This month’s interview is with Martin Evening. Martin is a London-based advertising photographer and noted expert in both photography and digital imaging. As a successful photographer, Martin is well known in London for his fashion and beauty work.
1 – Scott: Please tell me how and when you got into photography.
Martin: I was eleven years old. My father used to tell me about how he processed his own photos in a tent at night when he was living in Africa, and I was initially fascinated with the darkroom developing process. My first darkroom was a cupboard under the stairs. I spent a lot of my childhood shooting black and white film and making my own prints.
2 – Scott: What is your favorite photographic location or subject?
Martin: In London I am well-known as a beauty and hair photographer and many of my clients have no idea that I write books about Photoshop. They hire me based on my fashion photography skills. So I would say I have a lot of experience in this area and like the work that I do. Alongside this I am also happiest when shooting landscapes and architecture. I get to travel quite a bit each year and always take the camera with me wherever I go. This week I am in Boston, it’s been cold and sometimes quite cloudy, but I have managed to get some great shots.
3 – Scott: Can you recall the first photograph you made that caused you to think WOW – that’s a good shot and if so, what was it?
Martin: There was a photo I took of a friend’s pony when I was about 14, that I really liked and I remember making a big 24″ x 30″ print of it, which I had to do by turning the darkroom enlarger on it’s side and printing onto 3 strips of roll paper. I was pleased because I had technically managed to push the limits of what I could do back then, but also because it was a pretty nice shot of the pony.
4 – Scott: Do you have any formal training in photography or a related field and do you think that’s important for aspiring serious photographers?
Martin: I did study photography at the Salisbury College of Art in Wiltshire. I think it is useful to have some grounding in both the technical and artistic sides of photography before you start out. Beyond that everyone needs to gain experience through going out and shooting lots of pictures. For me, I found going on to shoot commercial assignments not only helped fund me as a photographer, but it also challenged me to improve my techniques.
5 – Scott: Are you more of a technical or an artistic photographer?
Martin: I’m both and you have to be if you want to get the best results out of your photography. Of course, not everyone needs to learn how digital cameras work or how to retouch and print in Photoshop. There is a case to be made for photographers delegating this kind of thing out to others. In my experience, a lot of the photographers I know have found it rewarding and enjoyable to invest time improving their digital skills so that they can have more hands-on control over the look of their photos.
6 – Scott: Which photographers if any influenced your work?
Martin: There are lots of photographers I have been influenced by and what influences me most is probably whatever I was looking at recently. I have just come back from Photoshop World in Boston and have been stimulated by not just the photos, but the conversations I have had with fellow photographers there.
7 – Scott: What has been the most interesting or surprising thing to you about how people react to photography?
Martin: The biggest change these days is the way taking photographs has become more democratized by the advent of good quality digital cameras. For the last eight years or so I have been writing a column for What Digital Camera magazine where I review readers photos each month and the one thing I have noticed is how much the technical quality has improved in recent years. In fact, if you compare the results many amateur photographers are getting these days, they are sometimes achieving a much higher technical quality than when I was making prints at college. I’m not saying they are necessarily of a higher artistic quality, but on the whole I do think a lot of people are now able to become better photographers because the technology makes it easier to produce a fantastic-looking print.
8 – Scott: How would you describe your style of photography?
Martin: With my studio work, I use a lot of different shooting styles. At the moment I am rather keen on working with spot lights and shadow patterns, using either strobe flash or continuous lights mixed with daylight. When I am on location shooting I like to look for graphic shapes in the image composition and interesting angles.
9 – Scott: How do you go about “seeing” a photograph?
Martin: It’s always an instinctive thing and comes about through having had lots of shooting experience. Very few photographers I know could sum up the actual creative process that is at work when you lift the camera to your eye and prepare to take a photograph. I often find myself looking for different viewpoints, like what would happen if I lie down on the ground instead of just standing there and shooting from eye-level. Are there details within the scene that might tell a different story?
