Alternative Genres

Apr 19, 2024 | Photographic genres

“Show Notes”

Every episode has an extra bonus tip that we give only to newsletter subscribers. For the ⁠show about fashion⁠ Marcus’s tip as if you want to shoot fashion, don’t shoot fashion. And now Marcus has a whole show on this principal.

When Marcus was working in fashion lecturing, students would come up with great fashion work. But he would say remember editors commissioning this work see pictures all the time. So if you want to get noticed, do something different. Sam says this reminds him of the ⁠interview with Joe Giacomet⁠. He spent ages making football cards as a personal project and it was almost these that made his name. Marcus thinks that if you shoot fashion then getting out and doing street photography. This is so different to fashion. You have to be much quicker and be in a much less controlled environment. It will really improve your craft. It then means you have some photos to show to the fashion editors as well as your fashion work. This can help to get you noticed. Marcus spent a lot of time taking street photography which he really loved.

⁠Richard Avedon⁠ was one of the first photographers to get the models out of thestudio and out into the streets of New York, which at the time was quite radical. Marcus suggests that portrait photographers should think of trying still life as an alternative genre. Still life photography is all about the lighting, composition and attention to detail. The skills learnt here can then be applied to your portrait photography. If you are product photographer perhaps try landscape photography. When you are in the studio with a product you can control everything, while you have no control over the environment, which makes it very different. Marcus and Sam discuss that wedding photography has changed greatly over the last ten years with it becoming much more documentary style. Marcus suggests that wedding photographers should go and try fashion photography. Fashion photography is all about style and making the models looking great, which are perfect skills for wedding photographers.

Marcus’s other suggestions are: Street photographers try portrait photography.

Landscape photographers could try art photography, the sort of thing in galleries and museums. Marcus suggests looking at ⁠Jem Southern⁠, ⁠Beckers (Bernd and Hilda)⁠ J⁠ohn Davies⁠, ⁠Edward Patinksky⁠. These are people taking images with a political message.

Family photographers could try painting. Looking at them for ideas, styles and light.

“Show Transcription”

Sam: Hi Marcus, how are you doing?

Marcus: Very well thank you Sam, yep I’m pretty good, how are you?

Sam: Excellent thank you Marcus, yes very good and today Marcus, I believe you’ve been preparing something, a little something for us?

Marcus: Yes, this is a bit of a follow-on from the show that I did about getting into fashion photography and we I basically left a little nugget for our newsletter readers which I thought was such an important piece of information that I could basically do a whole show about it and well hopefully I can do a show about it, we’ll see. I hope it’s not too boring.

Sam:  I’m sure not Marcus so what was the little nugget you left in the newsletter and then by the way if you do want to get the newsletter um just go to the website shoottothetop.com, you can sign up there, um you get the you get the latest podcast in your inbox every week, you get past episodes, you get extra hints and tips from Marcus and I, you get a chance to suggest guests all sorts of things. It’s coming and on the website very soon is also coming the place where you can apply to be a guest that is coming very soon so keep your eye out. What was your little tip?

Marcus:  Great I’m just gonna say no great work in the website though Sam yeah my little tip was, um on that particular episode was if you want to shoot fashion, if you want to be a fashion photographer don’t photograph fashion,

Sam: There we go, Marcus logic for you.

Marcus:  There you go I said so let me expand on this basically you know when I was when I was lecturing uh in fashion photography um students would often come up for their with the crits, with work that was beautifully shot and looked like it was straight out of a fashion magazine and I would say to them okay this looks great but put yourself in the position of a picture editor or an art buyer and they’re seeing photographs like this all the time in fact the photographers they’ve already got their commissioning already are photographing just like you’ve done just like you think the pictures are that you’re creating. So if you want to get yourself noticed in the world of fashion you want to be shooting something that is different.

Sam: So that’s quite interesting like we interviewed Joe Giacometti a little while ago and one of the things that really got him noticed was he made football cards. And if you listen to the interview the amount of effort he put into these things is just unbelievable but he made these little photo the 10, 1970s football cards for fun. A little covid project um god knows how much time he spent but yeah but that then got him noticed lots of other work not related to his football cards.

