I won a photography award that I actually care about.

I get asked all the time what awards I've won. And what magazines I've been published in. My answer has always been this: 

Pretty much nothing. 

I've never bothered to submit my work to competitions or magazines. I've always had an attitude of "I'm happy to win an award or have work published if I'm ASKED to do so, but not if I ask if I may". I don't want to come across as a jerk who thinks his work is the best. It isn't. 

In 2015, things changed, and I was asked on one or two occasions by publications if they could publish my work, and that was such a privilege.

At the end of every year, there are usually 3 or 4 articles about "Top 10 wedding photographers in the world" that go totally viral. The photos in these articles are great, and the photographers are great too. My gripe with these articles is that 99% of the time, the only photographers on these lists are the photographers who pay an annual fee to be part of the organisation that wrote the article in the first place. These articles ignore ALL photographers who are NOT part of these organisations, no matter how good those photographers might be. This isn't the case with every one of these "Top 10" lists, but it is the case most of the time. 

Similarly, there's a huge awards competition here in South Africa, where various wedding vendors sign up, pay the fee to be part of the listing, and then the "Top photographer of the year" is selected from that list. Any photographer who did not sign up and pay the fee is ignored. 

And I'm not sure how I feel about that.

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Being "Top 10" out of a pool consisting ONLY of other people who paid money to be entered feels a little like winning a Golf Tournament due to 99% of the competitors being disqualified only for wearing the wrong socks. I just don't get it. I considered entering that competition last year (and this year), but just couldn't bring myself to do it.

Being "Top 10" amongst everyone, with no restrictions - now THAT feels like something that matters to me. 

SLR Lounge is a world-class website tailored somewhat to Wedding and Portrait photography. It features tutorials, articles, and guides written by some of the best photographers in the world. It's a site that I learned much of what I know today from, and the writers are people I've respected since I started shooting. 

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Two days ago, SLR Lounge published "150 Best International Wedding Photographers for 2016". This list was NOT made up of people who threw down some cash to be chosen. It was put together by actual photographers, who went through thousands of portfolios, analysed and curated the keepers, and then got opinions from other industry leaders. The list is made up of photographers from around the world.

There's a bunch of really, really great photographers on that list, and then there's some dude in South Africa who edits photos in his pajamas 3-4 times a week. He is me.

Solid Typo. Haha

Solid Typo. Haha

I couldn't really wrap my head around it when I saw my name on this list. I mean, the people on this list are literally the best in the industry, like the dudes from Nordica.

So, my point: As someone who doesn't place much emphasis on Photographic "awards", this particular award feels to me like an award that matters, and I'm absolutely honoured to be on a list with such incredible photographers. 

Huge thanks to the folks at SLR Lounge for this. Really.

By the way - the images in this post come from Jenni and Coenraad's wedding. These two were lovely, and their relationship was something that really displayed true, authentic, unconditional love. 

Lighting Workshop - Cape Town, January 2016

Last year, I decided to start teaching what I know about photography, and it was absolutely incredible. I started off with a Wedding Workshop in June, I then flew down to Cape Town to teach 2 photographers about light, and then I wrapped the year up with a bunch of talks and workshops at the Photo & Film expo. By the end of the year, I knew that I needed to teach WAY more this year, and I'm getting started bright and early.

Photo by Bernard Brand

Photo by Bernard Brand

My very first workshop this year will be on using flash. This workshop is a start to finish style workshop, taking you from the basics, all the way through to advanced technique. If you've wanted to use flash, and have feared the immense amount of information there is about this stuff online, this workshop is for you. Here's a video:

This workshop will be the ideal workshop for anyone wanting to build a rock-solid foundation for artificial light. If you have no idea how to use a flash of any kind, you'll be able to walk out of the workshop with all the knowledge you need to start lighting your subjects on your shoots. We'll start the day with some theory, and wrap the day off with a shoot in the studio.

Here's a breakdown:

Understanding How to Use Your Flash

That flash in your camera bag can sometimes feel like a nuclear bomb with a control panel that looks like a mixing desk. I'll reduce it to everything that matters.

 

Gear: Speedlights, Strobes, Triggers

There's an infinite amount of gear that's available for artificial lighting. I'll walk you through loads of it, and how it could line up with your needs. I'll also fill you in on how you probably don't need 99% of it, and how you can save money by using stuff around the house to create amazing light.

