Tell our readers a little about yourself, your background, and your work.
My name is Dave King and I am a photographer based in Derbyshire and Lancashire, England.
My background is as a journalist and broadcaster with the BBC. However, later in my career I moved into working on the corporation's local and news websites which brought together my journalistic, photographic and video making skills.
"The most important thing is to love the process of making images."
Since then, I have done photography work for a local newspaper website and some event photography but nowadays I prefer portrait-based photography as well as events. Currently, I work with a local camera club helping with their workshops. I also work closely with a charity group which supports families affected by a range of disabilities, such as autism, ADS and Asperges. I photograph some of their activities, manage their website and soon I will be running photography workshops for them, too.
More recently, I have started running Lightroom workshops as I love to share knowledge and ideas – not in an egotistical way, but with the firm belief that sharing is good for the art of photography.
When and how did you get started with photography?
I guess I became interested in photography at the age of 11 or 12. I enjoyed taking pictures and tried to make them 'interesting,' rather than just snapshots.
One day, out of the blue, my father bought me a second-hand Halina camera... it used 35mm film and had a separate flashgun (the bulb type). To me it was the best gift ever – and I was hooked!
I remember well my first job involving photography – selling cameras and film in a local store! I didn't have to take any photos in that job - but it made me even more interested in the process.
As a teenager, I had intended to follow one of two career paths – either photography or broadcasting. Broadcasting presented me with an opportunity first and so that was the path I followed. It was the best career choice to make at that time, but I never lost interest in photography... I believed that I would pursue this option when the opportunity arose but I just didn't have the time to pursue it to the degree I would have liked.
How and why did you decide to become a professional photographer?
There comes a time when you decide it's time for a change... and that's what happened to me in my journalistic career. So when the prospect of redundancy came along I decided to embrace it. When I left my full-time job, I had no idea how things would develop but I knew that I wanted photography to be a part of it. I'm not quite a full-time professional photographer yet – but I'm working towards it!
And how would you describe your style of photography?
Quite simply, I love photographing people. I believe that every image should say something about the subject, whether it be their mood, lifestyle, family connection or just that moment in time.
My style is informal and relaxed, so I prefer not to get my subjects to pose too much – I like them to do their own thing and I work around them. I love to use a really shallow depth of field, when appropriate, as that is the photographer's best tool for drawing the eye to the subject. I also like to use unusual angles and get close up and personal with my subject, so you'll often find me lying on the ground, with my camera tilted and with my aperture as wide as it can go!
Do you prefer the studio or outside shoots?
Outdoors, definitely. Though actually I would qualify that by saying 'ambient light' - preferably outdoors but I like to use natural light indoors too.
"When I first became interested in photography, I thought I would go down the travel and landscape route – but I soon learnt that I found people so much more interesting."
Whilst I am comfortable using strobes and speedlights, I will always opt for natural light when I can. This can be challenging as the light varies enormously within any given shoot – but I enjoy the challenge. Outdoors also offers more opportunities with backgrounds and settings but I've always been a person who likes to find solutions – so I have a "somehow I'll make it happen" approach to my photography and I work with whatever situation I am presented.?
What kind of gear do you use?
My camera of choice is the Canon 5D MkII – I just love using it and its ISO capabilities are superb. It feels really comfortable in my hand and I find the layout of the controls and the menus easy to work with.
I have two go-to lenses, both Canon. For portraits I love the 85mm f1.8 – it's light and easy to use and gives great results. For events and groups I love the 17-40mm L series lens.
My camera bag also contains a couple of Nissin speedlights and radio triggers which can double as a remote shutter release.
I use a Manfrotto tripod – it's quite old and heavy, but sturdy and reliable. My camera bag is a Lowepro rucksack – now out of production I'm sure as I bought it second-hand some years ago, but it has served me well and does exactly what I need it to do.
I also use the 5D MkII for video work, along with a 550D as a second camera.
What are the typical settings you use in a shoot?
I tend to shoot using either manual mode or aperture priority and I love to shoot with my aperture wide open when I can. For me, aperture is the key setting and I will use whatever shutter speed and ISO setting I need to get the shot as I often find myself shooting in low light situations.
I always shoot RAW as I want to retain as much detail as possible. Sometimes I'll take a shot I think works but then I'll see other possible treatments in post processing, so having the RAW information is important.
