An Interview with Martin Garnham
Martin Garnham from Central London, United Kingdom, shares his love for photography with us in this issue of Hear It!. For this humble photographer, he believes that nothing beats hard work, persistence and the joy he gets from his job. Here's what Martin has to say...
1. Production Equipment:
Photographer: Martin Garnham
Country of Origin: United Kingdom
I have a small studio in the theatre district of Central London which I undertake commercial work such as actors' headshots and model portfolios as well as some product photography. I have also managed to create a make-shift still-life set up at home with the help of a shooting Perspex table a boom with various flash heads which I use for a lot of my stock work. I tend to use a Canon 20D for a lot of my work for stock due to the ease of use and to keep costs down and the fact that I can view images instantly on a nearby computer! I use various lenses such as 10-20mm for wide angle work, a 28-135mm for various focal lengths and a 70-300mm Macro for extreme close up work. I also use a Medium format Mamiya RZ67 pro II with a 140mm Macro lens for certain high-end stock shots with either a 6x7 or 6x6 format film and Polaroid for proofs. Using this film format is very costly in processing costs but worth every penny when I see the quality of the finished image. Of course I then have to sort through the negatives and select the frames to be sent-off for Hi-res scanning. I undertake a lot of the editing with Photoshop CS2, shooting RAW then converting to TIFF format, and carrying out any editing - looking for dust marks, using curves and levels to 'clean up' the image! I have a variety of colored background papers at hand depending on the image composition and etc.
2. What do you think of photography these days?
These days photography has moved on many ways whilst not forgetting the many hurdles older styles of photography has gone through. The older equipment and styles of photographers made great impressions and created the platform which we all follow today! As a full time photographer, I find it difficult to maintain a decent amount of business from commissions mainly because there are more would-be photographers entering photography courses at colleges therefore creating more competition and also the digital age has provided even the most camera-dumb person an opportunity to produce an image of sorts that they could use for there company website or family portrait! But I still believe that photography is a skill which is still needed and as the future gets more technical and advanced so will a majority of good photographic work.
3. What did you want to be when you were younger?
When I was younger, all I wanted to do was travel and I ended up doing a fair bit of travelling when I worked in the USA and France. I also worked on a cruise ship in the Caribbean, South America and Alaska. I never knew I was going to be a photographer after I completed my travels although I was interested in images most of my life.
4. Tell us about the time when you first got started in photography.
After I worked for 16 years in hospitality, one day I was thinking of changing careers and trying to think of what I would like to do. I sat in a bookshop for half a day looking through many publications of images and just kept thinking to myself I would love to take photographs like that! Right there and then I knew in which direction my career was going and the next week, I signed up to various courses at a local photography college and gave notice to leave the hospitality business! Fairly random decision but when I get something in my mind I tend to go for it all guns blazing!
5. In your opinion, what does it take to become successful in this industry?
What does it take to become successful in this industry? If it ever happens to me I will let you know!! It depends on what you would measure as your level of success. I am sure there are many photographers out there who would imagine that success would mean winning lots of awards for images and becoming well known in the photography world. I tend to think that if my business gets to a level where I am content that I don't have to worry where the next commission is coming from and I am happy that the image agencies have enough of my images for me to earn a decent monthly income from and I still get people tell me they love my work then I will say I have been successful.
6. What was your biggest challenge coming into this industry?
I think my biggest challenge coming into the photographic industry was gaining on the job knowledge. When I finished my photography courses at college, I tried to get assisting work with other professional photographers, I wrote endless amounts of letters and made phone calls and attended interviews but just had no luck so I found I had to just keep reading books and searching for tutorials on the web and just trying to learn as much as I could from commissions I was lucky enough to be offered. Nowadays, I am lucky enough to get some work assisting my old college tutor when he gets commissions. He has been a pro for over thirty years and once spent a long time assisting Helmet Newton. Even though my knowledge has improved greatly over the last few years I still learn a lot from him and he is always very willing to share his knowledge and opinion!
