This week I welcome Damien Lovegrove, who is definitely one of the UK’s top photographers. His use of natural and artificial light is superb, as well as his composition and passion for the still image. He has trained many professional photographers from his base in Bristol and I have talked to many of his students who highly recommend his courses. Both of his DVDs are also excellent and well worth watching. I’m looking forward to his new winter wedding DVD, hopefully Damien will send me a signed copy for Christmas and a Crash-Art review will follow shortly thereafter.
Tell us a little bit about yourself
Born in the UK in 1964, I’m a family man living near Bristol, Somerset, England. I have been a TV cameraman, a commercial skills photographer, a wedding and portrait photographer and now I am a writer, columnist, teacher, motivator and artist.
Where is home?
I live with my wife Julie and my daughter Francesca in a 17th century farmhouse in Somerset.
Did you go to school to study photography?
I went to the BBC at the age of 19 having been to engineering college and I trained for three years to be a cameraman. I then trained for a further three years to be a lighting cameraman and in the mid 90s, I trained at the BBC Television Centre in London as a Lighting Director.
How long have you been a photographer?
I started taking photographs for stock libraries in 1986 and I’ve had a fantastic income from stock sales ever since. I left the BBC to become a full time commercial skills photographer in 1998.
How would you describe your style?
I set my style whilst working for the BBC on film and video drama productions. I shoot each project at the same aperture, I don’t include sky in my pictures, I work extensively with out of focus backgrounds and, more recently, my shooting style has changed to include more dramatic artificial lighting.
Favourite wedding/portrait photos you have taken recently?
How many weddings do you average per year?
Julie and I have just retired from wedding photography. We shot 350 top weddings over the past 10 years.
What type of cameras do you shoot with?
I’ve shot with all cameras – for the last three years of my wedding photography, I was shooting with a Hasselblad H2 with a Phase 1 P25 digital back. I used three prime lenses with that kit. Today, I teach wedding photography and, as most of my students own a Canon 5d, I bought one as a teaching tool.
What is your favourite photography accessory, other than your camera?
Canon speedlight on a stand, triggered remotely.
If you had to choose one lens which one would it be and why?
For the Canon, I’d choose a 135mm f/2L prime. I don’t own one at the moment, but I will! I have used one and it’s fantastic. On the Hasselblad, my favourite lens was the 210mm f4 and I always used it wide open.
What is your favourite computer/editing accessory, other than your computer?
Wacom tablet - an Intuous A5 wide.
What is your most used Photoshop tool, plug-in, action set etc.?
Marko, my picture editor - together, we’ve created the looks for our images and have our own set of bespoke actions.
How important is Photoshop (post processing) in your final images?
All my images are post produced and as Ansel Adams famously once said, you don’t take a photograph, you make it.
Are you a Mac or PC lover?
We have 8 Macs and we run Windows XP on one of them using parallels for our accounts packages.
What piece of equipment would you most like to get but don’t have yet?
The 135mm f/2L prime to go on my 5d Mark 2
What’s the best part of being a photographer?
Taking pictures – it sounds obvious, but a lot of the photographers I know spend less than 10% of their working life taking pictures and I think that’s a sad situation to be in.
How do you keep yourself motivated and your photography fresh?
I set myself creative days and challenge everything I do and everything I know to come up with new looks.
What has been your most memorable assignment and why?
I had many memorable assignments whilst at the BBC, but more recently, the wedding we shot in Ravello, one of the three weddings we shot in Italy – the whole week was very special, the wedding day itself was an absolute pleasure to be at.
If you could shoot a wedding with someone who would it be and why?
Julie - my wife. I always shoot weddings with Julie and I couldn’t entertain the idea of shooting with anyone else.
Where would be your dream destination wedding?
We’re been to a lot of places in the world and Italy is by far our favourite.
Who or what inspires you in your personal life and work?
My brother Harley Lovegrove, author of ‘Making a Difference’.
A website and/or blog you visit often?
I don’t visit websites or blogs very often, but they are great for research. I used to contribute on forums, but I found them so time consuming and they held me back from achieving my ambitions.
The hardest part of your job?
Fitting it all in! I’m in the fortunate position of being in demand and I like to have time for everyone. My publisher wants another book, the DVD productions that I do take up a lot of time and the daily correspondence with my consulting delegates is a top priority.
Things you say or do to put your clients at ease in front of the camera?
I certainly don’t use one-liners. It’s like being on stage when you’re photographing people – you can either do it or you can’t. It’s hard to describe; it’s far better to see me in action, then you’ll understand. I certainly don’t shoot fly on the wall or reportage, I engage my clients in virtually every shot I take.
The first photographer that comes to your mind and why?
Martin Parr. I had the great fortune of spending four days with him a few years back and it’s great to see that he doesn’t take himself too seriously and I learned a lot about making art commercial. He’s a true gentleman with bags of charm and a formula for success. Inspiration indeed.
A wedding photographer who inspires you?
Julie Lovegrove. Her sense of timing is absolutely fantastic.
The last workshop or seminar you attended and why?
I can’t remember, but probably Yervant. He came to my town and you can learn something from anyone and his reputation came before him.
Do you conduct workshops for photographers?
Yes, that is my career. I’ve probably taught 60 seminars or workshops in Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth, Edinburgh, Dublin, Cork, London, Manchester, Birmingham and Bristol this year alone.
One way you market your business?
I use viral marketing online. It is often the process of giving something of value for nothing to potential customers so that they spread the word. I set up my blog two months ago and received 70,000 unique visitors in the first four weeks using this method.
If not a photographer you would have been?
A product designer.
Do you make time for personal photographic work? If so, what do you enjoy photographing and do you have an image or two you can share with us? Yes, I love photography, it’s in my heart; it’s my passion. My recent personal work involves making digital infrared photographs.
If you could be invisible for one day with your camera...
I like to interact with my subjects and I think it would be pretty difficult to do so if I was invisible. I leave the fly on the wall stuff to reportage photographers.
Photographing penguins in the Antarctic, a fashion shoot for Vogue in Paris, street photography in India or the wedding of Brad and Angelina?
A fashion shoot for Vogue in Paris.
London, Japan or the Bahamas with a Hasselblad H3DII-50 and Kate Moss?
London, Hoxton, Shoreditch
Is there anybody, living or dead you would love to capture on film and why?
What advice do you have for photographers just starting out?
Read my blog. I have several articles on there for photographers looking to turn pro.
Photography is constantly evolving. What do you think will be the biggest difference between photography now and in 5 years time?
I think there will be more integration with video, and photography will be just one small part of multi-media production. This change is being driven by the way we view photographs and the younger generation uses small electronic devices with screens of 600px or less to view and share photographs. Even publishing, one of the biggest users of photography is rapidly changing and virtually all of the magazines have online content that includes some video element that would have once been illustrated with still photography.
What talent would you most like to have?
To play the piano really well.
Something you’re still learning?
What do you love to indulge in?
Something that is overrated?
Fine art and Sven-Goran Eriksson
Something you’re saving up for?
If you could have lunch with anyone who is famous who would it be?
I’d rather have lunch with a friend
Where you'll find me on a Friday night at 9 p.m.?
With Julie my wife, picking up our daughter from theatre club having been out for a meal.
Your favourite film (movie) of all time?
I’m not really a great fan of films; I go to the cinema once every three or four years.
First thing you would do if you won the lottery?
I’d be really amazed, as I’ve never bought a ticket! I don’t know how I could use the money without avoiding negative consequences – I’ve yet to meet a lottery winner who’s happy with their life. Having lots of money would put huge strains on life and make it difficult to appreciate the small things that matter; money has never been a big motivator in my life. If it was, I wouldn’t have got into photography.
Three words that describe you?
Jolly good chap!
What would you like to be doing in 5 years from now?
Breathing! In five years time, my daughter will still be at school, but in eight years time, she’s likely to be at university, so Julie and I would like to retire and spend three months of the year somewhere hot. I will be busy as ever with my personal art and writing projects.
And the last question, if you had one wish…
Being granted one wish is quite a responsible thing – especially if you can affect people outside of your circle of friends. Life’s been good to me so far and I’d love it to continue without health problems for me or my family for some time to come.
Oh one more, if someone said ‘how can I be the next Damien Lovegrove?’ What would you say?
Get trained (with Lovegrove Consulting), start with the end in mind, have an exit strategy, don’t be a slave to the business, work smart and have fun! I know quite a few photographers who have no exit strategy, when they eventually stop shooting weddings, there will be a big void in their lives and they may not have enough income to support themselves for the future.
Your readers can find out more about me: