Oskar Bakke is a car photographer from Stockholm, Sweden. Oskar was able to combine his passion for skiing and photography in the early years of his profession. Today, he works for brands such as Mercedes, Koenigsegg Regera, douchebags, Lexus and many more. His ability to combine photography, cars and lifestyle to create his own niche has made him one of the favored car photographers on Instagram.
Hi Oskar! Before we jump into it, I have to ask… how good are your skiing skills?
It depends who you ask! I’ve done a lot of skiing and I am a decent skier. When I was younger I dreamed to be a professional but realized I didn’t have the skill for it. I used my camera to get in the business of skiing and get to know the ski community. My camera was the way through it but it’s still my favorite activity and sport.
You’ve been traveling so much…where are you coming from right now, how are you starting 2019?
This has been quite a big year for me and my career. I’m moving to the US! I just got my visa and will have a new base in California. I had about 200 days of travel last year. I hope it will be a bit less and have more production in California.
It’s all self-taught and it stemmed from pure pleasure and the fun of it.
How did you become a car photographer, did it stem from a childhood interest?
I’d say I’ve always been into pictures but I never thought about becoming a photographer. I then had more and more friends shooting pictures and I loved to see their creations and whatever they did with the camera. That convinced me to buy a camera and from there it took off.
I’ve always had a massive car interest. I’ve been a car fanatic since I started to walk. It became very natural for me to shoot cars. Today I see myself more as a location photographer, I rarely shoot in a studio. I either use a car or location to make it look as good as it can in that landscape and in some ways its a type of travel photography because you’re trying to capture the landscape or the scenery of the place you’re at with a commercial twist to it.
So you didn’t have proper training shooting or studying?
No, it’s all self-taught and it stemmed from pure pleasure and the fun of it.
Some car photographers aren’t always into cars. Would you consider yourself a petrol head and what are you driving right now?
I don’t even own a car. I live pretty centrally in Stockholm so there’s absolutely no need for it. But I have a go-cart, that’s my way to live out my need for driving, the need for speed. I travel so much and it’s so expensive to have a car in Sweden. But I’m so excited to move to LA because it will be the first time I really need to buy a car.
It’s good to get minimal crew and be dependent on yourself.
But you get behind the wheels of these amazing cars during your shoots, right?
It happens. But on most commercial sets, the cars are so prepped and polished that they barely drive themselves. They just roll it off the trailer and it stands there.
When it’s smaller shoots, it happens. Sometimes I ask a friend or a manufacturer if I can borrow a car for a while and shoot it for fun as a personal project. That’s how I like to do my personal projects when I have no pressure and unlimited time to do whatever I feel like. Whenever you get to drive the car you’re shooting you don’t need to wake someone up really early to catch the sunrise. It’s good to get minimal crew and be dependent on yourself.
In another interview, you mentioned your shoots had to either pay well, be good for your portfolio or a link to other projects. How often are you getting all three fulfilled right now in your career?
I feel as my career goes on, it happens more and more. That’s the goal. It’s amazing to earn money out of something that I love to do. And when I get to create pictures that I love to do and earn money and get to know people at the right time, it’s the best. I’m really happy I’m having more and more of those shoots right now.
I shot a mustang for a private client for three days and I got 30 bucks. It was the greatest day of my life!
And do you remember your first paid job?
Yes! I shot a mustang for a private client for three days and I got 30 bucks. I did edits over a week, and I was super happy. It was the greatest day of my life!
How would you compare shooting editorial or commercial work versus shooting personal projects?
When working on assigned projects you stick with what you’re confident in doing. That might hold back your development as a photographer.
So the personal projects are the ones I want to challenge myself and grow as a photographer. If it comes to trying out a new technique or pushing my style and doing something new that I’m not used to. So I feel more confident. So when I’m asked if I can do something, I can confidently say yes. That’s usually how I see my personal projects. Every now and then or a couple times a year I try to do a creative week where I’m just trying to do new stuff and edit the shots the same day and if it’s something I need to work on, I get out the next day just to improve. That’s the best way to keep pushing good photography.
If the client’s idea isn’t perfect, you take it and tweak it and do it with your own style.
The client is always right, right?
Almost always. It’s important to have customer satisfaction. If they want something you should go with that. But it’s always good to push it in your own direction and try to meet halfway. If the client’s idea isn’t perfect, you take it and tweak it and do it with your own style. That’s my mindset.
Have you ever been put in a situation where your artistic integrity was compromised?
I feel like every now and then you have to take shoots that are more about the money than doing something that’s really great. Then you sometimes have to lose your pride in taking the perfect shot. I still do shoots that I’m not completely proud of the results but gain another experience from the project.
So what would you say is the best picture of your career?
It changes from day to day. But there is one photo that I took with my pocket camera of a native that passed us on a road trip through Mongolia. I love it, that it’s just photography. No editing. In the moment and so simple. It’s something so special and so real all the way through.
