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VIC Decathlon 2019

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Tuesday 15th October

Written by Katrina Ferguson, photos by Alan Moyle of Photobat

10, 10, 10

Four hours of power and a wholesome lunch on-site in a very appropriately named event space: ‘MicDrop’ at Creative Cubes.

That, combined with 10 diverse speakers, each with 10 slides and a 10-minute time slot (or thereabouts), was the AIPP Victorian decathlon event for 2019.

Held on Tuesday 15th October from 10:00am-2:00pm in the heart of Hawthorn, this year’s decathlon was the first daytime run of the event.

48 people attended on-site and another 15 joined us on livestream.

Sponsor representatives Julie Kimpton (Nikon), Karl Ludik (Olympus), and Stephanie Chapman (AON) attended in-person and we thank them for their ongoing involvement and support.

Batter Up

Stephanie was the decathlon’s first speaker, running us through 10 quick general insurance tips based around the most common questions AON receives from photographers.

This included information on listing and protecting your equipment, professional indemnity, what to know when lodging a claim, where you’re covered, updating details, theft of equipment overseas, proof of ownership, drones, and how much to insure for.

It’s worth bearing in mind that when insurers look to replace your products in the event of a loss, they’ll replace new for old…If you’ve had something for 10 years, the value of that has probably depreciated. So, if you’re going to get a like-for-like replacement, it’s at today’s value.

– Stephanie Chapman, Aon
Creative Cubes, AIPP, VIC AIPP, professional photographers, professional photography Australia
48 people attended the VIC decathlon in-person and another 15 joined the livestream. (Photo by: Alan Moyle)

More than Money

Newly awarded Honorary Life Member, Craig Wetjen, discussed donating our time and talent to the community as a vehicle for connection, social engagement, and overall betterment of our craft.

Craig acknowledged the importance of income in our profession (and life in general) while emphasising that what we do perhaps shouldn’t always be focused wholly on making money.

With a simple photo, I’ve made a difference. And that is the power of photography…As photographers, we need to have fun and enjoy every single moment we have a camera in our hands and relish the fact that we’re creating someone’s memory.

Craig Wetjen
Craig Wetjen, Creative Cubes, AIPP, VIC AIPP, professional photographers, professional photography Australia
Craig Wetjen addresses aspiring and professional photographers at the Victorian AIPP decathlon event. (Photo by: Alan Moyle)

A Shift in Mood

Following on from Craig was fellow American native and self-described visual storyteller, Rachel Devine, also known on the Interweb as ‘Sesame Ellis.’

Rachel opened her presentation – and the audience’s hearts – with a personal story offering deep insight into her world clouded with brain fog induced by late onset temporal lobe epilepsy.

Rachel’s condition was diagnosed shortly after the passing of her 92-year-old mother. Through grief, confusion and frustration, Rachel used photos as an informal form of therapy.

I took photos of myself – of my life – to prove to myself that I’m still the same me…I could pull myself back from the life-long rope of images I’d made…the trail of visual breadcrumbs.

– Rachel Devine

Rachel implored photographers to remember to take personal photos of themselves and their families, for themselves, and to do it ahead of wasting time concentrating on social media fluff.

And, to do it before it’s too late.

Rachel Devine, Sesame Ellis, Creative Cubes, AIPP, VIC AIPP, professional photographers, professional photography Australia
Rachel Devine aka Sesame Ellis speaks addressed the room. (Photo By: Alan Moyle)

Busy Business

Back to the business side of things, Victorian council member and multi-genre photographer, Fiona Handbury, presented on the concept of diversification – across both skill set, and product and service offering – in order to increase sales and revenue.

Fiona’s business, The Garage Studio, is a one-stop photography shop.

She successfully shoots an array of subjects and genres including (but not limited to) weddings, newborns, events, commercial, maternity, pets, corporate portraits, family, food, and births etc.

“You name it, I photograph it. And I’m not afraid to say that. I’m in the business of making money,” Fiona said while explaining she has a family and staff to support.

Fiona is living proof that being so diverse in your offerings can set you apart from competitors, build stability in your business, and keep work interesting for both you and your clients.

‘Woo Woo’ Winning

Photography mindset coach, Johl Dunn, followed on from Fiona discussing the psychology of selling portrait photography and pushing through the discomfort of doing so, to the point where sales become fun and enjoyable.

Johl urged photographers to get out of their own way and adopt empowering beliefs – paired with proven techniques – over common excuses such as, ‘people in my area won’t pay that price,’ or ‘I’m not good enough to charge that yet’ etc.

Some of Johl’s key tips included simplifying your price list, never quoting over email, concentrating on serving your clients, charging what you’re worth, implementing planning appointments, and calling your clients in order to create a better, more memorable overall experience for them.

Come at it like a chat with a friend. Like you’re just talking with someone you know…and enjoy the process because then you can get the results that you want.

– Johl Dunn

After the Break

Former Australian Professional Photographer of the Year and alternate processes aficionado, John Ansell, followed the lunch break with a presentation on the importance of finding an income base for your business: your bread and butter.

