Jaroslav Monchak

A young woman in a green dress pushes a bicycle along a windswept beach just before sunset.

This joyful image was taken by Canon Ambassador Jaroslav Monchak half an hour before sunset during his workshop in Sri Lanka. The Ukrainian photographer, who specialises in fashion and portraiture, wanted to make the most of the sky's natural pink tinge. Taken on a Canon EOS 5DS R with a Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens at 55mm, 1/640 sec, f/2.8 and ISO1250. © Jaroslav Monchak

Ukrainian portrait and fashion photographer Jaroslav Monchak plays with light to create natural shots, yet teases the scene with subtle storytelling to add an extra dimension of interest.

An attractive model wearing an expression imbued with layers of subtext, a well-placed prop that draws the eye, a backdrop masterfully illuminated to deliberately reveal specific aspects of interest; there's more to the Canon Ambassador's portraits than first meets the eye.

Based in the city of Lviv, Jaroslav has cultivated a talent for creating superbly lit, posed, styled and captured imagery that has seen him become one of the country's most in-demand shooters. He has been commissioned to produce hundreds of editorial images, many of which have appeared as covers for magazines in his home country and beyond, including Lviv Today, F'OLITIQUE, Egoist Lviv, BOOM plus TV and La Femme Magazine.

"Growing up, I knew that I wanted to work with emotion and human beauty, and photography combines them," Jaroslav reveals when asked why he chose to pursue photography as a career. "My favourite genre of photography is portrait photography; I just love to photograph interesting faces and capture people's emotions. In fashion photography I like to convey the beauty of women, and set it alight with interest and colour."

Canon Ambassador Jaroslav Monchak.

Location: Lviv, Ukraine
Specialist areas: Fashion, advertising
Favourite kit:
Canon EOS 5DS R
Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM
A woman stands in a greenhouse peering out from behind a large leaf.

"This photo was taken for the Lighthouse photography school. It was our practice lesson, where I demonstrated how to work with daylight. I used a white 180x90cm reflector," Jaroslav says. Taken on a Canon EOS 5DS R with a Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens at 50mm, 1/320 sec, f/5.6 and ISO500. © Jaroslav Monchak

Whether shooting within the walls of his fully-equipped 90-square-metre studio, or out on location, Jaroslav has garnered a reputation for being exceptionally thorough in order to bring his creative concepts to life, right down to nailing the smallest detail.

"The first thing I look for is an interesting location that inspires me," he says. "After that, I choose the clothing that suits the location with the help of a stylist. Then I select the models and all the additional details. In the frame I try to convey the atmosphere of the location, so the viewer who sees the photo feels as though they could be there."

A woman dancing in a rocky, desert-like environment, with strips of fabric floating round her and feathers in her hair.

For this ethereal image commissioned by a driving school, Jaroslav wanted to create a sharp and unobstructed shot. To achieve this, he set the shutter speed to at least 1/1600 sec. "We went to a sand quarry and did a pretty dynamic photo shoot there," he says. "The stylist made the clothes from gauze that he bought in a pharmacy, and in order for it to get such a beige shade, we soaked it in a tea infusion for several hours." Taken on a Canon EOS 5DS R with a Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM lens at 1/1600 sec, f/4 and ISO500. © Jaroslav Monchak

Jaroslav, who is completely self-taught, set out on his journey to become a photographer in 2008; since then, he has steadily perfected his technique and honed a style that is alive with light, colour, emotion and energy. During his career, Jaroslav has ventured into other genres alongside fashion and portraiture. Most recently, he has worked in advertising, shooting high profile campaigns for dozens of brands and pointing his lens at everything from designer lingerie to digital notebooks. Yet since 2016, Jaroslav has found another love alongside photography: teaching. He established a photography school, known as Lighthouse, which has given a new generation of photographers the opportunities he once lacked.

"When I first started taking pictures all those years ago, this type of school just didn't exist," he says. "The purpose of my photo school is for self-development, where students can gain a practical knowledge of photography. I like to talk with these like-minded people who come to us to learn. I get so much pleasure from teaching and being useful to them. We welcome the opportunity to teach beginners and enthusiasts. I just love working with new and exciting photographers."

What's been the most valuable lesson you've learned during your career?

"Probably that, in the photography business, it's important to find and maintain the right balance between commerce and creativity."

What do you do to your images in post?

"The first thing I do is correct the exposure and the white balance, and then if necessary, I select the contrast."

What's been the highlight of your career so far?

"I would say my main achievement was when I created my own photography school, Lighthouse, which teaches beginners and enthusiasts."

What's the biggest thing in fashion photography right now?

"In my opinion the biggest shift has seen poses become less contrived and much more natural, creating a feeling of relaxation and ease."

What's your secret for nailing the perfect portrait?

"I like to use an aperture between f/2.5 and f/3.2, and never put the shutter speed longer than 1/100 sec, to avoid a blurred image."

One thing I know

Jaroslav Monchak

"Photographers who are interested in pursuing a career in fashion and portrait photography should ensure that they know the basics. They need to have a strong command of all the technical skills, and fully understand how aperture, shutter speed, ISO and all the other settings work, and how they affect each other. Then it's a case of understanding the light. Portraits with good light will always look beautiful. So spend time looking for the light. Usually I like to work with one source of soft light, which may be a regular window, or a studio softbox."

Facebook: Jaroslav Monchak

Instagram: @monchak


Jaroslav Monchak's kitbag

The key kit that the pros use to take their photographs

Jaroslav Monchak's kitbag containing Canon cameras and lenses.


Canon EOS 5DS R

A camera designed to deliver the ultimate in DSLR image quality, with an impressive 50.6MP resolution. "I really like this camera; it has fantastic colour reproduction, which is obviously very important to me and what I do," says Jaroslav.


Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM

A professional-quality standard zoom that offers outstanding image quality and a fast f/2.8 aperture throughout its zoom range. "I used to use a prime lens, but when I tried this one I liked it so much that I use it for almost all of my shoots," Jaroslav says.

Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM

A short telephoto focal length, combined with a large maximum aperture and fast autofocus speed, make this lens ideal for any professional portrait photographer. "This lens offers high quality at an affordable price, and I love the blur I can create in the background," says Jaroslav.


Canon Speedlite 430EX III-RT

Powerful, versatile and portable. This flash can be radio-triggered off-camera, allowing you to get creative with your lighting in exciting new ways. "This flash has been with me for a very long time, it works just great," Jaroslav says.

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