And he’s more interested in character and quirk than technical perfection…
How would you describe your style?
I’d describe it as spontaneous and pictorial. I try to throw the rules into an experimental melting pot. Obviously, some clients require a more prosaic approach, in which case I start off technically and then try and push towards my own version as the shoot progresses. My style derives mainly from the oft-quoted reason of being rubbish at painting and drawing, but with an intense desire to visualise whatever’s in my mind. Photographers such as Paolo Roversi and Sarah Moon have been a major influence.
What camera and lighting techniques do you employ to achieve this style?
Over the years I’ve melded together more traditional flash/strobe techniques with continuous lighting, though now I use continuous light most of the time. In terms of camera techniques, I find Olympus’ in-camera ‘pre-editing’ to be a huge aid. The ability to adjust Curves, colours and tones is invaluable, especially when attempting to show a client an idea of my final vision. Of course, these are only previews, but they’re a great starting/reference point when it comes to editing RAW files.
Who and what inspires your work?
Thanks to synaesthesia (a condition where a sensation in one of the senses, such as hearing, triggers a sensation in another, such as taste), I have a constant stimulus of abstract sensory experiences which, while seen as an aberration/ disability by some, is actually a huge benefit to me. Smells such as perfume and hairspray are hugely influential, as is music. In terms of visual inspiration, visits to art galleries are fantastic for new seeds, based on older representations.
How important is it to get the image right in-camera before you edit?
I try to get within 10% of my final image in-camera. I light people individually and build the final image, kind of like Terminator or Predator constantly scanning a scene. There are times when Photoshop is required, but Lightroom is where the majority of work is done. I try to use Photoshop only to ‘add’ to an image, rather than take away, literally as well as figuratively. The colouring is achieved by using Curves and presets and then often using textured overlays and blend modes to achieve what I can only describe as ‘dimension’. I suppose it’s based on mimicking the organic feel of an oil painting – I collect textures and overlays and shoot my own as often as possible.
What are your gear requirements?
Cameras have to have an exposure compensation dial that sits near the shutter button – this allows me to easily dial in the appropriate amount and get Andrew’s three Olympus essentials constant feedback of the effect on the image. Lenses must have ‘character’ – many modern lenses are so technically precise they’re almost clinical in their reproduction. Olympus creates lenses that have a unique signature that fits my vision. Of course, they also make many optically perfect lenses too, and I mainly use these for product and architectural photos. It’s good to have a choice and that’s without even getting into the third-party and vintage optics that can be adapted…
Has switching to mirrorless changed the way you work?
Mirrorless has given me confidence in my visual instincts – having learned the hard way with film, it’s become an extension of my mind’s eye. Being able to see every change in real-time is something that can’t be taken for granted. Clients know what they’re getting and that breeds further creative confidence and 100% more enjoyment of my job and hobby.
Article featured in Practical Photography Magazine