Amsterdam-based Boudewijn Smit, was enthralled from an early age both by the art of photography and of sailing. As a young man, he attended sailing school and was learning the art of boat building when a chance meeting with Jurriaan Eindhoven at a friend’s birthday party reset his life course. While everyone at the party was enjoying Boudewijn’s prints, Jurriaan gave him a hard time with some pointed critiques and eventually took him on as first a trainee and then an assistant.
You could say that Boudewijn is a self-taught artist, but his education was grounded on having assisted a lot of different photographers; extensive on the job training meant that he was immersed in photography. Inventing images, framing compositions, experimenting with light and shadow was on his mind day and night, night and day.
That was still during the days of film-based shooting, and he was reluctant to give up the film quality that he enjoyed. In those days, digital prints looked flat, he thought. He did a lot of black and white prints himself, while the color lab processed the color work. Many of his pieces were composite shots that required being scanning before final prints were made.
Four years ago, having grown a successful business of his own, Boudewijn’s agent told him that it was time to “go digital.” Still, Boudewijn decided to stick with film for a trip to China. He brought with him several camera systems, polaroids, film of different formats, and ended up spending 15,000 euros for extra shipping charges plus 20,000 euros of film ruined by the scanners. It was around that time that he thought to himself perhaps it might not be such a bad idea to go digital.
He was frankly amazed, he says, when he picked up a Canon digital camera, his first digital system ever, and saw the images it could produce. So he started looking around. His choice for a professional system was the Leaf Aptus 75 because he found its quality was closest to film. Recently he has been trying out the Leaf Credo which he reports is even more like film — much improved from the Aptus.
He says that the new Credo offers greatly improved detail clarity. For example, he reports that using the same aperture and shutter speed he found it to be 1.5 times brighter, allowing longer exposure time, less artifacts, and great fidelity especially when printing large format images.
Boudewijn states that he’s not so interested in the software, or even the precision mechanics of the shoot. He will act more like a director as he scrutinizes the images that appear before him from the laptop during a tethered shoot. He reports that what he sees on the monitors these days when using the Leaf Credo 80 system is “quite shocking” — “simply incredible detail.”
“In the old days, you could wait for the sky to turn a nice shade of color; today people change the sky on the computer. A photographer was an artist who could do something that no one else could do. Now sometimes clients think they already know your business and can take pictures any time, then change them with Photoshop. Yes, of course, you can enhance photos a lot, but that does not mean they are good photos.
“Then too, years ago you could shoot an ad campaign that would last for two or three years; today, the pace of change is increasing; selling cycles have collapsed into months, not years. “Still, while they may say it’s not the equipment, it’s the photographer that makes great photography; I must say that for a professional, someone who knows what they’re doing, how to compose, how to capture the light, how to set the scene, that yes, the equipment, for example using the Leaf Credo system can clearly make the difference between good and great photography.”
Boudewijn’s career started with a campaign he did for Yamaha motor bikes in 1992. There were two campaigns proposed to the client : the small bike & it’s freedom in a wide landscape, and the other one a pack shot of the engine. The client insisted on producing the packshot campaign.To make the packshot look exciting he made travelling shots, using long booms with strobe units on them during long exposure times to create a blurred and moody effect, then freezing parts of the bikes with the strobe light.
An advertising agency in Germany saw the pictures and loved them. When they got Audi as a client ,they asked him to shoot the introduction campaign for the A4. Suddenly I was working with a 20-person crew; spending several months a year in France, Spain, South Africa, Australia, and the United States. for Audi, Mercedes, Volkswagen Renault amongst others . Along the way I had developed something without knowing it. In fact, all the awards he has won in his career have come as the result of experimental things he was trying.
Boudewijn has created dazzling images of luxury cars for ad agencies and incredibly creative approaches to imagery that goes beyond the commercial. When asked his advice for younger photographers he says, “Do something you enjoy. If you like it, there’s a good chance you will make money doing it. If you don’t make money, at least you will have enjoyed it.” He adds, “You need to know your own value and set a fair price even if others don’t see it that way.”
“I’ve just built a studio in another area of Amsterdam and am starting to do more work for myself; working on a new style. It’s important to carve out the time to keep developing your art, working on new stuff, things I’ve always wanted to do; that’s a healthy way to live. I never want to lose the sense of fun!”
Learn more about Boudewijn Smit on his site.