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Dane Sanders is the author of the critically-acclaimed Fast Track Photographer. The book and his approach are aimed at wedding photographers who want to expand their work and their financial success, but the lessons he gives in the book apply to any photographer who is either a pro or thinking of going pro. Photofocus would like to welcome Dane to the interview.
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1 – Scott Bourne: Please tell me how and when you got into photography.

Dane Sanders: I am a late bloomer. I didn’t start shooting professionally until I was 33 years old. I was teaching at a liberal arts college and was able to take free classes as a result. It started with Black and White Photo 101, then Photoshop… and then I just worked my tail off.

2 – Scott Bourne: What is your favorite photographic location or subject?

Dane Sanders: Probably the shanty towns outside of Cape Town. The work felt so raw and important. I’ve always been inspired by the James Nachtwey’s of the world and having the chance to work in that environment was moving. Same thing in rural India. Both experiences really influenced my wedding work in my ability to look for life on people’s faces and subtle actions. I like taking pictures of my kids too :).

3 – Scott Bourne: Can you recall the first photograph you made that caused you to think WOW – that’s a good shot and if so, what was it?

Dane Sanders: I think it was a picture in my backyard of my son. I had just figured out how Aperture effected Depth of Field and had a shallow plane of focus for the first time. I felt like I discovered something and ran around telling all my friends like it was a new idea. Pretty funny.

4 – Scott Bourne: Do you have any formal training in photography or business or a related field and do you think that’s important for aspiring serious photographers?

Dane Sanders: In many ways, I wish I had. The technical know-how that some of my colleagues have inspires me. The challenge it seems is what comes with that kind of training. Sometimes it appears as though students are force-taught to be grumpy in those places. I realize that’s a gross generalization but that dynamic seems pretty consistent to me and affirmed by my many of my more formally schooled friends.

5 – Scott Bourne: Are you more of a technical or an artistic person?

Dane Sanders: I can wear both hats but I’m probably more artistic at the end of the day. I’m more of a Wannageek. I admire those people.

6 – Scott Bourne: Who has inspired or influenced your work?

Dane Sanders: I mentioned Jim Nachtwey already. I’m not sure if he or others influence my work or just inspire me. I’m pretty moved by guys within wedding shooting like John Michael Cooper, Jessica Claire and Parker Phister. Elizabeth Messina and Vicki Taufer make me want to throw my camera against the wall too. They’re pretty amazing.

7 – Scott Bourne: What has been the most interesting or surprising thing to you about how people react to photography?

Dane Sanders: When Mother’s of the Groom who 45 minutes before are totally mom-zilla’s come running over to me in tears because they just saw the slideshow at the reception. Those are good days that always take me by surprise.

8 – Scott Bourne: How would you describe your style of photography?

Dane Sanders: Fun, modern, sexy. I tend to be more journalistic in my approach but I enjoy coaching people to get their more fun/artistic sides to show up. If my subjects are comfortable, it makes my work pretty easy.

9 – Scott Bourne: How do you decide what to photograph?

Dane Sanders: It’s more intuitive than pre-determined. I do try to shoot for the story line of their book but when I’m at my best, the individual picture comes to me more than I go after it.

10 – Scott Bourne: Of your many projects, which is your favorite and why?

Dane Sanders: My work with other photographers is my favorite. I love empowering the best out of people… helping them discover what’s inside so they can help their clients discover what’s inside. That dynamic is what inspired my new site… http://danesanders.com

11 – Scott Bourne: Is there any photographic discipline that you wish you knew more about?

Dane Sanders: Since I shoot LIVE events most often, I would love to understand how to shoot concept work better. Commercial work by guys like Nick Onken and Chase Jarvis really inspire me.

12 – Scott Bourne: After years as a photographer/teacher and author, do you ever find it hard to remain passionate about your work?

Dane Sanders: I don’t. When the light goes on for clients or for photographers, I still get the same rush. It gets me up in the morning.

13 – Scott Bourne: Everyone will ask me why I didn’t ask this question if I don’t – so here goes – What cameras/lenses do you use and why?

Dane Sanders: Haha… I shoot Canon… the 1D Mk III and the 5D Mk II primarily. I shoot with prime lenses a lot more than I did at the beginning. I think I’m getting spoiled.

14 – Scott Bourne: What’s the biggest mistake you made when you first started out as a photographer?

Dane Sanders: I tried to fake it early on. That was dumb. Being myself, despite myself, was the best marketing move I ever made.

15 – Scott Bourne: Would you like to give any final words of advice to photographers who want to improve their photography or their photo business?

Dane Sanders: Read Photofocus and follow you on Twitter. No kidding. You are doing so much for our industry Scott. I know I’m a face in a very large crowd that are grateful for your leadership. Keep at it man… and thank you.
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