Podcast Episode 18: This is Steven Herrschaft
After a little break we’re very excited to be back, and bringing you the fantastic Steven Herrschaft for Episode 18 of the This is Reportage Podcast! Based in Germany, Steven has made our Top Photographer lists for both 2018 and 2019, with a Lifetime Award count of 10 Reportage Awards and 4 Story Awards – an incredible achievement! Steven shares so much with us on the Podcast, including:
- how he got into wedding photography at the age of 16,
- the importance of being himself,
- his past life as a competitive swimmer and how that’s helped him,
- workshops and developing his own,
- what bugs him about our industry,
- some of his favourite Netflix series and movies,
- the importance of keeping fit,
- behind the scenes of a couple of his Reportage Awards,
- having a strong work ethic,
- why he shoots solo,
- who in the world he would interview if he could,
- the importance of doing what’s right for you and not to please other people,
- how he loves the uniqueness of each wedding,
- a couple of things people probably wouldn’t know about him,
- his top tip for people wanting to improve their documentary skills,
- and much more…
You can listen to our Steven Herrschaft interview in all the usual places: iTunes/Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, YouTube, and here in this post (where, for people who prefer to read, we also feature the full transcript).
Alan Law: Hey Steven, how are you doing?
Steven Herrschaft: Hey, Alan. Fine, fine. How about you?
Alan Law: I am really good, thanks, yeah, really good. How’s things with you? You’re over in Germany? How is it over there?
Steven Herrschaft: Yeah, weather’s bad, but, besides that, I’m pretty relaxed right now. It’s off-season. Normal stuff at a computer, and lots of mails and all that stuff, but I’m fine. I’m fine.
Alan Law: That’s good. Good to hear. We were chatting just before starting this, and you said how, recently, you went and shot a wedding and engagement in … New York, was it?
Steven Herrschaft: Yeah, true.
Alan Law: And how was that?
Steven Herrschaft: I loved it. It’s crazy. It’s just mind-blowing that I get those opportunities to come around and just do things like that, and traveling to New York was just a pretty big thing for me, because it was always one of the cities that was on my bucket list for traveling. And that couple came to me and said, “Hey, we want to get married in new York,” and I was just crazy. I said, “I have to do this,” because I always wanted to go to New York, never did it, and that opportunity was just amazing for me, really.
Alan Law: That’s cool, man. Id love to go. I’ve never been to New York. And you love America in general, don’t you? It is quite-
Steven Herrschaft: I do, I do.
Alan Law: How did this couple find you? Was it a German couple or an American couple,?
Steven Herrschaft: Yes, it was a German couple.
Alan Law: Oh, okay.
Steven Herrschaft: And they did a kind of elopement ceremony and all that stuff, which was cool, just the both of them, really small wedding. Basically Germans who are in New York. Living there since few years.
Alan Law: Okay, cool. Cool. Nice, very nice. I’ve got to go sometime. So, one thing. I know people always talk to you about this, but it is such an interesting subject, I think. One thing that quite a lot of photographers say is, “I wish I’d gotten into this at a much earlier age,” but you, however, you really did. Weren’t you about 16 when you started?
Steven Herrschaft: Right. Right. I shot my first wedding before 16 years, and now I’m 22, so, yeah, things keep going.
Alan Law: Wow, though, man, 16. How did you start so young? What was the instigator for you? Why did you decide, at 16, that you wanted to do weddings?
Steven Herrschaft: Well, things started pretty weird, because it didn’t start with weddings or photography at all. I did a photography course in school when I was 12 or 13, and I liked photography, but I was a swimmer for 10 years of my life, from 8 to 18 years, I’ve been a swimmer. And I just, as a high-performance sport, I was state champion, I trained 20 hours a week, which is pretty much, of course. But I always trained with people who are pretty much older than me, most of them. And, one day, another guy from another team came over, he was a new swimmer, and he was a wedding photographer. Conversation started, and he told me, hey, he was a wedding photographer, and just, weddings are awesome, and I have to come with him, basically. And I always said, “I don’t want to do this, man. It’s just …”
Steven Herrschaft: I mean, I was 16, and I had other things on my mind than shooting weddings. I’d never been to a wedding before, and I always thought, “Oh, wedding photography, that’s the one where, basically, all that posed stuff where people are hiding behind trees and doing this pose-y, shitty stuff that you always seen on the Internet when you don’t know what wedding photography actually can be.” One day, I said to him, “I’ll come with you just one time so you’re quiet afterwards, and I’m out of this, and I will never do it again.” That was the plan.
Alan Law: It changed a bit.
Steven Herrschaft: I shot my first wedding with him, and, basically, I said, “This is what I want to do for the rest of my life. This is so awesome, and I just want to do this.”
Alan Law: Wow, right from the first one, you really loved it?
Steven Herrschaft: Yes. Yeah. Just laughed, all the emotions, all the craziness going with these days. Yeah, it’s just fun. Not too much since that changed about that in my mind towards weddings, because I love it. And this mentality with the boy going with his camera to a wedding and just shoot what is on his mind, and just shoots what interests him, it’s pretty much the same right now, even after six years, and that’s what I love.
