May 29, 2019
The Photographer Interviews - Nicole Sgroi
When I was four, we went on a family holiday to Malta and my dad took a few rolls of colour transparency film on the trip. When they had been developed, we looked at the slides through a projector onto a big screen, which seemed to bring us all back to Malta. I was hooked. I wanted to take pictures, but it was a while before I got my first camera, although my dad sometimes let me take pictures with his.
From other photographers and painters. It’s not just photographers that can teach us a thing or two about composition. I admire the work of Tom Jenkins in sports photography, Jane Baun and Hannah Couzens in portraiture, Ansel Adams, Attilio Ruffo, Andrew Marr and Gary Gough in landscape and Owen Humphreys and Eddie Mullholland in news photography.
I am grateful to Serge Ramelli who unlocked for me so many of the powerful tools of Lightroom and Photoshop and Jeffrey Schiffman for persuading me to discover the joys of shooting RAW. Serge also helped open my eye to better composition.
I mostly use a Canon 650D, better known in the US as a T4i Rebel. It’s a bit long in the tooth now, but it’s still a workhorse. Given it’s a crop sensor, I am constantly impressed by the quality of images it can take, especially when I use it for panoramas. I hope to sell enough pictures in the next two years to justify its replacement.
I would like to go full frame, but I’m baffled by the mirrorless wars and what system to go with. There’s so much to consider, body as well as lenses. I sometimes like to shoot a roll of black & white on an Olympus OM10. That might still be my favourite. But it’s a luxury now.
I’ve enjoyed the projects for my New York Institute of Photography course because they force me to focus on something specific, whether it be portraiture using artificial lighting, macro-photography, photojournalism, architectural. I’ve also enjoyed photographing musicians at work. A few years ago, I photographed a Jethro Tull tribute band performing in New York in challenging stage lighting of varying hues and colours.
I also like challenges of finding something different to photograph during a popular event like the Manhattanhenge sunset, rather than the obvious. I am trying to do more long-exposure photography and I am really enjoying it.
In the digital world, it’s nice and satisfying to hold something real and tangible in your hands, rather than look at an image on my computer, tablet, or phone. It doesn’t matter whether I print at home a 4x6, an 8x11.5 or something bigger from a custom lab, or whether I do a photo book or a calendar. Every year I do a family calendar and I have just finished doing a book of my nephew’s graduation at Leicester University. I wish I had some more wall space to hang some more of my pictures.
My biggest challenge has been breaking into becoming professional and getting paid. I’m still figuring it out. There is a line of portraiture I would like to pursue for a particular audience and would also like to do architectural and real estate in an area that is under-served.
My advice to people wanting to become professional is to get a good understanding of composition and lighting. Simplicity and understanding that less means more in composition really does apply to images. Sell stock photography to discover what does and does not sell.
Eventually find an area to specialise in and pursue it. Be prepared to work very hard and start young, if you can. Wear good shoes, because you could be on your feet all day. Don’t get obsessed with equipment; a photographer’s eye is the best equipment at a photographer’s disposal.