Joe Allam is an independent creative specialising predominantly within design and photography, but progressing more and more into filmmaking as well. Over the past few years, he has been building up an online presence with his blog and very recently started a YouTube channel showing experiences and tips for other creatives with a heavy tilt towards photography and travel based content.
He is very passionate about technology and digital growth and easily gets excited about new and upcoming products! Photography is very well connected to his personality for the creativity it can unlock within him to the technicalities of the equipment being used. He thrives off of learning how things work and trying to master products.
KeepSnap: Hi, Joe! How are you doing? It’s great to have you with us on KeepSnap blog. Let’s start from the very beginning. How did it all start and when did you get interested in photography for the first time ever?
Joe Allam: Hello! Thanks for inviting me to your blog – I'm glad you discovered my work! I think photography has always been in my life from a very young age. Whenever I look back through family photos on trips or holidays, I was either holding a compact 35mm in the shot or I wasn't in the photo altogether, as I was the one who took it!
It's hard to pinpoint when exactly things started, but there are a couple of occasions which I remember vividly. One of which was when I visited Tower Bridge in London for the very first time when I was about 9. I reeled off a whole 36 exposures just of the bridge opening, getting it from all sorts of angles. I distinctly remember saying to my Dad at the time "I think I want to be a photographer when I grow up". 15 years later, here I am!
KeepSnap: Can you tell us more on what you do for life and what role does the photography play in your career?
Joe Allam: The majority of my work is design based. I've worked at some pretty big companies and industries over the past few years; from technology at Apple, to interactive children's design with Disney and even luxury fashion at Burberry. In the last year I have set myself up as an independent company working freelance with various clients on all sorts of projects. Most recently, I've been doing a lot of pharmaceutical design which just adds another spoke to the wheel of experience!
Photography has always been a side project and huge passion for me, with my blog being my main output. In recent years though, this has really taken off and with the growth of my YouTube channel as well, my social endeavours are fast becoming a main channel of work for me which in turn gets me more opportunities for other work. The best part about it, is that I feel in control of my content still and it remains a huge passion and learning curve for me, whilst promoting my services to others! I’m also thoroughly enjoying getting involved with a lot more filmmaking projects and putting my knowledge from photography into moving image.
KeepSnap: Your photos are really inspiring and there are a lot of feelings and atmosphere in them. Was it always like this or has your style shaped up with time? If so, was there someone or something that helped you elaborate it?
Joe Allam: Thanks, I’m glad you get a sense of atmosphere in my images! An exciting part of photography for me is the storytelling or the sense of direction. I think that’s why I’m so fond of travel photography, as you get to see a journey being formed. I originally got involved with landscape photography and over time felt as though I got bored with it and wanted something a little more exciting. I experimented with studio portraiture, but found it too staged and unnatural. Sports photography is another genre I am really passionate about, but unfortunately it’s not every day you can have access to a major sporting event.
Going back to my roots with landscape photography, I realised that the style I am most comfortable with is travel/street/city based work. I love the sense of pace a location can have, with physical structures that change with the light throughout the day and the bustle of people around it. One of my earliest inspirations for travel and location photography was Chase Jarvis who has built a huge online following with his inspirational blog and open knowledge on his YouTube channel.
KeepSnap: We saw your Instagram account and your photos are awesome. As we understand, you apply filters that make them look as if they were taken on a film camera and the shots you make with a DSLR have this distinctive look, too. Is it your personal catch? How did you come up with this and why?
Joe Allam: Post-production is always a big part of my photography workflow. I think my connection and career with design, puts me at ease with software and gives me confidence to manipulate imagery. One of the most important “looks” for me is to emulate the warmth and distinct quality/tones that an old 35mm film would produce. Having grown-up in the digital age, I never really got to experience that on a primary level. I’d love to have the innocence and naivety of not knowing about digital cameras, but alas I had to learn about old film techniques after getting involved with digital.
