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Deb Schwedhelm – Brisbane Workshop

I recently had the pleasure to meet Deb Schwedhelm and attend her Brisbane Workshop.  Deb was even more knowledgable, lovely and approachable than I was expecting and she was open in sharing everything we wanted to know. I also learned a lot from the other ladies who attended the workshop: Anjie, Angie, Niki and our wonderful host, Jody. At the end of each workshop day, I lay in my bed for some time, my mind buzzing, thinking about the things people had said. I want to share a few insights I had during that weekend.

Deb Schwedhelm at work

Deb talked about the need to separate work for clients and personal projects.  There’s a sort of dissatisfaction that comes with only shooting for clients, that faint itch to produce something for yourself, something more. You can get lucky and find clients with whom you can produce some of your favourite work but it will be rare to find those gems. It almost goes without saying that having models who are people you have a relationship with (kids, partner, friends) will produce work on a different level that of someone who you’ve just met. This, and a greater level of artistic control is why personal work is the stuff that will really satisfies the urge to create, whereas client work will rarely do so.

Deb Schwedhelm at work


The reason I attended the workshop was that I felt like I had lost my vision. I had been focusing on making photographs for other people, but didn’t know what I wanted to make for myself. I knew I had a base level of technical competency, but I felt like my work wasn’t getting better. I’d participated in online workshops and watched many creative live photography courses but although these things improved my technique, they didn’t seem to help me find my style. I’d lost track of some of the photographers I used to love, and instead I’d mostly been following commercial photographers who were very successful business people but not the most inspirational artistic sources.

Mangrove - Sabatomic Perth Photographer

Mangrove seed - Sabatomic Perth Photographer

One thing I did know was that I wanted to learn how to create more atmosphere in my photos – it’s something Deb does really well. She showed us several sets of her images, including her evolution from beginning to the present. We observed the complete process of Deb shooting and editing both a personal and client shoot and Deb explained the thought processes behind what she did. Somewhere along the line, I realised that what I needed to do to get out of my rut was take more creative risks. For example, playing with slower shutter speed to show movement or using selective focus via lensbaby could evoke mystery or nostalgia. I realised that in the process of learning how to take technically good images and shoot efficiently, I had forgotten how to play with my camera settings. To get out of my creative rut, I needed to experiment with purposefully breaking the rules and see what happened next.

Flower crown - Sabatomic Perth Photographer
Breakfast - Sabatomic Perth Photographer


Deb Schwedhelm at work
Deb Schwedhelm at work
I was petrified when it came to the portfolio review; Deb had asked us all to print 10 photos – our best work – and bring them along for critique. When Deb looked at my photos, she told me straight away that they all told a story. We did an exercise where we wrote words to describe each others’ work, and words related to storytelling cropped up there; “journalistic”, “emotive” and “documentary”. More words; “dream”, “mystical” and “ethereal”. I could not find the words to describe my work before the workshop, but here they all were, written on little yellow sticky notes. I’m so thankful to Deb and the girls for taking the time to look through my images; it was so good to get a fresh, outside perspective on my work and where I should go next with it.

Holly the cat

I left Deb’s workshop feeling more confident, full of hope and ideas. I learned about a lot more than just photography at Deb’s Brisbane workshop, many off-topic discussions were enjoyed. The most important thing I took home from the workshop was that every moment we have with our loved ones is precious. We should be purposeful with time and value our time, especially at night time and on weekends, when you can spend time with your loved ones. Now that I’m home, I’m keen to make time to get out with my partner and friends, create memories and have a good time in the process.

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