I wanted to try everything I’d learnt through the magazines and books and went out and bought a couple of boxes of film. I was shooting strange things like cups, pens and tiles just to understand things like focus, DoF (depth of field), aperture and shutter-speed etc. My next step was to make a list of things to go out and shoot on a weekly basis like street children, a barn, flowers, animals or people at the local bar.
To answer the question, I was self-taught; mainly through trial and error.
2. What is your Profession (Speciality)?
I’m a professional photographer – I can’t really specify a speciality because I really enjoy shooting anything from lifestyle to fashion, to commercial to portraits and even the occasional landscapes.
3. Please describe your Photographic field:
I operate in quite a few fields; for the last 7 years I’ve been shooting international weddings, mostly in Croatia, but also in other countries like the UK, US, Caribbean, Montenegro etc.
When at home I’ll do mostly commercial work, which can be anything from a product for a pharmaceutical company, to hydraulics for a trucking company, to corporate portraits and even fashion shots for designers or magazines.
On my days off I’ll shoot stock.
4. When you started out, what was the biggest “eye opener”? What were your expectations? What didn’t you expect?
That I can actually make a living from what I was doing.
My expectations were a bit off. I never realized that there was so much competition out there and that making a good income from photography wasn’t going to be easy at all. There where so many variables to consider. It quickly became apparent that in order to compete against the active professionals, I would have to invest a lot of money in equipment, especially lenses and a lot of time on marketing.
5. Tell us about your typical workday or workweek It will most definitely start with a strong cup of coffee, or two. Then I’ll go through all my emails and make sure every event is in my calendar and synced with my phone.
OK, let’s say it’s a new week, with no backlogs and a new job on the table. I’ll then correspond with the client (either directly, or through an agent) and make sure I’ve got all the details in writing and that we are on the same page about the shoot. I’ll then do some research on what they already have and taking into account what has been asked of me, I’ll come up with a few concepts and references to what needs to be done.
Then comes the hard part; putting everything together, sourcing models (if necessary), make-up artist, stylist, location, equipment, check the weather forecast (if the shoot is outside) and make sure I’ve got a backup plan, covering everything and everyone.
My assistant will then be notified of the shoot and we’ll go through all the aspects.
Shoot day involves quite a lot of running around for my assistant, because I hardly ever stay in the same location for the entire shoot. I’ll do a few shots, then move on, changing wardrobe, make-up and location.
About half way through we’ll all have lunch and at the same time my assistant will start backing up all the cards to two hard drives.
Then shoot again.
After the shoot my assistant and I will pack up and make absolutely sure that all equipment is accounted for before calling it a day.
The following day I’ll go through all images, deleting all the duds, then rename them and make two DVD backups. Only then will I shortlist and start editing. On shoots like this, the deadlines are usually very short, so there is no time to fool around. Get the job done, your clients happy and move on.
Then everything starts all over again.
6. What equipment do you shoot with?
Canon EF 17-40mm f/4 L (weddings & travel)
Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8 L (weddings & travel)
Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 (fashion & weddings)
Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 L Macro (food/still life/portraits)
Benro 2 tripod
Manfrotto 055 tripod
Manfrotto 468MGRC4 Ballhead
1x Canon EX550 (not used all to often)
Sekonic Exposure meter L-358
6x Mono heads 500w
1x 1200w Battery pack (used almost on every shoot)
1x Beauty Dish + Honeycomb
8x Light stands
1x Infinity Table 1mx2m
1x 2-side reflectors round
1x Sun-Bounce Pro with Zebra/ White Screen (infallible in Cape Town where wind is always a factor)
3x CyberSync triggers/receivers (never failed me)
OnOne Ipod/Iphone trigger
5m USB tether cable
Photographic Solutions Digital Survival Kit Professional with Eclipse for Type 3 Sensors(which i hate using)
1x 500gb WD My Book Studio Edition HD
1x 1tb LaCie Hard Disk Quadra HD
1x 320gb LaCie Little Disk HD
Wacom Intuos3 6×9 graphics Tablet
15″ MBP 4gb RAM Core2 Duo 2.93 GHz
The good thing in Cape Town is that whatever you need – photography wise, you can hire for a very reasonable price.
7. What Computer hardware do you see as “must have” and required?
I swear by Apple, it just works with no hiccups or viruses – touch wood.
