The Netherlands may not be the first geographical location which comes to mind when you’re thinking about fashion photography. You also might not think a person shooting for only three years, and without formal training of any kind, would be a highly competent fashion, portrait, and commercial photographer.
Marije Weterings will make you rethink both of those assumptions. Fluent in Dutch, French, German, and English, Weterings is a photographic autodidact. “I was in college for a bachelor in business intelligence—getting information out of computer systems,” she says. “I worked in I.T. for a couple of years, and then I got a — not a burnout but a bore out — I was bored in my work.” Borrowing a camera and shooting photos superior to the other people she was shooting with was the wake-up call she needed. She soon got a camera of her own, and began a new career.
Drawn to portraiture from the start, Weterings feels it was only natural she wanted to take photos of people. “I just asked a girl if I could take pictures of her and she loved the pictures and that’s what got everything started,” she says. “She was not even a model. She was just a girl next door.”
Whether it’s the girl next door or a professional model, Weterings sees the big picture, in its entirety. By selecting not only her models and locations, she also styles both wardrobe and gives her makeup artists direction. “Most of the time I have a mood board and a vision,” she says. “I try to combine everything so the styling and the makeup all matches with each other.” In this way, Weterings’ portraits are largely centered and unified by a strong color palette. Standout colors are rarely garish, and only call attention to themselves when they need to make a dramatic statement. Her portraits are essentially modern, beautifully coalesced paintings. Weterings just happens to use a digital camera instead of a brush and canvas.
Some of Weterings’ models are beauty pageant contestants. Earlier this year she was in Berlin for Fashion Week where she shot Miss Universe Germany, Valerie Bystritskala. She’s also recently worked with Miss Universe Netherlands, Kelly Weekers. “I consider myself a glamour photographer for the pageants. They need glamour photography,” Weterings explains. She cites Richard Avedon and Helmut Newton as photographers influencing her. Denise Boomkens, a Dutch model turned photographer, and Ebo Fraterman have also inspired her work.
One of the most remarkable things about Weterings is her path to professional success which started that first day she took some portraits with a borrowed camera. She has never assisted a more-established photographer. She didn’t go back to college for another degree. When asked if she got her photographic knowledge via books, her answer is quick and unfailing. “No, Google,” she says.
Weterings purchased a Canon EOS 5D Mark II and Elinchrom lighting gear. With the help of Google searches and publicly-available resources on the Internet, she taught herself a completely new art and profession.
A Sekonic L-758DR is what Weterings uses to achieve some of her more interesting shots. “I want to show emotions and feelings. The problem with one of my techniques is I overexpose, so I shoot the Elinchrom at full power—400 watt-seconds.” This particular technique involves her shooting at f/16. An example is the woman in the red dress below. Taken at about 3:15 in the afternoon, she achieves a completely unexpected noir effect. “It’s all about lighting, and you can’t do that without the light meter,” she adds.
Typically shooting in the studio at 300 watt-seconds at f/8, Weterings also uses her meter to achieve perfect exposures in shots for fashion clients. She typically balances a combination of natural light and flash. “I use daylight for the complete lighting – backlit for the hair and a light on the face with two soft screens for the beauty of the face to get a good skin tone.”
Keen on standing out from other Dutch photographers, Weterings is very conscious of her lighting and is interested in shooting around the world. “I have more and more clients of what we call the famous Dutch people,” she says of the state of her career. “I like doing those nice portraits, but I want to be different. I want to think more of a Paris or Milan or New York-kind of fashion photography. I prefer to do more fashion model photography and I would love to work for the bigger magazines.”
Weterings feels certain qualities of her shooting are what makes her stand out from other shooters. Her lighting is the primary value which sets her apart, she feels. “I think I shoot in a feminine way,” she says. “My lighting is not bounded by rules. When I do a photo shoot, I try to explore and think about the lighting on the spot, at the moment. I make a test photo. If I don’t like it, I just adjust it. If it feels good, I continue; if it doesn’t feel good, I adjust the lighting and then start all over again until I have the result I want.”
Experimentation is critical to opening new artistic avenues and technical possibilities, Weterings feels. “Nowadays people are afraid to test or be spontaneous,” she says. “When I give a workshop, I try to inspire people to go practice on themselves—to take their camera, go out, and practice. I tell them, “Go out one day and shoot everything on aperture 2.8 and at night you can see what you’ve done. The next day you’re going to shoot everything at aperture 18 and look what’s different. You have to set yourself with standards or with exercises to teach yourself. That’s how I learned.”
At 32 years old and only shooting for the past three years, there is much to be learned from a successful autodidact like Weterings. With a strong emphasis on experimentation and research, she has changed her life and taught herself a new art. Her professional career change is a testament to self-motivation. Weterings has also been using the 5D Mark II’s video capability by shooting a lot of behind-the-scenes footage at photo shoots. These can be found on her blog. One can only wonder if this means she will reinvent herself yet again and move into filmmaking. It makes sense. Every girl next door wants to be in films, and Weterings will certainly capture her beautifully.