Being Your Own Boss: Misha De-Stroyev, Award-Winning Photographer and Entrepreneur
Misha De-Stroyev is an award-winning photographer with a varied career path and a lot of talent. He was originally influenced by his father and started playing around with cameras when he was young. Now that he has 7 international awards under his belt, including Second Place, Silver Pangea in Siena International Photography Awards and National Geographic titles. In this issue of the Being your own Boss series, Misha shares his journey as a photographer and how he became a co-founder of Alter-View, and agency for photographers. Check out more of his photography on Instagram and his video for Hover.
I started when I was very young. I was influenced by my father, who was a big fan of photography. He had very old school film cameras that were amazing at the time. He had a nice collection of lenses that he used for different occasions. He constantly talked photography, he’d go into the uses of lenses and how they magnify or change how you view the world. He’d be the person always take photos on family vacations. It stuck with me, seeing him with all this cool equipment that I wasn’t allowed to touch at the time (laughs). It got me intrigued and interested in photography.
The Early Years
My parents bought me my first video camera – tape video camera. I also had cheaper versions of film cameras that I used and messed around with a lot. I always owned a camera, though not in a professional sense, but I owned something that essentially allowed me to capture the world.
As time went by, my equipment became more complex and more on the professional-level. My friend and I, bought our first DSLR. That happened in 2007 and was the launch of my career in photography. With that DSLR, I took my first photos that I actually printed and hung on my wall.
The Career Path is a Winding Road
My career as a photographer has been all over the place. I started out as an art photographer, which essentially means I was creating photos for the purpose of printing them as finished art pieces. Each photo was intended to be printed in a certain size, on certain paper, using certain printing process – very specific. It’s still what I love to do and it’s what really pushed me forward. The difference between digital and print is huge. I feel that you appreciate your work a lot more on paper – especially if it’s printed in a huge size (laughs).
Art photography was nice and interesting, but I wanted to go deeper into what photography is and the process behind a great photo, so I decided to focus on landscape and architecture. This is where I shot the most amount of my work and it has gained me international recognition. This is the photography that has won me 7 international awards! I recently received the Second Place Prize – Silver Pangea – at the Siena International Photography Awards. This Award is one of the most important photography contests in the world. I have also won National Geographic titles for my cityscape work. Architecture is what I love to do the most, and it is something that has formed the basis of my professional photography. Architecture photography is so specific – it’s geometry, lines, design, symmetry… it truly teaches you to see the world in a very particular and mathematical way. I apply this knowledge to every type of photography I do nowadays.
Now, I’m in the world of commercial photography. I focus mainly on commercial sports photography. I’ve been doing it for three years, so not too long. I shoot sports because I love capturing the movement of the subject and I’m a huge sports fan so I could merge these two worlds of photography and sports together. I get to meet interesting athletes and take action photos of them, and – voila! That’s what I continue to do right now as well as run my agency. I founded the agency, Alter-view, three years ago. It’s centered around commercial and advertising photography (like the sports photography I do). I represent photographers and find them jobs across Europe and Russia. We work in 5 countries to date.
Advice to Aspiring Photographers
The advice that I would probably give myself in the past is the most complicated to apply: “find a particular style of type of photography that you’re the most passionate about and follow that style and type until the end, all the way.” Today the most successful photographers do this. You’re either in advertising, or commercial, or you do architecture, or you’re an art photographer. I went through the whole process and did a bit of everything along the way. It’s a big problem that I have, though it suits how I like to work. I have rock solid themes: advertising, sports, architecture – there’s a lot of things that I do, but I believe you should find your niche early on if you can.
If someone can and is willing to settle down on one topic, then they should. They should be as creative as they can within that specific type of photography. Always strive to do something new and different. This is difficult in photography, especially in digital, because we’re always influenced by everything we see and it blurs our vision. You see something, say on Instagram, think it’s cool, and try to emulate it. This is good for learning – even I did it because it pushes you to be better. But at some point you need move on to the step that’s greater than emulating professionals. You should strive to be greater, more creative, and more unique. The work that is unique and new gets noticed and brings you success, especially in commercial and advertising. Nowadays, there are a lot of creative and talented photographers out there and everyone has the tools to make amazing work. Often, I see work and I’m wowed by what I see. Everyone is so good. You need to be better to succeed.
“Choose a photography theme. Follow that theme through. Be as unique and creative as possible within that theme.”
How do you start your day?
I wake up super early, around 7AM, then I grab my iPhone, and put on Apple Music Radio Blues. I get ready while listening to blues. Then, I will always have a coffee and start working.
What do you do to relax?
It’s important to multitask to change work up. If I feel I am getting down, or my work is stagnating, or I’m losing creativity then I will switch to something else or I’ll completely cut off. I go for a walk or meet up with a friend, then I’ll come back in a few hours and restart. I can be working from when I wake up around 7AM until 10PM or even later, so it’s about shuffling and switching things up during the day and not getting too much of one thing.
What can’t you live without?
My camera! (laughs) But mostly my drone. Drone photography is something that’s super important and not only in terms of photography but also for fun and exploration. You can expand your view of things around you with a drone. Drone photography has allowed me to take some incredible shots for my personal work and has won me multiple awards. Your eyes become a bird and you can see everything around you. It widens your vision and creates beautiful shots.
What are the best tools for the job?
It depends on what you’re shooting. – you need to own the tools that suits your photography best. I own a Canon, full frame that I take everywhere with me – I can do commercial shoots and traveling and architecture with this camera. However, advertising is more complicated – I need more complicated cameras such as, Phase I or Hasselblad, that have specific uses. You wouldn’t carry these out on the street and shoot architecture.
Choose the camera that will satisfy your needs in the best possible way. There are so many pieces of equipment out there today and many brands that are really, really good. It’s very difficult to go wrong.
I always have three go-to lenses with me for travel, personal, and commercial: wide angle (16-35 Canon) and zoom lens (70-200 Canon) and 50mm fixed lens. I can manage anything with these.
The Best Thing about Being a Photographer
Most people would say something along the lines of, “photography allows me to capture what I feel inside.” (laughs) It’s lame, but it’s true to a certain point. It shows our perspective of the world. I think what photography does is it allows me to connect with people. Whether it’s commercial or reportage, I cross a boundary that not a lot of people can in a normal conversation with someone. It allows me to really enter a person’s world. I can flow in it, swim in it, get the feel of it, and then try and capture it, and hopefully be successful in capturing their essence. Photography allows me to be creative and have a concept and an idea. People work around my idea and turn it into a reality. This is what photography with post-production is – when everything comes together.
“In recent years, people and the connections I create are very important to me.”
Click to watch Misha’s YouTube video on photography and the tools he uses that help him put out a successful image online: