Question 2: If you could start over again from scratch, what would be the one thing you would do differently?
Despite saying that giving up an obsession with gear was the one biggest thing that has improved my photography, I wouldn't change that, or try to give up the obsession sooner. Sounds ludicrous I know but if I didn't experience that obsession when I did, then perhaps it may have come round when I make more money and eat into my success then. That is a hurdle I had to jump in my own time. But, if I were starting out and were to do something differently, I'd definitely have joined a community, group or society sooner. I'm not talking any old Facebook group with other photographers - I'm talking about a buddy group of sorts with a good combination of social chatter and business-minded talking.
The reason I say this is because I believe that you cannot learn everything through your own experiences. Meaning that just because you've done something or read something does not mean you've learnt something, or learnt it the right or best way. In short - a community of great photographers, business people and friends is a powerful thing.
You can go into these groups, be confident to ask any question you like without fear of ridicule and have plenty of options put on the table for you. This is something I do regularly even today in both the Guild of Photographers community and the Ready Steady Pro Facebook community. Both of these groups are filled with a variety of people at all different stages of their photographic careers. Some have been around for 20+ years, others for a matter of months. The beauty here is that new people always question why things are done the way they are and the old guard, so to speak, can tell you why they aren't done the way they're not done. In the Ready Steady Pro group for example we've got newborn photographers from the North of England to the South, we've got Wedding Photographers from UK, US, Australia and commercial photographers from Singapore. We've got stock photographers, head shot photographers, portrait photographers and so much more. Not only that, this eclectic mix of creatives are a really friendly bunch too. I'll admit I'm not quite sure how it's happened but we've pulled together an amazing group of photographers from all walks of life. It's a group I can no longer live without!
So, join a group, a community or a club. It'll raise your game, question your thinking and be a hell of useful resource if you have questions. Doing this sooner would have made my life in the early days much, much easier!
Question 3: Who is the most influential photographer to you, and why? (Or, Which photographer do you admire the most, and why?)
Another question where I see guests often replying with more than just one photographer. So, I'll do the same. I also have two huge influences on my photographic work:
Jerry Ghionis - Jerry is a master of light, a master of posing, and an astute businessman. For me Jerry has it all as a photographer. Not only can Jerry make amazing photographs no matter what the situation and lighting, he really knows his stuff when it comes to pricing, business models, sales and marketing and more. I've watched so many of Jerry's video's, read interviews and sat through Web Casts on the ICE Society website - never before have I found a photographer to be so engaging and interesting. I simply love everything that Jerry does. Of Jerry's style, I'd call it 'truly unique' (because lets face it not everyone's work is unique at all nowadays) and beautiful. Just really classy photography. Another thing that appeals to me so much about Jerry is his demeanour. He's a real chameleon in that he can really adjust his approach to any situation and client. He can be the calm guy, the lad, the joker and the ladies man. These are all the things you need to be to successfully negotiate a wedding day. More than anything though Jerry's posing is second to none. Just watch him work with a bride and groom or a model. He has an eye for detail that you rarely see on photographers today.
The second photographer would have to be Martin Bailey. A hugely different photographer to Jerry in that Martin doesn't even photograph people. Martin Bailey is a UK-Born Japanese citizen of over 20 years. Martin Photographs Nature & Wildlife and runs photography tours and workshops all over the world including Hokkaido in Japan, Iceland, Kenya, the Antarctic and more. The reason I follow Martin so closely is not only because he is also an amazing photographer, but also because of Martin's technicality. Martin really know's his stuff and can share and teach in a way that is very digestible. Martin runs a photography Podcast that is over 400 episodes old now and I've been through every single episode. As well as shooting, teaching and Podcasting Martin has also written a number of eBooks for Craft & Vision. One of these books is called 'Making the Print', in this Martin reveals some incredible tips and advice that only improves your photography, it also helps you shoot in a way that will improve the end-product print. Martin Bailey is a photographer I trust and believe in when it comes to technology, technique and nature & wildlife photography.
I also have to give a mention to Cliff Mautner, Susan Stripling and Joe Buissink for their work too. I know all of the names I've listed for wedding photographers are pretty much big names in the industry and you've perhaps heard of them all before, but the reason I believe in these people and find them influental is because they're actually out there doing it, they've made it big, they're a success. They're not just shooting weddings at high prices, they're also touring the world and teaching others all about that too. These guys know what they're talking about, they're great at what they do and that's why they're the so called 'big names'.