Alan Law: That’s cool, man. I mean, that’s really cool. So, as well, how did you really start at 16? Did you really shoot your own weddings from 16 onwards as well?
Steven Herrschaft: I did 15 weddings as a second shooter, and, afterwards, I said, “I want to do this on my own.” Because I always had my own visions in my mind, and what I want to do, what I don’t like, and I said, “I want to do this on my own, because I want to do all of this 100% me, and just don’t be a copy of someone else.” And that’s when I start, one year later, when I was 17, I decided, look, basically started my own business. I was just crazy. I was still a student in school, and yeah, I said, “I will do this on my own,” which is crazy, honestly.
Alan Law: It is crazy, but it’s awesome. It’s really brave, as well. What did your parents think of you doing it?
Steven Herrschaft: I think no one really believed in all of this.
Alan Law: Really?
Steven Herrschaft: I feel like I always had to be a fighter for what I’m doing. And I didn’t learn any shortcuts for what I’m doing. I even never did a workshop or something like that on my own before. Everything’s self-taught. Yeah, it was crazy. It’s crazy that I did everything on my own, and still today, I’m not someone who sends his pictures over to any post-processing office somewhere else. Everything goes through my hand, because I feel like it’s my business, and everything I’m doing, it’s my signature and my style, what I want to do with, and, yeah, it’s basically everything me.
Alan Law: Well, that’s cool, man, and I think it’s becoming even more, it’s always been important to be you, and be unique, but I think it’s becoming even more and more important, with this market getting increasingly competitive as well.
Steven Herrschaft: True.
Alan Law: And you’ve definitely got your own distinctive style, and you’re mega-successful, winning awards left, right, and center, so it’s doing really well for you. When you meet some clients, are they ever visibly surprised at how young you are? Do you think they know how young they are before they book you? Do you use it as a selling point, even, your youth?
Steven Herrschaft: Throughout my career, it really depended on my self-confidence, to be honest. Because, in the start, I didn’t want to say it. They didn’t know, actually. Sometimes, in conversation, they said things like, “You’re looking pretty young, right?” And I said, “Yeah, well, I’m 17, 18, something like that,” and they said, “Oh, crazy.” But it wasn’t a disadvantage. That’s when I started to openly communicate about that. Now, since a year or so, basically just don’t have it anymore on my website or something like that, because I don’t want to be booked for my age before what I’m doing.
Alan Law: Mm (affirmative). Totally.
Steven Herrschaft: That’s way more important. Even with, in the wedding photography community, it’s just, I don’t want to be that young guy anymore. I just want to be recognized for the stuff that I’m doing. And it’s got way more important for me than to be a young photographer who is not too bad at taking pictures.
Alan Law: Oh, yeah, no, totally. And you are already recognized for your brilliant work. It’s just a very interesting story as well. And I think it’s very inspiring, though. There may be some listeners who are 15, 16, or 17, wanting to do this, and so, it’s very inspiring that you were able to do it at such an early age.
Steven Herrschaft: It has. It’s pretty awesome, because, even today, I don’t know a lot of young other photographers. Most of the other people out there just basically do another job, and, in their 30s, they say they don’t like it anymore, and then to skip it and do photography, some of them as a side business, and then step into it full-time, but I don’t know a lot of young photographers out there.
Alan Law: No, that’s true. I don’t either. I think maybe a big part of that is, you need to be very confident on the people side, as well, to go and do weddings. A lot, obviously, is about photography, but a lot is also about how you deal with other people, and a lot of 16-, 17-year-olds don’t have the confidence to do that, I think.
Steven Herrschaft: Yeah, true. True, in some ways, because it’s hard, and it’s not that easy to be that confident when you are just, yeah, at such a young age, and all the people around you are way older than you, and you just have to do your thing, and learn to do what feels right for you in some ways, and just trust in the stuff you know you can do. Yeah.
Alan Law: What were you like at school? Were you always forging your own ways there, or … Yeah, what was a young Steven Herrschaft like at school?
Steven Herrschaft: I was the guy who always did his homework and was super … I mean, I always had to be super structured because of swimming, and, I mean, I did 20 hours of swimming every week, and on weekends, I just spent traveling the whole Germany and do competitions, something like that, so I had-
Alan Law: Oh, wow.
Steven Herrschaft: … really structured for all that. And that’s what really helps me right now in my day-to-day life.
Alan Law: Oh, okay. That’s cool, though.
Steven Herrschaft: I mean, I know what it’s like to get up at 5:00 AM and do your work. Even with my photography business, I had a start, and I did my weddings, I always had to do post-processing in 5:00 AM to 7:00 AM. Then I had to college, for example, and afterwards, just doing all that again, and then doing some workouts and all that things, which is pretty crazy. But it helps now, really.
Alan Law: Oh, that’s cool, yeah, how it’s given you a good basis to get work done, I think. That’s really good. And swimming must be really competitive. Because you’re competing over tenths of a second and things, aren’t you? Aren’t you?
