Capturing real-life situations and genuine moments with lifestyle photographer Tatiana Avdjiev

Tatiana Avdjiev is a lifestyle photographer based in Chicago who has developed an eye for capturing everyday situations and genuine moments. Tatiana is also drawn to capturing movement in dance and sports, demonstrating a wide set of photographic skills. Her talent has secured her features in Photography Masterclass Magazine, TimeOut Chicago, and Imaginarium Magazine.

Q: Your 500px Profile shows how your style and aesthetics have evolved over the years. Can you tell us a little bit about the various directions you have taken throughout your career as a photographer?

A: I have always looked for emotion and spontaneity in my photos, but didn’t necessarily know how to achieve them. At first, I was searching for anything—people, nature, streets, you name it. Sometimes, I would get influenced by other photographers, including some popular ones in the 500px community, in their genres and editing styles. That resulted in a random “style” and over-processed photos.

Then, I tried to keep true to myself, and my photos that were the most appreciated by others turned out to be the ones that came from my heart and soul, which were also recognized with several Editor’s Choice Awards.

Later on, I felt the pressure of producing more award-winning photos, which didn’t work well, and I felt burnt out. I took a break from social sharing for a while and came back gradually, with new ideas of defined portraits, storytelling scenes, and balanced compositions. I still have a lot to work on, but now my visual style is cleaner, editing is simpler, and my subjects are more natural.

Q: Describe your photographic style in one word and tell us why you chose it.

A: Lifestyle—I tend to shoot people in real-life situations, with natural expressions, and an uncomplicated background. I look for genuine personalities and interactions with the environment.

by the lake by Tatiana Avdjiev on 500px.com

Q: Have you run into any stereotypes associated with being a photographer?

A: A popular one is that the more gear you have, the better photographer you are. Also, gender stereotypes—for example, women are rarely taken seriously for concert or action photography. Another cliché is “you are too expensive”. People never realize the time and effort behind each photo that comes after shooting—prioritizing jobs, culling, editing, and final delivery. Not to mention the skillset!

By the lake by Tatiana Avdjiev on 500px.com

Q: You are no stranger to the snapshot, capturing authentic scenes, and immortalizing tiny, split-second moments. What triggers you to reach for your camera when the time comes?

A: Spontaneous and serendipitous moments have always fascinated me. It’s easy to capture moments with children and pets because they are genuine. When my kids were little, I had my camera handy and learned when to shoot away. That “training” helped me to predict other moments in life later on. I subconsciously discover intriguing situations when I do other things—there is usually a little something that triggers my attention.

Orange crush by Tatiana Avdjiev on 500px.com

Q: In my experience, there is no such thing as overshooting, but it can make selecting the right image tricky. Can you walk us through how you choose your selects?

A: Shooting a lot of photos makes the selecting job laborious. In fact, selecting photos is the most time-consuming and tedious part of my process, but it’s rewarding to find the gems.

The first thing I do after I import the photos is to place the set in a collection and delete all the obvious losers (flash not fired, blurry, accidental shots, etc.). Then, I start looking through each photo and rate the ones that have some potential between three and five stars. I give five to very few exceptional ones, four to all good ones, and three to “just-in-case” ones. I place those rated ones in a separate collection, and there, I start looking for duplicate scenes and pick the best ones that can represent the situation or the best facial expression.

That’s how I narrow my collection to avoid a duplicative or excessive number of photos. Sometimes, I have to make a few more rounds of elimination. It’s not easy!

by the lake by Tatiana Avdjiev on 500px.com

Q: What is your favorite shutter speed to shoot at when you are photographing a graceful dancer or fierce athlete in motion?

A: Of course, it depends on the situation and lighting, but to freeze motion, I aim for 1/600 of a second. Frequently, I go down to 1/200. Or, if I want to blur motion for an artistic effect, I would do a really slow shutter speed (1/5) and create a trail of the movement.

By the lake by Tatiana Avdjiev on 500px.com

Q: Do you have a go-to lens?

A: My lens preference keeps changing, but, apparently, I have taken a significant part of my photos with the nifty-fifty (Canon, 50mm, 1.4). Lately, for small closed spaces during winter and the coronavirus quarantine, I’ve been using the 35 mm, Sigma Art. For portraits, the Canon 135 mm has been working great. When I need flexibility, I just use my zoom lenses.

by the lake by Tatiana Avdjiev on 500px.com

Q: Can you talk about a commercial trend that you applied to one of your recent shoots?

A: I’ve been planning a “People at work” series, but this one shoot I took recently was unplanned, it just happened impromptu.

I was sharing a space with a few artists of different trades, where we exposed and sold our work, and we also used it to create some of our art pieces. Camille is a jewelry artist, so she was designing and putting together different pieces of stone and silver, and it was quite fascinating to observe her process. She’s also a very positive and charismatic person. I thought this could be a great storytelling photoshoot, so I started shooting away. She was very natural, not intimidated by the camera, even though it was not customary for her. Her pieces turned out to be amazing, so did my shots. I didn’t think about that at that time, but later it occurred to me that those could work well for licensing with 500px for showing off the process, product, and subject.

Orange crush by Tatiana Avdjiev on 500px.com

Q: As a Chicago native, can you tell us a little bit about the art scene there? How does it influence you creatively?

A: I was born in Bulgaria and came to Chicago in my early twenties. It took me some time to get familiar with the art scene here—at first, it was the creative minds in art classes, then everything else from galleries to museums to public squares and street corners. It was chaotic but inspiring.

Later on, as I got more settled, I got to explore even more forms of art—music, dance, events, independent shows. Chicago is a multicultural city that nurtures diversity and different communities. I started participating in exhibitions and art shows, had some good and some learning experiences, met other like-minded people that inspired me, even more, to keep making art.

The jewelry artist by Tatiana Avdjiev on 500px.com

Q: What’s one message you want to leave our community with?

A: When I first joined the 500px, many people were chasing popularity by exchanging mutual likes and meaningless compliments. That kills creativity, and it’s not helping you grow. So, dear 500px community, show sincere appreciation, give constructive criticism, and help each other become better photographers. Be healthy, be inspired, and keep creating!

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