life. I’m always taking or editing photos whenever I have some spare time. It is like meditation for me. In short, photography is not my profession, it is my passion! I think there is an emotional bond between the photographer and the camera, so I see the camera as a friend sharing this path with me.
What gives you ideas and inspires you to create such a broad portfolio?
It is always something different. I’m always affected by the emotional moments in life. It could be a movie we watch, a piece of music we listen to, the places we go, and mostly, the souls that touch us inside, in our past.. I think all of these things affect creative people deeply, myself included.
You shoot all kinds of subjects, but we are always very impressed with your female portraits – they have an ethereal quality and are very beautiful! What advice would you give to photographers shooting in this genre?
You might have read a lot of academic articles on the concept of aesthetics and beauty… I’m one of those who thinks that the emotional, the delicate and the beautiful are all gathered in the females. I think this is true from both a physical and a spiritual perspective. The woman’s spirit likes grace, delicacy, softness and also likes that others make her feel good. I usually make sure I give my models compliments so that it’s easy for them to radiate the beauty in themselves. And they are generally affected by this attitude. I think this makes the photographer’s work easier.
Do you carefully pose your photos or do you take a more candid approach? How do you direct your models, if at all?
I make plans first. If I don’t draw the sketch on the paper, I at least picture it clearly in my mind. The first job is shopping for the images I’m using. Afterwards, I decide on the place. But usually, things do not go according to plan or on schedule! At the time of shooting, the model’s and my own mood and emotions become decisive. So even though I make plans at first, the photoshoot becomes spontaneous due to more ideas or details emerging before or during the session.
I usually prefer to work with younger models, who are fun and easy going. Since I don’t work with professional models, I’ll begin by teaching them how to pose, usually just by giving examples. I then take some preliminary shots which helps us get acquainted with each other. Moreover, I show the models how the muscles in their face and the neck become contracted when they feel tense, and explain how they do not look like themselves in those pictures.
When I’m trying to shoot emotional, serious or sad subjects I play beautiful music. I try to start more serious conversations with the model; this helps them to get in the mood and this way, I can get the natural facial expressions that I am looking for. Sometimes I exaggerate these conversations and try bring them to tears. The expressions of crying women are among my favorites… After that, we continue to have fun! The models and I always have a very enjoyable time in the session.
To answer to your second question – yes, I sometimes direct my models to help them find their place in the frame. In that aspect, I am like a director shooting a movie!
What do you prefer – shooting in a studio, or outdoors on location? What are the benefits and the limitations of each scenario?
In general, I do not have any limitations when it comes to shooting space. However, I prefer to take pictures in open space, in nature or in special places, rather than in the studio.
I have a tiny studio in my apartment. I use it sometimes, but it is a bit boring from my perspective! I like mixing the natural colors of the outdoors with my own colors. Nevertheless, it is not always possible to shoot outside due to weather conditions, the time it takes to get to a nice location, and so on.
You often use deep reds, blues and accentuated colours to maximum effect in your photography. How important is colour management and selection when shooting for the book cover industry?
I believe that every being has its own color that represents them. Mine is red. It has always been, since I can remember. Red represents my femininity, my depth, my aggressiveness and my irritability. On the other hand, blue makes me more balanced; with blue I relax and maybe I can feel like crying. Colors can direct and manage us in a sensual and perceptual way.
For book covers, I mostly use colors to create a focusing effect. I use contrasting colors to grab attention or add to the emotional content of an image, whereas single tones help soften the story represented in the photo. As a side note, I like to place blue spots on red backgrounds, or red spots on blue backgrounds.
How important is Photoshop in creating your finished images?
We live in a digital era. Even if we don’t plan to edit our photos extensively we still need to use photoshop, to adjust the contrast and color saturation for example.
I personally love photo processing. You can get a lot of different productions from a single starting photo. It is possible to get different emotions from a picture, just by changing the colors. Through photoshop, I can turn the portraits of women I’ve taken into characters from fairy tales, for book covers. I can play with the face, eyes, chin, neck, or even the body proportions, in order to achieve the image that I want. I like to use all the digital applications, not just Photoshop. Photography nowadays is always blended with Photoshop and other visual arts.
What has been your funniest or most awkward moment on a shoot?
Once, as I was standing on a cliff edge and photographing a historical fortress on the opposite hill with a zoom lens, I suddenly slipped. My sister, who was standing behind me, had quick reflexes – she grabbed me and pulled me back just in time. It was a miracle that I survived. This is a memory I can’t forget. I’m always paying more attention now!
As for a funny moment, I was shooting long exposures on the beach one day. A diver suddenly pops his head up from underwater, and asked me what time it was. I laughed so much!
Personal projects such as developing a new style or technique can be really beneficial to a photographer’s growth and creativity. Are there any challenges you’re setting yourself at the moment?
Yes, of course. Every day we awaken to a new world, and my search for my general style is still going on. But since the day I started, I prefer to progress slowly, unlike the fast changing world. I love conceptual photos. I want the photo to attract the viewer, give him or her subtle messages, and even take him or her to other places… I already have a few such projects in mind. But I’ll keep them until it is the right time, space and opportunity to create them.
What do you think the challenges are for the stock photography industry at the moment? What changes do you foresee in stock photography and book cover design over the next few years?
With the development of new technologies and the ever-increasing popularity of photography, the world now has a very large supply of photographers. As a photographer, it is therefore difficult to somehow get to the top of all the others. Those that select photos may have an even harder job finding the picture they need amongst maybe millions of similar-standard photographs.
In short, I think that both ideas and products are influenced by consumerism. Nowadays there is so much information; so many things are trying to get our attention, and as a result we end up not seeing most of them.
When it comes to book covers, photography has been blended in with other digital art forms, and I think it will continue to develop in this way. On the other hand, it is possible that some books may adopt last-century’s style, where the book name is printed on the leather cover and no imagery is used at all!
Thank you so much Nilüfer! We aim you to explore the Nilüfer’s extensive portfolio of work, just click here!