Marcel Lehner / Member Interview

Marcel Lehner is an award-winning master-class portrait, fashion and advertising photographer based in Vienna, Austria. His passion for photography began as a child at the age of 7 when he got his first camera. Marcel started his career as street- and journalism photographer and switched to advertising- and art-photography a couple of years later.

Marcel has taken it upon himself to explore the world through the eyes of a photographer. Over the past years he has completed many different projects that let him become more professional with each photo. It is his ambition to break with conventional views. Marcel is working for various local and international advertising agencies and magazines.

Marcel discovered the importance of people wanting to get emotional touched when viewing a photograph. He is taking pictures in a way so that he doesn’t have to explain things with words. The viewer has to be able to feel the picture. Don McCullin already emphasized this and Marcel is following this tenet in his work.

Marcel’s style of photography is strongly influenced by his ongoing passion for street photography. With an eye for detail he strives to produce creative images of exceptional quality, no matter of the subject. Over the last couple of years Marcel has continuously worked on improving his craft, thriving on setting the bar ever higher and challenging himself to do better with every shoot.

If Marcel is not running one of his different professional photography workshops and retouching courses - face-to-face or online – he likes to travel the world - but never without his camera.


Vienna, Austria

What inspired you to become a photographer?

I was given my first (cheap) camera when I was 7 or 8 and I was instantly hooked. I already shoot hundreds of thousands of pictures during my life. Mostly just for fun and on holidays. A couple of years ago I started a travel blog ( where I also post my travel pictures. But still this blog is only a hobby.

After I got my first camera when I was a child, it took another 25 years before photography became a serious part in my life. You need to know, that actually I am an educated chef and I really loved the creativity of this job. But almost twenty years ago I switched to information security because I was also very interested in information technology (and the salary was far better ☺). You can imagine that the job as an information security officer is not a very creative job at all. And since you only have a couple of weeks of holiday, shooting only 4-5 times a year was not enough anymore to satisfy my desire for creativity.

And that’s where I started to integrate photography in my daily life.

Tell us about your first photo that really validated your interest as a photographer.

My first picture that validated my interest as a photographer was actually a picture I made in one of my holidays in Istanbul – Turkey in January 2016. While I was visiting the Hagia Sophia museum I suddenly recognized a very little window on the first floor. I just wanted to have a quick look and when I came closer to the window I had this amazing view of the Sultan Ahmed Mosque. I was there with my D5300 and had the 18-140mm kit lenses attached to it. I used a ND graduate filter because I was shooting directly into the sun. On top of that I had a star filter to get those nice sun light trails. I did a little post-processing in Adobe Lightroom as I do with all my pictures.

That was also the time when came across the photo community 500px. That was in February this year. My picture of the Hagia Sophia instantly got hundreds of likes and a lot of great feedback. And that’s how my story on the way to become a professional photographer started.

Back when you were just starting out, what was your biggest challenge and how did you overcome that?

There are so many great photographers out there and I thought taking a first step in this scene is impossible. In the beginning, I was afraid uploading my pictures and presenting them to the community. But as I already mentioned, I just tried it. Just upload your best pictures on social picture sites and get some feedback. And yes, I've also heard now and then what could I do better. But this was a great opportunity for me to grow as a photographer.

What do you enjoy photographing the most?

Although I still love travel photography and started with portrait photography for business in my photographer heart I mostly enjoy street and documentary photography. This kind of photography is so real. Street- and documentary-photography captures the reality, the real life, real people, real situations and real emotions. You get involved, you talk with people and you are seeking for this decisive moment where everything comes together in a perfect moment. And as soon as you have this moment you need to be quick enough to take the photograph before people notice you. As soon as people see your camera, you lose some parts of reality and the original emotions. My most memorable street photographs are the ones that have strong emotion and show some sort of reflection on the human condition.

What has been your proudest moment as a photographer?

There is not this only one moment. I am always very proud when I upload a new picture to some online picture sharing sites and instantly get hundreds or even thousands of likes and comments on the first day. It makes me happy to touch my follower’s emotions. And that’s all my pictures are about – touching others emotions.

Tell us about time in your photographic journey where you failed at something and how did you pivot to overcome this?

When I started to work with studio lightning I sometimes went crazy. When I like a specific lightning of a picture I try to reproduce a similar lightning in my home-studio. Especially in the beginning it often took my hours to get a close result. Sometimes I just wanted to kick the whole setup because I didn’t come to the desired results. That was sometimes really frustrating. But I live according to the motto, if someone can do something, then I can also do it. Probably it just takes more time or another equipment or some help from a more experienced. Mostly a second, a third or a fourth start has brought me to my desired results.

How do you feel photography has impacted the way you see the world?

Photography has impacted the way I see the world in different ways. Before I started photography seriously I walked around and took my environment for granted. I started to look on my surroundings in more detail. I now see my world from different angles and different sides. Now I take notice where the light is coming from, its intensity, its frequency, its duration, and its brightness. Nowadays I also use the medium photography as an effective communication tool. The power of photography shouldn’t be underestimated. Not without cause people say a picture tells a thousand words.

What is your best photography related tip?

Learn to understand light and shoot in manual mode. The success of every photographer is based on a strong understanding of how light works. Reading light and knowing how to manipulate it will make live as a photographer much easier. If you’re like me, you probably start your photography journey by shooting in one of the auto modes of your camera. But in order to truly get the most out of your camera, you’re going to want to learn how to shoot in manual mode. Don’t be afraid, it might take a little while before you get really comfortable shooting in manual mode. With enough practice, you will start to adjust your settings quickly and easily. So, stick with it!

What would you like for people take away from your work?

I want people to believe in themselves and in their styles and skills. Remember, if someone else can do it, you can also do it. Take feedback from others, it can be very valuable source to improve your photography skills. But always stick to your style and photograph what you love.

What are some ‘must have’ items in your camera bag?

I think a microfiber cloth and an air blower are among the most useful accessories you can have in your camera bag. Of course, spare batteries and spare memory cards are essential as well. It would be a shame if you got this perfect scene you want to photograph and suddenly you run out of space on your memory card or your camera's battery runs flat. Especially when I do street photography its always very good to have some business cards with you so people can contact you afterwards. When I do travel or landscape photography I often also carry a small tripod and a remote release with me.

If you were stuck on a deserted island, what is the ONE photography book you would want to have with you?

Well, at the moment, my focus is on improving my portrait photography skills. Therefore, I would take the book “50 Portraits: Stories and Techniques from a Photographer's Photographer” from Gregory Heisler with me. It is the first showcase of the professional photographer Gregory Heisler's work. It includes 50 portraits or celebrities, athletes, and world leaders side-by-side with the stories and techniques as to how each was created.

Final question, and it’s a fun one: Life has been found on another planet and none-other than Sir Richard Branson is piloting Virgin Galactic and has put together a team of engineers, scientist, doctors and has asked you to come along to document the journey. The challenge is you can only bring two lenses and one camera body and two other items. What would you bring?

I would take my Nikon D810 with my 50mm prime and my 28-300mm zoom lens as well as a huge battery and a giant memory card ☺.

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