Find out about me and my photography, discover who I am and all about the world of photography I live in. You’ll get a feel for what makes me tick and what I can do for you. I even share my secrets for becoming a pro photographer!
In the questions, below, I’d like to give you a feel for the person that I am and provide you with some meaningful information about my photography services. First things first though; I support Ipswich Town.
If there is anything else you want to know just contact me and fire away…
Me & My Photography Questions Answered
Why are you a professional photographer?
Well, not because I expect to become a millionaire! Truthfully, I’ve always had a creative instinct and since my childhood holidays to the Dales and Lake District I’ve been captivated by the experience of a landscape and, now, a compelling need to find a way to distil this into a beautiful photograph.
Being an outdoors type I served for two amazing years in the Royal Marines but after a while I’d had enough of being deprived of sleep and suffering hypothermia on Dartmoor so I went back to Uni to study law. I felt I needed a career while I learnt my photography skills and invested the substantial sums of money it takes to acquire professional equipment. Predictably though, the law didn’t satisfy me either and I didn’t spend a single day wishing I wasn’t out running my own photography business. Finally, at the age of 31 I turned pro and I have never been happier with my job.
Where do you stand on digital manipulation or ‘Photoshopping’?
Generally, I don’t do anything on my computer, or ‘digital darkroom’, that wouldn’t have been done in the days of dark rooms and wet printing. Adding contrast, saturation, vibrance, enhancing greens in trees or skin tones, even Masking, has always been part of the photography 'processing' required from taking a slide or negative through to a final print. Without it we’d have a world full of pretty yucky pictures!
With film, we’d choose different types (remeber Agfa and Fuji Velvia?) to make skin tones look nicer or to add punchy colours to our landscapes. There would also be all sorts of clever stuff when the film was processed by the lab and then we’d do more clever stuff in the dark room to make things look good. Now I just do it in computer and exercise precise control over what is done to my photographs. Same end, different means, that's all.
I hate a lot of HDR images-so many photographs that appear now look fake, or photoshopped, because they are. They are not accurate representations of what was seen by the eye. This I avoid like the plague. I’ve no problem removing a blurry bird in my skies or ugly tin can from my foregrounds but I can’t see the point in creating something that simply wasn’t there or something that the eye couldn't 'see'.
Like a lot of pro’s, I do use the available technology to my advantage to produce my photographs and this is often negatively interpreted as meaning ‘manipulation’. It isn’t, no more than anything is manipulation when one person says you should photograph the Eiffel Tower like this and another says you should do it like that. We all see things differently and impose our view of things. When we produce a photograph it's because it’s your personal view, your 'manipulation' of what you have seen, where you’ve chosen to include certain things and exclude others from your photograph. That is all I am doing, providing my personal interpretation of the subjects I photograph, from composition choice through to colour corrections right down to the paper choice I print onto.
Ultimately, photography is an art form and licence should be allowed to a photographer in how a scene is represented to reflect the subjective nature of art. Those that kick every image as being 'not real' or 'photoshopped' are unhelpful in the debate because paintings are widely appreciated and accepted as subjctive, artisitc impresions of what the artist saw and how he/she interpreted it. Why do we treat photographs differently? Why should a photograph somehow be burdened with some higher responsibility for 'faithfulness' and 'truth'. Why should Photoshop be used as some general, all encompassing criticism that undermines the value and credibility of all digital photographs? I believe landscape photography done from a personal, crerative origin should be accepted and celebrated as an artistic impression of a scene and enjoyed on that basis. Not derided and discredited due to the means of it's production.
What’s your favourite ever photograph?
Well, like a lot of art, I think it depends on the moment you're in, your mood and what you want to see for enjoyment, which varies from day to day. In this sense I don't have any one particular favourite. I'm not even sure that if I picked one now it would be the same if I answered the question tomorrow!
What is probably more relevant to me is the places I've been and the experiences I've had through my photography which makes so many of my shots a personal favourite at different times, for different wall spaces, different moods and more than just the image itself. I've put together a dedicated gallery in my Landscape Photography section of my personal favourite images together with notes on why I like them so much.
Have you got any advice for anyone else looking to turn pro?
In no particular order I’ve picked up various gems of advice from others from all walks of life as well as learning my own lessons along the way, so here's a run down of my best bits of free advice:
a) Always take photographs of what inspires you, not what you think others will be inspired by. Then think about how you will sell them. To do otherwise strips the heart and soul out of what is an inherently creative and artistic endeavour which will only show through in your work negatively and your happiness if you try and shoot what sells rather than what appeals to you.
b) My wonderful wife, Sarah, is a stickler for using only the best kit. She’s a fantastic Doctor and never compromises on quality in the tools she uses because those tools help her to do her job to the best of her ability. So, from your camera gear to the editing of your work, only deal with and be associated with the best. Just bite the bullet; buy it, learn to use it and then get on with the serious but fun business of creating exciting photographs.
c) My good friend James taught me to play poker. One particular lesson that sticks in my mind is this: ‘Lado (his nickname for me), never fall in love with your own cards.’ It’s brilliant advice and has saved me considerable sums at the table. It’s also saved me considerable disappointment before the various editors I sell my work to. I never look at my work and think ‘It’s perfect, I'm the best!’ As soon as you think you, or your own pictures, are the best in the world you set yourself up for a hard fall and anyway it’s completely self indulgent and delusional. Always strive to improve and better your own work and that of your peers. Never settle for what you’ve done, always strive for self improvement. That's not to say you shouldn't apreciate what you've done well and when you have got a good shot, just don't rest on your laurels is all I'm saying.
