I had the weirdest day today. Via the comments on another amazing photographer friend’s shared post, I had the most brief of interactions with Kirsty Mitchell. Yes, the Kirsty Mitchell. Wonderland Kirsty Mitchell…
Being a photographer gives you the privilege to hold some of the most modern and expensive equipment around in your own hands often! Unfortunately the only problem with this is holding and handling these camera’s and their accompanying lenses for hours on end with little breaks in between.
This results in many different issues such as acute and chronic injuries, and could not only leave you with tremendous pain but also not being able to continue your work at hand.
Ask anyone, branding is a crucial part of any photography business – more so when you’re starting out. From logos to business cards, to websites and photobooks. How do you put together a brand when you start out and what happens when you don’t feel connected to your current/old branding anymore?
Hello, Grethe here! 🙂 Continuing with our Get to Know the Admins series, I want to cast the spotlight today on my partner in crime, the magnificent Gita Claassen! 🙂
When I founded SA Women Photographers, nobody really understoon and valued my vision as much as Gita did – she just got it! This made her the perfect and logical choice to be my co-pilot and I haven’t regretted it for a day! 🙂 She does a lot of work for our community and I cannot manage without her!
Gita is an extremely talented and passionate travel, lifestyle and journalistic photographer and person and I think I love her most for her take no prisoners -attitude. I managed to corner her for some twenty questions! 🙂
Wow, it’s been a while – guys! How are you all? 🙂
I have a couple of great things in the works for the blog, but thanks to work, I don’t get to all of it as quickly as I would like, unfortunately. However, I’ve been meaning to interview my incredibly dear, incredibly talented friend Moira for a while now and yay! here it is! 🙂 ♥
1) Hello Moira! I have known you for years and years, but for those of you in here unfamiliar with you, please introduce yourself!
I’m a full time wedding photographer based in Stellenbosch (soon moving to Cape Town!). I’ve shot over 300 weddings and have had a very rapidly growing career thus far..! In 2017 I’m scaling down and only shooting 24 – 36 weddings per year 🙂
2) When and how did you get into photography?
I studied photography after school – I did a 3 year BA in Graphic Design and Photography. The course was very fine-art oriented. After graduating I worked as a professional retoucher (I worked on GQ, FHM, Sports Illustrated and more!) for 2 years before moving onto full time photography.
At that point I was only doing photography over the weekends, and when the workload became too much I had to choose between photography and a 9 to 5. The choice was easy 🙂
3) Why wedding photography? What attracted you to it and how did your journey through photography have you end up choosing this?
I actually started out with fashion photography. I did mainly new model’s portfolios. I was very good at making the new, young girls feel at ease in front of the camera. After getting to know the fashion industry’s dark side (eating disorders, agencies not paying me because the (very thin) model looks ‘too fat’ on the pictures, etc) I decided to switch to weddings. The realness of weddings and the people involved was far more alluring than the fakeness of the fashion industry..!
4) You’ve been shooting weddings for quite some time – are there still aspects of it you find challenging and why?
Family photos..! Ha ha.. I still get challenged at many weddings, especially when something unforeseen happens. At one wedding the bride got the timeline wrong and suddenly I had 20 mins for family photos, bridal party, couple shoot and decor shots. At that point there is no use panicking, so you just kick your heels in and do it. Keeping calm and not making your clients panic does get very hard sometimes..! That said, I am a very patient person and this characteristic of mine has most definitely helped me as a wedding photographer. Not showing your panic or frustration at a wedding is also another skill that you’ll need as a wedding photographer.
5) For the gear-heads: what’s in your bag?
2 x Canon 5Dmk3 bodies
3 x Canon 600EX flashes
1 x Canon 50mm 1.2
1 x Sigma Art 35mm 1.4
1 x Canon 85mm 1.8
1 x Canon 100mm macro 2.8
1 x Canon 17 – 40 f4
1 x Canon 70 – 200 f2.8
Light stands, reflector, bits and bobs..!
My gear bag is rather heavy, my assistants tend to suffer 😉
6) Do you still remember your first solo wedding? What was it like?
Of course! It was utterly terrifying. I had no idea what I was doing, I thought the ceremony was the reception (I mixed up the words), and I missed the family photos. I charged next to nothing for it and luckily the client knew it was my first wedding ever! The first time I had to use off camera lighting at a wedding I stood in the middle of the dance floor and burst out in tears. Nothing was working and I was clueless!
7) What is your favourite part of the wedding day to shoot?
