I have been following Anjie Blair’s work on Instagram for a couple of years and have been lucky to witness her career and work evolve into something that could be described simply as magnificent. Anjie hails from a wonderful part of Australia called Tasmania, and today we talk to Anjie about from losing her dream job, finding her way into photography and now transitioning into architectural & interiors photography.
Thanks for taking the time for this interview. Let’s start by telling us a bit about yourself? How did you get into photography?
Thanks for having me Veeral! My start in photography wasn’t a direct one – formerly I was a guide dog trainer and in 2009 I was made redundant due to the GFC. It was my dream job. I landed on my feet and swiftly retrained as a graphic designer. Upon my graduation, I started as a graphics designer with a local commercial and wedding photographer in Launceston. Over time, there became more of a need for me to assist in photography and editing, over graphic design work. The photographer trained me from the ground up on all aspects of photography and post-production. Subsequently, forced me to use a Wacom tablet for which I am forever grateful!! We worked on a broad range of projects ranging from real estate, product, headshots and weddings. Within a year or so I was photographing houses through the week and was working as a second photographer on weddings during the weekends. I photographed weddings until 2015 and decided it wasn’t for me.
Subsequently, I became very interested in retouching and post-processing techniques. I obsessively watched Natalia Taffarel and Phlearn videos and won a seat at one of Mia Ostberg’s workshops. Even though the basis of this was beauty retouching, I have found the knowledge (frequency separation and luminosity masking) both invaluable and transferable to my editing of architecture and interiors.
I understand you have a young family. So how did you juggle starting out in photography together with being a parent?
Yes! I have a 12-year-old son. There are no rainbows and butterflies answer to this one but it has been incredibly hard at times whilst managing tight deadlines, the business side and home life. My partner and I have almost always worked opposite shifts and we are fortunate to have supportive friends and family. I was always that mum rushing for school pick up.
Fortunately, I have reached a point in my career now that I am not afraid to take time off and or be worried the work won’t be there when I am back on deck. We recently spent five weeks overseas and that is cherished time. Winter is quieter and I enjoy the slower months.
The struggle for me has been the trade-off between saying yes to a client, which in turn means saying no to family and friends. I do have mates that ask “so when are you slowing down again??”
Launceston is a small town, so is it difficult having to compete for real estate photography clients and projects? What sort difficulties and hurdles did you face when starting out?
I have been very fortunate and never chased a new real estate client. My former boss relocated to Melbourne in 2014 and his clients came across. Many of them I still work with today. Living in a small town has worked in my favour and word of mouth is everything. Additionally, there aren’t too many photographers that focus on this area – especially women (maybe 3?). There have been other photographers come and go, but I have really focussed on naturing client relationships and consistently improving my delivered product.
From your Instagram, it seems you are making the transition into architectures & interiors. How did this transition come about? How are you dealing with your real estate photography business while trying to focus more on architectural photography?
This too has felt like an organic and non-deliberate process. Stepping into hundreds of homes per year, alongside the usual real estate shoots, I would get the opportunity to take shots for my folio in a more natural style. Some agents started preferring an editorial style look and shooting a frame at 35mm was ok and I didn’t get any pushbacks. My style developed and my higher end agents would refer me for side gigs and my name started to circulate. I was fortunate to have a local architect, an interior designer and joiner give me opportunities. All have won awards with submissions that I have worked on and it has snowballed from there.
It’s hard to imagine my architectural journey started in 2017 and the ratio was 90% real estate 10% architecture and interiors. Today that ratio is more like 60%/40% Currently, I have two other photographers that work for me in order to assist with the real estate workload while I photograph other projects. I honestly could not be shooting both areas without them. The deadlines are so tight with real estate that processing jumps the queue of commercial work and I can easily get inundated with work.
If you have clients that believe in your work and don’t push you too hard, real estate photography can be flexible and rewarding. I made the mistake of trying to take on the world and over a couple of years of madness realised that the growth model within real estate wasn’t for me. Volume wrecked me. I was better at photographing than managing people. Last year I needed surgery on both elbows to relieve ulnar nerve compression – ultimately due to too much time on the tools. I have permanent muscle and sensation loss in parts of my right arm.
Being out for a whole month in order to heal, gave me time to reflect and evaluate my career. Some clients waited whilst others didn’t. This was the catalyst that ultimately got me to focus more on architecture and interiors, with the aim of slowing down. I have been researching a lot about essentialism and defining my scope in what I want my business to be. In particular, the book on Essentialism by Greg Mckeown was very helpful.
There are other readers on this website who are in a similar boat to you. Thinking about making a transition from real estate into architectural/interiors photography. Do you have any advice or life lessons you can share?
If a client relationship really is too hard – don’t force it, let it go. By making space, you have the opportunity to align yourself with clients that understand you.
Instagram is one of the most important social media platforms for my business as 80% of my new enquiry comes from it and clients using it to promote our work. I treat it like my folio and networking channel. Not to mention the photographer friendships that develop from all over the world – an extremely supportive community.
One of the things I do on real estate projects is to take one photograph for myself that can be part of my architectural & interiors portfolio when I get the opportunity. There have been occasions where I have gone back when the light is perfect, owners and clients really appreciate it.
Form relationships with startups and young businesses. By working and promoting together, you elevate both brands at the same time. Reach out to builders and kitchen designers for award submission jobs.
Support other photographers. Approach those you admire. Most are willing to talk shop with you.
Do at least one professional development activity a year. Last year I flew to Canada (for four days!!) to learn from Barry Mackenzie. At the end of this year, I am scheduled to assist a renowned photographer on a shoot.
Forget about the over-processed – fake sky – crystal clear views – blinding bright whites and super-wide angles. Real estate clients can appreciate an editorial style and most will pay for it. This is how I have set myself apart from other photographers in Launceston which was a critical step in my transition.
Take time out – regularly. For something other than photography. It really is an obsessional career. But I get that’s where the gains are. This advice I am also directing at myself!!
Even with transitioning into the architecture world especially with interiors photography, how have you found the switching of mindsets between interiors & real estate?
It is like wearing two hats. My real estate photography has improved ten-fold. I shudder to think about some of the compositions I used to deliver. Even on real estate projects, I will pull out my 45 TS (fave lens) if time allows. You can’t unsee what you now know. I enjoy the considered pace and attention to detail of the interior and architectural work – though I can assess and deal with shot conditions swiftly due to real estate experience.
How are you finding meeting potential architectural or interior design studios in Launceston or Tasmania as a whole?
It is still all word of mouth. I have only approached one architectural client so far. This is all about capacity and being maxed out most of the time blending real estate and architectural work. If the structure of my business changes in the future I will need to reassess. Currently, I have architecture and commercial shoots booked statewide until early next year, so things are going better than I had planned.
What has been your favourite architectural/interiors shoot to date? What were your favourite aspects or elements of the shoot?
I am going to have to say working on Stillwater Seven, new luxury accommodation in Launceston. The extensive renovation and interiors are a knockout and the project pushed me to my limits technically. From this project, I have since formed a relationship with a local furniture designer who was part of the project and we collaborate together regularly.
Lastly, What would be your dream project to photograph and which architect in the world you would like to work with and why?
Either the Circular Sun House or David and Gladys Wright house and one day, I would love to get to the USA and shoot in Arizona!
At this stage, I am happy working within and promoting this wonderful state! A big thanks to my current clients! There are some exceptional architects, interiors designers here that could keep me very busy!
Many thanks to Anjie for taking the time to talk about her start into photography and transition into architectural & interiors photography. If you would like to see more of Anjie’s work then check out her website and follow her on Instagram.