[INTERVIEW] Daniel Panter - New Zealand's Youngest Commercial Photographer

In this pro photographer interview we chat with Daniel Panter, New Zealand’s youngest commercial photographer and find out how he made his break into photography, what it’s like being a profesional photographer at such a young age and how he got involved photographing the rugby world cup hosted in New Zealand.

1. What sorts of steps did you take to learn photography?

I started photography from a very young age using my dad’s Kodak point & shoot and took an interest in candid & portraits photography. I didn’t really take an obvious interest into wanting to be a photographer until I got given my first DSLR from a friend and not long after that I had my first commercial shoot for MORE FM, then the Rugby World cup 2011 and it’s just kept going from there. I am self taught all the way but I’m always speaking to photographers, asking them what they’re doing and how they do it, it’s the best way to learn! I often buy photography magazines, find images that I like out of them and then follow how to shoot them. I always try to do photography projects to keep my learning and creativity going.

2. You’re one of New Zealand’s youngest commercial photographers. How long have you been taking photos and can you give some examples of how being so young has worked to your advantage or has maybe made some things more difficult?

I have been seriously photographing (as a pro) for about 3 years (with my first commercial shoot being in 2010 when I was 14). Its hard starting young, but I got my lucky break from being in the right place at the right time. Being young has worked to my advantage in the sense that more experienced photographers (Dean Pemberton / Dave Lintott / Peter McDonald) have taken me under their wing and helped me out with getting to events and building up my knowledge & client database. People’s expectations are not as high when they first see me but they’re surprised when they see my work and recommend me to more people. Also, there’s great publicity in being a young photographer doing the things I am doing at 16 that other photographers have been waiting their whole life to do. The restrictions of being young are that it can be harder to gain access to events and to gain peoples trust in such a young photographer.

3. Do you have anyone that has mentored you or helped you in your journey to become a photographer? How difficult would the process been without their input?

I have had input from many photographers, but I would have to say that Dean Pemberton has been my biggest influence towards my photography career! Without his input I would not be where I am today. With my photojournalism, he has taught me how to quickly caption and edit lots of images for editorial use and also how to gain accreditation for large events.

4. Much of your work currently seems to be around sports. How did you get involved in sports photography and what do you like about it when compared to other forms of photography?

I tend to set myself up as a photojournalist (focusing on sports & events). I got into sports photography after a lucky break in gaining accreditation for the Rugby World Cup 2011…I had never photographed sports before and I got thrown in at the deep end. After a few games, my images and the story of being New Zealand’s youngest international sports photographer got picked up around the world and I was contacted my numerous sports image agencies and news companies asking me to shoot for them. I find sports exciting and it’s always a challenge with it’s low light situations and fast paced changing of scenes. Events are always fun because I get to meet lots of people and listen to their amazing stories.

5. What about photography captivates your interest?

I love holding a camera and capturing moments that are normally missed by the human eye. I can never get over the sound of a fast shutter from a camera…

6. Would you give a brief walk through your workflow?

Get a phone call about 2 weeks before the event (sometime 2 hours before) with an assignment for me to cover. I learn as much as I can in that two weeks about the assignment, make sure I have the correct gear to capture it and then turn up on the correct date / time to shoot. Straight after I’ve finished I start processing my images. I choose my images (normally I have to file about 25 images per assignment), caption them, and then: Open in Photoshop, crop the image, adjust the levels, add saturation if it’s been removed by changing levels, work with highlights and shadows if required, fit the image to 3000 pixels on the longest side, apply an unsharp Mask (amount 95%, radius 1, threshold 5) and then convert to sRGB from Adobe RGB. I then file my images to the correct people, save them on my external hard drives and then move on to the next assignment (all of this is done normally within an hour after the event).

7. What single thing do you like most about being a pro photographer and what single thing do you dislike most?

The best thing about being a pro photographer has got to be working to a tight deadline and always pushing myself to create the best images! The thing I kind of hate about being a pro photographer is that generally when I have finished with my images, they get backed up onto my hard drive and hardly ever used or looked at again.

8. How important is having a website to what you do and what aspect or feature of Photoswarm do you most value?

Having a website is very important to my career because it is a place for me to store my images and create a portfolio for when people are looking for a photographer. The feature that I value on Photoswarm most is having the option to sell my images commission free (which I use a lot when I am shooting events). I think Photoswarm is an excellent site and I recommend it to all of my photojournalist friends and anyone else who is reading this!

9. You have a fairly active Facebook page and Twitter account. How important do you feel these aspects are to your business?

Facebook and twitter are very important to my business because they help me connect with the people I am photographing and keep people updated with my work.

10. Which one item of equipment would you say is the most important to you?

My laptop is the most important piece of equipment that I use (along with my cameras and lenses) but without my laptop or any digital technology in fact my job would be a lot harder.

11. What advice would you have for someone who wants to improve his or her photography skills?

Shoot a lot, find someone that you can shadow and feed from their knowledge.