05 Apr 15 QUESTIONS FROM PROFOTO
As a long-time proud & passionate user of the best lighting brand in the world, Profoto named me one of their new South African ambassadors and had a few questions to get to know me a bit better.
1. When did your career start and what was your first commercial job?
Almost a decade ago I was invited to a wedding that had an family videographer & photographer booked and I was offered the chance to take photos as well. At the time I had no idea about the flow of weddings as I only ever attended two weddings before as a guest. I remember there being about 14 people in the bridal room and ended up getting nothing and went to sit outside in the car completely overwhelmed. Now, years later, I know that things will very seldom be perfect and I flourish in busy situations as it makes for interesting photos. They ended up paying me something afterwards which made it my first official job.
2. What camera did you use to shoot your very first job with?
My Canon 500D with a borrowed 16-35, 24-105 and an old 430EX speedlite. I still have the camera and speedlite but bought my 5D mk III in 2012 and still shoot with it today.
3. How much did you earn for that very first job?
For this first job I didn’t expect to get paid, but I received R3000. A few after that offered me certain small amounts which I accepted to build experience and save to buy gear. I didn’t stay in the low price bracket for too long but I am thankful for taking all the small jobs at the time because that is how I ended up buying much of my professional gear that I still shoot with today.
4. Did you have any formal education in photography, and if so, where? If not, how did you learn your craft?
I studied Visual Communication with specialization in Art Direction from the AAA School of Advertising. Clever and beautiful advertising has always fascinated me. I always had a 3 megapixel point-and-shoot with me as a hobby. Naturally design and editing was part of my course, but not photography at the time. I thus had all the visual and editing skill apart from knowing how a camera works.
The agency life wasn’t for me so I took on freelance design work and eventually a full time job working for people who didn’t treat me well. After ending up in hospital with a nervous breakdown, I made a decision to start over. Having friends who sparked my interest in photography even more, I started Chapter 1 of a Photography Institute online course in my hospital bed. Weddings was never the goal but after the rewarding feeling of the reactions of people and their families who loved their photos, I was hooked and it was all I wanted to do. I was thrown into the deep end as I never assisted at any weddings before – I figured it out all on my own (not recommended!).
A few workshops helped on the skill and mostly business side, and today I second shoot for industry friends just to have fun. We never and must never stop learning!
5. Is there a genre in photography that is on your “bucket list” and something you still aspire to get involved with?
I enjoy other genres but most don’t interest me in terms of shooting myself. I love working with people and the adrenalin of weddings keep me fulfilled! The more that’s happening, the better for creating! I thrive in situations where I have little control over the light or weather. That being said, I’ve started to mix my style from perfectly posed shots to the complete opposite, documentary wedding photography and I am loving it! I will always be passionate about timeless and elegant images but I’ve been enjoying the style a lot more. If I could get out into the bush more, I would love to learn more about wildlife photography. I am a born Capetonian with my heart in the bushveld.
6. How important is tech in your career, referring to the latest and greatest that the manufacturers supply?
Gear does make a difference but it will never make up for lack of skill. Stay informed or stay behind – technology shouldn’t be ignored but having the latest constantly is not essential. Invest in good lenses and lighting before buying the latest new body. I believe in buying the best you can afford from the start and learned the hard way that constant upgrades will end up being more expensive in the long run.
7. In your world, what technological advancement or improvement made the biggest difference to your career.
Learning how artificial light works and then bending those rules to create unique images. My flash work and especially my night photos at weddings has landed me many jobs. It was often the deciding factor if and when a client was torn between options. Many natural light photographers claim that flash is hard and unnatural – it doesn’t have to be. It’s important to know when to use natural light and when to use flash to enhance an image. There is a place for both. From slow-recycling speedlites I upgraded to the Profoto B1 in 2014 but replaced it with the new B10 which is light and fits in my camera bag at the size of a lens.
8. If you could, what would you change about the greater industry?
The way photographers overlook the power of printing their work. Showing a client a printed, tangible high quality album is one of the greatest marketing tools. It’s not only an opportunity to upsell, but also a form of a business card that people will take out into the world to show their peers. Build a relationship with a high quality print studio. For wedding albums I’ve used ProAlbums for over half a decade and it’s been one of my greatest investments in my business.
Another wish is for photographers to stop complaining about pricing or the saturated industry instead of staying focused on their business. So many photographers stay where they are because they stop learning and feel they know enough. Always work on your craft. It can be tough but consciously working on it becomes easier.
9. How do you see the future of the photographic business in all segments of the market?
There will always be a place for photography but perhaps the photographer is slowly blending into more industries. The industry needs to constantly innovate – adapt or die. My biggest tip is to build relationships. Relationships have given me more opportunities than marketing ever will.
10. Do you have a personal favorite image from your career?
I’m torn on this one but this photo of my beautiful bride Zeenat on the horse is special to me. She is not a rider and the horse was not in the mood to work with us and kept moving around. She remained composed even though it was challenging and this picture was taken in an in-between-the-vogue-shots moment when the horse started walking. There is something timeless and surreal in this image that speaks to me.
11. What do you see as your biggest challenge in the next 24 months?
With the current state of the world during the pandemic, I think the biggest challenge would be to get new work in as what we do can’t be done remotely. There is a lot of uncertainty and time will tell but I feel it is important now to work on my business and marketing and also start looking at options for different income streams until things are back to normal – which may not be as soon as we wish.
12. If you had R 100 000 today to blow on hardware, what would you buy?
The new R5 from Canon looks incredible and I can’t wait to get my hands on testing one! Also on the wish list is a 35mm 1.4 and more Profoto lights and modifiers.
13. How do you feel about attending workshops to better your skills and how would you like to see workshops in general being formulated?
The right workshops can make a world of difference and changed the course of my business and skill level significantly over the past few years. Beware of choosing workshops of people whose style are too similar to yours. The idea is to learn new things and to grow. Even workshops and presentations that are unrelated to your genre can open up a whole new world of possibility. There is always something new to learn.
14. Who is you biggest Icon in the photographic world, past or present?
Tough question! I am fortunate to call most of the local talent my friends and admire and learn from them all but locally I think the work of Quintin Mills, Jacki Bruniquel, Duwayne Denton (although international now) and Rodolfo Custo had influence on my style. Internationally I love John Russo’s portraits and of course Annie Leibovitz. Binge watching earlier works of Jerry Ghionis, Roberto Valenzuela, Cliff Mautner and Frank Doorhof had a huge influence on my style. I also have mad respect for 93 year-old Sir David Attenborough who embraced new technology over the years to continue his incredibly passionate work.
15. If you were given a choice, and could only choose one, would you shoot in color or B&W for the rest of your life?
My trademark is deep and vibrant colours, partially thanks to using lighting that makes colours pop, so colour all the way! I also love black and white though, especially for the documentary images as black and white just captures the soul of an image.
Contact me below with any more questions or if you would like to DEMO Profoto products.