Wildlife Photographer - Greg du Toit
Greg du Toit
Your business name:
My name is my business and I take it personally (lol).
Tell us a bit about your business:
I am a professional wildlife photographer whereby my income streams are predominantly from book and fine art print sales as well as from running small group photographic workshops and bespoke private safaris.
How long have you worked as a photographer?
Professionally for 10 years now and I have been photographing for 17.
Do you feel it was an instant success or did it take a while to find its feet?
It definitely took a while! I think every photographer needs to go through both a technical and a creative process before finding one’s feet, so to speak. It is therefore important to shoot as much as possible in the first few years, to afford one to become technically efficient and to let the creative process take hold. Shoot anything, I started out shooting flowers and pebbles! I also learnt to shoot on film and it was a great teacher but very strict. If you got it wrong and I did a plenty, then the entire film would come back black. Film taught me in-camera discipline and this has stood me in good stead, even in this digital era. Remember Photoshop is not a magic wand, it does not create a great image, it simply enhances what is there in the first place.
If any, what kind of jobs did you have before your career took off?
From the age of 18 I went off to the bush and trained as a walking guide in Timbavati. This taught me about how animals behave and since wildlife photography is about wildlife as much as it is about photography, this experience has proved invaluable. I then met my wife and managed safari camps in SA, Botswana, Kenya and Tanzania. This gave me great photographic exposure and safari knowledge across a wide region.
Do you feel that you chose your "passion," or did it choose you?
It definitely chose me. As a young boy I felt a calling to the bush and leafing through my bird books was my favourite pastime growing up. As a 13 year old, you could turn to any page in the Newmans or Roberts bird guides, cover the names of the birds, and I could tell you every one - including the short-tailed cisticolas (the LBJ’s of LBJ’s). My passion was the bushveld and my photography grew out of that passion. My advice to photographers is therefore to first discover what it is that you are passionate about, then go and shoot that thing, whatever it is. And shoot ‘that thing’ long enough to do it justice and to create images of your passion that are next level. Without passion you will not have the legs to ride the ups and downs of a photographic career. Its not a conventional career remember and you will need to substitute your income for many years while you grow and build your portfolio.
What made you decide to follow a creative career choice (though possibly risky) rather than something more stable?
I had no choice really. Living and working in the bush is all I have ever known as a career, like you said, I guess it chose me. I have never worn a suit and I cannot even open an excel spreadsheet, let alone balance one.
Have you ever doubted your talent? If so, how did you work through your doubt?
Yes, I think all artists doubt themselves and especially wildlife photographers, as we see all the shots we miss haha! You work through it though by selecting only your best work, and by slowly building a body of work. This collective body becomes a pillar of strength during the lean times, both the emotional and the physical.
What is your favourite accomplishment?
I have two, one was publishing my own coffee-table book titled AWE (African Wildlife Exposed) which is a portfolio of my imagery. The 2nd was being named the Wildlife Photographer Of The Year 2013. I have placed in the competition 6 times but winning the overall title was something very special.
Tell us about any workshops you may offer:
My workshops are unique in that I only cater for 3 photographers per workshop. This means that I am with each photographer for every drive and having only vehicle means that each photographer has a row to themselves, and is able to shoot out the left and the right. By keeping the safari small, we maximize photographic opportunities and learning experiences/processes.
Where should Working Creatives get more info on workshops / your offerings?
Straight off my website which is www.gregdutoit.com for wildlife galleries, photo safaris and books.
What is your favourite lens and why?
The 80-400mm because it is light, versatile and sharp enough. The build quality is really bad though, so I own two and while one is being cleaned I am out with the other.
Are you working on any out of the ordinary projects at the moment?
I am indeed but this is a secret and you know what they say about secrets? If I tell you I will have to kill you! I am working on a new project though and it now has wings.
JUST FOR FUN
What is playing in your CD player/iPod right now?
Augustines Alternative 2014
What’s your favourite ’90s song?
Johnny Clegg’s ‘I call your name’.
What do you think about when you’re alone in your car?
Photography and all aspects of it. I live, eat, sleep and breathe photography.
What were you like in high school?
I was just a normal school boy, not academic but ok at sports and I really enjoyed life, laughed a lot you know. It was as a 16-year-old boy that I heard Dr Ian Player talk to our school’s wildlife society and it made a big impression on me. If you don’t know who Ian Player was then google him now!
Knowing what you know now, what would you tell your high school self?
I would tell myself that academic performance is really not critical haha. Parents reading this will not be liking this, so let’s leave it there! Thanks for the great interview
YOUR CONTACT INFO
Your website: www.gregdutoit.com
Instagram handle: @gregdutoit
Facebook: Greg du Toit