Featured Photographers

Digitalab Featured Photographer: Colin Boulter

2nd April 2014 by Alex Ingram

At Digitalab, we appreciate the power of photography, whether it’s personal or professional. We asked Colin Boulter of Neilson Reeves Photography for one of his images and posed a couple of questions to find out exactly what it is he loves about photography and what he’d say to any enthusiastic photographer hoping to make a career out of their passion.


Tell us a bit about this image and why you chose it to be featured.

I’ve chosen this image because I think it shows something new about John Thomson. I do lots of actors’ head shots in Manchester and a lot of them say they don’t want to be stereotyped and so want to be able to present a different view of themselves.

Of course with John, we’ve all seen him through the years as Fat Bob in Steve Coogan’s series, in The Fast Show, as Pete in Cold Feet, and more recently in Coronation Street – basically in a lot of comedy or light-hearted roles. But I wanted to create an alternative view of him, something he could use to show casting directors as if to say ‘Think you know me? Think again’.

I’ve used half lighting to narrow the face and bring out skin texture which makes John look manly and rugged, which when added to his straight-faced demeanour, make him look serious and powerful. There are a lot of period dramas on TV at the moment and a lot of stuff about Rome so here I think John Thomson could quite easily look like Julia Caesar if I added a Laurel to his head to complete the look. So for me I have now done my Job as an Actor Headshot photographer because I have created a different look that will help casting directors to see John is more versatile than they initially thought.

Which styles of photography most interest/inspire you?

There are two main ones – photos of people and landscapes, and they both appeal to different sides of my personality.

On the one hand, I’m a very gregarious person. I like meeting new people and having that interaction, finding out what makes them tick and creating energy. I think I’m good at putting people at their ease and making them relax, because of course, a lot of people get nervous when they’re having their photo taken. I get a buzz out of seeing how pleased they are when they look at how well they’ve come out in a picture.

And on the other hand, I’m also a quiet person. I’m a Scorpio left-handed weirdo so I guess that’s why! I often think very deeply about things and sometimes I meditate, to retreat from all the noise and to get away from myself in some ways. So I like the stillness, the sereneness of doing landscapes where I can just immerse myself in what’s in front of me and quietly look for something, which others might not see.

What one piece of advice would you give to an aspiring photographer?

To get away from the illusion that how good you are depends on what camera and equipment you’ve got. They do play a large role, obviously, but they’re the icing on the cake rather than the cake itself. When students ask me what camera I used on a particular job, I say ‘What camera did Ansel Adams use?’ Whatever he had, it wasn’t anywhere near as good as the most basic cameras around these days, but he created some fantastic photography.

What makes a good picture is knowing how to see and use light and shadow, to develop a ‘photographer’s eye’, so you can create good form and texture. Some of it is trial and error – you need to keep trying out new things so can create the image you want and learn as you go along what works and what doesn’t.

When I started out, I used to just walk along the streets or go and sit in cafes and bars, and stare at people – I must have looked like some kind of stalker! But I got to see how light plays on different people’s skin and faces, and how the highlights and shadows can make someone look. It’s not necessarily the best looking people who make the best photographs – I think a person’s character comes out in a photo and sometimes that can be an amazing quirky look rather than a traditional prettiness.

As the great Master referred to earlier says, ‘You don’t take a photograph, you make it.’

Neilson Reeves Photography