If you're a creative, you'll know the seemingly endless struggle of being paid for your services. For Ayshe Zaifoglu better known as AZCAPTURES, she's turned this frustration into something positive.
On top of that, she's experienced in the arts of works haffi run, she's got bare XP, running 2 2 photography and videography works out here. Why don't you stop being idle, watching the timeline do the usual madness and stick your eyes on this piece of greatness.
Pay Your Shooter then, Pay Your damn Shooter, how did that start?
“Basically it was born through frustration of not being paid, invoices being overdue. Anyone in the creative or even corporate industries will know how frustrating it is not being paid. I had a full-time job when I was freelancing when I started it, I was freelancing on the side because I really wanted to get my photography and videography out there. Even though I was getting my salary, I was still picking up these jobs thinking “this is sick but where’s the money?”. It was annoying because I knew there were so many people thinking the same thing so one night, I went on a font website, typed in the phrase, mocked up a little logo on Photoshop and I put it on a t-shirt which some of my friends from Rinse FM at the time thought was sick and from there, it snowballed after that.
For me, it’s not about being a prick, being like “I’m not working for you unless you pay me on time” because some people can see that as harsh. Some people won’t say hi to me at first, they’ll ask what my rate is and I don’t want it to be like that.”
You want to know the person first before talking about things like that.
“Yeah, exactly. Money’s involved in anything we do as freelance creatives but I wanted Pay Your Shooter to be a nod to people to respect creatives because payment is the biggest form of respect in what we’re doing in London at the moment, it’s obviously hard and expensive to live here. I just want creatives to feel represented, I’m working on building that network.”
Who inspires you now?
“Who inspires me now? I’d say young people around me, I’ve met a few people who are younger than me who are doing what I kind of do at 18, 19 years old which is crazy. To me, at that age, I was stuck at uni trying to burst into this scene but there’s people out there who have clocked that people like me have been getting jobs just by being active, being in the right places and using Instagram as a marketing tool. At first when I saw youngers doing stuff, I’d just think they’re just youngers but when you pull yourself away from that mentality and chat to these people, they’re actually really sick. They think of things differently, they have their own interpretations so just chatting to these people has helped rejuvenate what I’m doing.”
Plus they know their stuff.
“They actually do, they’re smart kids.”
Who inspired you when you first started out?
“Before I got paid for photography jobs, I was involved with the Patta family, I used to work in the London store when it first opened a few years ago. I was still studying film at uni but then I would come down here and now and during my holidays, I’d spend quite a bit of time with them. The Dutch guys would always fly over and they always had a really good support system, those guys are so successful but the team has and always will remain small, they keep everything in house and they’re like family, if any one of them wanted to sleep at another’s house then there’s no problem. That sense of community I think is really important in anything you’re doing, I think that inspired me to try and build a network, a base of people that I know I could rely on, feel comfortable around, people who get your craft.”
What’s been your favourite campaigns to work on?
“I worked on a makeup shoot recently, I didn’t know the models before but there was one influencer who was there on the second day of the shoot that I knew was coming on. I decided not to tell her that we were going to be on the same shoot until we got there, that was with Alia Loren for a Sleek campaign which was great, the energy was all there.
I’ve done lots of shoots, I just love shooting cool people in cool places. Probably one of my favourite shoots was with Reece West, we did a shoot for E&J, shooting in four different locations. We had an idea to shoot in a corner shop because we wanted proper newsagent vibes with him behind the counter like the bossman. Finding a location that works within a 9-5 time-frame is quite hard, that’s why shoots always happen really early or really late so we ended up hitting up his local bossman asking if we could come through. The call time for that shoot was 11PM, we were drinking with the shopkeeper, playing music and even though it was for a big brand, they kind of let me do what I wanted and I think having that creative freedom despite there being the pressure for the shoot means your own style is going to come through more.”
How do you tackle adversity when things are not going to plan?
“That’s actually a sick question because I’ve been on a lot of sets where I’m not actually shooting. I’ve done a lot of assistant producing on set for videos. I’ve got a good friend called India who’s a creative director, producing stills campaigns for brands and I got to help out on a few of those but sometimes I’ve been on set with a shooter and they’re just doing their thing but the models are getting a bit tired, they might already have the shots they want but they’ll try and get more, that’s how some people work. The way I get back on form for the set is literally going outside, taking a breath, jumping around for a few seconds, play a song, dance to it and then be like “cool, let’s go get it” because I’m really energetic, there’s always like a hundred thoughts in my brain at once. If I’m shooting one frame, I’ll change it so quickly when I’m moving around…”
...What focal length do you use?
“35mm, that’s my favourite at the moment.”
It’s wide enough where you can get a scene.
“Exactly, I’m always running around my subjects, if I feel like something isn’t right or someone’s getting tired, I’ll let them that a minute and relax, it’s not that deep, it’s just a photo whereas I know other photographers, especially some of the bigger ones who have done bigger campaigns, they take their time and focus on that one shot and if they’re happy with it, more onto the next angle. Some people, especially models get pushed a lot and you have to remember that they’re just people, as much as you’re thinking of something in the back of your mind, so is someone else so just relax at the end of the day.”
How would you describe your style and do you think it’s developed over the years?
“This is interesting because if you’d asked me a few weeks ago, I’d say I don’t have a style because I’ve shot so much, I’ve done portraits, landscapes, products, events because I wanted to get out there as a photographer so I just did everything but now when it comes to my video work…”
“...Ice cream! We definitely have to get ice cream...I’d say with my video work I’ve adopted a kind of gritty style of using VHS, that’s mainly for a few reasons. The first being buying a second-hand camera is much cheaper than buying a brand new one, the second is I grew up watching Risky Roadz aesthetics…”
...It’s coming back into fashion now, everyone’s loving retro, gritty looking content.