Marcus: Exactly, so it’s thinking of outside the box I mean nothing new here but it’s not quite what you expect so let’s just say for example you want to shoot fashion as I said.  A great genre to get into would be in my opinion would be to get into doing street photography go out there and spend a good amount of time you know a year two years whatever really banging away with your street photography. The reason I mentioned street photography is because that happens of the moment in the moment it’s basically you can’t you’re not really creating anything whereas in a fashion shoot you’re creating things.

Sam: So, it’s almost like the complete opposite, the fashion you’re there for a long time getting every light right every detail right while with the street something’s happening and you’ve got to go bang

Marcus:  Yeah so it’s you’re gonna react to in a different way and it’s gonna build up different skills and then it’s gonna also make you see the world in a different way to everybody else well everybody else is shooting fashion. So that’s that’s the way that’s my reasoning behind it, also fashion art buyers as I mentioned picture editors they love seeing something that’s a bit edgy and street photography is seen it’s a bit edgy if you go in there and show a portfolio of really glossy images as I say they’ve seen it all before with something a bit edgy. Like street photography is something that’s going to really really awaken or really get them engrossed in your work.

Sam: Okay because I was going to ask you I had a question which kind of almost answered because I was going to say is this to improve your techniques. So, are you taking street art photography actually to just improve your technique of fashion and you move it across, or are you doing it to get some shots you can actually show people linked to fashion, or is it a bit of both?

Marcus: Yeah, it’s a bit of both, Sam. It’s basically, you know, and I did it when I first started photography, when I did my degree. I was pounding the streets and I loved it. There’s a word for it, being a flâneur, going around seeing, waiting for things to happen in front of you, and I loved it. And I think looking back on it, that gave me some great skills of working really, getting my eye used to things happening very quickly in front of me and things changing. But also when I went over to the States and showed my portfolio, which was a fashion portfolio, you know, the people saying, ‘Oh, it’s very edgy and it’s a little bit different,’ because I was putting both those skills together, but the way I saw the world, together.

Sam:  That makes sense. So if you were going to put a fashion portfolio in, are you saying it would still mainly be fashion shots, but one it would be influenced by this street photography, but also you may be slipping a couple of street photography things too?

Marcus:  Maybe it doesn’t need to be that prescriptive. Yeah, it’s just doing something that is different to what everybody else is doing. Yeah, I mean, funnily enough.

Sam: let’s hope we don’t get too many listeners then, Marcus, because otherwise they’ll all be doing street photography.

Marcus: I have a list of other ones, funny enough, it just came to me then, just while we were talking, some Richard Avedon who we’ve mentioned before on the show. He was one of the first photographers in the 1950s, who took the model out of the studio and took them into the streets of Manhattan and shot them there with really low-down angles with wide-angle lenses, and that’s how he got his voice and gave him, that’s why he became a very successful photographer because he did it a different way to everybody else. Okay, let me move on. So, fashion, street photography, other things as well, of course, but that’s the link I’m making. If you want to be a portrait photographer, I think a great thing to start looking at is still life photography. Why? Because with still life photography, it’s all about the lighting, it’s all about the attention to detail and it’s all about the composition. And you can really spend a long time working with something, you know, a still life in front of your camera, set up, changing things around, trying things out, that can really benefit your portrait photography.

Sam:  And presumably your banana and your pear are not going to get bored and go insane with you like if you’re doing that with a client who wants a family portrait, so you can practice on the fruit and banana and then so when you do it on the real people, you’ve already practiced and you know what to do, you can be done, rather than yeah, boring the people.

Marcus: Yeah, and it’s something that I’m doing at the moment myself, Sam. I mean, I’m working on building a, you know, a portfolio of still life product photography, you want to call it that. And I’m finding that, you know, I can really try different lighting out. I can then go and use in my portrait photography. And yeah, and you know, you could be coming around to be a portrait photographer whose style is very stylized, for want of a better word.

Sam: Yeah, makes sense, yeah. I can see you’re going to learn things from that.

Marcus:  Okay, um, and consequently if you’re like a product photographer or still life photographer, maybe to give you an edge, it might be worth looking at landscape photography because with landscape photography, you’re dealing with something that is fixed, isn’t it, really? The sun is there, you know, the sky, you know, obviously, and you’re going to work out the best time of day to do a shot, but um, that’s going to limit down your choices. So, working with a limited palette of a landscape as opposed to something you can create in the studio.

