Damien Bredberg is an advertising and commercial photographer who has carved a reputation as one of Australia’s premier image creators with his innovative approach to photographic storytelling. We caught up with Damien on the CameraPro couch, where he talked candidly about how his interest in photography grew, the equipment he uses and his process for bringing his epic creations to life.
Damien’s initial interest in photography was in surfing and wave formations. His first cameras were disposable underwater cameras purchased from the local chemist. After photographing his mates in the surf, he would spend $20 he didn’t have on processing and wait 24 hours, only to get back ‘crappy’ photos. But he thoroughly enjoyed the process, and the sub-par results didn’t deter him.
While working a casual job at KFC, Damien won a triple pass to Bathurst with all areas access. Figuring a disposable might not cut it, he invested in his first Canon SLR camera. The investment paid off because he was offered money for some of his images. Realising photography had the potential to earn him an income, he decided to explore it further.
Damien began assisting Stephen Jones, a local wedding and portrait photographer who generously mentored him and shared his wealth of industry knowledge. During this time, Damian received a hands-on learning experience covering everything from meeting clients, studio lighting, medium format photography, colour and black and white printing, and framing.
‘I was very fortunate that Stephen allowed me to make mistakes and to have that hands-on approach.’
Through his time learning with Stephen, Damien realised he enjoyed photography, but that wedding and portraiture were not really for him. He enrolled in a photography course at Toowoomba college, where he built on the skills he had acquired while assisting and was able to explore other genres of photography.
Over the years, Damien has built up a wealth of image creating skills which now sees him in demand across the country. Damien believes his expertise in photography, videography, and drone work has allowed him to step up the level of service he can offer his clients and gives him an edge over other highly talented photographers.
In addition to his enviable skill set, Damien focuses on customer service and considers client experience the supreme aspect of a photographic shoot. A big believer in fostering relationships, Damien’s honesty, reliability and enthusiasm have become just as much a part of his brand as his unique photographic style.
‘I kind of consider myself the McDonald's of photography. I'm not the greatest, and I'm not bad, but I'm consistent. I turn up, do a risk-free job, do my best, and everyone's happy every time.’
Damien firmly believes gear doesn’t make you a photographer. He openly admits he doesn’t look after it well, is not phased by what it is, and doesn’t know it in depth. But he clearly knows how to manipulate the tools he has to craft a distinct look and feel.
Recently, Damien has begun incorporating mirrorless into his workflow. The natural progression has been the Canon EOS R5 body with the RF 15-35mm lens, which he can use for high-end still or motion campaigns.
Lighting is a crucial storytelling element in Damien’s style; he relies on Broncolor, sometimes utilising up to a dozen lights on a composite image shoot. He also has a range of DJI drones for video work, including the Inspire 2 and Mavic 3 Cine and several gimbals, including the Ronin S.
When asked about his creative process, Damien told us that it all begins with a bottle of red, haunting music, dim lighting and a sketchpad. Although not sure why this works, he says it puts him in a calm space where he can tap into more profound thoughts and creative ideas.
Drawing inspiration from his own emotions and experiences, Damien is probably most regarded for his surreal composite images, where he combines dynamic lighting with exaggerated action to superb effect. His stylised composites are more of a theatrical representation of an idea rather than any single moment in time.
'I'm fortunate that I've built a style where people know what that style is, and clients come to me, and they'll often say, “I want a Damien Bredberg”.’
Over the years, CameraPro has had the pleasure of seeing Damien create two conceptual works. He worked with the camera locked off each time. Beginning with a base frame and then introducing new elements, lit and photographed individually. Each new photo was then blended into the original frame, gradually blurring the line between fantasy and reality. By building the image on set, Damien can ensure all story components are working cohesively and that nothing is missed.
Drawing on his own positive experience in being mentored, Damien openly welcomes anyone coming through the ranks to join him on set for some hands-on work experience. He has also run workshops and given presentations where he freely shared his process and expertise.
'I like to give back. I'm very much an open book, and I think the only way our industry can grow is to work together and share wealth and knowledge. Whether that be giving a leg up financially to someone, giving some equipment for free, pre-paying invoices or giving back with knowledge.’
If you'd like to learn more about Damien and his process for bringing images to life, check out the full interview here.
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