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Interview with David Burrows photographer

David Burrows is a commercial photographer based in Manchester. He works all over the UK on a wide range of assignments, supplying images to advertising and design agencies, PR companies as well as corporate clients of all kinds. He shoots lots of architecture and interiors, and also has an impressive portfolio of images of people. In Manchester he has photographed many of the same subjects as I have. His photographs are well crafted, creatively interesting and display a wide range of styles and approaches. He is equally at home with colour or black and white.

Where did you learn photography, how long have you been a photographer?
I am mostly self-taught, making the career change to be a photographer when I was in my thirties, after a life long interest. I gained experience as an assistant with a variety of photographers, learning what I could about the business. I have been a photographer, for about 10 years now and learn something new each day.

What types of photography do you do?
I mostly shoot architecture and interiors, as well as people on location, this can range from corporate portraiture and corporate events, right through to photographing bands at the M.E.N. Arena. I still do some studio work as well but am finding the demand is more for location shoots.

How do you publicise yourself and get work?
A good recommendation by an existing client is the most effective way of finding new business, clients remember when you have done a good job for them. I also use the internet as a marketing tool to find new clients. I send emails to possible new clients with a brief letter of introduction that includes a link to my web site. I have discovered that once they have seen my work, people will keep me on file and get back to me when they need a photographer, even if it is several weeks or months after I have sent the initial email to them.

Who did your website and why did you choose this particular type of layout and presentation?
The site was designed by the Chorlton based web designer Tim Ager. The brief was to create a web site that was very user friendly, so I could showcase my work quickly and simply. I wanted potential clients who did not have the time to plod through a hard to navigate or slow to load website, to be able to see my work. I have had a lot of positive feedback from clients, regarding the great design that Tim came up with and the work they have seen, I am very happy with it.

How important is your website in securing commissions? Do you think it will become more important, and why?
The web site is very important, for a variety of reasons. Potential new clients can find me, from anywhere on the web either by name or when they search on the web for a Manchester based photographer. It is also the first impression a potential client has of me, so I feel confident I have made a good impression before I even speak to them. The site has to look good as well as being commercial and I have been given work because of the site content. I am currently working on web optimisation, to get more traffic to the web site to generate more business.

Which companies or publications have you recently supplied photos to and what were the assignments?
I have worked for Bangor University, Turnbury Adams Kitchens, The Lowry Outlet Mall, Lethal PR, Biss Lancaster PR, Red Communications, The Design Initiative, Modus, L.G. Communications, Clear Channel Entertainment, I.W.P. advertising, Suzie West, Hunters Office Contracts, Quattros Restaurants, Finishing Touches, Laurence Copeland. Most of the work has appeared either in company brochures, been used as advertising or for PR purposes. Assignments have ranged from a reportage life style shoot for a high end kitchen design company brochure, to working with archaeologists, documenting their finds and the site geology for later analysis.

What types of assignment do you enjoy most and why?
I enjoy the freedom of a reportage life style assignment, especially shooting architecture or people in the work place. This allows for maximum creativity and an opportunity to try out new ideas and experiment.

Are there any negative aspects to the job?
Just the time spent on the computer. At least when using film, the lab processed the final images for the photographer, freeing their time for other work.

What camera and lenses do you use? Would you recommend them, and if so why?
Since I started to use a Nikon D2X and shooting raw files, I have not looked back, the quality of the images is amazing. I have no worries about a client using the files from it, for most sizes of reproduction, either in print or on screen. As for lenses, everything from 16mm to 300mm both zoom and fixed focal length.I enjoy using an old 85mm f1.8 the most, as itís great in low light conditions for hand held work, when doing candid portraits at just the right distance from the subject.

Do you use mainly film or digital and which do you prefer?
Now that the demand from clients seems to be exclusively for digital shooting, I prefer working this way. I find it gives me far greater control, especially when dealing with mixed light sources, when shooting naturally lit interiors. In addition it allows for far greater flexibility in terms of the final product, I find I can tailor the file output to suit the clients needs. I have not used film since early last year, simply because I have not been asked to use it and some clients have hired me because of the way I use digital.

In your opinion what are the qualities that distinguish a gifted photographer from someone who merely takes Ďsnapsí?
A photographer is one who is in control of the process, from start to finish and can take an idea or a brief right through to the finished image that meets the clients needs. A photographer also sees things that others donít see, the picture within the picture so to speak. The best photographer and fine art printer I have ever met who has a wonderful way of seeing and recording the every day world is Andrew Sanderson, check out his website. I still do snaps as well, just taking pictures of things that interest me for fun, I try to take a camera out with me most of the time.

What is the best way to learn photography?
Practical experience has taught me the most, just go out and take as many pictures as you can, in as many different lighting conditions as possible, to learn how to deal with every situation you come across. Make use of the internet as well, itís a useful source of free information about photographic techniques, for free tutorials, for getting the best out of your images on the computer and looking at other photographers as well. You can learn a lot from established photographers, how they light subjects or use composition to create images with impact. You could try setting an exercise for yourself, to see how you could put your own spin on a familiar subject or shoot something that has been well photographed before.

What advice would you give to anyone who would like to achieve success in photography
A good approach could be to start off part time, while you build your own client base and gain experience, using a part time job as a means to subsidise your income from photography. Most importantly, it is a people orientated business, you have to be as comfortable with people from all walks of life and working with them, as you are good at using the camera. It is also a very competitive industry and clients like to work with photographers who are confident, whom they can trust to get on with the job and have a business- like approach to an assignment.

Written by Aidan O'Rourke
Posted/Updated 2006-02-01

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