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Interview with Gary Salter


Gary Salter is a professional photographer based in London UK. You can visit his website at Gary Salter Photography. His clients include Mercedes Benz, Nissan, Ford, Vodafone, Citibank, LG, Jaguar, Nike, McDonalds, and Playstation.

PetaPixel: Could you tell me a little about yourself and what you do?

Gary Salter: I’m a Photographer based in London, I’ve been shooting for 17 years. I grew up in the north of England, I Studied graphics and photography at Liverpool, worked for a short time in the design world before making the break into photography. My interest in photography developed when I was about 8, It seemed natural that I would end up in a visual field when I was older. I also had an ability to draw, this eventually pushed me into studying graphics , the liverpool course had a strong photographic department, which was perfect for me. After college I ended up in the design world, working alongside some of londons top photographers, this was inspiring,

It was only time before I had to make the break.

PP: What kind of photography do you do?

GS: My commissioned work is 90% advertising based. It’s mainly people on location, quirky people. Some of the images are quite ironic, and we try to have as much fun as possible with them.

The commissioned work originally stem from my early street photography which contain a lot of observational humour. I still continue my ‘hobby’ street photography and tend to use it as a ‘sketch pad’ for ideas. Ideas that I can make into something bigger.


PP: How did you first get into photography? What was your first camera?

GS: I was 8 years old and I loved it, I think it was a Kodak Instamatic. My first serious camera at 18 was a Canon AE1. It was a gift when I started at college.

PP: What equipment do you use for your work now?

GS: I use whatever it takes for the job. It’s not really about the camera, it’s about the picture. I work out the requirements then use the best camera to solve the problem, I have a lot of cameras in the collection.


PP: Which would you say are your favorite cameras and lenses?

GS: My favourite camera is the one that will solve the problem the best, I can list a few. The Canon 1Ds MK3 is amazing, It’s a work horse, Is great in more stressed conditions where there’s less control. The hassleblad H3 D2, fantastic for the larger setup multiple people sets and huge productions. The leica M8 is fantastic as the street camera, it looks old fashioned its not in your face and it’s quiet.

PP: You’ve work with some pretty notable clients. Were there any that stick out as being especially fun to shoot for?

GS: I’m very fortunate in having a fantastic crew, all jobs are fun, there are many a story from many productions and some do stand out, but it would not be fair to name them.


PP: Can you tell me about your workflow? What’s the process like for a photo to go from your camera to the final image?

GS: Varies again on requirement, we shoot into Macs, makes life much easier, files are regularly backed up onto external raids.

We then build presentation websites for the clients to make selections. I have already made my selections and they are on the site too as preferenced shots. These tend to be the ones we work with at the end. Post production is split between myself and a company called loupe. They know how I want the images to look, and we work well together.

The client is kept up to date with the progress of the post production by a website where we launch the latest ‘critical’ changes to the image, they see a string of images next to each other from start to finish. Then it’s supplied to the client.


PP: Many of your photographs seem to be very elaborately staged. How many people are involved in each shoot, and how long do the shoots generally take?

GS: The idea stages take the time. Once we have a plan then anything can be achieved. There are many people. Vinita Dave does the production alongside myself. There will be hair make up and assistant, stylist and assistant, location finders. I like to build my own sets, (e.g. the sauna shots we built in my studio in shoreditch, and so was the changing room for the old footballers), I build these with one of my long term assistants Jose, amongst others. We will have 3 assistants on a shootday and a digital operator, then anyone else the project requires, eg stylists, hairmakeup etc etc.

PP: Who are the people that appear in your staged photos? How do you find the people you want?

GS: We use a mixture of model agencies and actors agents. It’s organised via a casting agent. If we can’t find them there, then we’ll street cast. I have a lot of respect for my casting agent, she really knows the business.


PP: Is there anything you wish you had known when you first started out in commercial photography?

GS: Yes, you don’t get much time off. You have to be completely committed, and have a love for images.

Money too. Very difficult… This means all the money goes back into the business, banks don’t understand what we do. We don’t make widgets, so they don’t get it. It’s hard work to get to a level where you don’t have to talk to them.

If you believe in pictures, you can do it.

PP: What advice would you have for an aspiring photographer who dreams of getting to where you are now?

GS: Carry a camera at all times and use it all the time. Observe and enjoy.

Test, test, test, set yourself projects, and see them through. Pictures get old quicker these days, you always need something new to show people.


PP: How important would you say a formal education in photography is?

GS: Good question. My best assistants over the years have all done degree courses, they know their stuff. They have then assisted for 4 years before moving on to their own stuff.

I have met allot of assistants that think its easier than it is, They break out too soon because they see the money. They tend to struggle and end up shooting things they don’t want to, things that aren’t right for them. The guys who really do well are the ones that do the time.

It’s not essential these days, but it’s a massive advantage.


PP: What does a formal education provide you with that is difficult to obtain otherwise?

GS: A chance to find your own direction, find what you would like to create in a competitive market, then give you the opportunity to go and get work with someone in that area who’s work you respect.

PP: Are there any photographers whom you keep up keep up with online?

GS: It seems strange to say I try to avoid that as much as possible, I like to do my own thing which has taken a very natural progression, watching what others are doing isn’t that healthy. I have had experiences when I have known people to become a little over influenced.

I do go to exhibitions, I keep up with the industry press, I love photo books, I just don’t like the online thing.


PP: Could you name some other photographers you respect?

GS: I’d have to go to the old school guys, likes of Elliott Erwitt, and Bresson.

Quite like more recent people like Martin Parr and David LaChapelle.

PP: If you could choose one person to be interviewed on PetaPixel, who would it be?

GS: Elliott Erwitt. Love to know what he was thinking when he took some funnier images.


PP: Any final thoughts you’d like to leave PetaPixel readers with?

GS: Final thoughts, many, but most importantly, Always carry a camera, use it as a sketch pad for your ideas, enjoy using it, ignore the rules and have fun.