Digitalab Featured Photographer: Keith Cooper
At Digitalab, we know that you can’t underestimate the power of a truly exceptional image. The beauty of photography as an art form is in its diversity – with so many wonderful genres and so many utterly unique photographers out there, photography means many different things to many different people. That’s why we asked Keith Cooper for one of his images and asked him a couple of questions to find out exactly how he fell in love with photography and what he’d say to any aspiring 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.
Hood Canal in Washington State, USA. It’s one of my favourite B&W landscape images that I’ve taken since becoming a working pro photographer, and is one of the few of my own images that I’m happy to have as a large (36²x24²) print on the wall at home.
Having your own images on display can be difficult, since you’re prone to seeing imperfections or what you could have done differently. This is one I wouldn’t change. I’ve written up the full background story of why and how it was made, from stopping the car to the final B&W print, right here.
It sums up my approach to landscape photography well, hand held, no tripod, no filters and back in the car in 15 minutes. Landscape has an immediacy for me that is more akin to street photography, than my more conventional detailed professional architectural work.
Which styles of photography most interest/inspire you?
Images that emphasise the form and structure of the world around us in ways that evoke an emotional response.
Much as I love to explore black and white, I¹m a commercial photographer, so I shoot what’s required, invariably colour. If you want to earn a living from photography, remember that it’s principally about running a business, with taking photos a nice extra.
Advancing skills comes from experimenting a lot, and looking at lots of photos. One great source for this comes from collecting photography books from charity shops and the like. Just one image from a ‘take better photography’ book from the 1970s led me to explore a whole new area of work.
Learning new skills is something I prefer to do in my own time rather than a client’s. That said, I still couldn’t face wedding work or children if you paid me triple time. ; )
I value subtlety in images, careful choices of tonality and composition that aid the message rather than being the message. As such, I’ve a very limited tolerance of the fashionable ‘HDR Look’ or other such gimmicks – it just seems so lazy: find an adjustment, turn it up to eleven, and lo, instant creativity (not). The world around me does not have sharpening halos.
What one piece of advice would you give to an aspiring photographer?
Take more photos, but when looking through them, pay as much attention to the ones that don’t work as the ones that did. Learn from both. Show only your best – be ruthless in culling ones that don’t work, but know why.
Incidentally, when putting together collections for an exhibition or book, get someone else to help edit/curate your work. Most photographers are nowhere near as good at this as they like to think.
I keep all my RAW files from any trip out with the camera, rubbish and all. Every so often it’s good to delve into the (full) archive – I always assume that there must have been a reason for me to take most shots. Don¹t be afraid of admitting that you missed a great image when first looking through what’s come off the card.