Just wanted to share with you the interview I did for the Bokeh Online Magazine which is available for download in the iTunes Store. Please find clickable screenshots below. PDF version is available here. Have a nice read.
Q. Tell us how you got started in photography.
A. My interest started a long time ago when I was 12 years old. My dad gave me his film camera to play with. I was trying to take pictures of my friends without any knowledge of how to use the camera’s focus, aperture and shutter speed settings. Because there was no auto mode on this film camera, my images were bad. After going into the dark room about 80% of them went into the trash bin and I soon gave up on photography. In 2006 I suddenly became interested in taking pictures again. By then our family had a small and a more modern film camera, which luckily had an auto mode. So I started taking pictures again and the camera’s auto mode made them better. During those days there were a lot of good cameras in the market so I decided to buy a simple point-and-shoot for myself. It was a 6MP Olympus. It was great for me because I was able to take as many pictures as I wanted. I was only limited by my SD card capacity and my computer’s hard drive. I started to shoot everything around me. I took pictures of landscapes, family, friends and what has become my most important subject-cars. I like cars a lot. Many of my mates back then were professional car racers and they participated in different motor sporting events, which I often visited. I shot on the race tracks for some time. After a while I realized my images were not of quality, so I decided to buy my first DSLR in 2008. It was the Nikon D80. It was only after this that I recognized the power of an SLR camera.
Some time passed and I had an opportunity to attend a small 10 day master class from one famous fashion photographer. He literally kicked me into the world of photography and retouching, teaching me about raw files and how to manage them. I continued to shoot cars when I eventually met a person who would forever change my life. That person would later became my wife. She was a motor sport judge and because of her I got full access to all the motor sporting events in the country. I shot even more after that, taking 1,000 to 2,000 pictures at each event.
After some more time I upgraded my camera again and soon got noticed by various motor sport sponsors who all really liked what I was doing. That started a new chapter in commercial work. I became really motivated and upgraded more of my gear as work for magazines, car dealers and private clients started to roll in.
Q. What type of commercial work have you done?
A. As I mentioned, I’ve shot for motor sport sponsors, magazines and car dealerships.
Q. How did you start “Spot And Shoot”?
A. That was something I didn’t have to worry about. People were just contacting me and that was it. After a while I realised I needed a website, so I created one with my last name and that was a mistake. No one could even read it properly. So I thought, “If they can’t pronounce it, how will they remember it?
I started to look again for a new domain name that would be easy to remember. One of the hosting company websites I was on had SpotAndShoot.com and I bought it right away. After a while, I started to shoot other genres of photography and decided it would be good to have another website that could be connected to my 500px portfolio, and that’s how Amophoto.net was created.
Q. What is your main industry for “Spot And Shoot”?
A. My main line of work is automotive photography, as it is something I like to shoot and can do well in.
Q. How did you grow your business?
A. This is something I shared above, but another thing is when my family moved to Australia I had to start from scratch. Nobody knew me here. My previous portfolio had no value. I had to show the local product, which was Australian cars.
Q. What are some of the greatest hurdles you’ve faced?
A. A very real hurdle for me was being able to gain the trust of Aussies. Nobody wanted to talk to me, but I had to have local cars in my portfolio.
Q. How did you overcome them?
A. I started in the forums. I found a guy in my area who was also a car photographer. I sent him a PM to see if there was any chance I could go with him to a car event. I was a new comer and I didn’t know what was happening and where. We finally met and he took me to one of the biggest cruises in South Australia “Jaf’s Last Cruise”, which had more than 2,000 different cars in one place. I took a few pictures and published them on my Facebook page. I also sent the link to the event page. People started tagging my photos and I started contacting them through private messages, offering my photography services for free. I sent about 50 messages and got back 1 interested reply. He agreed to work with me and I took my first pic, which was of a 1959 Ford Zephyr.
