Getting To Know Sera

Getting To Know Sera

Please introduce yourself in 20 words or less - 
A photographer and writer from Byron Bay who is forever chasing beautiful light to capture and seeking stories to tell.

Was photography your first career choice?
Not at all. I had never really considered it as a career when I was younger, even though I’ve loved photography from a young age. I’ve never been someone who sought out a career or who knew what they wanted to do work wise in life. I didn’t enjoy school or studying, I never wanted to go to university. I did take photography as a subject for my last two years of high school, photography and marine studies were the only two subjects I enjoyed. Because I’d either be out taking photos or in the darkroom developing film and prints, or I’d be out snorkelling or at the beach during marine studies. I kind of just floated along after I finished high school and after I took my first solo overseas trip to Thailand when I was 19 I got hooked on travelling. That’s all I wanted to do, so I became a travel consultant (because I thought I’d get paid to travel), but most of the time I was just sitting in the office booking other peoples holidays. So I chose to work in hospitality bartending for over 10 years, which allowed me the flexibility to travel for a few months each year and it was easy to relocate anywhere for work. I ended up working summers in Byron and winters in the snow and have a few months off in between to travel, I ended up doing 6 snow seasons, travelled to Bali most years among other places, always with a camera in hand. I kind of just fell into having a career as a photographer, but I guess the universe was always leading me there from the start, I just didn’t realise it.

How did you go from photography being a hobby to making it a business?
Prior to getting into photography as a career I always had a camera with me wherever I went. I started with film cameras and then as the digital age started I progress to the digital point and shoot cameras. I had always shared my images on my social media accounts such as MySpace (cringe, yes I’m old lol.) and Facebook and started getting requests for Prints early on. I sold my first print 10 years ago. Just over 4 years ago I was properly introduced to a little App called Instagram (which I had previously been using as just a photo editing app, not realising that all my photos on my account were there for the world to see – mainly selfies and photos with friends on nights out , at festivals and the occasional sunset, sunrise or landscape scene). 
I learnt how to use it and started sharing more of my travel and landscape images and from there my account grew really quickly. I had my first paid travel campaign less than twelve months into using the Ap (in 2014) and then Canon started supporting me around that time too. From there I started getting contacted for more and more travel & tourism campaigns working for tourism boards, tour operators, resorts etc. I was still working full time for a local Byron Bay clothing company for the first 3.5 years of my career, running my photography business and working on campaigns in my spare time. I took the leap into full-time photographer and running my own business, selling prints and freelancing in January this year when I was made redundant from my full-time job (I think it was the universe giving me a big push) and I haven’t looked back.

What is the favourite part of your work?
Being able to share the way I see the world with others. Knowing that my photos bring joy and happiness to people who see them is what makes it all worthwhile. I receive messages on Instagram, via email or via my website from people the world over letting me know that they look forward to seeing my images every day. That’s a pretty special feeling.

The fact that my Prints are hanging on walls worldwide is really humbling. Every time a print order comes through I always sit back and really appreciate and acknowledge that I am good enough, that my work is worthy and I’m on the right path. I’ve struggled with anxiety and depression for most of my adult life and have always felt not good enough, which stemmed from being bullied in primary school and high school. So to know that there are people out there that appreciate my work and what I do is really reassuring. Photography has helped me a lot with dealing with my anxiety and depression.

Photography has also given me the chance to travel to places I could never have imagined I would visit and experience different cultures, meet different people, so I feel very lucky.

Over the last few years, what type of photography work have you been focusing on? 
My main type of photography has been travel photography. I love being able to capture a new destination the way I see it, write about it and share it with people in the hopes of inspiring others to get outside and travel more, experience the things I get to do and really live life.

Are there any projects you are working on at the moment?
I have a few bits and pieces in the pipeline. Working for yourself always has its challenges, I always have a million ideas and things I want to do and places I want to visit. My main goal at the moment is to do ‘The Big Lap’ around Australia and document it all. It’s been my dream since I was a teenager, but I finally feel that now is the time to do it.

