Karl Redshaw on how photography helped him through difficult times, the importance of photographer's personality, and making people feel good about themselves.
How did you get into photography?
I first reached for camera in August 2011, so compared to many I am still quite new to the art. (But I don’t think how long you have been photographing should be a judging factor. I would rather be judged on my work, good or bad!).
I was having a hard time in my personal life and, if I am honest, was not coping too well. The camera gave me a way to express myself, to occupy my mind and allowed me to not get drawn into my own self-pity and hardship.
Now, I don’t want to sound all arty (because anyone who knows me will say I am very intolerant of people that talk a better picture than they produce), but I do think the way you look upon life has a bearing on the pictures you produce.
How often and when do you take photographs?
I shoot weddings and portraits for income, but I also make images for print sales, competitions and for photographic distinctions, focusing mainly on architecture and landscape. I try to go out shooting at least three times a month as well as doing my wedding work.
What is your technical set-up?
My main camera is a Canon 5D MKIII, and I have a 7d for back-up at weddings and for wildlife, since the crop factor allows a little more reach. Lenses are indeed a weakness for me - I need more self-control! For landscape and architecture my go-to lens is the Canon 17-40mm F4L, because the focal range works well with my taste. For weddings and portraits I use a 24-70mm F2.8L USMII & a 70-200mm F2.8L ISII. Both are superb, as you would expect from Canon's L Series. For wildlife and sports I simply add a 2x extender to the 70-200mm to give 140-400mm, or even more if attached to the 7d.
How do you educate yourself to take better pictures?
When I first started I joined a few stock sites to help me master the technical side. I knew that when I achieve an acceptance rate above 85%, I would have got the technical aspects sorted, because the stock sites are notoriously picky. I would recommend this for anyone who wants to learn about getting more control over their images.
I then followed a correspondence course with the BFP, and an online course with the IOP. I have also watched training videos from Kelby Training. I have achieved a Licentiateship with The Royal Photographic Society and more recently was awarded an Associateship by the RPS. I have also reached a qualified status with The Guild Of Professional Photographers, and plan to attempt the Fellowship from the RPS in the next 18 months.
But the most important thing to do - which seems obvious, although many people seem to miss it - is to just take pictures as often as you possibly can. Someone once said “Your first 20,000 photos are your worst”, and it’s absolutely true - there is no substitute for practice. The one thing that cannot be taught is seeing the picture before you take it. I truly believe that your own personality has an impact on what you capture and what you see, and this only develops with every push of the shutter.
Whose work has influenced you most?
I don’t think there is any single person who was a determining factor in my development, but I admire works by Joel Grimes, Dave Black and Cliff Mautner. Going back in history, I like works by David Bailey and Ansel Adams. A photographer I find truly inspiring as a person is Zack Arias.
Among your works, which one is your favourite? Why?
I have so many I would find it almost impossible to choose one, but if push comes to shove I could narrow it down to two: one is a view from Mam Tor in the Peak District - I called it Black Ridge Back; the other is of a spiral staircase from a store in London and it's called Golden Spiral. They both appeal to my way of seeing, and it's sometimes hard to say what I find so appealing, but it’s the same thing that made me take the picture in the first place. And the same thing that develops over time in combination with your own state of mind. I think that being able to attribute a sense of feeling and story to a picture that appears to have none is a very personal thing, and every viewer can take something very different from every picture.
What do you get out of being a photographer?
I love sharing and, hopefully, inspiring from time to time. I love teaching people who wish to learn, so I have moved into tuition via my website. But mostly I love producing work for people who truly appreciate it. When you bring a couple to tears at the sight of their wedding photographs it is truly heart-warming.
I find many people suffer from a poor body image, and showing someone just how great they look when photographed correctly can give them a huge confidence boost. And I love making people feel good about themselves. You can see more of my work at www.karlredshaw.com
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