This month I welcome Davina + Daniel. Stunning photography are what these two lovebirds are all about. Their style and approach to photography is first class. They are totally in love with each other and the still image. Together they have photographed over 150 weddings all over North America and abroad. They are award-winning members of the WPJA and Brides Magazine, and have been published in a number of Canadian and American Magazines. There is not much more to say except that I really like these two and I'm so glad they are part of our fabulous industry. Enjoy the interview!
Tell us a little bit about yourself?
Thanks for interviewing us Crash! We are are a young, engaged couple, lovers of travel, sushi, and each other.
Where is home?
Montreal, Canada. We have contemplated many times moving to the US, but we always end up saying how much we love it here. It’s just a really great city to live in.
Why did you become a photographer?
Daniel: My dad has always done photography as a hobby, so I kind of grew up around it. When time came for me to choose a specialty after high school, I went into photography, and never really looked back.
Davina: I always say that I didn't choose photography, but that photography chose me. I've always been into the visual arts, but I was studying journalism when I met Daniel and he turned my whole world upside down. He thought I had the eye for it so got me my first camera and taught me the basics of how to use it. A few weeks later he took me to Jamaica to shoot my first wedding, and I guess I did ok... I think I turned out to be a decent investment for him!
Your camera and lens set up at weddings?
We each shoot with 1 Nikon D700, and change lenses throughout the day - we find it easier than shooting with multiple cameras. We're both pretty tiny and can't imagine having second bodies flopping around us as we crouch into weird positions. We each have a 35mm f2, 50mm f1.4, and an 85mm 1.8 in lens pouches on our belts. We also have a Quickclip with our flashes hooked on for easy access.
Davina: It makes me feel like Lara Croft from Tomb Raider to have the equipment around me like that. I feel like a badass.
If you had to choose one lens, which one would it be and why?
Daniel: 35mm f2. I can always go in closer to photograph something, but you can only go so far back (at least at weddings) so a wide angle makes more sense over a longer lens. Plus, I find it to be the angle that resembles our eye sight the most.
Davina: 50mm f1.4. It was Daniel's father before we "borrowed it" (indefinitely) so I feel somehow connected to the photography lineage in his family when I shoot with it. It's also really versatile and you gotta love that f1.4.
Can you tell us about the path you took to become a professional photographer?
Daniel: After I graduated from the photography program, I assisted an other wedding photographer for a year, doing only in-studio work (mainly post-production). He had been doing it for 25 years, so the work was VERY traditional. At that time, I didn’t know any better so photographing weddings was out of the question (look at me now!). After I came across the WPJA (back in 2005) - and got very excited about the caliber of work - I decided to give it a try. My boss (back then) let me 3rd shoot for him, and develop a portfolio, something very generous that I definitely don’t take for granted. The rest is history...
Davina: After joining forces with Daniel, I was still pretty convinced that being a wedding photographer was a little lame. Not that I didn't enjoy it, but I think I had this idea that I had to do something more "intellectual" in order to be respected in the world. I've since gotten over that, obviously. But when Daniel asked me to be his business partner, I was a little hesitant. I was worried about always being second best to him, since I came along a little later. It took me a while to feel like I was just as valuable to the business as he is and I think I'm still constantly proving (to myself) that I'm a worthy photographer in my own right. Although to be perfectly honest, there wasn't much to Daniel's work before I came along! 😉
What advice do you have for amateurs wanting to become professional?
Daniel: Take the time to learn the techniques properly. Either by taking a class, or a private workshop. While there is tons of information out there, becoming a professional isn’t as easy as it may seem.
Davina: I'm with Daniel. Don't skip the important steps; get to know the equipment well, get comfortable with it, and invest in some classes and workshops. And as with anything: practice, practice, practice! Take your couple friends out for a casual session and play around with lighting and composition. There's no pressure when you're shooting for free, only the potential for you to learn.
Apart from sheer hard work, what would you say has been the main key to the success of your business?
Daniel: Having a good partnership. My work wouldn’t be the same it is if Davina wasn’t around (hopefully she’ll say the same about me!). I also really enjoy the business part of managing a studio, so it makes replying to emails, doing accounting, marketing, all that stuff... a lot more fun, instead of being a burden.
