When it comes to photography conferences, there are many things each one of us walk away with. Some of us walk away with inspiration, while some of us walk away with new techniques. The one thing we can agree on is that we all walk away with new friends.
At the last conference, er Gathering, I attended I met Lee Allison. Lee is a wedding photographer based in Cambridgeshire, UK. We briefly met last year at the same event, and reconnected this year. This was a real treat as I got to catch up with him and hear how things have progressed. While I was listening with delight to the update, I couldn’t help but think how others could learn from Lee. I knew right then and there I had to interview Lee.
I am so pleased Lee had the time to answer a few questions for us. So without further ado, here’s Lee.
When and how did you start shooting photos?
I started taking photo’s whilst studying Photography A-Level way back in 2000, using a film camera and developing my own pictures in the college’s darkroom.
It was really satisfying to be able to develop my own photographs and that gave me a good grounding in photography.
I then went off to University to study Computer Animation and drifted away from photography for 10+ years until I started working as a Graphic Designer for my first full time job. My then boss was shooting weddings on the weekends and I agreed to go along and help out, and I loved it! I then helped him out as much as I could and also 2nd shot for other photographers, before starting out on my own.
What was your first camera?
Pentax SP-1000 Film camera.
What camera do you use now?
Nikon D750. I just love it – so light and compact and the files are just great. Perfect for shooting in low light and the dynamic range is just incredible.
How long did it take you to feel truly comfortable shooting weddings?
I did a lot of 2nd shooting at the start so this made me feel more comfortable early on, but I would probably say around 10 weddings as the main photographer.
How many weddings do you shoot per year?
This year I have shot 25 and I would like to shoot a similar number is 2017, maybe around 30. I would also like to shoot a few destination weddings because I love to travel. I have been to some amazing destinations like Australia, New York and Sri Lanka and it would be amazing to photograph a wedding in places like this.
Has there been a photograph that left a lasting impression on you and why?
It’s hard to pick out one photo, but I shot a wedding back in 2014 and the wedding had been brought forward because the father of the bride was not well. I remember photographing him sitting watching the ceremony, very proud and holding Carly’s flowers. This photograph stuck with me because it’s not technically great, but it captured a moment, a moment in time that will be remembered forever and one that the family can cherish for years to come. This is what made me realize that it’s the moments that are the most important thing.
On average, how many photos do you take in a normal day and how many would you expect to give to a couple?
I normally shoot around 2500-3000 images throughout a wedding day and would expect to deliver between 300-400 to the couple. I carefully select each photograph, sometimes I will shoot 20 photographs to get the one perfect shot.
Can you describe your workflow after a shoot?
As soon as I get home, I’ll download all the images to my desktop and then copy them over to an external hard drive so I have 3 copies. I then import them straight into Lightroom with a preset applied to import.
A day later I’ll then cull all the images using just smart previews. The next step is to go through each image individually tweaking and amending it to my preferred style. I will then go through the whole collection again and remove any images that have similar duplicates.
The final stage is to export from Lightroom through the JPEGmini plugin. I produce two folders, one with print files and the other with email/online files.
We met at the NineDots Gathering. Why did you choose to attend?
I love the NineDots Gathering. I attended last year and it made me want to go again. The list of speakers is amazing and it’s great to network and build up relationships with fellow photographers who are all in the same boat. I think what originally attracted me was the speakers, but it’s so much more than that and of course you have Ping Pong! Each speaker brings something different, whether it’s their style or approach. They all give you inspiration and the desire to improve and better yourself in your own photography.
Do you go to other photography workshops during the year?
Yes. I try to attend at least one other workshop along with the Gathering. I feel it’s very important to improve and keep learning as a photographer. You not only learn from the speaker, but also the other attendee’s. I have attended workshops with leading photographers such as Alan Law, Tyler Wirken, Candice C. Cusic and Brett Harkness. Most of these follow the same documentary approach that I strive for in my photography.
What can other photographers gain by going to photography events?
Lots. You will meet loads of new people that will help you improve your business. When I first started out I did not realise the importance of networking. It is a vital part of a photography business. Each photographer can only shoot a certain number of weddings and I often receive referrals from fellow photographers which is a massive way to help fill up the diary. This also works both ways and if I am unavailable I like to help out the potential client and send over some recommendations.
Where do your influences come from as far as a creative vision go?
I follow lots of photographers, both in the UK and internationally (Alan Law, Ross Harvey, ARJ Photography, Two Mann Studios, Tyler Wirken and Candice C. Cusic to name just a few) but I also love to get inspiration from films and TV. I am also trying to look and follow more street photographers.
What would you do without photography?
I had been working as a Graphic Designer for 12 years, so I would probably still be doing that.
Is there one photograph of yours that you are very proud of?
I took a photo last year at John and Gemma’s wedding and it won me my first award, so I would have to say that one. The couple absolutely loved it and had a large version printed for their home.
Being able to capture so many memories makes me very proud.
What’s the best piece of advice someone gave to you that helped you become a better photographer?
Shoot for yourself. I think I have heard this at most workshops and events and it is so true. Shooting for yourself will allow you to stay invigorated and let you enjoy your photography.
For aspiring photographers, what recommendation would you give them?
Be patient and work hard. It takes time to develop as a photographer and create your own unique style but stick with it!