I love the getting ready.. just so much love, nerves and excitement hanging in the air. Of course, the couple shoot is also one of my favourites – it’s such a nice time for the couple to breathe, really see each other and wind down. The golden light during this time of day also gets me super excited.
8) Where did you shoot your favourite wedding?
I have a few favourite weddings..! Mostly if a wedding becomes part of my ‘favourite wedding’ list, it’s because of the people, not the location. A day filled with real joy, emotion, and warm people never fails to make me spectacularly happy. Of course, a great location is a real bonus and can really bring the whole wedding together, especially from a photographer’s point of view.
9) Have you ever had something catastrophic happen at a wedding and how did you handle it?
I think I touched on this with my previous answers..! I do think I’ve been fortunate enough not to have experienced a major catastrophe – unexpected rain comes the closest with last minute plans being dropped or moved around.
10) Do you think that a lot of photographers treat wedding photography as a “meal ticket” instead of art?
Yep! But ‘art’ is such an objective term – what I find beautiful in wedding photography is not necessarily everyone’s taste. Personally I love unposed, natural, documentary type of wedding photography. The tick-all-the-boxes and ‘Will-you-cut-the-cake-again’ doesn’t do it for me. But some clients actually ask for this! I’ve had more ‘faked’ signings and cake cuttings than I can count. I’ll take the picture for them but I won’t put it on my portfolio.
11) What are your feelings of wedding photography as fine art versus pure documentary work? Do you think it’s one or the other, or both, and why?
What is fine art? I’ve seen sooo many photographers label themselves as ‘fine art’, it’s perplexing. I think the term has lost some of its meaning or impact. ‘Documentary’ is a easier to categorise; to me it’s the natural, the unposed, the candid. Certainly you can put a fine art twist to your documentary work if you had the talent and put in the hard work.
12) Do you do other photography except wedding work? If so, please tell us about it!
I do! During the week I often do couple sessions, travel/ holiday photography, families, maternity, even the odd newborn shoot here and there 🙂
13) Any advice for aspiring wedding photographers, or just young photographers in general?
Oooh shoh! Have ‘hare op jou tanne’*, learn from other photographers (that’s the best way of learning!) – attend workshops (I offer mentoring sessions by the way). Challenge yourself, keep up with the international standards and trends. If you’re looking into getting into weddings, BE NICE! Don’t fret about all the small things. When I started out 90% of my work came from word of mouth. It’s easy to lose a client’s referral after the wedding too – if she has ‘silly’ requests like a picture from another angle, get off your high horse and do it for her with a smile! If something like that upsets you, then you should probably look at getting into another industry. I think being a good photographer is 70% working with people and getting the best out of them, and 30% talent (but that’s just me 😉
* a common Afrikaans expression meaning something like tough as nails.
1) Favourite colour?
Teal.. aqua.. that dreamy sea colour!
2) Favourite book?
Jinne, Harry Potter and the Prizoner of Azkaban 😀
3) Favourite movie?
4) iPhone or Android?
5) Cat or dog person?
6) Red or white wine?
Red mostly.. white for summer 😉
7) How do you like your coffee?
More milk than coffee!
8) Favourite country you’ve visited?
Thailand (sigh!) – we got married there in 2015!
9) Tea or coffee?
10) Favourite season?
FIND MOIRA ONLINE HERE:
One of the things I’ve been wanting to do with the blog from the start was to do interviews with some of the most talented women photogaphers in South Africa, as I do believe that it’s important to hear from the ladies at the top of their game to inspire, motivate and uplift others.
So for our first interview post, I have a lady whom I greatly admire as her work is truly in a class of its own. I present to you all, the incredible Ilse Moore!
During my studies ( I studied Visual Art), I received my first camera as a gift and while I was using more traditional media for my art at that time I soon got to the point where I had to decide whether I would explore my concepts through drawing or photography, and I chose photography. I don’t know how it would have been different had I gone the other route, but 7 years later I still adore what I do.
Some of you have known me (Grethe) for much longer than others and may know that photography hasn’t always been an easy journey for me. Some of you, on the other hand, may feel like you cannot relate to my work because you all you ever see is me posting images that are the result of ten years of continuous hard work.
But, this post is not about me. This post about the things I’ve learned that’s helped me along the way – things I want to share with all of you, as well as some things that some of the ladies in our group have found useful and inspiring. So go get some coffee, this is going to be a long-ass post! ♥♥♥
This is based on something similar I wrote on my DeviantArt page a few years ago and it resonated with a lot of people. Needless to say, my experiences since then have caused the list to change, but the gist is well and truly the same.
