This is a speech I had to do at a Networking event about my business and as it communicates my vision well I thought I should add it to my blog.
The Cape Town Portrait Photographer...
My name is Marike Herselman, I'm a professional portrait photographer specialising in corporate portraits, head shots and personal portfolio's.
I will give you a brief overview of how I got here and my development as photographer. Then I will explain why portrait photography in a global context and as a personal choice. After that I will dig into die different parts of my business, touching on my values and views.
The Beginning and Development
My interest in photography started at school where I was the school photographer and was also allowed to create a darkroom in my parents house. Luckily my father also enjoyed photography when he was younger, being very supportive, until I wanted to make a career out of it... Luckily I can be very convincing, so I studies 3 years of photography at Ruth Prowse School of Art in Woodstock, covering all fields from Fine Art to Food. I started my career assisting various photographers in fashion, interior and stock as well as working as in house photographer at a model agency and family studio. I wanted to develop my own identity so started my own business at the end of 2014. Since I've been refining & developing my business and finding my space as portrait photographer.
Portrait Photography through the ages
Why portrait photography? Portraits have been around since the beginning of time as a means to describe not only the physical features, but more importantly power and status. You can see this in the Ancient Egyptian wall paintings of gods and pharaohs as well as the Ancient Greek sculptures representing both gods and lay people. Moving through the Middle Ages and the Renaissance portraits were mostly of Royals, nobles and religious and more often than not commissioned. Still concentrating on a likeness until the 19th and 20th century where the models became nameless and work exploratory. From the 60s photography took portraiture over because of it's immediacy and accuracy. Actually this is one of the main reasons for the developing of photography and biggest commercial drive when photography became mainstream.
Influence of Digital Photography
With the rise of the digital age, photography became instant and accessible to the masses. Taking the novelty away from having your portrait taken as anyone with a smartphone can take the role of a photographic Studio. As I've explained before: being able to capture the likeness of a person does not make you a great portrait photographer. Even if you take away all the big lenses and all the fancy lights and strip the moment to it's bare essentials, you have a sitter and a photographer and your aim is to capture the connection between the two and carry it to the viewer.
What is a good portrait?
What make a good portrait can differ from person to person, some people need a a vulnerability to be able to connect, some need a mystery to engage and some will need a power to be challenged. To me these are all true, but most importantly, a good portrait make the viewer want to engage, to get to know or to understand. What is a portrait but a visual representation of who you are and what you stand for. When someone looks at a picture of you, there is no background dialog to explain your morals, views and fears. Even a great photographer can't communicate all of this, but a portrait is suppose to spark an interest of wanting more, 'I want to know this person' or 'I want to work with this person'.
Portraiture and Business
Then why is a professional portrait so important in business? First impressions last, most of the time you don't meet your potential or even your current client. The only visual they have of you is the portrait on your "About page". Which is currently a picture taken at a wedding. With your ex-boyfriend carefully cropped out... as this is the only professional picture you have of yourself. Is this the right professional presentation of you, does this picture communicate professionalism? In most cases not... Your 'About Page' is one of the most frequently visited pages on your website which gives you the opportunity to introduce yourself in the best light without even being there. Let your 'About Page work for you! Your paying for it, everyday!
Profiles - the personal approach
I know that the reason why many people do not make the effort to get professional portraits done are mostly time and fear. It is traumatic to have a massive lens staring at you and you're waiting for the lights to flash and expose every wrinkle and all your secrets. This is why I try to make the camera and lights fade away in the background and let the conversation and the connection take center stage. With professional profiles this is the most important thing as you're trying to capture the essence of that person, being a psychologist, professional athlete or actor. Everyone brings their own insecurities to a shoot and my job is to create a safe space and build a trust. Usually we'll work in a space where the sitter is comfortable, first starting with a conversation to build familiarity and trust and the slowly start introducing the camera. It's always very interesting to see how the comfort level changes from the start of the shoot to the end, a couple of hours later.
Corporate portraits - Developing quick connections
Corporate portraits works a little differently as you usually do not have an hour or two with each subject. Here my aim is to be as efficient as possible, putting my sitter at ease as soon as they walk through the door and immediately guiding them into a pose that translate well with the honesty that is required. I usually go to the company's offices for ease of travel for their employees and to make sure no one looses to much of their workday. I'll work closely with HR and we'll get the team into groups in different time slots that makes the whole shoot as efficient as possible.
Retouching, yes or no?
Then before I close I would like to touch on retouching as people usually ask. It has become such a norm in our day and age and although so many celebrities started to encourage the opposite, it will remain in our society for years to come. I truly believe that everyone is beautiful and that honest beauty is what I aim to capture. Saying this, most of my clients request basic retouching so I will remove anything that is not permanent, like pimples and soften everything that is, like wrinkles.
To photograph people is the most rewarding thing. In a way you're trying to capture the essence of a person through light and put it onto a two dimensional medium. In my work I want to build a trust to allow my subject to show me their true self so I can show them how beautiful, interesting and enchanting they can be.