The other day, I received an e-mail Stephan D, one of my readers, with a load of questions about me and my photography career. I occasionally get questions about who I am and why I run Photocritic, so I figured that I might just do a post about the man behind the blog, as it were.
What photographer(s) inspires you to create images?
There are a lot of photographers out there who really do it for me. I’m particularly fond of Philip of Lithium Picnic fame, and Ilyssa (isky on dA) also has a beautiful portfolio of photos. I love collecting my fave photos on Flickr (as you can see in the side-bar of this post).
To be honest, I take inspiration from lots of different photographers. The ‘best of’ or ‘most popular’ images on Flickr and DeviantArt are always a good place to star the flow of creative juices. Of course, Earthshots is also a great starting point…
How did you get your photography business started?
I got quite lucky, actually. What happened was that I just went and picked up a lot of free and paid-for local magazines in the city where I lived, and I started calling them and sending e-mails. One of them needed a photographer soon after, and suddenly I had a regular flow of income. After that, I continued adding more clients, and finally ended up with a thriving freelance photography business.
In the end, my business failed because I got a little bit too sure of myself, took my eyes off the ball, and lost a couple of clients to no fault but my own (I lost some important photos once, which put me on rocky ground, and I completely failed to show up to a big photoshoot another time – both completely unforgivable sins as a photographer, and ones I’ve learned a lot from). Personally, I blame being scatterbrained, but in real terms, if you know that’s one of your weaknesses, you just have to find a system to deal with it: Carry an alarm clock with you, send yourself e-mails, or be better about diary-keeping. And suchlike :)
What type of equipment do you use?
I’ve used Canon equipment since I started as a photographer – more by chance than by design: My dad’s Canon A1 is still going strong, and I just sort of stuck with it. Throughout the years, I’ve had a EOS D60, an EOS 10D, an EOS 20D, an EOS 30D, and EOS 40D. I used a 300D and a 350D back-up cameras for a while, and shot with a Canon EOS 1N HS when I was still shooting with film. These day,
I’ve had a whole series of different lenses as well, but the Canon EF 50/1.4 lenses remains one of my favourites (check out some photos I’ve taken with that lens, if you need convincing :) – if you haven’t tried a prime lens, you really should. But then, I could ramble on about that for ages (in fact, I already have…). I’ve also got a 70-200mm f/2.8 which I’m incredibly fond of, especially for concerts (you can see some of my concert shots on flickr, and I did an article about how I shoot them, too), and a couple of wide-angle lenses. Apart from these, I frequently rent lenses such as tilt-shift and specialist macro lenses: Owning them myself is just too bloody expensive.
Having said all of that, I don’t believe that the equipment you own is all that important – it’s what you do with it, and as long as you’re comfortable with your equipment, you’re on your way. It’s been said before, but it can’t harm to repeat it: A photographer with vision and a disposable camera can come back with better result that someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing, but carry the latest bells-and-whistles D-SLR…
What type of lighting situations do you enjoy most?
I really love working with natural lighting, but studio work can be a lot of fun as well – it all depends on what you’re trying to do. It’s important to experiment with different types of lighting.
The most important part is that, through experimentation, I’ve come up with a style that I’m comfortable with, but I also notice that my tastes and whims change a lot. I used to do a lot of landscapes, but haven’t taken a landscape photo for a long time. I had a phase of doing macro photography (which resulted in my book), but I have barely looked at a macro photograph since. Recently, I’ve had an interest in doing more portraiture work – a genre where I feel I still have a lot to learn – so perhaps that’ll be my next experiment into lighting: some studio lighting might well be my next investment!
What background do you have in photography?
I’m entirely self-taught, but I’ve done a lot of reading and experimenting to get the technical and creative skills that I feel I need. I was like that in school as well, however: Having a teacher drone on at me drove me bonkers, but if they somehow managed to spark an interest, I’d be on the internet or in the library, researching the topic well beyond I was supposed to.
I don’t really see any harm in being self-taught, as long as you’re creative, inquisitive and thorough.
If you could pick another career than photography, what would it be and why?
Heeh, interestingly, I haven’t worked as a photographer full-time for years. The past few years, I’ve worked in publishing as an editor, I worked in television for a while, but I’m now back to life as self-employed, working as a writer. I’m currently working another book about photography (here’s my first one)
So I guess, to answer your question, I do have another career, and I like running for Photocritic, of course, but it seems I haven’t quite got enough time to do all it takes to keep the hamster wheel spinning ’round here – nonetheless, it’s good fun!
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