Learn from the best and keep on dreaming: our interview with beauty photographer Dirk Bader


Dirk Bader is a beauty and fashion photographer based in Munich, represented by Avenger Photographers. He started his career with David LaChapelle, Peter Lindbergh, Albert Watson and Patrick Demarchelier and still profits from this experience when handling large productions and working under pressure. Get to know more about his work and what inspires him.

Production Paradise: What is photography for you? How would you define it?

Dirk Bader: I learned photography the old way if you want, meaning with film and Polaroids and almost no post-production even though I use it now, of course. That teaches you to look before you shoot, which is what photography means.  Drawing with light is not shooting something roughly and fixing or finishing it later in Photoshop. Improving the image is fine but the image should be done with the camera and your lighting.

Production Paradise: You worked with the best photographers in the industry – David LaChapelle, Patrick Demarchelier or Peter Lindbergh to name but a few. How did they influence your style and what was the biggest lesson you learned from them?

Dirk Bader: First of all, all these photographers are very different. David LaChapelle, for example, is ”loud”, colorful and very conceptual. Patrick Demarchelier – more classic, and Peter Lindbergh – all about natural. So there is certainly a mix of all of these great teachers in terms of style. I use a lot of color but with a more classic light than David for example which comes possibly more from working with Patrick or also Albert Watson. And lately, I started using more and more available light like Peter.

Secondly, I can’t say I learned one lesson from each one. It is how they use light, conceptualise their shoots, work with the model or deal with clients. It is a little bit of everything and often you only realise bit by bit that you learned that from them. You fill your toolkit while being there and use it later unconsciously.

Production Paradise: What makes hair & beauty photography interesting? How do you catch the attention of a viewer?

Dirk Bader: Hair and beauty require all the things I mentioned above. Lighting, composing and basically looking to get a great image. Also, it is challenging because once you are very close up every eyelash or every hair streak becomes a defining element of that picture. You have to be very, very precise to get what you are looking for. While doing that, you can’t let it turn into a still life picture, or it becomes dead in a way. Therefore I always try to get emotions and/or movement into the picture, which is why I never use a tripod, for example. That way you can move and interact better with the models.

Production Paradise: What kind of message are you trying to transmit while taking hair & beauty photos?

Dirk Bader: ”Message” is a big word in that context. I try to create interesting images which attract the viewers’ attention and hopefully keep it for a few seconds before they move their eyes away. If it is an editorial, the images should convey the idea of the story you are trying to tell, whatever that might be. If it is an advertisement, it has to transport the mood or information the client wants to send to its customers. In that sense, I try to transport a mood or a story, rather than a message.

Production Paradise: Many people claim that beauty photos have too much retouching and they look unreal. How would you comment this and how are you trying to balance the natural image of a model and the necessary retouching in the post production process for big editorial campaigns?

Dirk Bader: That is certainly true. I have to admit looking back a lot of my images have also more retouching than I would deem necessary today, but first of all what one finds ”unnatural” changes over time and also from market to market. Having started in the US, I had a more retouched look than they were used to in Europe. But even Paris, London or Germany have different opinions when you show your book. These days, I only try to remove blemishes and maybe slightly address the skin. Although there is also a difference if it is for an editorial or an advertising client.

Production Paradise: Where do you get your inspiration from on a daily basis?

Dirk Bader: That could be anything really. Of course movies, fashion, theater or an exhibition. In this case it is something someone already created. Quite often it is just sunlight breaking in a glass of water on a window, for example – especially for beauty.

Production Paradise: What is your biggest dream when it comes to your work? Maybe it already came true?

Dirk Bader: A dream I always had when I started out was to one day shoot my first Vogue cover. That one is done. Now it is shooting the next one 🙂 Or having an art show in a gallery, which I had last year at the Leica Gallery Salzburg. But speaking of dreams or big accomplishments.. there are (hopefully) many milestones in someone’s career but I think it is important to not stop dreaming once you reached one, but always have another goal to go for.

Production Paradise: Would you recommend our platform to other professional photographers as a useful tool for their promotion? Why?

Dirk Bader: Yes of course. It is my number one tool when it comes to researching rental places or studios in cities I have not worked in, and my agency is very happy with the feedback they are getting through your platform. So it is working!

We would like to thank Dirk for taking the time to do this interview with us! If you want to know more about his work, check out his Member page or website.


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