jonas fellenstein outdoor photographer interview about innovation

Interview with Jonas Fellenstein – to stay relevant, it’s imperative to innovate

Photography is a fast-paced industry, where professionals of all genres persevere through hard-work and constant innovation. Staying up to date with technology, and having an understanding of how the world changes, empowers photographers to adapt quickly and embrace novelty.

Jonas Fellenstein is an outdoor photographer from Dublin, who envisions the future in a daring and intriguing manner. Besides being a strong believer in working hard in order to evolve, he foresees a paradigm change, that will impact the entire photographic community.

"As the flood of similar images taken at well-trodden locations continues to swell, the demand for depth, context, and storytelling in our craft will intensify. People crave understanding the 'why' behind an image – they want the tale it tells, the emotions it stirs, the thoughts it provokes."

Enjoy this conversation and learn how Jonas strengthens his craft one destination at a time.

What drove you to choose the outdoor & landscape niche?

My fascination for the outdoor and landscape niche is deeply rooted in my childhood experiences. I grew up in a quaint, picturesque village in Germany that sat within a biosphere reserve, embraced by miniature mountains and dense forests. My parents were ardent outdoor enthusiasts, and hence, hiking became an integral part of my life from a very young age.

My deep-seated fascination for nature was further fueled by a transformative year spent exploring the Rocky Mountains in Alberta, Canada, and an unforgettable trip to the unspoiled beauty of Iceland. The tranquil stillness of the wild and the thrill of unearthing places that have seen limited human footprint never fail to mesmerize me.

Driven by my relentless curiosity, I continue to seek out undiscovered spots in nature, often necessitating hiking or off-roading to reach these remote locations. The promise of these unique and untouched landscapes, viewed by only a handful of people, stirs my spirit and pushes me to explore beyond the ordinary. It's a path that calls to me, one that I joyfully tread, seeking out nature's hidden gems to capture them through my lens.

Which photo project challenged you the most so far, and in which ways?

Without a doubt, the most challenging yet thrilling photo project I undertook was in Namibia, for a luxury safari camp provider. Working alongside three other photographers, we embarked on a mission to capture the grandeur of three spectacular properties in both their pristine wilderness and the comfort of their luxurious lodgings. The real test lay in striking a delicate balance between wildlife photography and capturing the striking beauty of the lodges in favorable lighting conditions, including nighttime.

One specific area held an allure like no other. Known as the sole location on Earth to host desert elephants and lions, we were tremendously fortunate to witness both. They had just returned to the area after a month-long absence, allowing us to provide our client with an assortment of exclusive and captivating images from our encounters.

Jonas Fellensteing - Wildlife Namibia

Wildlife photography poses its own unique challenges. You can have a highly skilled spotter and tip-offs regarding the animals' whereabouts, yet there can be days when you don't spot a single creature. It all boils down to timing, a dash of good luck, and the readiness to seize the perfect shot when the opportunity arises. This project, with its share of hurdles and victories, remains an unforgettable milestone in my photographic journey.

What, in your opinion, makes a good photo composition?

In my view, creating a striking photo composition is an exercise in artful simplicity, particularly when it comes to landscape photography. The key elements that come together to make this simplicity compelling involve minimalism, clarity, direction, and balance.

I have developed a preference for minimal distractions in my images, gravitating towards clean and serene foregrounds. This level of purity allows the viewer's gaze to be guided effortlessly towards the main subject, providing a clear focus.

As a drone pilot, the perspective from above provides unique opportunities. From this bird's eye view, I can isolate my subjects and design leading lines, which further enhance the direction and concentration within the composition.

Another essential factor is framing. I aim for a balanced and symmetrical image, ensuring it doesn't get overloaded, which brings a sense of unity and cohesiveness to the photograph.

Jonas Fellenstein - Man Surfing
Jonas Fellenstein - Big Mountains

And of course, lighting is critical in composing impactful images. More than just influencing brightness and darkness, it sets the tone, mood, and atmosphere of the scene. Shooting at the right time can shed the perfect light, accentuating the scene from the most beneficial angle and enriching the overall composition. This balance of elements is, in my opinion, the essence of a great photo composition.

How has your photography journey influenced your perspective on the world?

My journey through the lens has certainly influenced my worldview, exposing me to aspects of life I might have otherwise missed.

Photography has acted as a gateway to the world, leading me to locations I could have only dreamt of. Every new landscape or culture I capture reminds me of the vastness of our world, the richness it has to offer, and the endless lessons it holds.

Photography also exemplifies the virtues of patience and perseverance. Waiting for the perfect light or the ideal moment often means visiting the same location multiple times. This process has instilled in me an understanding that while perfection may not always be attainable, significant achievements are invariably the result of diligence and tenacity.

Moreover, my time as a photographer has heightened my sense of presence and appreciation for each passing moment. Each photograph represents a unique instant in time, impossible to replicate. These images are more than just visual records; they hold cherished memories from my travels, encapsulating moments of joy and fostering a sense of connection with creators worldwide.

Jonas Fellenstein - Man in the woods
Jonas Fellenstein - Desert Dunes

In a nutshell, my journey as a photographer has broadened my horizons, enriched my understanding of the world, and fostered global connections, and for these experiences, I am profoundly grateful.

How do Pixieset tools impact the experience you offer?

