F.A.Q - Chris Guest

Where are you from?

I’m from a place called Glenfield, which is in Leicester in the United Kingdom.

Have you always been a photographer?

Nope. When I did my degree in Journalism I worked in the Press Office at the Leicester Tigers when they won the Premiership title. I used to help teach special needs children at a challenging inner-city secondary school (I was more of a security guard; I spent more time making sure everyone left the classroom alive than teaching – seriously! I have so many stories from my time there). I’ve also run the checks and balances on payrolls worth tens of millions of pounds. When I used to play the drums in bands we were normally paid in alcohol; technically I was paid, it was a job (I know it's a stretch). 

Who are your favourite photographers?

Too many to mention all of them here. The first who come to mind are: Paul Nicklen, Jimmy Chin, Vincent Munier, Chris Burkard, Marsel van Oosten, Ami Vitale, Dan Patitucci, Alex Buisse, Jeff Mitchell, Ryan Dyar,  Arild Heitmann and Stian Klo. I’m always finding new photographers though; one of the best ways is to go on people’s Instagram and see who they follow. So, check mine out maybe?

What do you do when not taking photographs?

Photography takes up a lot of my time nowadays. I go running, occasionally play football and I’m a season-ticket holder at Leicester City Football Club (I was a season-ticket holder long before we won the league for any of you cynics out there). I like listening to podcasts: The Joe Rogan Experience, The MMA Hour, Flintoff, Savage and the Ping-Pong Guy, BBC 606, Talk Ultra and the occasional Tim Ferriss Show are some of my favourites. In the past I’ve played a lot of football, played the drums and done a bit of kickboxing and MMA (don't get confused; you could still probably beat me up).

Why did you take up photography?

I was at a point in my life where I wasn’t very happy, I needed a hobby and I wanted a career where I could be my own boss. Photography provided all those things, plus it was a good reason to get outside. When I go out now I see the world completely differently; I’m always looking at the light, the landscape, seeing how it’s changing and looking for compositions. Whereas before I’d just be out going through the motions. Whilst it gets quite a lot of negativity, it was nice going on Instagram and having people like my images and start following me. When Icelandair saw one of my images on Instagram they asked if they could use it in their magazine; it was the first time I really thought photography could be a career.

Where are your favourite places to photograph?

I really like to be out in the middle of nowhere with people who know the area or are experts in their profession. The problem is, that’s expensive and so is the equipment you need to keep you safe. Northern Norway and Iceland are the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. Bradgate Park is close to my house, so if I have spare time I tend to head there.

Any general photography tips?

Sometimes it’s better to spend your money on an adventure instead of gear. A cheaper camera is probably going to take better pictures in Iceland or Norway than a top of the range camera in your back garden. Plus, you’ll have better memories, stories and experiences.

Spend money on lenses over camera bodies: technology moves so fast that most bodies are obsolete after around 5 years. Yet a lens will last 10/20 years; it will also hold its value a lot longer, so you can resell it for more. Plus, a better lens on a mediocre body will take a better image than a rubbish lens on an expensive body.

Buy nice or buy twice: I’d recommend saving your money and buying exactly what you want as you’ll probably save money in the long run.

Don’t be afraid to buy used; especially with regards to lenses.

Be careful with workshops: they can cost a lot of money and sometimes the best photographers aren’t the best teachers. If you’re going abroad make sure the guide really knows the local area. One thing I’ve found is, you make good contacts and meet some great likeminded people. And if you find the right workshop, you can learn more in one week than you’ve learnt in the past year.

Make sure you have a decent computer monitor. I didn't buy one till about 2 years after I took up photography. I had to go through all my photos and re-edit them as they were slightly underexposed and just didn't look right. Don't forget to calibrate your monitor as well.

Careful when starting out with post-processing: it's easy to go crazy mad with power and abuse those sliders.

How did you learn photography?

I’m mainly self-taught. One of the best ways I learnt was by just simply looking at other photographers. And when I say look, I mean really look; go through their entire career and try to understand how they changed, why they changed and why they made the decisions they did. I did a few workshops when starting out. And obviously, I went out and took lots of (mostly bad) photographs.

How do you process your images?

A contentious issue nowadays. I’ve never understood all the fuss. As long as people are honest about what they’ve done I don’t really care: a great image is a great image and art is very subjective. Even back in the day you’ll be surprised how much photo manipulation was done in a darkroom. I use a piece of software called Lightroom, it does everything I need (it’s basically Photoshop’s brother). I tend to like simpler editing: I’ll dodge, burn, occasionally crop, move black and white points, play with highlights and shadows, etc. Just the basic stuff on the Lightroom panel.

What gear do you use?

I’m a little wary to answer this because everyone’s different. And a lot of photographers are given incentives to recommend gear. Different choices can go into a camera: weight, size, value, price of accessories, image quality, technology and the way the company innovates. Try different types and see what works best for you. Once you buy into a company it’s very expensive to change brands – the one I’m most invested in currently is Nikon.

I've read through all this rubbish and I have a question you’ve not answered. What should I do?

If you’re still reading, thanks. Fear not my friend! You are obviously a highly intelligent person who likes to find out about the finer things in life. Send me an email with your question and I’ll be happy to help you with more of my wisdom.

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