How pro photographer Kevin Verkruijssen started his career.
Imagine you aspire a career as a professional event photographer. A profession that might take you to a wide variety of places, meet a diverse set of people and that lets you capture the most interesting situations. Although perhaps this sounds a bit romanticized, we will found out how much of this if truth, while talking to photographer Kevin Verkruijssen. Kevin specializes in international festival photography. Let’s get started!
Hey Kevin, let’s introduce you and talk about how it all started for you, to get your career as event photographer starting.
My name is Kevin Verkruijssen, I’m a professional event photographer for over 13 years now. Yes, this means I’ve started at a very young age, although back then it wasn’t my first idea to become a pro.
I started photography as a hobby still in the analogue age. When I was in school I always messing around with my (analogue) stills camera. My first digital camera was a Sony; with some sort of floppy disks for memory. It would only contain 10 pictures per disk but that was enough for me at that time.
When turning 15, I got my first DSLR, a Canon 350D. With this camera, I started shooting everything around me: flowers and nature, my family and friends, you name it. Nobody was safe from my photos. I really loved capturing those moments. Now, when I look at these old pictures I still like them even if the pictures are technically not good at all. Those pictures stay good memory for me.
So many years later I still like these old photos even if they are technically not good at all. It’s about the good memories”
At that same age, I saw an online banner for an music event nearby. I liked dance music and the scene surrounding those kinds of events. So I thought to myself: “it would be nice to take photos at these events!”. But the problem was that I wasn’t 18, so wasn’t allowed to enter, let alone to take images. But I sent an email anyhow, just to give it a try. When the manager of the event answered me, he said that it would be great if I could photograph his festival. But that was before he knew my age. When he found out, he’d to deny me access and I was a little disappointed because I really wanted to go there.
After turning 16, I found another website for people taking pictures voluntarily during events. I emailed them and when they answered me, I didn’t let them know my age. So I was accepted!
The day of the event at the entrance gates, the security guards asked me to show my ID. He wanted to confirm that I was the same person who sent them emails. Having said I forgot my ID and showing him my ATM card as a proof of my identity, they let me in. So this is how it, more or less illegally, all got started for me while not even being 18 years old.
A while later I went to a local record store looking for the DVD of one of the events I shot. When opening the DVD case and seeing my pictures there, I thought that was really a cool thing! I was certainly very proud of that, although they used my images without any permission. So, I sent them a message saying “Okay guys, it’s very cool, I’m not going to send you an invoice but maybe you should consider hiring me for your next events”. And they did! That’s how I started out and gradually became more well known in the scene of event organizers.
Still in school at that time, and doing photography as a hobby, I continued my study in multimedia (web design, video editing, but also some photography). After finishing that and still living at my parents’ place, I told myself: “I have nothing to loose, Why won’t I just give it a try? Fast-forward 13 years: this is where I am, still living my life as a professional photographer!
It’s certainly a motivating story. You were right to not give up. And now you are working in a place with some other creators. Are you partnering with them? Or doing any projects together?
I’m a freelancer, I work alone, but we share this office and sometimes we work together. I started my photography business at my parents’ house and after a while I just started to need my own office, to give my business some more structure. This is essential, especially when you shoot nightly events. Having these infrequent work hours, it just helps separating work from private life and regain some control over my work-life balance. Having an office is really helpful to keep a clear focus on your goal.
I came in contact with my office buddy Wilco on a message board somewhere. He mentioned that he saw me working at one of these festivals. So we started talking and it appeared that Wilco had an office here in Utrecht. Living nearby I asked him if we could meet and help me out with some photography related stuff. Now we know each other for over 8 years, work from the same office. We even have projects from our own photo studio that is also at our location, this is very beneficial for our projects!
It’s a great thing having another photographer around to have a second opinion on my work. It’s always good to talk to people who see photography from another perspective. Thanks to these conversations, I make better decisions. And vice versa: I also give them advice about their own work. It’s interesting to share our experiences.
What gear do you use nowadays in your photo business?
I started with Canon and I still use Canon because being used to a specific brand of a camera, I’m able to use my camera with my both eyes closed. The Canon 1Dx Mk2 is my main camera, but I have 3 more cameras: one Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, one Canon EOS 5D Mark III and I recently got the Canon EOS R. I bought the Canon EOS R because I think mirrorless cameras are the future of photography and I’m really curious to starting getting used working with them!