7. What are the best perks as a Photographer?
Being my own boss and just being lucky enough to be able to have a job doing what I love! There are plenty of people just passing time in a job where they don't really want to be there and are just comfortable collecting a pay check every month. In a job where you check how slow the hands on your watch is moving is not good whereby with photography I get frustrated because there is not enough time in the day to get all your plans achieved! And boy does those hands on my watch move fast!
8. How do you plan for your shooting sessions?
Firstly I decide what I want to shoot. This is the hardest task to undertake because I go through a process of finding out what photo agencies are looking for by looking through magazines and publications which can be very time consuming. Once I have decided what I am going to shoot, I then think about how I am going to do it. What background, the composition and when I do the setup, I play with the lighting until it is just right! Trying different focal lengths and angles is the last process apart from editing and keywording the images.
9. How would you describe your work to first time viewers?
I tend to try and create a vast array of different images which includes landscape, places, themes, conceptual, still-life, portraiture and I hope to expand on my portfolio with more food and drink images which I feel there is a big market for.
10. Do you shoot to what your heart tells you or do you go through a complex check list in your mind when you produce your work? Describe the feeling/check list.
I tend to do a bit of both really, I do have a check list but I also sometimes go with the flow and what my mind is trying to lead me in a certain direction. I do believe that the whole shoot has guidelines but if you feel during the shoot that you should suddenly change direction then you should! If it does not work then you start again.
11. From your experience, what subjects gives you the greatest satisfaction? Any examples?
Well, I have always had a big love for travel and seeing different places so I always enjoy being outside shooting a great landscape or catching the beauty of a certain building or place.
12. From your experience, what subjects are the hardest to work with? Any examples?
I get a lot of interior photography commissions and sometimes they can be very difficult to light as well as finding myself cramped up in a corner of a room in order to get the right angle of composition.
13. What is your philosophy when it comes to your work?
Simple philosophies really, get it right and don't finish a shoot until you are completely satisfied with the end result!
14. Describe who/what inspires you, tell us why?
I absolutely love color and vibrant colors at that! I made a trip to Mexico a few years ago and I had been there about 30 odd times. For some unknown reason I took some black and white film with me and as soon as I got there I wondered why! So many fantastic colors on buildings and clothing as well as fantastic blue skies and emerald colored seas! I just love color and the various forms of color.
15. What do you do when those creative juices just seems to evade you. How do you "get creative"?
Luckily it does not happen that much but when it does, I go to a coffee shop, read a newspaper and forget about images. I will then go to a bookshop and read through photography books and all of a sudden it's all back again and I am raring to go. Works for me!
16. Tell us about a time when inspiration just hits you, and you felt the insatiable urge to create. What did you do with that energy?
I have found sometimes during a portrait shoot that maybe the model is not giving you a look you are looking for or the lighting is not going your way, then all of a sudden it just all changes and you get the image you are looking for and the whole atmosphere seems to change and even the model gets warmed up! The whole shoot gains a lot of momentum and you end up with a good selection of images.
17. What have you discovered about yourself through photography?
I have discovered that because of my love for photography, it has given me a future of interesting things to keep my mind ticking. I now look forward to waking up in the morning and sitting at my desk and starting my work for the day ahead. I never had that in any previous job.
18. Whose work do you admire the most? Why?
There are some fantastic photographers out there. I have always been a big fan of Harry Benson who was a 1950's photo journalist who was famous with lots of other images for recording the Beatles conquering the U.S.A. I really admire the places and portrait work of the London-based photographer Rod Edwards. His images are so sharp and the composition is just out of this world.
19. Do you have any advice for those who are just getting in to stock photography?
It can be a long and frustrating process and you need a lot of time to not only go through the process of preparing what, how and when you are going to shoot but there is also a whole new task of keywording & uploading and getting your image excepted. It is worth it when you see some sales coming in! My advice to anybody new is, slowly start to build a vast array of stock images and really try to put them in as many agencies as you can so that you can get a decent amount of return per image. Royalty Free microstock is mainly about numbers. So the more you submit, the more sales you should make. Dedicate a certain amount of time per week to shooting and stick to it. You will also need a certain amount of luck! Good luck to all!