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Interview with Kingsley Burton

Interview with Kingsley Burton

You can meet some amazing people on the Internet. Kingsley lives in Perth, he takes amazing fine art photographs and portraits, not to mention he is always up for giving good solid advice to people who ask. Check out his work and connect with him on his various social networks. Do you shoot fine art or portraits, what do you think of Kingsley’s work Leave your responses in the comments below.

Kingsley Burton
Kingsley Burton

Tell us a little about yourself?

Well photographically I call myself a commercial fine art and portrait photographer.  I like to specialise in commercial and corporate fine art, focusing supply of high quality art pieces to commercial and corporate facilities and hotels.  I also love to do portrait images that result in a unique capture of each client.   I like my work to articulate verve in colour and form and, over the years, whilst the subject matter changes my style has continued to be the same.  I am also passionate about giving back and building the photographic community, and get a real buzz out of spending time with people new or learning photography.

Other bits and pieces, I have a psychology degree and commenced an economics and biology degrees, and also couple of post graduate qualifications, including an Executive MBA.  I also lead the reform team for the Department of Health, have a strong interest in design. I also have a great partner, Paul, who I have been with for 27 years.

Oh, and I’m a self confessed gizmo lover. 

What made you get into photography?
You know, I’m not sure.  Some of my earliest memories are around photographic imagery of significant events as well as a strong fascination of playing with cameras (particular opening them up and playing with the internal mechanics).  

Nowadays I enjoy the combination of the creative side, and the technical side, in both the image creation (looking at design, composition, form and colour, as well as the technical aspects of lighting) and in the post processing. 

I am interested in photography as it allows me to explore, discover, and see something different and enable me to share that with others.  Overall I am really drawn to colour and form in my fine art work, and the story telling and connection with my clients in my portraiture.

How did you get started?

Well again I’m not sure.  My earliest recollection of playing with cameras was a Diana camera (for those of you too young to remember http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diana_camera) I had got from a cereal box.  Though I have no idea how I got the films processed (suspect the folks helped out when I whinged enough).  

I do also recall being told off a lot for nicking Dad’s camera at family events to take photographs.  What I do recall it was that photography was a really magical thing.  Press the shutter and a few days later seeing what you captured.  

My next major photographic recollection was at high school, where I was desperate to enrol in photography and learnt about composition and form, but also, all the dark room techniques as well.  Mixing the chemicals, cutting up and winding film, developing films and photograph exposure and developing the final print were all magical.  I remember that I had a blast doing it all.  It really captured my attention (which was unusual as I was a kid who was readily distracted).  I also remember sneaking into the darkroom after hours just to experiment.  I didn’t do much photography whilst at university.  I think the idea of me setting up my own darkroom at home got quashed quiet quickly. 

My next recollection was when I got my first ‘serious’ digital camera.  My partner Paul and I got a Nikon E990.  Three megapixel of awesomeness, and 4MB cards that cost an arm and a leg.  From that point on I was re-hooked, I already loved the technical side of photography, add to that this was a brand new imaging technology that had huge potential meant I was very excited all over again.  I also had a strong interest in computing and design by this stage so no darkroom time but I loved spending time playing on the computer and working in Nikon Capture and Photoshop (hmmm, seem to be still doing that!).  So it was really the advent of digital photography that rekindle and captured my passion in photography again. 

What sort of photography do you mainly do?

I mainly focus on fine art and portrait photography.  My focus on the fine art work is to create strong pieces of art. I think that my photography is strongly comprised of colour and form.  My subject matter is varied from foreign destinations, street, abstract and a fair amount of floral work.  My portrait work is different though in that I like my images to tell a story of some sort and that I also like creating strong iconic imagery.  Overall I think I would call my work strong and bold.  Anyone who knows me knows I don’t do subtle very well. 

What gear are you using?

I am a Nikon shooter currently shooting all three Nikon sensor sizes, DX, FX, and CX.  The cameras, are D300, D700, and in a few weeks the new D800E.  I also have the new Nikon 1 V1, which is a great casual/location scouting camera.  

Lenses – all Nikon again, 50mm, 24-70mm, 60mm, 85mm, 105mm, 70-200mm, 200mm, 24-300mm, and an 18-200mm for the D300.   Also 10-30, 30-110, 10-100 Power Zoom for the V1. 

Lights – Elinchrom Quadra RX, and Rx units, with a bank of Elinchrom softboxes, reflectors, shoots and grids, as well as a bunch of Nikon SB-800 and SB-900 flashes.

And just the usual stands, tripods, heads, laptops, HDDs, monopods, and way too many camera bags.

I have also taken a recent interest in medium format, and looking at both Hassleblad and Phase systems at the moment as well.

Whats your favourite lens and why?

Oh now this is a tricky one, as it really depends on what I am shooting.  For portrait work I like the 24-70mm mainly, though the 85mm and 70-200mm, both come a joint second.  

For the fine art work, mainly the 105 macro, with the 200mm a close second.  For travelling I only use the 24-300mm, though I may sneak the 60mm along depending on which bag I’m taking (and what I can get away with). 

How are you marketing yourself?

Both streams of work are marketed primarily by referrals.  Though I am looking at something a little larger and more formalised for a campaign for my commercial fine art work in the near future. This will be to a national and international audience, showcasing 600+ image commission I received for a hotel overseas recently .  Also I utilise the services of Artsource – the Artists Foundation of Western Australia Ltd. 

