Top Tips from photographer Nathan Gallagher
Date Posted: 23/02/2011
Images courtesy of NathanGallagher.com
What initially triggered your interest in photography?
My Dad is a photographer, amateur but good – from a very early age I was helping out in the darkroom he would make out of the bathroom every month.
How long have you been in the industry?
People ask this a lot, I wish I could remember the date I first had work published, but it would have to be 11 or 12 years ago.
When did you sell your first ever photo and how did you sell it?
The first photo I sold was to the UK Snowboard magazine cleverly named Snowboard UK; I was living in America at the time, sending images back to the then editor who I’d met back in Blighty.
Do you have a particular style?
It’s said that the difference between an artist and a photographer is the ability to create your own style. I’m not there yet, I doubt I ever will be. One of the big draws of photography for me is the variety involved, which is counter-productive when it comes to having a single style – although anything is possible!
Which photographer do you admire most?
Tricky question, early on in my career I was a big fan of Justin Hostynek, back then he just took photos, he’s now as much a filmer as anything else – still amazing though.
From a more mainstream point of view I still love David LaChappelle, Richard Avedon and Jim Fiscus … so many more too.
What’s more important; your equipment or your knowledge?
Knowledge, easy. I’m sure everyone has taken a good photo in their lives, equipment makes that easier to say – the difference between that and being a photographer is that a photographer can get the shot anywhere they are on the planet in any situation (those words are going to come back to haunt me, I know it)
Is it easy to find work?
No. it’s easy then it’s probably not worth doing. The key is to build up on existing clients. Repeat work is easier to manage than new work.
What makes a great action shot and how do you capture it?
Action needs narrative, the shot has to reflect the gravity of the situation, the emotion, whatever you want to call it. Once you’ve got a handle on that then it’s the refinement of the shot, finding the style inside the substance.
How do you take a great portrait shot?
Look a person in the eyes and repeat the following words; ‘This is as good as you will look for the rest of your life. Now smile!’
Alternatively try to think about the shot from the point of view of a painting, how the light plays it’s part and how they’re body language defines their character. Talk to your subject but becareful of them talking back as you’re shooting.
Before an event what do you do to make sure you are prepared?
A photographers kit becomes so familiar to them, it’s usually a case of the batteries and accessories that need double checking.
How much earlier than the event do you arrive?
It’s always nice to be able to scout out the event before you have to shoot, if it’s possible to talk to the safety people on the ground to see if the access you’ve been promised is the access you’re going to get.
How do you get into the best spot for taking photos at events?
Events aren’t really the easiest places to get creative, somewhere like the X-Games or the Olympics, you’ll be told where to stand for each event – which is usually right next to a bunch of other photographers resulting in a load of similar photos, the trick is never to stop looking – there are always angles if you look hard enough, be sneaky but never rude.
How do you back up your work when on an event?
At an event I’ll be shooting to card, then at an interval I’ll try to offload to a laptop (leaving the images on the card too) then at the end I’ll back that up to an external harddrive so the photos are in three places by the time I get back to my office.
Do you need to have an understanding of the sport/event to take a good shot?
To an extent, yes. If you’re shooting a sport to sell the image to the hardcore fans (the niche) then you REALLY need to know the sport. If you’re shooting it for the mainstream, you won’t get the recognition from the niche but the shots are still sellable. No one can know everything about everything (aside from Stephen Fry) so don’t worry about it too much. Do your research and make sure the shots are good on an artistic level (your level) at least.
How many photos do you take on average at an all day event?
Impossible to say, all events are different, sequence photography obviously bumps the figure – but I come from a film background and we tend to hold back on the excessive shooting.
Do you select the best shots from the day or does the employer?
Both, I make a selection firstly to show the client, then they make a selection from that. Sometimes they ask ‘do you have anymore like that one?’ at which point I will do a re-edit. It’s a team effort.
Have you ever been crashed into?
Yes, not as badly as some, but I’ve had my fair share. I was knocked on my back when a snowboarder got caught on a tree rainbow and flipped forward, his board smashed my lens into two separate pieces – good chap though, he paid for it!
What’s the most exciting job you have ever done?
Jobs can be exciting for different reasons. I really enjoyed the Red Bull Tribal Quest, it was a photo competition, 3 days to come up with a certain amount of images which were judged by the other photographers a unique opportunity to pit wits. Great Fun.
What is the bare minimum equipment you could get away with?
With film it was all about the lens, the body just let the light in, the lens did the good stuff. Digital has added more onus on the body of the camera, both now need to be of a certain quality to be practically useful. So a good resolution body and a fast lens is the bare minimum, don’t worry about flashes.