Sam: Oh, I see. So, in the studio, you can kind of do anything while you’re taking all that away from them, going right, this is what’s here, you can’t add a light to it, you can’t do anything else, it’s here, deal with it.

Marcus: Yeah, exactly. And if you put together a portrait, possibly, you know, photographs, I mean, I’ve not really seen this done a lot, it’s a bit out there, but you could put together a portfolio of product shots that were done using natural light.

Sam: Yeah,

Marcus:  Or bad lighting, raining, I don’t know, where can it go, but it’s again, it’s a new, just a different way of looking at it. yeah exactly and if you put together a portrait possibly you know of uh photographs I mean I’ve not really seen this done a lot it’s a bit out there but you could put together a portfolio of product shots that were done using natural light yeah or bad lighting raining I don’t know where can it go but it’s again it’s a new just a different way of looking at it.  What’s next? Okay, um, we’ve got wedding photography. Now, there’s a few in wedding photography because wedding photography has changed so much from the farm because,

Sam: I think, yeah, it did. I think people who do wedding photography on Saturdays, I don’t think do any photographies on the rest of the week, aren’t they just like sleeping until the next wedding, basically? Well, recovering.

Marcus: May well, that may well be, but you know, uh, wedding photography in recent years, street photography has become, you know, they want to document, they always look for documentary photography.

Sam: So, the news or much less of those 1980s everybody in a pile, everybody lined up, where’s your granny next to your other granny.

Marcus: Yeah, so I think that’s been, you know, that’s you know the documentary style of wedding photography has been around for maybe 10 years or so. So why not think about doing something different? And I’m going to suggest if you’re a wedding photographer, go into fashion. why? Because with fashion photography, it’s all about style, making things look good, and you know what bride to be or groom to be, uh, doesn’t want to look good? It’s about layout, you know, looking in magazines, editorial, you know, it’s how one page leads on to the next and how you’re leaving space for text that might be texting for a magazine that you can then use those that aesthetic and use that for creating wedding albums, yeah. So again, I think, you know, I think we’re waiting there’s quite a lot of different genres that could come into it. It is quite broad, as you say, but I think if you look into what if you, you know, if you’re a wedding photographer, really dig deep into some of those classic, uh, fashion photographers. Um, in fact, thinking about it again, um, that 1990, well, they say 1980s, 90s style of lighting, that hard lighting,

Sam:  That really hard, yeah, yeah, if you’ve got boy george crazy makeup and stuff and bright.

Marcus: Well, maybe not the makeup, but certainly that style of photography, I see is really becoming very popular, uh, again for events and for probably for weddings as well, yeah. Not quite sure about that, oh.

Sam: Over like your photo booth maybe.

Marcus:  I’m not quite sure about the vogue for blurred photographs. I still quite haven’t got my head around that for wedding photography. Everybody seems to be talking about that.

Sam: Is this is this the fashionable blur? I remember really early on in the book catching about fashionable blur. Is this fashionable blur from movement or from just it being a bit out of focus?

Marcus: Yeah, I think it’s a combination of some.

Sam: I don’t know. Really quite high quality then it’s a bit of a weird one that one,

Marcus: um. Okay, let’s have it. So as my daughters would say, it’s a thing, Marcus, that’s what they tell me when I go, ‘What? I don’t really understand what are you talking about?’ and they go, ‘You’re too old, dad, it’s a thing,’ and then I have to accept it.

Marcus:  We are getting too close as always, the time goes so quickly. I’ve got a couple more to mention. And I’ll go through them fairly quickly. If you’re a street photographer and I can’t really think of many commercial street photographers.

Sam: It doesn’t sound like much of a commercial, you don’t get much money, do you, from being, I guess a journalist is kind of similar, ish, isn’t it, kind of that doing stuff as it happens

Marcus:  Maybe, maybe. But I’ve got waiting down here doing street photography. Why not look at portrait photography, uh, you know, which is basically the opposite, you’re really controlling the environment, you’re controlling the lighting, you’re even talking to your subject which you might not necessarily do if you’re a street photographer, which I have to say I think is a good thing, is if you are doing street photography, I’m not really into the idea of sneaky photographs,

Sam:  Yeah, it should really get from me definitely get permissions, yeah, same with holidays, yeah.

Marcus: Not permission for legal reasons Sam but permission, yeah, yeah.

