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Mark Bowes Interview for cornishweddingcollective.co.uk my photographic story

Why should I have a photographer when my mate has a good digital camera.

Well when your dealing with the lifelong lasting memory of your biggest day, why would you trust an amateur whose work you cant judge until afterwards when its all too late and its forever! A photographer has professional equipment and has backup kit, so no matter what happens you have lovely photos to show your grandchildren. There is no substitute for experience and the right equipment to be absolutely sure you get your memories captured forever. Leave your friends to enjoy the day with you and trust someone with experience to document the day.

Well what kit and why?

The camera needs to be at least 10 mega pixels if you want enlargements of any size. A good flashgun with rapid recharge, a zoom lens from about 20-200mm and back up of all. The other things are lighting diffusers if the sun shines too bright, umbrellas if it rains, ladders to change the angle. If your mate has got all that then all he is missing is experience of dealing and directing people and anticipating the moment to catch it.

So its all about kit then is it?

No its an eye for the shot that sets photographers apart and the technical knowledge to capture it with the right balance of light and speed. Experience helps you to anticipate the moments and catch it. You need to share the photographer’s eye for an image. I try not to pose people just move them into a nice setting and let them be themselves. You can tell the posed but if you can get them to laugh you get the real smile you cant fake a grin. So its not all about kit but you have to have equipment good enough for the job and unless you are a professional you are unlikely to have spent £10,000 on camera kit just for fun.

How did you start?

I started in 1979 at Plymouth College of Art & Design as an apprentice Photo-lithographer I served a four year apprenticeship. The training included photography and my work involved industrial camera work reproducing photographic half tones for books. I gained a distinction in City & Guilds and won photo competitions at college using very basic equipment.

So you didn’t always have good kit?

My first camera was a Russian Zenit from my mums club book. It had a light meter on top of the lens so you had to put it up to the subject get a reading turn a dial and make the exposure calculation set the aperture and focus before you took each photo. So I wasn’t able to do much action stuff at first. But like all repetitive calculations you get a feel for it in the end. I can see and sense the balance between light the speed of the shutter, the aperture and the speed of the film to make the exposure I want.

So was that the most important lesson ?

Well exposure is the essence of photography. The balance in the equation speed, aperture and light is the key to deliver your creative intention. Your just clicking and hoping if you don’t get it. The most important lesson for me was Ansell Adams grey scale. Once you understand your camera cant see colour and wants to find the average exposure for the frame you begin to understand about exposure compensation. Your camera will try and make a black subject grey and white subject grey you can see colour but need to be able to understand grey scale as your camera light meter does in shades of grey.

So is Ansell Adams your photographic hero?

No he worked in a time and world not known to me but his lesson is fundamental to understanding the mechanical eye you hold in your hands. Bill Brandt has a range of work that I admire. I was lucky enough to see several exhibitions of his work and interviewed a man who printed his books. “ Photography is not a sport, it has no rules, everything must be dared and tried”. Bill Brandt produced some of the most iconic nudes of the 2oth century using a 70 year old wooden police camera, used for photographing crime scenes. It had no shutter a wide angle lens focused on infinity and a pin hole exposure control that took nearly a minute. Ancient technology but the results are unique. “ The camera sees more than your eye, so why not make use of it.”

So why does it cost so much if old cameras can get results?

Old kit cant cope with action easily, you need kit that can adapt to the day not dominate it! The cost well a professional camera like a Nikon D2x for example cost £3,500 when it came out a good flashgun £500. The backup Nikon kit about £900 each so another £2,000 for the pair and then the flashguns another £500 so about £7,000 before the bits and bobs. But its not just the kit that costs. An advert in a magazine will set you back £166 for an eighth of a page and a wedding fayre another £190 so it can cost up to £360 just to meet people. The cost of advertising is a major problem when you want to offer good value.

But even so £3,000 for wedding photography is ridiculous?

Yes I agree my most expensive package is £999 all inclusive all day my most popular deal is £850 and I do jobs for £420. I do all sorts of photographic assignments during the week so I can keep my prices sensible. I cant justify other peoples prices at that level perhaps its a surcharge because they only work one day a week. The bespoke designer albums can be expensive, but even so the maths doesn’t stack up. I thinks some of it is the wedding curse the moment you add the word wedding to a service the price goes up. But some people find comfort in expense, but even so if you are comparing apples with apples there should be some realistic justification. A good deal should always make both side happy!

So what should you look for in your photographer?

Pick some one with enough kit to get the job done. Who has an eye for a photo you like. Who can make you grin and will fit in with your day. Don’t get face ache with a dominant photographer who wants to take over. In fact just call 0120878048 Bowes photographic I am Mark.

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