Davina: I think the magic combination for success is talent, hard work, good business sense, and luck. We've had enough of everything to get to where we are now. But to keep going, we need, above all, a love of what we do. Like with a relationship, you shouldn't take it for granted, and that means working hard to make it better. I always shoot better when I feel like I suck! Those are the times that I push myself the most and try the hardest.
Have you ever had anything go wrong at a wedding and if so, how did you handle it?
Daniel: I once lost a memory card, coming out of the church (it was in my back pocket and it fell out when I pulled out my keys). I realized it was missing while we were taking portraits in a field, so you can only imagine all the backtracking we had to do. We managed to avoid the topic with the couple so they wouldn’t be alarmed. I dropped off Davina at the reception, and was driving back to the church to see if it was there. A guest approached her during cocktails and asked if we had lost this... he was holding our precious 16gb card.
Needless to say, we have since changed our system. No incidents to report.
Davina: One of the first weddings I ever shot was in NYC and I didn't feel comfortable with flash yet. I was shooting some crazy dancing with awesome ambient light, but I sucked. I knew that an experienced photographer would get some awesome pictures out of it, but I felt limited by my experience. I handled it by breaking down in tears (away from the action, but still). This was not my best moment, but I learned so much from it, personally and professionally.
Note: I now love and feel very comfortable shooting dancing/receptions!
Can you describe how and when you use flash, video light, reflectors and natural light during a wedding/portrait shoot?
We mainly shoot natural light, and love it that way. Having said that, we really enjoy experimenting with off-camera flash during the preparation, the ceremony, or any other time we feel it might give us a cool shot. We use our SB-900s, on camera, for shooting dancing. We own a small video light, but have only used it once or twice.
What do you feel is the most challenging thing about photographing weddings?
Daniel: Always being creative, and giving your clients something that we haven’t done before. While most elements repeat from one wedding to another, it doesn’t mean you have to shoot it the same way. That challenge is something that can be a lot of fun, but also a lot pressure.
Davina: I agree with Daniel. And personally, I find giving direction pretty tough. Which is odd considering how comfortable I am telling Daniel what to do!
The last workshop or seminar you attended and why?
In the winter, we attended both Mystic ( http://mysticseminars.com ), a conference in Connecticut (at which we’ll be speaking in 2011!) and we partied at WPPI back in March.
What do you think of the wedding photography industry at the moment and where do you see it in 5 years from now?
Daniel: I really love being a part of it. There is so much talent, established and new, and the competition drives us to do better at every wedding. All the gossip is funny to read up on, but at the end of the day, it’s really not that important...
Fusion films (photo + video) seem to be the latest trend, but only time will tell if it’ll be a necessity in 5 years time.
Davina: There is so much new, young talent coming into the business right now. No one is revolutionizing wedding photography at the moment, but there's certainly a lot of talent out there. I think it's keeping everyone on their toes, forcing everyone to keep evolving and getting better. It's healthy competition! As for the future, Daniel and I discussed this recently so we're on the same page about the Fusion thing. Photographers are doing it and they're doing it well. So it's only a matter of time before brides expect it. We're just going to have to keep up!
How important is an awesome website for your business?
It’s everything. Being part of the younger generation, I can tell you that most of our research for everyday stuff is made online. So it’s no different with brides & grooms who are looking for wedding vendors. We don’t do any print advertising, we just want clients to end up on our website, so that’s where we focus our marketing. These days, blogs are just as, if not more, important than the actual website. We worked with Flosites (http://flosites.com) on ours, and we couldn’t be happier with the result. It represents us perfectly.
The first photographer that comes to your mind and why?
Daniel: Dave & Quin of DQ Studios. We just hung out with them last weekend, while they were visiting/working in Montreal. Plus they’re pretty awesome.
Davina: Ben Chrisman and Erin Reed. They were the first photographers whose work we followed and they continue to be a huge source of inspiration and mentors for us. They are photographing our wedding next April and I'm so happy to have them!
We know that each of us has someone or something, which inspires our life and work. Can you tell us the true basis of your inspiration?
