JRP: Providing clients and students with a fulfilling experience has become the hall-mark of master Portrait Photographer Sue Bryce. Thank you Sue for sharing some of your valuable time with JRP Blog.
Sue Bryce: I feel honored to be chosen.
JRP: Sue where do you call home and how did you get your start in photography? Is there any formal training in your background?
Sue Bryce: New Zealand born and raised I now live in Sydney Australia. I am a self-taught Portrait photographer, Photoshop and illustrating. I am and always have been a sponge for knowledge. I love to read anything Non Fiction learning & evolving is the greatest gift we have. So many people are stuck in their careers and life. I have always chosen to learn things that excite me. Enthusiasm is the secret to life.
JRP: Every photographer has a “got it” moment where it clicks that this is what you should be doing. When was that for you?
Sue Bryce: I was 18 when I started working for my Mom as a retouch artist for 300 professionals. Their work everyday for 4 years was my education, I knew that’s what I wanted to do. I bought a Minolta X300 and shot everything that moved, I thought It was very “glamorous” being a photographer.
Years later in my studio I photographed the most beautiful family I’ve ever met. Their shoot was so incredible to be a part of. Five weeks later the Dad died. I remember working it out then, what I did for them. I stopped time for them, I took a snapshot of their most important moment and caught a piece of their love for all time. Nothing is more valuable to them, and it changed me forever.
JRP: Which photographers do you feel have impacted your work and why?
Sue Bryce: Jim Fiscus Commercial, Annie Lebowitz for pop culture, Joyce Tenneson for femininity, Sarah Moon for Fashion. I love imagery that you can drink in. That you stand in front of and it absorbs you, that tells a story or evokes emotion. I admire so many photographers. Mostly I admire photographers that LOVE what they shoot. Not the ones that need to be loved for what they shoot.
JRP: Do you have a support staff and what areas do they handle?
Sue Bryce: I’m lucky enough now to accept portrait commission by word of mouth so I have a small team. I photograph a lot of Photographers. I enjoy a boutique clientele, I always work with a makeup artist and assistant and I have a video editor for Moving Portrait.
JRP: What would I find in your camera bag or studio for a typical shoot? What lighting equipment and modifiers do you favor and why?
Sue Bryce: I am a natural light shooter. I shoot available light only so you will always find my subjects sandwiched between two large reflectors. My camera is a Canon 1D mark iv and a Canon 5D mark ii Lenses 85mm 1.2 24-105mm 50mm. Both of these cameras are HDSLR.
JRP: Please describe your digital work-flow and the software you use?
Sue Bryce: I process everything through Photoshop Raw. I do not shoot a high volume of work my shooting environment is very controlled I will edit up to 30 images for one portrait client. I want to present 30 mind-blowing images and sell them all, not spend the first hour deleting my presentation. Photoshop has been a huge part of my life since its inception.
My theory is when you order a Bacon Burger you don’t want to see them kill the pig. (sorry my sense of humor, I am actually vegetarian) I mean of course the finished product of my work is Photoshop and I want to present the best final product I can.
JRP: Do you print your images?
Sue Bryce: No I still believe a pro-lab should do my printing. Seeing other friends with great printers I’ve always been tempted but honestly there is not enough of me to go around I simply can’t do everything.
JRP: With today’s economic conditions tell us how you keep productive and retain your creative edge.
Sue Bryce: Two years ago when I brought my brand to Australia, I didn’t build a team. It’s hard keeping small. I would love to be working with a specialist in every field but the truth is it is easier with a small team. I’m very brand driven. I believe 95% of photographers today look like the next. Very few of them have taken time to create a “Brand“. My style is obvious and you see that immediately, also I know who my target market is … I’m commercially market driven. I always want to be different, to stand out. I started to shoot Moving Portraits (the fusing of stills and High definition video) and I marketed it as a mini cinema experience for my clients. I believe in evolution and I am always excited to try to learn new things.
You know so many photographers rolled their eyes and said “that will be a flash in the pan”. I had already sold five that month at $3000 each. I’m more interested in “doing” than being a Naysayer. I also think video is the greatest form of advertising a photographer can have.
JRP: Are there any memorable images or shoots you could share with us? What made that image or shoot special?
Sue Bryce: Yes about two years ago I did a shoot and I was in a “can’t be bothered mood”. I smiled and went through the motions. I took beautiful images but my clients bought nothing, actually they cancelled their order. The mom told me I was a waste of time and money.
I was so hurt I sat down and cried, never before had I been told I wasn’t good enough. I realized in that moment I was not working from the heart. I had gone through that whole shoot disconnected and “Cookie Cutting“. I deserved that, I didn’t ask her how she wanted to be photographed I didn’t listen. I tell this story at seminars because it’s important to be humble to Love what you do. The connection we have with our clients is more important than anything else.
JRP: What do you feel is one of the major mistakes new photographers make in pursuing a career?
Sue Bryce: Work your way to the top. So many photographers come to me and want work but they have NO skills. I was employed by the best studio in my country because at the age of 22;
a.) I was a Master Retoucher and then
b.) I worked my way up to Principle Photographer.
It took three years. I worked 10 to 12 hours a day. I had a goal and I was filled with motivation and passion. I worked hard and I would see something and practice it until I mastered it. I was hungry, ask yourself what are you hungry for?
JRP: What has been some of the best advice given to you by another photographer?
Sue Bryce: Sign a Model Release (you will not believe when that will come back to bite you) and don’t be concerned with what others are doing. Do what’s right for you.
JRP: What special advice would you like to share with other photographers?
Sue Bryce: Find YOUR niche, it’s what you love to do. Create a “Brand” a “Style” and tell everyone. Be true to yourself, set goals, and accomplish them. If you come up against a wall, free your mind, that’s where the wall is. My favourite quote. “Talent will get you far. . . but not as far as ambition.”
JRP: Thank you Sue for sharing your thoughts and images with us. It has been educational and a real pleasure.
Sue Bryce: My pleasure!
JRP: To view more of Sue Bryce’s photography please follow these links:
and training product