The biggest external hard drive you can afford or two.
A compact external hard drive.
Screen calibration unit.
A Wacom tablet.
8. What Software is needed to function in this field successfully?I think nowadays, in the digital era, where we shoot literally thousands of images per shoot, or day, you’ll need a proper digital workflow software package. Something where you can store and organize all your images even if they are not on your hard drive any more. There are only two that are worth considering – Apple Aperture and Adobe Lightroom.
For many, either of the above-mentioned will be sufficient as an all-in-one package to organize and process your RAW images.
Adobe Photoshop is the industry standard for photography and a must-have if you are going pro; however with all the new features and power of the new Aperture 3, I find myself using Photoshop less and less.
9. In this line of photography, do you need extra tuition, further studies or an internship?
Sure, as a photographer you can never know it all, so I’m always open to new ideas. You can learn more in one day assisting an experienced photographer than you would in a whole month or more trying to figure it out for yourself.
10. Can I make a decent living with this specialist field, or do I need to market my services more generally?
In my experience, you always need to market and keep in touch with both your current and your old clients. This way you’ll benefit from the best form of marketing; word of mouth.
Yes, you can make a decent living from photography, but just keep in mind that it will take a lot of work, dedication and patience. It takes time to establish yourself in the market and even if you do get there, you still need to be able to adjust to new technology and trends in order to stay current.
11. How do you get work? Do you have an agent? Do you do your own marketing and advertising?
I market myself and make a point to introduce myself to potential new clients as often as possible. Plus, as I said earlier, keep your clients happy and you’ll be almost guaranteed to get referral jobs from them.
12. How much time do you spend actually shooting in any given week?
Not as much as I would like. Now in the digital age, I find myself behind the computer about two to three days of any given week.
13. How much time do you spend editing or do you have a dedicated editor to do the work?
I do most of my own editing. I twice tried to get an editor to take over on the stock side of things, but to put it mildly, it didn’t work out. Editing is a very demanding task which requires hard work and long hours.
14. Can you do this on your own, or do you need other specialists (like creative directors or food stylists, etc) to make the images happen?
Well everyone starts out on their own and some people are more creative than others, but yes, on big shoots I do need a team of specialists. There is just too much going on and getting people in to take over certain aspects of the shoot does make your life a whole lot easier, ensuring you have more stress-free time to focus on what you do best, photography.
Most big shoots arranged by an agent automatically come with all the necessary specialists to achieve the required results.
15. Can you effectively shoot other styles if need be, or is your field very specialized?
I don’t want to brand myself as only a food, fashion or portrait photographer. I really love the challenge of every style of photography and will throw everything at it, but make no mistake; I will never take on a job if I feel hesitant in any way.
16. What threatens your profession?
Royalty Free stock; and yes I do contribute to quite a few stock sites myself. If you can’t beat them, join them…
So you might ask why do I shoot stock? Because stock photography is what is happening now and I don’t see it ever going back. I don’t want to be left behind because I’m stubborn, then regret it 5-10 years down the line…
17. What future developments do you see in your line of work?
Video, without doubt. Almost every major camera manufacture is implementing video into their still cameras. Is this a good thing? Maybe, maybe not. But is it here to stay? Yes.
I don’t see it as too big a threat, and I’ll have to get into it as soon as I can. I’m actually quite excited about the whole thing, it means more buttons…and I surely like buttons.
18. Who was the photographer(s) that inspired you most and why?
Two immediately come to mind; Steve McCurry and Sebastian Salgado. They shoot pretty much the same thing, but one in color and the other in dramatic B&W.
I find it fascinating to see how dedicated they are in what they do and that they will even go so far as to put their own lives on the line to get the images they do.
19. Would you do this (What you are doing today) again if you just started out today? Is it worth it?
I’d do it over and over again.
I can’t think of any other job that could be as inspiring, creative, challenging and satisfying. The added bonus is that you can actually make a living from it!
20. Any suggestions or “Pearls of Wisdom” for a Student wanting to get into this field?
Don’t be scared to take chances and try out new things. If you mess up, which you will, don’t give up and never be afraid to ask a fellow photographer for advice.
Assist other photographers (I’ve assisted a few times for free) and take mental notes of what’s happening out there; remember that the most successful photographers are not always the best photographers, but the better business men/women.
by Nolte Lourens
All images copyright Nolte Lourens
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