Authentic, adventurous, and sensual— that’s how the international swimwear photographer, Denis Jung a.k.a MAX LIBERTINE captures his models and the essence of traveling to dreamy destinations.
In this conversation, we discover the actual process that lies behind the beautiful images and how he makes it in the industry.
Denis Jung a.k.a MAX LIBERTINE is an international swimwear, lingerie and travel photographer based in Dresden, Germany. Although he started his career as a scientist, MAX found himself falling in love with photography and decided to pursue this path. Nowadays, he works with a small team, creating unique content for a wide range of brands in some of the most compelling places around the world.
Today, we talk to him about his photography journey, career challenges, and how he interacts with his subjects, among other things.
Could you tell us a little bit about yourself? How did you get into photography?
I am a swimwear and lingerie photographer. I live in Dresden, Germany, with my wife and two young daughters. In my work, I focus on advertising my own swimwear and lingerie photo productions to brands worldwide.
I got into photography by accident. While being in between jobs and making a transition from working as a scientist to the startup industry I had planned a road trip from Dresden to Barcelona with my old Porsche convertible. I figured this would be a once in a lifetime experience and so I bought my first good camera. I found myself snapping away all day long, finding and searching for new perspectives. I felt joy doing it and so it became a hobby. After stepping out of my own company and away from several other management positions two years ago I realized that all I wanted to do was to create images.
What was the first camera you started using?
My first semi-professional camera was a Sony Nex 7. A mirrorless camera design with a 25MP APS-C sensor and exchangeable lenses. I later upgraded to a sturdy Canon 5D Mark III with full frame sensor and decided to go back to Sony two years ago. I am a huge fan of the Sony Alpha 7R+ family. I feel it is perfect for the kind of work I do.
What problems did you have to solve in order for your career to take off?
When you are in a city like Dresden with no real fashion and modeling industry, and no beach around, it is difficult to build a portfolio and find clients. However, I do enjoy traveling and reaching out to people. So I set up test shoots in exotic locations, connected with models through agencies and social media and I send quite a few emails to brands.
What turns on your creativity?
I am a very spontaneous and intuitive person. I love the adventure of trying new things, discovering places and meeting interesting people. All I need to work is a model and a location that both have a beautiful personality and story.
How do you find shooting lingerie fashion compare to other genres you’ve done?
It is very inspiring and intense. I usually get to know the model and to work with her closely in as little as one day. It is very rewarding and exhausting at the same time. I feel that by stripping off clothes, I can also show parts of a person’s personality that are not so accessible and visible in everyday life. My ultimate goal for a shoot is to have my models enjoy a real-life experience and capture their intuitive and authentic response to it.
What is your advice on building trust and connection with models, especially in a short period of time?
There is no doubt being generally professional and respectful is the basis to start from. To really connect and make it work, authenticity, purpose, and communication are key. In addition, you have to trust your model and let go of controlling her. Also, you have to keep your model safe at all times – I usually and with intention share a lot: about myself, how I generally work and the ideas I have for the particular shoot.
I also empower the model to go along with her own intuition and follow what works for her. I make sure that she understands I am interested in her unique interpretation of a scene and that there is no right or wrong way to do it. In fact, I do not want my models to pose or replay what they have done or studied before. I will just add some ideas and suggestions to her actions and we usually end up with something that works for both of us.
As a model, you will need personality, a sense of self-awareness and self-confidence. That is why I select my models very carefully and tend to avoid super young models. I have found that the age range of 21-26 years works best for me.
To continue with the topic of models, how do you find models for destination shooting? What’s your experience with going through agencies vs direct booking?
My approach has changed over the course of time as well as the tools I use. I usually research the best agencies near the destination and see what they have to offer. I personally also have good experience with direct bookings and sourcing fitting models through Instagram using location specific hashtags (e.g. #balimodels). Especially if the destination is well frequented this can be a great source.
What was the #1 mistake you did when you were building your personal brand?
Not knowing my market well enough and to get my target group, service offering or price point wrong. To be honest, I am still improving with every project I complete. Within my niche, there is not too much help out there to consult. It is a very competitive field and a relatively small and fragmented market. The establishment of social media influencers is an additional challenge as their selling point is most of all reach and customer loyalty over image quality and artistic vision. To some brands, this has become a priority.
What’s your #1 strategy when it comes to reaching out/ market your service to international brands?
I have learned
What makes a good day for you?
Waking up with a view in a dream destination and to shoot with a wonderful model all day long on an exotic and remote beach: wind in my hair, sun in my eyes and sand between my toes, interrupted only by healthy and delicious food and time to relax, chat and enjoy the views.