It’s been awhile since we’ve had a RAW interview. There are a few out, but with the hectic schedules of many photographers sometimes we just have to wait. Andrew is from Tasmania which is a place that I’ve been looking at for a photo trip for sometime. Make sure you check out his website when your done reading this. Enjoy!
Tell us a little about yourself?
I am a 44 year old photographer and digital artist/retoucher from Tasmania, Australia, one of the most picturesque places in the world. I‘ve been running Mad Keane Photography for just over two years with my wife, Katrina and a second photographer, Richard Cowling.
I also love to travel and take photographs to document the cultures and landscapes. I’ve just actually returned from a 6 week trek in Nepal to Everest Base Camp, which was amazing. I highly recommend the country to anyone who likes travel photography, amazing scenery and lovely people.
In between creating photographs and digital art, I spend my time tinkering with computers, and trying to master the bagpipes.
What inspired you to get started in photography?
Well I’ve always liked drawing and painting and actually had three starts in photography. I still strongly recall being given some old Kodak camera back in the early 1970s when I was about five years old which I used frequently to take lots of black and white film pictures. You’d then go down to the chemist, where you’d wait a week for them to come back again developed. Being five at the time, I broke the camera.
To my eternal shame, I didn’t get into photography again until my late early 30s. I am afraid to say I am bit of a techno-gadget guy. I like mucking around with electronic gadgets, so when digital cameras started to first take off I bought one, more as hobby than anything. I bought a Canon point and shoot, which was only 2MB, but top of the range at the time and cost a small fortune. There was a lot cheaper about but this one was special at the time because it gave you full manual control over the aperture setting and shutter speed, simultaneously! I thought was a tremendous that I had such control and free film and shot thousands of images of my children, experimenting with different exposures and depth of field and learning about photography. I still could not really afford a ‘proper’ camera so photography remained a hobby.
About three to four years ago, I decided to get Photoshop and teach myself how to work such a daunting program. The main reason because along with photography I like drawing and painting and wanted to learn how to do photomanipulations. I bought every book I could get hold off, watched shows like Photoshop User TV, signed up for training courses and now consider myself very good at Photoshop techniques.
I had trouble getting the right photographs I wanted so bought a DSLR and entry level set of lens so I could take my own. This was the start of my photography obsession. I started taking all sorts of photographs, but found myself increasingly drawn to weddings and people photography. I also discovered, that I was pretty good at it, at least in my own opinion that and of a few friends, and that I loved creating photographs. I really love the creative process involved, and I’m not one for candid snapshots as I like to set up an images to match an idea in my head.
So, after all that decided to take it more seriously. Again I devoured every book I could get hold off, did training, joined photography groups, shot hundreds of photographs, and several expensive lens later, strobes, soft boxes later I founded Mad Keane Photography with my wife, Katrina.
What gear do you take to each shoot and what lens can you not live without?
Apart from my the essential camera body, spare batteries, memory cards, I always take my Canon 17-55mm f2.8, a Sigma 70-200mm f2.8 and the nifty fifty, aka the Canon 50mm f1.8, an amazingly good lens for its very cheap price ($100). For weddings and portraits work on location I’ll usually take a speedlight or two, as well as a 5 in 1 reflector/diffuser set.
I’ll also take a step ladder, and a blanket. This allows me to shoot extra high, or extra low and get some more dramatic angles and create photos which stand out from the other guests who all shot at head height with their own DSLRs.
I love the 70-200mm f2.8 lens and use it whenever I can. For starters the fast glass lets me shoot in low light without resorting to flash, which is often a no-no in a church. I also love the bokeh it gives, it is almost what I’d call ‘creamy’ and my subjects really pop off of background. I’ll often try to shoot way out at the 150+ range even for a close-up as I love what the lens compression does to portraits, especially the ‘sticky-out bits’ like ears and noses. I also like how that compression can bring the background seemingly right in close to your couple, which can add more drama to an environmental wedding shot.
How do you market yourself and has social media been an important part?
