Freelance photographer Fred van Leeuwen adjusts his eye behind the lens. Lights hit the stage; reflecting yellow and red and blue off leather jackets and cheering fans reaching out to where the energy bounces off the rock star’s electric counterpart.
Flash. Image. Capture. That’s where The Image Engineer’s passion for photography fuses with his favourite subject.
We really loved catching up with this talented photographer and hope you also enjoy this window into the freelance lifestyle of The Image Engineer.
FCT: When did you start working in the freelance industry?
I started building my freelance career after graduating from college in 2009. After working numerous full time jobs that I tried to keep as closely related to photography as possible, I finally made the switch in June 2016. I quit my day job and embarked on a career as full time freelance Photographer and Retoucher.
FCT: Was it an easy transition?
I don’t think any transition of this nature happens without a few hitches. I had prepared myself before undergoing the transition, but it still had a few small kinks in the chain here and there. I think once you are able to secure a few long-term clients on the side, it’s much easier making the switch.
FCT: Sum up your skills in 7 words.
Perfectionist, knowledgeable, industrious, versatile, experimental, unorthodox, resourceful.
FCT: What do you enjoy most about freelancing?
I’m a bit of a control freak when it comes to my own work. Being able to manage my own time, set up meetings and take control of my work is what I live for.
FCT: Do you think freelancing is unconventional?
Perhaps a few years back it would’ve been unconventional, but I know of quite a few people pursuing a career as freelancer these days, especially in Cape Town.
FCT: Describe the verb ‘to freelance’ in the dictionary according to you.
free·lance | ˈfrēˌlans/ verb: Freelancing is a bit like switching over from Automatic to Manual Mode on your camera; From a safe, corporate environment where it’s more likely you’re being told to stay in line, to switching over and being completely in control of your own success or failure. It’s both daunting and exciting at the same time.
FCT: Tell us about your work ethic.
With today’s digital world, instant gratification has become an ever-growing need. Clients expect a week’s worth of work to be done in a day. This is where managing expectations as well as drawing a line in some circumstances is quite important when you are your own boss.
You do get the occasional client expecting you to pull an all-nighter or work over weekends – but it’s up to you if you’re willing to do that. I believe a balance is necessary when freelancing. If you’re working yourself to death for little or no pay, something needs to change.
FCT: What do you believe makes you stand out from the crowd? (no pun intended)
Probably my retouching style. I’ve always been drawn to the visual aesthetic of pin-up, retro and those old propaganda posters. I started off mimicking the style when retouching my own images and worked well on Concert and Event Photography. Over the years it has evolved and became a more subtle effect, but it’s the one thing people seem to be drawn to.
FCT: What do you mostly photograph?
I love music, so for the vast majority of my photography career it’s been mainly band/concert photography, with some surrealistic, commercial and landscape photography on the side. I’ve found myself branching out towards doing more fashion/portraiture in the studio the last few months and absolutely loving it. That being said, I’ll never move away from shooting bands.
FCT: Describe the space where you work at?
If I’m not out shooting, location scouting or meeting clients, I’ll be working at my PC from my home in the Southern Suburbs of Cape Town.
FCT: What else do you have next to your PC?
My electric guitar. Useful for times when I have to wait for video projects to render or have an extra 5 minutes to spare. It’s been gathering dust in the last few months though, unfortunately.
FCT: How have you benefited from Freelance Cape Town?
I’m always for entities such as Freelance Cape Town promoting the industry. Especially when it comes to promoting the Photographic Industry. I haven’t been a member for a very long time yet, but I’ve received a few queries already and also managed to secure a neat interview! I believe the foundations have been laid and I’m sure the future has many interesting ventures ahead.
FCT: Describe your future dream project.
I would’ve loved to go on tour with one of my favourite rock/metal bands during their prime for a month or two. Taking portraits of people like Ozzy, Lemmy, Bruce Dickinson or any other rock stars of that time must’ve been an incredible experience! I wouldn’t mind trading places with photographer Ross Halfin for a while…
For now, I would love to spend a month or two in Iceland with a Hasselblad H6D, a makeup artist, stylist and a few models to shoot surrealistic looking portraits and composites.
FCT: What are your words of wisdom/encouragement for those who are thinking of embarking on the freelance journey?
The freelance journey is a great one if you manage to tame that wild horse and ride her into the sunset.
But don’t expect that you won’t have a few tumbles along the way.
– The first ones are always the worst and will make you want to give up.
– Don’t expect instant success overnight.
– There are hundreds of other fly-by-night freelancers looking to undercut your business and make a quick buck. Create your own signature style and perfect it in order to separate yourself from the crowd and hopefully you will get noticed.
– Use social media to your advantage. If you’re a photographer, use Instagram and learn which hashtags work well for your type of work.
– Get to know the industry and key players. One thing that has helped me boost my business is to collaborate with like-minded photographers. I often get a feeling there’s this unspoken rule to keep to oneself in the freelance photographic industry. That shouldn’t be the case at all! The only way this industry is going to grow is for photographers to tone down their egos and insecurities and work together.
One can gain so much inspiration and knowledge by simply sitting down with another freelancer and chat ideas over a few beers.
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