Manfred Baumann is a highly regarded portrait photographer specializing in working with the biggest names in Hollywood. Baumann has spent years developing a timeless style to his work that continues to be in high demand. Fstoppers chats with Baumann to get the low down on what drives both his creative process and how he built a strong business in a very tight niche.
Baumann's obsession with photography began when he was ten years old when his grandfather gave him a Praktica film camera, quickly igniting a fascination that drove the beginning of an illustrious career. Unlike many photographers, Baumann initially focused on creating good, marketable images allowing him to orient his work towards becoming economically viable so that he could create a career of taking photos for a living. It wasn't until much later that Baumann began to prioritize art as a major facet of his work.
Working With Celebrities
As his career rocketed into the realm of working with celebrities, Baumann quickly learned to avoid putting them on pedestals. Even the most elite of celebrity is simply just a person, like everyone else. Some are complicated, others less so. Baumann makes a point of ensuring that, on his set, everyone is treated the same, whether they are celebrities, models, or even private individuals. Baumann's priority always lies in professionalism. Baumann has also developed a style of rapid shooting that can be of tremendous help to the high paced schedules of many public figures. He was never the sort of photographer looking to shoot for hours and hours, instead preferring to prioritize quick sessions done well.
Tools of the Trade
As with any photographer whose career has had the longevity of Baumann's the inevitable starting point was in the realm of film. As times have changed Baumann has been happy to evolve. He is delighted to be doing his post-processing digitally rather than having to sacrifice his bathroom to be used as a darkroom. Baumann's editing suite of choice has become ACDSee Photo Studio as it allowed him to quickly catch up during his transition from film to digital. While shooting, Baumann has either the Leica SL, Leica M, or Leica M Monochrome in hand. Baumann's lenses of choice are the Leica SUMMICRON-M 28mm, NOCTILUX-M 50mm, and the SUMMILUX-M 35mm. When shooting with the Leica SL Baumann uses the Leica 24-90mm f/2.8-4.0 and 90-280mm f/2.8-4.0.
When retouching, using ACDSee Photo Studio, Baumann's primary focus is on exposing the essence of the person whose portrait he is tasked to photograph. He remarks that photography has always been an illusory world, Marylin Monroe was probably not so slim and Elvis likely didn't have such smooth skin but so long as he is able to capture the true essence of his subject he believes that he has focused on capturing the highest art of photography.
Moving forward, Baumann wants to focus on creating imagery that tells stories the viewer will not forget. He believes that photography is the one language that everyone in the world can understand so wants to leverage that to impact as many people as he can. Baumann's latest fine art project; "Mustangs" is currently showing at the Leica Gallery in Los Angeles. You can enjoy a sampling of his work below, or If you would like to see more of Baumann's portfolio make sure to check out his website or follow him on Instagram.