Steven Herrschaft: That’s right.
Alan Law: Has that competitiveness, do you think that helps in your wedding photography? I mean, do you see the business as being competitive? What do you think about that?
Steven Herrschaft: I love competitions. That’s why I basically love wedding photography as well, because there are so many great competitors out there. Basically, I love to win. And I love to do good work. And, yeah, that’s a big influence. When you’re talking to a lot of other creative minds, and a lot of other creative wedding photographers out there are really, really good in what they are doing. When you’re listening to their stories, it’s not all of them, but I know a few really good photographers out there who’ve been in high-performance sport and did something like that in their early life just before getting to their job. It’s just cool, and it’s that kind of mentality, trying to be better with what you are doing, and just never stop learning, and never stop striving to be a better person in what you are doing.
Alan Law: That’s so important, isn’t it? You said earlier, as well, that you didn’t go to any workshops when you started out. How you been to workshops since?
Steven Herrschaft: I haven’t.
Alan Law: Have you not? Really, no?
Steven Herrschaft: It’s pretty crazy, because I’m starting to develop my own workshop right now.
Alan Law: Oh, cool.
Steven Herrschaft: But just because I feel like there are so many things in the wedding business itself that I don’t really like. It fucks me up, all the things going on right now.
Alan Law: I was actually going to ask you what annoys you in our industry, so you’ve touched upon that already. What kind of things don’t you like?
Steven Herrschaft: I feel like people are not … In my opinion, we have too many people out there who, money is the most important factor in their business. And we all have to earn money, and that’s completely true, and I know that, and I have to earn money to live, and that’s completely right. But we’re forgetting to be a better photographer and earning more money for what we are doing. Getting a better photographer is, in my opinion, way more important to just try to make more money with everything you are doing, and just basically doing shitty pictures, just having a shitty business, and then trying to get more money from that. Sorry. That was my phone.
Alan Law: That’s okay. I get what you mean, yeah.
Steven Herrschaft: Yeah. I try to help people with getting a better photographer and being more motivated with what they are doing, and not just saying, “I need to get more money, more money, more money.” Money is an important factor, and I know that, but I went to help people to give their directions in photography, and they don’t have to be a wedding photographer like me or something like that. I want to help other people in their directions they are going.
Alan Law: Cool.
Steven Herrschaft: And that’s basically what I want to do. And that’s basically the things in my mind for a workshop. It’s more like a mentoring, coaching style, but I feel like that helps people way more. And I don’t want to have fanboys sitting here and want to learn what I do. I want to help others getting better in what they are doing.
Alan Law: That’s cool, man. I think that’s a really good approach, I’m sure. Yeah, that’s great. Exciting, as well.
Steven Herrschaft: Yeah, I’m planning right now. I think it will be pretty cool, to be honest. We’ll see.
Alan Law: Cool, man. I wish you all the best with that, I’m sure this is going to be great. That’ll be really good.
Steven Herrschaft: Thank you. Thank you.
Alan Law: Let’s change tacks slightly again, then, now. Let’s ask, what’s your favorite Netflix, or other streaming service, TV series? Or what are you watching at the moment? Do you watch much TV?
Steven Herrschaft: I don’t have a TV anymore, but I watch a lot of Netflix, to be honest. In my free time, the evening or something like that, before going to sleep.
Alan Law: Yeah, what’s some of your favorite? Because people are always looking for new things to watch, so it’s quite interesting to hear what …
Steven Herrschaft: I love all that mindfuck series. You maybe know Dark?
Alan Law: I love Dark. I love Dark. It’s literally, I absolutely love it, and we watch it in German as well, with English subtitles.
Steven Herrschaft: Oh, that’s crazy.
Alan Law: Oh, but it’s amazing. I absolutely love it. I can’t wait for the third series.
Steven Herrschaft: Yeah, me too. I watched the first season maybe 10 times or something like that.
Alan Law: Have you really?
Steven Herrschaft: Repeat it, keep on repeating. Because you notice more and more things connecting every time you’re watching it again. It’s just crazy. And I love all of crazy stuff. I love Inception as a movie, which is pretty crazy.
Alan Law: I’ve never seen it. That’s Christopher Nolan, isn’t it, director?
Steven Herrschaft: Yes. Yeah.
Alan Law: Yeah, I’ve never seen it.
Steven Herrschaft: You should, you should. It blows your mind.
Alan Law: That’s cool. Because I love Interstellar, that Christopher Nolan did as well, I love that film. That was brilliant.
Steven Herrschaft: That’s nice. Yeah. Cool.
Alan Law: Oh, cool, okay. People should watch Dark, they really should.
Steven Herrschaft: Yeah.
Alan Law: And if you’re non-German-speaking, it doesn’t matter. Watch it in German with subtitles. I think that’s a lot better than being dubbed.
Steven Herrschaft: Really?
Alan Law: Don’t you think?
