Interview: Photographer: Michael Siggers (UK)
Interviews / Stories
Tell us something about yourself
I'm a 46 year old photographer, originally from Portsmouth, based in Sheffield, UK.
How and when did you get into photography?
Photography was a module that I studied as part of my University course between 1990 to 1994, (seems like many many years ago now). Back then it was all film based and I loved the creative process and the experimentation involved in shooting film. I could quite happily spend hours in the darkroom developing prints from a shoot. I carried on with photography after graduation, while I was teaching, covering various events that the school did. I liked the pressure of only having one chance to capture the event and then the excitement of waiting for the images. Unfortunately, I then came away from photography for a number of years, working in a different career. This changed about 8 years ago when I became so disillusioned with that career. I was then inspired by a long term friend to take it up again.
What does photography mean to you?
Difficult one really. I love the whole creative process, the idea of developing a story and a brief, of developing an idea, and then trying to communicate that idea through the final images. It's also being part of the creative team of people, working with other people who are great at what they do. It's also a constant challenge I think, as my aim is always, as well as producing worthwhile work, is to produce work that everyone who contributed is happy with. I'm not a hugely creative person in Post Production, I can't do huge composites in Photoshop for example, so I always try and achieve the shot in camera, meaning that all the elements are there already, if that makes sense. I'm always striving to learn new ideas, new techniques, and new ways of doing things. I guess it's a strive for perfection that is never achievable, but to constantly improve is a big deal, I think.
Please briefly describe your photography style for our readers.
Again, another difficult one really. I think it's hard to put your finger on my style. I know that quite a few people have told me that they can spot my style, and that I have a style, but to try and describe that style is difficult. Going back to the previous question, I think it has something to do with the way I shoot, making sure I have everything in shot. I mainly shoot location, (although, given cold winters, it's nice to be in a studio), and I tend to have a habit, (some may say it's a bad habit), of using location lighting alot, which can obviously contribute to a style. I sometimes have to force myself to use natural light alone! I also tend to use mainly one light. Maybe this contributes to my style. I think that I always try to shoot location where the location is part of the story.
Where do you get inspiration from?
In short, from many places. I'm constantly looking at other photographers, mainly to look at their work, but to also then analyse why I might like a particular shot. What do I like about the composition? How have they lit the shot? How is the model posing? What's the Makeup and Styling like? I've also assisted on various shoots with a photographer whose work I love, and again, that was inspiring, to see how she worked, how the shoot was planned, and how it developed. Essentially, it could be from anywhere. I've taken inspiration from music and various Artists too.
Think you in advance what you want in the picture?
I think most of the time, yes I do. If I'm planning a shoot to create a collection, then I'll start by brainstorming ideas, following discussions with the client. Writing down ideas and thoughts linked to various outline ideas, these can then lead down different paths. This can then lead to a story. I guess there's no definitive way, as sometimes the idea of a‘Story’can be the starting point. I'll always research locations, and then from all of this I'll form a Moodboard. This helps me develop an overall look for the images, which then leads to defining the look and approach for each shot. Mind you, saying all that, sometimes it can be a case of developing the idea on the day, at the shoot.
Studio, on location or both?
I shoot mostly location, (although recently I've been shooting in the studio quite a bit. Probably to do with the weather!). I must admit, I prefer shooting location and creating a scene for the image. It's always a challenge working with the light on the day, as it never seems to be what was forecast the day before. I remember having to do a winter shoot with huge padded winter coats in October. We decided to shoot on a beach. The weather forecast stated that it would be nice and cloudy. We arrived to 18°C bright sunshine. The poor model was boiling. Mind you the shots turned out really well.
Would you consider yourself a hobbyist or a paid professional?
I would consider myself to be a paid professional.
What has been your most memorable session and why?
I think the shoot I did at Skegness funfair has to be among my favourites. The owners of the funfair could not have been more helpful and gave us free reign to shoot wherever we wanted. They even gave us some free tokens for rides! I'd planned the shoot for ages and it just seemed like everything came together at the right time. Shooting mid afternoon into the evening, it was great to play with light trails provided by the rides as they all lit up for the evening. There are others. A shoot I did for a fashion client a while back in Sheffield City centre is quite high on the list too. I think there's no definite answer to this really as some of the studio stuff I've done is also high up on the list. My first shoot with Maverick Models in Manchester is a favourite as well. Such a brilliant group of people to work with. I use the term ‘work’ loosely as it's so enjoyable, it doesn't feel like work. I've formed a good relationship with Maverick Models and the owner is a complete star, and couldn't be more helpful. I also think it's so important to work with a great team, and the Makeup Artists and Hair Stylists that I work with are so brilliant at what they do, and such lovely people too.
What has been the biggest source of inspiration in your work?
I have to start this answer by giving a huge credit to Alice Hawkins. A long story, but I've known Alice for years. Alice is a well established photographer who shoots all over the world. She is a true artist and her work is so beautiful. She basically inspired me, and gave me the kick up the backside to get back into photography after having a lengthy break from it. I've always admired her work and her approach to it. It was Alice that I assisted on a couple of shoots. I learnt so much from those shoots. Such an inspirational person.
Nikon or Canon? Favourite lens?
It's Canon. When I got back into photography I research a lot and it was either Canon or Nikon. I decided on Canon and have stuck with them ever since. Favourite lens? I do feel that sometimes I'm a bit lazy with lenses and tend to leave my 24-105L on the camera. However, I've recently been shooting a lot with my 85mm which I've grown to love. I've been planning for ages to buy the 100mm f2.8L Macro. Hired one a couple of weeks ago for a shoot and loved it
What is one piece of advice you would like to offer a new photographer looking to start their own business?
Probably to shoot as much as possible. I think the advantage with digital is that the costs associated with film developing can be avoided, meaning that experimentation with shooting doesn't have to cost as much as it used to. By shooting loads, different things can be tried, and I think, over time, a style will develop, which will show through the work. I also think assisting another photographer is a really good idea as so much can be learnt. Ask loads of questions too. I think it's also important that it's not necessary to spend an absolute fortune on equipment at the start. Equipment can be bought as and when it's needed, rather than spending a fortune on the best of everything, resulting in equipment that may never be used. Talk to specialist camera shops as their knowledge is invaluable. And, perseverence, lots of it.
What do you think of our new magazine?
I think it's really great. It's really refreshing, and it's great to see such a mix of styles, photography, and articles.