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Local Creatives Re-invent and Adapt to Covid Age

Pictured: Local digital content creator Myka Stanley of Myka Stanley Media

Around the world, the global pandemic continues to impact everyone professionally and personally resulting in massive job losses and leaving many to re-think their career choices.

However this unexpected event has given many an opportunity to re-invent themselves and pivot their businesses in order to survive and thrive in a post-pandemic world.

Myka Stanley is a photographer and videographer based in Apia, Samoa who adapted his business to accommodate the new normal and opened himself up to explore other genres in the digital creative space as a way to continue his passion and make a living.

Before the pandemic, Myka mainly took bookings from couples in New Zealand and Australia looking to hold their dream wedding in Beautiful Samoa. There was no shortage of work for Myka because tourism was booming until border closures in 2020 hit his business hard leading to cancellations and refunds.

“I refunded a lot of the deposits which I would normally have used as financial security but given the circumstances for everyone at the time, I returned a large sum of those deposits,” said Myka.

“In 2020 when COVID initially hit, I wasn’t expecting it to last this long. I thought it would last a couple of months and then everything would all blow over and we’d all get back to normal.”

As the year progressed and the pandemic showed no sign of abating, he started thinking about pivoting his business and made a few changes by becoming more involved in corporate and commercial work.

“I figured, I would just try to meet the needs of whatever inquiry I received. Previously, I was mainly just focusing on weddings because that’s what I had chosen to specialize in,” he said.

“Initially it was a big shift but now I see that if COVID hadn’t happened I probably wouldn’t have ventured out into other forms of media and it’s been a journey that I’ve actually enjoyed.”

Myka has been in the media business for a number of years now and first dabbled in the art of photography/videography when, as a child, he was gifted a disposable camera at Christmas.

“I liked the idea of capturing a frame and freezing it forever but it never really dawned on me that I would do it later on in life,” he laughed.

The development of smartphones played a key role in the pursuit of his interest in the craft because it allowed him to experiment with different compositions and editing techniques which he enjoyed learning about and could do with ease on a cellphone.

“The inspiration to pursue this as a freelancer came about because of my travels through Europe. In 2016, I took myself to England and basically went backpacking through 12 different countries for almost a year living as cheaply as possible while staying in hostels and eating street food,” he said.

“Thinking back now, one of the biggest regrets I had was not capturing more images. I was all about living in the moment and was really anti-photos. I just wanted to enjoy the experience and didn’t want to be ‘that’ person that pulls out their phone all the time.”

“Looking back, I had so many cool experiences I will never really be able to share with anybody apart from what I can remember but as you get older your memory fades, they become more and more vague. I think if I hadn’t had been so dumb back then I could have actually captured a lot of those really amazing experiences properly and I would have been able to share them with a lot more people. I get a lot of enjoyment from sharing cool experiences from my life with others which partly explains why I’ve chosen to do what I do.”

To him, the phrase ‘A picture is worth a thousand words’ has been well used but he adds that oftentimes ‘one photo isn’t enough’.

“Why put a limit on how many memories and moments you can freeze forever when you have the technology at your fingertips?” he said.

Following his Euro trip Myka decided to take a risk and pursue a career in the photography industry, purchasing his first DSLR camera, a Canon 7D. It wasn’t until six months in when unexpectedly his Canon 7D stopped working that he decided to go “all in” and purchase a more expensive camera just in time for a big break in his career.

“When that camera broke I really only had two options, I could either give up on the dream or pursue it. So I basically decided to go all in. With almost all the savings that I had, I bought an actual DSLR, full frame camera.”

“I had invested into this camera and I’d been doing what I was doing for about a year at this stage when an opportunity arose to work for Survivor as one of their main photographers which was a pivotal moment in the development of my career.”

“It was a huge financial break for me at the time because it was a fairly long contract with a decent sized company and it allowed me to take on more risk and invest further into the business.”

Myka has certainly made a name for himself in Samoa and encourages other aspiring photographers to approach their craft with patience and persistence.

“Be prepared to wait a while; don’t expect that the dream will come to fruition all of a sudden. Be patient with the journey. Build your brand and always do the best that you can do with every opportunity that you have,” he said.

“I’ve landed some really amazing jobs and I’ve worked with some really amazing clients so far but it doesn’t always go according to what you hope. Don’t let it knock you down.”

One of the most important lessons Myka has learnt in his journey as a digital content creator is that talent isn’t always enough to get far in the industry after making many financial sacrifices while striving to perfect his craft.

“There’s a saying in photography ‘All the gear and no idea’. There’s a lot more to photography/videography than just having the gear, and I think it’s really the journey to getting that gear slowly and learning more about your craft that really develops you as a digital creator.”

“It’s taken me thousands of hours of learning, trial and error, thousands of dollars spent and a lot of losses to get to where I am today. I’m a still long way from where I’d like to be but like anything you choose to pursue, it will always take some work. It isn’t an easy industry to crack especially in a place like Samoa where a lot of the equipment is unavailable and extremely expensive.”

“There’s still much room for growth. However, I think the key is to focus on providing the best service that you can and the results will follow.”

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