Music photographer

Music photographer

By Luiza 20/12/10

As a photographer with a passion for music, Owen Richards has shot everyone from The XX to Caribou for clients like Creative Review, The Guardian, Loud and Quiet, NME and many more. We caught up with him to talk about battered cameras, freelance living and the power of Google…

Full name/age/job title:

Owen Matthew Armstrong Richards, 27, freelance photographer.

Please give us an overview of your average day…

A typical editorial or music promo shoot is normally on location in London and lasts a few hours. Sometimes there isn’t the chance to scout a location beforehand, so I look on Google Street View for potential sites – it’s a really valuable tool.

If I don’t have a shoot organized, I normally head to my desk in Fitzroy Studios via a coffee in Cafe Oto. A day at my desk involves editing images, sending emails, organising shoots, scanning negatives and, of course, chasing payments.

Another important part of my work is self-promotion, so I maintain my website and blog and send out small portfolio zines to possible clients.

What is the most common misconception about your job?

That photography is just a vocation. When I started taking pictures with a battered Canon AE-1, it never occurred to me that I could make a living from it. Another misconception is that photographers are technically obsessed. I know how cameras work, but I am not trawling the internet every day for the latest technology.

What is the hardest thing about your role?

Staying motivated when work is quiet can be tough and the freelance life can be quite a solitary one.

When did you decide what you wanted to do with your life and how did you start out achieving it?

I studied Photography at Exeter School of Art and Design and then worked in photo lab for a year. When I first moved to London, I found a full time job at a picture library because I was worried about making a living out of something I really loved.

When I got made redundant, it turned out to be the best thing that could have happened to me. It pushed me into doing photography full-time and I realised that I could maintain the balance of paid work and my own projects.

What can you do to get a head start?

There isn’t really a set path for photography. You can assist other photographers to gain technical and practical experience. I approached magazine editors with my portfolio in the hope of commissions.

It’s important to strike up a rapport with clients and the people you are photographing; you never know where that might lead. A small band could sign a major label deal or a photo editor could move to a larger magazine.

Could you describe the creative element to your job?

I think the way I see things is creative. Like noticing the way the light is falling, the colours of a wall or reflections in a puddle. In post-production, I can be as creative as I like, if its suits the shoots. I see the initial digital image as the raw material and the post-production brings it to life.

What one thing do you wish you had known at the start of your career that you know now?

I would say a better understanding of the business side of freelancing. I had quite a stubborn, idealistic attitude for a long time, but I realised that in order to make living you have to be flexible and turn what could be boring jobs into something interesting and creative.

Which organisations/websites/resources do you think would be useful for people entering your industry?

The Association of Photographers

NUJ freelance guide lines – a useful guide to fees.

Conscientious – get inspired by photography blogs, but remember to have your own ideas too.

A Photo Editor -– an interesting blog from the perspective of a photo editor.

Photofusion – a great centre based down in Brixton.


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