Joyfulness series: Me, my Fuji X camera and two people in love

Hello Tom! Could you tell us a little bit about you?
Hey Guys, I’m a photographer based in Ghent, Belgium. Proud dad of two sons Bent & Gust and hubby to the witty & creative As a family we love to travel. The first X camera I picked up was the X100, love at first sight but we didn’t get along… could be anyone’s ex girlfriend right!? 🙂 With the XPRO I started to incorporate Fuji X camera’s in my professional work but it wasn’t until the the X-T1 that I switched to a Fujifilm only gear line-up.

How did you start as a photographer? Was it a long time goal, or it just happened by the work of destiny?
I was bitten by the photography bug in 2007 when I bought my first dSLR because I wanted better pictures on holiday… I started shooting everything & everyone around the house. In 2008 a couple of friends asked me shoot their wedding and before I realised what happened I had 15 weddings in the pipeline. Only then I realized that is was what I wanted to do!

In parallel to your commercial work, like weddings and family photoshoots, you have also a very interesting personal project going on, the #joyfulness. How did it all start? Where did the idea came from?
A couple of years ago I bought the book “Romance”, by Chris Craymer, back then it was an inspiration to me to make some more “out of the box” thinking images to my engagement shoots but the idea for a #joyfulness got stuck in my head ever since. Today those intimate couple shoots seem to booming a bit. I see them as a logical evolution (not replacement) for my engagement shoots for couples that really want personal images.

With the #joyfulness series I’m trying to get deeper into the personal space of two people in love. By using a smaller and more intimate environment I hope to capture spontaneous, pure and raw moments of intimacy. An exercise to capture two strangers in love and make the pictures look personal and real. No studio setups, it’s just me with my camera.
From a technical aspect, it’s about learning to make people feel more comfortable… (they are not professional models), the things I learn I can apply to my other wedding work. And it’s an exercise in pulling out the most of a small location and to try and let go of controlling everything. If the house is messy, I’ll work with that. If there isn’t that much natural light, pictures will be moodier. If the emotion is there but the picture isn’t tack sharp, that doesn’t necessarily make it a bad picture.

“I’m always eager to get to know some interesting couples for the project. So don’t be shy, and say hi!

Which techniques do you use to leave the couples comfortable with your presence?
Gin Tonic! (laughs) Really, we started a session with all of us having a gin tonic… The girl mentioned she was more outgoing when she had a drink. so we went with it. I think the most important thing to get them to feel comfortable is that you need to be a social person. I’ll talk a lot before we actually start the session. They have to let me into their personal space so it’s natural that I confide in them to to say some stuff about me too. It helps build a connection.

Have you got any funny episode that you agree to share with us?
To get a reaction I sometimes might say something like “throw her in the back of your neck”, that got interpreted wrongly and … next thing I know she literally crawled on top of him to sit in his neck… turned out to be one of my favourite pictures from that session.

In order to avoid some “intimidation” of the couples, during these photo sessions do you find the X system more suitable than a conventional DSLR setup?
It’s certainly a conversation starter and I’m sure the analog look and feel makes the camera’s (and me) seem less intimidating. Anyway, I’m a single frame shooter, I think, I talk, I twist dials, I compose, I shoot. So you’ll never hear me shooting in burst mode. For these kind of shoots it’s still just me, my camera and the couple in a small room, so there is no hiding anyway! The benefits of a smaller system are bigger for my work as a wedding photographer, they help me blend more as opposed to standing out of the crowd as “the photographer”.

Being a Fuji user since the original X100, what’s your opinion about the evolution to the latest release, the X-Pro2?
In a nutshell. It’s the best one yet!
I love the look & feel. I prefer the range finder design over the X-T1 design. I don’t use the OVF, the range finder design just help me keep eye contact better with the people I’m photographing.
Dual SD card slots are crucial.
The camera feels very responsive & snappy. With the X-T1 I still can’t help but shake that feeling that I’m losing a couple of milliseconds after you press the shutter.
The focus joystick! No more finger cramps from reaching the D-Pad.
Great high ISO & dynamic range. And of course, awesome image quality & picture detail.

Now this is a question we have been asking a lot… If you could ask Fuji to produce the perfect camera, how would it be?
That’s the thing with Fujifilm isn’t it… you are always waiting for the next one… If you see how fast Fuji has evolved in 5 years it’s been a crazy ride so far. They listen to your feedback and want to make the best camera possible, but at the same time it’s frustrating because they evolve so fast and you are always curious about the next one. *waves at the X-T2*
The X-PRO2 is near perfect for my line of work. The megapixels, the FPS… I guess I only miss the tilt screen (I never thought I’d say that 2 years ago!).
My biggest complaint is probably still the battery life (I carry 10 spare batterys on a wedding day), but I’ve learned to live with that.

Thanks for you time Tom!
Thanks Guys, It’s been a pleasure.. Keep up the good work with the Fuji X Passion project. Looks like you are having a great ride so far and the printed magazine looks & feels amazing!