How breaking the rules gave Tony Antoniou macro photography success!

Photocrowd winner talks about lying in a muddy field for hours, not getting on with darkroom processing and the importance of breaking the rules.

We continue our series of interviews with Photocrowd members, and this week we are talking to one of the most popular photographers on the site - Tony Antoniou

Tony has won two Photocrowd competitions: the Macro contest with his excellent photo of a bumblebee; and the Rain contest with the hugely popular Standing out from the Crowd, which came first in both the Expert and the Crowd Votes.

How did you get into photography?

When I was around 12, my older brother had one of those old Soviet-built film SLRs, I believe it was a Zenith. This sparked an initial interest. But it wasn’t until my early 20s that I bought myself a second-hand Canon AE-1 and shot on B&W Ilford ASA 400 film and built a makeshift darkroom in my kitchen. I’ll be honest, the darkroom wasn’t for me and I soon felt disillusioned about the whole photography hobby and sold all my kit.

So it wasn’t until some 20 years later, now in the era of digital photography, that I embraced the hobby again. I have my wife Julie to thank for that. It was a couple of Christmases ago that she was struggling to find a present for me and whilst on a shopping trip she just suggested the idea of a camera. That was it! No more smelly chemicals to deal with, no more fumbling in the dark, instant results, no film costs - to name but a few benefits. I was totally sold. I don’t regret the early years: all the knowledge I gained from back then all applied in this new digital age. I already knew my f-stops from my shutter speed - I was ready to go!

How often and when do you take photographs?

Photography for the most part is quite a selfish hobby. Who else is going to lay in a muddy field with you and wait an hour for the light to be “just right” so you can capture a toadstool?

Being the father of a young son, it’s a balancing act to actually get out there and do what you enjoy as a hobby and be a good dad. Family is important to me, so, to be honest, I don’t get to do as much as I’d like. But on the flip side, I get to be “Daddy” and nothing can replace that.

Backspin © Tony Antoniou

What is your technical set-up?

I currently use a Canon 5D Mk II with an assortment of their “L” lenses. Naturally I shoot in RAW and post-process all my images on my glorious “maxed-out” 27 inch iMac. I use Lightroom to import and catalog my images and Photoshop CC for more severe edits and my creative images. It’s a great set-up and serves me well. And I must say, I do enjoy the time at the computer as much as out in the field. I am currently studying for my ACE (Adobe Certified Expert) Exam in Photoshop.

How do you educate yourself to take better pictures?

It’s true that, like most of us, I am self-taught. When I analyse what that actually means, for me it was reading books and magazines, watching videos, going to workshops and clubs. So did I really teach myself? The truthful answer is that I owe all my knowledge to those who have stood before me and were willing to impart their most valuable knowledge. Now that I know the “rules”, it’s the perfect opportunity to then break them. That’s how you get something a little different and hopefully take a better picture.

Whose work has influenced you most?

This has to be the toughest question for me in this interview. I draw inspiration from everything and everyone around me. It would be impossible to single out one person who influences my work the most. That’s not to say that I am not influenced by others, far from it.

Instead, I am going to mention someone who is an influence on me because of their passion for the subject. It’s their approach and dedication that indirectly has an influence on what I do and how I feel about photography as a whole. Please take a moment to have a look at the work of Rachael Talibart

Among your works, which one is your favourite? Why?

To pick out one favourite is a difficult task as there are so many that mean so much to me personally. If I’d really have to pick one, it would be a picture of my son I took in the studio. This however is not the place to show it off, so I will dodge the question slightly and say that it's perhaps Standing out from the Crowd, the winner of the Rain contest, which is one of my more successful images in terms of success in competition and sales.

What do you get out of being a photographer?

I get a lot of enjoyment out of taking photos. Ultimately I do it for myself and if somebody happens to like what they see then that’s a bonus. For someone to then want to buy my work and hang it on their wall I consider an incredible honour. Each time that happens the feeling of elation is never diminished. I also find the editing side an outlet and a purging experience for things that are floating around in my head. In that way, it’s a cathartic experience.

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