Let’s jump to Instagram… How has it been balancing your social and professional life on Instagram? Do you feel you need to show both sides of it as an influencer?
On Instagram, I tend to just focus on my photography with a touch of personal stuff in there. I want to influence my followers with my photography. I use Instagram as a marketing platform rather than an extra income.
But how important is Instagram to you professionally? Do you feel like you need to be actively engaged and upload the latest projects you’re working on so sponsors can see it or are you more focused on developing your digital portfolio?
What inspires you, who are your role models?
That’s something that changes every day. Sometimes it doesn’t need to be within photography. Paul Ripke for me is a role model in terms of personality. He has a great attitude towards life and it’s so cool to see how everyone loves to work with him because of this.
Any up and coming photographers you’re a fan of that we should be watching, too?
I can’t call him upcoming but Aaron Brimhall is a really great photographer and I love his style.
Looking at other images is the best way to passively become a better photographer without shooting.
Where do you currently find good photography?
Lately, it’s been more and more Instagram. I’ve started just checking out photographers that I typically wouldn’t care about. Looking at other images is the best way to passively become a better photographer without shooting. There are so many great people and photographers on Instagram, so it’s a good spot to find people.
So what’s your favorite part of the process? Pre-production, post-production, or shooting?
Of course, the shooting itself is really fun. But then color grading is always super fun. That’s where you really set your creative touch to the photo and where we’re getting close to the final result.
Right now, I’m super stoked about PicDrop
What’s the favorite piece of gear in your camera bag beside your camera?
PicDrop, honestly! I love efficiency. I think I have a little German inside me. (laughs) I like to do things as efficient as possible. Before PicDrop the whole selection part had been such a bottleneck for me. It was a struggle for the clients because they don’t always do it the right way. They just download the photos and have a hard time picking out their favorites, and it’s a problem for me when I get it back. So right now, I’m super stoked about PicDrop.
Other than that, I’m so simple with my gear and try to keep it very minimal. But for physical gear, I guess I would say the computer. I like to shoot straight into the computer to have a second eye of the picture, with client or assistant to be able to see what’s going on as well as doing quick edits on the set. It makes a huge difference in the final results, to have a second eye or larger screen to do whatever you’re doing instead of looking through a viewfinder with a two-inch screen of the camera.
Do you feel the need to be updated with all the latest gear?
It is still all about photography – a camera is just a tool. I think it’s more what the shoot requires. If the client wishes to print the shot perfectly crisp on a big billboard, 150-megapixel PhaseOne photos are the way to go. If it will be a lot of action I might need ten pictures per seconds then it’s perfect to shoot with my Sony.
Is there anything you were really excited to get your hands on, but then were super disappointed after getting it?
The new MacBook Pro. What happened? It’s ruined but I still bought it.
Be happy, stay humble and work hard.
Status quo – satisfied or are you looking for more?
I’m always trying to push what I do to become a better photographer. You can do it in so many different ways. There are so many niches and It’s so fun! All the different parts of photography are so interesting, you can always become better at everything. I’m just trying to keep on pushing myself as much as possible. I think that’s the thing – to never be satisfied.
The best piece of advice received?
Be happy, stay humble and work hard.
And who had the biggest impact on your career?
I worked two years with Jon Olsson, professionally skier and Youtuber, and that were my two years of education. It was a lot of hard work. Before, I felt like it was just about taking photos to be a photographer. I learned it was a lot more than just that in those years. It was a lot of great exposure and a good boost to my career.
Today, Jon is super famous in Sweden. How did you get to know him and what was your work relationship like?
Even though I’m crazy about skiing I got to know Jon through my car photography. We set up shoots whenever he got a new car, which ended up being quite often. From these shoots we got to know each other very well and once I graduated I started working with him full time. I spent two years, mid-2011 to mid-2013, traveling the world with Jon. My main role was being his photographer but in the end, it was almost more like a personal assistant. I was very involved with his marketing, sponsors, events and social media. Pretty much everything evolving his life. I would say these years were the best education I could have found.
Speaking about exposure – how popular are you in Sweden yourself?
I think the only thing that’s made me popular is through Jon. A lot of people see me as his photographer even though it was 5 years ago since he worked with me. So when I stopped working with him a lot of his fans happen to see me on the streets and say hi! But besides that, I think I’m pretty anonymous. I don’t post too much about myself.
I think it’s a journey, life itself.
Have you “made it”?
Yea! I’m really happy to make a living out of a passion. I am still really working on pushing myself and my photography. I always dream of taking the perfect shot. So yea, I guess like I said before, I’m never satisfied with where I am. I think it’s a journey, life itself. Whenever you feel like you made it, I don’t know if that’s the time to stop and do something else.
That’s a great note to end the interview. Thank you, Oskar!
Thanks so much!