Glyn: Tim first of all thank you so much for giving up some of your time for this. I know you’re real busy so I really do appreciate it.
Tim: No worries at all. If I can help in any way then I’m more than willing.
Glyn: Cheers for that. Ok so what I’ve done is prepare just a few questions for you so to kick off let’s get this one out of the way first of all…
Let’s talk kit…Are you a Mac or PC user?
Tim: PC and I’ll tell you why. Don’t get me wrong I’d love an Apple Mac but for the money I’d pay for one I can get a PC that’s Water Cooled has the fastest processor I can get and lots, and I mean lots of RAM. I’m producing image files that are pretty big so I need a machine that can cope with it. Sure a Mac could cope but I’d have to spend an absolute fortune upgrading it to be the equivalent of what I can get in a PC. The days of PC’s being unstable are getting few and far between especially with the introduction of Windows 7. I gotta be honest my machines are real stable and do exactly what I want of them. My current ‘workhorse’ can open and close Photoshop from stand-still in under 4 seconds.
Glyn: Ok last one on this whole ‘kit’ thing I promise…Nikon or Canon?
Tim: Well for Commercial work I use Hasselblad, a H3D2 and for anything else I’ll use a Nikon D3.
Glyn: Right so now that’s all cleared up, moving on how did you become a photographer?
Tim: I was eight years old when I was first introduced to photography by my Grandad when I saw the magic of a print become real in a mysterious dish of smelly chemicals, from that point it’s been one of the biggest loves of my life. At 16 I started work in the darkrooms of the Daily Mail Group where I learned the art of printing and had a baptism of fire into the world of photojournalism, working with many great photographers from both the National Press and agencies. At 19 I joined a top agency based in the UK, and went on to spend an increasing amount of my time behind the camera.
At the age of 22 I joined the Royal Navy, serving with 42 Commando Royal Marines in many parts of the world, and after service followed a more corporate route working with large media companies such as Virgin and Orange before launching what is now Ambient Life.
Having started out as a printer I still very much view each photography job the same way. I see the scene as a print in my head so I go into a job knowing exactly what the finished image will look like. To the surprise of some I never use a light meter as I just tend to break the scene down into chunks; foreground, the subject and the background looking at the contrast, tone and light in each of those chunks. This approach just makes perfect sense to me.
For example what I mean is let’s say I’m out photographing a car, through experience I know I can light the car, I know where I’m going to be placing my lights and what I’m going to use. The background I know I can deal with. My main focus first of all is on the foreground which in this case would be the tarmac. You see that tarmac has got to be ‘spot on’. The road surface has to look perfect if this picture is going to work and it’s this attention to detail that is just so incredibly important.
Glyn: Ok so leading on from that, one more question on kit then. When it comes to lighting what do you use?
Tim: I have and use both Elinchrom and Profoto but my favourite has to be Elinchrom. That stuff is built like a tank; it’s just bullet proof and turns out the goods time after time without complaining despite being treated quite hard. Love it.
Glyn: So if you were to give a percentage to say how much of your final images are what comes out of the camera and how much is down to editing what would you say?
Tim: I’d say 80% of the final image is what comes out of camera and Glyn when I say that I always get those folks that look at me as if to say ‘yeah right’ but this is why I love doing the workshops. It’s not to show off or anything like that, it’s just such a buzz to prove to people that it’s possible and this comes back to what I said earlier about attention to detail.
Don’t get me wrong I love Photoshop I really do; it’s a big part of what we do, it’s essential but I also think it’s become a bit of a crux. Do you know the other day I was in a shop buying some food and there was this old lady being served, she must have been in her 70’s I guess but the girl behind the counter was making something up for her and made a bit of a mess. The girl apologised and I then heard the old lady say ‘it’s alright. It’s not like you can photoshop it is it?’
Glyn: I remember the first time I watched Zack Arias’ OneLight DVD that there’s a bit on there when he says something on the lines of ‘if you find yourself on a shoot and saying to yourself I’ll fix that later in Photoshop, put down your kit and slap yourself hard because you’re being lazy’…something like that anyway.
Tim: That’s exactly it though. I would rather spend an extra five minutes working on one picture to get it just right than say 2 hours sat in front of a computer working in Photoshop to get 5 pictures looking good.
Glyn: Ok, so seeing as we’re talking Photoshop what kind of editing do you do on your images?
Tim: I don’t do all that much to be honest. I mainly work on the tone and contrast and I’ve got my own particular way of doing that by using the RGB Channel where I deepen the blacks and brighten the highlights and that may be by only 5%. If I need to do a little more then I’ll increase it by another 5% and so on until I’m happy. I also like to desaturate the colour a bit too; not being a big fan of full colour.
Glyn: So do you use Lightroom or Aperture at all?
Tim: I know you’re a Lightroom fan Glyn but I don’t really use it that much if at all nowadays. If I’ve been using the Hasselblad then I’ll use their own software called Phocus; it’s just the most amazing piece of software specifically made for Hassleblad camera files. Otherwise I’ll maybe use Bridge; I find it fast enough and does what I want.
Glyn: Your pictures have a very distinctive, identifiable look to them and anybody who’s seen your work would recognise it a mile away. How did you develop this style / look?
