Tell us about yourself and what got you into photography?
I had a fairly round about route into becoming a full-time photographer. My background is in theatre and that’s where I worked for 20 years, first as an actor then stage manager. I bought myself a point & shoot digital camera to go on holiday with my wife in 2004 and just wandering around taking photos rekindled the interest I had in photography as a child. My dad had been a keen amateur and I often had a roll of film and an old Zenit 35mm to play with – then it was back home to develop and print the results.
Fast forward to 2005 when I started to take photography seriously again. I bought myself a DSLR and started to take photos around the theatre I was working in. I’ve never been interested in ‘posed’ imagery and a camera seemed an ideal instrument to document the ‘process’ of theatre – rehearsal photographs, technicians at work and actors acting. From there the theatre I was working at started to use some of my photos as marketing materials, the Arts Council UK commissioned me to photograph some things they were doing in schools, and I got some freelance work photographing Ballroom dancing for a couple of publications – all this work came through contacts of people I knew or had met, I didn’t even have a website at this stage!
Why did you choose to shoot with the Fujifilm X series?
I’m interested in documentary photography and telling stories. Once I started playing with the X-Pro1 (in late 2013) I found a camera that let me do this in a really subtle and intimate way. By this stage, I was a full-time photographer photographing mainly weddings and theatre. Walking into a wedding with an X-Pro1 and a 35mm lens was very freeing – I was no longer the person with the biggest kit in the room. People were not intimidated by such a small and interesting looking camera and I found I could be around any situation and get the shot I was looking for without anyone changing their behavior because the ‘official photographer’ was there.
Most of my work is taken in available light and I’ve never really had a problem getting the results I’m looking for from the Fuji X-series cameras. I work with two X-T1s mostly (with a bit of X100T thrown in) and will shoot on fast primes up to 6400iso without blinking – always I’m looking for the best light in any situation then working out how to tell the story in that light.
HOWEVER when it comes to the evening of a wedding and everyone is getting down on the dance floor that’s when I break out the flash!
By this stage of the day I figure everyone has relaxed and I can go for a more ‘night clubby’ look with the photos. Dance floors are a dark place, bands or DJs don’t often bring enough light to illuminate them so at this stage I often have to ADD light. But I still want to stay discreet, self contained and mobile. That’s why I choose to use the very tiny Fuji EF-X20 flash on a sync cord attached to my X-T1 (often with the 10-24mm).
With this set up I can get into the middle of the dance floor action, shoot from any angle and no-one cares you’ve got a camera (even when it’s getting ‘messy’ at the end of the night). If I was shooting with ‘Off Camera Flash’ I’d be limited in the look I would get by where my light stands could go – this way I’m a portable studio. Holding the flash in my left hand (usually high above to the side) and the camera in my right but away from my eye. I ‘zone focus’ so the camera is set manually to focus from 4ft to infinity – at f/10 this is really easy and means that I don’t have to worry about AF in low light but just what’s happening in front of my lens.
These are my default setting for Epic Dance Floor shots: ISO 2000, F10, 1/15th, 14mm, get in close and dance your ass off while photographing.
Do you have any tips or tricks you could share with us?
The best thing I could say is to develop your own style and approach to how you photograph. When we start out we all see amazing photographs in a variety of styles and try to copy those in our work – it makes what we do look a little scattergun and inconsistent. Work out what you love photographing, what you are passionate about and a philosophy about how you should approach your photography and then do that. Then do that some more. Then do that better. Then refine it. Do it more. Do it better. Refine it. And on and on it goes.
Every time I pick up a camera I want to create better photographs than I did the last time – better photographs for me equals better photographs for my clients.
What’s next for you?
Put simply – see above. Doing more of what I’m doing but hopefully doing it better.
To see more of Andrew’s beautiful photography, please visit his website and social channels:
Twitter – https://twitter.com/BillingtonPhoto
Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/billingtonphoto/
Website – http://documentary-wedding.com