My Life in Photography

A while ago, Theo Simpson interviewed me about my photography, for a project he was doing. I just stumbled upon the interview, while cleaning up my hard disk, so here it is:

How did you first begin interest in photography?

In childhood – my dad gave me a Kodak Brownie when I was 4 and we developed & printed the photos together.

Have you had any formal training in photography?

I took a photography O-Level when I was 17 in 1986, and did a week’s photojournalism course in 2006, but am mostly self-taught.

What kind of photographer would you say you are?

Always hard to categorise, but I think the term “documentary photographer” more-or-less covers it.

Is there any particular photography you prefer?

Photographs of people, photographs at night… but to be honest most types of photography interests me.

How did you start working commercially?

I was approached by the Mail on Sunday to buy a photo I had taken. Most of my commercial work has been through approaches from others, but this is because I don’t make most of my living from photography and still often feel uncomfortable about promoting myself as a photographer.

Did you start working alone?

Yes, I always work alone.

What steps did you make to set up a company/business? Or did you test the waters so the speak first?

See above – I haven’t gone very far in this direction. I already have a company, specialising mainly in website development, so have used this to manage the commercial side of my photography, but I’ve never formalised my commercial work.

What are the pressures you have found working commercially?

There is a great pressure to perform and get everything right, although this mostly comes from myself. Also I suppose keeping the business side of things organised: keeping notes of expenses, insurance, tax etc.

What kind of portfolio do you have?

I have a self-produced book, as well as a website. I also have a large, rather chaotic but more often updated Flickr account.

How do you get people to see it?

Various ways – I give out copies of my book to people who may be commissioning photography. But mostly I tag my photos extensively on Flickr and ensure that my website has good, descriptive and relevant text, plus plenty of links, so that search engines will rank it highly.

Has your website been a part of your commercial success?

Yes, my own website and my Flickr portfolio have probably been the main source of business for me – although I don’t think this would be sustainable if photography were my main business.

How much competition is there?

There is a lot of competition, although a lot of it is not great quality.

What do you do to advertise yourself?

I have done some online advertising, e.g. using Google Adwords and Bidvertiser, but mostly I just use Search Engine Optimisation techniques to make my photographs easy to find online.

What makes your work stand out from other people?

I like to think I have a fairly well developed personal style – this is not necessarily something I’ve planned, rather something I can’t help. I don’t like covering the same ground that people have already covered, so I am always looking for different approaches to a project, and I think this helps my work to stand out.

Do you advertise?

See above – I have done a small amount of advertising in the past, but don’t at the moment.

How much creative input are you allowed when working for certain clients?

I’ve usually been allowed a fairly good degree of creative freedom. I’ve come to realise that my photography doesn’t always fit easily within rigid guidelines, so I would be unlikely to accept any future commissions without a great degree of creative freedom.

How much free time do you have for yourself to work on other photography projects?

Not a great deal, but I squeeze in whatever I can.

What advice would you give to someone starting working commercially?

I’m not sure that I’m best placed, but I would say try to stay true to yourself while always pushing yourself in new directions. Don’t write anything off out of hand – learning can come from the most unexpected directions.

How do you maintain your client base?

I don’t really have one icon smile My Life in Photography

What equipment do you use?

Camera bodies: Canon EOS 40D and 20D.
Lenses: 16-35mm f/2.8
24mm f/1.4
50mm f/1.4
70-200mm f/2.8 IS
Flash: Canon 480 EXII
Tripod: Manfrotto

What computer software do you use?

Mainly Adobe Photoshop Lightroom. Also occasionally Adobe Photoshop.

How do you back your work up?

External hard disk.

How do most clients want the work presenting to them?

Initially by web gallery. Then prints, photobooks or high-res files.

How are you equipped for that?

I use Lightroom to produce quick web galleries, and produce other formats as required.

How is your client base spread?

Most of my clients have been in Sheffield, with a few in London.

How far do you travel to get work?

Usually not far, but will travel all over the country for the right job. Furthest so far has been to Glasgow.

In a situation where you might feel technically challenged, what steps do you take to make sure the job is carried out properly, for example in unusual lighting conditions?

Experiment with conditions, check details of photos (and download to computer if possible), take as many photographs as possible, using different settings/lighting.

What do you do if you make a mistake?

Keep going and try to learn from it!

What photographers have influenced your current work?

So many… but particularly Garry Winogrand, Brian Griffin, Terry O’Neill.

Is Sheffield a good place to set-up a business?

Hmm… not sure!

Do you maintain copyright on all your work?

Yes.

Do you arrange royalties and rights before you do a job?

Generally.

Do you ever work for free?

Yes, depending on the client and the job.

What are the most important aspects to working commercially?

I am lucky in that I don’t need to make most of my money from photography, so for me the most important aspects are the opportunity to learn & to take interesting photos.

How do you take yourself forward?

In fits and starts, but usually through intense bouts of taking photos & contemplating photos.

What are your plans for the future

Watch this space!