Photography is an industry built on hard work, passion and experimentation and, in this sense, shares a number of parallels with fashion. But fusing the two genres needs something extra to make it a success – that sprinkling of stardust to make images stand out from the crowd. One photographer who’s well on the way to making this dream a reality is Magic Owen. The 40-year-old creative explains how her journey to becoming one of the most talked-about fashion photographers in the UK started on the other side of the lens.
“My ﬁrst experiences of photography were during my teenage years, when I did a lot of modelling. When I moved to the UK after studying at university, I met a photographer called Chris Neville who introduced me to my ﬁrst camera, an Olympus OM10 35mm SLR,” explains Magic, who preferred an organic teaching experience rather than learning from books. “He didn’t have to teach me how to take a good photo, I’ve always had an eye for framing and experimenting with angles, but he did teach me how to develop a ﬁlm.”
Grasping the basics wasn’t a problem for Magic, but why was she drawn to fashion photography in particular? “It all came naturally to be honest. I know a lot about fashion and I seem to be able to predict upcoming trends before they happen. I spend a lot of time looking at fashion, hair trends and make-up… how can I not combine the two?” she explains. After years balancing a part-time job with her photography, Magic ﬁnally made the jump to being a full-time pro three years ago.
Despite producing stunning imagery that more than holds its own among her peers and have featured in magazines like British Vogue, InCover and Jute, Magic confesses to being completely self-taught. “My brain somehow refuses to learn all the technical terms. I am certainly not your typical photographer!” exclaims Magic, who reveals that the process of picture-taking starts long before pressing the shutter button, with meticulous planning, creation of moodboards, plus communication with models, make-up artists and hair stylists.
A further confession reveals Magic keeps a tight hold on the reigns during shoots to help her ideas come to fruition; “I am a control freak, and as such I am the artistic director for all my shoots, paid and collaborations.”
An exploration through Magic’s kit bag sheds light on what gear helps these visions translate into spectacular frames. At the heart of the set-up is the Olympus E-M1 Mark II, a tool Magic calls “the most conﬁgurable camera in the world”. Magic explains how the camera’s electronic viewﬁnder helps capture results without the need for an additional light meter, and she’s also a big fan of the AF system too! “The autofocus is fast, accurate and, most importantly for me, the focus points cover the whole frame. The compact size of the E-M1 makes my life easier as I’m always crawling on the ﬂoor, or hanging from the ceiling –
I need a pro camera that is light, compact with superb image quality.” Magic says her favourite optic is the M.Zuiko 12-40mm Pro lens, but there’s also a few more unusual items to be found in the kit bag, too. Along with spare batteries and SD cards, Magic often uses accessories like gels to add extra colour into a scene, or crystals to place in front of the lens to create quirky diffraction effects. It’s this willingness to experiment with unusual kit (as well as styles) that has propelled Magic’s imagery to the next level. But while gear can help capture the image, it’s Magic’s imagination that is her most important tool.
“People always ask me how I came up with my ideas but my inspiration comes from everywhere. I just have visions and I have to materialise those visions and ideas through my camera otherwise my brain will not stop thinking about them – shooting portraits is a need for me, it is as important as breathing.”
So what is Magic’s advice to fashion photographers looking to follow in her footsteps? “Listen to your instinct, don’t be afraid to experiment and make mistakes and never compare yourself to others.”
Born in France but residing in Oxfordshire, Magic Owen is a professional photographer who specialises in high-end fashion and portraiture work for editorial and commercial clients. Magic’s work has been published in many magazines, including British Vogue. Magic also won 2014’s teleaward for her fashion videos. See more at www.magicowen.co.uk
Article featured in Professional Photography: The Essential Handbook 2018