Whats your favourite photo you have taken?

OK  I can see these question are getting tougher!   From the fine art side, I have three favourites at the moment.  

The first is a shot of a single Calla Lily, the second is the black (purple) Calla Lilies, and the third is an image of some salt flats.  

From the portrait side, I was lucky enough to shoot a fundraising calendar for the Australia Clearance Dive Team Four, and the cover shot of the image is my favourite. 

Advice for new photographers looking to go pro?

I would probably have three bits of advice.  

Firstly, get clear for yourself that you’re prepared to do this as a business.  Whilst an enthusiast, if you wake up late and don’t feel like doing a shoot its ok, it can wait or reschedule. However if you are a professional then, you need to preform and behave like one.  Also that as a pro, you will spend most of your time doing the business side rather than the shooting side (unless your very clever at setting yourself up).  

Secondly, I would get serious about improving and refining your craft.  I recently heard someone say that ‘the immediacy of the technology, does not equal the immediacy of the craft’.  Just because you have professional gear, doesn’t mean you can call yourself a professional.  For me, this means you have to constantly learn, refine, and practice your craft.  Refine your style and brand.  Get good at knowing your gear – can you operate your camera by touch in the dark?  I would also strongly suggest joining a professional organisation like the Australian Institute of Professional Photography or the Australian Commerical Media Photographers association. There is good support and insight in both those organisations, tap into that knowledge.  I’m a firm believer in being an assessed and being accredited as a professional.

Thirdly, get real good at the business.  If you’re a newbie to running your own business and what you need is to have someone help you through some of the things you NEED to know.  To help you I would highly recommend heading over to CreativeLive (www.creativelive.com) and looking for Tamara Lackey’s course “Taking care of business”.  Here’s the link: http://www.creativelive.com/courses/taking-care-business-tamara-lackey.  Probably the best $99 you will spend in your professional business development.  Oh, whilst your there, check out some of their other courses.  There is some very good stuff there. 

What post processing tools do you use?

Prior to 2010 I used to use Nikon Capture NX and Adobe Photoshop and rarely Phase One Capture One ver 3.  However, since Phase One Capture One Pro 6 was launched I have moved back over to this and Adobe Photoshop Extended.   I am able to do everything I need to do in those two packages.  

With Photoshop, I do use the Nik Complete Collection, and less often the onOnesoftware Photo Suite Pro.  I am also about to try the Helicon Focus software as well for focus stacking work, as well as the RadLab plugins.     

For the Nikon 1 V1 I am still using Nikon Capture NX2.  For the V1, I find the the output is better in Capture NX2 than Capture One, however I suspect/hope they will update the program and improve it.   I haven’t worked out what I’m going to be doing when the Nikon D800E comes along.  I will make an assessment on the output from both Capture NX2 and Capture One, and see which one looks the best. 

Select a photo and explain how you took it and how you edited it?

The image I’ve chosen to discuss is the image above of Damien.  This shot was taken last year.  It involved a crew of three, myself and two assistants, as well as Damien.  The shot as you can see was taken under one of the wharf’s on Garden Island after we got special clearance to shoot.  Damien was placed waist deep in the water.  My two assistants, Paul and Craig, where on either side of Damien in the water, with Elinchrom Quadra RX units strapped very high on them to keep them out of the reach of the waves, with softboxes mounted on monopods.  The softbox on the left was a grided square and on the right a deep dish Octa.  I was half in the water (though that wasn’t the plan), but after a couple of waves in the break zone, I decided to give up and I was already wet.  Oh, a sidenote, pro-gear is usually much better sealed for water and sand… comes in handy for shoots like this one!  

This image was from a series of about 20 shots.  The scuba tank set that Damien is holding up on his shoulder casually is 30kgs dry, and I kept asking him to dunk it into the water, it was a lot heavier wet, hence only a small number of shots.  I always shoot raw format and in this instance this helped more than I thought it would.  In bringing in the image into Capture One, I was mostly happy with it. 

Post production work was minimal.  The image was processed twice and blended.  The initial processing was changing the white balance to ‘blue’ the background.  This was because the shot was taken late in the afternoon, and there was a lot of golden sunlight, which was great for Damien, but not on the blue-ish cement pylons.  What I wanted to do was to contrast Damien’s skin tone, against a more moody and contrasted blue background.  So to alter this I changed the white balance of the background.

The image was then processed again this time for Damien, with minor adjustment on exposure.  I then merged the background and Damien together.  This was done in Capture One.  I then brought the image into Photoshop where I did some minor dodging and burning. Then finally output sharpening with Nik Sharpener. 

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4 comments
Kingsley Burton
Kingsley Burton

Awww thanks Dapper, Kate and Mike... your cheques are in the mail :D Dapper - still got to do your photoshop sessions champ. Kat - thanks for the kind words and the comments on the images Mike - thanks buddy :D

Mike Burton
Mike Burton

Reading this interview was the highlight of the Day for me, The insight, professionalism and indeed,Talent, is laid bare for all to see and read. If I can achieve half as much as Kingsley has to date, I would be a very Happy Camper, and I aim to succeed!

kat cooley
kat cooley

Truly an inspired and informative interview I love the photos and the way he displays them from the different methods he used and can see that he is eager to help beginners to get started right.

Dapperado
Dapperado

Well done Kings, awesome guy helped me a lot.