Mark de Rooij / Member Interview
My name is Mark de Rooij, and I am a Dutch cityscape photographer based in Rotterdam. I took my first photo when I was 7 years old and got really into photography at the age of 18. After years of experimenting the level of my photos increased and people got interested in buying photos. In 2011 I decided to give courses in photography and post-processing. I figured out I love to share my passion for photography and nowadays we have over 4,000 students each year. This year, I launched a new website in English to share my knowledge with the rest of the world.
What inspired you to become a photographer?
When I was young, every summer we went on holiday to another country. My father was always taking photos, and I got my first analog point-and-shoot camera when I was 7 years old. I think I got inspired because of him.
Later, I bought my first digital point-and-shoot camera, and when I was 18 years old, I bought a digital hybrid camera. That was my first camera with more manual functionalities, and that really got my interest. I started to figure out what every button did, started reading articles, and took lots of (bad) photos.
Tell us about your first photo that really validated your interest as a photographer.
I don’t think there was one photo specifically, but I discovered my interest as a photographer in the 5 months I was living (and studying) in Vienna, Austria. It was an Erasmus exchange program, and in the end, I didn’t have many classes at all. In those 5 months, I had plenty of time to take photos every day and came to love taking photos in the city.
What do you enjoy photographing the most?
First of all, photography is relaxing and it’s nice to be outside, strolling down the streets of the city. Secondly, it’s about challenging yourself to create the photos you have in mind. I like to set goals - it is a good way to stay focused. Nowadays there a so many great photographers out there and it’s hard to distinguish yourself.
What has been your proudest moment as a photographer?
Of course, I was proud when I sold my first photo. I still remember it very well, and I decided to deliver the dibond print myself. A few years later, companies started to order large photo walls for their offices. If you see your photo covering a wall of 60 square meters, it gives you a proud feeling :-)
How do you feel photography has impacted the way you see the world?
When I walk around in a city, I see beautiful compositions everywhere, even if I don’t bring my camera. As a photographer, you also develop your eye to see nice light. A day with some fast-moving clouds is my favorite. I love to see the shadows of the clouds moving over the landscape. I think that is a great example of how a photographer looks at the world, because I am pretty sure not everyone will look at the same things.
What do you see photographers doing today, that if done differently tomorrow, would improve their success?
In my photography classes, I teach everyone not to rush. Crossing the city to make sure you have a photo of every sightseeing location in one day is not the way to take great photos. So, in a class of four hours we only visit four or five places. In every place, I give them an assignment, all focused on how to look better at the subjects around them. The assignment combined with enough time always results in eye-opening photographs.
To get your creative eye focused, where do you draw your inspiration from?
Every day, I spend some time on Instagram. I think it is a great platform to discover good photos, but I also use it to start conversations with other photographers. I like to share experiences with other people all over the world, and sometimes we even meet up to shoot together.
What is your best photography-related tip?
It’s good to watch Youtube videos or read articles about photography, but I see amateur photographers spending too much time on this. Don’t consume too much information, it is better to go out with your camera more often and learn that way that sitting at home watching videos. The point is, try to plan as many photography trips as possible!
Your photos look amazing, what are some must-use tools in your post-processing workflow?
If a photo has nice colors I like to emphasize that with extra saturation, but I love black and white photos too. Often I use black and white for photos with a lack of interesting colors. If you make it black and white with lots of contrast the result is often very good.
Sometimes, I like to mix a photo with a texture too. I love the way Luminar offers this option. It is so easy to use and the results are great.
I see a lot of pros using Luminar. What do you like most about this software?
What I like most is how smart the software is. Usually I don’t like ‘automatic’ sliders, but the AI Filter of Luminar is incredible. It helps you a lot and saves time to end up with a nice edit. Of course this slider isn’t perfect all the time, but at least it helps you in the right direction.
I also like masking options per filter. Many amateur photographers freak out if you start talking about layers and layer masks, but the masking options per filter does basically the same, but it is so much easier to understand.
What are some ‘must have’ items in your camera bag?
My polarizing filter and 10 stops ND filter are always with me! When it is cold, I need gloves too.
If you were stuck on a deserted island, what is the ONE photography book you would want to have with you?
Genesis by Sebastião Salgado. Maybe you expected me to have something related to cityscape photography, but I really love the work of Sebastião Salgado and secretly I also love landscape photography a lot.
What camera do you use the most?
My primary camera is the Sony A7R III
What is your all-time favorite lens?
I’m a big fan of the Sony 16-36mm f/2.8 GM
What is your favorite post-processing software?
I used Lightroom for over 8 years, but I don’t see enough developments in this post-processing software. These days, I am impressed with the developments of Luminar from Skylum and I see myself using Luminar more and more.
For my photography, I also use HDR. I think AuroraHDR is the best HDR software out there at the moment. It has so many options and what I like a lot is that you get the desired result in a pretty easy and fast way (the same can be said for Luminar). So I don’t say you can’t get the same result in Lightroom or Photoshop, but it is done much faster in Luminar and AuroraHDR.
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