Jemma Dodd is a fashion and live music photographer from the UK with a degree in Media Photography. Currently she works for Practical Photography Magazine, and creates live and vibrant images of bands for a variety of other publications. Among her clients are Rebelicious Magazine, Hit The Floor magazine and Darkus Magazine. Jemma was named the winner of the live category of the NME Photography Awards 2014.
KeepSnap: Hi there, Jemma! How are you doing? It’s great to have you with us on KeepSnap blog. First things first. When did you become to get interested in photography? Was it just a hobby at first? If so, then when did this hobby grow into your passion?
Jemma Dodd: Hi, it’s great to be speaking to you guys! I’ve always loved taking photographs, when I was younger I was the annoying one who wanted to take a photo of everything while I was on holiday and get as many photos of my family as possible. While at school and college I really enjoyed media studies and chose this as my field of study at University. The course I did covered a variety of modules which included photography. I never thought I could make a career out of photography so to be able to study a variety of fields and include photography seemed like the perfect degree for me. Before starting University I was inspired by one of my friends who’s an artist and at the time took a lot of photos, this led to me asking for a DSLR which I got for my 18th birthday. As soon as I got it I began shooting the smallest of things like flowers in my house and then got friends to pose as models for me. The more I shot the more I wanted to shoot more!
KeepSnap: And why fashion and live music? Did you fancy it before starting to make photos or was it all a pure coincidence? What did appear in your life first, interest in photography or interest in music and fashion?
Jemma Dodd: Music has always been a big part of my life, as soon as I was old enough to go to gigs on my own and get a job that’s literally all I spent my money - on gigs and CDs. I even started to work for record labels doing promotion work, which in return got me free entry to gigs. I’m a big fan of Avril Lavigne (and I mean a BIG fan!) and remember seeing images by a taken on one of her tours and I wished that could be me. After getting my first DSLR camera when I was 18 I approached a few local bands on Myspace and went along to shoot their shows, so music and photography fell perfectly hand in hand. In terms of fashion I’d never really thought about doing fashion shoots until I was required to at Uni. After the first shoot I loved it! I love working with people and being able to get creative on a shoot is so much fun!
KeepSnap: Photos you make are really nice. Your live music shots are dynamic, whilst your fashion pictures are somehow mesmerizing and even a bit provocative. What helped you find your style and was there someone who helped you shape it?
Jemma Dodd: I’ve never really thought about my style, I think it’s something that almost comes naturally and you only start to notice it after a while. For me I like to keep my images bold and bright, occasionally I’ll go for a slightly washed out, vintage effect. I much prefer shooting on location and will shoot with natural light and flashguns so that’s formed a part of my style. I also love the bokeh effect that wide apertures creates so I always try to shoot as wide as possible.
KeepSnap: How do you see your style in, say, five or seven years? Are your going to keep working on it and make it more and more elaborate or perhaps you are thinking of taking a different direction and changing it?
Jemma Dodd: At the moment I’m not shooting as much as I used to, as I’m trying to spend more time planning and researching new ideas and techniques so I can push my work further. I’ve recently purchased a glass prism as I’ve seen shots taken by other photographers and love the effect, I also love smoke bombs so want to incorporate these into my shoots more. I’ve got some ideas of where I’d like my work to go, but you’ll have to wait and see!
KeepSnap: What was your first camera that you used to take a professional photo? Have you got a favorite camera that is somewhat sacral to you? What camera and lens do you use now?
Jemma Dodd: For my 18th birthday I was given a second hand Nikon D70s. I didn’t know anything about the camera in terms of specs and quality and stuck with it throughout my time at University. When I had enough money I decided it was time to buy a new camera, so I upgraded to a Nikon D7000 which I’ve had for a good few years. I do love this camera, but I really want to upgrade to a full-frame model. My favourite lens is my 50mm f/1.8, it was the first lens I brought and I use it at pretty much every gig I shoot and also on fashion shoots too.
KeepSnap: Let's talk about your fashion photos. All of your models are passionate and so vivid. Do you choose models you shoot yourself? And what about make-up? Is there a special make-up artist working on that? Please tell us about it.
Jemma Dodd: I pretty much always choose the models I work with, unless a client wants to work with someone specific, but I always try to have an input and give suggestions. In terms of hair and make-up when arranging a shoot I have a rough vision of what I want to create and let the make-up artist know my ideas. Creating mood boards is such a useful planning method that I’d highly recommend! I’m lucky to have worked with some amazing make-up artists like Amy Murray, Kerry-Louise Hiles and Eloise Wilson who I regularly work with as they understand exactly what I want.
KeepSnap: The world of fashion seems so distant and unknown to many of us. Are there are behind-the-scenes things that our readers would be in interested in?