 

ND Filters, and HSS (High-Speed Sync)

The fancy stuff that allows you to shoot at f/1.4 in broad daylight. This stuff is a big part of my personal workflow. I'll show you how it all works - you might need to make it part of yours too.

 

Light Modifiers

Light modifiers can be the difference between awful light, and great light. We'll go over all the theory behind how/why light modifiers do what they do. 

 

Balancing Ambient and Flash

This is probably the most significant aspect to artificial lighht - blending it with available light. Many photographers struggle a lot with this concept. After this workshop, you'll be able to balance ambient and flash in 10 seconds. Every single time. 

 

Date/Time/Location/Price

The workshop will be a full day class, and will take place on the 12th of January 2016 at Sunshine Company in Cape Town. 

The fee for the workshop will be R2000 per person. The first 5 bookings will only pay R1500, and there will only be 12 seats, so get in there! Lunch and snacks will be provided. All I need from you for this workshop is that you are 100% comfortable with shooting in Manual.

I look forward to seeing you there!

If you'd like to attend the workshop, please use the form below:

Please be advised that I will need you to pay in full to book your seat. No payment, no booking. The bookings will be made on a first come, first served basis.

Name *
Name
Anything you'd like me to consider
Confirmation *


I'm Teaching Stuff at the Expo This Year!

The Photo & Film Expo is always a great time of the year for me. When I was just starting out, I loved listening to the speakers, and I always hope that "one day" I would be a speaker. Last year's expo was my first "One Day". I had a great time, and I've got the opportunity to teach and speak again this year. 

This year, I'll be doing 5 completely different talks. Below is a little video about what I'll be doing:

Below are all the details for each of the talks:

Post Processing Workflow - How to Edit a Full Wedding in No Time

Thursday, 10:00-10:45

Once I had shot about 50 weddings, I realised that I was slowly losing my mind from how long it was taking to edit a set of these images. Spending a week on a single wedding felt like a nightmare. I started working hard on figuring out a workflow that help me get stuff done faster, and helped me keep a super high standard of work. Now, I can edit a wedding in a morning/afternoon, and I want to teach you how. 

 

Balancing Ambient and Flash

Thursday, 1:00-1:45 - Fujifilm Live Demo Area

Balancing ambient and flash is a fundamental piece of knowledge that every photographer needs to have, if they plan on using any kind of artificial light. But learning how to find this balance can be a tricky process. In this talk, I'll teach you how to balance ambient and flash, and I'll teach you how to do it in no more than 30 seconds. This skill will become an invaluable tool in your skill set as a photographer. 

 

Creating Amazing Light Without An Amazing Budget

Firday, 2:30-3:15 - Tamron Main Stage

I’ve always loved the amazing light created by high-end photographers, but I’ve always seen them creating the light with incredibly expensive equipment. In this talk, I’ll be teaching you what “interesting light”, how to create that light, and as a bonus, I’ll teach you how to do it without spending a fortune. In this talk, I'll be doing the exact same shoot twice. First with high-end lighting gear, and then again with lighting modifiers made from stuff I found around the house.


Creating Super Realistic Sunsets From Scratch

Sunday, 10:00-10:45 - DDS Editing Stage

Sometimes a beautiful background sunset can take your images to the next level.
But creating a beautiful, realistic looking sunset from scratch is far more complicated than simply rendering a flare in Photoshop. In this tutorial, I'll teach you how to create the effects necessary to blend a sunset into the background of your portraits naturally, and in a way that looks 100% authentic

 

Introduction to Off-Camera Flash

Sunday, 11:30-12:15 - Fujifilm Live Demo Area

Sooner or later, most photographers get interested in getting a more interesting quality of light, and they try to feed that with off-camera light. But more often than not, they get completely overwhelmed by it, because it seems way more complicated than it is. This talk is just the beginning, and it's the primer to your future with off-camera flash. I'll show you the basics, and run through any gear you might need. 

That's it! I'm really excited to share all of this with you. See you there!

A billboard about Love

"Hi Ett. We need you to shoot an image for a billboard, and it needs to be ready to print in 2 days"

On a Wednesday afternoon I got a call from a guy who had been commissioned by the folks at BrandIQ, a company that owns loads of billboards here in South Africa. BrandIQ wants to use some of their billboards for more than advertising products - their vision is to use their billboards as a way to encourage, inspire, and motivate people in our city.  So the call I received was about making one of those images, and this post is the way it all came together.

