Take your photography skills to a whole new level – Tips from Karl Taylor

Saturday, 8 April 2017 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}



The Cinnamon Sri Lanka Photo Contest 2017 kicked off and photographers and videographers from around the world are now vying for the grand prize and revered title of ‘Cinnamon Photographer of the Year’. Joining the panel of judges this year to select the very best visuals and clips, renowned photographer Karl Taylor will bring over 20 years of experience to the contest. Taylor has worked on numerous global assignments for some of the world’s top leisure brands and is a much sought after advertising and commercial photographer with a distinct multi-disciplinary approach. In this interview, Karl Taylor shares his top tips and insights, in the hope that they will inspire participants of the Cinnamon Sri Lanka Photo Contest to shoot striking and memorable images that truly tell a story. Taylor started his career in the field of photojournalism and enjoys shooting across a range of genres. His ethos ‘variety is the spice of life’ clearly reflects his visual philosophies for creating effective images that have a universal appeal. Following are excerpts:



Q: How do you get the person, place or thing that is in front of the camera depicted on film the way you want them to be? 

With photography, one must realise that cameras whether digital or film do not record things in the same way that our eyes and brain perceive them. Good photographers can either use that to their advantage to create a sort of hyper reality and they can also use the knowledge of lighting, composition, subject matter and lens choices to make a picture rather than just take a picture.


Q: What or who influences/inspires your work? 

I’ve been influenced by many things and photographers over the years since I started in photography. When I was a teenager I used to be fascinated by the images in National Geographic and followed photographers like Sam Abell, Jodi Cobb and Steve McCurry. As I moved more towards advertising photography I became interested in the work of Bob Carlos Clarke, Rankin and Lichfield. However, it is also cinematography and just general observation of the world around me that often inspires me the most.


Q: If your photographs could speak, what would they have to say? How do you get them to say this? 

Most of my photographs need to speak ‘desirability’. That is the objective of an advertising photographer, to make the mundane into the magical and make everyday objects such as cosmetics, electronic, sunglasses become desirable. It is the art of persuasion through dynamic images and the emotional message is always to make them become desirable.


Q: Briefly tell us how your career path has been

I started out in photojournalism in my early/mid 20s and then I switched to advertising photography in my late 20s and that’s where I’ve remained since. About 10 years ago I started talking about photography and presenting lectures and then from there grew the training side of our business where we now train photographers from all over the world through our online courses and I also do this as part of my role as an ambassador for Hasselblad and Broncolor.


Q: Would you recommend any particular tech/software/camera? 

I shoot mostly with a Hasselblad in the studio and that has its own software called Phocus which I enjoy using. I also use Adobe Photoshop for final retouching. Occasionally, I also shoot on a Canon 5dmk3. 


Q: What is your motivation? Economic? Political? Intellectual? Emotional? 

I’d have to say my main motivations are economic and emotional. I love photography and creating images, it has always been my passion but I also treat it as a business because, afterall, I am running a business.


Q: How would you describe your style? 

Clarity and precision are the cornerstones of my personal style. My aim is to always capture as close to perfect an image on the camera as possible. I’m known for adhering to the careful use of lighting and minimal use of Photoshop where possible so that my images retain a clarity and believability that makes them more accepted visually than the often over-Photoshopped images that we see today.


Q: Can you briefly describe, for the benefit of the readers, your photographic workflow? 

First, I examine the object that I’m going to photograph very carefully, I look at it and examine its aesthetics its flaws and its characteristics before I start setting up. Based on that examination I already can conceive how I’m going to light it or what will show the object off at its best. I then set about carefully lighting the object and testing and adjusting until I arrive at the point where I introduce another light and another until my vision has been achieved. The final image is then exported as a 16bit tiff and the RAW file may be worked on further for final tweaks in Phocus or Photoshop.


Q: What is your most memorable assignment? Why? Also tell us more about a favourite image that you shot recently? Describe its creation – location, lighting, composition – your thoughts when creating the image and what it means to you? 

A few years ago I shot a series of fashion images at various remote locations around Iceland, it was extremely hard work for the model and crew in very cold, windy conditions. Yet everyone was committed to getting the results and we produced some wonderful images. I recently created an image of a girl falling in an open white space, surrounded by delicately positioned white balloons on the floor. The image was to represent, letting go or not being in control of your own actions. It was carefully lit using just two studio lights, you can see the image on this page of my website: http://karltaylorportfolio.com/overview/.


Q: How would you describe the photography industry at the moment?

The industry has changed dramatically since I started in 1994. Digital took over, stock libraries took over, social media took over and the amount of photographers increased dramatically. This led to a downturn in the amount of work available for the low to mid-range level photographers as there was too much supply and the credit crash made clients tighten their budgets. Even the photographers at the top felt the pinch, hopefully those that deserve to, will survive.


Q: Advice to somebody who wants to pursue photography? 

It’s never been an easy career to succeed in but if you have the talent, the passion and the ability to market yourself then you can make it. However, if I was starting out again now at the age of 23 I’d probably advise myself that it would be a long road ahead to get where I want to be and it would probably be a tougher journey now than it was then. I think the most important thing is to not get hung up on doing it for a living, just concentrate on how to make good pictures first.


Q: If you could be invisible for one day with your camera… 

Well assuming they couldn’t sense me in any way, then photographing Great White sharks in the ocean, or photographing my kids.


Q: Photographic ambitions yet to achieve? 

When my kids are older and when I get the chance to escape for a few months I’d actually really like to turn my hand to reportage photography and shoot an article for National Geographic. I think what I now know about creating images would change the way I shoot that genre compared to when I started 20 plus years ago.


Q: What would you say to someone who said ‘I want to be the next Karl Taylor’?

Actually, I’d advise them to be themselves and I’d wish them the best of luck on their photographic journey and adventures.