Rising Light is an article series highlighting promising photography students from all over the world. This month we introduce Michael Scholz, at Santa Monica Community College.
Michael Scholz was born and raised in Heidelberg,Germany, and spent his first 30 years with a life style that never felt quite right. After earning a graduate degree in Technical Editing from the University of Applied Sciences in Karlsruhe he spent 6-years as a project manager in a digital advertising agency, working with high-profile clients including Porsche, Vodafone, and Fujitsu. Then one day he realized he “simply didn’t feel it anymore”. He decided to take a break for a year.
Even though Michael never considered himself the creative type, it was something he couldn’t shake. The epiphany came while walking along the Camino de Santiago (The Way of St. James), the Spanish part of the famed spiritual pilgrim route that thread throughout Europe, where he realized it was time to move on. Rather than to organize meetings and set budgets, he wanted to be a photographer.
As young, Michael loved to take pictures with his father’s Minolta. However, having been raised to be more practical rather than creative, the thought of choosing photography, or anything in the creative arts for that matter, never crossed his mind.
Initially, Michael chose to go into video rather than still photography. After reading a blog post written by a friend in Austria about the film department at Santa Monica College (SMC) in California he decided to do something about it. He packed his bags, caught a taxi to the airport and flew to sunny California.
During his first semester at SMC he enrolled in film classes along with a class in Photography 101 to brush up on his still photography skills. By the end of the semester he began having second thoughts about making movies.
Though he enjoyed film and video production, the tug of still photography proved stronger. In addition, still photography was something that he could do by himself, whereas film-making required a crew for even the simplest of projects.
It wasn’t long before Michael began researching online to see which lighting system best fit his needs. The Profoto B1 Off-Camera Flash system had caught his attention after shooting with it at school. The idea of having so much light output on hand, regardless of where he might be shooting, was appealing to him. Impressed by the system, he bought a B1 of his own through Profoto’s student discount program.
Michael admits he knew next to nothing about studio flash when he first started working with studio lights. However, after poring over umpteen ‘how-to’ lighting videos he quickly gained an understanding about lighting. Lighting has definitely changed his outlook on photography and he credits his understanding of studio lighting for enabling him to capture professional-level photographs.
Michael prefers to keep things simple when it comes to both composition as well as lighting. His favorite light shaping tool is the Profoto RFi Softbox 3’ Octa followed by the Profoto Softbox RFi 2×3’, sometimes with grids. Depending on the situation, Michael uses a Profoto Air Remote system to trigger his flash wirelessly.
Michael’s stylized photograph of the Nike sneaker was a turning point for him. This was the photograph that lead him to further explore taking common objects and lighting them in a way that makes them appear heroic. He strives to visually and emotionally connect with the viewer and other images he’s proud of include the photographs he’s created using products from Chanel and Nivea.
Working with a Canon EOS 5D Mk II and EF 24-105mm/4L IS II USM and EF 70-200mm/2.8L IS II USM zoom lenses, Michael Scholz has developed as a product photographer and continues to push his limits as to what’s possible.
Michael also enjoys creating appetizing photographs of stylized food setups. That said, Michael’s passion is in product photography. “I would like to ultimately become a commercial product photographer of high-end, high-tech, premium products from say, Nike, or even Apple.”
“I like to create something beautiful from nothing. I’m not comfortable being called a fine artist. If anything I’m a commercial artist.”
Michael’s 5-year plan is to open his own advertising agency where he can take full control of the creative process – including that of product photography. Asked where he’d like to open shop, Michael answered “Los Angeles… And maybe a studio in Germany too!”
Photographer: Michael Scholz
School: Santa Monica Community College
Visit his website: http://www.scholzphotography.com/