• There’s no such thing as Canon vs Nikon vs Fuji vs Sony vs……
Let’s get this one out of the way first.
When I was in high school, I heard the saying don’t blame the thing, blame the thing behind the thing. I didn’t particularly like the girl who said it, but somehow it managed to stick with me for many years. Weird.
The truth is, though – that little black box with a tube of metal and glass strapped to it is not going to determine what your images look like. Sure, it does help, because to a certain extent gear does matter (will do a post on this in future), but at the end of the day the only one who can make the image is you. Personally, I shoot Canon, as the first DSLR I’ve ever worked with and learned on was a Canon. That doesn’t mean I would do better work or worse work, or even different work if I suddenly started shooting on a Nikon or Sony .
A brand is a brand is a brand: at the end of the day your clients won’t ask what you used to shoot with or edit with – they will care about the image in their hands, not the yellow or red logo on the camera strap.
• On the topic of gear – find out what works for you and tailor your equipment accordingly, especially if you’re on a tight budget.
You probably wouldn’t need a 400mm telephoto lens if you will be shooting exclusively portraits or landscapes and you probably wouldn’t need a macro lens if you will be shooting motorsport or bands on stage. If you have no idea what you want to specialise in yet, try before you buy – if it’s possible at all, rent or borrow a lens for a day and play with it. If it makes your insides light up with happiness, play with it some more and then invest when you’re able to.
• The best camera is the one you have.
This has been repeated to death, but your entry-level DSLR and lenses shouldn’t hold you back and shouldn’t stop you from doing good work!
I myself shot with a Canon 400D , the plastic 18-55mm kit lens (in the days where the IS lenses weren’t the standard with entry-level kits) and one of those silver car windshield things as a reflector for seven whole years before I saved up enough to buy my second hand Canon 5D Mark II body and 24-70mm f2.8 L lens, which I still use today.
My little 400D didn’t stop me from learning and improving and it shouldn’t stop you either – I maintain that you need to earn your stripes on an entry-level camera before you should consider upgrading. The things that an entry-level camera can teach you are invaluable as you learn to make do with little equipment and how to work with light to compensate for the camera’s shortcomings as you start to outgrow it. Learn your camera inside out and push it to its absolute limits – the skills you gain will make you a great photographer.
• The only way to learn Photoshop or Lightroom is to sit down, shut up and mess with it.
The long and short of it is this: if there’s something you want to learn to do – go find online tutorials, ask someone to show you or if possible, attend a workshop. Then, you sit down and do it over and over and over again until you get it and understand what you’re doing – drink coffee, swear, smoke cigarettes, whatever you have to do to get it down. In the end, you’re only going to be wasting your time if you blindly click buttons until you somehow get the result you want without knowing what you’re doing. Chances are, you won’t be able to recreate it and when you’re working on an album for a client, consistency is key – try to learn what every function you’re using is for and what it does and then apply them in order to get to your result. It requires a bit of engineering, but I learned through perseverance and stubbornness! 🙂
• Healthy competition keeps you on your toes, but the only photographer you really need to beat is yourself.
Yes, yes. I know. I myself am super guilty of being insanely competitive and probably should not be preaching about this if I’m so bad at practicing it. But in the end, comparing your work with someone else’s is futile – they’re not you and you’re not them. One of my favourite quotes is one by my boyfriend, Tom Hiddleston: “You never know what’s around the corner. It could be everything. Or it could be nothing. You keep putting one foot in front of the other, and then one day you look back and you’ve climbed a mountain.”
I am also extremely guilty of being unrealistically hard on myself as I hold myself to impossible standards, but when I look back at my work from the past ten years my greatest accomplishment is still how far I’ve come. It should be yours, too.
That said, your goal as a photographer should be to improve upon your last project – don’t even think about what you did five years ago: just try to do better than the last time. For some people it will happen quicker than for others, but that does not invalidate your journey – just keep putting one foot in front of the other…
• The biggest thing standing between you and greatness is fear.
This one is a biggie. I’ve seen this time and time again and it’s partially inspired by a post in another forum I’m a part of that implies that South African photographers aren’t so much innovators as they are followers.
Personally, I don’t think that’s necessarily true, but my interpretation of it was that some people need validation from others before they take the plunge and do what they want to. They would rather wait for someone else to execute their idea first to “make sure it’s okay and that people will like it” before they do it themselves. If you’re one of those people: stop it right now.