Tim: A style is something very unique and personal but also something that’s constantly evolving. Everything you’ve experienced in your life influences what you do and I really do believe that. Every picture you take is a snapshot of yourself. Now I know this could come across as me getting quite deep but I totally believe that your style is totally influenced by your life experiences and it’s an expression of who you are. It doesn’t matter what you’re photographing, that final picture is a picture of you and how you feel.
I can almost guarantee you out of all the photographs you’ve taken, your favourites will be ones that were taken during a significant time in your life; I know mine are. Your life influences your style.
Glyn: So who do you get inspired by? Who’s work do you look at?
Tim: I don’t look at any other photographers work who photographs the same subject as me. I do look at other photographers work though but it could be anything portraits, architecture, food…if it’s great work then it motivates and inspires me; the subject is irrelevant. The reason I won’t look at other ‘car’ photos is that I don’t want any influence coming over to my own work.
Glyn: So how did you manage to end up Photographing for Aston Martin?
Tim: Not giving up and being persistant. For months I kept asking for access to just one car that I could photograph for my own portfolio and for months I got no where until eventually I managed to get hold of one. I showed them what I’d done and they really liked it. I found at later that what appealed to them was that I produced something different; something they hadn’t seen before and this again goes back to having a style. I mean what’s the point in copying someone else’s work? It’s all about having the balls to say ‘I want to do this’ and sticking with it. Bring something new and fresh to the table because Agencies will spot ‘copying’ a mile off and will only view the photographer in a negative light.
Glyn: It’s taken you 3 years to get to the point in your photography business where you are now. How would you describe these past 3 years?
Tim: The best years of my life but the hardest years of my life and I’ve experienced some pretty hard times in the past mate.
When I was in the Royal Marines I lost a good friend of mine; a real good friend. This guy was my best mate and the circumstances in which he lost his life could have been very different; it could quite easily have been me. I owe my life to him and that is how I live my life. Three words you will never hear me say are ‘That will do’. I work extremely hard at what I do and intend to achieve all that I set out to but where I am now is nowhere near where I want to be. If you want anything in life then go get it. Don’t just sit there waiting. Shit happens…deal with it.
Glyn: I’m so with you on that. One of my biggest fears is getting to a stage in my life when I’m too old or simply unable and saying ‘I wish I’d…………’
Tim: Absolutely. I know all too well how precious life is and don’t intend to waste it.
Glyn: What advice would you give to someone looking to start out as a Photographer?
Tim: Practice, practice, practice and build up a Rolodex in your head of knowledge by just practicing. Get the camera in your hand every day and photograph anything and everything. Learn about light. Get yourself a vase put it on a table and shoot it again and again and again. Get yourself some black card and white card and see how placing that around it in different places and at different angles affects the light.
Let’s just say you didn’t know how to ride a bike. So, what you do is go out and get every book there is on riding bikes and you read it over and over. Now you’re knowledge about riding bikes is going to be great but does that mean when I then give you a bike you’re going to be able to ride it straight away? No of course not. You’re going to fall off again and again, and most likely hurt yourself but eventually you’ll get good. You’ll learn what works and what doesn’t until eventually it’ll become second nature and that’s what you should do with photography. Don’t immerse yourself in books. Just get out there ‘in the field’ and shoot again and again. Make the mistakes and learn from them and experiment.
The biggest mistake new people make is not photographing enough. Just shoot loads. No amount of diagrams will show you what you need to know. By getting out and photographing again and again you’ll build up that Rolodex of experience and knowledge in your mind.
Glyn: How do you come up with your ideas for a particular photograph?
Tim: When I’m shooting cars I treat them as an Automotive Portrait. For example I’d photograph an Aston Martin DB6 differently to a Land Rover. The cars are very different and have a totally different feel to them. The DB6 makes me think of Matt Monro music and driving in the South of France with the sun blazing heading off for a picnic whereas with the Land Rover gives me a feeling of invincibility, agility and strength and each set of photographs needs to reflect this. Does that make sense? To be a great photograph it’s all about how it makes you feel.
Glyn: Yeah totally. I guess what you’re saying is that every subject is different and not to just go in doing the same as usual by putting a light here, and a light there.
The overall message I get from you Tim is not to rush into a job. Take your time and think it through.
Tim: Glyn, I feel that too many photographers are too keen to get their lighting kit out when what they should do is to take the time to look at the scene and immerse themselves in it. When they have it clear in their head what it is they want to achieve, then bring in your kit…one light at a time.
Glyn: Tim, again thank you so much for taking the time out for this chat. Is there anything you’d like finish off with?
Tim: The most expensive photograph ever sold at auction was Edward Steichen’s ‘The Pond’ at Sotheby’s in New York in February 2006. It fetched $2,928,000.00 but what’s important to note is that it was a black & white image taken using a cheap unknown brand of camera and it wasn’t even in focus.
It isn’t about the kit, it’s what you do with it that’s important.
Tim also runs very popular (as you’d expect) Seminars held all across the Country covering both Photography and Business. For more details click on this link but be aware that the Morgan and Business Seminar dates which are being held later this year are selling quickly.
At the very moment this post has been published Tim is currently on assignment in Scotland so I’d like to just say a HUGE thank you to him for taking some time out of his incredibly busy schedule and being this month’s Guest Photogapher.
Thoughts? Comments? Why not make use of the ‘comments’ section below; it would be great to ‘hear’ any feedback…thanks