Jemma Dodd: It’s probably not as glamorous as you think it is. There can be a lot of waiting around on shoots. As soon as I’ve set up the lights I wait for the hair and make-up to be done, and then while I’m shooting, the hair and make-up artist have to wait till we’re ready for the next look. On the other hand you have to work fast to make sure you get the job done in the time you have. The weather can be a pain too, I once shot some dresses during January and it had snowed the day before – it was freezing and our poor model was only in a dress! I’ve also done shoots at locations where I’ve gotten covered in dust or dirt from sitting or lying on the ground and shooting - it’s got to be done to get a good low-angle!
KeepSnap: You mentioned that you received a degree in photography. Do you think that a special education and fancy equipment are important in order to become a professional photographer?
Jemma Dodd: The industry seems mainly focused on experience and the quality of your work and who you’ve worked with. A degree definitely helped me because it not only taught me the basics of photography, but it also pushed me and gave me the confidence to go out and work with people. I did however purposely choose a degree that had several aspects to it which included design, music promotion, web design and media theory in order to gain skills in more than one field. I probably wouldn’t have the job I do now at Practical Photography magazine without my degree.
In my personal opinion if you’ve been shooting for years and doing well without a degree then you really don’t need one. When it comes down to equipment while certain pieces of kit can help you do the job a different way it really comes down to you and your creativity!
KeepSnap: You mainly make photos of people and many of our readers are portrait, event, and wedding photographers. What qualities a good photographer that works with people needs to have and what does it take to capture a candid portrait shot? What challenges can a photographer be faced with and how they can overcome these challenges?
Jemma Dodd: You’ve got to be good with people and have confidence, something I had very little of when I was younger. Going to University really helped with my confidence, the more you work with people the easier it gets. Photographers work in different ways, but I like to involve my team in all aspects of the shoot. If I have the time I regularly show my team the photos while shooting, which I know some photographs are very against. To me it makes my team feel more involved and lets them see their work as well.
When it comes to taking candid shots people need to feel relaxed, in most cases as soon as you point a camera at someone they’ll turn away. You have to learn how to blend in and sometimes this means getting to know someone beforehand. I’ve shot a few weddings and couples, and sometimes telling them that you’re just checking the settings on your camera makes them forget that you’re about to take their photo, and then you can quickly snap them without them realising.
KeepSnap: What is the most difficult thing in taking live music photos?
Jemma Dodd: It really depends on the situation, if the lighting is really bad then it can be difficult to focus and get good shots. If a band are really lively and move around a lot you have to be able to anticipate a moment rather than walking up and down the pit following them. The other difficult situation is when the photo pit is really crammed – I’m quite short so when the photo pit is full and someone stands in front of me I really struggle. You have to learn how to manoeuvre and make a quick decision to stay in one spot or attempt to move.
KeepSnap: Were there any stories that touched you, made you happy, and drew you a sincere smile that you happened to live during your career as a photographer? Please tell us one.
Jemma Dodd: As the features assistant for Practical Photography magazine I’m always contacting new photographers to feature in our magazines. I find it so inspiring to see all the different types of backgrounds that people come from and how they have a deep passion for photography. I was particularly moved by the stories of Kirsty Mitchell, Rob Woodcox and Russel Andrew Villena. I’ll let you discover their work and stories though!
KeepSnap: What do you do now and what plans do you have?
Jemma Dodd: At the moment I’m trying to work with as many people as possible. I currently shoot live music for Hit The Floor Magazine, Soundscape and Darkus magazines. I also shoot fashion for Darkus as well as Rebelicious magazine. I plan to keep pushing myself further within both my music and fashion photography, and who knows what will happen…
KeepSnap: What professional literature can you recommend to our readers?
Jemma Dodd: For all sorts of photography ideas and techniques I’d recommend reading Practical Photography magazine of course! I’m a big fan of Rankin so have a collection of his books on my bookshelf. For anyone starting in fashion photography I’d recommend Lara Jade’s Fashion Photography 101.
KeepSnap: And the last thing. What do you think about KeepSnap’s idea and what tips can you give to our photographers so that they don’t look for clients anymore but make clients find them themselves?
Jemma Dodd: I think it’s great for people to be able to look up photographers all in one place and look for the type of work they’re after. There are so many photographers out there, but with Keepsnap you can find several all in one place!
In terms of being found by clients you’ve got to have an online presence and I think the key thing is word of mouth, if you do an amazing job it will be remembered and people will be more than happy to recommend you to others.
KeepSnap: Thank you so much for your time and interesting answers, Jemma! We are really grateful for your time and stories! Good luck!
Jemma Dodd: Thanks for having me KeepSnap, and for the opportunity to share my work with others!
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