ROBERTO DE MICHELI
He was born and raised in Northern Italy. He has studied and had his first jobs in Milan. Then, in 2002, he moved to the UK (Manchester first, London soon after) with his work. Then again, they (now with a wife and a little daughter in tow) moved to NY… twice! He’s been around the world a bit.
His day-to-day job is in Information Technology.
Fashion photography is his hobby, but he is very passionate about it and strives to do it at a professional level, as much as he can.
Beyond that, he spends most of his spare time with his 6yo daughter.
Moevir Magazine April Issue 2020 featured edition
[Forme Fluide (Fluid Shapes)]
Photographer: Roberto De Micheli @rdmfashionphoto
Fashion Designer: Matthieu M Fashion @matthieu_m_fashion
Retoucher: Aaron Ford @aaron_ford_retouch
Makeup Artist/Hair Stylist: disco @makeupbydisco
Model: Elhem Ben Aicha @iam_elhem
Model: Marissa Zandonella @marissazando
Tell us something about you. Maybe your life, profession, habit, dream.
I was born and raised in Northern Italy. I’ve studied and had my first jobs in Milan. Then, in 2002, I moved to the UK (Manchester first, London soon after) with my work. Then again, we (now with a wife and a little daughter in tow) moved to NY… twice! I’ve been around the world a bit.
My day-to-day job is in Information Technology. Fashion photography is my hobby, but I am very passionate about it and strive to do it at a professional level, as much as I can.
Beyond that, I spend most of my spare time with my 6yo daughter.
What makes you choose this profession?
First of all, it is not a career per se. Meaning that I have a 9-to-5 job that pays for the bills and the toys.
Having said so, I put all my passion into fashion photography and I behave as professionally as I can in every photography-related endeavor.
I started randomly many years ago by taking travel snapshots with a compact digital camera. A mix of positive feedback and love for electronic gear turned this activity into a passion, that in a short time, took over all my interest and energies, and took no prisoners where my other hobbies are (were) concerned.
I did many types of photography and then specialized in macro and wildlife. Fell in love with big cats till a fateful day when a friend invited me for a random shoot with models. My photos turned out quite well (at the time, based on my tastes then) and my friend never invited me again 🙂 But regardless, from then onward, I’ve focused on fashion editorial almost completely, apart from taking photos to follow the growth of my beautiful daughter.
Could you share how do you expand your vision of art, fashion?
I have a little rule of my own. I need to do something different every shoot. Be it use a new piece of equipment, use a new technique, a new model, a new type of style, a new location… something gotta be new. This may sound trivial. But I believe that one of the things that I love about photography is the fact that it can be infinitely challenging and it can keep your interest alive indefinitely… if you let it.
Is art, fashion important in your life? Why?
Fashion photography is my creative outlet and I love that it is diametrically opposite that what I do in my professional job. I have the luxury of doing it for fun, so I can be fussy and take on only the projects that stimulate me: I need to be interested in the idea, and I need to believe that the team (myself included), has what it takes to translate the idea into images.
When I shoot, I take charge of lighting, photography and directing the models. Although, I often have limited say over styling, I can still see my hand in all my photos.
Do you have any problem on the way of your profession? How did you solve it?
Time. I do not have enough time. So far, my biggest problem is not having enough time to do all the shooting and networking required to progress as fast as I would like. I could shoot bigger, better things if I had more time, but between work and family commitments, I have precious little time left.
I cannot change that easily, if at all. The only thing I focus on, the only thing I can do, is to strive to take better and better images so that my portfolio improves and I can access better and better talent. A shoot that results in images that are not good enough to add to my portfolio is pretty much equivalent to not doing the shoot at all to me: it is wasted time (unless of course there are some significant network opportunities).
How do you think about your work? Is it what you like, or simply saying a dream?
It is what I love and dream of. As stated, it is not my profession but it is my passion. I think that everyone should have a passion in their lives and I am very happy to have found mine.
From time to time I toy with the notion of trying my luck with photography as a profession, but between my responsibilities as husband and father and the freedom that it being a hobby allows, I really think that I am in a good place right now.
What will be the suggestions to new photographers?
I have a few…for aspiring fashion photographers.
Be passionate and keep at it – it is difficult, at least at the beginning, to compare your initial works with the output of established photographers. There are reasons for that but most can be overcome if you really want it.
Invest in your passion – I do not mean go and buy expensive cameras and lenses even before you start. By all means start small, most modern equipment will do at the beginning. What I mean is that, at the beginning it is fine to experiment with friends or random people, but if you get ambitious, you will soon discover that better models, talent, styling, location, etc. invariably, all else being equal, lead to better results. The catch being that, until you are established, better talent may require compensation to work with you.
