A still life photographer shares how she started working with BIG brands
Updated: May 17, 2021
With this month’s read, you will get:
Industry Insights, Working with brands, Creating Campaigns, Networking, Female Photographers, Budget friendly equipment, Working within a team, Tips from a commercial photographer
ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPHER 📸
Starting with an A-level photography course at the age of 16, followed by three years at Nottingham Trent University and six long years as an assistant, Catherine Losing did lots and lots of learning before she started out on her own. While studying, she used to photograph bands and mentioned that a part of the reason was that she could go to gigs for free!
She said, ‘If you have a camera, it can be a free pass to see cool things!’
Being a woman, the journey to becoming a successful commercial photographer wasn’t as easy. She mentioned, ‘A couple of years ago, when directing a TV commercial, the runner sent me up to the make-up room because he just presumed that being a woman, I must be the make-up artist!’ She added, ‘Although, now I see a lot more women on set. Equal Lens is doing loads of positive things to get women on set & women shooting. Things are getting better.’
Portrait of a Village (film link)
Almost a year ago, Catherine shot and directed an inspiring documentary on a village that her family had to leave in the 1940’s. Titled ‘Portrait of Village’, she told ERIC that her grandfather who lived in that village, fought for the Nazis and ended up in Britain as a prisoner of war. Shot in Odessa, Ukraine, the documentary began as an exploration of her family history but ended up being a celebration of the wonderful Ukrainian villagers that have replaced her Black Sea German relatives.
‘It was like being on the British TV show, ‘Who do you think you are?’ said Catherine. Stylistically its quite different from what she shoots commercially. She also had her 18 month old baby travelling with her and on the shoot!
WHAT’S IN YOUR BAG? 🧳
Which camera's in your bag when you go out for a shoot?
“For TV commercials and advertising photography, I hire everything as the kit varies so much and it's all insanely expensive. When I'm doing personal projects or editorials I often shoot on my Canon 5D Mark II. It's really old but great for little photo shoots and I also shot my documentary on it.”
What kit would you suggest for a newbie?
“Creatives that are starting out shouldn't get too hung up on equipment. Try to avoid using a kit wish list as an excuse to not getting started. I honestly think it's better to be getting on with things, even if it's shooting and recording on a phone, rather than not doing anything at all.”
Can you recommend a budget friendly piece of equipment under £200?
“The cheapest and most beneficial one - cardboard. You can build a reflector using cardboard and tin foil to bounce light onto the subject and the set. It’s always useful and comes in quite handy, especially in still life photography.”
WORKING AS A COMMERCIAL PHOTOGRAPHER 💪🏻
You mainly work commercially - for brands. Was this a conscious choice or did it just happen as you progressed in your career?
‘I one hundred percent wanted to earn a living from photography and directing. I assisted a lot of commercial photographers and it was definitely something I wanted to do,’ said Catherine.
She added that she loves the creative challenge that it brings - brands coming to her and wanting to put her spin on what they want to do. It’s creative problem solving and definitely something she has enjoyed over the years and it helps to earn good money - I’VE GOT BILLS TO PAY!
What are the difficulties you faced while working for brands?
‘There are a lot of people to please.’ From creatives at the ad agency, producers with the budget, then the clients from the brand and the clients’ bosses. ‘Sometimes you can go through the whole production process and they want to change something quite major.’
‘But other times it’s great and everybody’s on the same page and it happens quite organically but you’ve just got to be prepared for all this, I think.’ she further added. Problems also arise around budget when the client wants something extravagant but it is tight on money, so as a creative you have to find the right balance, be flexible and ensure everyone’s happy!
How do you create creative campaigns for brands you don’t know much about?
‘The ad agency sends a brief of what they want to do and where they want to go but I tend to do A LOT of research,’ said Catherine. She likes to go way back and look at old TV commercials and print campaigns to get an idea of how the company has progressed over the years.
‘If it’s a new company, find out who started the company and why, silly things like the brand’s colours and style which you can reflect back in the treatment that you do for them.’ Catherine recommends all aspiring photographers to do extensive research as you will be competing with at least three other brilliant photographers for the same job. KNOWLEDGE IS POWER!
Which was your first brand and how did you approach them? What 's really expected from a fresh & young creative?
‘I used to work for a lot of magazines, that’s where I first started out.’ Catherine’s first brand was ‘Farfetch.’ They wanted to create an advertorial and she had simply shared her physical portfolio with them via post. The companies want a fresh candidate and for it not to be a massive budget- so keeping the cost down, being quite flexible and being very collaborative. On set you have to work together with the different creatives, it’s essentially a team effort that makes it all come together.
How do you stem an idea from scratch? Any tips for young creatives on how to shortlist the good ideas in their head and get started?
Creating a moodboard on InDesign - with lots of photographs, reference points and youtube links helps you to figure out whether or not they are doable and interesting. Catherine said, ‘Even if it’s a personal project, if you break it down into a moodboard as if you are selling it to somebody else, it can really help you figure out if it’s a goer or not.’
She further added, ‘But equally, never think an idea is rubbish.’ Journaling and keeping track of your ideas is essential because they can become relevant when a different job comes in. As a creative, it’s great to have loads of ideas that you can dip into whenever you want. PLANNING ALWAYS HELPS!
What other skills are important to have as a photographer?
‘If you want to be a photographer, definitely work on your retouching skills because it can save you an absolute fortune,’ said Catherine. It’s an amazing skill to have and makes all the difference in getting a job. Another interesting fact that she mentioned is, ‘I have NEVER been on a professional shoot where they use Adobe Lightroom.’ Everyone in the industry uses Capture One to capture pictures. ‘I highly recommend downloading the trial version and getting your head around it,’ she added.
TIPS FOR YOUNG CREATORS 📲
- To get commissioned work
Sending in your physical portfolio via post to editors and creative agencies. With everything turning digital, you can stand out and they will remember you if they have your photos stacked up on their desk!
- To present their portfolio
Keep your digital portfolio neat and clean, make sure your contact information is easily accessible and you seem approachable. The simpler it looks, the better!
- Personal message
‘You make your own luck!’
‘All opportunities come from contacting people, putting the time in to bring your ideas to life and publishing them so the world can see it. Every time you try and push yourself forward, it opens up new opportunities.’
Watch out for our next addition of Creative Chats!
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