Daniel: When shooting, lighting & environment are the main sources of inspiration, in the moment. In general life, the idea of having a family with Davina is what drives me to making our relationship the best it can be, and to appreciate the fact that we get to work together!
Davina: I draw inspiration from so many things, from other photographers, to films, to the way light hits a particular object. Not to be cheesy, but the "true basis" of my inspiration has got to be Daniel. He is my muse!
Is there anything you would have done differently during your photographic career?
Daniel: I don’t have any regrets, and I couldn’t be happier with where we are now with our careers. But we did things a little bit upside down... We started by aiming to be a volume studio, charging less & having associates shoot for us, so had to work through seasons of 55 weddings, and 82 last year, until we decided it wasn’t for us, and decided to raise our prices and focus just on our photography (instead of worrying about employees). We work just as much this year with 36 weddings, but it’s a lot more enjoyable.
Davina: No. Everything we've done has been a learning experience and I wouldn't change any of it.
Something you’re still learning?
Daniel: Not letting stress get to me, and listening to Davina better.
Davina: There is so much that I'm still learning! Most of all, I need to learn to have more confidence. This is the one thing that holds me back the most.
What would you like to be doing in 5 years from now?
Daniel: Same thing we are doing now, but less. 20-25 weddings would be really great! I also photograph pets, and have a commercial (architecture, interiors, food) portfolio, and would like to have more time for the side projects.
Davina: I like this question! I am so happy with where we are now, so the future seems nothing but bright! Let's see... 5 years from now... a baby, about 25 weddings a year, and hopefully still enjoying life and our work as much as we are now!
If someone said ‘how can I be the next Davina + Daniel?’ What would you say?
Daniel: Good luck finding an awesomely talented partner who can stand being with/around you 24hrs a day!
Davina: Aw, I just read Daniel's answer. How sweet! But seriously, partnerships are really tough. We tend to let Business Davina + Daniel override Relationship Davina + Daniel so it's something we constantly have to work at. As for being the next D+D, well, there's only one of those but any one can be successful with the right combination of talent, hard work, good business sense, and luck.
What is your most tresured possession?
Daniel: Our little dog Coco (8lbs daschound)
Davina: Coco and my engagement ring.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Daniel: Having a Sunday off, after having photographed a wedding the day before. Taking the day to do non-work stuff with Davina & Coco.
Davina: Doing things that you love with the person that you love.
Which historical figure do you most identify with?
Daniel: Somehow, this is toughest question of this interview... I really can’t think of anyone.
Davina: The Little Engine That Could
Best piece of advice you have been given?
Daniel: Ben Chrisman (who will be shooting our wedding in Mexico next April) has given us tons of valuable advice over the last couple of years. I think the best has been to stay in Montreal, and build up our market from over here, instead of moving to somewhere like California or NYC, which are both saturated with other photographers already.
Davina: Daniel often tells me: "You don't have to reinvent the wheel. Just take pictures." This isn't really GOOD advice, but it's effective. It makes me calm down and stop stressing out, and enjoy what I'm doing. That's when I take the best photos, and he knows it - that's why it's effective!
What are you scared of?
Daniel: Jail really scares me. I have no intention of making my way there.
Davina: Haha! That's because Daniel's built like a little girl. I'd be scared of jail too if I were him!
As for me, I'm most afraid of loss. When things are going really well, I'm afraid that something will be taken away from me. I'm most afraid of losing Daniel.
Daniel: Cars... Lucky for me, Davina likes me enough to let me indulge! I can also answer Davina’s part of the questions by saying “SHOES!!!”
Davina: Daniel, please. You have one car. You're making it sound like you're Jay Leno or something. Me? I do like my shoes, yes.
Daniel: South Beach, in Miami, especially in the winter.
Davina: Our bed.
Do you own any art?
Daniel: We have many photos of us that were taken by other photographers, but we don’t own a Picasso...
Davina: Several original Davina + Daniel's. Also several vintage cameras. They're works of art to me!
What is your motto?
Daniel: Dream & Succeed. I have it tattooed in Thai on my forearm.
Davina: Like Daniel, I've tattooed them to me. Mine are keywords though: trust (in Czech), happiness (in Thai), peace, and my anchor which keeps me grounded. Not much of a motto, but definitely words to live by.
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