Local woman one of two official photogs for Much Music Video Awards

Tara Bradbury
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Local photographer Sandra-Lee Elford is headed to Toronto Sunday, where she's been hired by Much Music as one of two official photographers to shoot the Much Music Video Awards. Submitted photo


Anyone could buy a half-decent camera and call themselves a photographer on Facebook, says Sandra-Lee Elford. It's those who have the patience, dedication, attention to detail and artistic eye who are truly professionals.

"Everyone can be a department store photographer, taking pictures of people and making them look good. People need to realize the difference between enjoying a hobby and making a career out of it," Elford explained. "It's the true photographer who can capture what happens, as it happens."

Elford, born in Toronto and raised in Dildo, should know. At just 24 years old, she makes her living taking pictures, from weddings to baby portraits and everything in between. Since she was in high school, however, her heart's been on stage with bands.

"I started taking pictures of bands with a little crappy point and shoot camera," Elford, who now shoots with a Nikon D300 or D700, said with a laugh. "Music, concerts and live events are what I love doing the most, although I do spend my summers shooting weddings. It pays the bills."

Since perfecting her skills with a basic photography training course at Academy Canada and a sort-of apprenticeship with a senior photographer, Elford has pretty much become the main rock music photographer in this province, and the go-to girl for any professional acts - local or visiting - who want concert photos or a photoshoot. She counts Rex Goudie and the guys of Hedley among her good friends.

As a photographer for Live 'n Loud magazine, Elford frequently travels, and has photographed artists such as Justin Bieber, Katy Perry, Mariah Carey, John Mayer and Miley Cyrus.

A few days ago, she got what she considers one of her biggest gigs yet: shooting the Much Music Video Awards in Toronto.

Although Elford shot the awards last year for Live 'n Loud, this year she's been hired by Much Music to be one of two official photographers to do it, after the bigwigs saw her work online and liked it.

"They asked if I was committed to the job, and I said I was 100 per cent down," Elford said. "I cried for two hours when I got the email, I was that excited."

Elford, who laughed when she admitted she's not at all musical herself, will board a 7 a.m. flight to Toronto on Sunday, after shooting a wedding Saturday night, and will have up-close-and-personal access to host Selena Gomez, and acts including Bruno Mars, Avril Lavigne and Snoop Dogg. What's she's most excited about is getting close to her idol, Lady GaGa.

"I love her. I even have a 'Born This Way' tattoo," said Elford, referring to Lady GaGa's latest album.

In the future, Elford - who runs Facebook groups for some of the musicians she's close with - hopes to expand her business to include social media managing for artists. She's not ruling out a move back to Toronto, when the time is right.

"I can see it happening, if I get the right deal," she said.

tbradbury@thetelegram.com www.twitter.com/tara_bradbury


Organizations: Academy Canada, Loud magazine

Geographic location: Toronto, St. John's, Dildo

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Recent comments

  • K
    June 25, 2011 - 07:46

    To the above poster, B, Sandra is well aware of the Toronto scene. She has done work there for many bands, brides and grooms, models and actors, just to name a few. Whenever she posts that she is visiting the big city, she gets bunches of emails from potential clients in the city. It is wrong of you to assume all of her experience is based in the St. John's local music scene. Her work has been published in various national music magazines. And you have to gain ground somewhere, so why not make it your local music scene? You're doing something you love while supporting your friends. Sounds pretty sweet to me! No matter what profession you work in, there's always going to be people who do not like your work. It's life. I'm sure Sandra knows this and is more than ok with this. Sandra applied for accreditation to shoot the awards for a magazine, but MUCH MUSIC wanted her for THEMSELVES. That says something.

  • mel
    June 18, 2011 - 12:16

    Congratulations on all of your success Sandra-Lee! I've seen you in action many times down around CB's, you do a great job. It's fantastic to see somebody like you who is my age making a successful career in an arts field. It's no easy task. Keep it up!

  • CL
    June 18, 2011 - 07:57

    "Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great." - Mark Twain

  • Don
    June 17, 2011 - 15:45

    Don't be so cocky there little girl....your work is okay at best.

  • Faye
    June 17, 2011 - 15:44

    I agree with the first comment, all I needed to read was the first line. You don't have to have an artistic eye to be a "true" photographer, hahahaha...Photography is not all about the ARTS sorry to burst your bubble there.

  • Jerry
    June 16, 2011 - 17:31

    Go get them girl. A small town girl makes it to teh bigtime. Looks good on you. Danidean you are vary low. Been following this firl for a few years and she is going places...she do not think she is better than anyone else...SHE IS A PROFESSIONAL!!!!! Danidean stay home and look for another sucess story to crumble about LOL Great job

  • danidean
    June 16, 2011 - 15:47

    Absolutely John and I don't profess to be a cowboy either. Nor could I be a lowly department store photographer.....how do you think those who work in this field feel with these types of comments? And yes, the quote has been around for years, used in many situations and always with the same condescending undertone that is presented here.

