Photographer Owen Richards has amassed a beautiful portfolio of portraits, landscapes, and commercial work. Having graduated from the University of Plymouth before moving to London for a few years and shooting for clients including Google, BBC, and COS, Richards is now based out of Sheffield. We caught up with him to chat gear and learn about freelance life.
What’s the most enjoyable aspect of being a freelancer?
Freedom—the ability to decide where you want to go with your career and, on a practical level, being able to avoid rush hours in London!
What’s the hardest part about being a freelancer?
Freedom—the complete lack of security and reliance on self-motivation.
Most desired bit of kit?
It changes all the time but at the moment it is a Fuji GFX 50S—finally a portable digital medium format that doesn’t cost the Earth and is getting close to the feel of my cherished Pentax 6×7 and Mamiya 7! Last month it was Profoto B2 Kit. I love its simplicity. Really, it depends on what I am photographing and which jobs are on the horizon.
What’s your advice for people who have just started their journey as a freelancer?
Keep working hard, be good to people, and keep in touch. Play the long game—you never know where things may end up and who might commission you down the road. I have people I met at gigs when I was 21 who still commission me 13 years later! On a practical level, keep taking photographs for yourself and not just for commissions. You have to keep enjoying what you do or otherwise, the motivation will disappear and you might as well be working a 9 to 5.
Do you have a set method to working with subjects, or do you go into shoots with a
It depends on the brief. Some art directors and clients are set on an idea and style, which, hopefully, as they have hired you, is similar to your approach. If not, then you can work to find the common ground. For me, it’s often a battle of content (this location, these clothes) versus composition (a beautiful and interesting photograph). Where I can, I like to use a minimal setup so I can play around with shapes, angles, and natural light. This process relies on everything being flexible. In terms of dealing with a sitter for a portrait, I like to let them react to the process of the shoot rather than direct them from the outset. I can capture the most natural or, sometimes, most awkward poses and emotions when I see how a person reacts. This doesn’t always work and hence you always have to be flexible.
What are your three most used bits of kit, and what is it that keeps drawing you back to them?
My Nikon D800, Nikon SB-700 flashgun with Calumet remote triggers, and my shoot-through white umbrella and stand. I use this setup because it’s a really portable way of creating some great light in any location. It’s rare that I need anything more powerful and given the performance of the Nikon D800 in low light combined with the simple set up, there is less that can go technically wrong and so I can concentrate on creating and composing photographs.
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