One of the key things of photography and art is that it should be an extension of yourself – especially with personal projects. You cannot deny yourself the chance to follow your dreams because of how many likes it may or may not get on Facebook. Yes, internet fame is tempting and extremely validating but it’s not all that if you end up selling your soul for it. So, the moral of the story is: shoot what makes you happy, regardless of the Facebook and Instagram likes – it will show in your work if you believe in what you’re creating!
• Crit is important, but not everyone’s opinions should matter.
Whether you like it or not, somewhere along the line someone is going to crit your work. It won’t always be what you’d want to hear, but it’s inevitable and important for your growth as a photographer and artist. However, not everyone’s opinions will be constructive or valuable – so learn whose opinions actually mean something to you and take the rest with a smile and a pinch of salt.Which brings me to the next point…
• Some people are just assholes and you will encounter more of them than you will ever imagine – especially in photography forums.
Sometimes their advice is good and they just have a tough love way of verbalising themselves, but sometimes they’re just having a bad day and taking it out on someone else. Those of you who know me in the forums know that I’ve been both of those people, but I try my best to be the former rather than the latter.
In the end, not everyone’s opinion matters and what other people think should not define who you are as a person or a photographer. If it’s good advice: use it, don’t use it. If not, in the immortal words of Elizabeth Taylor: “pour yourself a drink, put on some lipstick and pull yourself together,” and to that I would like to add “…haters gonna hate.”
•Everyone wants to be successful, until they see what it takes.
It’s not easy being new to photography – I get it. It really isn’t. If that’s where you are right now, I want to wish you the best of luck for your future as a photographer and welcome you to a fantastic and cruel world that will simultaneously inspire and destroy you. That’s the nature of art, isn’t it?
But trust me when I say that if you dedicate your life to photography, you will probably work harder than you ever had in your entire life. Days spent shooting, doing admin, dealing with clients, updating social media and blogs and nights spent editing and reading until the early hours of the morning. But it becomes your lifeblood – when you’re in your slippers the morning after a long night of editing with a cup of coffee looking at the other golden hour and realising that you’ve learned to love and see light – that’s when you realise you’re a photographer.
Pursuing photography (for love or money or both) is insanely grueling and rewarding in ways you cannot possibly fathom, but whatever your motivation to do it – always remember the words of Neil Gaiman: “Break rules. Leave the world more interesting for your being here,” and “often you will discover that the harder you work, and the more wisely you work, the luckier you get. But there is luck, and it helps.”
I’ve asked some of the ladies in our group to post the advice that has helped them the most in their career so far and here are some gems:
• Stop worrying about insufficient or substandard equipment, just get out there and shoot, shoot, shoot, shoot, shoooooo…. – Anne Schauffer
• Stop comparing yourself to other photographers… their now and your beginning are not the same! – Lauren Pretorius
• Grow a backbone
• Have a short list of people who’s opinions and feedback you value highly and forget the rest and what they may or may not have to say about your work.
– Ashley Marié Miles
• Stop looking for approval from other photographers, they are not your client.
• PRINT your own work.. unbelievable feeling!
– Cherie Steenkamp
• The only photographer you should compare yourself to is you. Look at images then and now and see the progress and growth. – Heidi Watson
• Always crit your work after a shoot – see where you went wrong and what you can do better. We are our own worst – and best! – critics. Be open to critique from the right people, even if they aren’t photographers. Sometimes people see things differently than you! Keep looking for inspiration OUTSIDE of the photography field you are in. This way you won’t be comparing yourself with other photographers doing the same thing you are. – Bronwyn Greeff
• Don’t allow egocentric know-it-alls on photography forums to kill your passion. – Lezzet Abbott
• Dont ever believe that your work isnt good enough! – L’Lani Hartley
• Stay true to yourself and your own style. – Samantha du Toit
• Wear a different hat for every client. – Stephanie Grace Robinson
And some amazing quotes by Cal Newport, supplied by Ashley Marié Miles:
• “Passion comes after you put in the hard work to become excellent at something valuable, not before. In other words, what you do for a living is much less important than how you do it.”
• “If you don’t produce, you won’t thrive—no matter how skilled or talented you are.”
Hello everyone! Today we kick off our first blog post with something business-related as there have been a few questions about how taxation for photographers work. One of our members, Sandy Stewart, is a chartered accountant and wrote out first guest post!