“Everyone loves it! I’m a 90s baby, I like all that shit. I started playing around with it, even using old film cameras, smacking them to make sure there’s a light leak because people like that unfiltered grittiness. I know this guy who’s been doing VHS for years and when he ingests his footage, he smacks the VHS player as it’s recording which makes it the tape jolt but it looks sick.
I’ve worked on shoots where it’s being shot at 4K but effects will get added on to make it look old while I’m here using the old school, fucked up shit, mainly for budget reasons. I like it and I’m getting into film photography as well because I’m mainly digital, I do play around a bit with film but as with everyone, it’s what popping at the moment, everyone’s doing their own spin on it.”
Do you think through your work you’ve grown as a person?
“OMG...Yeah...That’s a big one because even with dealing with people in the way you work or just how you approach an email or getting emails back, it might sound passive aggressive from a brand or whoever is booking you but the way you deal with that helps you develop. As long as I handle myself correctly and don’t get anxious what someone is going to say or what their opinion is, it’s my work at the end of the day, it’s my art, it’s how I’ve used to absorb that moment.
Unless you’re super confident, you’ll have moments as a creative when you think you haven’t performed well. Even at events at like Keep Hush and Boiler Room where there’s loads of photographers and maybe you’ll upload a few pictures and then someone else who was there will upload pictures and you’ll be like “shit man, their pictures are better than mine”.”
That’s the mind playing games on you, seeing competition that isn’t there.
“100%, it’s toxic especially with Instagram but now with Take More Photos and Pay Your Shooter, everyone I’ve spoken to who is a photographer doesn’t sit there and acts like a bastard comparing pictures, no-one is like that. Even if I didn’t impress with one photo, it’s not that deep, you have to think of it like that. We’re not brain surgeons, we fuck up, if our shutter speed is off then hopefully the raw will save us, if not then we’re not killing anyone.”
It’s a work in progress learning your craft. Also social media fucks your mind up, if you’re not careful, you get into this mindset where you think you constantly have to post something but you don’t need to. You don’t need to create a facade that you’re active, people will already know this so there’s no need to burn yourself out over this.
“The right people will know you’re doing your thing. I still post quite a lot but I used to do this a few months ago where I had something Sunday to Thursday every week…”
“We’re kind of sitting in the perfect spot for ice cream man.”
We’re gonna have to run off for ice cream after this.
*insert Az laughing in agreement here*
“But yeah.. What I was going to say...what was I saying? (still thinking about ice cream)...
...Ice cream? What did you say before ice cream?
“Oh I used to post six times a week because I thought I should be. I’ve got loads of content, why don’t I post it, more people will like me, more people will see my name but really now I’m in a space where I’ll post here and there, things that I want to post like outtakes from shoots that artists are okay with posted because that can get a bit tekky sometimes. I’d rather be incredibly active on my emails than on my Instagram at the moment, I’ll get my email game on point and reply rapidly to emails, that’s more impressive to these people who are booking you if you’re looking to get more into brands, if you’re on it, that’s such a win because then they’re not going to be scrolling through your Instagram. They can get a glimpse of your work but if you’re trying to advance in that avenue, more of your time has to go on emails than on posting.
This whole social media world is about developing the way you see things through your eyes and how your mind processes it. My journey has helped me develop a good mindset towards others who are doing what I’m doing.”
How do you separate you as a photographer from you as the real you?
“That’s interesting because people book you for who you are, not for what your stuff looks like. You can take that in a bad way but at the same time, I am who I am and I try to put that into when I’m shooting. The way you handle a situation is so different for different people. Photographers in general are introverts, they’re kind of shy, kind of scared, they want to do this amazing thing but unless they burst out of their introversy in that moment, they’re not going to do that.
People will see on my Instagram acting crazy or singing in my stories but really I’m quite introverted, sitting by myself, talking to myself, editing, coming up with ideas, I’m very much like that but I’m also super energetic at the same time so that’s why I don’t think I can separate me as a photographer and me as a person.
With Instagram, I’ve been having this whole thing in my head where I need a professional account and a personal account but then I think if people want to book me because of my personality, it does help when you’re shooting, you might not have the best camera but you might be able to get a better reaction from someone. I think I’m going to stick with one account for now. That’s a very interesting question because I can imagine how people would answer it in different ways but for me, I prefer to keep it together to be honest.
I have the word ‘capture’ tattooed on my leg, that’s me as a person but I’m still talking about photography. I am what I do.”
Last question, what are your plans for the future?
”For the rest of this year, I’m focusing on building Pay Your Shooter as a network. A lot of people like the idea, they fuck with the phrase, maybe I’ll start an Instagram for it but again, I am what I do. If I focus on it like a brand, I want to get it into events, do more merchandise, have photographers and videographers on set with the merchandise on like it’s a uniform.
For the future for me I dunno, I have doubts sometimes about whether I’ll be a photographer forever or should I focus more on the video side and do that. Most people are either a photographer or a videographer but with the world we live in now, people like when you can do more than one thing. I’ve been on sets with big photographers quite recently and I’ve seen how relaxed they are, how well these experienced photographers can handle different situations and also their rates which are quite eye-opening. With us, the older ones are the better ones, they know what they’re doing, whereas in other professions, the younger you are, the better you are, things like PR, music, sport, that’s how it normally is but for us, it’s more about the experience and what you know you’re doing, you can’t be the biggest photographer overnight, it’s impossible, so I’m just going to keep going, keep meeting new people and speaking up sharing my experiences.”
Follow Az on Instagram (@azcaptures) and find her website at azcaptures.com.
PS: Ice cream was eaten in the aftermath of this interview. Pay Your Ice Cream Vendors each and every.