10 – Scott: Of your many projects, which is your favorite and why?
Martin: I’ mostly focussed on what I’ve shot recently. I was really pleased with the looks I got out from a L’Oreal photo shoot just before Christmas and since then I got some interesting shots from a holiday trip we took to Nevis in the Caribbean. And as I say, I’m looking forward to editing through the Boston photos I shot this week.
11 – What is Pixel Genius?
Martin: Pixel Genius was formed seven years ago as a collaboration of Photoshop experts: Bruce Fraser, Jeff Schewe, Andrew Rodney, Seth Resnick and myself along with the software engineering expertise of Mike Skurski. We found out that we all got along really well with each other and decided to see if we could work together building plug-ins for Photoshop. Out of that came the Photokit plug-ins including Photokit Sharpener and Photokit Color. Mike and Bruce both sadly passed away. Mac Holbert has now joined our gang and we have a new engineer, Mike Keppel. We have been working on an update to Sharpener and you will also find the Photokit output sharpening has been built-in to Lightroom 2, so you can have your prints sharpened automatically as you send the files to print in Lightroom.
12 – Scott: Is there any photographic discipline that you wish you knew more about?
Martin: I enjoy learning to shoot in new ways and in particular, anything that gets me out of the studio. I have great admiration for the specialist knowledge of some outdoor photographers and I would really like to learn how to shoot things like wildlife subjects. Plus I have never been up in a helicopter, but would love to take aerial photographs some time.
13 – Scott: After all these years as a photographer/teacher and author, do you ever find it hard to remain passionate about your work?
Martin: No, not now that digital technology makes shooting more instantaneous and accessible. It is now possible to shoot great photos easier than ever before, such as the ability to record fine-detailed images in low-light conditions, and I think that along with the cheaper shooting costs per image has made me feel even more excited about photography than ever before.
14 – Scott: Everyone will ask me why I didn’t ask this question if I don’t – so here goes – What cameras/lenses do you use and why?
Martin: Groan… OK, I mostly shoot using a Canon EOS 1Ds MkIII, but also sometimes with a MkII or a Canon 450D (that’s what we call the Rebel series over in Europe). The main lenses I use are a 2470mm EL 2.8 lens and the 70200 f2.8 EL, but I also sometimes shoot with a Sigma 1224mm wide angle zoom and a 50 mm f1.2. I have other lenses for use with the 450D, but those are the main ones I shoot with.
15 – Scott: What’s the biggest mistake you made when you first started out as a photographer?
Martin: Oh, for me it was not appreciating how to run a business. It’s one of those things that colleges can be really bad at teaching and you really do have to learn all about how to make photography pay you a living, plus how to liaise with clients and take charge of a shoot. You need to learn all this if you are to stand a chance of remaining in business. You can be as creative a photographer as you like, but unless you get to grips with the business side you can’t call yourself a professional. I know it’s not easy for young photographers coming out of college to understand this, but trust me you’ve got to take charge of the business side of what it means to be a photographer or you’ll fail spectacularly.
16 – Would you like to give any final words of advice to photographers who want to improve their photography?
Martin: Actually I probably already have in those last few comments. In the recent book I wrote with Jeff Schewe “Adobe Photoshop CS4 for Photographers: The Ultimate Workshop” we devoted a chapter to the business side of working with Photoshop and the things you need to think about when working out how much your skills are worth, how to charge for your services and negotiate with clients. I don’t want to harp on about this, but if you build a successful business plan, it is that which will give you the freedom to take control of your future career and allow you to get the shoot the types of subjects you want to shoot and on your terms rather than the client’s.
To find out more about Martin check out his website: Martin Evening Photography
Also check out Martin’s books: Adobe Photoshop CS4 for Photographers: A Professional Image Editor’s Guide to the Creative use of Photoshop for the Macintosh and PC
and The Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 2 Book: The Complete Guide for Photographers
I want to thank Martin for taking time out of his busy schedule to agree to this interview.
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