Meet David & Sandy Tankersley of Sandavi Photographers. This right-eyed, Canon shooting, married team, merged portions of their first names to come up with their business name, Sandavi. After googling the new name, they found that it is a term that refers to a classical music composition which has a very particular part to play in the mystical unfoldment of the melody. They wish to convey their branding as simple, elegant, and lyrical, and are heavily inspired by the jazz age. They focus mainly on weddings, but also enjoy “environmental based” portraiture, and, as Sandy is also a pre-school teacher, they can see themselves taking on children’s portraiture in the future.
Describe the moment you decided it was time to pursue this as a career?
I came of age in the 90’s and was heavily into the old masters of black & white, outdoor photography, such as Edward & Brett Weston, Ansel Adams, Minor White….and on into Galen Rowell and Art Wolf. I was fascinated by photography but never felt I was good enough to make a living shooting that sort of imagery. I was fortunate to have a mentor who taught me much better than my college classes did who happened to be a wedding photographer. This was way before digital and I was still young and loved my weekends too much to even consider working with him or weddings at all. I also saw his workflow at this time and his struggle to get clients to complete their book orders so that he could get fully paid. I didn’t want any part of that. I worked in photo labs and for lab equipment manufacturers for a while and slowly losing interest in photography. Fast forward a few years and digital photography revolutionized everything! My passion for the craft returned and I now really wanted to do something more with imagery. I then discovered Rangefinder magazine, the OSP forum, and other resources and steered into wedding photography because now most of the barriers I saw were vaporized. I was also now older, wiser, and OK with the idea of spending my weekends doing something I love.
What is one thing you’ve learned so far that has proven most valuable?
Photographically speaking….the sunny F-16 rule…and perhaps the principle of guide numbers! These are rock-solid foundations that can really help you out of a jam if your electronics fail. Business wise, As quoted in Dane Sanders’ “Fast Track Photographer” you are not in the ‘photography’ business, you are in the ‘photographer’ business. Meaning to me that it’s not just your skills that make you a success, it’s how you sell and market yourself as a business person.
What makes you different from everyone else?
I feel that as a team, Sandy & I have a great combination of friendly, personable people skills as well as a technical foundation that allows gives us our own unique style. I see most photographers out there boasting that they are ‘available light’ photographers. This means to me that they are not competent with their lighting. While shooting in available light with a fast lens works incredibly well most of the time, what happens when there is no flattering light? We enjoy the challenges and rewards of off-camera flash. I will avoid flash when I can, but will gladly break-out my flash gear when appropriate. I am a big fan of the Strobist and love testing and using some of the gear that I have made, inspired by what I have learned on that blog.
One item you can’t live without?
does a kit count? Then that would be my Canon STE-2 combined with my Radio Popper system.
Your best bokeh image and why?
It’s a ring shot with the rings supported on the sword of a miniature knight. The wedding theme was about England, and so I grabbed the knight from a table, placed it in gront of some distant lights and carefully taped the rings in place.
“Skinney legs and all” by Tom Robbins. I just love his take on the world and this book is now more relevant than ever.
What comes to mind right now is The world according to Garp. I love it for no particlar reason, it just makes me laugh every time I see it.
Where do you find inspiration?
For photography…blogs, podcasts, magazines, and providing an image that is cherished by the person and their families.
What do you think is the most valuable aspect of your business?
I would say it’s the people behind it, us, and the personable nature that we have.
If you could second shoot with anyone, who would it be?
Mike Colon! Just to watch, learn and keep my mouth shut while seeing how he interacts with the people.
What did you have to do to actually take the leap? Did you have any hoops to jump through?
Having the courage to just do it having never truly assisted took courage. We were fortunate enough to start with a couple with very little money and we had very little to offer. We have since come a long way and recently shot his sister’s wedding. What a difference 2.5 years made! The next big leap is for at least one of us to commit to this full time as we still have day jobs. In these uncertain times, though, I am grateful for what we have now.
Do you have suggestions for others trying to make the transition?
Just do it…get out there and get involved. Join OSP, join the [b] school and network with other photographers. Also, I highly recommend Camera Dojo for it’s site content and podcast. They cover the fundamentals of this business incredibly well.
What is the biggest or most creative thing you do/have done to draw new clients?
Having worked in the photo lab industry for many years, I reckon myself a pretty descent printer. The current paper materials available for inkjet printing are amazing. I love to show a print and see people appreciate the finer paper qualities and textures on the papers I use. I now enjoy printing on canvas and making my own gallery wraps.