Clemens van Os is a co-founder of Xpozer and photography enthusiast. Over the years, he has developed as a photographer, due in part to his experiences during different stages of his life. Ambience is always the most important element he tries to convey through his photos, regardless of the type of photography. We spoke to Clemens about how the changes in his life have contributed to his growth as a photographer.
Learning by doing
I have always been interested in technology and images, the perfect combination for photography. My father bought his first digital camera when I was fourteen and let me use it – I was hooked immediately! I spent entire holidays photographing beautiful locations. I experimented with the camera and quickly discovered that the shots I was taking weren’t turning out the way I wanted. Finding out the reason for this was a deliberate learning process. Was it because of the light? The settings? By looking for the reasons behind my failures I soon learned how to take better shots. I started to delve more and more deeply into photography by searching blogs and websites for photographs I found beautiful. I tried to reproduce them by applying different composition techniques and rules. This rarely worked the first time, but after a lot of practice, I finally mastered the techniques. I soon discovered that although some photographs were technically perfect, that didn’t automatically mean that they touched me. On the other side, some photographs that were maybe not so perfect did contain elements that made them interesting to look at. By looking at different images and trying to reproduce them I began to develop a feel for this. It was very easy with a digital camera because you can take lots of shots. By comparing them you can quickly discover what works and what doesn’t, what’s good and what isn’t.
Focus on the photo, not the frame
While studying at Delft University of Technology, my two passions – photography and technology – came together. I was looking for a personal Mother’s Day gift for my mom and had decided on a photo of our family. I specifically wanted the focus to be on the photo and not on the frame. A frame felt too old fashioned. I thought a photo poster would be a good option, but I hadn’t thought about how my mother would hang the photo poster. Instead of giving my mother a gift, I had given her a problem to solve: a photo poster but no nice way to hang it. Now she had to buy extra materials in order to hang the poster on the wall. The whole situation got Ivan and I thinking about a framing system in which your photo is the focal point, and is easy to hang. And so Xpozer was born: a modern interchangeable frame behind your photo so that the focus is on the image instead of how it’s hanging. Suddenly, every day I was busy with my favorite hobby and I started to print more and more photos to hang at home. In the process, I not only learned how to print better images, but I also began to take more photographs.
Making other people happy
One day, I had reached the point that my camera went everywhere with me. My passion for photography didn’t go unnoticed. Friends and family began asking if I would take photographs at events and weddings. I quickly learned, once again, completely new branches of photography. I started using different lenses and working with larger diaphragms because I wanted to take shots in low-light situations without using a flash. Moreover, I started to really edit my photos, learning how to edit well and efficiently. For me, the best part was that I not only learned a lot but could also make other people happy with my photos. This made my enthusiasm for photography grow even more.
The birth of our daughter Donna turned my world upside down, both as a new father and as a photographer. I’m now – yet again – a totally different kind of photographer. Whereas I first had time to set up or plan out my shots, now I have to act so quickly I’m virtually a paparazzo! As soon as I pick up my camera, my daughter walks towards me. Before I know it, she’s too close for me to focus properly on her. I have to set my camera to burst mode to capture the small things – her facial expression, a certain gesture with her arms, or when she picks something up. The good thing about this is that I’m now starting to recognize beautiful photo moments because I’ve observed her so much through the lens. I can see connections between how Donna reacts in certain situations. My aim is to take candid shots of her that show her as she really is. I think she can feel this too. I love to see how she recognizes herself and us and happily points to each person she knows.
Ambience as the key element
For me, ambience is always the key element in my photographs. What I still enjoy the most is taking ambience photos of cities because they have a living character I can capture. Depending on the atmosphere of the city I may lean towards photographing colorful pavement cafes, or more black-and-white shots of passersby.
In Naples, I tried to capture the feel of Italy by photographing a typical Italian barista in a coffee bar who was making espressos incredibly quickly. He’s impeccably dressed, as is the custom in Italian restaurants. For me, this black-and-white photo depicts the city as I experienced it, as I felt it.
Print quality determines the success of a photo
The great thing is that with Xpozer I engage with photography every day and as a result, you can literally see my development as a photographer. Because I can swap photo prints easily, I print my shots much more often. Just like I always want to capture an ambience in my photos, I also want to convey that ambience in my home. I’ve sometimes hung photos that evoked a feeling that was completely different from what I had expected beforehand.
“Although some photographs are technically perfect, that doesn’t mean that they touch me.” -Clemens Van Os
Read the book on Photofocus and own the printed version, too
Every other week a new photo and the story behind it will be published here on Photofocus. Clemens and Ivan have made copies of “Amazing Photography” available for the cost of shipping — $8.99 alone. The book retails for $29.99 regularly. Here are some highlights …
- More than 100 breathtaking photos by professional and hobby photographers
- 13 personal stories from pro’s and hobbyists such as Albert Dros (pro-photographer), Laura Vink (pro-photographer), Andre Kuipers (astronaut and photographer), Ori Guttin (co-founder Viewbug) and Evgeny Tchebotarev (co-founder 500px)
- 4 practical photo guides to help you enjoy your photos to the max
- 7 DIY quick fixes for unexpected photography situations
- World’s top 15 under-the-radar spots for stunning photos
- Would you rather …? A hypothetical photography game for friends
- The science behind how your photos can affect your happiness and well-being.