Perks of being a photographer

In the past (I've been a pro photog for almost 10 years, starting at age 21), when people would say "Wow, it must be a cool job!", even though they imagined me standing taking pics at kiddies parties (commercial photographer doesn't say a heck of a lot to Joe Bogs), I would reply with a "Yah, well, it's not ALL glam, it's got a lot of hard graft and tough aspects as well", which isn't untrue, but I said it because I didn't want people to think I had it easy, and they hard (I grew up Calvinist and South AFrican...white...guilt is sort of built into default set-up). However, one day I came to the realization that I made the choice to do what I do when I was 12, pursued it since then and worked very hard to get where I am, and on any given day still earn the same or less than they do, BUT I have perks. And I love my job. I love the exposure. I love the business side. I love the hard times. I love the carrying equipment as well! I love sweeping the studio floor. I love having coffee with my assistant at weird and wonderful locations.

Here are some questions I get asked and I will answer now:

FOOD SHOOTS: YES, I always taste the food. Inedible food-styling is left for the TV guys, Us stills guy respect good food and what you see is what I eat. I have had Micehelin 3-star chefs (Giorgio Nava) have me eat at his kitchen counter. I have had from 1 star to 5 star. The above pick is Springbok (SA Gazelle) game from Savoy Cabbage. I have had the Cafe Royal Fat Bastard Burger in Cape Town Long Street, I have sampled 99% of the dishes in a Touch of Rooibos that I shot. Yes, I eat the food.

WINE: Yes, often times wineries are nice enough to give me a couple of bottles of the best. Currently I have a bottle of Waterford The Jem, Jean Daneel Director's Bin Chenin Blanc 2006, Graham Beck 1994 (2006 Degorge) MCC Brut MAGNUM (Nelson Mandela drank this when he became president in 1994), some fine wines from Iona, Rijks, and various other top notch SA wineries. I also have photographed the 1791 Vin de Constance at Klein Constantia, the very wine Napolean Bonaparte drank while in exile on St Helena, and Charles Dickens writes about in one of his novels.

CARS: No, I don't often drive the cars myself, but I always get to ride IN them. However, I have driven the Audi R8 V10 on a road outside Elgin, South Africa. Wow. Wow. Wow. See the video here: .I have driven in the Aston Martin DBS V12 (see for the video I shot on a cell phone in the car while the driver did his thing). I have driven in the Nissan GT-R. Around a race-track. I have driven in more insanely expensive cars than I can recount. The irony? I'm not really a car enthusiast, I just love the look of cars. Once you get under the bonnet, I'm a bit at a loss. I desire not to have one of those cars, which is a blessing, cuz I can simply enjoy them as works of art. I drive a Toyota Panelwagon and a Chev. I love my cars. Functional. Logical.

PEOPLE: I have photographed NElson Mandela's wife, Graca Machel, in their Cape Town home. I have shot Faithless live, from the orchestra pit with Maxi Jazz almost stepping on my hand, I have shot Live Live, I have shot Ronan Keating live, I have photographer more CEO's than I care to remember, I have shot sport stars (Francois Pienaar, now played by Matt Damon in Long Walk to Freedom), Graeme Smith, Herchelle Gibbs, Marc Fish, Dingaan Tobela and many more. I have photographed writers journalists, thinkers, wise men and great woman, weird and wonderful people. Rich and unfamous, Poor and famous and a bit of both. I love shooting people.

HOTELS AND PLACES: I've slept in hotels that I'll never be able to afford, take my wife to hotels because of my job I'd never be able to do. I've seen amazing restaurants and places. My stay in Bushman's Kloof resort would've cost me my company's turnover for a month. I'm going, God willing, to Libya in November to shoot for Air Afrique.

I can go on and on. I shoot pack shots in studio - I like it. I enjoy the mundane parts of shooting. I shoot events still - I take a booking if I have the time - their money is as good as any other money - I hate idleness.

Are their bits that's tough about my job? Obviously. The creative industry is in my opinion other than full-time ministry the hardest place to make a living. But I CHOSE to. I put my head down and still take the knocks with the blessings.

I'm grateful to God I can be a photographer.

Photo credits: Danie Nel.

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You can alwyas try!


THis post came just in time now that I am concidering a career change . . but it may be too late for me to do so (become a photographer that is) ! :(


probably the only thing I avoid shooting is "the ladies". Fashion not on my priority list. Have some moral issues with what is expected of woman sometimes. Do shoot product and some line-book fashion - but that is product and dummy based.


I do what I want. I get models in Playboy and manage to stay broke. I don't care though. I will get my break.


Hey Danie, nice blog, I can see why you love what you do so much, great food, wine, fast cars and probably some lovely ladies in between. Next time please invite me to drive one of these cars, it will be worth the trip from Joes :0)


fantastic attitude, i'm glad you've found so much success in what started off as a hobby - good on you - wishing you loads more success now and in the future :)


@smartview27 - good point. Hindsight is always 20/20, so that's when you learn. Trees grows tallest in the valleys. Torn muscles grow strongest. All that sort of thing!


The knocks are not very welcome, but the knocks could be useful!


@Conceptualcreations - haha :) It sounds like it? Thomas Edison said: Since I do what I want, I've never worked a day in my life.


Dude, you have the glam thing going on!


You certainly sound like you enjoy what you do! I've always thought that if you enjoy what you do, you put some of you into your work and your work becomes far greater in quality and impact. I would take someone with passion for a job over someone that's done it all and is bored any day! Keep it up :0)


Thanx Rebeccaosborn. I'm not one of those jumpy=excited people, but in my view pessimism is way overrated.


great positive attitude.. can we please have more of these in the world today??!! so refreshing!


Thanx all. I love the job. Just came back from shooting the morning on Llundadno Beach, Cape Town. (Looks like Monaco, just prettier ;) ).

Happy shooting.

To my goings along go to or to my website


Very well put. Your dedication is enviable.


you have a super job! (if you can best call it that) you are doing something you love and it shows in your spirit and work. well done!!


Hi Danie, cool man, it was nice to read your blog, lots of inspiration for newbie like us. Well im in the same boat but not as successful as you are. As I'm a full time into graphic designing and design a car magazine, a travel and hotel magazine and another yachts magazine I get a chance to be in the right place and right time.
Was lucky to shoot some expensive cars, taste some expensive food in expensive restaurants, and was lucky to look inside some of the most luxurious yachts, which my normal day job plus free lance web development job wouldn't have afforded me. I'm thank ful to All Mighty Allah for making me a photographer.

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