My brief was to make an image that conveyed unconditional love. The kind of love that can change the world. My brief was "Our Courage and Strength Lies In Our Love For One Another". I was also encouraged to speak into the racism that is such a big part of us and our history.

From the very first moment I had heard the brief, I had a really specific idea in mind. I wanted a photo of a young black girl giving something to a white, homeless man begging on the street. That image immediately came to mind, and I'm an impulsive guy, so I went with it. 

I refined it by putting a toy in the little girl's one hand, and a sandwich in the other. 

There were a couple of hurdles between the concept and the final image.  It usually looks something like this. 

This is what planning a shoot usually feels like...

This is what planning a shoot usually feels like...

So here's what needed to happen. I needed to source models, find a location, props, styling, and wardrobe. I also needed to find assistants for the shoot. Along with that, the billboard is huge - 48x12m - so I wanted to shoot this on a medium format camera. Fortunately, the folks over at Sunshine Company were generous enough to hook me up with the Hasselblad H5D-50C, along with a couple of lenses. This monster would allow me to create the resolution I wanted for such a huge image.

I managed to find great models - the "homeless white guy" was a guy someone on Facebook pointed me to. He had a great beard and the exact look I wanted. The little black girl was actually the daughter of one of my mom's colleagues. Our homeless man was dressed in an old, weathered, torn wool blanket that my dogs sleep on - filthy and covered in dog hair. 

So here's what the final image speaks of: This little girl sees a homeless man begging on the street. She sees he's poor and hungry. To her, that sandwich and toy will solve many of his problems, but in reality, the toy means nothing, and the sandwich will only carry him for an hour. She also doesn't see skin colour the way we do. With the history we have here in South Aftica, skin colour is visible to us all - both racists and non-racists. So ultimately, she sees a problem, and she feels she has the solution in her hands. She's got no criteria for him, no agenda, nothing - she just has unconditional love for this man. I personally believe that if we could all love each other like this, we could change the world in a special way. Sometimes it takes a hell of a lot of courage to love this way, but we should have that courage and do it. 

Anyway, the location I chose was a great spot right in the heart of Pretoria Central - a market in a busy street. 

So, we showed up on the Friday set up, and got shooting. This is the final image. Click it for a bigger version:

Final Shot

You can view a BTS video about the shoot here:

Huge thanks to my buddy Alon Cohen for the fantastic video. 

Here's the photo on the billboard. If you look closely, you can see me underneath the print:

That's me at the bottom...

That's me at the bottom...

The lighting was pretty straightforward - I had a 5' octa with a speed light on camera right creating the light on the girl and the rim on the guy. Along with that, I had an assistant bounce some of the light into the girl's face. This assistant was actually standing in the frame, and she was masked out in post. Here's a diagram:

Really simple lighting setup.

Really simple lighting setup.

I'd like to thank everyone who helped on this job again. I couldn't have done it without you guys!

Assistants: Adele Nqeto, Alon Cohen, Bernard Brand
BTS Video: Alon Cohen
Models: Jo Engelbrecht, Little girl's name kept for obvious reasons
Gear: Sunshine Company
Photography/Retouching: Ett Venter

Let me know what you think!

 

 

Wedding Workshop - Winter 2015

On June 13th-14th, I'll be hosting a wedding workshop right between Pretoria and Johannesburg.

The video below is a quick breakdown:

The workshop will be a two day workshop. 

Day 1: Shooting

Day 1 will be all about the actual photographic aspect of wedding photography. We'll have everything we need to give you an idea of what a wedding day feels like, from the makeup while the bride gets ready, to the speeches at the reception. I'll teach you how to keep everyone around you as relaxed as possible, and how to get the couple you're photographing to feel comfortable and relaxed as you take photos of them.

 

Artificial Light

Flash is a very big part of how I shoot weddings. 99% of the images I produce at a wedding have some form of artificial light. We'll go over flash, why it's so important, and how to use it at a wedding. I'll teach you when and how to use your flash(es), and how to balance them perfectly with the natural light around you. I'll also teach you how to do that balancing in a matter of 30 seconds.

You'll also learn to light rooms in a way that makes sense. Dark reception halls are a common thing, and you'll learn how to light those with ease. If you're still scared of your flash, that's going to change at this workshop.

