Interview with Headshot Photographer Daniel Sommer
Tell us a little about yourself and what you do.
I am a Sydney based headshot and portrait photographer specialising in actor’s headshots, corporate headshots, fashion and advertising. It is my mission to provide people with not only the best headshot they’ve ever had in their lives, but also one that looks genuine to them. What you see in my photos is who you see walking through the door.
Where do you get your inspiration from when you shot?
My biggest photographic inspiration is from the New York photographer Peter Hurley. He is not only a creative and professional inspiration, but I am also lucky enough to be able to count him as one of my mentors.
What are the five words that people who know you would use to describe you?
Enthusiastic, energetic, laid-back, personable and committed.
Tell us about your very first job and what path have you taken since then?
My first job was working during the school holidays as a farm picker. I worked on a small tobacco farm in the middle of nowhere in the Swiss country-side. Being a holiday job whilst at primary school, I was young, unambitious and just wanting to earn money to buy new tech products for myself. In the following years, as I went through high school, college and then the army, I was unsure of the direction I wanted my life to go. After getting pushed by my high school teacher, I learned that I needed to work hard and focus on my future, thinking it lay in business (hopefully somehow incorporating some form of creative focus).
While photography was my hobby and my passion since childhood, I never imagined it could turn into a career. Since moving to Australia in 2012, the opportunities I have been given and the people I have met (in person and globally, online) I realised that my love for photography could lead to a career. Now having found a sustainable passion, and reason to get up in the morning, I wish I could go back and speak to that 12 year-old me, and let him know that if he works hard, keeps spending his money of technology products, and keeps exploring his love of cameras, he’ll find his purpose, sooner than he thinks.
How do you usually plan your daily activities?
I have two kinds of days, shoot days and editing days.
Shoot days are my favourite days of the week. I wake-up early, and spend the early mornings cleaning my studio, setting up my equipment (if I haven’t already done so the day before) and getting pumped for the day ahead. My shoots usually go for around 4 hours (if I shoot multiple clients in one day, it can get long), during this time I just have fun. I get to do the thing I love most in this world, and I get to share my enthusiasm and passion with others, ensuring they have a great day as well.
On editing days I usually wake up and review my social media accounts and campaigns (so Gen Y, I know). I like to take these days easy, as I usually have a large amount of photo editing to do, and find if I pace myself and take things precisely, my work is of a much higher standard. I listen to EDM and fast beat music to get my blood pumping and my feet tapping as I edit, making me work faster, whilst keeping up my energy levels (as I often work late into the night).
As an artist, what is your biggest frustration?
My biggest frustration as a headshot photographer is trying to convince people of their own, natural beauty. My artistic philosophy, is to ensure that each image does not look heavily photoshopped, and looks genuine to the subject. Seeing overly photoshopped images (you know the ones, where you can barely see the subjects features through all the blur) is why I strive to produce work I would be envious of in others. The kinds of photos that make me go “WOW! That’s awesome”.
Many people come through my studio self conscious of some kind of seemingly undesirable feature in their appearance, something they’re not happy with. As someone who sees their whole face, it is one of my jobs to help convince them that the small flaws really are insignificant, and everyone they meet will only see the full them, the true them, and not that small line in the middle of their forehead.
How do you connect with other artists, and your customers (i.e. how do you network)?
I belong to a global community of headshot photographers called the ‘Headshot Crew’, founded by headshot photographer extraordinaire, Peter Hurley. It is through this community I receive (and give) a lot of support, feedback and nurturing of skills and techniques. I also belong to photography, editing and equipment sharing communities, where we share tips, tricks and techniques to using equipment and creating amazing photographs.
Locally I am a member of the Chippendale Creative Precinct, and I attend the ArtSHINE Corporate Escape Club. This gives me the ability to meet artists, entrepreneurs and small business owners in my community, where we can share our own unique skills with each other and learn things you wouldn’t necessarily learn within your own artistic community.
I am also very active within small business, entrepreneurs and tech event meet-up communities, where I attend networking events to broaden my personal network, as well as meeting potential new clients.
Your advice to an artist who is just starting out?
Keep practicing! Keep doing your craft as often as you can, every spare moment you have should be used to hone your skills and have fun with the work. If you take time off, if you don’t commit to what you love, then nothing is going to happen.
If you work in a specific medium, market yourself towards that, but also try other styles, mediums and skill sets (YouTube tutorials are great for this), because you never know what techniques you’ll pick up from somewhere unexpected.
What is your proudest moment so far?
Hands down, having the ability to do what I love in my own studio.
Who do you most want to meet and why?
There are heroes of mine, that I would give anything to meet, people like Richard Branson and Elon Musk. There are people who are stars, who are these grand personalities on the silver screen, like George Clooney and Leonardo DiCaprio, who anyone would be happy to meet. But in all honesty, in my day-to-day life, I get to meet these extraordinary people, actors, producers, and CEO’s who have had
these amazing lives, amazing stories and walking down the street, you wouldn’t think of them in that way. These are the people who I look forward to meeting the most in my life.
What is the most important lesson in life that you have learned?
Perseverance! Keep doing what you love, no matter what the obstacles may be. If you can spend your days doing the things that make you happy, there is no better goal in life than that.
Where do we find you and your service?
You can find me on the web www.danielsommerphotography.com
And follow me on these platforms:
How did you find out about ArtSHINE?
I met Vinh (the co-founder of ArtSHINE) through a mutual friend a couple of years ago. I was intrigued with the work he was doing, supporting young artists in the community, and nurturing their craft by supplying co-working and exhibition spaces. When they started hosting the monthly talks I thought I’d go along and see if I could meet some local artists and entrepreneurs. I discovered a great little community of people willing to learn and share their skills, and now I try to make every meet-up.
Tell us about the upcoming workshop you will be presenting at ArtSHINE.
Join me on the 4th of April for my presentation at CoSydney CoWorking + Enterprise Accelerator to learn more about THE IMPORTANCE OF HEADSHOTS. This presentation is part of The ArtSHINE Corporate Escape Club Sydney where entrepreneurs and business owners meet up on the first Tuesday of each month.
The Corporate Escape Club is a meet up with like minded people. Listen and learn from those who have already escaped the rat race and daily grind. Connecting with people who are like you, walking the same path towards self employment and create a Business LifeStyle of your dreams.
Want to learn more about ArtShine and CoSydney CoWorking + Enterprise Accelerator ?
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To your success,
Vinh Van Lam & Stuart Horrex
Your Coaches CoSydney & ArtSHINE