We’re continuing with our #DIYwithDYD series. #DIYwithDYD is a series that follows creative individuals. We learn how they made their amazing projects happen. This week we’re talking to Alessio La Ruffa. Alessio has been featured by Instagram as a South African Instagrammer to watch. We think he’s amazing because of the effort he’s put into encouraging the Instagram scene in Pretoria. He also has small business supplying photography related iPhone accessories.

DYD: We’re talking to you about Instagramming in Pretoria and South Africa as a whole. What is the Instagram community like in South Africa?
Alessio: The Instagram community is awesome. As much as it is an online platform, it also creates communities and builds friendship offline. You know, in real life.

DYD: What does Instagram mean for you? Why do you Instagram?
Alessio:
Instagram is a means of expression for me. It’s the only creative thing that I do that turns out the way I want it to. The community also plays a massive role. I’ve met some of the coolest people I know through the app.

DYD: We’ve noticed a rise in the number of Instawalks/Photowalks in the Pretoria region. Do you ever think that Pretoria will parallel the Instagram scene in Johannesburg?
Alessio:
I think so. Pretoria has so much that has yet to be discovered. Joburg’s Instagrammers have done a great job of capturing most of Jozi.

The talent and potential in Pretoria is also insane. I think we just don’t get enough press because the perception is that we aren’t as cool as Jozi, but there’s a core team of Pretorians (is that even a word?) that are looking at changing that perception.

DYD: What three character traits do you need to excel in your field?
Alessio:
Persistence, creativity and productivity.

DYD: What does an average day look like for you?
Alessio:
I open my eyes and reach for my phone. From there it’s emails, coffee, meetings and admin. On good days I get to go out and shoot.

DYD: What have been some of the difficulties you’ve had to face along your journey
Alessio:
Getting my name out there and getting noticed. A lot of people only see the pictures in my feed and think it’s so easy to just ‘take a photo’. It’s not. I only take photos maybe 10 percent of the time.

I was also all over the place in the beginning. I got a business coach in my corner and his help has been priceless.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m still facing difficulties on my journey. Every day. But every day I learn from the day before.

DYD: We see you engage with people for your portraits. What is the process behind taking a street portrait of someone you don’t know?
Alessio: I used to be pretty nervous about approaching people, not so long ago. But I’ve started approaching strangers and sometimes they’re keen, sometimes they refuse and sometimes they want money.

After a while you get a feel for people, and you get an idea of which people will be more open to having their portraits taken.

DYD: We’re going to ask your opinion on the phone vs camera debate. What are your thoughts about posting photos taken on a camera not belonging to a phone on Instagram?
Alessio:
Ha! I asked my followers this exact question the other day. I think that the best camera is the one you have with you, and lately it’s been my DSLR. You can just create a much better picture with a proper camera, so why limit yourself? In fact, people are taking photos with film cameras, scanning their photos and uploading them to Instagram. The camera you use is simply a tool to create. So I’d say use whatever it takes to get the outcome you want.

DYD: How on earth do you make money from Instagram?
Alessio:
Slowly. For real. I’ve built up a fair amount of followers over the years and that has put me in the position to get paid to post for clients. I also do work for some cool corporates that see the value in Instagram. They pay me to create content that I’ll either share on my feed, I’ll share on their account, or they share on their own accounts.

DYD: What have been some of the highlights that you’ve experienced?
Alessio:
The top of my list has to be going on a helicopter flip over Joburg and taking aerial shots. Meeting all the cool people that I can count as my friends is way up there, and I get to travel quite often to do work for clients.

DYD: This feature falls in our “Do It Yourself” series. We’re trying to get young people to see different ways of handling their futures. What advice would you give to young people about starting their own projects and/or businesses?
Alessio: I would have to say that making the decision to start your own business should come sooner rather than later. See if it’s viable to turn something you’re passionate about into a business.

Remember, your passion has many sides to it that you could monetise. Photography, for example, could be wedding photography, selling of gear, selling photo albums, selling accessories and selling prints. Make a calculated decision, then go out there and do it, if it makes business sense. It might take you a while to turn a profit, but there’s nothing quite as rewarding as doing it yourself.

Photos by Adriaan Louw