Steven Herrschaft: We’re living in a country where everything is synchronized with the voices. Because I know other people in other places, like Croatia, I talked to a friend in Croatia, he said they were always watching things with subtitles. And we’re in Germany, we have everything translated to our language, so we’re pretty used to bad synchronized voices.
Alan Law: Oh, that’s funny. You must watch Dark just in natural German, though, don’t you?
Steven Herrschaft: Yes, yeah.
Alan Law: Yeah, of course. Yeah, that would be strange, if you watched it in English dubbed or something.
Steven Herrschaft: Yeah, yeah, that’s weird.
Alan Law: Has there been a book that you’ve read that’s had a lasting impact on you in some way? It could be fiction or nonfiction.
Steven Herrschaft: I’m not reading too much, to be honest. I don’t have the time. I guess I would read more if I had the time to, but, yeah, I don’t know. I’m not a book reader.
Alan Law: No, that’s cool. Time, as you say, though, time is the most important thing, really, isn’t it?
Steven Herrschaft: Definitely.
Alan Law: As wedding photographers, we’re busy all the time. It is difficult. What do you do when you do have some spare time? What do you enjoy doing?
Steven Herrschaft: I still love doing sports, and I do sports one hour a day. It’s just the stuff that I’m doing in my free time, basically.
Alan Law: Okay. Is that more swimming, or other sports?
Steven Herrschaft: At the moment, I don’t swim too much anymore. It’s more about body weight stuff. Athletics. All that things. I’m running. Just, basically, I’m doing stuff to keep me fit for the weddings, and then the wedding season.
Alan Law: Cool, yeah.
Steven Herrschaft: I’m seeing the bigger picture.
Alan Law: It’s good. It’s so important to keep fit, though. It’s actually really quite a physical job, isn’t it?
Steven Herrschaft: Fitness is one of the key factors in wedding photography, I guess. And I feel like not too much people are realizing that. But, I mean, you don’t only have to be fit in the first four hours, but, basically, at night, at 3:00 AM in the morning, after a full day of running around and doing all of the crazy stuff, you still have to be creative, and have to be the fitness to run like crazy if there is a situation that needs to at that … Yeah.
Alan Law: Yeah. Definitely. Oh, it is really physically demanding. And people get a wedding hangover from that physicality, and lack of good food, and lack of water and things. It’s a great job, but it is also quite intense as well.
Steven Herrschaft: True. What I also realized, with body fitness also comes mental fitness. Because your body only has amount of energy, and, when your body is completely exhausted, and you are really basically like, “Everything’s hurting,” you won’t be creative. And that’s why I’m working so much to keep my body fit to be creative, even in the evening and late at night.
Alan Law: I think that’s really good advice. And, as you say, it’s something that maybe a lot of people don’t think about, really, as well, so, yeah, it is really important. Although I’m doing a bit of running, I still don’t like running. Do you actually enjoy it?
Steven Herrschaft: Not really. I mean, when it’s getting warmer, but, at the moment, it’s just so cold outside, I’m just freezing. I never was a runner. I always was a swimmer in first place, but I’m not too much enjoying right now. I’ve been swimming maybe once a week at max. Yeah.
Alan Law: It’s more of an effort to go swimming, though, as well, isn’t it?
Steven Herrschaft: It’s true.
Alan Law: Because you have to go out to the swimming pool, and, yeah. Anyway.
Steven Herrschaft: It’s the truth.
Alan Law: Okay, let’s change tack again slightly. In terms of marketing and getting yourself out there, what’s been the most effective for you, do you think?
Steven Herrschaft: I feel like creating a unique brand and unique style and unique … Just be a unique person. It’s so important in today’s wedding photography market. Because, I mean, let’s face the fact that the markets are oversaturated right now. There are way too many photographers for clients who are willing to pay a lot. You have to try to be unique to them and stand out,-
Alan Law: Oh, I know exact-
Steven Herrschaft: … out of people that you’re competing with.
Alan Law: Definitely.
Steven Herrschaft: Yeah, be unique. I think that’s the best advice. And be you.
Alan Law: Yeah. I totally agree with that as well. I really do. That’s so integral.
Steven Herrschaft: Pretty important. Because then they will come back and say, “Hey, that guy was cool, and he creates some stuff that I didn’t see at other wedding photography websites.”
Alan Law: Totally. And then, it helps with you charging more, as well. If they can only get that certain type of imagery from you, then you can almost charge what you want, really, in a way, so, yeah, totally think that’s vital. Did you always think like that, then, from when you started at 16, 17? It sounded like you did, really. That you really, you always shot in your own unique way.
Steven Herrschaft: I mean, I always had some people that I, they weren’t idols or something like that, but I had people I was looking up to. I was always inspired by Fearless, and I just have to admit that. I came to this website when I was pretty, I was 17 or something like that, and, basically, it just opened a new world of wedding photography to me, which was pretty insane, and I always want to be as good. Yeah, that was kind of my influence, but it developed away from just one person to creating just a few things here and there from pictures that I like and creating something unique and own which more looks like your style that you’re doing and your stuff that you are doing. It’s a mix of everything, and it would be wrong to say I’ve never been influenced by someone else. It’s just a lie.
