Photography News Issue 52

Photography News | Issue 52 | photographynews.co.uk

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Interview

Brett Harkness After 17 years as a professional photographer, Brett’s reputation continues to grow. PN caught up with him between shoots to chat about his career, his stylised portraits and the future Pro profile

Interview by Will Cheung Pictures by Brett Harkness

PN: Could you give our readers some background about you and your business? BH: I worked in Miami for seven years where I met my business partner and wife Kristie. We returned to the UK in 2001 where we started shooting weddings for £150, but we’ve come a long way since then and our business continues to go from strength to strength. A strong brand image and shooting style make us stand out in the congested and competitive world of photography. Times are uncertain for a lot of photographers. A lot of clients are holding onto their cash in fear of Brexit and other factors within the economy. But we have worked hard over 17 years to obtain a great client base around the UK and abroad. I am a great believer that if you deliver a constant standard of work then there will always be a client for you. We have built a reputation for just that. Weddings are obviously a large part of what you do. How is that business in these cash-strapped times when anyone can buy a 24-megapixel camera and call themselves a photographer? Yes, I’m now in the 17th year of shooting weddings professionally. I’ve spent years creating a unique style to set us apart from the competition. I would say my style is tweaked every year and flows like a new river finding its path over dry land. I believe that if you can create and capture something that makes people question or stop and look, then you should never fear the 24-megapixel brigade. While your wedding work is sublime, it is your portraits we want to chat about. Your portraits are very stylised. Is this all your imagination or do you have a team working on ideas and helping you style a shoot? Thank you, yes, portraiture is a growing part of my work and business structure, and continues to evolve and develop. A lot of the portraits in my folio are my own thinking and doing. Some are collaborations with certain hair and make-up artists and stylists. We work together with a common goal. On most commercial portrait shoots the client books us on the strength of our online images and portfolio, and the style that they are attracted to. Then the shoot lies in my hands from styling to execution. If it’s a fashion, editorial shoot then often other people are involved; usually a fashion stylist, make-up and hair artists and sometimes a picture editor to keep a check on what we are shooting. How much pre-planning is involved in one of your shoots? How do you find your models and locations? Locations are key to a successful shoot.

Sometimes we choose, sometimes the client chooses. I prefer to have a say as I know what will fit what. Models are sourced by the client and again it is a mutual decision on final choice. Of course if it’s a portrait shoot then the client is often the subject. We also use a location hiring company which is factored into the cost. Please roughly outline how one of your shoots progresses. There are many variants on shoots depending on whether it is a commissioned shoot or a personal shoot. I usually like to speak to the client on the phone, over Skype or in person to get an idea and feel for what they are after. One thing is the same: they have commissioned me for my style. The ideas then come together with things usually changing on the shoot and going in different directions. Sometimes a client will send me a mood board so I can get a feel for the images they are after. The shoot usually starts slowly. I sometimes will show the clients the first few images to gauge feedback if they are on set or if not I will email a couple over to them.

Shoots then pick up pace as my juices flow and things start to be created. I am a fast shooter by nature but some shoots, depending upon their nature, I can slow down a little and really look into the lighting specifics in order to achieve the best result possible. You use Elinchrom location lighting, so what is your current light of choice?
 I have been using Elinchrom since 2007. My first purchase was a Quadra 400, followed quickly by my long-standing workhorse – the Ranger RX Speed AS 1200 pack. This pack has travelled the world with me and been in as many places as I have taken pictures, which is a lot! It is still in my lighting arsenal but has been superseded by the ELB 1200.
 What are the ELB 1200’s key features that make it so well suited to your style of imaging? For me to switch to the ELB 1200 it had to be a Ranger RX with a new coat. As it turned out it had the coat, hat and boots on, too. Its super lightweight design using lithium instead of the lead batteries means that it can go anywhere and not break your back in the process.

I believe that if you can create and capture something that makes people question or stop and look, then you should never fear the 24-megapixel brigade

Top Shot using a Pentax 645Z with 90mm lens and Lee Filters ND filter, main light provided by an Elinchrom ELB 1200 and an 135 Octa softbox. The model is Ambra Sirri with make-up by Jo Leversuch, hair by Gareth (Aqua The Salon) and assisted by Richard Woodside.

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