Stanislav Solntsev Shoots Mercedes in Moscow for Belka

Feb 4, 2019
Photographer Spotlight

When Moscow car-sharing service Belka wanted to showcase the luxury of their Mercedes-only fleet, they contacted Russia-based lifestyle photographer Stanislav Solntsev. Belka is a relatively young company and had no standing relationship with a creative branding agency. Stanislav thus worked closely with producer and director Dmitry Bocharov in pre-production for over two months on the concept, mood board, numbers, and location of the project.

Moscow Russia Mercedes Belka car-sharing lifestyle photography Stanislav Solntsev

Stanislav notes that right before the shoot, he received word that he’d won a bid for another project with Visa. It might have been terrific news, but it conflicted with the scheduled Belka shoot.

“At the time, I was in Turkey with my kids and I was faced with a dilemma: I would have to either drop out of the Belka project or turn down the opportunity to fly to Tbilisi to work with Visa for nearly twice the pay. My professional ethics prevailed. I thought, ‘Finish the project you have been working on and don’t let down the people who trust you.’ I apologized to Visa and flew back to Moscow to do the Belka shoot.”

Moscow Russia Mercedes Belka car-sharing lifestyle photography Stanislav Solntsev

Given the length of pre-production, the shoot date had been set for late autumn, when Moscow is typically gray and cold. Relocation wasn’t an option, however, as a fledgling company, Belka’s budget was relatively limited.

“[W]e couldn’t produce the shoot in a warm sunny location because we would need not only to fly in the crew, the client, and the models, but also the cars – either that, or face expensive post-production: retouching the cars, adding branding on them, and so on.”

Moscow Russia Mercedes Belka car-sharing lifestyle photography Stanislav Solntsev

Luckily, the season was projected to be unexpectedly sunny, if not warm. Ill-equipped for the chilly Moskow weather in their stylishly light clothing, the models would have to be rotated regularly between shots. Sub-freezing temperatures would also affect Stanislav’s mirrorless Fuji camera, so he planned to keep an extra one “warmed” in the crew wagon to switch out as needed.

“I love the challenges that always arise when shooting lifestyle projects outdoors. It doesn’t matter whether it’s an urban an environment or a ski resort – there will be complications. I love having to deliver top-quality shots no matter what obstacles we face in terms of weather, location, et cetera.” 

Moscow Russia Mercedes Belka car-sharing lifestyle photography Stanislav Solntsev

Stanislav wanted to avoid “dull” leafless autumn trees in the background of his images and, with Dmitry’s assistance, had located a business center surrounded by evergreen pine trees. But Stanislav arrived the day of the shoot to find that the very same idea had also occurred to a television production crew. The two groups had to coordinate on the spot to keep out of each other’s way – which was no small feat, given a narrow timeframe due to the extremely limited sunlight.

“Both crews had to work super-fast due to the sun’s low position at this time of the year. Although the business center is located by a river and the buildings aren't very high, there still wasn’t much sunlight. In fact, I chose the location because of all the glass constructions: there’s indirect infusion of light which looked mild and suffuse in the photographs.”

Moscow Russia Mercedes Belka car-sharing coffee cafe lifestyle photography Stanislav Solntsev

Despite limitations of weather and location, Stanislav was able to capture the “atmospheric shots in the reportage lifestyle manner” he had envisioned. He appreciates the rewards – as well as the difficulties – of photographing people and cars simultaneously. 

“I try to give directions to models that allow them to play their roles within a scene but also let their energies flow naturally. Any subject – car, gadget, skis, bike, whatever – affords me opportunity to structure this flow into a story

Moscow Russia Mercedes Belka car-sharing lifestyle photography Stanislav Solntsev

“But shooting people together with cars is always a challenge. You need to pay attention to the proportions and aesthetics of the car, you need to avoid unnecessary reflections and flares on the car body, you need to constantly think of interesting angles and compose the shots in a way that still makes models look natural.”

In addition to these considerations, Stanislav notes, a photographer must, first and foremost, always cater to the needs of the client. 

“When we first shot the series with the model sitting behind the driver’s wheel, there’d been no supervisor from Mercedes. When she finally saw the images, she told us, ‘These look beautiful, but the wheel and the badge of the brand aren't in the right position and both of the model’s hands have to be on the wheel in accordance with driving law.’ So we immediately reshot them all.”

Moscow Russia Mercedes Belka car-sharing lifestyle photography Stanislav Solntsev



Producer and Creative Co-Director: Dmitry Bocharov

Production Service: Stereotactic

Set Manager: Anya Guseva

Makeup and Wardrobe: Sputnik Supervision

Assistants and Rentals: White Studios 

Post-Production Crew: Denis Kornilov's Studio

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