With that being said, I am in no way a film-fanatic. I love the control and complexities of digital photography, but I feel that no digital sensor can produce an image with the same quality of a piece of film. By that I mean that images are often too perfect without the subtle impurities and tones. I used to do a lot of this type of editing manually, but then I discovered the VSCO presets for Lightroom and Photoshop which emulate actual film stock on an extremely accurate level.
KeepSnap: How do you achieve this effect when it comes to vintage-looking photos taken with a DSLR? It it all done by post-processing? And what camera and lenses do you use? Feel free to share some tips with our readers.
Joe Allam: Just recently I have joined the mirrorless camera club with the Sony A7R II and a Metabones adapter to connect all of my Canon glass – I’ve had a difficult time upgrading my camera over the past couple of years which I recently wrote about on my blog. As for lenses, I’ve got an ever-growing range, but my main trio are easily my 16-35 f/4L, 24-70 f/2.8L and 70-200 f/2.8L. The 70-200 is by far my favourite lens with immense build quality, incredible autofocus and extremely sharp images. I honestly wish I could use it for every photo!
KeepSnap: People seem to like this effect a lot. However, shooting on film is difficult and you should think about what to shoot a lot so that you don’t waste priceless exposures. Can this recent fad lead to the revival of the film cameras and make photographers more conscious about making photos?
Joe Allam: As I said earlier, I don’t feel a digital sensor can reproduce the warmth and physical feeling that a film camera can, so I wouldn’t say it is a fad as such. I think what has happened is that emulation software and techniques have become more widespread and more easily accessible which gives people more control over their images. That doesn’t mean that everyone knows how best to use the techniques though… I’ve seen many an over-edited “vintage” photo on Instagram.
KeepSnap: And 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?
Joe Allam: The first camera I used professionally was the Canon EOS 350D. I don’t necessarily have a favourite camera yet, as most of my cameras have been logical upgrades through my time of using them. Maybe as technologies develop, there will be new genres of “vintage” that I will reminisce over, for now I am really loving my new Sony A7R II.
KeepSnap: Joe, did you receive any special photography education or are you a self-taught photographer? Do you think education and gear are important for becoming a professional photographer?
Joe Allam: All of my education has been design based and the only photography class I had was about working in a darkroom developing photos from a 35mm film SLR. Everything else has been self-directed teaching using platforms such as YouTube and a whole lot of trial and error. I’m very much a person to learn by doing and enjoy just working things out!
Gear is always secondary when learning photography. I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve seen someone with a 5D mkIII or Nikon D4 shooting with a lens that has the hood still mounted backwards or someone with a complete set of L series lenses who doesn’t appreciate the quality and sharpness they provide. It honestly does not matter whether you shot an image on a full-frame sensor or a slice of bread. As long as you learn to capture great compositions and convey a sense of storytelling, it really doesn’t matter what equipment you use. For the record, I’ve only in the last two weeks got myself a full-frame camera, having only ever shot with APS-C before.
My style of photography hasn’t changed or improved, but the production opportunities sure have, which is a huge difference. You need to use equipment to bring in opportunities that are otherwise unavailable with any other camera. For example, a need to print something at an extremely large size will often need a higher resolution camera. That fact that the photo is printed bigger, doesn’t make it a better photo. It simply makes it bigger.
KeepSnap: By looking at your photos we can see that you know exactly how to capture emotions and action so that the photo looks right. Most of our readers are portrait, event, and wedding photographers. What qualities does a good photographer that works with people need to have and what does it take to capture an awesome shot?
Joe Allam: There are many factors that make a great shot. Sometimes it’s purely the content and it doesn’t matter about the technicalities – a smile of surprise or laughter for example – which can only be achieved purely by being in the right place at the right time can make a great shot, even if it’s poorly cropped or slightly over exposed. Sometimes it’s something that is technically very well produced, either with creative lighting, complex sets or great use of the technology available that can make something outstanding. For me, I love a photo that just instantly grabs your attention and leads you to look further. Whether it’s an intense cityscape or a portrait of someone’s face that shows the wrinkles of many years, I love being able to continue looking into a photo to keep discovering more.