There’s always something new to learn – I thought I knew about photography already… but when I started fashion photography, I quickly realized that there were a number of skills I needed to develop. Controlled lightning is key of course, but you need as well to learn how to direct models, how to communicate with your team, how to plan and how to network.
Team – fashion photography is a team effort and while your first shoot may be just you and the model, once things get more sophisticated you will need a team. Be nice to them and they will be nice to you.
Network – you need to work with the right people and therefore you need to find them and get in touch with them. And you need a portfolio to show them which is good enough to convince them to work with you. It is a slow process and it takes time to build up and nowadays social media is key. Well unless you’re filthy rich of course…
Purity (lack of) – I started with thinking: I am a photographer and taking photos is what I like to do. Well, fast forward a lot of shoots, now if I actually take photos for 1/4th of the time of a shoot, then I consider myself lucky. And that’s on the day of the shoot, without taking into account the organizing before and the retouching after. Do not get too hung up on only taking photos. Great photos come out of a lot of preparation which has nothing to do with actually clicking your camera’s shutter button.
Be ready to stretch yourself and to take risks - I am not talking about putting yourself in danger… (although I kind of have done that in a couple of occasions!) I am talking about being willing to take on different challenges, even when you do not feel ready for it. I have “faked it” a few times :) The old “throw yourself in the deep and see if you can swim” always works to push you higher and higher. At least for me, even if it is uncomfortable.
What is your favorite camera? Why?
I started with a Canon full frame DSLR and a set of fast Canon prime lenses. I have recently bought a second-hand medium format Hasselblad with a Phase One digital back and some HC lenses. I use this for fashion and my Canon for travelling and kid photography. I have a lot of stuff 😊 – lately “investing” (more like throwing money down the drain) more into lightning that anything else.
I have no favorites. There are tools that help me in creating my vision and tools that get in the way. The latter tend not to remain in my arsenal for long.
Having said so, I love the output of my old MF clunker, warts and all.
How do you prepare your new shoot?
I start with meeting people… usually stylists / designers. Together we agree on an idea, locations and model selection.
Once a date is agreed, we book the models and the rest of the team, and the studio / location and sometimes rent whatever equipment is needed.
Near to the date clothes and accessories are procured and we make a mood board and a call sheet that are shared with the team.
Then a lot of fingers crossing till the date of the shoot.
On the day, I make a point to get to the place in time, even if usually I am not needed for some time while the model(s) get ready… and pray that all the people involved do indeed arrive (in time being a nice surprise).
I leave the model with make-up / hair (after having agreed with the stylist the look that needs to be achieved). In the meantime, set up lights and backgrounds and props.
The first model gets dressed and accessorized. Second model (if any) gets under make-up / hair. After some light tests I shoot the first model while the second model gets ready, then we are in a pattern: shoot one model while the other changes make-up / hair / style.
At home I select the photos for post processing, agree them with the other organizers of the shoot and send the photos to the retoucher with instructions.
I finally share the final versions with the team and try to get them published… then it is time to plan for the next shoot.
Where your inspiration comes from?
I am inspired mostly by the people I work with. I need to be opportunistic in that I do not often have the luxury of the access to the type of clothing, styling, models, and locations I dream of, so I work with what I have: I force myself to try ideas and angles and I trust in my team that they are going to do their best. I usually have plenty of ideas to try out…my issue is that they are frequently too expensive to realize!
You can find inspiration everywhere. Personally, I like contrast: old and new, black and white, geometry and mess, derelict and elegant, sacred and profane… I like drama, action and movement. I like to “go with the flow” and react to the circumstances.
In terms of the work of other photographers… There are so many I admire! If I had to say 1 name, Tim Walker’s work never ceases to amaze me. He is a genius. Once I stumbled upon his work, it was a revelation. That is the kind of photography I want to do. Elegant and (very) quirky. Imaginative and still technically excellent. Another great I look up to is David LaChapelle.
How often you create new works?
Nowhere near as often as I would love to… I use whatever spare free time is left after work and family are cared for. Possibly once a month if everything goes well (and if I’m not moving to a different country!), but if you take the current situation, the COVID-19 pandemic has already cancelled 2 shoots and who knows when I’ll be able to shoot again? The images of my latest shoot were taken 2 weeks before the lockdown started.
Will you still create new works when you are old?
I am not young anymore already 😊 but I certainly hope so! And hopefully, I will be tackling bigger photography projects and a bit more frequently than I do now.