Rafal is a Polish underwater fashion and commercial advertising photographer, currently based in Dubai. His work has been featured by various newspapers, monthly magazines, advertising campaigns and editorials and he is currently a brand ambassador for Ikelite underwater camera housings.
Q&A With Rafal Makiela – Underwater Fashion Photographer
DIYP: What is your specialty? What do you love to photograph?
My specialty is underwater fashion photography and commercial photography.
I love underwater world and I always describe it this way:
The underwater world is something mysterious and magical. Everything is different, there is no defined end to the bottom or top. Gravity law almost does not apply, the light propagates differently, sometimes completely unpredictable. Here, almost everything you dream is possible. Each vision and the idea is feasible.
DIYP: How long has it been since you first started taking photography seriously – what has that progression been like?
My interest with photography begun with a birth of my daughter Maksymilianna over 13 years ago, I felt an urge to capture every day of her life. For a long time it was purely a hobby, but at some point it turned into a passion and after some big changes in my life, turned into my way of making a living. It’s hard to tell when it happened exactly, but at some point it have became a huge part of my life. At the moment I am working together with my wife Krysia, she is a very special person to me, she takes care of preparing and supervising the shoots, she is also a great retoucher and photographer herself. She supports me and inspires, she makes my work special.
DIYP: Are there any particular images you’ve captured that stand out as being especially meaningful or satisfying for you?
Its hard to choose one work, all of them have special meaning to me, every pictures has a part of me and is important, but if I have to choose, one of my favorite pictures is the one I took at the beginning with my underwater photography journey. It was taken somehow accidentally, as the model was ascending to take a few breaths. It is disturbing in some way and carries a lot of emotions, that’s why I like it so much.
DIYP: What challenges do you face capturing the shots you want to capture?
Being underwater is not so natural, it’s totally different environment and I face more challenges than I do on the surface for sure. There are many factors that can make it harder or even impossible to proceed with the shoot. One of the most important ones is the water clarity, I always try to check this issue before the shoot. Another thing is that for a fashion shoot you need a model and its not easy to pose underwater at all. There are several things one needs to remember in order to make it look nice like keeping the eyes open, not holding the air in their mouth (which can result in a “hamster” look ;)), being able to stay underwater for quite some time, as some people panic and stay underwater only for a few seconds which is not sufficient for me to take a good picture. For a shoot you usually need some outfits too- not always you can be certain how the fabrics will behave and look until you actually shoot them so its good to always keep some options.
DIYP: What motivates you to put in the effort to overcome those challenges?
The results I get from every shoot are worth all of the effort to prepare and do the photoshoot. Pictures are the best reward :)
DIYP: What gear do you use? Why?
Currently I am using Canon gear, 5DMkII, 5DMkIII, 5Ds Canon and Canon dedicated Sigma lenses. It covers my needs and gives me a possibility to create my vision. For underwater shoots i am using Canon dedicated Ikelite housing with Ikelite underwater lights. I am a brand ambassador for Ikelite which gives me more possibilities to grow.
DIYP: Is there a market for your work? How do you make money?
Underwater fashion photography is relatively small niche, however due to the fact that it is very spectacular it quite stands out from other types of photography. This makes my work attractive for many clients. We are doing a few commercial underwater shoots a year which is I think quite a big success. We are also doing many shots for private clients, who wants to have something different in their album to keep as a memory :). We are also selling ready pictures as a collectible prints, but also for adverts or calendars. We are also shooting traditional fashion, commercial and lookbooks. All of this combined together makes it possible to make a decent living.
DIYP: How do you promote yourself and your work?
Main channel of promotion nowadays is internet, which gives us possibility to reach thousands of people in a very short time. I always try to publish my works regularly on many social media pages such us Instagram, Facebook, Google+, however I have noticed decreased interest on Facebook unless I pay to promote the posts. I also publish my works on photography websites like 500px, Camerapixo, 1x, Flickr. I know that a very good way to promote yourself is to have a blog and sharing your knowledge, mine is due to start very soon so stay tuned :) Another good way to promote is giving interviews (thank you for the opportunity :) ) and publications in press.
DIYP: What are your goals for your photography career in the next year, 5 years, long term?
I would like to grow in the photography, I am now planning an underwater shoot that will be unlike any of my previous ones, hope to get all of the stuff I need to proceed with it very soon so I can share my vision :) Also I am into retouching and composites so I hope to grow in that field also.
DIYP: Do you have any tips or advice for photographers who love your work and would like to photograph something similar?
The main thing for me is the safety of models and photographer. I advise it to everyone who wants to try this very difficult field of photography. It is easy to forget yourself during session and since water is not our natural environment it is easy to hurt yourself even in the pool. Extreme cases can even lead to death. It is always is a good idea to have someone with you who will secure you in the water and on shore.
The second important issue is to obtain permission from the owner or manager of the pool to execute the photo session. Swimming pools are a public place, and if you can not afford to rent a track or the swimming pool for yourself, you should get the permission to reduce the risk of trouble. Planning ahead and good preparation of what exactly you want to do in the water is also very important. On the interesting end result, a very significant influence is the choice of outfit for the model, long dresses with lightweight materials give you amazing results. Sometimes, extra long piece of simple textile included, even intensifies this effect.
Also keep in mind that the person who will be posing should be able to swim very well and feel comfortable underwater, it will help your session tremendously. Every session will help you to acquire experience before the next big project. And the best lesson is to practice.
Find Out More
To find out more about Rafal and to see more of his work, you can view his website here: Makiela.com
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