Photographer Spotlight: Doug Friesen

From the intricate details of a flower, to majestic mountain vistas, to the delicate dance of a smoke plume, Canadian fine art photographer Doug Friesen infuses his images with a luminous energy that invites the beholder to see the world from a new perspective.

That energy also manifests itself in Doug’s generous approach to art and business. Art is about sharing, after all, and Doug is passionate about giving back to his community, supporting other artists, and being charitable with his profits.

Doug’s perspective is as inspiring as his photographs. Read on to hear what–and who–inspires him, and how he brings his vision to life.

Please tell us a little about yourself. What first sparked your interest in photography?

I am a father to two beautiful children, husband and administrative assistant to a busy professional, and a fine art photographer. 

I am forever embattled between the worlds of logic and creativity. The best way to describe me would be a “technical creative.” 

I came from a career in the tech world, but my interest in photography stems from my younger years, when my dad shot with a film camera. I loved the split prism focus and manual controls that allowed me to shape the outcome of what I saw. In high school, I had the most amazing art instructor, Marcel Debreuil. He inspired me to see art and beauty in everything that surrounded me, and even today is a huge factor in why I continually shoot the subjects I love. And now I find myself drawn to explore more.

How did you get started as a professional fine art photographer?

My transition to fine art photography has been more of a transformation than a finite beginning. I began with weddings and some portraiture about 10 years ago. As time progressed, it was clear that my joy lay in the technical creativity of fine art. It is important to focus on what you love. I hope to add more commercial photography into my fine art, along with video production, to further challenge myself in the future.

What are some of the things you enjoy most about what you do?

I love getting lost in the viewfinder in another world of interpretation. I love being enveloped in my subject; nothing else matters at that moment. Whether I am waiting for a fragile flower to stop swaying in the wind for a moment or sitting just feet away from a top fuel dragster car, it is just my camera and me. I am free to create without restriction. 

What type of business model do you use?

My business model is a combination of clients reaching out to hire me and selling prints via different in-person and online venues.

I don’t utilize a brick and mortar gallery space, though I would love to open one in the future. Most of the clients who have sourced me for prints or services have found me as a result of SEO/Google search engine results and my website being good clean design. This has provided me opportunities to do everything from photographing a Golf Canada youth tournament to providing fine art prints for a design agency in the U.S. 

I live in a smaller community, so staying active in various events is key for maintaining professional visibility and sourcing work. I have participated in and helped organize an art gallery showing, hosted a private coffee house viewing event, and donated prints for several charitable events (everyone wins when you give). Facebook Ads have been another effective tool for local event marketing, along with utilizing social media for marketing and exposure. As a result of social media, two images of mine have been printed in Canadian Geographic publications.

What led you to choose ProPhoto for your website, and how has it made a difference for your business?

I have always liked the flexibility of WordPress, compared to closed environments such as Squarespace, which I have also used. When I began searching for the perfect template, I went through several iterations of pre-designed themes from various creators, but always found something too impersonal about them. 

I found ProPhoto as a competitive alternative that was geared toward creatives. Its visual builder made it faster and easier to create my website in WordPress while maintaining my unique style. Updating my website is easy and efficient with the help of a staging environment, and it has been cleaner to integrate with other services I use. The SEO functionality has been excellent and has resulted in being found by several clients for jobs I would otherwise not be able to source. Utilizing WordPress instead of a closed environment product has also helped keep monthly web hosting costs down. 

I’ve even used ProPhoto recently to bid on some website design and development projects. I presented custom designed websites and demonstrated how easy it was to use, edit, update, and maintain for technical and educational clients. ProPhoto is powerful, and much more than just a showcase for photographers.

Do you handle the administrative tasks of running your business yourself (such as accounting, billing, advertising, etc.), or do you outsource any of them? 

Yes. I handle every aspect, as I have training or previous experience in each of these areas. However, my recommendation is that if you are transitioning to professional part-time or full-time photography, depending on the genre, to outsource tasks that take you away from building your business (ie: administrative or accounting functions). Your most important asset is you.

What part(s) of your business do you find yourself spending the most time on, and what are some tips you’ve discovered to help streamline your process?

Most of my time is spent behind the scenes, editing and developing markets for my work. I have dramatically changed my shooting and editing processes to reduce editing time by as much as 50 percent (hint: shoot manual shutter/f-stop/white balance to greatly increase editing speed with consistency). In fine art photography, I find myself spending much more time in the process of inspiration, capturing the image, and sourcing the next location or subject. Quality, not quantity. I just enjoy the thrill of bringing my vision to life while I edit. The process of sourcing subject is part of the adventure and allure. My style is to edit clean, crisp, and vibrant or bold if monochrome. I want the subject to have dimensionality and become timeless.

You probably get asked this all the time, but… where does your inspiration come from? 🙂

I love being outside in nature, closing my eyes, breathing deeply, and then opening them to reveal the world transformed. My core inspiration of course is my late art instructor, Marcel Debreuil. His words and actions influence me even today. I also believe it is important to continue learning, whether as simple as YouTube, online training such as CreativeLive, or as involved as professional skill-led intensive bootcamps. Never stop learning. 

In the realm of fine art landscape, I find two Canadian photographers especially inspiring–Dave Brosha and Paul Zizka–and have met both of these authentic creatives in person. I am also a huge Edward Burtynsky contemporary urban landscape fan. And for conceptual art with a message, Von Wong is amazing. Such variety and vision. Joe McNally is a master of light.

Do you have any new projects/ventures in the works that you’d like to tell us about?

I always have something in the queue. The struggle is that I have interest in many areas–everything from software development, to design, to web development, to creative writing, to visual arts. These all fight for my attention.

I have several projects on my radar for the upcoming year. The first is focused on positive kids’ entertainment (stories and apps) featuring friends Dash and Spike, who are currently out exploring the Ice Forest at the Imagination Factory. The second is a website and YouTube Channel dedicated to everything creative, including tips and techniques along with the software and tools I use in fine art photography at Frantic Method. And finally, I am creating a separate portfolio and retail website which will feature my visual art at Abstract Canada. It may eventually expand to include works from other artists. Visit dougf.ca for updates as these and other projects develop. My latest photographic adventures will always be found at instagram.com/dougfriesen.

Do you have any advice for newer photographers?

What I have learned throughout the years is to never miss an opportunity to capture moments, ask if you need help, and generously help others. Every image is a unique moment in history, never to be repeated. Perspective shapes our experience. What is ordinary and everyday to one person can become beautiful to another. My hope is that through my art I can provide a positive message of inspiration, intrigue, adventure, and acceptance. 

Finally, a feel good tip: Be charitable with a portion of your profits. If you don’t do it, you are missing something rewarding beyond the value of what you gift. Pass it on. Live with love.

Doug, you’ve enlarged our perspective on what photography can be. Thank you!

Readers, how do you “pass it on”? Tell us in the comments!

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