As South Africa’s fresh cannabis industry explodes, in-direct opportunities within this area are growing. What were once considered semi-normal professions, now find themselves working with; and doing well in this very exciting sphere of green. 

Content creation of various kinds form a large part of this canopy with platforms like Instagram aiding Pharma and other brands in selling their flower. There’s a viable opportunity right there if your photography skills are any good. 

The Nug Photographer
Ash – The Nug Photographer

Someone busy making a name for themselves is The Nug Photographer. I wanted to catch up with Ash and get insight into his world of enlarged trichomes and dazzling bag appeal to see what it takes. 

At the same time, we’ll ask Nug himself to dispense some advice on how we, the home grower, can take better shots of our own nugs for the gram…

Brendon – Is there work as a photographer in the cannabis industry currently?

Nug Photographer – Yes and no. So yes there is work but not a substantial amount enough for something I would call an industry right now. I myself have to go through certain months where I have no work, absolutely zero work (in cannabis) . I do a lot of stuff with photography not only in cannabis. I deal with trucks, you know, horse and trailers and things like that when I don’t have cannabis work.

Which is something I wanted to ask you about had you said no as it’s still new…

It is very, very new and I think there’s a lot of growth that still needs to happen before there’s this explosive need for high quality media to be a norm. Yes I do have work from farms but, I mean,  these guys are harvesting every other month. And it’s not always that they have something that they say, wow, this is worth shooting. There are a few guys that I’m doing annual port folios for, which is beautiful, at the end of the year we put together a photo book. It’s a spread of all of the stuff that you’ve actually run throughout the year. So that’s one of the things I’m doing that’s quite exciting right now.

When and did it happen and what type of photography were you doing, or was it the trucks, when you decided I can move into cannabis? Or what came first, cannabis or photography?

Well photography has been around since I was a kid. So I’d been playing with film cameras, I learned to mess around on those and it was a hobby from 8 years old. I turned it professional in the last 11 years. Things like birthday parties, weddings, corporate events, and I shot for the government. Lots of retail and commercial and things like that so I’ve had a number of years in that industry. Then lockdown came and I had to take a step back and say, what the fuck am I gonna be doing now? At that point I just put all of the equipment down and went into depression mode.

Shortly after I had come to terms with what had just happened and I just started to shoot my plants. I’ve been growing for a good couple of years. People started to message me and say wow, I’ve never seen flowers shot like that ever before. And I was like ok, there’s some interaction here let me just continue with it. It just spiralled from there.

So that was the beginning, now fast forward a few years and the challenge that, plain content isn’t enough. Something that I’ve noticed recently that you were quite creative with, was where you were embedding bud into the cake. Tell us about your creative process, do you tackle each sample individually or do you come up with an idea that you try for the next shoot? How does it work for you?

I think it’s a bit of both. Sometimes I have an idea that doesn’t work out immediately. Sometimes the process can take up to 2 months to get that process fine tuned it until I’m happy with it. And sometimes it’s just word play, sometimes it turns out nice and sometimes I’ve got to start over. It’s very very subjective to the strain and how far I’m trying to push what I’m trying to do with it. Whether it be macro video or edits like the one you’ve seen.

Does cannabis help with your creativity?

Most definitely yes. I think there’s also a balance that has to be adhered to.

Talking about the shots, there are two main types of cannabis shots, live flower and cured flower. Which shots in your opinion sells the strain better, live flower or cured flower?

I would always go with live flower. Just because you’re able to tell a lot about the history of that plant at that point. Once the sample is cured a lot of those details are gone. Fresh flower is very important especially from a documentation perspective. If you want to have something solid to go back to that says this round the plant really did well. We had decent trichomes and things like that, you can really see that with live flower.

Is it then safe to say that you prefer shooting live flower as it may involve a trip to the farm?

Not necessarily. I would say there are pros and cons to everything. Being on a farm is fun and games for the most but that’s what everybody thinks. But, it’s work at the end of the day, if I’m on a farm, that means I’m not in studio creating. Being on a farm is really cool though because I get to meet some really radical individuals. 

You mentioned 3 years you’ve been doing this, what have been some of the highlights for you so far with your career?

Yeah I’ve had a good few but unfortunately I’m not allowed to actually disclose that much information. There’s a lot of guys out there that just get me there and don’t want a single post or story about me being to their farms. One of the one’s I did publicise was Neopharms. It was the first one I went to and dude I had the most amazing time of my life.

*Ash forgot to mention his 3 features on High Time’s instagram feed and a feature on Leafly.

There’s also the downsides, like how you recently lost your instagram account… 

Yeah which is pretty horrible, I’m still trying to get access to that. It’s proving to be quite difficult because of the type of content that’s actually on there and because the account is under scrutiny it’s even worse. I’m not sure if I’ll be getting that account back or not, it’s totally in the hands of instagram.

How do you deal with that? Because you work quite hard and then you have to start again, so how do you motivate yourself again…

To be honest, and I hate to sound to modest when I say this, but I’ve got a hard set of nuts because of the things I’ve been through in the past few years. There’s very few things that can derail me. When that happened I was like, ok, I’ll just start a new account, it’s not a problem. After I created the new page I realised that the bug photographer must have made some sort of decent bump in the industry. People were like it’s all good, we’ll follow you again. But I did loose some connections. You can spend time crying over it, but it’s like suck it up and carry on.

