Surf Photographer: Sean Davey

Sean Davey’s photography journey started back on the 20th of October in 1977 when he squeezed off his first ever photograph, fittingly a picture of a wave.    It’s been more than 30 years since then. In that time, Sean has built his name as a premier photographer of all things beach and surf.     He’s managed to garner more than 140 magazine covers around the world and lived out of a suitcase during a fair amount of that time.     Sean’s name has become synonymous with breathtaking beach scenery, often involving incredibly clear blue waters, palm trees, surfers and all manner of sea life.    Sean makes a living from his home on the north shore of Oahu, producing and marketing his fine art Canvas prints in between photo surfaris to (usually) out-of-the-way locations.   He still also supplies magazines and agents with his imagery, the world over.   For more information about Sean’s fine art Canvas prints, send an email to fine or just log on to: 

Email: Personal website:
Automated print site:

Describe yourself in 3 words: Creative, kind and motivated. 

What is your life motto? Make the most of it. We only get one. 

When did you start pursuing your career and how long did it take to become successful? I started photographing in 1977 as a teen and started earning from it a few years later.  I’ve been self employed ever since.

How many hours did you dedicate to pursuing your dream? That’s an odd question.   I spent YEARS pursuing it.    

Describe how difficult the business really is?  Anything to do with photography is very, very hard to make it in now due to the fact that so many more people shoot photographs, because of the introduction of digital imaging.   As a result of the massive increase in shooters, it seems that the vast number of photography markets have crumbled and been replaced with income which is a fraction of what it used to be. This has pretty much resulted in many of the best names walking away from the business and moving onto other forms of income.

I pretty much walked away from 20 plus years as a magazine photographer because it is no longer viable.

What is the mistake that taught you an extremely valuable lesson? Actually, I made the mistake of going digital too soon.  Back then (2005) the magazine editors didn’t want to know about digital and I lost my footing with a couple of important clients.   My reasoning at the time was that I wanted to stay ahead of the curve. I just didn’t count on the magazines resisting the new technology so strongly. 

What is the best piece of advice you have been given to date? Don’t spend more money on being a photographer than you’re not prepared to get back.    It’s an expensive pastime and a lot of folks spend way more on it than they will ever get back.

In your mind, is formal training essential?  No.  I have no formal training at all.   I paid attention to the works of my predecessors and made note of how I wanted to approach doing my photography.  There were a few key individuals who paid more notice to that than others. They are the ones who were producing unique eye catching imagery and that’s pretty much the direction I took.  I think it’s important to have a unique approach to your work. It helps to set it apart from others and create a demand for it.

Do you think having a mentor is important? How would you go about getting one for this industry?   It doesn’t hurt to have one.  If there’s someone whose style of work you like, just get in touch with them (easier than ever these days) and see if they can use an assistant or an intern.   That’s a great way to get hands on experience and learn about how a certain business works.

What are some steps emerging talent can take to start/further their career? Be individual.  Have a niche.  Do something that totally sets your work apart from others.   Those are the ones that tend to be successful.  Oh and have a good work ethic.  You’ll need that for sure.  

What kept you going when you felt like giving up? 
I never felt like giving up.  🙂 

Do you believe that ‘making it’ is about luck and being in the right place at the right time?  No.  It happens that way for some folks, but in my mind that isn’t “making it”.  Making it is getting there completely off your own efforts and skills.    

One thought on “Surf Photographer: Sean Davey

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s