Alan Law: No, but that’s cool. But I, like you, I remember coming across Fearless, and it changing a viewpoint of things. For me, it was like the work of Fer Juaristi, when I saw his work in a photography magazine, I was like, “Wow! Weddings can be so much different.”
Steven Herrschaft: True. True. He’s insane, that guy is just crazy. He’s so cool, and he’s a creator, and that’s what I love. He creates special images that you have never seen before. And that’s what I like, and that’s what I’m striving to as well. Just creating stuff that I’ve never seen before in other images.
Alan Law: That’s cool. Very cool.
Steven Herrschaft: That’s the big goal in photography. Because I want to don’t be like someone else. I want to be me, and giving my impact in this wedding photography business, and wedding photography community.
Alan Law: That’s so cool. I think that’s such a good, valid path to go down. It’s so important.
Steven Herrschaft: I mean, even when judging other competitions, I see so many images that I’ve seen before, and I just don’t want for that, because it’s just like, why should someone else be credited for stuff that he hasn’t created?
Alan Law: Right, yeah, I know what you mean. I know what you mean. Let’s talk about, a few of your Reportage awards, in particular, are quite surreal, and, I think, quite purposefully so. I think they seemed to come about because of your purposeful positioning. For example, the one where it looks like it’s a cake child, and then the beach shots where it looks like half-dog half-bride (see above). And the car reflection shot where it looks like a cross between a dad and a bride. Are you always looking out for those opportunities? I don’t know, how do you get inspired for those kind of images?
Steven Herrschaft: I mean, it depends. I mean, at moment, for my workshop, of course, I’m trying to get logics for what I’m doing. But sometimes just things coming in my mind. Just two seconds, and I feel like, “Oh, that would look cool.” The one on the beach was like, I was the second shooter for Isabelle Hattink.
Alan Law: Oh, cool.
Steven Herrschaft: You probably know her.
Alan Law: Yeah, yeah.
Steven Herrschaft: I was second shooting for her on that day, and it just was a pretty cool day, but I was just walking around, and I said, “Oh, okay, that would look cool.” Basically laying on the floor and just shot 10 images or something like that, and one of them completely hit the mark, and just said, “Okay, that’s cool. That’s pretty cool.”
Alan Law: That is very cool.
Steven Herrschaft: And I don’t have that secret recipe, but I love perspective, and I love change in perspective. I’m basically more of a worker on a wedding day than, I guess, other people, because I’m changing perspective all the time, and just trying to do new things, and just basically searching for angles that could work. Having ideas, and, to be honest, maybe 10% of my ideas will work out, but that’s okay.
Alan Law: Yeah. Oh, yeah, definitely. And you’re putting in that work to find them.
Steven Herrschaft: Right.
Alan Law: Then, just out of interest, when you shoot your weddings, do you always have a second shooter-
Steven Herrschaft: I don’t.
Alan Law: … or do you shoot solo?
Steven Herrschaft: I don’t. As I said, everything me.
Alan Law: No, that’s cool. Yeah, I was just talking to someone else, and they just always really recommended having that second shooter so you have the creative freedom, then, to get the more different shots, but that’s great, that you can do it with just being a solo shooter as well.
Steven Herrschaft: I feel like, of course, there is always advantages and disadvantages for that stuff, but, for me, it makes me more free, and it makes me more focused on the people in front of me, instead of just having to look all the time towards my second shooter, and looking and just trying to stand in his images. It didn’t work. I tried twice, two or three times in the last years, and it just didn’t really work. I love running around. I feel like it’s okay for me to don’t have someone else with me.
Alan Law: No, no, it’s cool. I mean, I’m the same as you, I’m solo shooter, I’ve never had a second shooter as well.
Steven Herrschaft: Oh, cool.
Alan Law: I enjoy it this way, and I sell it to couples as well that the business is based on me and my style, and that’s same for you, not second shooter styles. And personally, for me, I think the less cameras there are around, the less camera-aware people are, which is what we want. But, as you said, there are benefits and disadvantages of both ways of doing it.
Steven Herrschaft: Yeah, of course. Sometimes there are situations where I feel like, “Okay, I can’t go that risk anymore.” But I feel like we’re having too much pressure on what images we might think are necessary and what aren’t. Because, when you’re really going down to, what are the images that the bride and groom really needs, it comes down to 15 images or something like that. I mean, a ceremony kiss has to be. A first dance shot has to be. The changing of the rings and the vows and all that stuff. But, besides that, you basically have so much creative freedom that I don’t feel like it’s important to have someone else who catches that stuff as well.
Alan Law: No, that’s cool. Yeah, very valid, very valid.
Steven Herrschaft: And you don’t have to basically having a second person who shoots the guests one more time. When you are culling, you have the guests from that perspective, and one from that perspective, which is just weird, and it’s more work. And it’s not necessary, I think.
