AP: Tell us some words about yourself.
CS: I am a wedding and portrait photographer based in the South East of England. I set up Christopher Shotton Photography in late 2009, after many years of friends and family telling me I should do so! So I did…I have never looked back since.
My earliest memory of having an interest in photography, goes back to 1987, with the arrival of U2’s The Joshua Tree. The album presented the iconic photography! Anton Corbijn’s photography. I have admired his work since. In terms of picking up a camera, that came in my early teens. I really started to experiment with “angles” come my late teens! I say “angles”, as I was still using a very basic camera in those days…I had no manual settings what-so-ever…just imagination. 2006, that was the year that I got my first SLR…I’m now hooked and forever looking for the next level!
AP: How would describe your first photos. What did they look like?
CS: I guess, 1996, I was 19 at the time, that was when I really started to think about composition! Although, I didn’t know this at the time… I was just looking to make it interesting as I had a very basic point and shoot camera.
I was in New York, and I was staying in the city for just over 2 weeks, at this great place called the Banana Bungalow. I spent the first week with a friend and the second week was just me. I got through quite a bit of film! I would set off and photograph everything. When it came to photographing the Statue of Liberty, I was playing with every angle possible! I would have the statue in the top left, top right, center top, shooting through trees, etc… I spent 3 hours on the island just looking for different ways of capturing her, through my basic little camera. It was a great 3 hours.
In terms of inspiration, I have always been influenced by Anton Corbijn. I enjoy photographing people, catching the moment, that’s why I am a wedding and portrait photographer…and so, Annie Leibovitz has heavily influenced what I do. What I love about Annie, is her placing of subjects, she will venture from the traditional and play with the environment, as well as thinking outside the box when it comes to using props.
AP: Do you have any formal education in your sphere or were you self-taught?
CS: I am self-taught. However, when I decided to set up my business, I felt that, even though I had the knowledge that I had gained, I needed to go out and book myself on to a number of workshops that are based around wedding and portrait photography.
I completed a number of workshops, firstly, through the London School of Photography, as well as Jeff Turnbull photography in Braintree Essex, The Trained Eye in Buckinghamshire, where I completed a 4 day workshop. In the last year I spent a day on a Crash Taylor workshop that blew me away. Crash is a Nottingham based photographer, and anyone who is working in the wedding photography business would benefit highly from his workshops. Great stuff.
I have a number of workshops that I am attending in the coming months.
I am always looking to improve and looking at different forms of photography. The main thing for me is to keep shooting, trying new things, reading the professional photography magazines such as: Professional Photographer, Turning Pro and Photo Professional.
Inspiration from blogs, not necessarily wedding photography blogs, but also fashion photographer blogs, music and film blogs, photo journalism of all forms…endless list.
AP: What genre are your photos?
CS: I like to experiment. I am aware of my influences, and I have ideas, however, I don’t want to imitate others. I recently found myself, playing with “vintage” post production techniques (very popular at the moment – I am following a number of vintage photographer blogs), however, I found that it was not me. I also realised, that I was imitating others, although, I hadn’t set out to do that. So, I jumped ship on this technique!
I like bold images. When I produce a black & white photograph, I like to use techniques that will increase the clarity…sometimes overexpose or increase deepness of the black that is in the image. I may have a very smooth image, or recently, I have found that I like to add “grain” to an image. It depends really. Often the photograph will determine the direction. With colour, I have the same approach. It’s all about getting a photograph to jump out!
I would say my photography style is still evolving — my aim is for timeless images, if there is such a thing. I guess, I want my clients to able to look at their photographs in 20 or 40 years time and still want to look at them! Not for them to be thinking “oh my, what was that photographer thinking when he post produced our photographs…and we thought they were quite stylish at the time…”
AP: How would you describe your present works?
CS: I want to give my clients something that is different! I photograph a lot of weddings, and there is always going to be someone at the wedding that may have a fairly decent camera and lense! My job is to capture the day, with my eyes and to then, take it to another level with the post production. So, I will look at different ways of taking a photograph – different angles, high and low, shoot through trees, people etc… change the camera settings, use reflectors or lights… just thinking outside of the box.
I will then work the post production using Adobe Lightroom 3 and Photoshop CS5 to create the finished product.
AP: What kind of equipment and techniques do you use to create your pictures?
CS: I use the following equipment:
- 70 – 200mm IS 2.8L
- 24 – 70mm 2.8L
- 50mm 1.4
- 85mm 1.8
- 50mm 2.5 Macro
- 580 EXII speedlight
- Lowel i-d Light
- Dual Black Rapid Strap (I am a 2 shooter at weddings)
- Think Tank Belt
- Tamrack Expedition 5X (bag)
- Lowpro Magnum 400AW (bag)
- Lastolite Trigrip reflector (sunlight/soft silver)
- Arri Tripod
- Adobe Lightroom 3Adobe Photoshop CS5
- 2 x 5D Mark II camera bodies
AP: What is the formula for success in your activity?
CS: Firstly, love what you do – do something that you love! For me, I have to be organised, once I am organised, everything else follows. I do not enter competitions/projects/exhibitions, but I should, and I am planning on doing so. Getting out and about is vital! I have found that, it’s great having a website and learning about SEO (search engine optimization), but you still need to show your work at wedding fairs. Email potential clients, approach other businesses and network with other photographers. Really important to believe in yourself…if you don’t, it will show. Just be relaxed and be yourself.
AP: Is there someone who supports you in your creativity?
CS: My wife. She has been with me from the start. She gave me the confidence to take the step and has been through thick and thin with me! I owe her everything. She is no “Yes Man”…she tells me how she sees it. If she think something is not working (e.g. post production approach), then she will say what thinks she needs to.
AP: Would like to wish something to your readers and AstrumPeople?
CS: Yes. I wish they everybody in the AstrumPeople community can find what they are looking for! Believe in it and find out how to do it. I know it’s not as easy as that, but try and find a way of doing it…for me, I have got lost in it…and loving it…it took me a few years, but it’s now happening. Good luck to you all…
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