Ville Paul Paasimaa is a fashion and people photographer, based in Helsinki, Finland. Judging from the simple yet precise and powerful lighting he uses to create his images, he doesn’t like to complicate things. So to honor that, we will skip the lengthy introduction and get straight to the point.
Ville, if you met someone who didn’t know a single thing about fashion photography, what would you tell them is the most important thing that you do?
“The most important thing is to communicate. It goes beyond equipment. It goes beyond anything that you could ever learn in a book. Fortunately, I’ve been told that people like working with me – that I make them feel relaxed and confident in front of the camera. I believe that’s crucial. The person in front of the camera will always give back whatever you make him or her feel.
“It’s also important to have a trained eye. It’s like if you’re a jazz musician and you listen to a lot of jazz – this will show when you improvise. The same goes for photography. I know that there are a lot of photographers who are so keen on developing their own style that they try to ignore what other people do. But for me, it’s the other way around. I’ve been studying photographs since I was 5 years old. I remember how my mother used to bring home all sorts of French fashion magazines, and how I loved to look at the photographs in them. I believe that trained my eye, in the same sense that music can train your ear.”
Do you remember what kind of images you liked back then?
“Those that made the strongest impact on me were always the ones with a blank, kind of grey background and strong, edgy, almost horizontal shadows. The classic Vogue look, you know.”
What about today? What do you like today?
“The same thing. I often use horizontal light, and I still love those sharp, edgy shadows. That’s why I work a lot with the Magnum Reflector and small softboxes, like the Softbox 1×1.3’ RF. Recently, however, I’ve been working more and more with the Cine Reflector.”
“Not too long ago, I read an article about Fresnel lenses, and I immediately realized that these would provide exactly the kind of light that I’m looking for. The Magnum Reflector is great, but it creates a slightly focused light. The Fresnel lenses that the Cine Reflector uses, on the other hand, create an incredibly even light. This allows the model to relax and move around a lot more, which really suits my way of working in the studio. The Cine Reflector also creates really, really sharp shadow, which l absolutely love. Actually, I believe the Cine Reflector with the Fresnel insert creates my favorite light at the moment. Which reminds me – I sent you the images of Amelie, right?”
Yes. Were those shot with the Cine Reflector and the Fresnel lens?
“Yes. The Cine Reflector is standing camera right, and then there’s a Softbox 5’ Octa on the background to create this sort of gradient effect. You know, this is very close to the style of light that attracted me as a child. For me, it’s a timeless style. It might seem simple at first, being close to a one light set-up, but there’s actually quite a lot to think about.”
“The distance of the light. The angle. The power. The color temperature. The saturation. What Light Shaping Tool will you use? What size of the reflector? Then there’s the model’s pose, which is of course incredibly important. Not to mention the composition and framing.”
But some of those things can be done during postproduction.
“Yes, but I prefer to do it on the spot. I want it to feel as if you’re creating something then and there. I also believe that there’s an element of coincidence involved in photography. Let’s say I’m shooting movement. I can’t tell the model how to jump. I can just tell her to jump, and then I shoot and shoot and shoot, and eventually, I get the shot. It’s almost like when I play the piano. Sometimes I play Chopin, and then I try to play it exactly as it’s supposed to be. But I prefer playing something jazzier, something that allows me to improvise and just go with the flow. That’s when the magic happens.”
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