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Speakers' Corner - David Hakamaki - part 1 of 1 2 3

by David Hakamaki Published

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Tell us a little about your background, your first camera and photographic experience and your subsequent emergence as a pro.

I started out in the business world and came in to photography somewhat later in life than a normal photographer. I worked for companies and owned several successful retail businesses, I have also taught business, marketing and micro/macroeconomics at several colleges.

My first camera was a compact Nikon (in the film days) that I loved to shoot on vacations. I progressed to my first SLR (Canon T50), but switched over to the Nikon line of cameras (N80) due to ergonomics. My first DSLR was the D100, followed by a steady stream of new and improved DSLRs

My first “wow” moment was when I took some photos for a travel brochure and the people used several images, I was only hoping they might pick one! From that point I enjoyed the creativity of taking photos, I found that I was relatively good at it, but needed some training before I did anything for a living. After taking photography classes and getting (another) degree, I jumped into the “pro” ranks around 2002. From there, it has been an upward journey of learning and clients.

Why photography?
Photography allowed me to utilise my business background with my love of working with people. Photography also allows me to balance my analytic side with a creative side, which makes me feel complete.

Film or digital? Is there still a place for silver halide?
Digital. Although there is still a place in my heart for film (and the one lonely film camera on my shelf), digital allows me so much more flexibility and creative latitude.

Which camera?
Each is a great camera, but right now they are primarily used for the following purposes:
D4 (weddings and low light situations)
D850 (portraits and second wedding camera)
D500 (sports/action camera)
D750 (backup camera)
and a Fuji X100s as my tiny travel camera.


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Bit of detail about your own studio set-up/staffing. Why (as a customer) would I choose you?
I run a full-time, home-based studio. My studio (Cutting Edge Photography) provides photography for High School Seniors, Families, Weddings, Youth Sports and Commercial/Professionals. The majority of work is dedicated equally between Highschool Seniors, Weddings and Youth Sports. Each day is different and I am blessed to have clients want me as their photographer, mainly because of the interaction I provide during the session/ordering process that sets everyone at ease. Plus, they rave about the images and how good I make them look.

The problem with professional photographers today is…
Not understanding business and how much you need to make to create a viable income. Too many either devalue their work or give it away, hoping that they can someday raise prices to allow photography to pay their bills and create an income for themselves. Business is hard. You need to treat your photography business just like any other business does. Failing to do so will only lead to struggles, frustration and failure.

What’s the worst commercial error you have made to date?
Purchasing products before getting payment! That happened in my first few years in business (about 13-15 years ago), where people would place an order and ask to pay when they picked it up. Needless to say, there were several orders sitting around waiting for pickup (and payment). Even after prompting them, those orders are still there.

How did you rectify the mistake?
My lab expected payment when I ordered the products, so that has become my policy. I learned quickly after only a few times, payment in FULL before I order anything.

The lessons learnt?
People grow, move on and/or die. We cannot go back in time. Photography creates a timestamp on someone’s life; it becomes a historic document to show what we looked like or what we were doing in the past. When people purchase photographs, they should feel like it is important to get them as quickly as possible on the wall. You should never feel like you can “walk away” from a printed photograph.


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