What business expenses may I deduct from income I earn?
Well done! You have taken that “huge” step and begun to follow your dream of starting up your own photography business. “So now what?” you ask. “How do I know what expenses I can deduct from the income I am most definitely going to be earning?”
Well, let’s take a look at that then shall we?
The basic principle when it deducting expenses from income you are earning is that if you incur the expense in order to earn the income, then it can be deducted from that income as you spent the money in order to earn the income. Does that sound too simple? Well, it is but like everything in life, there are always a few conditions to this. It’s not too complicated though, so let’s look at that shall we?
The South African Receiver of Revenue (or better known as SARS) has some rules in place when the expenses are for buying things you can use for quite a long time without them being used up. These are what are known as “assets” and will include items like your camera equipment, computer, desk, chair, printer, software and the like. As a general rule these are hard to the touch. SARS does however give you a break in that if any of these items costs less than R7,000 you can deduct the full cost off your income in the tax year you buy it in.
The tax year for a person runs from 1 March to 28 (or 29) February every year.
In instances where you spend more than R7,000 on an asset, SARS has a table which allows you to deduct the cost of that item over a certain number of years, usually varying between 3 years and 5 years.
Then there are many other expenses that you will have in setting up and running your business that are allowed to be deducted against any income you earn. These include things like:
- Insurance for your camera equipment.
- Fuel costs for getting to shoots and meeting with potential clients.
- Running costs for your motor vehicle.
- Paper and ink that you use in your printer to send out quotes and invoices.
- Accounting fees paid to someone who helps you set up your business.
- Training costs to improve your skills.
- A portion of your “home office” costs if you are running your business from home and have a separate area clearly set aside to run your business from.
- Costs of hiring special equipment for a shoot.
- Expenses paid to second shooters.
- Amounts paid to make up artists, florists or cloth designers for using their services or products.
- Venue hiring costs if you are paying for that.
- Marketing costs including business cards, brochures and portfolio prints.
- Web design costs for a small site.
It is very important though to make sure that you keep proof of expenses being paid. You must also keep a log book of the business kilometres you travel. Try and do this as soon as possible after you pay the amount out or do the travel if you can. I don’t think there is anything worse than trying to remember what you did 2 months ago when you’ve done a million other things since then. So try get into the habit of making a note or filing the paperwork and you will save many hours after the fact.
This list is not intended to be exhaustive as there are many other factors to consider. There are also many other aspects to consider when setting up your business and making sure you are tax compliant. Feel free to drop me a note on other finance areas you may have questions on. Your feedback or comments is also most appreciated!
If anyone has any further questions for Sandy, please feel free to contact her here:
Hello everyone – if you’re reading this, you’re probably part of the SA Women Photographers group on Facebook! 🙂 If so, I want to thank you so much for your contribution and part in making the group what it is – I never could’ve imagined it taking off the way it did, but here we are – almost 400 members and counting! 😀
For a while now, I’ve been wondering how to make the experience more valuable and enriching for everyone and then one day (thanks to a suggestion by a lady in the group) I realised that a blog would be a great platform to keep much of the information imparted on the group in one place. Many things are said and lots of advice are given, but it sometimes gets lost as the timeline progresses and valuable bits of wisdom are no longer accessible. Ergo, this blog!
Some of you may have been added to the group by a friend and do not even know who you’re talking to, well… hi, I’m Grethe! 🙂
I admin the Facebook group alongside Lezzet Abbott and Abby-Ann Tochterman, my two wingwomen in Johannesburg. I’m a fashion and conceptual/fine-art/weirdness photographer from Cape Town (well, Somerset West, to be precise) and I started the group in order to give a voice and an empowering platform for women in the South African photography industry to share their images, ask advice, gain feedback and connect with each other. So far, I’ve been rather pleased with the turnout! 😀
What I aim to do with this blog is to have general photography-related talk going on here: from technique discussions to financial and business how-to and everything in-between. Guest posts are welcome and 100% encouraged, as I believe one can learn something from anyone so please do email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have an idea and/or something to talk about!
I know that there’s a wealth of information about photography on the internet and it’s constantly on the increase but if you don’t know where to start looking it can be very daunting, which is why I really want to tailor the posts and information on here for our very specific demographic.
At the moment I don’t have a set update schedule in mind, but we will have to see how this goes – for now, that’s all from me! 🙂
BIG THANK YOU to my homeboy Gita Claassen for all her help to make the blog look so super snazzy! ❤