I think these days with digital costing far less than film, and with cameras getting smarter and cheaper, it is getting harder for photographers to generate business, so a good head for promotion is vital. I’ve heard it said there are plenty of average photographers who a great marketers and yet great photographers who you will never know because they are not great at marketing. However, having said that, marketing is always something I have found challenging. I find it all too tempting to just have my website up and then just wait for the business to come flooding in. Unfortunately that doesn’t work and you have to actually be a smidge pushy when it comes to marketing, which is not something that comes naturally to me. To really market yourself I think you need to go out into the world and pester people, and vendors to get business. I try to fire off lots of blog posts, tutorials (when I can), and request for interviews (such as with RAW). I try not to be a wondering photographer and instead ask or find out! The worst that can happen is someone says no
I’ve found in a small state like Tasmania, with a small client base, that nearly all my wedding and portrait business comes from referrals. Consequently, I try to treat each shoot I do as if my whole career depended on it, which in one way it does. I also think it is important that I always try to make each shoot better than the one before both from a business perspective, but also to try to grow as a photographer. I also try to throw in unexpected freebies for every client. Under promise but over deliver, I find works wonders.
Finally, I also think that with a million wedding photographers out there, of which several thousand are very talented, I need to have something that makes me stand out from the crowd, something that is different about me. I try to do that through my images. This sound a bit clichéd, but I really do like to focus on getting an image that displays some sort of emotion or drama, be it happy, sad, or just cool indifference. I will sacrifice technical details like shadow detail if I think it gets me a better portrait. I was watching a video of a talk down by a wedding photographer I admire greatly, Jerry Ghionis, who summed it up perfectly, saying without emotion in a photo, you just have technically perfect shot of a pose.
With regard to social media, I do not use it nearly enough or as well as others do, (I’m looking at you here Scott Kelby and co.) but I’ve still found Facebook a useful tool for getting my brand name out there. It is also allows me to demonstrate to potential clients my style and what I have to offer. I’d prefer to use Google+ as it has an active and vibrant photographic community and I really prefer how Google+ operates and displays photographs. It’s a pity hardly anyone apart from other photographers seem to use it.
What’s your favourite photo that you’ve taken and does it have any significance?
My favourite photograph is actually an old shot taken years ago of my son when he was asleep. I like it firstly because it has a personal connection but also because it was my first attempt to make a photograph instead of just grabbing a snapshot. I had only just got my camera and was learning about aperture value and shutter speed. My young son was asleep in the room next door, and I set-up a candle to light up his face and shot with the camera on a time resting on a stool. I was really happy with it at the time and still like the photograph. Its just a 2mb jpeg that’s never had any adjustments made to it on the computer. I didn’t know it back then, but I was doing one of my first portraits using soft directional lighting to set the mood.
Select a photo you have taken, explain how it was taken and how did you edit it?
This was tricky as I have images where only the white balancing and some sharpening is tweaked in Lightroom to images with over 60 layers in Photoshop, which would require a whole separate post to list the editing. The photograph below is one I did a week ago for a client from an American Tribal Belly-Dancing Troupe. She was also a Roller-Derby player so we did a combo of Derby sports portraits, some pin-up and some glamour images with one of her corsets. She had some interesting tattoos and great blue/black hair which off-set nicely the red of the corset.
The image below is a RAW image straight of out camera. It was shot on a black backdrop with a beauty dish almost directly to camera right, just behind her plane, facing down at 45 degrees. I put a grid over the dish, as I only wanted to light mainly the tattoos, with a hint of light on the hair, corset and background to separate her off the backdrop. I also wanted her facing to be a dark silhouette, looking downwards to add a bit of mystery about who she is, what is she doing, what is she thinking.
I then edited it as follows:
- The white balance was already pretty good, so I just increased the exposure and moved it into Photoshop to retouch it a hint. It did not really need any retouching, the Photoshop was more to play with the lighting and contrast.
- Remove minor blemishes and smooth the skin
- Selective sharpening on the corset and hair (using a technique I picked up from Calvin Hollywood)
- Add a vignette to draw attention to the tattoos
- A few adjustment layers to deepen the red of the corset and add some more contrast
- Add a luminosity mask with a levels adjustment to add contrast to the shadows and mid-tones
- Add a light to dark blue gradient/soft light blend mode to give it a colder night time look and a bluish light coming from high camera right
And this is the result
What processing tool do you use and do you believe in the camera doing all the work or in post ?
I import all my images in Lightroom and do exposure, white balance and similar adjustments there. However for serious editing or retouching I switch to Photoshop CS5. I also use plugins Silver Efex pro and Colour Efex, which are excellent pieces of software. I also do the odd HDR and I’ve found Photomatix is the best of the lot as it offers me a great range of options.
