Couture Meets the Lens: An Interview with Ingrid Irsigler

Ingrid Irsigler woman in theater.jpg

We sat down with South African photographer Ingrid Irsigler to talk techniques, tools and how to grow a client base.

What originally got you interested in photography? 

The seed was planted many years ago as a child when my Dad had a Polaroid camera, that I would ‘borrow’ - in the way of children - and use all his film, driving him completely potty! Shortly after I turned 5, he passed away and my best memories of him are taking photos together with that camera.

Jump forward a few years, and in my early career as a Creative Director, I attended a Design conference in Cape Town called Design Indaba. There was an incredible photographer, Koto Bolofo - I was mesmerized by his presentation. I’ve also always been a huge fan of Sarah Moon throughout my life (freaking out the kids at primary school who thought I was too arty to be real!) so a combination of these elements became references in my creative work.

All of those things contributed to an epiphany I had on a rainy day on the Island in Boracay, Philippines. I mean what else can you do but think on a rainy day on an island? I decided it was time to go and explore my love for documenting life and creating fantastical stories in a more focused manner. 

Did you receive any formal training in photography or were you self taught?

I joined part-time night classes for 6 months at a local photography school. A part of me feels strongly that ignorance really can be bliss. Not knowing what ‘wasn’t possible’ ultimately led to a different way of thinking, one that would never have happened had I been educated in a more traditional way. 

My approach to a project is always from an Art/Creative Director approach and storytelling start, never from the technical approach. I pretend in my head that everything is possible and we have no limitations at all. That we can do anything and everything. And then we work out how to do it!

That said,  I love the technical side - especially lighting which I would consider to be my secret superpower – and I worship colour!

Do you have a preferred photo editing software?  

I use Capture One and Photoshop.

What are your favorite tools and setups for lighting when it comes to your photography?

I shoot with a Nikon D850. This is the most incredible camera, it is like an extension of me. 

I use prime lenses. I have most of them in my kit, however, if you are starting out, or if I had to choose for a trip - I can absolutely shoot any story, location or beauty shoot on a 35mm; f1/4 and on an 85mm; f1/4 lens. 

I really don’t believe it’s about the amount of expensive gear you have - just understanding how to use the gear that you have really well. 

If I have extra space in my bag, the next lens I would pack would be my Nikon 135mm;f2D and I LOVE my Nikon 24mm; f1/4, then lastly Nikon 58; f1/4,

In terms of lighting, I am a total, obsessed lighting nerd. I use Profoto lighting gear for all my shoots. My favorite setup would always include:

Profoto B1x4

White Beauty Dish with Grid and Sock on hand

Profoto Zoom Reflector with Bardoors and a Grid Kit

For those hard to get to locations - my Profoto B2's and a Profoto Grid Kit are a must-have combo for any traveling photographer. 

I prefer to shoot with a mix of ambient light, be it studio or location. Then blend all the beautiful light together. 

In your opinion what makes a great photograph that people love?

Something that catches the imagination, and lights a spark in the heart. It’s being able to stop your viewer in their continuous scroll through the millions of images that are uploaded every single second of the day. 

It’s magic - you have to find your magic. 

What do you like most about photography?

The complete immersion in the telling a story. A shoot day that starts at 3 am, and finishes at 12 am the next evening, and the total focus that goes into creating a story or campaign. 

The amazing creatives I get to work with. To be in their space and spark off their energy on a project is just extraordinary. 

And of course, let’s not forget that ... I really just want to stand on ladders all day, and make pretty things. I think it’s an amazing way to live! My real life gets to be just one fantasy after another. I mean sure I don’t always remember the mundane things like buying groceries of feeding the cat, but then have we ever read of our heroes from the great tales of yore stopping off to get milk? I think not! 

You have a budding client portfolio. How did you grow your clientele?

Ahh, thank you so much! To begin, I like to identify the kind of work that sets my soul on fire. What do I want to shoot? It’s really important, to identify that and then see which clients fit the bill. Knowing your style is the first step to establishing a strong client base. 

My marketing platforms include Behance, which in my opinion is one of the most important creative networks around. Then I use Instagram and my website as other tools to get my work out there.  

From the time I secure the meeting or the phone call, it’s one client at a time and one campaign at a time. Not because I have a concentration problem or anything (as my business manager may suggest!), but because I want to focus all my creative energy on that client.

Client relationships are everything in this industry. You get one chance to impress and win them over - make sure you use it wisely and give it everything you possibly can. Over-deliver, and include a little something magical they weren’t expecting. Something that goes above and beyond the brief.

Are there any big plans or future projects you would like to tell us about?

An incredible shoot coming up in Morocco which is very exciting! 

Then I have campaigns and covers coming out monthly till the end of the year. 

I have also been working on my bottom draw fine art project (finally!). I am so excited about this! I get to include film, which I adore as a medium, but which isn’t always possible when shooting campaigns.  

My business manager is making me put this in – my amazing new product range of luxury art items, based on my photography! She’s very excited about it!


Now for some fun questions...

If you were forced to live inside of a 1990's cartoon show, which one would you choose? 

The Powerpuff Girls! In fact, come to think of it, some days it feels as if we are actually living in the show……

If you had to spend the rest of your life in prison with a celebrity who would you choose and why? 

Mark Ruffalo, prison is boring and ….I don’t know if you can publish the real reason…. So let’s just say he seems to be very cool and relaxed, I think to have a little hunk Hulk around would be helpful in prison. He is also fairly easy on the eyes, and he juggles... entertainment. 

If you had no choice, but to be eaten by any monster or animal, real or fictional, which creature would it be and why? 

Saving the city in a battle from Godzilla!

Would you rather fight a horse sized chinchilla or a thousand chinchilla sized horses?

Oh, this is easy. I have a mare, so basically this is like a normal Saturday morning. I reckon I would win at negotiating the thousand chinchilla sized horses.  

And finally, if you could go back in time and stop any movie from being made which one would it be and why?

It would be Ethen Hawk's “Before Sunrise”. Don’t get me wrong. It’s a great movie and one of my all-time favorites, but my gosh! It does tend to take the fairytale love story a tad too far, possibly leading some people to spend their entire adulthood vainly searching for the perfection of the fairytale. Some people. Not me. Just some that believe in fairy tales. Possibly those that spend their entire working lives chasing the magic of the woven tale.

You can check out more of Ingrid’s work at Behance, Instagram and her personal site here.

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Interviewee credits: ttps://

Wardrobe all from #africandesigners @mariannefasslerofficial CAFÉ by @davidtlale @leopardfrock @richfactory@bulbuliathreads@bulbuliathreadsofficial @imprint_za@maxhosa @afi_prive @matte_nolim@umatte_nolim @e.g.jewellery

CreativeDirector: @paulleisegang, AFI- @lindiwemlalazi, Photographer: @ingridalicephotography, Stylist: @karinorzol Hair: @saadique , Makeup: @les_w, Assistent: @theoneandonlywanderer, Post Production:, Post Production: @galinkastyle

Models: @graobe_noelle , @inky_h@anyonasola , @_allyway@sellonhlapo@roxsannesmith

Matthew Simon