Alan Law: Mm-hmm (affirmative). No, I agree with you. I mean, that’s just the way I’ve always done it as well. And-
Steven Herrschaft: And I’m … What were you saying?
Alan Law: Oh, no, I was just going to say, also, I have enough of my own awful wedding photos to look at as well.
Steven Herrschaft: True.
Alan Law: I don’t want to go through another second shooter’s thousands. Oh, I hope none of my couples or brides listen. Some of my photos are good, some of my photos are good. And has there been a specific turning point in your career? Something, perhaps a certain wedding or award or something, that has had a major impact on your career so far?
Steven Herrschaft: I think I’ve pretty much realized that there aren’t too many shortcuts in what we are doing. Because I feel like we always think, “Oh, that’s that special award we need to win,” or, “That’s that special wedding we have to do,” and then everything comes from here on. But it’s just not true. At least not for me. It’s just a steady progress on what you are doing, basically just trying to get better, and making things better. I mean, it would be easy if you just had to have one wedding, and then everything comes from that one wedding, and just, then you are fine and just have to do your business. But it’s not the way I did it, I guess.
Alan Law: Right, okay, yeah. It’s been more of a continual growth for you.
Steven Herrschaft: Yeah, yeah. It continues to grow, and just, yeah, everything gets bigger with time. I mean, it’s my sixth season this year, so, yeah.
Alan Law: And you’re still only, are you 22 or something?
Steven Herrschaft: What were you saying?
Alan Law: Are you just 22 years old now, are you?
Steven Herrschaft: Yeah, right. Right, I’m 22.
Alan Law: Wow. Sixth season at 22. That is … That’s mad. I didn’t even pick up a camera then, I think. No, I had, a little bit, but not so much. Let’s change tack again slightly. If you could interview anyone in the world, who would it be?
Steven Herrschaft: Oh, God. I have to think about that.
Alan Law: You can think, that’s good. Thinking’s good.
Steven Herrschaft: Maybe I would say Michael Phelps.
Alan Law: Oh, really? Yeah.
Steven Herrschaft: Just because he’s a swimmer. I would love to hear, I think he’s pretty inspirational in what he’s doing, and just being such a …
Alan Law: Was he an idol growing up for you?
Steven Herrschaft: Yes. Definitely. I feel like, with all the motivation part, he’s just insane, because he did so much to get so good in swimming, and it’s just insane. I think it would be him.
Alan Law: That’s cool. Very cool. I’ll try and arrange it for you.
Steven Herrschaft: That would be awesome, really.
Alan Law: If you weren’t a wedding photographer, what would you be doing for a living, do you think, then, now? Would it be something to do with swimming, or something totally different?
Steven Herrschaft: The thing is, you can’t live from swimming, at least not in Germany.
Alan Law: Right, okay.
Steven Herrschaft: So, I mean, I would love to be a swimmer, but you just have to realize that you need to earn money, and I think I’m a better photographer than swimmer. Yeah, I just love photography. But, I mean, I’ve been to college besides photography. I studied online marketing, so …
Alan Law: Oh, okay. That’s been handy for being a wedding photographer, though, as well.
Steven Herrschaft: Yeah, well, this is one of the biggest fails of my life, I guess.
Alan Law: Oh, really?
Steven Herrschaft: Because you think, if you were doing online marketing, been studying this for three and a half years, you would be great at all that stuff. But thing is, when I came out of college, and I knew it just basically wasn’t, I learned nearly nothing.
Alan Law: Oh, really?
Steven Herrschaft: It was a brand-new format in my college, and just, it didn’t work. I learned nearly nothing. The stuff that I’m doing right now I completely taught myself. I did so many projects with just for college, and it wouldn’t help me at all. I learned so much things about stuff that I will never use again in real life, because that’s just a playground. It’s like most of the stuff you’re learning in school, I guess.
Alan Law: Yeah, oh, yeah, there is so much that you never use again, isn’t there?
Steven Herrschaft: Right, right.
Alan Law: Like trigonometry. I remember I asked you earlier about what your parents thought when you started doing weddings. What do you they think now? They must be very proud of you and how well you’ve done.
Steven Herrschaft: I don’t have a really good relationship with my parents.
Alan Law: Oh, really? Oh, okay.
Steven Herrschaft: I had to leave last April. That’s why I got a new … I now living together with my best friend, which is pretty cool as well, but I just don’t have a good relationship with my parents, and I think they kind of understood now that what I’m doing was the right way, but I’ve been to college for them.
Alan Law: Oh, really? Right.
Steven Herrschaft: Just to make them happy. And I did all of that stuff to please my parents. And maybe that’s advice for other people, to make yourself happy, and not try, even if it’s your family, to make yourself happy in the first place, and do what’s right for you, because there are things that I’m really regretting right now, and college was one of the things that I’m regretting right now. I always think what I could have done with the time that I had to put towards my college stuff. If I had that time to grow my wedding photography business, in which place I would have been now.
Alan Law: Yeah, that’s true.
Steven Herrschaft: Yeah.
