Q. How did you first become interested in photography?
A. I became interested in photography at an early age. I used to observe my Dad using his SLR during holidays and special occasions. Seeing the image through the viewfinder fascinated me, especially the moment it came into focus. My Dad would set the aperture and shutter for me and I would hang the camera around my neck using the broad strap and walk around showing off the camera. I would hold up the camera and look through the viewfinder, then focus until I could see a clear image and press the shutter release. Then I would hold the camera firmly and wind to the next frame. To my surprise on my 10th birthday I received a Kodak 110 film camera. I wasn’t sure at first what it was as I had never seen a rectangular shaped camera before. I wondered how to focus as there was no protruding lens or focus ring. I learned that it was a point and shoot style camera. My present also included two 110 film cartridges which my Dad helped me load, then briefed me on how to take a picture and wind to the next frame. I remember vaguely that I finished the first cartridge in a few minutes and went to my Dad and said the camera wouldn’t wind. I received an odd glare from him then, as he helped me load the second one, was told to use the film sparingly. From that moment onwards I carried my precious camera everywhere and passionately used it to take photos that were special to me.
Q: Your early passion for photography led you to doing BA (Hons) in Photography. What did you learn on the course?
A. I completed my BA (Hons) Degree in Photography & Digital Imaging in 2002. It gave me the opportunity to learn photography both theoretically and practically as well as the business of photography. It involved different format film cameras, understanding location and studio lighting and developing and printing our own films. The course was challenging; some projects were set at a commercial level and had to be completed in a time frame. To fulfill the set task, I had to select the correct camera equipment (SLR, Medium or Large format cameras) and the choice of film or slide, lighting and subject. As well as being challenging, the course was a fun way of learning and exploring my hidden talents. The most valuable lesson I learned during my degree was how different films react to light and have their unique characteristics to produce an image. At the time access to digital cameras as a student was not easy - instead of using image editing software we used enlargers in the dark room to ‘burn and dodge’ to create the perfect image. With film cameras, you had to make sure that whatever you photographed was of a high standard as every frame you clicked was money.
Q: How did the qualification help you establish yourself as a professional photographer?
A. My BA (Hons) Degree definitely helped me become established as a professional photographer, although there was a lot more that I needed to learn before I could call myself professional. To be a professional photographer I believe one has to continue learning and practicing photography at the highest level. I have always taken my profession seriously and embraced every opportunity to learn – this is only possible through experience and with time. My degree and memberships to professional photography bodies give confidence to my new clients that they are in good hands even before discussing the business requirements. Being a photographer is not just about taking good photographs though - your personality must shine out when you are on a shoot. My photography has been diverse over time, tapping into various fields - I have not limited myself because demands on professionals change and new opportunities are created. At present I specialise in Location, Portraits and Modelling Portfolio Photography.
Q: With the launch of mobile phones with high-quality cameras everyone can be a photographer. What’s your view on this?
A. Since advances in technology and the accessibility of communication through social media, photographic equipment, either through camera, phone or other means, has become a lot cheaper than before. It is a misconception through ignorance that taking good photographs seen through the ‘normal’ eye are as good as those taken by professional photographers. We cannot compare the quality of an image taken on a mobile phone to one taken on high-end photography equipment, whether it be DSLR or Medium Format and above. Two of the main contributors to image quality are the sensor and how it captures light and processes it using complex algorithms to create the final image, and the lens which determines how the light is directed on the sensor. Mobile phone markets may compete with each other on image quality, but the technology is not advanced enough to compare with professional photography equipment. There is a significant gap between professional photographers using high end camera equipment and the average person using a mobile phone.
Q: With everyone now shooting on their mobile phones, are there still opportunities to make a living as a professional photographer?
A. Yes, there is always a need for professionals as they are experts in providing exactly what the client requires with the necessary attention to detail. The average mobile phone photographer will not have the full breadth and depth of knowledge to understand client needs and advise them. The photography industry has specific demands requiring specialist equipment and often dedicated and complex setups which are often not available to the average opportunist mobile phone photographer. As with all professions, there is a market for professionals in all fields of photography, regardless of how many practicing amateur photographers there are.
Q: What advice would you give to anyone wishing to become a professional photographer?
A. My advice for anyone wishing to become a professional photographer is to get a photography-based qualification as it allows you to understand the field better and make informed decisions. The qualifications teach the basics of photography and give you the confidence to grow. As a photographer, you need to explore the many career paths available and then specialise in your chosen field and build a strong portfolio to show to your clients. This could be in print format or the current trend through websites and social media platforms.
Q. What do you like to photograph in your free time?
A. I am very passionate about my photography and I am always taking photographs. In my free time I love landscape, nature and street photography. I often carry a camera with me even when not on a professional photo shoot as some of my favourite photographs I have taken are on the spur of the moment. I have invested in a small, fully controllable, high-end camera that also allow me to manually control all settings and priority modes.
Q. Can you share three of your favourite images and tell us the idea behind them.
A. This was a fashion style portrait shot on location in Basingstoke. I used available light and fill-in flash to highlight the model’s eyes and her hair. I used the foliage in the background to create a natural back drop.
Some of my favourite images are taken without any significant planning or a particular subject in mind. This image is a typical example. I took this image when I was on a holiday in Anglesey in Wales; the view and the light from where I was stood looked so amazing it would have been shame not to photograph it.
I took a series of photographs for a personal project on tattoos which eventually evolved into a larger unexpected project that led to me publishing all the images in a book available to purchase on Amazon.
Q. You are a loyal supporter of the RPS and Treasurer for the Southern Region. Why would you recommend joining the RPS?
A. I would recommend that any photographer joins the RPS because it provides an opportunity to take their photography to the next level through the RPS distinctions. It is a great platform to meet like minded photographers, great for socialising with the community and learning from each other. Most importantly, you are giving back to the community by being part of an organisation that is recognised globally - this is truly rewarding. I am proud to be part of one of the world’s oldest photographic societies, founded in 1853.