Podcast Episode 8: This is Denise Motz
Welcome to Episode 8 of the This is Reportage Podcast! Honoured to bring you the wonderful Denise Motz today – hailing from Holland, winner of 9 TiR Awards and joint 6th in our Top 30 Photographers of last year, Denise shares so much great info and stories, including:
her work with Camper Retreats, her background in fine art, how she got into weddings, her favouite TV series, the most important thing in life, doing what you love doing and not thinking about the money, photographing her own life, how street photography has impacted her weddings, her reasons for submitting to awards, being in a group to judge each others’ work before submitting, tips from being a judge herself, the power of cropping, her wedding in Uganda, how she get her first destination, her love of travel, the album she’d choose on her desert island, how/why she gets so many alternative weddings, the power of networking with people, attending her first conference, capturing the inbetween moments, kids at weddings, behind the scenes of a specific Reportage Award of hers, travelling through time, social media, sharing her personal life, Instagram Stories, what makes a good wedding photographer, and much more…
Alan Law: Hey Denise, how are you doing?
Denise Motz: Hey, Alan. Yeah, I’m super good, actually. How are you?
Alan Law: I’m good, thank you. All good. Thanks for joining us all the way from … You’re based in Holland, aren’t you, but you’re in Portugal at the moment, is that right?
Denise Motz: Yes, indeed. Yes, I’m in Portugal.
Alan Law: What are you doing in Portugal?
Denise Motz: I’m here for Camper Retreats. It’s community with digital nomads that travel around the world. I’m taking photos of this retreat, how it is.
Alan Law: Cool. Have you done that before?
Denise Motz: Yeah, it’s the third retreat, actually. They are going to do more, and also one with photography, so it’s also really nice.
Alan Law: Specific for photographers?
Denise Motz: Yeah, specific for photographers, because I really liked joining the camper retreat also for myself. I was the photographer, but I think this could also be really interesting for photographers because it’s just a total different lifestyle.
Alan Law: Cool. What kind of thing do you do on the retreat, then?
Denise Motz: We travel around with the campers. You have the minimum you need with you, and you are in extraordinary landscapes, have really nice conversations with the campfires. We do some coworking. Yeah.
Alan Law: No, it sounds great.
Denise Motz: Yeah, it’s amazing.
Alan Law: That sounds right up my street, especially after a long wedding season, as well, to do something like that.
Denise Motz: True. Yeah.
Alan Law: And in Portugal, which is lush. Are you down … the south area of Portugal?
Denise Motz: We’ve done the south of Portugal, yes, but we are also planning to do one in Spain.
Alan Law: Nice. I think that’s a great idea. Really cool.
Alan Law: You have a background in fine art, I think. Can you tell us about that?
Denise Motz: Yes. I actually did another. I did graphic design before, and after it fine arts. Here I discovered photography was my medium to show things, but it was not like reportage in the beginning. I had ideas in mind and I wanted to show it, so I made my own images with … Yeah.
Alan Law: Well how old were you when you were doing that?
Denise Motz: I think it was 2008 I started study, so 21.
Alan Law: Still young, then. How did you go into weddings from there?
Denise Motz: That’s actually funny story, because I never wanted to have my fine arts mixed up with wedding photography. I always thought wedding photography is traditional. You have to be traditional photographer.
Denise Motz: Two friends of me asked me in 2016 to photograph their wedding. I thought, “No, I cannot do that,” but in the end they say, “You can do whatever you want, there’s no restrictions. Just do it. We really want you to do it.”
Denise Motz: I did the first wedding, and it was amazing. I didn’t think it was so much fun and joy because I didn’t attend weddings before. One when I was 16, but it’s different to see it when you’re older. From, actually, the first wedding, I was really into it and I still enjoy it.
Alan Law: That very first wedding for your friends, did you capture it in a photo journalistic way then? Not traditional?
Denise Motz: It was a journalistic, yes.
Alan Law: Cool. That’s been the core of your approach ever since?
Denise Motz: Yes. Because, also, sometimes I really like the moments where people are into themselves, or in the moment before, or … This seems maybe posed or set up, but actually a lot is not set up. It’s reportage.
Alan Law: That’s good. Obviously we’re all about that as well, so that’s great.