Alan Law: I’m sorry to hear about that, but, totally, as you say, though, it’s so important to do what makes you happy. It must be tough, though, but it’s so important.
Steven Herrschaft: It’s definitely not the easy way, but I think it’s the right way.
Alan Law: Totally. I totally agree. By the way, what does inspire you? And do you look at other wedding photography, or do you not look? Some photographers specifically don’t look at other wedding photographers. How do you feel about that? Do you look at other wedding photography?
Steven Herrschaft: I think, yes, I do look at a lot of wedding photographers, but not in a place that I want to do a shot or something like that. I like other works, and just looking at them, but I don’t think that I got a lot of stuff out of this for myself when I’m doing it. When I’m looking in my Facebook, I always feel like, “Oh, I’m happy for the other photographers who are winning awards.” I’m happy for others who, because they’re creating cool work, I don’t know.
Alan Law: That’s cool.
Steven Herrschaft: Yeah, but, with inspiration, I like a few street photographers.
Alan Law: Oh, cool. Do you do some street photography yourself?
Steven Herrschaft: Not really. That’s another thing about me. I’m not doing a lot of photography in life, I guess. I know that it might be cool if you’re having kids, and you’re documenting their lives, but I don’t, so I’m not-
Alan Law: You’re too young for kids.
Steven Herrschaft: Yeah. Right.
Alan Law: So, you don’t really pick up the camera in the week, between weddings?
Steven Herrschaft: I don’t. I don’t.
Alan Law: No, I don’t either. No.
Steven Herrschaft: I don’t. I’m not that kind of photographer who just loves going out and just taking pictures of everything and all that stuff. It’s not what I’m enjoying, I guess.
Alan Law: No, that’s cool. You’ve got to stay true to yourself. Because-
Steven Herrschaft: I mean, yeah … Sorry.
Alan Law: No, sorry, you go on, Steve. You go on, Steve.
Steven Herrschaft: I mean, I love weddings, and I love wedding photography because I love all those emotions, and all those weird things going on, and all of these couches, and all these … It’s just so much in one day, and that’s what’s just crazy, and what’s fascinating me. I’ve never, in my entire life, seen something such cool and such unique like weddings in some place. Because, even if the parts of a wedding might be the same at every wedding, but the people always are completely unique, and they’re always having their unique character, and just getting all those people in front of your camera and just documenting their day is just what makes me happy, and what makes me happy in life. That’s what I’m enjoying.
Alan Law: That’s cool, man. That’s great. You have sold the job of being a wedding photographer really well there. That’s like, I want to be a wedding photographer! No, that’s awesome. That’s cool. I can hear your joy for it as you talk about it. That’s really cool. Do you have a particular piece of software or app that you couldn’t do without?
Steven Herrschaft: Besides Lightroom.
Alan Law: Yeah, besides Lightroom, do you? Yeah.
Steven Herrschaft: I’m pretty much using that basic stuff like Lightroom, Photoshop. Yeah, I’m a Photoshop guy as well, at least so some point, because I can do more stuff to my images in Photoshop as well, so, yeah. But, besides that, I’m looking through my bar here right now, I’m using JPEG Mini, and also, I need to listen to music, so, Spotify.
Alan Law: Cool. And you can listen to some good podcasts on Spotify as well.
Steven Herrschaft: As well, as well.
Alan Law: Do you use any keyboard or physical shortcuts for Lightroom, anything that makes it quicker-
Steven Herrschaft: I don’t.
Alan Law: … or no?
Steven Herrschaft: I don’t. Just use my, yeah, the basic stuff. I mean, I’m having a tablet for Photoshop, but it’s just a super small one, and it’s everything I need.
Alan Law: Okay, cool. Cool. All right, good, that’s good, all good. Let’s change tack again a bit. What’s a random fact about you that you think people would be surprised to know?
Steven Herrschaft: Oh, gosh. Thing is, I’m a pretty open book, so it’s …
Alan Law: That’s a good way to be.
Steven Herrschaft: Yeah. Lot of things come from my brain directly and just super unfiltered. I’m an honest person.
Alan Law: Well, that’s cool. That’s very cool.
Steven Herrschaft: You could say. What people don’t know about me. I guess my life been super straightforward and everything, because I have just a few things that I’m doing, but I’m really enjoying them doing. I don’t have a lot of private life. I’m a worker.
Alan Law: No, that’s cool, and it sounds like you are a real worker, which is great.
Steven Herrschaft: Two things. I’ve never been to a wedding for private …
Alan Law: That you weren’t photographing?
Steven Herrschaft: Yes.
Alan Law: Oh, really? Wow! Still?
Steven Herrschaft: I’ve always the photographer at weddings.
Alan Law: Wow, that is quite unusual.
Steven Herrschaft: That’s the first thing. And the second thing might be, I’ve never been to a club, I’ve never been to a party or something like that.
Alan Law: Oh, really? Never, ever?
Steven Herrschaft: In my life.
Alan Law: Wow. Not even in, because we met in Las Vegas last year, you didn’t go to a club there or anything? No?
