Practice Makes Perfect

My father gave me a Miranda camera when I was about twelve years old and I loved the whole idea of photography from then onwards. I began to think seriously about becoming a professional photographer when I was doing my A Level exams. I was thinking about doing a degree in English at University, but the thought of having to write all those essays at University pushed me in the direction of photography.

I went to the Polytechnic of Central London (now the University of Westminster) and did a degree in Photo Arts and eventually assisted a ‘World of Interiors’ photographer called Peter Woloszynski.

In the beginning, I had to support myself and a young family by doing building work for a while, because it was hard to earn enough money as a photographer.

I then met a Homes Editor at Ideal Home called Judi Goodwin, and she bought three features that I had created speculatively and she paid me more than a month’s building work in one go. Those were the days!

There is nothing better than getting up at 4 am and driving in the dark to a beautiful garden and whizzing around shooting the flowers as the sun begins to catch the petals. Then getting home, knowing you have done a good job, just as most people are starting to begin their day.

Of course, I also love hotel photography because it combines gardens, interiors and food which are all my favourite subjects. Mishaps do happen in my job but one of the things you quickly learn is that photographers have to be very organised and careful at all times. It is an art form, but it is also crucial to be scientific in your planning.

On the whole I do love travel photography but after about four days I do start getting bored of hotel life. That said, I did two shoots for Conde Nast Traveller last year and I would love to do more with them.

There are a number of photographers whose work I really admire. Gardens wise, my friends Jonathan Buckley and Clive Nichols, and probably most of all, Andrew Lawson, who was very encouraging at the beginning of my career. Interiors wise I very much admire the work of James Merrell and all of the brilliant French ‘World of Interiors’ photographers.

I have an allotment garden in Bristol and love being there. I do enjoy cooking and in particular I enjoy my homemade pickles. There are some great food markets in Bristol, such as St Nicholas Market and The Tobacco Factory , and some good food shops too. My favourite restaurant is ‘Rosemarino’ in Clifton, handily near my house and with a dangerously good house white wine.

The internet has changed the whole photographic field and stock images created by amateurs are available for nothing nowadays, so professionals have really had to raise the game. I think video will play a big part in the future of photography, and as a stock photographer, I think it will be increasingly important to make images that have ‘added value’ with perhaps higher production values. These are the areas that amateurs cannot compete with. So, for instance, it will be worth my while setting up shoots with chefs, gardeners and experts doing day-long shoots on certain subjects, perhaps getting to grips with ‘step-by-step’  methodology or rather more complicated ideas and skills. These are the sorts of subjects that amateurs would find difficult to tackle. As professionals, we have to ‘raise the value’ of our work in order to succeed in the future.

If I had to give advice to anyone thinking about entering this profession I would remind them of what someone once said about having  to take 10, 000 images and then throwing them all away. Then you will begin to take good ones! I would advise to take a lot of different pictures. Practice makes perfect in the end.

Further information

Mark Bolton’s Website:

Follow Mark on Twitter: @markboltonphoto

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