As for working with people, I much prefer to take candid style shots than staged portraits. I prefer the natural emotions and environment that someone occupies when they’re unaware of a large camera being pointed at their face.
I’m also a huge fan of urban wildlife in city parks. Squirrels are definitely a weakness of mine and I will almost always stop to get photos of them. I think it’s the natural emotions that you can capture that shows a kind of innocent personality.
KeepSnap: Do you have any touching or inspiring stories that you happened to catch live during your photography career? Please tell one to our readers.
Joe Allam: This isn’t necessarily a live capture, but an emotion that photography has sparked. This Christmas just passed, I decided to give a print to my Grandfather of one of my favourite photos I’ve ever taken – Paris with the Eiffel Tower as the centrepiece – taken during the summer of the same year. For me, it is a photo that shows the landscape of Paris in the beautiful golden hour before sunset. For him, it meant something so much more. It was a location that he visited with one of his lifelong friends who had very recently died. The Eiffel Tower was the first place he had ever been where he discovered his fear of heights, that lead to him being physically paralysed for a few minutes with vertigo. Something they would frequently joke about in later years. Simply seeing my photo brought him to tears as he thought of his friend and that trip to Paris. A memory I will hold very dearly.
KeepSnap: And any funny or ridiculous things worth sharing?
Joe Allam: Having a camera with you at all times can often lead to opportunities of capturing something funny. Possibly the funniest thing I have ever captured is actually in a video from when I was filming for my Tokyo travel video. At the interchange for my connecting flight in Paris CDG, I was filming the walkway off of the plane. When walking past other passengers, I discovered a lot of commotion between a few people and rearranging of baggage. Unaware as to what had happened, I watched my footage back immediately and noticed someone in front had walked straight into a window on the wrong side of a doorway. I quite literally couldn’t stop laughing and giggling for the remainder of my journey back to London.
KeepSnap: You have a really interesting blog. Can you recommend something for our readers who would like to start a photography blog? Is there any rule of thumb on how to keep it exciting?
Joe Allam: The best advice I can give is to just always be out taking photos and sharing what you have. As with ideas, the best things are shared and developed amongst an audience. Try to maintain consistency in the form of how you post, but so long as you show your personality, there will be people interested in it.
KeepSnap: What do you do now and what plans do you have?
Joe Allam: I’m going to be doing a huge amount of travelling at the start of next year, which will be as much a lifestyle break as it will be an extended media trip creating tonnes of content! For the few months left of this year, I will be continuing to grow my online profiles and saving real hard to build up funds for the mega trip through Hong Kong, Thailand, Japan, Australia and New Zealand. Watch this space.
KeepSnap: What professional literature can you recommend to our readers?
Joe Allam: I’m going to be honest here and say that I don’t really own any photography books. In terms of developing skills and learning photography, I feel the industry and technology moves so fast these days that most books are out of date with the advice they give. Only recently I met someone learning a lot from a book who was scared of going above ISO 800 because of noise. For me, YouTube is a huge resource of professional experience that you can learn from and is in part why I’m building my own channel as a way of giving back my own experience for others to follow.
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?
Joe Allam: KeepSnap is extremely interesting in the sense of helping both tourists and photographers in completely different manners at the same time. The ability for someone to be able to get a professional photographer take their photo of a special location is emotionally priceless. For many people, each trip or holiday is a collection of memories that are poorly documented. By having a great quality photo that isn’t taken as a selfie, will really benefit them in years to come! On the photographer’s side, it’s a great opportunity to meet and work with many people, developing both social and photography skills whilst making a small amount of money for each shot. For those who can master a location and popularise the concept, it could be very lucrative!
KeepSnap: We are really grateful to you for your time, tips, and stories, Joe! It was great to have you with us. Good luck!
Joe Allam: Thank you; the pleasure is all mine to share some thoughts with you! I wish KeepSnap all the best for the future!
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