I invested a lot of money into my camera body and lenses – so I expect them to do at least some of the work for me! Therefore I have no qualms using auto white balance and auto focus – though I only ever use the central focussing point when I shoot. I like to keep things simple – but I know I can change any setting quickly and easily if I need to.
What kind of tools do you use for post processing? What's your work flow.
My images come straight out of my camera and into Lightroom, which I love. In fact, 95% of my post processing is now done in Lightroom. I usually have to make no more than a few tweaks to the exposure settings.
For portraits, I like to make sure eyes are clean and sharp and teeth looking good.
The rest depends on the look I am going for. Sometimes I'll go for the 'porcelain skin' look, and other times I'll leave things more natural, tidying up only the major blemishes.
Perhaps unusually, I'll spend a fair bit of time experimenting with the crop. I like to look for different framing possibilities and angles and I'll try a number of different crops before I settle on the final result.
If I need to do anything more complex then I'll move over to Photoshop Elements. Yes, Elements! For the work I do I don't feel I need the full Photoshop CC. I know it's good, but it's expensive. However, the main reason I don't use it is because I doubt I will ever use 75% of its functionality!
Do you photograph for pleasure? How is that different from your work?
Most of the time, I photograph for a reason. But when I take a camera along on holiday or for a day out my mentality totally changes and I drop into snapshot mode! OK, I try to make them pretty good snapshots, but I take the view that holidays, etc. are family time and I prefer not to spend time fiddling with my camera and looking for the perfect shot when what I really want to do is spend time with my loved ones and relax.
What makes the good picture stand out from the average?
I would say that the best images are the ones taken with commitment – a desire to get the shot you have in your head before you press the shutter button. Of course, taking photos speculatively works sometimes but I think it is so important to have a vision of the end result you are aiming for.
Is there a particularly good piece of advice that you would give to aspiring photographers? Do you have any "tips of the trade" you would like to share?
Make sure you understand the basics of the exposure triangle – the relationship between Aperture, Shutter Speed and ISO. I learnt this at an early stage and it makes getting your exposure right so much easier.
Also, be sure to invest in decent quality lenses. In my view, the quality of your lens is every bit as important, if not more so, than your camera body.
If someone wants to become a photographer, what should they do?
The most important thing is to enjoy what you are doing and to love the process of making images. Get out and practice and know your equipment inside out. Experiment and try new things – that way you will find your own style. When I first became interested in photography, I thought I would go down the travel and landscape route – but I soon learnt that I found people so much more interesting. Don't try to force yourself into any particular style though... eventually it will come as you find your own creative level and preferences.
Do you have a favorite photo or photographer? What do you like about that work/person?
I have a few favourite photographers but they are not necessarily my favourites because of their images! Yes, their photography is outstanding, of course – but what I love most about them is their willingness to share their craft and inspire.
Martin Bailey (martinbaileyphotography.com) is an incredibly gifted photographer who specialises in wildlife and nature photography and tours, but also explores other avenues, including portraits. Martin grew up only a few miles from where I used to live – but I've never met him as he emigrated to Japan some years ago. Although I have only had a few brief email exchanges with him, I feel I know him as a friend. Why? Because Martin is so generous with his time in sharing his expertise and experience through his website and his superb podcasts , his commitment to helping and inspiring other photographers is, in my view, unparalleled. Martin would most probably be mortified if he were to read this as he is incredibly humble. I have a huge amount of respect for him and what he does.
Through his podcasts, Martin introduced me to Valerie Jardin, who is a USA based photographer (valeriejardinphotography.com). Her speciality is street photography, which I don't do because I'm not particularly good at it! But, again, Valerie inspires me through her way of thinking and the way she enthuses about the craft. I think what I have most learnt from her is to keep things simple and to photograph in a way I enjoy and works for me.
In terms of portraits, I love the work of Damien Lovegrove (lovegrovephotography.com)– an absolute master. And what he doesn't know about light and lighting isn't worth knowing! I think his imagery, approach and the way he uses light are just stunning.
And I like to keep an eye on the work of Brett Harkness (brettharknessphotography.com). Again he is a real master at understanding and controlling the light and always happy to help others be the best they can be.