d) Never obsess about camera kit, computers or photoshop techniques. Do obsess about producing excellent, flawless, photographs instead. The highly regarded Charlie Waite once told me he had about what he considered to be 5 perfect images and that’s from a life time spent at the top of the profession. I think I've got one or two. So there's plenty of work to do!
e) My final year as a lawyer was spent working in house for a businessman in South London. He was a gem of a man to work for; self made, flamboyant and an extraordinarily clever, successful and wealthy individual. I owe him a lot for sitting down with me and teaching me the basic principles of business; the ins and outs of producing something, marketing it, selling it and then looking at the bigger picture (pun not intended) and how it could be expanded. Taking great photographs is actually the easy bit compared with selling them and running a small business is actually no ‘small’ undertaking. Getting genuine business experience in the commercial world first pays dividends when you finally set up on your tod and if you can get it from someone like my old boss (who could sell ice to Eskimos) the more the better.
f) Find photographer’s whose work you are inspired by and learn to study and deconstruct it. I spent a lot of my early twenties tracing in the footsteps of the photographer’s whose work inspired me. I went to locations all over the globe and found their locations, even their compositions. However, I wasn’t there to simply copy what they did, I was there to learn the process that led to them creating their photographs. I wanted to learn their mindset, how they must have found their locations, planned their images and produced them so brilliantly. Sometimes I’d actually get better light than they did and produce a better photograph, but, crucially, not an original one. Ultimately, you need to stop doing this when that feeling that you’re not really creating anything new creeps in and starts to frustrate you. Then it’s time to take what you’ve learnt and cut off this comfort blanket of following in your peers’ footsteps and strike out on your own. Then, when you start producing your own, truly original work, you’ll feel real pride and a sense that you are a creator of fresh, new work, produced under your own steam which stands on it’s own merits. It’s a great feeling.
g) Wedding photography is a business that succeeds not just on producing consistently good photographs but also being good around people. You need a flow of work and referrals and you wont get this without first producing the goods and second being a nice person to have around all day. Always be nice to people. You never know who you might be talking to (it could be someone in a position to offer you a big break). It costs nothing and is excellent PR.
h) Learn from the pros. These days it seems everyone is running workshops but I don’t see that many who produce work that inspires me or which I’d pay to go on. When I was learning my trade I chose to go abroad for a week with an established pro that I felt produced the level of quality that I aspired to. He taught me more in that week than I’d learnt in the previous year of reading magazines and the like. If you go on a workshop with the right frame of mind and the right person your photography will take a quantum leap forward. Don’t be a know it all or think you’ve got certain areas perfected-everything is always up for review and improvement (see c) above). Instead, be like a sponge, listen to very tit bit, watch them like a hawk, ask every question you can think of, listen to the answers given to others’ questions and try things outside your comfort zone.
i) Until you’re very rich and in demand, never turn down work you know you can competently do, even if it’s a break even exercise. Build contacts and network, get your work ‘out there’ and build relationships to gather business momentum.
j) Never accept work you can’t do an excellent job on. It will take years to build your name, yet minutes to kill it at the outset by cocking up a job you’re not experienced to handle. For example, I wouldn’t even try and do a wildlife commission-it’s a whole new discipline and skill set from travel and landscape work, which I am well versed in and good at.
k) Use your friends. If you’ve followed the advice in g) and been nice to people you’ll have plenty of pals and if, like me, they are all rather good at their respective jobs you’ll have a fantastic array of business advisors to draw upon. From accountants to marketing and advertising managers, to HR, financial planning and branding and project managers. They will all give you free advice (because you’re nice, remember) which others may be paying thousands for. They’ll also network for you passing you leads here and there from within their terribly high powered corporate circles.
There’s probably more but these are the main things that spring to mind. Come on one of my workshops if you want to find out more!
Where is your favourite place to take photographs?
The place I photograph most is Kent and I really enjoy it; it’s a challenge because it’s not obviously photogenic in the classic, landscape sense of scenery and I find I can produce new work here of places not already over photographed. That gives me a real buzz of enjoyment and satisfaction.
Outside of Kent, the place I re visit most often is the Lake District. I love it. Have done since I was a child. It feels like home from home. Unlike Kent it’s been extensively photographed and yet the infinitely variable weather and changing scenery throughout the seasons throws up new opportunities every time. Here I relax and shoot entirely for pleasure first, commercially a distant second.
The places I’d most like to photograph would be areas that I've not seen much photography from yet; Ethiopia, Columbia and maybe even North Korea! Who knows what landscapes lie within it’s secretive borders…
What's Your Position on Environmental Responsibility?
I care about the landscape very deeply; it’s my passion and source of inspiration for my work. Accordingly, I am donating 5% of my profits from my print sales, the workshops I run and my Tripod Travels tours with Lizzie Shepherd to environmental causes. My local charity is Whitstable Maritime (Registered Charity No. 1171563) and through Tripod Travels we are donating to the Carbon Footprint fund, offsetting 1 tonne of CO2 per workshop client.
We’d like to do more so with your help we’d like to invest more in environmental sustainability through our photography.