Q. What are you doing now to sustain your success and grow your business?
A. I shoot a lot, but with every shot I think. I don’t just press the shutter release button. I think about why I want to take the picture, what I want it to show, and how the viewer will see it. I also think about the quality. I can shoot thousands of pictures, but if they look bad, nobody will be interested in them.
Q. How important is networking?
A. The answer here is easy. I’ll tell you 50% of my clients come from Facebook and the other 50% come from a combination of word of mouth and my websites.
Q. How are you positioning yourself as a leader in this field of photography?
A. I try to better the quality of my pictures with every photoshoot. I see that locally, picture quality is a problem. Because of
this my pictures stand out from the crowd. I also try to keep the price around market level so people can really see the difference.
Q. Were there people who didn’t believe in your vision?
A. I think so. You can say those 49 people I contacted after the “Jaf’s Last Cruise” event did not believe in my vision.
Q. How did you deal with it?
A. I kept offering free photoshoots to build my portfolio and to show people that I have some skills. After a while people started to notice and approached me.
Q. Do you have mentors?
A. Unfortunately, no. I am a self-learner. I learned a lot of stuff from what I found on the Internet, from photography websites and forums. YouTube helped a lot.
Q. How important are they to you?
A. The good thing is these resources are easily accessible and you can find the things you want, often for free. But there are times when it certainly would have been easier if there was a mentor around to ask. Automotive photography is a tough market. I had a difficult time finding someone who would share their knowledge of the subject.
Q. What are the top 5 things that you attribute to your success?
#1: Never give up.
#2: Be patient and wait.
#3: Develop your skills and learn as much as you can.
#4: Have your own photography projects.
#5: Value your reputation. One wrong word and you can lose all your clients. And then you will have to go back to step #1 above.
Q. Where did you find good people to work with you and for you?
A. Social networks and friends.
Q. What do you recommend to someone getting started in the photography business?
A. Shoot pictures of what you like most. When you do something you like you’ll do it with passion, investing all your effort into it. Also, tell people what you’re doing. Clients will find you soon.
Q. What is something you wish someone told you earlier about the photography business?
A. It’s never too late to be what you might have been. If I had started photography earlier I probably would have been at a more advanced level.
Q. What is your opinion on equipment and all the new digital cameras coming out these days?
A. Equipment is important, but the ability to take a good image is more important. I know a guy who does amazing pictures with just an entry level SLR camera. Of course when you’re looking at prints of big sizes you’ll need more megapixels.
Q. What do you do to keep yourself inspired?
A. I follow the work of other photographers. 500px and Flickr are great places to find inspiration.
Q. How important is having goals to you?
A. Goals are important. There’s no arguing about that. You need to aspire. Otherwise there won’t be any growth as a photographer.
Q. What equipment do you use?
A. I have Nikon gear. The D800 is my main working camera with 70-200 N-series attached. I have a 16-35 N-series wide angle, 24-85 as a reportage lens and 85mm for portraits. I also use Nikon flashes with triggers.
Q. Tell us about your process.
A. I plan my photo shoots. I look for good locations. I tell clients what to do before each shoot. My photoshoots last for about 3 or 4 hours usually. Then I do post production in Adobe Lightroom (I always shoot raw) then image goes into Photoshop for final touch up.
Q. What type of post processing do you do?
A. I use Lightroom and Photoshop. I have developed a few presets and actions that I use to post process my images. I use plugins as well.
Q. What camera do you have just for fun or for everyday photos?
A. I use my mobile phone which is the Sony Z2 with 20MP camera. I’m pretty happy with it.
Q. What is your opinion on video capabilities on DSLRs?
A. I don’t use them, but I know a few guys who do really cool files on DSLRs. For my personal needs I just use my mobile phone.
Q. Do you feel the industry is moving to all motion?
A. I feel the industry is really moving to CGI and I’m worried about it.
Q. Where do you feel the industry will be in the next 5 years?
A. This is a tough question. I think it will certainly be ahead of where it is right now. I think today there was an announcement by Canon of some 50MP DSLR. Who knows. Maybe in 5 years there will be a 3D camera producing holograms.