Dirk Franke Not Only Listens to Clients, He Becomes Them.Dirk Franke's Gear Box
Canon EOS-1D Mark II
Canon 15mm to 400mm lenses
Mamiya 645D with Mamiya
?55mm to 300mm lenses
Mamiya RZ67 with Mamiya
90mm to 250mm lenses
1200 & 2400 Calumet Elite
Broncolor 2400 packs, heads Ringflash
Apple Mac G4 PowerBooks
Laptops built into Pelican Case with external hard drives
Apple Mac Dual G5, G4, G3
Apple iMac, Apple eMac
2TB LaCie FireWire hard drives Adobe Photoshop, Canon C1
Let's be frank. Being a great photographer is no longer just about taking beautiful images. In fact, if you ask lifestyle, fashion, and beauty photographer Dirk Franke, three other qualities make the best photographers: teamwork, flexibility, and the ability to listen.
"It's all about teamwork," he says. "The best and most successful shoots are the ones where all members of the team, especially the client, art director, and photographer, consider each other as equal partners and respect each other's professionalism. I have seen wonderfully creative teams fall apart because one person had the need to stand out, was incapable of accepting other people's opinions or advice, or needed to 'be the boss.' On the other hand, it is very refreshing to see how a group of people that never met before can get together and have an incredibly good time creating somethingas a team."
As for the need for flexibility, "A successful commercial photographer has to wear many hats today," Franke continues. "We have to be pre- and post-processing experts, printers, digital technicians, brilliant businessmen, accountants, diplomats, and good negotiators. You have to be open-minded and keep learning every single day."
Franke says the ability to listen comes into play most when trying to transform a client's vision into final images. "Listen very carefully," he cautions. "I try to perfectly understand the client's vision, put myself in their shoes, and completely forget my personal point of view. I become the client. I try to understand what it is they want from me."
Miami-based Franke has utilized these philosophies for clients including Bacardi, DeBeers, Lamborghini, Coca-Cola, Cartier, and Perry Ellis.
THE ROAD TO STARDOM
Franke came from an artistic family. His father was a musician and his grandfather was an art dealer. His father gave him a Rolleiflex at age 12. Franke graduated from shooting the family pet to photographing his first girlfriend. But he traveled in a different direction than most. He studied to be a movie cameraman in Berlin, Germany. However, Franke admits he was an "impatient man" at the time, and movies can take several months to make.
"One day I was visiting a fashion photographer in his studio and I watched him take a Polaroid," recalls Franke. "He was director, producer, and screenwriter in one person, and it took him less than two minutes to see the results of his work. I was amazed."
So Franke shed his movie industry dreams. He decided to literally knock on a fashion photographer's door. "Good morning, I'm your new assistant," Franke told the photographer. "For some mysterious reason, he did not slam the door in my face, but instead laughed and invited me in," he says. "Two photographers and four years later, I opened my first studio."
FUN IN THE SUN
While training as an assistant, Franke first learned he needed to have solid equipment on his "team." Franke's team consists primarily of a Canon EOS-1Ds and EOS-1D Mark II, as well as Profoto 7b flash and Calumet 1200 and 2400 power generators. He delivers his images to clients as TIF or JPG files on CDs, DVDs, or via external FireWire hard drives. "When the Canon 1Ds was first introduced, it felt like a natural transition to me. I have worked with Canon EOS-1Ns for many years and always loved the camera."
The images of the kids running on the beach , the woman with the silver bracelet and curly hair, the couple on the lounge chair, and the woman in the studio were all taken using the EOS-1Ds.
While all the images appearing in this story were shot in beautiful locales, they weren't easy to capture. Take the image of the couple in the water holding coconut drinks in Grand Lido Resort, Jamaica. "The current kept turning the yacht in the background," says Franke, "so we had someone on a boat keep it in place. We used radios to tell the guys in the boat to ride behind the yacht when we were ready to shoot. I wanted to have the motion in the shot, so I had to run backwards in the water with the models. Needless to say, I fell flat on my back three or four times. Thank goodness the camera was in a splash-proof plastic housing."
Capturing the image of the two children running on the beach, "was not easy because I was running down the beach with them. I ended up doing a couple of miles of running that day. But the kids loved it," he quips.