Since I have the Canon EOS R several people asked me questions about it. But I think it’s better if the people try it instead of just asking questions. When you try it, it’s just way easier, and a lot more fun, to get your own opinion. And there are several ways to try it. Sometimes I let some people try my gear, but I think renting it is easier. This is where Gearbooker’s platform is really interesting because it’s safe thanks to the insurance and other checks you guys do. It earns me quite a lot of money! I think renting gear to try it is better than buying it and then hoping that the gear won’t disappoint…!
For me renting gear to try it, is better than buying it and then hoping that the gear won’t disappoint…!
As a photographer, I own a large set of lenses. Renting those out makes a lot of sense because a large percentage of the time I am not using them.
Could you tell us more about the lenses you are using the most?
Of course, at a festival, I don’t carry all these lenses all the time. All the photographers have their own cabin where we can safely store our equipment. Mostly, I shoot with 2 cameras and I also use a Think Tank belt to carry my lenses on the go.
Apart from fellow photographers, I am sure you also meet other interesting people on festivals. How about the artists?
Yes, I have already met several artists, but in my opinion festivals are not only about the artists. It’s also about the lighting guys, the sound engineers and so on. By the way, during a festival I am often so focussed on my work I simply don’t have the time for many conversations. I just want to return with great photo content for my customers.
To create those great images, do you plan some shots with the lighting guys or the other technicians?
Yes, sometimes, but it really depends on which specific artist is playing and the show that you can expect with this artist. What’s even more important: what does my client want? And what is he planning to do with the pictures I take? Is it about the artist(s), about the behind-the-scenes shots, about the way the festival was organized, perhaps about the food. For me, communication with the client is a vital part of my photography and the way I approach a festival.
Apart from the requirements from your clients, where do you find your inspiration?
I find much inspiration offline. For example, last week I visited an photo exhibition where I got really inspired. Not only with the photos themselves in a technical sense, but also with the stories behind them.
But having said that, there are certainly some guys I look up to, to inspire myself like. For example Rutger Geerling. He shoots events as well. By the way, that’s a funny story. I started to regularly look at his work for inspiration and one day I met him during a shoot. We had a great conversation and now sometimes we shoot together as colleagues at the same festivals.
That’s really a great story: from having started as a ‘fan’ of his work, now you work as his colleague. Do you think that building contacts helps you to drive your career in the right direction?
Yes totally. For example, when I started thinking about how to create my website, I wanted to do everything myself. But figuring that out, took me a lot of time, and realizing that there are people more skilled at this, I contacted them to do my website so I could focus on my photography. Of course, it will cost you more money to hire specialized professionals, but in the end, it’s more efficient than doing something what’s not your profession.
The same goes for contacts with other photographers. Without this interaction and exchanging tips and tricks, you will hardly improve yourself.
What are the tips you would give to someone who is now starting of to become a professional photographer?
I would say, try a lot of things, just go and try and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. I think it’s one of the most important tips I can give because you always learn from your mistakes. Even if you are focusing to take the greatest shoots, please make mistakes and use them to learn from!
As for the gear: build your collection gradually and only invest in new gear when you feel that your current gear is limiting you. Don’t invest in the most expensive cameras and lenses when you have zero experience. It’s better to take a cheaper camera, get yourself experienced with it and only then invest when you feel you are limited.
And finally, interact with peoples and make sure that you love what you are doing. Right now, even after 13 years when I hold my camera I’m still in love shooting those pictures and capturing those moments.
You also shoot weddings. An interesting combination with the festivals! How did you get started in that field?
I started shooting weddings 9 years ago when someone I knew asked me to shoot his wedding. At first, I didn’t really want to, because it’s a huge responsibility. You know, it’s the best day in the life of someone and you can’t redo the shoot.
Usually, when someone asks me to shoot a certain style or type of shoot that I don’t have any experience in, I refer them to some other photographers more specialized in it.
But this time I thought it over and said: “Okay, I’m going to do it and I will see how it works out”. After have done this first wedding I realized that I really enjoyed it and started doing some more.
However I didn’t want to mix both types of photography on one website. So, I created two labels and now if someone googles my name, they’ll find my work separated, thanks to the two different sites.
How about the future of your photography: will you stay in both these directions: weddings and festivals?
Right now I still love what I’m doing, and as long I have fun and have the energy to do what I do right now, I will continue.
One of the things I’m doing more and more lately is doing workshops and educate people based on my experience. You know, the photography world is always changing, so the same goes for my career. For me that’s a cool thing because you never know what will be around the next corner.
If you are interested in Kevins work, visit his websites:
- Kevin’s event photography site.
- Kevin’s wedding photography site.
- Kevin’s Instagram.
- Also, if you’re interested in renting some of Kevin’s equipment, check out his Gearbooker profile.