Creating Work with a Photojournalistic Feel

I'm not a fan of wedding photos that feel posed, rigid, and forced. I've never been. Creating natural looking work can be a challenge, especially if your subjects are somewhat aware of your presence. We're going to spend time talking about how to shoot the wedding day with more of a documentary approach.

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Posing

I have no idea how to pose couples. I'm awful at it. I always have been. My solution to that problem was to find another way to get couples to give me the feeling I wanted in the images, but for the couple to do so themselves. The way I do this is by leading the couple into a mindset that will naturally create these beautiful moments between them. When these moments come naturally, it's instantly visible in the photographs. I'll teach you all the little tricks I've learned on doing this.

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Gear

We'll go over the gear that you need at a wedding. This won't be a workshop that you'll leave worried about the future condition of your credit card. I'll show you how you can shoot weddings perfectly on far less than what you expect. 

 

Day 2

Day 2 will be all about editing, business, and life.

Dealing with Clients

As a photographer, people skills are probably just as important as actual photographic skill. Your entire relationship with a potential client is riding on whether or not they like you as a person. If they don't, you won't get the job. Simple as that. If they enjoy your company, you're far more likely to get that booking. 

First Meeting

After all the emails back and forth, you'll likely get a chance to have a meeting with a couple before they book you. This meeting is the most significant point of contact with a potential client. If they're willing to sit down with you for a meeting, they're usually pretty sure that they'll be booking you. If a client doesn't book you after this meeting, it's probably because you've done something wrong. Your client needs to leave this meeting informed, with no question, and with full confidence that you're the right person for them. In fact, if a client chooses to have a meeting with you, even though they're not sure about you, this meeting is the meeting where they should realise that you're the right photographer. I can't stress how important this meeting is. 

I'll teach you how to turn that meeting into a booking, 99% of the time.

 

Building a Portfolio That Makes Sense to Clients

Your portfolio is the first thing a potential client will see. Screw this step up, and you don't stand a chance. Your portfolio needs to answer a client's questions. It doesn't matter if the portfolio doesn't make sense to other photographers - they're not hiring you. Your portfolio needs to speak to your clients.

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Booking the Weddings You Want to Shoot

Working with a couple that's got a different vision for their wedding photos to you, if a difficult, unpleasant experience. It's an awful experience for both the client, and for you. You have a taste, a style, and you only want to shoot for couples who share that vision, otherwise there will be disappointment for everyone. I'll teach you how to ensure that every wedding you shoot will be one that allows you your own creative freedom to shoot the wedding as you please.

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Editing

Post processing is a key aspect of what we do. I can remember spending entire days, a few of them, working on just a single set of wedding images. Over time, I've build a workflow that allows me to edit an entire set of wedding images, from start to finish, in 5 hours. And 5 hours is generous. I'll be teaching you exactly how I do that, and how I do that while keeping the high standard I have for my images. 

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Marketing

Marketing is an important part of your business. If people aren't seeing your work, you won't be making any bookings. Beyond that - if people aren't telling their friends about your work, you're missing out on the most powerful advertising of all - word of mouth. 

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Actual Grown-Up Business Stuff

Tax, Receipts, mileage tracking, etc. You need to know this stuff.

Efficient Admin

Getting stuff done as quickly and efficiently as possible is the difference between you having a life besides your business, and you spending 18 hours a day behind your computer. Do you like the idea of running a successful business and still having time every day to have coffee with your friends/family? I've learned how to manage this, and I'm going to show you how.

The workshop might leave you with a couple of questions that'll show up a week or two later. So I'll include a 1 hour, 1-on-1 hang out, where we can talk over any final questions you might have about wedding photography. 

 

That's a breakdown of the workshop. In a nutshell:

  • A chance to learn and grow with other photographers
  • This will all be taking place at a beautiful location between JHB and PTA
  • How to shoot the wedding day beautifully
  • How to edit that wedding in no time
  • How to treat your clients
  • How to run your photo business
  • ow to have a personal life outside of your business

The cost of the workshop is only R3500. 

Should you feel that this workshop is something you'd like to get involved in, please follow the link below:

Click here to make your booking.

Please not that there are only 12 spaces, so once they're gone, they're gone. 

If the weekend of the 13th and the 14th doesn't work for you, I'm considering hosting a second workshop the following week, on the 17th-18th of June. If I get 12 people wanting to attend that workshop as well, I'll host it. 

Click here to book for the weekday workshop.

I've got to tell you - this has been a long process. I wanted this workshop to be something special for the attendees, and I believe it will be.