What type of gear are you using at the moment and what is the one piece of equipment you wished you had?
I’m currently using all Olympus gear, as they support me and I love their cameras and lenses. I was originally supported by Canon, which gear I also love, however as I travel so much and I’m always out adventuring, hiking and camping on weekends, I was struggling with the weight of all of the full frame DSL and pro lenses on my back (I have a back and neck injury so weight bearing is an issue for me). I was introduced to the team at Olympus in 2017, I tested out their gear and fell in love straight away. It’s a micro four-thirds system with pro lenses, the camera and lenses are smaller, lighter, more compact and the quality of the images you can capture is amazing. For the work I do it’s perfect.
I use two of the OLYMPUS OM-D E-M1 mark ii bodies with all of their M.Zuiko PRO lenses. 12-40MM f2.8 PRO lens (24-80mm equivalent), 7-14mm f2.8 PRO lens (14-28mm equivalent), 25mm f1.2 PRO lens (50mm equivalent), 40-150mm f2.8 PRO lens (80-300mm equivalent), 1.4x Tele Converter.
I use a DJI Spark for my drone shots.

The one piece of equipment I wish I had is an underwater housing for my camera! I’d love to take more ocean shots and under/over shots.

When excites you about travel and photography?
Going to a new destination for the first time, really immersing yourself in the culture and destination. Or seeing somewhere you’ve been before through fresh eyes and a new perspective. I get really excited once I know I’m going on a trip because Photography and Travel are both my greatest passions and loves, everything excites me about it. I’m really blessed to have found a passion (well two of them) that has become my career.

What are your sources of inspiration and do you ever go through times when you think “let's move on from this type of work”?
From a young age David Attenborough and National Geographic magazines always inspired me and still do to this day. Flicking through the pages, seeing beautiful photos of incredible landscapes, wildlife and people. It’s always made me want to dive right into that photo and be there in that moment.
Growing up in Byron I’ve been pretty lucky to be surrounded by some of the most beautiful natural environments in the world, from the beaches to the rainforest. I spent a lot of my childhood out in nature camping with my family and family friends, running barefoot through nature, sleeping under the stars, sitting around a campfire. I’ve always sourced my inspiration from the natural environment. If I’m ever having a moment where I’m thinking ‘let’s move on from this work’, I either go on a camping trip and take my camera and shoot for myself, or I just go for a walk and take some shots around the beaches in Byron. It reminds me why I love what I do.

What is the worst piece of advice you have heard given to a someone that wants to make a career out of photography?
That you need to buy the most expensive gear to be able to be a professional photographer. Sure the Pro lenses and cameras produce great image quality, but so do ones at the cheaper end of the market. You work with what you can afford.

What is the one aspect you find the most difficult about running a photographic business?
I think living from week to week is the most difficult thing. When you work for yourself as a photographer and run your own business you really have to put yourself out there, you’re constantly pitching jobs to people, marketing and promoting yourself, waiting for emails to come into your inbox or for people to accept your quotes or job pitches. The life of a Travel Photographer is not always glamorous and it’s not going to make you rich, but you do it for the love of it and because it makes you happy. There’s so many people willing to do travel photography for free these days that it’s made it quite hard to make a living just off that genre alone. Over the last year I’ve been branching out into other genres of photography, doing a lot more commercial work, lifestyle shoots, product, brand and property shoots as well as families and portraits. I think it’s important to be flexible in what you can do so you don’t just put all of your eggs in the one basket. 

If there was one destination you could travel to and photograph where would it be?
Iceland or Norway. Ever since I was little I’ve wanted to see the Northern Lights in all their glory. To stand under that sky and see it light up with all of the incredible colours and to be able to capture it with my camera. It’s my dream destination.

Where can we follow your work?