Not only something to pay the bills, the insurance, and your rent but to give you the flexibility to do other things that interest you and keep you passionate, including personal projects.

John, along with wife and business partner Rosemary, has evolved from weddings as his base income generator, to school portrait photography.

You need to be starting to prepare a little while ahead for whether the market’s going to change on you or if your business will change.

– John Ansell

The second half of John’s presentation was a live and express demonstration of creating a cyanotype print including exposure, paper coating and developing.

John Ansell, Creative Cubes, AIPP, VIC AIPP, professional photographers, professional photography Australia
John Ansell prior to putting his cyanotype equipment to use. (Photo By: Alan Moyle)

No Blues for Janis

Fellow cyanotype enthusiast (and wedding, commercial and creative photographer), Janis House, was next to the stage.

I think the more time you spend behind your camera having fun and being creative, the better you’re going to be behind your camera making money. It’s just how I feel and it’s how I run a successful business.

Janis House

Janis shared her experience of photography exploration and experimentation, often in the outdoors and occasionally with or after a cheeky glass of wine.

She described her passion for entering awards with creative personal work, giving the gift of your photography to good causes in the wider community, and pushing yourself to exhibit.

Work for the Walls

Speaking of exhibiting artwork, Elizabeth Bull from One Fine Print followed on from Janis.

Elizabeth represents a small group of Australian Photographers and is on a mission to get professional artwork out there and onto people’s walls.

She shared some of her many learnings around the process of moving from a service-based business (as a photographer herself) to a product-based business.

Key points included knowing your ideal client, believing in what you’re selling, connection through story, finding your point of difference, making it easy to buy, editioning, and thinking outside the box with regards to marketing, presentation and selling etc.

Leaving ‘Balance’ Behind

Second last speaker for the day was birth photography specialist and Victorian council member, Lacey Barratt.

As the primary income provider in her household of seven, Lacey has learned a thing or two about work-life balance.

She’s concluded that compartmentalising and striving for true balance is fraught with danger; that the vicious cycle of choosing family over work, then vice versa and around again, isn’t always the healthiest option.

Instead, Lacey focuses on the idea of work-life integration, which involves incorporating her family into the work she does in whatever ways she can. And unashamedly so.

I’m able to teach my children about money, and that integration…and they get to see that example instead of ‘Oh, Mum’s working,’…or ‘Sorry, Mum can’t play with you.

– Lacey Barratt

Lacey attracts and repels her ideal clients with total transparency around the work-life integration concept.

“I have brought my own children to births,” she said.

“And if I need to edit, come and sit with me and edit.”

Lacey also discussed how closely tracking her emotional, mental and menstrual cycles enabled her to decompartmentalise her work and family, instead having them hum together in singularity.

Bringing in the Rear

Closing out the decathlon was Order of Australia Medallist and recent Melbourne Marathon participant, Gavin Blue (who proudly showed off the latter medal during his presentation despite may or may not having added 40 minutes to his PB.)

Gavin is a tri-decade experienced commercial photographer and the founder and president of volunteer organisation, Heartfelt.

Gavin Blue, Creative Cubes, AIPP, VIC AIPP, professional photographers, professional photography Australia
Gavin Blue discussing how to keep and maintain clients. (Photo by: Alan Moyle)

He took his speaking opportunity to discuss how to maintain repeat clients, with a large part of that being a focus on specialisation.

As many successful photographers will attest, Gavin believes you should always take on new opportunities, whether you initially want to or think you can actually do the job or not.

Say yes and make hiring you easy.
For a client, workability is more important than budget…They want someone who can solve problems, who can be available; someone who they don’t have to walk through their processes or explain things to.

– Gavin Blue

Gavin also attributes much of his success to forward thinking in terms of client care and long-lasting relationships, becoming and marketing yourself as a specialist, and giving back to the community in a voluntary capacity.

Finish Line

Many thanks to each of the decathlon speakers for sharing their time, experience, and expertise.

Thanks kindly to the Vic council for successfully running the 2019 decathlon, to President, Emily Black, for hosting the day, and to council member, Melissa Wood, for making the livestream service available for AIPP members far and wide.

This option is a real benefit to the greater community who may not always physically be able to attend events.

AIPP, VIC council, council members, professional photographers
2019 AIPP Victorian Council Members. (Background photo by: Mieke Boynton)

Given the decathlon’s site host, Creative Cubes, likes to describe itself as bringing “Gotham City swagger to Melbourne’s leafy inner east,” we’ll leave you with a Batman quote as food for thought as you continue to move yourself and your photography ever forward:

It’s not who I am underneath, but what I do that defines me.

– Batman

It’s a bit of a play on words of course and we all know few things really matter more than who we are ‘underneath,’ but it’s in the doing where the power ultimately lies.

For those who experienced the 2019 Vic decathlon, either in-person or online, we encourage you to take at least one of your learnings from the day and implement it through to completion.

Something small, something larger.


Good luck and we look forward to seeing you at the next one!


  • June 11, 2020 - Reply
    I appreciate, cause I found exactly what I was having a look for.
    You’ve ended my 4 day long hunt! God Bless you man. Have a great day.

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