Commercial Photographer Zuzia Zawada
Zuzia Zawada is a fashion, beauty and commercial photographer based in London, UK. Today we bring you her interview about her career. She discover her passion for fashion photography when she moved to London.
How is fashion in your country?
I originally come from Poland, back there, when I was younger, I did not hear about fashion much. Only when I moved to the UK and discovered my passion for fashion photography I have started learning about the industry. London is an incredible place and the right place to be when it comes to fashion. It is so multicultural, with incredible creative such as fashion designers, make-up artists, and hair stylists, nail technicians and more. We have the main Fashion Week twice a year and Men’s fashion weeks. We also have many fantastic off schedule events such as Fashion Scout, discovering emerging great talents.
How would you define beauty?
That is a very interesting question. I remember being fascinated by defining beauty when I was little and my observations on how others perceive beauty in a different way. For me, beauty is something unique, something original and captivating. It can be unusual colours, it can be a moment in time. When it comes to models, it is hard to describe, but I can see it straight away. Depending on a brief, it can be something to do with quirky features about the girl such as crossed eyes or big ears. Or it can be hair vulnerability or strong empowering eyes.
Were you educated in photography, or are yourself taught photographer?
I do not like to say I am self-taught as everyone learns from somewhere. I am a Fine Art graduate so I think this has helped me in terms of understanding colours and composition. I started experimenting with pinhole cameras and film when I was a teenager.
Only about four years ago I started an evening DSLR course for beginners. My teacher was really passionate and from then on I started searching for information on fashion photography online. I have learnt from ‘Creative Live’ website, then started ‘Mastered’- an online photography course in London and it gave me many opportunities and fantastic networking.
What camera do you use most of the time?
I’ve done my research for months before buying my equipment and I must say I am very pleased with my decision. It was Canon 6D for so-called ‘enthusiasts’, half the price of renowned Mark III but having very similar features. I would say the only downside is that it does not have a dual card slot for a piece of mind especially when it comes to big commercial jobs. My ‘go-to’ lens for fashion is Canon 24-70mm and beauty Sigma 105mm. I love mixing fashion and portrait/beauty for the editorials.
Which photo are you currently most proud of as a photographer?
I always go through a love/hate relationship with my photos but I try to explain myself and understand that this is a creative process and I want more from every next shoot. I would say, my favorite photos are the latest, still unpublished ones. The one photo I still very much remember the model Opor wearing a
Sequin Hellavagirl dress taken in a ‘Peacock room’ I took about two years ago. I think photos with great emotions excite me, the ones showing a lot of energy, either in facial expressions or body movement.
Comparing where you are now with where you are when you first started, what could you have done differently to get to where you are sooner?
I’m not sure if there’s anything I could do earlier. I think that the beauty of this passion is my journey. I have no regrets; I don’t think that I’m losing any time either. The fashion industry was and will be there for years to come so there is no rush in discovering it at my own pace.
You’ve clearly worked with a wide range of models, what tips can you recommend to people looking to expand their portfolio? Tips for models?
I would say: Aim high, contact serious agencies to see if they are willing to take you onboard and go from there. They have slots when you can meet them, show them your polaroids (simple, no make-up full-length shots). Agencies are great as they already have a broad range of contacts with talented Photographers who can discover you and build a strong book quickly. The most important is to be prepared for constructive criticism and certainly, do not worry if they say no (‘No’ can be for various reasons- them having a similar type of looks on books and so on.). They all have different requirements.
Describe a typical shoot.
It is important to prepare well and do your research first before each shoot. Try and get a pull letter if possible for the stylist to request the clothing for the shoot.
Choosing the right team is crucial. Every single element is important and there is no room for mistakes. Once the team and model are chosen, we discuss ideas and develop mood boards, each of the team members usually gathers more suggestions, mood boards, give their expertise and comes up with more ideas based on the initial story given usually by myself (however any Creative can approach me with the idea). The typical shoot is a full day production with one or two models, we start off with the first look: Hair, Makeup and Nails being done, whilst I prepare the set and do lighting test shots with my Assistant. We usually shoot between 6-8 clothing looks with 2,3 makeup, hair and nail look changes.
How much time do you spend taking photos, versus retouching photos?
I sometimes laugh that 95% of my work is emails, organizing and choosing the images and 5% of it is actual shooting. For Fashion, I outsource my images and collaborate with fantastic Retouchers whom I trust, yet still, a lot of my daily tasks are to do with inquiries, research, meetings and preparing for next shoots.
The favorite accessory as a photographer?
Perhaps a reflector? It acts almost like a second light, fills in the shadows and gives a fabulous glow.
Who would you like to work with most?
I would love to photograph Sam Smith, as I love his music, he seems like such a passionate and vulnerable human being, a true Artist. In terms of the Photographer, I would like to assist Nick Knight, I would love to learn from him. His work has inspired me a lot, his imagery is out of this world, which I truly admire.
Favorite photography book?
I don’t think I have one favorite. I have books at home, such as Best of Vogue, Nick Knight’s collections, books on lighting or Fashion Photography. However, I do not have one particular I come back to. I feel nowadays we are fed with thousands of images every day, together with fantastic interviews and tutorials.
For more information about photographer Zuzia, please visit: Zuzia Zawada