Alan Law: Changing tack slightly, what’s your favorite ever TV series, like on Netflix, or anything?
Denise Motz: TV series? I actually don’t watch a lot of series.
Alan Law: Do you not? No?
Denise Motz: Might be Vikings, I think.
Alan Law: Cool. I’ve never seen that, actually. Is that really good?
Denise Motz: Yeah. Every episode is … You get adrenaline from every episode, so it’s really nice. Not boring.
Alan Law: That sounds good. Let’s check it out. Cool.
Alan Law: What to you is the most important thing in life in general? Not just wedding photography, but in life. What’s the most important thing to you?
Denise Motz: That is a question where I can talk about the whole day, I think.
Alan Law: That’s good. We’ve got time.
Denise Motz: The most important thing for me is to do what you really love to do. I never really thought about money because I come from the fine art. In fine art, if you do this study, you know, actually, you’re not going to earn a lot of money. I did it really for myself and to explore, what am I good at? What is my thing that I really love to do? That’s one thing.
Denise Motz: Family and friends. For me, in the beginning I photographed other people’s lives, but I never really was looking for my own life. Now I also photograph my own life more. It’s really good memories to have this.
Alan Law: That’s cool. Do you always have a camera on you?
Denise Motz: Most of the days, yes.
Alan Law: That’s cool. I need to do that more, I think. Is it a proper camera you have with you, or is it your iPhone, or …
Denise Motz: No, not my phone. It’s broken, the camera on the front. I always have the selfie camera, but that’s it. I used a compact camera, The Fujifilm. it’s super handy to have it on the road, and it’s easy to carry with you.
Alan Law: That’s cool. I need to do more. I think when I finish weddings, I don’t pick up the camera as much in between weddings. I really need to do that. Do you find it’s improved your wedding work as well by taking more personal images?
Denise Motz: Yes, for sure. I think everything you photograph improves your work. Also, street photography really helped me to just do something else, with people you don’t even know, or ask around if they want their picture captured.
Alan Law: Do you do a lot of street photography?
Denise Motz: Yes. I’m now in a Lisbon, and I want to, in a few days, also go around here and see something.
Alan Law: Cool. That’d be great. I was in Lisbon just a few weeks ago, actually, for a TiR Meetup. It’s beautiful city, isn’t it?
Denise Motz: I just arrived yesterday evening, so I didn’t see a lot. No, I’ve just come from Lagos, so it’s the south of Portugal. Within a few days I’m going to work on a camping and make some pictures of this.
Alan Law: Nice. I am jealous of you in Lisbon. I loved it there.
Alan Law: You’ve won lots of reportage awards and lots of awards from other associations, too, which is brilliant. I think you were joint sixth overall last year at This Is Reportage, which is amazing. Personally, for you, what benefits do you get by submitting to awards? What do you really enjoy about submitting?
Denise Motz: That’s a difficult question.
Alan Law: Yeah, that is a difficult question. I think you’ve been so successful, and you’ve won lots. I just thought, do you get a proper benefit from your business by winning these awards, or does it just make you feel more confident? Or you just enjoy the process?
Denise Motz: I think I don’t really have a lot of benefits from winning the awards, with the clients, I mean. I’m not doing this to get more clients, but actually more for myself, that I really think this is a really good picture and I want to see if that’s correct. If people like it too, then it’s amazing.
Alan Law: That’s cool. That’s a good answer. We all have different reasons to submit to things like that. That’s great. You’ve been so successful with it. You’ve judged various contests, as well. You’ve been a judge. Do you have any tips for people who do submit to any awards, really, as a past judge yourself?
Denise Motz: Yes. I think it’s a really nice, because I have been in a mastermind group for more than a year now with four other people, and we actually judge each other’s pictures already before we send in.
Alan Law: That’s cool.
Denise Motz: Yeah. It’s also a really mixed group of people, and that’s very interesting also. If you’re all the same kind of photographers, then it doesn’t make sense, I think. Search for people that really maybe don’t like your style of photography, but see the good things around it. That’s one of the best tips I can give, because it helped me really much in my career.