Sam: No not legally more just it’s polite as well isn’t it exactly it’s polite I wasn’t thinking of a gdbr text tech tick box and I think you know holiday photos too you know it’s I think it’s important to do that too isn’t it you know person who’s looking very exotic on the street side you know have a chat with them would you mind if I took their picture rather than a sneaky.

Marcus:  Exactly that’s exactly what I’m talking about. Okay, last couple if you’re a landscape photographer, a really great way of separating yourself from the other people in your genre. It is I think by really digging into the art photography market, the kind of photographs you see hung up in galleries or in museums. yeah, these and uh, okay let me give you some examples I would say people like uh and again. I think we might need notes and

Sam: I’ll yeah we’ll put it in the show notes.

Marcus:  People like jem southern people like the beckers Gert and Hilda Becker, people, um, John Davis, these are people who take. People like Edward Patinsky, who I’ve mentioned before. These are people who are out there, who’s to take are taking landscape photography, but with a message, be it political, social, or whatever. There’s a visual narrative attached to their photographs. So if you’re out there, take as a landscape photographer, think beyond pretty sunsets or nice lighting or, you know, whatever it’s going to be. Get some depth to your work. And the place where you can find that depth is in the museum or photography gallery.

Sam: Okay, interesting.

Marcus:  Not least, I’ve got here is family photography, right, the classic genre of being a portrait photographer. I would say, again, look at painting, no surprise there. I think that’s quite established, but say, look at paintings, um, you know, from all the genre, all the years, all the decades, there’s a lot to study in there, lots to look at, but look at the way the competition, the way they deal with light, you know. I mean, Rembrandt is obviously one that comes straight to mind, and there’s even a type of lighting that is named after him, but there are many, many others. So if I was a portrait photographer, family portrait photographer, I’d be looking at, you know, classic studies of family photographs, Gainsborough, whoever it might be.

Sam: Okay, that’s my luck, that’s it.

Marcus: I think if you, if you do this, Sam, as a photographer, I’m not, there’s no guarantees in life, but I think if you do this as a photographer, you’re really going to start to be able to separate yourself from your other peers and colleagues.

Sam:  Is get out and try something different, whether that’s commercially or just for fun or whatever it is, just, yeah, it’s almost like think of what you’re doing and try and think of what’s the most extreme opposite and give it a go. Get out there, if you’re sitting still, move. If you’re in the, if you’re controlling things, go somewhere it’s out of control.

Marcus: Yes, exactly, exactly. Nicely put, that you summed it up well there, Sam, thank you.

Sam: And there’s a, there’s an expert new type of photographer here which is really interesting because I live in Mozambique, so the wedding photographer here has, I think this is interesting, it has extra danger because what they normally see, you normally seem doing is sitting backwards on a motorbike so they can then film the cars going down the road. So they’re the second person on the motorbike sat backwards and then they’re going along while all the cars come behind them. So here it’s a highly dangerous, it’s like a highly dangerous job being a wedding photographer.

Marcus: Yeah, now that is a little bit dodgy and I don’t, they do that.

Sam:  I don’t recommend that.

Marcus: The cycle race, you know, I watch a lot.

Sam:  They often but they often crash, don’t they, the riders and the cameras crash quite normally. It happens though, doesn’t it?

Marcus:  It does happen, not often but it does happen. I mean they’re not going super-fast but yeah, there’s a definite skill to being on the back of something facing one way.

Sam: No kidding. I like that, anyway, right, I think we’re getting off track, Marcus. Cool, right, well thank you for all of that, we’ve already been through all of the newsletter stuff which we normally do at the end. We also do have a Facebook group, you can find us on Facebook, just search for Shoot to the Top. Most of our guests are already on there so you can come on, there’s all sorts of chat going on there, meet with fellow photographers, and me and Marcus are on there too. And thank you very much, Marcus, some excellent food for thought there. Um, and oh, quick thought actually, what about different cameras as well? So if you normally use like a SLR and try with your phone, if you normally, you know, or you know, just, no, Marcus is going no to.

Marcus: No, no, I don’t want to go there, all cameras are the same mate, all cameras are all the same. I know, I know you’re saying, but really, you know, there’s other ways of doing it. Fine.

Sam: Okay, amazing, thank you, Marcus, I will see you next week,

Marcus: bye-bye.