We are fortunate to host this amazing interview with Photographer Brett Florens. He is an internationally known South African photographer whose work has been published around the world. But to Brett photography, as a profession didn’t happen naturally, it was rather a fortunate accident. He started with photographing riot units and later got a chance to do a wedding photography for his friend and that’s how his journey started.
Read along to find out Brett’s unconventional introduction to photography and some heart-to-heart conversations.
“Photography is my passion. This is my purpose. I strive every day to become better and I love the journey.” – Brett Florens
1. Your journey into the photography world has been very unique. Can you tell us how it all began?
I stumbled across photography by mistake, maybe destiny…. I was serving my national service obligations in the Police Riot Squad and volunteered for the newly formed photographic unit, basically to break away from the monotony of patrolling townships. Prior to this I had no photographic inclination, but once the bug had bitten, I was obsessed.
With no formal photographic training, I taught myself about composition and lighting by reading photographic books and magazines. I observed how filmmakers make use of lighting techniques to create mood and tell stories. My journey had began.
2. From capturing the south African riot units, to later wedding photography, how did the shift happen?
I was asked to photograph a colleague’s wedding and soon saw wedding photography as a way to leave the Police force and start my own business. As I had no other tertiary education, I had to make it work and put my heart and soul into making a go of photography as a full-time career. I opened a small studio in Durban and started photographing happier events. Families, weddings, parties, anything really.
3. Your photography style is always trendy & spectacular. Where do you draw the inspiration from?
My style is editorially based with believability to the images. I believe style is a continually evolving phenomenon and is a reflection of the creator’s personality. I draw inspiration from many different places: Film, fashion magazines, and visual media in general. I think that creating a distinctive style is more about shooting images that you like rather than following trends.
This does mean that you have to know what you like, which can be difficult for some people as society has become a case of trying to please others, with social media becoming a major influence. People tend to judge an image by how many “likes” it receives and not on whether it has fulfilled your creative needs or the client’s expectations.
4. You did an amazing destination wedding photography in Dubai. Is there a specific reason for choosing a dessert as your photography location?
I shoot in many wonderful destinations – The Dubai Dessert is gorgeous! I shoot a lot in the Middle East. There are a lot of ex-pats working there and it is a great central point for their friends and family to get to for the celebrations.
My clients living in the region know that it is a chapter of their lives as they don’t plan of living there permanently. This makes the dessert location for the wedding photography an easy choice as it is not often that you have the opportunity.
5. Your work takes you around the globe, is there any location you've loved shooting the most?
Teaching is a big part of what I do and I have been to some incredible places to share my knowledge. My tour of the Middle East to launch the D850 for Nikon was my most memorable. Pakistan, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the UAE.
The way I was welcomed was incredible and I have made friends with some of the most amazing people. Oman is my favorite location if I had to pick only one.
6. What is your go-to camera gear for high-end luxury wedding photography?
I shoot with the Nikon D850 – My favorite lens is the 70-200 f2.8 as well as the 105 f1.4
I like shooting with the DSLR, the ergonomics are great and the image quality unrivaled.
7. You also shoot portraits & fashion photographs. Which among the 3 is your most favorite photography genre?
Haha – Sport. The genres you mentioned are the genres where it is more realistic to have a career with, but if I wasn’t shooting for money, then capturing sporting images would be my passion.
8. What would be your advice for aspiring wedding photographers?
This advice is probably not going to be the advice that someone wanting to get into the industry is going to want to hear. I believe that you should master your craft first and get your branding and marketing in order until you are ready to launch your brand to a market that you have researched.
If you start off shooting for friends and family, you will be trapped in a demographic that expects you to do everything on the cheap. This is due to the fact that with the digital age, anyone can profess to being a photographer, because it’s not as difficult as it used to be. And, the problem with entering the market at this level is that it will take you a long time to escape.
You need to target people with more disposable income than you have, otherwise, in this day and age, it’s not a career that can sustain a reasonable standard of living. I always say to my workshop delegates “Remember, you are not your target market.” Most people won’t get that, but that’s an important point.