Samsung Shoot the Cover winner - Clare Ozkan

The cover of the latest issue of Advanced Photographer features an image taken with a Samsung NX1. That image was taken by reader Clare Ozkan. Clare was one of six finalists selected by AP editor Will Cheung from a recent Samsung-sponsored Shoot the Cover competition and was invited to attend a shoot at Wrest Park stately home. All six used Samsung’s highly impressive compact system camera to shoot two models, getting 45 minutes with each. But ultimately it was Clare who triumphed. We spoke to her about her photography, the day itself and the Samsung NX1.

Absolute Photo: How long have you been taking pictures for?
Clare Ozkan:
I've been into photography from a very young age, but really only as a complete amateur - taking pictures of family and holidays etc. I always wanted to get the best from any picture I took though, but I didn't have the equipment to produce anything to truly be proud of. It was only about three years ago that I decided to dedicate more time to my hobby, building my confidence and a portfolio - now I am hoping I can make more of this skill I seem to have.

AP: What got you started?
CO: It was encouragement from my family and friends that made me think about doing photography as more than a hobby. I knew that it would take time to build my skills and a decent portfolio and so I dedicated my weekends and evenings to photographing anything and everything, getting myself familiar with the camera and developing my aesthetic skills.

AP: What type(s) of photography do you enjoy most. And why?
CO: The first thing that comes to my mind is street photography. I believe that the perfect street photo is born from the subject being oblivious to the fact that they are being photographed. Other photographers would vehemently disagree, and would always ask their subject first. I know this is the most polite and correct way to do it, but as soon as someone knows they are being photographed, the spontaneity of the image is lost.

I've done lots of location shoots with models recently. I enjoy these because I like to have environmental interest in my images. I like to use natural light or I replicate natural/ambient light using flash. There is always the anticipation of whether all the factors that need to come together on the day of the shoot, will come together! Will the weather be ok, if not - how can I make it work to my advantage? Will the model turn up?! Will I be able to use the location I've chosen, or has scaffolding been erected overnight!? Anything can happen - I like that.

More recently, I have got into boudoir photography. I have a very definite style, which moves completely away from the traditional boudoir images that most people associate with that genre. I like it to be more natural, less posed and with clean backgrounds. It's going really well.

AP: Why did you enter the competition?
CO: Well actually, I didn’t! I saw the advert in your magazine, and mentioned it to my boyfriend. Next thing I know, he forwards me the email to say that I was invited to attend Wrest Park with five other finalists! It was a big surprise - but a lovely one!

AP: How did you choose the image you submitted?
I was really pleased with the image my boyfriend sent in. It was done during a model shoot I did at home where I made a 'pop-up' studio in my living room! The model I used came along to help me with my boudoir portfolio originally, but we decided to do some portraits at the same time. In the post production, I also had a go at channel separation for the first time. This helped make the image so flawless and smooth, but without losing the skin texture. It's definitely one I'm proud of!

AP: How did you feel it went on the day?
CO: Initially, when I pondered it on the drive home, I felt exhilarated by the experience and really grateful to have been there. I then started thinking about the images I took - thinking that I could have done better, that there wasn't enough time. I think every photographer feels like this - that's what drives you forward to always achieve better. It was hard not being able to see the results until weeks later! I had so much time to think that I hadn't done anything worthy of a front cover! The whole experience of the day was amazing, the location, the equipment and the Advanced Photographer team - I gained so much hands on experience, and winning has really fueled my passion to succeed.

AP: Did you have some clear ideas about what you wanted to shoot or just go with the flow?
I did think about some of the poses I wanted to try - the only problem was that during my research of Wrest Park, a lot of those ideas worked around using the beautiful sweeping staircases. Unfortunately, we couldn't use them on the day! I did have some other ideas in mind, but it's impossible to stick to a set plan - you never know what you may be presented with until you're actually on location, and can see the potential around you. I think I abandoned most of my ideas in the end! Fortunately, it worked in my favour! I also took on board the brief that Will gave us at the beginning of the day, so I made sure as many of my images as possible were good to square crop and were composed so that text could be place on the left.

AP: What did you like about using the Samsung NX1?
The camera felt comfortable in my hands with easy access to the two main dials and other functions. The control layout was easy to understand from the start, and felt relatively ‘familiar’. There were a nice selection of lenses, and I managed to use a number of them to achieve the images I wanted. Size and weight are important for me, some cameras are just too big and heavy but the NX 1 was light and easy to use – it would be perfect to take out and about with you / not too cumbersome. As the day progressed, I felt the NX1 and I got on rather well!

AP: How did you feel when you heard the news that you’d won?
I was completely stunned! I honestly didn’t think that it would be me. The other five guys that were there with me on the shoot all seemed so much more relaxed and had some great ideas. I felt a little out of my depth! I am absolutely delighted though - I love the image that you chose and of course, I think it looks stunning on the front cover!

AP: How will winning the competition change your photography?
CO: It’s given me such a fantastic boost - my confidence is sky high! As a relative newcomer to photography, it is easy to convince yourself that you’re not good enough to compete in a field with so many other talented people. Winning the cover has given me the platform to move forward with the belief that I can be just as good - if not better - than any other photographer out there. The experience has highlighted areas where I know I need to improve - such as with lighting.

AP: What are your hopes for your photography in the future?
CO: I would love to make a career in photography - it is definitely my ultimate goal. Winning this competition has brought me one step closer to making that a reality. A big THANK YOU to everyone at Advanced Photographer!!