Menachem Serraf opened his first studio in Montreal, Quebec eight months ago. He has focused on providing traditional photographic services in his market. I thought that those of you contemplating the jump into full time photography might like to hear from someone who is fresh in the trenches. His excellent PhotoNet.com gallery introduced me to his work.
JRP: Thanks Menachem for taking time out of your busy day to answer my request for an interview.
Menachem Serraf: It is my pleasure to share my experience with people who are contemplating opening a studio. I was in that position not long ago.
JRP: Is Montreal your original home?
Menachem Serraf: This is where I was born, and where I grew up.
JRP: Have you had any formal training in photography or have you worked in a previous studio setting?
Menachem Serraf: Well I never had any formal training in terms of college. I tried to get work in other studios but they were reluctant to hire me for various reasons. Perhaps they were scared that one day I would take their business away. I was not lucky enough to work for a real professional photographer. I would still like to assist another professional to increase my over-all knowledge though.
JRP: What camera and lighting equipment do you use? What software do you make use of in your work flow?
Menachem Serraf: As for my camera I have never touched a film camera. Digital is my first system. It was all new to me. I researched different DSLRs and found that Olympus would be a good place to start. They have redesigned their digital system and lenses. As for lighting in the studio I use Alien Bees, Olympus fl50, and the popular Vivitar strobes.
JRP: I first came in contact with your work on PhotoNet.com. Do you have any other sites that you participate in as a member to promote and showcase yourself?
Menachem Serraf: Well actually I am a member of a few sites. I like “dpreview” to get updated on new products. The main site where I post regularly is called http://www.nobsphotosuccess.com/forums. I became a member about a year and a half ago. That’s where I stated to pick up most of my photography knowledge.
JRP: What motivated you to open a studio?
Menachem Serraf: Well photography started as a hobby but the more I started doing it as a professional I figured I could make a living out of it with some hard work. By the time I was ready to open up a studio it was totally for the sake of business.
JRP: One finds the need to be a social politician as well as an artist when operating a traditional studio. Are you a natural with people or are you still developing those skills?
Menachem Serraf: I try to be natural with people. If it’s kids I bribe them a little in some sort of way or play games. Older people I joke a bit with to break the ice and make them comfortable with me. I am by nature a reserved person so I still need much more practice. I’m always trying to find new ways to work with and relate to my subjects.
JRP: As artists we often forget that a full time studio is a business. Do you find yourself seeking out business professionals that can help keep you on track?
Menachem Serraf: Well I think that opening up a studio should only be a business decision. If not you might not last long. You can get advice from people that have experience, and that can sometimes help but you can’t totally rely on that. You have to do the thinking for your business. Every business has its own personal challenges.
The best thing in my opinion is to have a broad image of what you want to achieve. Then set your goals based on that.
JRP: From a customer relations point of view give us an example of your most challenging photo session?
Menachem Serraf: I would say as of now every job I take is the most challenging because with each job it is important to get it right. I think one of the most important things is to communicate with your client properly. Whether its for posing or contracting services its a big challenge for me to make sure the client understands.
JRP: What is your workflow like in your digital darkroom?
Menachem Serraf: I shoot only in Raw and sort images on Bridge. I make sure my white balance is dead on. Some images that need it I expand their dynamic range. The new recovery tools are great and it saves you a ton of time.
I process my photos in Photoshop with different customized actions that will include teeth whitening, saturation and contrast. Sharpening as well as smoothing the skin if needed.
JRP: Technique or vision, which plays the biggest role presently in your work?
Menachem Serraf: Both are a must and I use them all the time in my work.
JRP: What is the best advice you have received so far about photography?
JRP: What advice do you have for a photographer thinking of opening a studio?
Menachem Serraf: I think one should only open a studio if you are fully committed to the business and art of photography. You have to be committed to having good customer service. If one thinks that to open up a studio and money will just role in by itself … forget about it!
JRP: Thanks again Menachem for sharing with us. I wish you the very best!
To view more of Menachem Serraf’s work please visit his website at: http://masphotography.net/