Richard Jackson is a product and still life photographer based in Scarborough, North Yorkshire. Working with artists, designers and craftspeople Richard creates photography with design at its heart. Exploring the ideas and styles behind his clients work to produce images that really tell a story. He chooses props, carefully crafts the lighting, select surfaces, and backdrops to accentuate the properties of the item and their design. Gift Shop Hub was lucky to get some photography tips from this expert in his field.
Hi Richard, tell us a little about you..
Where possible I enjoy working with found objects, I create all my own surfaces and backgrounds, in various styles. Since moving to a larger studio, and renovating it with product photography in mind, I have begun to incorporate furniture into the shoots, such as vintage, early 20th Century and Mid Century pieces. I’m very proud that we are producing more UK made items, like we used to, and I enjoy incorporating older items that were made in the UK as props. Sometimes I ‘root’ the product in a set that reflects the design, I’ve done this with a lot of designs inspired by the sea, and the countryside. With accompanying props made up of found objects, found while walking the local beaches and through local forests.
Describe your average day.
If there’s a shoot on that particular day it will all revolve around that, getting set up, making sure the photographs are as perfect as they can be before moving onto post production work. Other days I’ll be out sourcing new props, painting new surfaces, receiving or sending items back to clients as 95% of products come through the post.
What kind of things do you photograph?
I photograph a lot of different items including greetings cards, glassware, jewellery, and items made from wood. I like to work with products by designer makers, as they tend to be honest products made out of quality materials, rather than mass produced items made solely from plastic! Bringing out the textures in materials, and in props is an interest of mine.
How do you get the person, place or thing that is in front of the camera in just the way you want?
Sometimes its simply a matter of two things, patience and perseverance. Planning out what is happening beforehand is extremely helpful.
From personal experience at Gift Shop Hub, we struggle with composition of multiple objects. Any Tips?
If the objects are all in a line, take a step back with the camera and take the whole lot from an oblique angle. Another tip would be to think about which of the objects is most important, do they all have to be in complete focus? Sometimes it’s also good to bring in some other objects to allow for differentiation of height.
What was your career path?
I worked as a graphic/web designer for quite a long time beforehand, just one of the tasks there was to photograph the objects – something which I really enjoyed and always wanted to spend longer on than was really justified at the time! That’s why I’ve really enjoyed being self employed, being able to push in the direction I want to.
I also worked as a photographer at an antiques auction house, this helped to widen my horizons in terms of styles & furniture. At some point you have to decide to take the plunge I think, and although it’s been difficult the rewarding aspect of being self-employed has outweighed any difficulties.
Tell us a little about your camera kit…
Currently I’m using a Nikon D700, which is a slightly older, and therefore more affordable full frame DSLR. Of course you don’t have to use a full frame camera, for the first couple of years in business I didn’t I used a Nikon D40X which for any designer maker would be fine. But as you take more and more images as a professional photographer it does come into its own. I use manual focus 50mm and 35-70mm lenses which are older again, but are metal bodied and give a much smoother focussing action than newer automatic focus lenses.
How important is using an actual camera? (Can’t we just use our phones?)
It is amazing how much phones have progressed over the last few years, yes of course you can just use a phone, as half of the photograph is in the planning, the lighting and the setup. The camera only performs the very last operation in a sequence of preparation and thought. Like anything the more you put in, the more you get out. It would be unrealistic to expect a phone to provide every image as good as an actual camera. But in some situations it will be fine. Particularly if you’re just setting up as a designer maker, then using what you already have can be a really good idea.
How important is software like PhotoShop to modern photographers?
Although it used in photography, the majority of the work for professional photographers is actually completed using a RAW editing program such as Lightroom or Aperture One, this provides a more consistent output of images. For independent makers it’s probably going to better to purchase Photoshop Elements or a new program, Affinity Photo which is becoming quite popular now.
Not so technical question: How do I get a background blurry?
To get ‘bokeh’ in any shot you need a camera/lens capable of allowing you control of the aperture. Using a wider aperture, such as F1.8 will give you more selective focus in a shot, otherwise known as a shallow depth of field.
Any tips for us amateurs?
Light really is the key, you’ll read that everywhere, but it is certainly is true. If you setup your own little mini-studio next to a reasonably large window, with a nice background sweep you’re half way there. Spend more time thinking about that and less about the camera choice.
What magazines/websites/blogs/social media platforms do you recommend?
I would recommend Instagram as it’s been more beneficial to my business that the other platforms. For me it’s been much easier, and certainly faster to get communication with potential clients, and for building an audience in general. I would recommend Creative Boom as a good source of information for all creatives.
Why use a professional photographer?
Professional photographers don’t just add professional equipment to your shoot, that’s an important part, but only a part. They add their own creativity, their experience, their problem solving abilities and can also save you a lot of time.
How can our readers hire you…
Just by getting in touch via email, the contact form on the website, or by giving me a call on 01723 375141