Iiris Sjöblad

Through the gap in the wipers on a car's windscreen, the legs of a hula dancer doll are visible. The doll is stuck on the dashboard; next to it is a coin. Taken by Iiris Sjöblad.

"I saw this inside someone's car window and it made me think about the story behind the coin and hula dancer," says Finnish filmmaker and photographer Iiris Sjöblad. Taken on a Canon EOS 6D (now succeeded by the Canon EOS 6D Mark II) with a Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L IS USM lens at 70mm, 1/80 sec, f/5.6 and ISO 100. © Iiris Sjöblad

"My strength is making something big out of nothing," proclaims Finnish filmmaker and photographer Iiris Sjöblad. "I see beauty wherever I go and for me, it is more about capturing it than chasing after it."

From portraiture and landscapes to documentaries and commercial projects, Iiris opens her arms to an array of photographic disciplines. "Genre does not matter if I can use my own voice," she says. "I have always loved taking documentary shots because 'reality' fascinates me. After I became professional, I learned how hard it is to construct a 'real' moment for a commercial shoot but that kind of challenge excites me."

For portraiture, Iiris suggests the appeal lies in the collaborative process between the photographer and the model. "I often think that people are mirrors to one another, and by looking at the person in front of my lens I can catch a little bit of me in each shot," she says.

A headshot of Canon Ambassador Iiris Sjöblad.
Location: Helsinki, Finland

Specialist areas: Portrait, art, commercial, documentary, landscape

Favourite kit: Canon EOS 5D Mark IV
Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L IS USM
The full moon is visible in the clear sky, in a photo taken by Iiris Sjöblad.

"I was sailing and was lucky that there was a full moon in the sky that night," says Iiris. "I find it fascinating that it is not actually the Moon that is shining but the Sun that lends its light." Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV with a Canon TS-E 135mm f/4L MACRO lens at 1/200 sec, f/14 and ISO 800. © Iiris Sjöblad

Iiris also has plans to turn her lens skyward, hoping to experiment with astrophotography. "Space inspires me," she says. "I have this dream to shoot planets, the Moon and stars with telephoto lenses. I have never caught the aurora borealis on camera, so that is on my to-do list!"

Based in Helsinki, Finland, Iiris has more opportunity than most to tick this particular challenge off her wish list. What's more, it's a place she says has been a source of inspiration ever since she was a teenager. It was here she evolved from taking pictures of friends at parties with her first camera, a Canon EOS 600D, to exploring nature and empty streets. "There is something magical about wandering around in the forests or the city when it is still sleeping, and with my photography, it's as though I'm capturing how it feels," she says.

A woman on the London underground wears a red hat and smiles at the camera. Her hat matches the red railings behind her. Taken by Iiris Sjöblad.

"I was sent to London as a 'tastemaker' by a Finnish media company," recalls Iiris. "I took different kinds of photos and posted them online. I asked this lady if I could take her portrait because of her beautiful hat. She said yes and after seeing the end result, I realised the railing matched her hat in an incredible way." Taken on a Canon EOS 6D with a Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L IS USM lens at 24mm, 1/40 sec, f/5.6 and ISO 1000. © Iiris Sjöblad

Iiris's images have a whimsical charm and ethereal nature, as if tinged with magic. "I want to show how I experience vivid colours and then the darkest dark moments, as though seeing the world with rose-coloured glasses and exploring the shadowy depths of different emotions," she explains. "For me, each shoot has its own magic, and I'm always surprised by how much atmosphere can be created."

Iiris never pursued a formal photography education, taking a more practical route instead by joining a commercial photography production company for two years before launching her own business. "It was a huge step for me to quit my job and become a freelance photographer and filmmaker," she says. "I was very scared in the beginning but somehow it turned out even better than I expected."

The silhouette of a person is visible under a cloudy sky. The sky appears to be different shades of pastel pink and pastel blue. Taken by Iiris Sjöblad.

"Loneliness and solitude are two very different things," says Iiris. "I wanted to show in this photo that being alone can be peaceful." Taken on a Canon EOS 6D with a Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L IS USM lens at 70mm, 1/80 sec, f/7.1 and ISO 400. © Iiris Sjöblad

Having worked for many notable clients – including global children's charity Plan International, and Helsingin Sanomat, Finland's largest and best-known newspaper – Iiris, like many photographers, knows the virtue of continually evolving her style. She says that she does this by allowing her lifestyle to influence her creative decisions. "For example, I have recently been softening the lenses with Pro-Mist filters because life has felt softer after having my first child," she explains. "I have started to use more warm light because after having a child your life changes, as does how you perceive your reality. Somehow I think my style always goes hand in hand with my life and I am happy with that because that means it will continue to develop and not get stuck and become stale.

"The idea of living is to evolve, so then must our style!"

When and how did you begin experimenting with photography?

"My mother bought me a Canon 600D as a Christmas present in 2005. I started with selfies and I used the self-timer a lot. I edited the photos in many imaginative and surreal ways so that it was hard to recognise it was me in the photos. Lately, I've been thinking about those selfies and how they were a great tool for self-expression during that difficult angst stage – how they helped me to cope as a teenager. But more than anything, it was the first time I found my voice as a photographer."

In what way do you think your creative process has changed over time?

"In the early days, I didn't use mood boards or mind maps, I just visualised everything in my head and started to shoot. Nowadays, I think the pre-planning is as important as the actual shoot. I have learned that by making many mistakes along the road."

In your opinion, what does a scene need to be worthy of being captured?

"When I am photographing I am in a different time and space. I try to forget everything mundane and focus on the subject. When I take the photo I want to make sure the light is beautiful or interesting, and the framing is super important for me. Even if there's only dull light, with a good composition you can make the image speak. Composition and lighting combined with an interesting subject – that's what it's all about."

What are some of the main industry challenges you've faced?

"Pricing is always hard because the industry is evolving all the time. Sometimes the budget is tight but the subject itself is interesting, and then sometimes, it can be the other way around. So to choose the projects that really suit your lifestyle is often hard. I think the challenge is to take care of your own wellbeing and finances, but at the same time try to stay open to new ways of doing things."

One thing I know

Iiris Sjöblad

"When I look back to the start of my career, I wish I had known that learning from your mistakes is just part of the deal, and not to take things too seriously. I've found that sometimes things can get harder just before I have some kind of breakthrough – whether it is in the material or metaphysical realm. If I live my life so that I keep myself in good physical and mental health there are no limits to my creativity. I just want to stay open and curious and hopefully my curiosity towards the craft will lead me to make the right choices."

Instagram: @iirissjoblad



Iiris Sjöblad's kitbag

The key kit that the pros use to take their photographs

Canon Ambassador Iiris Sjöblad's kitbag containing Canon cameras, lenses and accessories.


Canon EOS 5D Mark IV

A legendary model that's built to last, offering superior quality inside and out. Speaking about the camera, Iiris says it is still her go-to body thanks to its ability to perform in every situation, offering advanced focusing and metering that keeps track of subjects, even in low light. "It's my favourite camera because it is not too heavy to carry and provides great image quality and excellent focusing options," she adds.


Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L IS USM

This compact L-series zoom lens delivers superb image quality shot after shot thanks to its UD and aspherical elements. "I really enjoy using this lens because of its wide range of focal lengths and because it's incredibly sharp," says Iiris. "I use it wherever I go."

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