Guest lecturer at Southport College

March 30, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

I was invited to speak about my experience as a photographer to students at Southport College in the UK. Looking back over a career of over 20 years it was fun to put together a presentation to show how I started in photographer, shot editorial portraits and then ended up specializing in aerial photography. 
 
I really enjoyed talking to the students and seeing the difference between starting out in photography now and when I left college. It was a very different world of photography when I started. No digital cameras, no web, no social media. Another big difference is that the path to a professional photographer usually included assisting other photographers first. This is the path I took, and at the time in the early 90’s most commercial photographers in London had assistants. It was a great experience enabling me to learn how to shoot everything from models to products to shooting a car in the studio. 
 
For college students now, the photography world has changed dramatically. There is very little assisting work, but there is a wealth of knowledge online. These days I could find out how to do an aerial shoot online, and have good suggestions of equipment to use and what pitfalls to avoid. I learnt the basics of aerial photography when assisting, loading cameras in the back of the helicopter and passing them to the photographer while they dangled out of the door.  Pretty soon I knew the specialized equipment I would need if I ever did this myself, but if I had never experienced this as an assistant I wouldn’t know what to do. 
 
Another huge shift is how you get your name out there and make the contacts you need for your first paid shoots. When I was assisting you met a lot of art directors and magazine photo editors. If you were really lucky and worked hard you might get a small shoot that the photographer you worked for couldn’t do, or didn’t want to do. The technical skill was there, you just needed to prove it to yourself and start getting real work in your portfolio. Social media makes a big impact on getting your name known. Art directors look at Instagram, and check out photographers sites and blogs. It’s a nice way of engaging with your potencial clients, and in many ways it’s a lot easier to tell the back story of how you got a certain shot. 
 
Comedian Harry Enfield in Covent Garden, 1988Harry EnfieldThis was my first magazine shoot and was shot for Time Out London
 
This was my first magazine shoot. A quick portrait of an up and coming comedian Harry Enfield for Time Out. He ended up being very well know in the UK, and in the US he is the voice of the Travelocity gnome. I was a little nervous and Harry very kindly bought me a coffee before we started the shoot. This shot was used in the magazine. It was an unusual shoot for another reason, the film I shot it on. There was a very tight deadline, the photos had to be at the magazine pretty much straight after the shoot. London had lots of great E6 labs at the time, and I could get a roll of slide film processed in a hour, however this wasn’t quick enough. I ended up shooting this on Polaroid Polapan instant film. This was an instant black and white transparency film that used a special hand held processor. 
 
After the shoot I went over to the Time Out office and processed the film on the photo editors desk. Polapan had a nice quality to it, though not super sharp. The downside was that film was extremely fragile and prone to scratching. 
 
I have come full circle in my photography, starting off with my first published photo which was an aerial shot, and ending up specializing in aerial photography. My advice to the students was to shoot what you love when you can, even if thats not the type of photography you make a living from. It will keep you creative and give you some great stories.

 


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