by Alan Carville Published 01/11/2010
Brief personal background and years as a pro.
I worked in a pharmaceutical laboratory for a number of years, then went travelling. When I returned, I enrolled in a photographic Diploma course before becoming a teacher myself. After five years working in education, I moved to my country of birth, Malta, where I have been living ever since. Starting from scratch and with only very minor practical experience, I chose interior photography as my speciality. I now regularly work for six local magazines and all the leading five star hotels on the island.
My first photographic experience was using a Yashica Mat owned by my father. I took photos, processed and printed from the age of 12.
Photography gives me freedom. We all set out to make great images but it's the chance to travel, explore and meet interesting people whom I probably would never get a chance to meet under normal circumstances that interests me. I am impartial to the images that I make - the images look good today but tomorrow I am a different person with a new set of problems to solve and a different emotional content.
Film/digital (both?) Is there still any place for film?
The market in Malta does not call for nor does it have the budget to shoot with film. This is a great loss in many ways. Digital has sped things up. In my line of work the images are due tomorrow - the editor needs to see the images straight away and before you know it you're onto the next job. Digital is perfect for this.
Capture and output devices used
All work is carried out on DSLRs. The days of the megapixel wars are coming to an end and manufacturers are relying more on sensor clarity rather than file sizes. An A4 magazine only requires a 12MB file for a vertical image and a 24MB file for a double page spread. All finished work is supplied to the client digitally via FTP upload or DVD, depending on the number of images.
Bit of detail about your own studio set-up/staffing
All assignments are carried out alone with most of the assisting being done by the client. I do not do any marketing and I haven't updated my website in over six years. Usually I am booked up solidly at least four weeks ahead. Everyone knows everyone in Malta, so all work is purely by referral. When clients start talking about using other photographers I usually suggest that they should go ahead. Not out of arrogance, but so they get an indication of why they should or should not stay with me. If they do not stay with my services, then it helps me to lift my game. Most clients on the island are after a market mix of reliability, price, speed and quality.
The problem with professional photographers today is...
I think some rely too much on photo editing software. Whilst there are perfect tools for editing, a few are using it to construct images rather than take them.
The worst commercial error you have made to date
Being new to the island, I didn't set-up a working policy and I took the rates that local photographers recommended. Although this helped immensely to get into the market, it also left it harder to raise my rates. The marketing demographics in Malta do not follow consistently with other parts of the world and as such photographers here need to educate the clients regarding areas such as copyright infringement and licensing rights.
Is it getting harder or easier to make a decent living?
The internet has made the information process much faster and students can learn at an accelerated rate without the film and processing costs. A few older photographers have been caught out with complacency because of the teenagers getting into the market place. Although I am one of the leading interior photographers on the island, I have kept my learning skills open and keep a watchful eye on what the younger generation are doing.
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