British photographer Kev Wyllie has travelled from being an amateur enthusiast mesmerized by the diversity of life to an honored professional capturing and preserving life’s rarest moments. His passion for trying to catch unique experiences that can’t be relived affect both his approach to shot composition and gear choice. Find out more about his journey in today’s Photog Friday.
Name: Kevin Wyllie
Country of residence: Scotland
I’m a wedding and portrait photographer, who has recently joined the Cotton Carrier Pro-Shooter line-up and I also shoot some extreme sports from time to time.
How did you first get interested in photography?
In 1991 I spent 4 months in Africa with my army regiment, the Scots Guards, and was completely mesmerised by the natural beauty all around me. Unfortunately, all I had with me was a £10 compact camera, so, as soon as I got back to the UK, I went out and bought my first SLR (a Canon EOS1000F) to help document my travels. After a lengthy apprenticeship, I finally plucked up the courage to become a full-time pro in 2011
What do you like to shoot?
I have quite a broad range of interests and am quite happy shooting anything where I get to capture the moment, although weddings make up the majority of my business. Whether it’s a bride on her wedding day, a newborn baby surrounded by their family or a mountain-biker hurtling through the air at 45mph, I just love the interaction with the living. We only have one chance to experience this life and being given the chance to preserve those tiny pieces of it has got to be one of the greatest honours there is.
What’s your approach to photography, your philosophy? What do you look for? How do you set-up a shot?
I like to find the shots that force the viewer to stop and look – something unusual which makes them think about the image. Most wedding venues have been photographed thousands of times, so it’s my job to create something which no-one else has done (and don’t I just love it when wedding co-ordinators say “The other photographers usually do shots here”? Excellent! That’s the last place I’ll be shooting then!) I make a policy of never repeating a particular shot – which can be quite a challenge when a bride has her mind set on one particular shot that she’s seen, but each one needs to be unique so there will always be subtle differences. I’m a bit of a control-freak and like to remove as many variables as possible, so it’s full-manual on the camera & speedlites at all times (part of the reason why I use the Phottix Strato II triggers) and mostly working alone unless the job really requires an assistant. As I don’t use a studio very often, I like to scout locations beforehand and use a phone app which lets me see the course of the sun during the day, so that I know when I can and can’t use it. Once on-site, I’ll use a light-meter to get an ambient reading then add my speedlites and reflectors to the shot. Post production is usually kept to a minimum and use Lightroom for 99% of my work.
What is the best photo you have taken? Why? Background and details please?
This shot of my wife and eldest daughter, taken when she was only about 30 minutes old, gets me every time. I nearly lost them during the delivery and it was one of the scariest points in my life. When they finally handed the wee one to my wife I managed to control my emotions enough to grab this shot as they both appear to share a moment of eye-contact. It’s almost eight years old, was taken on an EOS 350d, was probably taken in aperture priority back then and technically it’s flawed on several points, but it’s the number one photograph which I want to be remembered for. Every time I look at it I’m reminded of just how lucky I am to have them both (and my second daughter) with me today. I still cry when I think about it the experience and, as a professional, it reminds me that my job – my responsibility – is to capture emotion before I capture technical perfection.
What gear are you using? What else do you want to buy?
I recently switched to the Fuji X-system for my wedding and portrait work and use two X-Pro1 bodies with their excellent 18mm, 35mm and 60mm macro lenses as the image quality is absolutely breathtaking. I use Canon DSLRs and L-series lenses for my action shots of mountain bikes, martial arts and pets (great as the Fuji system is, it’s not quite there for fast-moving subjects – yet) I use Phottix Strato II triggers and Yongnuo speedlites. The new Fuji 56mm f1.2 looks quite interesting, but to be honest, I’m finding my current kit is working just fine for me – at the end of the day, they’re only tools and the ones I’m using are delivering the results I demand.
Which area of photography would you like to explore further (macro, landscapes, portraits)
I was lucky enough to be given the chance to photograph at the London Fashion Weekend recently and it was great! So, I would love the chance to shoot more fashion work.
Where do you see your photography 5 years from now?
I’m just moving into new premises this week, so I’d like to see it getting VERY busy. Destination weddings also seem to be on the increase and I am happy to shoot anywhere in the world that someone wants me to (I’ll be spending five days in France, later this year, on my biggest one so far) so, I’d like some more of those please – the challenges involved with planning and delivering someones wedding photography in another country excites me.
What’s the best advice you would give to fellow photographers?
Learn how to use light – ambient and artificial – and get your speedlites off that damned hot-shoe! Know your equipment inside and out – it must be an extension of your eye and you need to know how to transfer the image in your mind onto the sensor or film. Try using manual mode and make mistakes – make LOTS of them – and learn from them. Don’t get too hung up on the next gazillion mega-pixel wonder – if you want the very best image quality, and money is burning a hole in your pocket, buy the best lenses you can afford – they’ll make a bigger difference than a new camera.
Where can we find your images?