Speakers' Corner - Nedine O'Brien - part 1 of 1 2

by Nedine O'Brien Published


Tell us a little about your background, your first camera and photographic experience and your subsequent emergence as a pro.

I first picked up a camera on a visit to South Africa. It was my Dad's old Pentax and the very first SLR I'd ever used. I'm embarrassed to say I used it like a point and shoot. I had not the foggiest idea of what I was doing, but the images that did work made me fall in love with photography. That year for my birthday, my hubby bought me my first SLR. A canon EOS 10 and a kit lens. I took an A Level class at the local college and discovered that developing film was almost as much fun as taking the original image.

I got my first digital SLR a few years later and carried on taking images for fun. I did a B-tech level 3 to help me learn Photoshop. It was only after joining the societies that I started taking it seriously. I attended my first convention around nine years ago and haven't missed one since. Thanks to opportunities offered to me by fellow members, I got into second shooting weddings. I have done a couple as the main photographer but found that I enjoyed the freedom of being second more. I am a professional second shooter and that is my bread and butter and allows me to pursue my passion for fine art photography and costume making.

Why photography?
I've always had an artistic streak. I love creating things but have never been all that great at drawing scenes and people. Photography allows me to do this and digital editing allows me to create fantastical locations and characters that I'd never be able to draw. To assist in this I'm making my own costumes and props as finding what I want is difficult and can be very expensive. This has branched off slightly and I also now make them for other photographers. Looking at an image and knowing that I not only created and edited it, but I am also responsible for the styling is what keeps me creating. It's extremely satisfying.

Film or digital? Is there still a place for silver halide?
I'm totally digital. While I loved film and the excitement of developing I'm also very impatient and love the instant gratification digital allows. Also, the art I create cannot be done easily in the dark room.

Which camera?
The one in your hand is best. I'm not one to prefer one brand over another. I went with Canon as I was already familiar with the menu layout etc. I did try other brands but because I have quite small hands none of the others allowed me to easily manipulate the functions with out having to almost put the body down.


Bit of detail about your own studio set-up/staffing. Why (as a customer) would I choose you?
I don't have a studio and my customer is other photographers on the wedding side. I also create bespoke costumes and props for other photographers and word of mouth has kept me rather busy.

The problem with professional photographers today is...
I don't look at it that way. Each type of photographer has a market they work in. It is getting more difficult as cameras on phones get more sophisticated but honestly it's up to us to make sure we keep ahead and offer a service people want.

What’s the worst commercial error you have made to date?
We all have off days where images don't come out as well as they should. To date I've not had any major disasters (touch wood!). The worst so far is my mirror coming adrift in the middle of a wedding. This is why I have two bodies and believe in the belt and braces way of working. I have nightmares about things that can go wrong and then put processes in place to make sure that they don't happen. Waking up in a cold sweat is a great motivator.

How did you rectify the mistake?
I kept shooting with the other body and swapping lenses as needed.

Is it getting harder or easier to make a decent living?
I've not noticed too much change in the market. About the only thing is not being able to raise my prices much. I shoot as many weddings now as I did a few years back.

How do you stay ahead of the game?
I'll be honest, I don't play the game. I keep my kit up to date as much as possible, but wedding photography doesn't change all that much and my art photography is what goes on inside my head.

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