Can you briefly introduce yourself ?
Delahkor: My name is Khaled Assaf, from Nazareth, Israel. I work as a full time photographer and retoucher specializing in high end product and food photography.
What led you to still life photography ?
Delahkor: I've experimented with many different types of photography, starting with nature, macros of flowers and bugs, landscapes, then I switched to studio photography once I bought my first flash, a cheap Yonguo flash from China.
I was really bad at the time, but I didn't really care and I just enjoyed shooting for the fun of it. After a while, though, I started getting better at this, to the point where it was an obsession of mine.
Originally, I actually wanted to be a fashion photographer, and have been the assistant of Ariel Van Straten for a few months, but being the introvert that I am, I didn't really enjoy it. So I decided to give products and food a try, and have worked with photographer Moti Fishbain, and I loved every minute of it! The hours were wonky, waking up at 4 AM at times, only to get back home at midnight, but I didn't care. I just loved working there.
What is your work process?
Delahkor: A lot of my work involves composing several images together, so the very first step I would do is sketching how I want the final image to look. After that, I break it down to the individual images I need to compose the shot, how they should be set up, lit and so on. I then build the setups and shoot the photos, most importantly bracketing bracketing bracketing!
Since it's a composite and I can only theorize how it should all look, I have to shoot different versions, with slight variations in lighting and angle, and then use the one that suits the final composition the most. Either that, or I have to reshoot that part again. I have done that before. Trust me, not a good feeling when you're halfway through the editing phase only to realize you have to reshoot a part of it. Afterwards it's Photoshop, obviously, ranging from 2 hours to 20+ hours, depending on the image.
What do you like about still life photography? Why do you choose food and drink photography specifically when there are other forms of still life photography?
Delahkor: Well, as I said earlier, I'm quite the introvert, so still life is perfect for me. There are much less people on set than there would be on a fashion shoot, usually just me and the client. As to why I got to that specifically...well, food and drink were always available, so I practiced shooting it at first. Mostly as practice for other subjects, but then I found out that I really enjoy it, and the rest is history. That said, I am working on other types of photos as well.
How do you keep having fresh ideas for your photoshoots ?
Delahkor: Oh, wow, tough question. I mostly just look at other artists whose work I enjoy and see if I can get new ideas from them. Sometimes an idea is born while doing a shoot for a client, or when discussing photos with my painter friend Roksiel. I don't think there's really one set way of getting new ideas though, it's just having an open mind, and being out there. Being a bit crazy doesn't hurt.
What gear do you use?
Delahkor: Well, this is a long list, but in a nutshell I use Canon 5DIII and Sony A7II cameras, with Zeiss 55 FE, Voightlander 58, Tamron 90 macro, and Yashica 28 ML.
For lighting I can't live without my Paul C. Buff Einstein flashes. I do a lot of splashes and stop action, and the Einsteins are the only flashes that are reliable and affordable. Not to mention the amazing customer service at PCB.
And of course a lot of different stands, tripods, and props. My editing is done in Capture One and Photoshop.
What and who inspires you? Why ?
Delahkor: Well, Roksiel was the one that really pushed and encouraged me to get serious with photography, and was the one that showed me the ropes in Photoshop back in the day.
Other artists I really love are aknacer, Brooke Shaden, Peter Schafrick, Rob Grimm, Darrin Haddad, Moti Fishbain and Ariel Van Straten. Just to name a few.
As to why they inspire me, well, For Moti and Ariel, they were my teachers, and I've been an assistant to them both, and it was a pleasure to watch them work and learn from them.
As for the rest, I really love their work, and I find that each of them has a unique thing to add to photography, or a new technique that I would love to learn and add to my arsenal.
Do you work alone or with a team ?
Delahkor: Mostly alone. However, sometimes I have an assistant on the bigger shoots. I do outsource anything painted though, since I can't paint to save my life.
Are you working on any project at the moment ?
Delahkor: Yes, I'm currently working on a series of fantasy themed photos. Portraits and battle scenes. Trying to branch out.
If you had to pick one piece from your gallery, which one would it be, and why ?
Delahkor: Tough one, they are all my favorite in a way, as I've put so much love into making them. If I really had to choose one, I guess I'd go with
Simply because it's the first big studio project that didn't actually suck. And it was my breakthrough photo.
Do you have any advice for anyone who would like to start still life photography ?
Delahkor: Several advice I can think of would be to learn every possible technique you come across, you'll never know when you'll need it (I often use frequency separation, a technique for retouching skin, in editing still life photos). Learn studio lighting, and experiment with it (you don't need fancy flashes to begin with, cheap Chinese ones will do just fine, that's how I started out).
Lighting plays a huge part in stil life, as it's really what sets the mood. Of course, you can decide it's not for you later on, but at least then you'll have informed reason as to why not. Learn Photoshop, don't fall for the puritan talk some people online boast about. Every single photo taken from the dawn of photography until now has been edited. Besides, JPGs are edited in camera, so might as well use your own edits, rather than the algorithm a Japanese guy you've never met decided would look good.
Don't compromise just to fit a label: I've added things from painting, to Photoshop rendered objects, to 3D objects into my work. It's all about the final piece, so don't compromise your vision just to fit the label of "photograph". At the end of the day, no one will care about that.
And of course, never be afraid to ask for help if you are stuck! I've learned a lot just from asking others better than me how they achieved a certain thing. Many were happy to explain it. Others simply ignored the question. None were rude however, so it really doesn't hurt to ask. I'm always happy to help newcomers.
And never ever forget to have fun! That's why we do it in the first place!
Thank you Delahkor!