Denise Motz: Tips … I think, just, look how to crop. Just crop it more than you actually want, and then look at it again. That’s also something I also do, because in the beginning you don’t want to leave things out because you like it too much, but in the end, some things are getting even better.
Alan Law: Totally. That’s a great tip. A lot of people are wary of cropping, but it’s such a great tool, and it can really make an image that’s okay just be a lot more impactful with a good crop.
Denise Motz: Yeah, true.
Alan Law: You’ve shot weddings all over the world. Any particular ones that stick out in your memory? Is there particular ones that you really, really loved?
Denise Motz: Yeah. In Uganda, I went for two weddings. It was crazy weddings. Really enjoyed the whole day. It’s totally different from here.
Alan Law: Really? In what way? What was it like?
Denise Motz: They have so many different acts with drums, and stuff like that. It’s also really nice to see how the tradition is going.
Alan Law: That’s fab. A lot of people aspire to do lots of destinations like you do. How did you get your very first destination wedding? Do you remember?
Denise Motz: Let me see. I think I was on a party, and I danced together with a wedding planner. She said, “I heard you were a photographer, and my brother is going to get married in Italy. You want to be the photographer?” Without seeing my pictures, actually, because she liked me as a person. That was more important for her than what the pictures really looked like. In the end she liked my pictures, also, of course.
Alan Law: That’s good. It’s so important, that person side of our business, though, isn’t it? It’s great that you initially got the booking from that.
Denise Motz: Yeah. True.
Alan Law: Now since doing that destination, is it something that you really loved? You really actively try to get more destinations? Do you love the traveling?
Denise Motz: Yes. I really like to have more destination weddings, and I really like to travel. It’s not a big deal for me. I don’t miss my home, really, much.
Alan Law: That’s cool. Do you not find them more stressful, going away, and different … I don’t know, driving on the other side of the road, and things? No?
Denise Motz: No.
Alan Law: That’s all good?
Denise Motz: No, it gives me so much more freedom, and really living the life. Really living in the moment. When I’m at home for a while, I feel I’m getting into a sort of normal life again, and it really bores me a bit to stay in one place all the time. I want to explore more. It gives me so much more in life to travel. I think it could be stressful indeed, but I don’t feel like this, no.
Alan Law: That’s cool. You got the travel bug. That’s great. Is there a dream country or wedding location that you’d love to go to?
Denise Motz: I didn’t think of this before, because you cannot really …
Alan Law: You’re just happy shooting anywhere?
Denise Motz: Yeah.
Alan Law: You want to see the world. That’s great. That’s cool. Other than photography, what are you really passionate about?
Denise Motz: It’s really being in nature, actually. It compares a bit with the photography. Really come to myself and see different cities. I think the nature for me is more important. Just the small things around in the nature, I think.
Alan Law: That’s cool.
Denise Motz: I love music. Who doesn’t love music? I really like to dance all the night.
Alan Law: That’s good. It’s a good lust for life. It’s great.
Alan Law: A really original question here, but if you were cast away on a desert island, it was just you, and you could take just one music album with you, which album would it be? A tricky one.
Denise Motz: Yeah, I think I go for my all time favorite Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Alan Law: Cool. Nice. Which album?
Denise Motz: I don’t know the albums out of my head, but I have the whole list here.
Alan Law: That’s cool. Funky. Nice. I will allow you have their whole back catalog on your desert island. That is cool.
Denise Motz: It’s not that I listen to it now anymore, not a lot, but when I hear a song again, it always keeps me fresh. It doesn’t get bored.
Alan Law: That’s cool. Have you ever had Chili Peppers as the first dance song?
Denise Motz: Actually, no.
Alan Law: No, nor me. That would be good, though, wouldn’t it? That would be good.
Denise Motz: I had one from Limp Bizkit, so that was really fun.
Alan Law: Did you? That’s cool.
Denise Motz: Yeah.
Alan Law: That must have been a bit of a different, more alternative wedding.
Denise Motz: Yes. Actually a lot of my weddings are alternative.
Alan Law: That’s cool.
Denise Motz: Most … Yeah.
Alan Law: Why do you think you get those kind of alternative weddings?
Denise Motz: Because I’m not traditional photographer, and my work is also maybe more alternative, I would say. I don’t know how people look at it, but I think you attract the clients you are yourself, too. In the end it’s best to get friends out of it, also. It’s really nice.
