Interview with Karl Wiedenhofer

APA: Hi, please introduce yourself.

Karl: Hi, my name is Karl Wiedenhofer, I am barely 19 and I come from Graz, which is in southeastern Austria (not Australia  ).

I came to photography because of my father, a long-time hobby photographer, who gave me his old camera as a birthday present some years ago. I soon got into photography and in 2013 at the Vienna Autoshow, I took photos of the cars, actually just for fun and for my personal archive. I also published them on my facebook page, and suddenly, my page got a lot of attention and I didn’t know where this was coming from.

Soon I noticed, that Audi of Germany had shared some of them on their Facebook page with over a million fans. I was absolutely stunned of course, and since I have always had a big passion for cars, I got into automotive photography. I worked a lot with the Austrian board “Audi4Ever” and shot their members cars. In August 2013, Audi of Austria approached me and we started working together for some awesome projects – which include cars like the all new Audi TT, RS7 Sportback, RS6 Avant and some special models of the A4 Avant. I have also been shooting at the “Woertherseetreffen 2014″ in Reifnitz for the car magazine “Wheels” from Dubai and for different car dealerships around my region. In fall 2014, I shot “Bobby”, the autonomously driving Audi RS7 Sportback in Ascari with Audi Deutschland, too.

APA: How did you get started in photography? When did you realize that photography would be your job?

Karl: As I mentioned before, I came into photography because of my father and because he gave me an old camera as a present. I can’t really figure out when I “realized” that this would be my job since I am about to start my studies of mechanical engineering – I would rather say, that photography is something that quite came along by accident and developed more and more as time passed.

APA: You are specialized in automotive photography, what is the knowledge that a photographer of this kind must possess?

Karl: I would say that – no matter in which aspect of photography – it is very important to have good knowledge about how to light objects (or persons) and, e.g. when shooting outdoor, to put them in the right place at the right time or to get the shot from the right angle. What comes next, especially in automotive photography I think, is the effort to tell a story with a photo or a whole set which attracts the viewer and allows him to immerse into the scene. This, I would say, is one of the hardest challenges an automotive photographer will face.

Another important point is advanced knowledge in postproduction/retouching, especially if one works as a freelancer with smaller customers who won’t afford a production with an even more professional agency and postproduction company. On the other hand, if one works for an agency, it is important to take care of the right light setting and perspective etc. in order not to make the retoucher’s job harder.

There is one last point concerning this I would like to mention, I think that it is very important to be able to associate with your shooting object. Someone who is specialized in shooting people should get along well with them and be an open, friendly minded person. Someone who shoots cars, products or generally objects, should have quite some passion for this.

APA: Tell us the importance of post-production in automotive photography. Please share your basic workflow with us.

Karl: I think that the postproduction is one of the most important parts of professional automotive photography. No matter if a picture is processed with a lot of effort and difficult tools/techniques or just a few simple steps, it’s the postproduction which gives a photo the final touch and – as mentioned before – makes the story told the artist wants to tell with his photo. May it be a complete composite picture or just cleaning of the car and its surroundings, this depends on what the photographer/retoucher wants to achieve. I personally prefer photos with kind of a “wow-effect” but also sometimes keep my retouching quite basic and “natural” – the ideal goal of course is, to achieve perfect, clean looks, with this wow-effect but still natural. The best example for this is Frederic Schlosser’s work, I would say.

My postproduction workflow basically looks like this:

I import the photos in Lightroom and pre-select those I want to use for the respective picture. Mostly, I have the finished photo in my head already during the shoot, but sometimes, I just need to try things out, or combine both – my idea and some testing. Then I open the RAW files in Photoshop and first do the “content” part – I mean things like a new background, layers where I lighted the cars on different spots with a flash, retouching of dirt, etc.. Then I do the “look”-work, this includes colorgrading, curves, contrast, saturation and also some smaller adjustments like flares, fog and other kinds of artificial light. After this comes another round of retouching to make everything more homogeneous and natural. Working like this on a photo can take up to a few hours.

APA: Who inspires you in automotive photography, and why?

Karl: There are some photographers which I especially admire for their natural, but just flashing photos. This includes:

  • Daniel Böswald (Snabshod Photography) – who has really tought me a lot concerning automotive photography
  • Frederic Schlosser
  • Marcus Philipp Sauer
  • Markus Wendler
  • Webb Bland
  • Michael Lee (MIGS Photo + CGI)

APA: What equipment do you use now? How much does equipment matter in automotive photography?

Karl: Currently, I use the Canon EOS 5D Mark III and Mark II along with different lenses of which I prefer the Canon EF 24-70 f/2.8 L II. Good equipment especially affects the quality of ones productions and the possibilities one has during a shoot. The most important part although, happens in the brain of the photographer, and there’s no “must-be-perfect-law” whereas for example passport photos do not need any creativity but just technically perfect work.

APA: Could you please share some important automotive photography tips that a beginner should try?

Karl: It’s not wrong to break rules. Try shooting from a completely unusual perspective (without distorting the car if possible…) or to light just parts of a car, to make a photo look completely different and thus attracting attention.

APA: How do you decide on the final image? Does it depend on the client you are working with or is it entirely upto you?

Karl: Both is possible. There are clients who have special requirements, for example to showcase particular features or parts of a car, in a special environment or with a special look to integrate it in a flyer, website etc. – and there are the clients who entirely leave it up to the photographer / producer to make the shooting object look gorgeous.

APA: Apart from the car photography what genre attracts you the most?

Karl: I also really like conceptual photography, which is a genre which I worked with a lot before I came into automotive photography – it basically deals with surreal images.

APA: Thank you for giving us this interview. What is your best advice to any aspiring automotive photographer?

Karl: I also thank you for interviewing me.

My advice is to try and keep trying. Almost my entire knowledge is self-tought and I acquired it via producing a lot of experimental and not so good looking stuff.

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