Steven Herrschaft: Yes, that’s why I really enjoyed this Vegas trip, which is … Well, you know the story better than anyone there. I didn’t enjoy Vegas at all. This is one place that I will never, ever go again if I don’t have to, I guess.
Alan Law: Oh, that’s funny. We’re quite different, though, because I love Vegas, I’m going again in a couple of weeks. Funny. But you’ve seen a lot more of America than I have. I need to see a lot more of America.
Steven Herrschaft: I’m in love with this country, really. I mean, their politics are pretty fucked up, but the rest of it is just really cool. I love the people. I’m talking to the right person in the U.K., so. Complaining about political stuff.
Alan Law: That’s funny. And they have good McDonald’s over there. You know they have McDonald’s in America?
Steven Herrschaft: I mean, I’ve only been to McDonald’s one time in three trips. I don’t like fast food at all.
Alan Law: Oh, really?
Steven Herrschaft: I’m trying to be pretty healthy, even if it didn’t work, like at Christmas, but I don’t really like fast food at all.
Alan Law: Oh, man, I love a McDonald’s after a wedding. About 2:00 in the morning, driving home.
Steven Herrschaft: I know that, I know that. I saw that on Facebook, you’re posting a lot of that.
Alan Law: I just love it! It’s the nicest thing. It is the nicest thing. Oh, okay, cool. Have we got time for, I guess let’s just do one more question?
Steven Herrschaft: Okay.
Alan Law: What would be your top tips to help someone get better, at the documentary side, especially, of wedding photography?
Steven Herrschaft: The documentary side of photography?
Alan Law: Yeah.
Steven Herrschaft: Just keep people going. Really, just … Just don’t try to pose other people, which is basically weirdest tip that I can give, but just keep yourself out of the thoughts, and just focus on yourself and what you are doing, and being creative with that instead of trying to pose other people in the positions you are wanting them to have. Because that’s what makes me way more creative, and what I’m doing, just keep myself out of people’s decisions.
Alan Law: Right, yeah. I mean, that’s great advice, and some people are scared, they want to document weddings, but part of them still feels like they need to take control, and maybe move people into better light or what-not. But you don’t need to do that, do you?
Steven Herrschaft: Be an open book about that in the first place. First, when you’re meeting clients, even on your website, you have to say, “I’m not a director for your wedding day. I’m documenting what you are doing, and I’m not directing you in these places.” And it’s not that I don’t do portraits, even if it got really rare, like 20% of my weddings even have to do portraits and all that stuff, but I’m pretty pure documentary photography, and that’s what I do, and that’s what I love. Because I wouldn’t say I’m a creative mind in directing, but I see the scenes and trying to do something different about that, and that’s what I have my strength in.
Alan Law: That’s very cool. And that’s an awesome side of creativity.
Steven Herrschaft: Yes.
Alan Law: Is to creatively capture what’s in front of you rather than you actually creating a scene, so that’s brilliant, I think.
Steven Herrschaft: And I feel like it’s way more pleasing.
Alan Law: Yeah, totally.
Steven Herrschaft: For you, and for the clients, as well. Because, yeah, there are people who can super do creative stuff with super staged stuff and it still looks good, but I always feel like what I want to remember and what the people in front of the camera want to remember, I’m asking, want to remember that I said to them, “You have to do this and this,” or want to remember the things they were actually doing?
Alan Law: Totally, yeah. It’s exactly that, yeah. Great advice, man.
Steven Herrschaft: Thank you. That’s what I love about that documentary mindset, because it’s hard and easier at the same time, I guess.
Alan Law: That’s cool. Oh, man, cool, that’s so good. Honestly, that was so good. Oh, man, it’s-
Steven Herrschaft: Good to talk to you.
Alan Law: … honestly, Steven, Steven, it’s been so good talking to you again, thank you for your time, that was brilliant.
Steven Herrschaft: Thanks for having me, really. I was really enjoying it.
Alan Law: Oh, I really enjoyed it, too. And if anyone’s listening, whether they’re editing, or running, or in the car, or anything, you can head to the website, and there’ll be a full transcript of this and lots of examples of Steven’s work as well. And check out his website. And, yeah, maybe your workshop/mentoring further in the year, maybe. That’s all exciting.
Steven Herrschaft: Yeah, I’m pretty excited about it as well. We’ll see.
Alan Law: Cool, man. Man, thanks so much, I’ll see you later.
Steven Herrschaft: Thanks so much. See you.
Alan Law: Cheers, man, bye-bye.
Steven Herrschaft: Bye.
Thanks so much to Steven for his time and honesty in doing this Podcast interview for us! You can check out lots more of his work over on his website, or here on his This is Reportage profile (where photographers can show an unlimited number of images).
Would you like to join us? The deadline for our next Collection – Collection 14 – is 23:59 GMT on 24th March 2020, and members receive 18 Story Award entries and 60 Reportage Award entries per year, all included in our low membership fee. It’s not only that, though, as members receive lots more benefits – find out all the details and apply to join us over here.