Alan Law: That is cool, a good side benefit of our business, really, isn’t it? In terms of marketing in general and getting yourself out there, what’s been the most effective for you?
Denise Motz: Go around. I think most of my bookings are fire fire, so I’m not really good in Google or SEO.
Alan Law: Sorry, did you say most of your bookings are …
Denise Motz: Fire fire, like mouth to mouth. From people who I know, or when I travel around I talk to a lot of people. Then it comes just to me.
Alan Law: That’s cool.
Denise Motz: It’s more networking with people instead of getting it, really, from the internet.
Alan Law: Right. Okay. Does that include networking with other wedding photographers? Do you meet up with other wedding photographers?
Denise Motz: I don’t second shoot a lot, if you mean that.
Alan Law: I didn’t particularly mean that, but that’s a viable option as well. I mean just in a friendly way. Do you meet up with other wedding photographers and share referrals between you?
Denise Motz: Yeah, I think that’s also really important, because I had some weddings also from people that were booked already. When I started I just thought, “I can do it alone. I don’t need to know other photographers.” But then I attended some conferences and meetups, and it was very good to get to know other people and see how they get clients.
Alan Law: That’s cool.
Denise Motz: I’m not stopping doing this.
Alan Law: That’s good. I found it to be a very friendly scene, as well, isn’t it? Other wedding photographers are generally really sharing and open. It’s great.
Denise Motz: Yeah. That’s really nice. That’s also why I went to the Christmas party last year for eight hours and flew back.
Alan Law: Yeah, that was awesome. That was so cool. Fab seeing you there, as well. That was hardcore, that was.
Denise Motz: Yeah, that was really hardcore.
Alan Law: You mentioned then that you’ve been on conferences. What’s been your favorite one, do you think? Or workshop. Conference or workshop?
Denise Motz: I haven’t had workshops, but the first Fearless conference I attended, it was actually the first conference ever in my life I attended, really opened my eyes. There were so many photographers. Before, I didn’t know anyone. One girl where I shared my Airbnb with, we had to meet up for a day, because otherwise I wouldn’t know anyone. I actually was alone with her going to the conference. In the end I met so many new friends. It really was a good experience.
Alan Law: That’s cool. Do you think that’s maybe even the biggest benefit of conferences, is meeting other people, rather than learning new photography elements?
Denise Motz: Yes, for sure.
Alan Law: Yeah. I found that too, as well.
Alan Law: Which part of the wedding do you enjoy capturing the most?
Denise Motz: There is not really a part that I love capturing the most, because I’m not searching for the traditional things. There’s all the little moments, all the in-between moments, that’s unexpected. That’s what I like the most, actually, because you never know what is coming. If I have to choose a part, I think it’s the preparations.
Alan Law: Cool. Yeah, quite a few … I like that part, as well. It’s great. What is it about prep that you like?
Denise Motz: There has to be more people, of course, because if it’s only the bride and the hairdresser, then it’s not maybe too interesting.
Alan Law: That’s true, yeah.
Denise Motz: But if there is a lot of chaos and kids around, jumping all over and do weird stuff, yeah, that’s what I really like. I really like kids on a wedding.
Alan Law: Do you? That’s cool. Some people are not that into kids at weddings, and some people do. What is it about kids that you really enjoy capturing?
Denise Motz: The kids do the most unexpected things. They are so real. That’s it, actually. They are real, and they don’t pretend to be someone else. They just are themselves.
Alan Law: That’s true. That’s cool. I think a few of your reportage awards feature kids. One of them, it looks like there’s a whole class full of kids in your image (see above). Is that right?
Denise Motz: Yes.
Alan Law: What happened there?
Denise Motz: This was a teacher. The bride was a teacher, and we went to her school and had some cake with the kids. Then we left, and the kids stay in the class. I was just walking to the car, and a bride and groom came after me. Then we heard behind us all this knocking on the window, and there I saw these kids. Like, “Oh, my God.” It was one split second, because the bride and groom were walking so fast to the car. They were all standing in front of the window. It was crazy.
Alan Law: You nailed it, as well. That was a great image. It tells a story within a single image, which is brilliant. I love that.
