“To me, fashion images can be quite uninteresting if they’re just about clothes,” says Sandra Åberg. “I want to tell a story that reaches out and touches the viewer. What a good photo – even a fashion photo – should do,” she explains, “is make you feel something.”
Fashion, portrait and wedding specialist Sandra has been working in the sphere for 15 years, and was hooked after moving to Milan where she was “inspired and intrigued by the people and the industry – that universe where everyone is creating something.” She developed a distinctively light, airy and romantic style, based on emotional connections and strong storytelling themes, and it’s something her Alpha camera has helped shape, she says.
“What I want to do is give people something to fall in love with,” she continues. “It’s about creating a feeling that they would have wearing these clothes – that they would feel beautiful or free. I want to show a universe they want to be a part of. So much of that is about working well with models and stylists, and I also prefer to shoot in nature as it brings that realness, and sense of freedom and emotion that I want.”
So, if it takes emotion to make the image interesting, how do you get there? For Sandra, it’s about strong visual ideas and communication. “One of the things I love about fashion,” she explains, “is that I can put everything I want into the frame and create this universe exactly as I want it. And when you’re photographing women, you can make beautiful things with shapes and poses, and figures in these clothes. But you also get to control the expression and the mood, and whether the look is soft and dreamy, or strong and powerful. It all comes together to tell the story.”
Working with her models, she starts with “these awful little stick figure drawings, which I’ve been teased for my entire life! But from that baseline I can start explaining what I imagine this girl is feeling, and how I’d like that to come through. And it’s also about interpreting the model’s own skills, so that you can get something that feels right for her. Some are really good at laughing and seem easy going, and others might be more moody or have a vibe – it can all translate into the story.”
Interaction is the key, and it’s something her α7R III helps with enormously, says Sandra. “For the way that I work, simplicity of shooting is vital,” she explains, “because when I’m with a model, I don’t want distractions – I want to be in the moment with her, making that story come alive. I used to spend so much more time looking at the camera, but with features like the α7R III’s EVF, it’s a lot easier to play with the subject rather than mess with settings.”
Shooting with fast lenses like the T* FE 55mm f/1.8 ZA are what Sandra uses to get the soft and bright look she’s known for. Additionally, Sony’s Eye AF mode, and the new Real-time Tracking functions of the α7R IV, are also indispensable features for her style of photography. “Perfect focus is just something else you don’t need to worry about,” she explains. “For instance, in shoots for Vogue and other fashion magazines, it’s annoying when you have a perfect looking image, but then you zoom in and it’s not sharp! Eye AF is so accurate you don’t have that worry. You just lock on and start shooting, so I can use those big apertures and feel safe, and that gives you more freedom to play.”
Superb dynamic range and ISO performance also add up to more beautiful images, she says, allowing her to indulge her instincts and shoot high-key, back-lit subjects as much as possible. “With the sensor’s ability to hold detail,” she explains, “I actually have to be less careful of things disappearing in the shadows. It’s kind of a new way of shooting, for me. And because I shoot very, very light that helps me a lot in editing. Of course, I use reflectors, and sometimes I have fill light, but the simpler the better, as I don’t like complicated setups.”
“These new technologies,” Sandra finishes, “are combining with photographers’ instincts, and increasing how creative we dare to be. I’ve never really been interested in messing about with a camera’s settings. I’m interested in shooting, I’m interested in the subject on the other side of the camera, and I’m interested in pushing myself to make new things. So, for me, the α7R III just works perfectly.”
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