Where is your home base?
What is your photography genre/specialty?
Mainly Wedding, Portrait, Baby and Fine Art
What is your most memorable image and why?
I have been photographing since I was 8 or 9, so I have many memorable images. But some impromptu shots I have taken at weddings come to mind because what I saw and shot was instantaneous, and I nailed the shots.
Why did you become a photographer? What drives you to capture images and has this changed over time?
My father was a professional photographer, and he had a large studio with dark rooms for printing. I used to go there almost every day after school from a young age and just watch the staff. Soon I was proficient in black and white as well as color printing. At age 9 I won the top award at a photography competition in Ethiopia (where I was born) with an African landscape image I had taken, dodged and burned and printed. In my teen years, I started taking studio portraits, going on assignments with my father. I love photographing people, especially women, which is why I wanted to become a wedding photographer. Weddings give me many challenges and my adrenalin is on turbo. I am a portrait photographer, fashion photographer, commercial photographer, and landscape photographer all in any 5 minutes of a wedding day. No stylists, no art directors. I see it, shoot it and make sure to get it right. No second chances.
Do you have any personal rituals to help you get ready for a shoot?
I prepare my Red Bull along with my gear the night before any wedding. The rest I just let happen. I don’t plan; I just go and shoot what the day brings to me. I hate planned, contrived, rehearsed shots. I do direct my subject to a small degree so I can get the best light and composition, but the rest is all about letting them have fun and celebrate. My job is to capture exactly that.
What are the top 5 things you can’t live without while on a shoot?
Red Bull and at least one camera body and lens. I’m not fussy with much gear, lenses, equipment, or bags. Me and my camera and the couple. We go for walks, have fun, stop for a drink, and I shoot around this. When I see beautiful light, I will guide them into it and then just let them be. I capture real emotions, real laughter, and real kisses. When the couple sees their proofs, they relive a real moment and want to have that image in their album or on their wall. They like that it was not contrived and posed for several minutes. It was quick and fun, and they felt the moment.
How do you regain your inspiration if you hit a creative rut?
Loud, loud music when I work, when I drive. Music inspires me. I listen to all languages and all genres of music.
Who or what has been the biggest influence on your journey as a photographer?
My father, and then movie directors like Pedro Almodovar and Federico Fellini, as well as fashion icon Coco Chanel.
If you could share just one tip with aspiring photographers, what would it be?
Be true to yourself. If you are not loving each moment and all you are after is fame and fortune, give up now. Follow your passion. There are no shortcuts. Keep learning and always keep evolving.
What are the top three Zenfolio features essential to helping you run your business?
Zenfolio has saved me thousands upon thousands of dollars. In the past, proofs were thumbnail or even slightly larger prints presented in an album. It cost money to print, buy the album, and stick the proofs in. Sometimes, these were so impressive that clients never placed their actual album order and the proof book sufficed. I lost a lot of money until I discovered Zenfolio. Online, watermarked, easy to upload, easy for my clients to place orders, it allows me to show a lot more images, which means clients have so much more to choose from and they end up placing bigger orders.
If you could second shoot with any photographer (dead or alive) who would it be and why?
Annie Leibovitz. I love the class her images have. I love her composition, the lighting, everything.
How has the photography world changed since you turned pro?
The biggest change in the 30 years I have worked as a pro has been the digital era. In the past, an aspiring photographer took classes to learn technique, see light, composition, retouching, and printing. Now, people can take a picture with their phone, edit it with an app, and they think they are a great photographer with no concept of the real craft of photography. As a result, there has been a decrease in our industry value, a price drop, and more supply than demand.
What one piece of software besides Zenfolio do you consider to be vital in your workflow?
Photoshop for sure. It is my darkroom on my desk.