Denise Motz: Thank you.
Alan Law: To change tack again slightly, if you had a time machine, what time, past or future, would you like to travel to? It’s just temporary. You could come back to the present self. Would you like to go to the past or future?
Denise Motz: Interesting. I think I would go to the future, because … I also would like to go to the past, but if I can go to the future, I can see what’s happening with the world, maybe, in 50 years. If it’s really bad, maybe I can change it if I’m coming back.
Alan Law: That’s cool.
Denise Motz: Let know people what is coming, and try to make a change. Because I really like the world, and I really want to keep how it was or is, and not getting worse.
Alan Law: Sure. Yeah. Which is a big deal at the moment, as well. You might go 50 years in the future, but there might be no world, even, 50 years in the future.
Denise Motz: Yeah.
Alan Law: You never know. Make the most of every day, people.
Alan Law: All right. Let’s go to a subject that wedding photographers are always interested in, which is social media. Do you love it? Hate it? What works well for you? Do you use it much?
Denise Motz: I really like social media. For me it’s not a big of a deal. I mostly like Instagram to show people more of my personal life, also.
Alan Law: Okay, yeah. Do you think that is really important, to show potential clients the real you and what you’re about, not just your wedding imagery?
Denise Motz: Yeah. I think that is really important. When I discovered Instagram stories, I went for it.
Alan Law: That’s cool.
Denise Motz: Yeah. Because in my Instagram images, I really want to show the work. There was not really a possibility for me to show myself in between this, like my real life, like short movies, and stuff. Also to show people how I work on a wedding day and to show how wedding days are going. It just disappears in 24 hours, so that’s also nice about it.
Alan Law: Why do you like that bit about it, that it disappears?
Denise Motz: I don’t know why I like it, but sometimes you post things that afterwards you think, “Okay, maybe this was a bit crazy.”
Alan Law: It’s gone now, anyway. No, that is true. It’s handy. Do you get clients who have said to you, “We watched your Instagram stories and we love how you are”?
Denise Motz: Yes.
Alan Law: That’s pretty cool.
Denise Motz: There was also … I think I went to Nepal in February, and there was this girl that said, “I really liked your stories about Nepal. We are going to get married in March. Do you want to take our photos?” It’s also about my traveling.
Alan Law: That’s cool. Yeah, it works. It’s so great that you’re putting yourself out there, just showing the world who you really are. Not being a cold, just, business front. I think that’s so important.
Alan Law: I think we’ve got time for just one last question. What, in your opinion, makes a good wedding photographer?
Denise Motz: A good wedding photographer doesn’t do tricks, but really enjoys what he’s doing or she’s doing.
Alan Law: That is so important, though, isn’t it? To enjoy what we’re doing? Otherwise it will come across, I think, in your images, if you’re just doing it for the money, for instance.
Denise Motz: Yes. But if you like enjoying to do tricks, it’s probably also okay. It’s really good to do what you really like to do, but also explore what is really you.
Denise Motz: Also ask people around, like, “What do you think really shows me in the picture?” If people can recognize your personality in it or your style, then I think you are already a good photographer.
Alan Law: That is cool.
Alan Law: I don’t know, sorry, I said about last question, but another little question. Do you eat the canapes at a wedding?
Denise Motz: Of course.
Alan Law: Yeah. That’s good. It’s just interesting, asking people that.
Alan Law: Denise, thank you so much for your time. That was brilliant.
Denise Motz: Yeah, it was really lovely.
Alan Law: It was really interesting. Thank you. I’m going to put in the post that reportage award image we were talking about as well with the school. I’ll put links to your website. Yeah, super. Thanks so much. That was great.
Denise Motz: Yeah, thank you too.
Alan Law: See you later.
Denise Motz: See you.
Thanks so much to Denise Motz for this interview!
If you enjoyed listening to Denise, you may like to subscribe to our show on iTunes – and if you fancied leaving us a little review and/or rating, we honestly would be so appreciative.
Would you like to join This is Reportage? Members receive lots of different benefits, including an unlimited number of images displayed on their profile, 78 Award entries per year (with everyone on an even playing-field; nobody can pay extra to submit more), invites to our parties and meetups, and much more…