Interviews

Through a Photographer’s Eye: Mike Bell

Welcome to the Third Series of Through a Photographer’s Eye. In this series, we continue to learn about Australian photographers and how they use X Series Cameras to photograph their world around them. Our third interview in Series Three is with Sydney’s North Beaches based photographer, Mike Bell.

Fujifilm X-T1 – XF16mmF1.4 R WR – 1/350 second – F2.5 – ISO 200

Fujifilm X-T1 – XF16mmF1.4 R WR – 1/80 second – F2.2 – ISO 320

 

Mike, commercial photography isn’t for everyone, so what made you choose the genre and how did you get started?

 

A couple of years ago I was made redundant. I worked for a large company doing photojournalism type photography for a magazine. Being a photographer & retoucher for so many years I wanted to continue my passion for my trade, and there wasn’t that much full-time work that incorporated this.

 

I decided to set up a retouching business, retouching professional wedding photographers images, but soon realised this wasn’t what I wanted. I began to notice the amount of building and construction that was going on around Sydney and decided to target this industry and started getting in touch with large companies to see if I could help out by photographing any of their completed jobs, fit outs or progress photography.

 

This then led me to get involved with event photography and corporate portraits etc. I had done a bit of wedding photography and wasn’t interested in getting involved in that over saturated market and thought there was a business for me in commercial work. So far I am working with a few large building and event companies, and my business is growing every day.    

Fujifilm X-T2 – XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR – 1/45 second – F5 – ISO 6400

 

You use the Fujifilm X-T2 for professional use, how do you find the image quality and do you hear any feedback from clients after they see the images you take?

 

Before switching to Fujifilm cameras about five years ago I was using Nikon DSLR equipment, and my previous job involved a lot of travel, it was a lot of heavy gear to lug around. I began by buying a Fujifilm X100S and was so impressed by the files I was getting I changed my whole kit to Fujifilm cameras.

 

I started using the Fujifilm X-T1 and then upgraded to the X-T2. I find the image quality on my X-T2 superb, in particular with the prime lenses, for the work I am doing the lenses give me amazing results. Unlike the wedding industry feedback from my clients is very thin but when I do get feedback, it is always very positive.

 

I am now very interested in shooting with the new medium format Fujifilm GFX 50S camera and GF lenses. I believe with this new equipment; I can take my images and business to another level. This new medium format camera is absolutely perfect for most of the work I shoot and look forward to the time I can add this camera to my line up.  

Fujifilm X-T1 – XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR – 1/180 second – F2.6 – ISO 200

 

If you have some advice for someone starting out in photography what would it be?

 

Photography is obviously a passion and not a job most people would choose if they were not into it, so by having that passion for what you do you are already halfway there. Create a service for clients that is reliable and ALWAYS deliver what you promise.

 

Taking an interest in your customer’s business, showing them you have done your research always helps. Never stop looking for new clients, self-marketing is key. Your creativity and skill will get you so far, that’s almost the easy bit, creating a customer base and the way you deal with your clients can be the difficult bit.

Fujifilm X-T2 – XF16mmF1.4 R WR – 1/160 second – F5 – ISO 200

 

Which was your first Fujinon lens? Can you share your favourite image taken using the lens and tell us how you captured it?

 

My first Fujinon lens was the XF35mmF1.4 R; I obtained the lens when I purchased my Fujifilm X-T1. This is still my favourite lens that sits on my camera most of the time. If I’m looking for a crisp shallow depth of field portrait style shot, this is my go-to lens, and the 50mm equivalent on a 35mm frame is a classic.

Fujifilm X-T1 – XF35mmF1.4 R – 1/160 second – F2.8 – ISO 1600

Ah, choosing a favourite shot with a particular lens is a difficult one. The black & white image shown above is from a recent wedding I took and one of my favourites from the shoot. The XF35mmF1.4 R just nails the beautiful natural low light that was coming through the window that afternoon. The dynamic range is great (another reason I want to upgrade to the Fujifilm GFX 50S camera)

 

If someone was given a brief for a commercial job, what advice can you give them based on your experience?   

Briefs can be handed to you in all sorts of shapes and sizes; I get a lot “We want to look relaxed and easy going without looking to corporate”. Sometimes clients are not sure what they want, and you have to put your creative spin on it. I would always suggest getting as much information you can with regards to what they will be using these images for, for what purpose are they trying to achieve with the shots, the more information you have, the happier the client will be with your images. Always turn up prepared, enough batteries, cards, lighting if needed, etc.

 

Information again is key. Find out when the client needs the images, what format they need them in, anything you can do to make the whole process easy for them will make your job easier.

Fujifilm X-T1 – XF16mmF1.4 R WR – 1/800 second – F2.5 – ISO 200

 

As you photograph quite a bit of architecture how do you find the distortion on the Fujinon lenses compared to any other gear you may have used previously?

 

One word…AMAZING, the Fujinon lenses I use have nearly zero distortion. The widest lens I use in my kit is the Fujinon XF16mmF1.4 (24mm Equiv), I find this wide enough for most of my work and find the barrel distortion almost non-existent, and what there is can be fixed in post. The Fujinon lenses I found a lot better than the Nikon wide lenses I was previously using.

Fujifilm X-T1 – XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR – 1/6 second – F4.5 – ISO 200

Fujifilm X-T1 – XF35mmF1.4 R – 1/55 second – F1.6 – ISO 200

Fujifilm X-T1 – XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR – 1/4 second – F8 – ISO 200

 

Can you provide some insight into your workflow process from shot to end result?

 

I almost always shoot RAW files on most of my jobs and apply my edit to the images in Lightroom depending what the client is after. I also shoot jpegs for a lot of my personal work as I love the in camera Fujifilm Film Simulation presets. I take all images into Lightroom for post processing and supply my client with a proof sheet to choose from and then provide high-resolution files as needed.

Fujifilm X100S – 1/1600 second – F5.6 – ISO 400

 

As a Sydney-sider is there anywhere in the state of New South Wales where you find yourself constantly going back to, to capture that perfect image?

 

As a Sydney based photographer, I travel all over Sydney, quite a bit out west as a lot of large construction is happening out there. I’ve been from Melbourne to Canberra and from Newcastle to the south coast. There is not one particular place that draws me back for any of the commercial work I am doing at the moment, but I did do a job for a magazine once in Broken Hill and would love to go back there and shoot again as the light is amazing out there.

 

If you would like to see more of Mikes’s photography then visit his website or follow him on Instagram or Facebook.

 

Previous interviews from Series Three of Through a Photographer’s Eye:

Through a Photographer’s Eye: Johny Spencer

Through a Photographer’s Eye: Gavin Host

 

 

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