Interview with Ruud de Korte

Image copyright Ruud de Korte
Portrait of Ruud de Korte

Ruud de Korte is a dutch portrait photographer. He attended Steampunk Doncaster last year and will also be in attendance this year June 21st and 22nd. I managed to interrupt his very busy schedule to ask him a few questions about his photography, steampunk and how leaving the lens cap on once has helped with his work.

Could you give a brief description of your background in photography and steampunk?
I still remember the lessons of my father on photography when he gave me a real working plastic toy camera. My education was the school of graphic arts where I mastered the optics lessons of lenses from the most engaged teacher I ever had. My first analog camera was an Olympus OM10 which I bought from my first earned money. My first encounter with digital imaging was when I worked at a company specialized in colour reproduction and when Photoshop fitted on a floppy disc. My first experimental photography back dates to 1983. I was never introduced into steampunk. It just “happened” to me when I discovered it in 2010. Everything felled in place then. It was a perfect fit, combining old and new elements in retro futurism.

When did you start shooting steampunk as you recognise it today?
That was the second Fantasy festival I attended, CastleFest in August 2010. The biggest compliment I received was somebody telling me: “You shoot as how I imagine steampunk when I read steampunk novels.”

It started there, with this photo:

Image copyright Ruud de Korte, used with permission
This image was the first “steampunk” picture that Ruud took

Do you think that you have to change your style when shooting a normal portrait compared to a steampunk portrait?
The question sounds like if there’s a recipe for creating steampunk images, well….. There isn’t. I nearly make a difference when shooting “normal” portraits. I’m a photographer, an image artist. I don’t define styles, I can’t define steampunk, I just shoot how I feel it should be and before I press the shutter, I made the image already in my head. The trick is to add something to the steampunk outfit’s atmosphere. Creating these extra’s is a process which I will explain briefly at my workshops in Doncaster, you can see me do it. It’s not a trick or a gimmick.

What is your preferred equipment (camera, lens, lights, software etc)?
I use a Nikon D300s body and my preferred lens depends on the location and the kind of shoot. But in general I prefer my Nikor AF-S f3/f5.6 18-200 zoom for festivals and a Nikkor 50mm f 1.4 when the model has plenty of time in a planned shoot. I love that glass. About 80 ~ 90%  of my images are done in Adobe’s Lightroom and to spice it up I use several plugins form Topaz Labs and some other plug ins. The big surprise might be that you don’t read the word Photoshop. I don’t use it. Photoshop is beautiful software but it takes out the creativity given in by intuition when I’m processing my images. The RAW converter Graphic User Interface is horrible of Photoshop compared to Lightroom. If you are a photographer, use Lightroom and stick to it. Read the manual and you become a Pro in this beautiful piece of software, build your own presets to get you up and running. There, I said it. J …but of course I do have Photoshop. When you see text in my images, that’s where Photoshop comes in. The font handling is superb.

Speed lights? On location I use my Nikon SB900. Whenever possible I love working with my favorite makeup artist, she does a wonderful job.

Do you prefer shooting studio or location?
I prefer on location. In the years I build up a pretty database of possible locations to work out with my planned shoots. But I also love all of the tech aspects of a studio shoot. But outside on location… That’s the thing for me. Improvise on location is a creative process.

How was Steampunk Doncaster last year?
I was so pleasantly surprised to see that there’s a difference between Dutch and British steampunk outfits. As like Italian to German Steampunk outfits. Everybody goes for it, from being a writer to build up an act for controlling your steampunk weaponry. The festival had a good spirit and the balance between visitors and steampunks was perfect. The organizers are true believers and did so much to make this to a success. If you can have a next edition including an evening program I can be proud that I became part of Steampunk Doncaster. The reactions were good on my workshops and they were filled with enthusiastic photographers. One of the gems was a father with his daughter, she was in doubt which school to choose and got convinced that a school of graphic arts was the right choice for her.

Lizzy Thornbrooke
Image copyright by Ruud de Korte

Do you have any exclusive tips for budding steampunk photographers reading this article?
Know your equipment. Master every button and its function. Don’t watch too much tutorials on YouTube. Because a good tutorial on YouTube is like a copy what somebody else already worked out. Be original.

What is the most bizarre thing to happen to you in a shoot?
The most bizarre is one that really happened, I left my lens cap on my lens while starting shooting. Incredibly stupid. And nowadays I often use it as an ice breaker to release the tension between the model and me. Bizarre went useful.

You can view Ruud’s work on his website here: Ruud de Korte website


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