Having got back into photography via digital editing and Photoshop I have no qualms about using Photoshop in post, and usually all my photos have some tweaking, even if it is just adjusting contrast and some selective sharpening. I consider myself a good photographer, but a very good ‘Photoshopper’. However, I prefer to get as much right in camera as possible and the more I shoot the more I get right in camera. I’d rather spend 3 seconds moving a hair of a model’s face before shooting, than 20 minutes cloning it out in Photoshop.
I am also heavily into digital artwork, so I often have no choice but to use Photoshop. I did a piece this year with a model in army gear overlooking the city, where I live. I wanted the city to be on fire, but was not inclined to actually set fire to the place, or hire some Apache helicopters for the shoot. In instance likes this, the camera cannot do all the work.
What’s your favourite photography accessory other than your camera?
When not shooting weddings, I like to shoot a lot of beauty and glamour style portraits in my studio, so I really love my beauty dish. With a sock over the top, it creates a terrific soft, yet punchy light that I really like. It also put great catch lights in the eyes. With a 20 degree grid over it, you can do some really dark, moody imagery with directional lighting.
Where do you prefer to post your photos online and why there?
Apart from my blog and Facebook page I mainly post on deviantArt and 500px. I use deviantArt heavily. They have a great and very large community of talented artists. It does not bring in any clients directly, but it can get you noticed. It was through such sites as deviantArt, and 500px that I have been invited to submit works to exhibitions and galleries.
I like 500px, mainly because of the quality of the work there. It seems to attract the largest percentage of professional photographers than sites such as FlickR or RedBubble and find it a great source of inspiration just to look at what’s being produced every day.
Do you ever get photographers block and if so what do you do to get inspired again?
I’m yet to suffer from a serious case of photographer’s block. I find there is some much great stuff out there on the internet that inspires me that there is not enough time in the day to go and try everything out. I find I am also heavily inspired by movie posters, and old movies with the 30s to 40s glamour. You know, classics like Casablanca. The way they lit their leads, it was simple, but still very effective. Other photographers also greatly inspire me. The works produced by people such as Calvin Hollywood, Jerry Ghionis, Ryan Schembri, Regina Pagles, Rebeca Saray Gude, and Frank Doorhoof really inspire me to get out there and shoot, learn and create.
At times, I’ve found if a person or couple are not confident in front of a camera it can be challenging to come up with poses or ideas that reflect their personality and don’t look fake or blatantly posed. This I why I find it important to be passionate about your work. If you appear confident and passionate, I feel it rubs off on your clients who in turn start to feel confident. Even when I don’t feel like things are working as I expected, which fortunately is very uncommon, I will always ‘fake it’ and after a point I no longer need to, as it has become real.
Is there anything you wish you had done when you first started in photography that would of made a difference?
For starters, I wish I’d started it more early than I did, as it was not something I discovered until well into my thirties. Then again, when I was younger I would not have had the time or money to invest into a photography business and give it the professionalism it deserves.
Any advice for new photographers wanting to go pro?
Firstly think about it very carefully. I heard some good advice from Rick Sammon a few years ago when he was asked the same question. He said to be careful when turning your hobby into your job. Once you do, it is no longer a hobby you do for fun as you like, but work. You may not have a choice about when to shot, what or how if you are depending on the money to exist.
I also think it is important that you have a good head for business and know your local market first. Get involved in photography clubs first, or hang out with professional photographers if you can. I am fortunate in that I have a second job on top of my photography, which allows me a certain degree of financial freedom about what work I choose to accept and what price structure I set.
The word ‘Pro’ is also a good hint. A believe a ‘pro’ photographer is not just someone who is very good at photography and charges for their services. A ‘pro’ is a professional with all that entails. So you need to be ethical, dependable, on time, know your stuff and deliver on what you promise to do.
Finally, never stop learning. I am my own worst critic when it comes to my work. I am rarely 100% happy with my work and always try to find something I could have done, and will do better on, next time. You need to read lots, shoot lots, look at other photographers stuff, share your own knowledge with others, and never stop challenging yourself. The internet is a great source of free resources to start with. There are hundreds of advice columns, web pages and blogs, like RAW to get you started.