10 minutes with legendary photographer Dan Boud
Dan Boud is one of our favourite Australian photographers. He’s worked with clients such as Sydney Opera House, The Australian Ballet, Universal Music, AMP, MTV, Laneway Festival, Rolling Stone and Monocle.. just to name a few! Here, we bring you more about Dan’s impressive career, insight into life as a professional photographer, and the top tips for brands looking to produce great content on a tight budget 😉
CAN YOU TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOURSELF?
I’m a born and raised Sydneysider who was always fascinated by photography but never imagined I’d ever make a living from it. After completing a Communications degree I started working building websites which filled my daytime hours, while at night I ventured out to parties and gigs with camera in tow.
That hobby of shooting the Sydney party and live music scene slowly built up to a point where people were commissioning me to shoot their events and their bands. This was all in the mid 2000’s, before Facebook and Instagram were a thing (hello myspace!) – but I used my web skills to publish all my photography to a blog named Boudist.
It developed a bit of a following and in 2007 I was offered a full time job as Chief Photographer for Time Out Sydney. That was the catalyst for everything that followed, where I now work freelance for lots of different clients, with a skew toward the world of performing arts with clients like Sydney Opera House, The Australian Ballet, Belvoir Theatre and Bangarra.
In 2016 I also started a photography booking agency, taking over the name of my old blog Boudist. It was in response to me getting too busy with work (and family life – being a dad of two daughters) – so rather than just tell my clients I was unable to shoot, I offered to book them other great photographers.
It’s proved popular so far, with hundreds of bookings and paying out almost $150k to photographers last financial year. Our main clients so far have been PR companies, arts organisations and restaurants.
WHAT DID YOUR LAST 24 HOURS LOOK LIKE?
Yesterday I did a shoot with Bangarra for the 2018 season campaign which was a dream job for me. It was a full day in their studio with four dancers and Stephen Page choreographing. Before the shoot there’s quite a lot of prep in terms of booking in equipment hire, booking an assistant, digital operator and liaising with the client to make sure you’re on the same page conceptually. We’re working on quite a tight deadline, so immediately after the shoot I culled down the images to the highlights to share with the client for them to make selections for me to pass onto my retoucher.
Apart from working on that shoot it’s the usual never-ending barrage of emails, quoting on jobs, invoicing, chasing invoices, booking photographers on jobs, checking Instagram, Facebook, etc… And then finding some time in between to hang out with my wife and kids.
WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT YOUR JOB?
So many things. Every day is different, I’m not chained to my desk. I get to have small bursts of quite intimate engagement with people while I take their picture. I get to see into spaces I’d never normally be allowed. I love seeing my work shared online and printed in magazines and advertisements. I love collaborating with other creatives – be they art directors, choreographers, dancers, fashion designers, actors, chefs, etc…
YOU WORK WITH A LOT OF BRANDS, PR AGENCIES AND MEDIA…. YOU’RE WORKING AT THE CROSS-SECTION. WHAT KIND OF INSIGHTS CAN YOU SHARE THAT OTHERS IN THE INDUSTRY MIGHT NOT HAVE ACCESS TO?
This is PR 101, but if you’re promoting a brand, make it easy for media outlets to feature you by having easily available and free to use media assets like photos, video, bio’s of key staff and media releases that aren’t filled with hyperbole.
The more photo assets the better; say you’re a fashion brand, that might include flat lay images, editorial/campaign images, street style images, celebrity images, in-store interiors, plus portraits of your key creatives/owners. Don’t give editors any roadblocks that might mean they put your brand in the too-hard-basket and move on to someone else with more readily available assets.
As well as having that library of images, if you’re launching something new it’s also important to be able to offer exclusive content to key media outlets. If competitive media are all given the same image it’s not likely to get a big run as they’re not going to want to publish the same image as a competitor. If you offer an exclusive tailored to that publication you’re far more likely to get better media placement.
And some media still prefer to shoot their own content (thank god!) – so make that easy too by being fast to respond and enable all reasonable requests.
WHY IS EXCEPTIONAL PHOTOGRAPHY SO IMPORTANT FOR BRANDS TODAY?
First impressions last. Before a customer ever sees your product in the flesh, before they visit your venue, before they buy your dress, before they listen to your music, before they taste your food, before they see your show (you get the point..) – they’re most likely going to see a photograph of it first.
The photographic representation of your product/service/brand is such a key determining factor into whether someone will engage further with you and become a customer.
If you have bland photography that looks like no care has been taken, or that looks generic and no different to your competitors then you’re not going to make a good lasting impression.
WHAT HAVE BEEN THE BIGGEST CHANGES YOU’VE SEEN IN THE INDUSTRY SINCE YOU STARTED?
I’d say the decline of print media and growth of social media. That’s had its pros and cons in terms of photography. A big plus is how dominant photography is on platforms like Instagram and Facebook. It’s all about photography first (and to some extent video). People are such voracious consumers of fresh content and clients don’t rely on traditional media channels to publish news – so it’s seen a massive growth in demand for original photography. But it’s also sad how ephemeral it all is. To see your work in print still has the most prestige to me.
HOW DO YOU KEEP LEARNING? DO YOU HAVE ANY MENTORS/GO TO RESOURCES?
I’m so restless and self-critical that I can’t help but keep trying new things and trying to push myself further. Photography isn’t a skill that you can ever master, it’s continual gradual improvement.
If I see work I like I try to deconstruct how the photographer would have executed it – but my main learning resource is probably my wife and fellow photographer Cybele Malinowski. She’s so good at what she does it really keeps me on my toes, and I’m always picking her brain about how she executes things and gets the best results.
But on the business side of things it can be tough to learn – there’s no obvious resources to figure out pricing and accounting and those sorts of things. You just slowly figure things out by talking to other people.
DO YOU USE ANY TECHNOLOGY/APPS THAT MAKE YOUR LIFE EASIER?
I use Xero to manage all my accounts which includes all my quoting, invoicing and expense tracking. I couldn’t survive without it.
I use Dropbox for all my file management and delivery of jobs to clients. With a terabyte of storage in the cloud it means I can deliver hi-res files and never delete them. So there’s always an archive of past shoots I can dip into should I need.
I use Wunderlist to manage all my to-do tasks.
And it’s not exactly that cutting edge, but I live and die by my calendar app. I’ve got to be really on top of blocking out time for tentative bookings, confirmed shoots, meetings, childcare and the rare moments of social life.
Dan’s top tips for brands who can’t afford a professional photographer for every single shoot…
1. Embrace your phone.
Unless you intend to become a pro, don’t worry about trying to master an SLR camera and deal with lenses and flash lighting. For those Instagram stories and little updates, your phone will do the trick. And it’ll enable you to get images online fast.
2. Find good light.
Daylight coming in through a window (although not direct sun) is the most flattering light you’re likely to find.
3. Background matters.
Take the time to move your subject to a simple background that’s not going to distract from the focus of your image.
4. Shoot lots and ruthlessly discard bad photos.
Only share your best work, not every half-baked version it took to get to the final shot.