I have always enjoyed taking pictures. Nothing quite beats the excitement of seeing an image appear before your very eyes, whether that be in the dark room or on the back of your digital camera. As a child I used to borrow my father’s Minolta camera and play around with it on holiday. I remember taking some photos of waves crashing onto rocks and that ability to freeze a moment in time has always fascinated me.
It wasn’t until I went to college in America that I thought of being a photographer. I did a Business with Art degree and part of that was a photography course. I took some pictures of the local football team and managed to capture a shot of the goalkeeper in mid-air trying to save the ball. The image appeared on the cover of the college’s magazine and a local businessman saw it and offered me money to publish it in their newsletter. The penny dropped then that people would pay me to do what I loved.
On returning to England I got a freelance job working for the Birmingham Daily News as one of their photographers. It was a tough job: one moment I was shooting hard news stories like the poll tax riots to Princess Diana and theatre photo calls and even Wednesday night football which was the most stressful of all. That was back in 1990 and you had to leave the game at half-time to rush back to the office, develop the film, print up one or two of your best shots and have it in front of the picture editor’s desk and hope he liked one of them!
I moved on from the paper and decided that there was a demand in the market for someone who could write and take pictures so I worked for various magazines and newspapers supplying them with a package and that was very successful. At that time I was accepted into the British Guild of Travel Writers and it was then that I started doing more travel and food pictures. I wrote a guide book on Central America for AA Publishing and one on Crete for Thomson Holidays.
I came to the conclusion that I loved photography more than writing and was better at it so I stopped writing to concentrate on travel and on location lifestyle photography. I liked the variety of shooting landscapes one moment, food later on and then people and interiors after that.
The one downside was that travel photography was never that well paid and the competition was fierce. About seven years years ago I approached Food and Travel magazine and they sent me to Italy for my first assignment. I’d not really shot that much food but the editor loved the set of pictures I returned with and have worked for them ever since. This really ignited my passion for food and lifestyle photography and from then I decided to pursue commercial clients to shoot lifestyle images for them.
There have been some really exciting highlights in my career journey: I was awarded Travel Photographer of 2010 by the American Tourist Association for a feature on Hawaii and in 2011 I won Best Travel Photography for my feature on Southern Italy. This year I have been nominated in two categories for The Food Photographer of the Year Award, an international competition sponsored by Pink Lady Apples. The results will be announced on the 24thApril 2012.
I still like shooting editorial even though the majority of my work is commercial now. The freedom is still very liberating and creative. I’d like to work for Waitrose magazine and Jamie Oliver’s new magazine and I really like David Loftus’ work for Jamie. But these magazines have their own set of photographers and it is really hard to get a foot in the door. I’m more interested in working for companies like the drinks brand Innocent, who want that lifestyle look to their shots.
I do quite a bit of travelling for work and am really lucky to have travelled all over the world. I have two young children so going away is always harder now but most of my jobs aren’t longer than seven days anyway.
Food and cooking is very much part of our family life. My mother and grandmother are fantastic cooks and that has been passed down to me and my brothers. We buy and prepare all our food from scratch. My wife and I lived in Singapore for five years and love Asian food and my two young children can’t eat enough rice! My favourite food is sushi and, while there are no Japanese restaurants where I live in Sussex, whenever I go to London I’ll always search out some sushi nearby.
It’s difficult to see quite where food photography is headed but I don’t think that the more casual, lifestyle approach or the use of studio lights is going to go away anytime soon. I’m putting a lot of my time and energies into creating food videos for my clients. Ever since the Canon 5D Mark II was released three years go I’ve been applying my skills as a photographer to shoot video and it has been going very well. It is a big learning curve and I’ve had to go back to re-educate myself but am now in a strong position to offer clients a mix of photography and video.
So my advice to those considering a career in this field would be to seriously look at producing video content. If you love the still image, however, then follow your heart.
Carl Pendle’s website: www.carlpendle.com.
Follow Carl on Twitter: @digitalshooter1