East Croydon Cool talks…Photography

East Croydon Cool talks… is a blog series that explores topics of cultural interest via local area experts.

This month we spoke to Croydon photographer Glenn Foster to learn a little more about the world of photography.

Having first developed (sorry!) an interest in photography as a child (after his parents gave him a disposable Kodak camera) Glenn is now a self-employed freelance photographer. Although based in Croydon, he loves to travel and shoots all over the world in both a personal and professional capacity.

1) Why do you think there has been an increase in interest in photography in recent years?
I think interest has grown in recent years because almost everyone has a camera in their pocket. Being able to capture & share images immediately has enabled people across the globe to become more connected as photography lets us engage without language barriers. Also, people are doing more to encourage creativity in the community (this is especially true in Croydon) and this has directed more people towards photography (whether that’s improving their own photography skills or using the skills of others to promote their own projects).

2) How did you get into photography?
I was probably around six years old when my parents gave me a disposable Kodak; I loved it! I think this is when my photography bug started smouldering. But I didn’t act on it for years. It wasn’t until I was in my twenties, when I started visiting photography exhibitions, and saw some photos a friend had taken with a proper camera, that I thought to myself, I want to be able to do that! I bought myself a proper camera but soon realised I didn’t have a clue how to use it, so I signed myself up to a City & Guilds course, watched countless online tutorials and attended as many workshops as time/money would allow. My passion for photography has not stopped growing, I’m still eager to learn new techniques and photograph new things – Astro photography amazes me! I’ve briefly touched on it but I think that its going to be next on my list to look into properly.

3) What are the benefits/negatives of digital photography versus traditional film photography?
The main benefit of using a digital camera is that you can see what you’ve taken straight away, so if it’s not quite right you can adjust your settings and try again. You also have greater flexibility when editing a digital image as you can edit while developing film in a dark room by dodging and burning etc.  Shooting with film certainly makes you slow down and think a lot more about composition, lighting and making sure your settings are correct as you don’t want to be wasting loads of film, it can be expensive! With film photography, you can get a grainy look to some photos which can look amazing and really add to an image, where as with digital images this is called noise it looks completely different and isn’t attractive in the slightest. If I had to choose just one, it would definitely be digital.

4) What do you think of photography based social media like Instagram?
I think it’s great! Any social media platform that encourages people to pick up a camera and get creative is good in my book. My first platform was Flickr, I used to spend hours browsing through photographers galleries getting inspiration, it’s a great tool for beginners to have a worldwide community of photographers to ask questions to and get advice from and often constructive feed back on your own posts. My Instagram account has been a great way to help showcase my work.

5) Why is Croydon a good place for photographers to shoot?
It’s such a great place to explore with your camera! So much so that I recently started a dedicated Instagram account for my Croydon pictures. If you don’t like to go it alone, Croydon also has some great community meet ups for photographers. No matter what you like to photograph, whether it’s food, architecture, people/street photography, street art, night shots, bands and music, festivals and events, nature, plants, wildlife (I could go on) Croydon literally has it all in abundance. It’s such a versatile and diverse borough. If you love photography you’re going to love Croydon!

6) Who are your favourite photographers and why?
Paul Nicklen is my favourite wildlife photographer. He’s also a biologist and conservationist. His images of polar bears and leopard seals from the Arctic are beautiful, apart from the constant risk of being eaten alive he pushes his body to the absolute limit in ice cold waters to the point he’s vomiting into his breathing apparatus – that really is dedication!

Sarah Lee, an underwater photographer from Hawaii. Because her images are just insane!

Annie Leibovitz is one of my favourite portrait photographers. I admire anyone who can capture people like this. She is also well known for photographing John Lennon on the day he was assassinated and was also the first woman to hold an exhibition at Washington’s National Portrait Gallery

7) Which photographers do you think have most pushed the boundaries of the photography discipline?
Doug Allen, Richard Herrmann and Richard Robinson three of the great photographers from the Blue Planet series are constantly pushing boundaries, using new technology, getting unbelievable images and footage never seen before whilst raising awareness for conservation, which is always a good thing.

8) What tips would you give to a beginner photographer?
YouTube tutorials – I’ve probably learnt more from these than anything else! Anything you need to know from food photography tips to photographing the stars, someone has made a video explaining how to do it. Take inspiration from others but capture what you like to see and develop your own style, it is impossible to please everyone so do not let negative comments effect what you do, dare to be different.

9) How has photography influenced you?
Photography has created opportunities for me to travel the world and visit places I would never have seen otherwise. It has influenced me to be more patient as some of my favourite images have taken months to plan and many visits to get the right conditions, and it’s definitely forced me to be more creative.

10) What equipment would you recommend to someone who’s just starting out?
A DSLR camera with the ability to shoot in manual mode, a kit lens usually an 18 to 55mm to cover most eventualities – I would advise a UV filter to protect the lens and a tripod is a must. You don’t need to spend a lot. With this equipment you can start shooting pretty much anything. Once you realise what you enjoy photographing the most, you can start adding things to help get better results in those areas (like specific lenses, filters and flashes).  To be honest, the shopping list is never ending; there’s always something new you’ll want to purchase!

For more information about Glenn, visit his website.
Keen to learn more about photography or meet like minded photography fans? Lenses of Croydon is a connector group for models, make up artists and photographers based in Croydon. Meet Ups are themed and normally focus on a specific task. They also run the monthly Croydon Photography Forum which features talks from inspirational photographers.

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