Looking back at all the high’s and lows, would you do it again, is it worthwhile?

Yes, I love it. Our beloved plant has saved me in more than one way, and I’m very thankful for that. It’s important for me to use my skill to show the plant off in the way that I do based on what people have told me so far.

I’m sure there are a lot of young people that look up to you and want to do what you do…

There are many people who are intrigued with what I do and I sometimes share some products that come along, make someone smile down the line. If someone can get to experience what I experience then I’m doing my job.

So you’re the type of guy who would give the young people advice that would maybe message you?

I’m actually working on a photography course right now. I’ve been at it from last year, because it’s very important for me to pass on some of the knowledge that I have. For me it’s a 30 year love affair with photography and it’s not only shooting cannabis. I can literally point my camera at anything and try take the best photo that I possibly can where, the person viewing it says wow; I never saw it like that.” That’s what I want to do for the Nug specific course and try incorporate that attention to detail. To show something off in the most unique way possible. Don’t do something that the next person is doing. Yes, take inspiration from the people around you, but copying people’s stuff is not going to teach you much.

There are a few cannabis photographers in SA but nobody’s doing the Macro stuff. At a stage everybody is gonna need that stuff, and I’m not going to be able to handle everything. There has to be guys that are coming up and getting into macro because it’s such a rewarding genre of photography. Don’t get me wrong, it’s difficult. You will break a sweat. Lining a shot up and getting into something like 15-20 times magnification it will break you. I can get a shot anywhere from 5 minutes to 2.5 hours.

Often people don’t realise the work that goes behind the shot, the editing. It’s not just a one time, we set it up, take our photo and carry on…

In the creative space you very rarely get it nailed in the first time round. It can take you up to two weeks. Edits of mine have taken that long just to put the idea together. It’s always back and fourth with shooting a sample, you come to edit only to see a flaw and you have to shoot again. As you’re shooting you notice things and it’s up to you to leave it that way or fix it. So yes a lot of work, editing, shooting, reading the sample because not all samples are photo worthy.

Bag appeal and the look of flower is a big selling factor, in your opinion, can you judge a book by it’s cover? Does better looking bud guarantee a better user experience?

Absolutely not, , it looked so beautiful, but, when it doesn’t burn right, taste right and doesn’t have terps. Then it’s sad, because people have taken a lot of time to make it look good, but 90% of end users are looking for the end smoke. 

Ok so the macro lens reveals problems at times too?

For me, it has surprised me on more than one occasion where I’ve been shooting a sample that looks beautiful. But once you start to cut the sample up to get into the flower, where most of the detail is, is where you start to see the issues like mould. I’ll actually advise the person I’m shooting for. It’s not to be an ass about it, I’m just trying to tell you there’s something you need to check out. There have been times when I have had to ask for another sample. Especially if it’s for export, the farm was quite grateful for the info and changed they their trimming game after that. 

Obviously get to smoke the flower sent to you…

Yes, many clients send a sample and say, “hey dude we value your opinion, please have a taste and let us know what you think.” But at times it gets to a point where I can physically not have that much. December was crazy, chilling a bit now but I feel like we’re at the beginning of another wave.

Any standout cultivators out there?

Just off the top of my head, Passion Pothead. His RDC is some of the best cheese I’ve had in my entire life. Passion Fruit from Vigilance right now is absolutely making waves and no doubt in my mind that this strain is going to go very far. A 9 out of 10 smoke.

I’m sitting with a smartphone, how do I take better photos of my bud? For example are grow lights on or off? Flash or no flash?

It depends what kind of lights you’re using, especially if you’re using mixed spectrum like CMH and HPS together. You can’t really do that because they throw different shadows on the flower and end up with a ghostly looking picture and it’s horrible. So just switch one of them off and see which one looks better on the phone. I would suggest not using a flash, just because of the angle of light that it comes from. It’s 90 degrees and it’s a very flattening look, I personally don’t like it. I like to move the light source far away from where the camera is.

Don’t ever use any sort of digital zoom. It crops out pixels from your picture, you’re only moving into the pixel and that’s not good. Stay on your native camera, no zoom or wide angles, just the standard native camera. That’s going to give you the best results. For a remote timer, you can use the headphones on your phone. It’s going to minimise your shake on the shot.

Some of us need a professional though, how do people get hold of you if they want you to do some work for them?

I’m more than happy for guys to email me, thenugphotographer(at)

My website is being built at the moment, so that will be up and running in the next few weeks where people can book in shoots and samples a lot easier. I’m also looking at pricing structure to make it more affordable for home growers and facilities. Everybody’s going to be covered with the new pricing.

Is that something you can share with us, your pricing? What do you charge?

Last year’s price was R150 per finished image. It’s very affordable and I’m even dropping that off a little bit with the launch of the site, it’s going to be a lot more affordable.

I get asked about jobs in the cannabis industry all the time, mainly cultivation. But photography is one of those things that can develop content creation around cannabis. So I think what you’re doing is cool and a good example for young people to follow to say, macro cannabis photography is a career I can follow.

Thank you, I’m very happy with what I’m doing and so many reasons to be thankful to the plant. I’m not going to stop, I’m just getting fired up if anything.


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