Pixieset has been a game-changer for my workflow and client collaborations. The Pixieset Galleries, in particular, serve as a robust showcase for the kind of photography I offer, acting as a powerful selling point for potential clients.

Moreover, the minimalist design of the galleries resonates with my own style, creating a seamless alignment with the professional and polished image I aim to project. This visual coherence reinforces my brand identity and ensures a consistent experience for clients.

Beyond being just a presentation tool, Pixieset also opens up opportunities to enhance the value I provide to clients. By allowing me to present additional deliverables beyond the initially agreed upon quantity, Pixieset creates a platform for upselling and offering extra value to clients, ensuring they get the most out of our collaboration.

In essence, Pixieset doesn't just impact the experience I offer; it elevates it, refining my workflow, bolstering my brand, and amplifying the value I deliver to my clients.

When it comes to running a successful photography business, which aspects are the most crucial and why?

In my experience, the cornerstone of any successful photography business lies in the quality of work. Photography, after all, is the product we offer, and ensuring that the work is of high quality, visually engaging, and infused with innovative and unique elements is essential for standing out amidst the competition.

But the journey doesn't stop at producing striking images. A significant component of success lies in the art of networking and relationship-building. I can't stress enough how integral this has been in my own journey. The connections forged with clients and other creatives within the industry often open up doors to referrals, repeat business, and collaborative opportunities. Besides, these relationships become a rich source of learning – understanding industry pricing, gleaning insights on trends, and collectively raising the bar of excellence in our field.

Jonas Fellenstein - Architecture reinvented

And speaking of learning, the importance of adapting to technology and embracing continual growth and improvement can't be overstated. The photography landscape, especially when intertwined with social media, is constantly shifting. Staying attuned to these changes and being willing to learn and incorporate the latest tech trends into your business operations is crucial. Often, as a photographer, you find yourself juggling multiple roles – from being a salesperson and marketer to handling accounts. Technologies like Pixieset, among others, have immensely helped streamline my workflow, saving precious time which I can then channel back into my photography.

In essence, maintaining high-quality work, investing in relationships, and continuously learning and adapting are the three pillars that I believe are most critical in running a successful photography business.

What will the outdoor niche look like in the upcoming years?

In the coming years, I foresee a considerable evolution in the outdoor photography niche. Photographers will undoubtedly continue to broaden their horizons, pushing the envelope in terms of what's conceivable. This will entail exploring new, uncharted territories and venturing into remote places in countries that most wouldn't usually consider. It's all about seeking the untouched, the unspoiled, and the wonderfully undiscovered - painting the world's beauty through a unique lens that only a limited few have had the chance to peer through.

Jonas Fellenstein - Woman in white dress
Jonas Fellenstein - Tree in the desert

Furthermore, I believe we'll witness a shift towards more narrative-driven photography. As the flood of similar images taken at well-trodden locations continues to swell, the demand for depth, context, and storytelling in our craft will intensify. People crave understanding the 'why' behind an image – they want the tale it tells, the emotions it stirs, the thoughts it provokes. It's no longer just about the visual spectacle; it's about imbuing a location with a compelling concept, creating a specific atmosphere that breathes life into the image and connects the viewer on a deeper level.

In essence, I envision the future of outdoor photography to be a fascinating blend of geographic exploration and rich storytelling, challenging the status quo and redefining the way we perceive the world through our lenses.

What's one lesson that nature taught you so far?

One significant lesson that nature has imparted on me so far is the power and necessity of adaptability. Nature, in all its grandeur, is in a perpetual state of flux. Light shifts from dawn to dusk, weather varies from calm to stormy, and every environmental aspect can alter dramatically within a moment's notice. As an outdoor photographer, it becomes essential to adjust swiftly to these changes, demonstrating flexibility and readiness to alter plans when needed. It's a game of patience and ingenuity, of capturing fleeting moments while navigating unpredictable elements.

But this lesson extends far beyond the boundaries of nature and photography. In today's fast-paced world, the concept of adaptability rings true in virtually every facet of life.

Jonas Fellenstein - Seals community

The digital age has ushered in an era where technology evolves at an unprecedented pace, influencing viewer preferences and the general zeitgeist. To stay relevant as a photographer—and indeed, in any profession—it's imperative to innovate, continually pushing boundaries and introducing new, unique ideas. We must match nature's adaptability, dynamically evolving with the shifting tides of the landscape, be it literal or metaphorical.

In essence, nature has taught me that adaptability isn't merely a valuable skill; it's a crucial life lesson. As the great Greek philosopher Heraclitus once said, "The only constant in life is change." and indeed, being adaptable in the face of change is not just about survival—it's about thriving in an ever-evolving world.

Jonas' piercing description of the industry's challenges and his belief on the evolution of the world opens up a fascinating conversation that we hope more will tackle. To foster innovation in your own work, you have to be open to adapt to new technologies, get comfortable with exploration and experiments. And while growth looks different for each person, staying open-minded will empower you to seize the opportunity and go through mind-shifting transformations.

Need more inspiration? On our blog, we’ve gathered stories from amazing photographers from all around the world. Hunter Hart shares how shortcomings can be turned into strengths. Jose Villa shares about presentation and client communication, and how they are key for his photography business. Kendall Aubrey highlights that everyone can benefit from the right mentor.

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