    • Sandra
      June 17, 2011 - 20:09

      Danidean, Why do you insist on thinking I meant to put down anybody, I know lots of great photographers who started out being studio photographers in department stores. They rose above and beyond because they had talent and an eye for photography. Unfortunately, a background in professional photography isn't necessary in these jobs. I'm not the best with words, so maybe I may have worded something wrong during the interview? Again, I apologize if I have offended you or anyone. It was in no way my intention. - Sandra

  • a
    June 16, 2011 - 12:56

    I've been following your work for years! Good on ya!

  • Newfie
    June 16, 2011 - 11:51

    Go make us proud! Your work is astonishing, and I know you will have no trouble in showing that there is lots of talent on the rock.

    • B
      June 17, 2011 - 02:49

      I agree with the first comment, I live in this province and know a few photographers who are proffesionals and dont like your work they love what they do and have connections in different categories. you are correct, anyone can grab a camera and take pictures, you don't stand out from that category. Anyone with carisma can grab connections but there are 3000 people like you in toronto doing the exact same thing. The reason why you have gained ground is you found a niche in the local music scene. good luck to you but dont put someone down who tomorrow wants to pick up a camera and step above you. unproffesional.

  • danidean
    June 16, 2011 - 09:11

    Sorry, the very first comment in the article told me all I need to know about this person. It's one thing to be confident in your abilities but quite another to attempt to put down others because YOU don't think they are professional photographers. I suspect if a client has an issue with a photo you've taken, you would never admit that they are right, perhaps they are just not knowledgeable enough to know what their photo should look like. I am not a photographer in any sense of the word, but this selfserving, holier than thou, remark was immature, disrespectful and uncalled for and certainly not conducive to encouraging those who are making a decent living doing just what you started out as. I guess she was always special and felt that even starting out with her point and shoot she was better than all the others. I would rather have a photographer that I could relate to and be comfortable with rather than one who has put herself so high on her pedestal that any communication would be on a one way street. Remember, that ladder you're climbing might just be a step ladder than only goes up and down two or three steps.

    • Sandra
      June 16, 2011 - 14:12

      DANIDEAN, I'm sorry you took the comment like that. I in no way, shape or form meant to come off holier than thou or disrespectful. I respect up and coming photographers, and look forward to viewing their work and helping their careers grow. I'm part of a great network of photographers, seasoned and starting out - and I hire and work with graduates from Academy Canada and NSCC who themselves are now moving on starting their own careers. I was mentored for years by incredible photographers from the moment I picked up a professional camera. If you knew me personally, you would know this is not only my career, my life commitment, but a love and a passion of mine. I am humbled by this, but excited - as anyone in my shoes would be. It's a big gig for someone who grew up in a small down dreaming of just even seeing her favorite artists in concert - every day I thank god, my family, friends and mentors for helping me through the rough path that is life. I adore all my clients and from brides, to babies to musicians - each of them has taught me valuable lessons. I'm only young, and I do have much to learn. So I apologize if anything I have said in this interview has upset you. - Sandra

    • John Pike
      June 16, 2011 - 14:17

      Danidean, The quote from her facebook is the truth, and maybe you need to be a photographer to understand it. Any person can take a picture, you need to love what your doing, you need to study, you need to live it, to take a Photograph. The idea behind the quote has been around for years, and is not my any means a new idea. You can ride a horse, but it doesn't make you a cowboy.

    • t
      June 16, 2011 - 15:04

      " People need to realize the difference between enjoying a hobby and making a career out of it " She is talking about a career, most people on facebook do it as a hobby, she wasnt putting anyone down, she was simply stating to make a career out of it, you have to work hard. You may have took it the wrong way, but from how I read it , she is just saying you have to work hard if you want your hobbie to bloom into a career, & Personally I see on her photos how hard she has to work, she adds her own touch and she gives her customers what they want.

    • marybeth
      June 16, 2011 - 17:25

      danidean..there is always someone to put down the success of others. I actually hired this lady to do my wedding and she was like part of the family by the end of the night. She has everything it takes to be a great photographer. She went down the right path and studied the art of photography and work under another professional photography as an apprentice. The article is far from what you are saying. Sounds like you have a personal issue with her. I have seen the ads for walmart photographers..no experience necessary. So you know the quality of work you are getting. A professional photographer becomes great over time...she has taken the right path and she is going places. You sound so jealous of her sucess...maybe she has put you in your place before...sure sounds like it. Wishing you great sucess Sandra...danidean get a life. Anyone could buy a half-decent camera and call themselves a photographer is a great quote used by many!!!!!!!! get your facts right

    • A. Reid
      June 17, 2011 - 06:37

      Danidean, I think you are taking her comment and placing your own judgements. I didn't see anywhere in her artical anything about placing herself on a pedestal, did you? Did anyone? I have to say to you what my parents always said to me. "If you don't have anything good to say....keep your comments to yourself". Be a positive impact in this world, not a negative one. You'd be surprised what can happen to you when you look for the good and not point out the negative. Try it out! Great Job Sandra-Lee.....YOU ROCK!!

    • J
      June 17, 2011 - 07:51

      Yes, John, it might be an old quote, but it sounds pretty darn arrogant when you apply it to yourself.