All Things Photography With Suzi Ovens

Tell our readers a bit about yourself

I’m a photographer based in the UK, and shoot mostly fashion and commercial photography, with some occasional fine art.

How did you first get into photography?

I studied black and white film development whilst on my art & design foundation course. I loved it, though I loved most areas of art and design, and ultimately went on to study multi media textile design at Loughborough University. I loved my degree, and my final major project was a fashion collection. I had to shoot my collection and really loved the process. I loved my degree but ultimately decided against a career in textile design. I spent a couple of years after university mulling over what to do next, and during this time, started taking photos of some friends that performed with fire. This was ultimately what lead me to choose photography as a career.

What do you like about photography?

I find it fascinating that with photography we can tell either an absolute truth or construct a complete lie, and often the difference can be as simple as a facial expression.

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For anyone that wants to start or get better at photography, what advice would you give them?

Practice analysing your own work. Don’t beat yourself up if your work isn’t the standard you want it to be, but try to be self aware and honest with yourself about how you can improve, and then work out how to do it, either from a course, workshop or looking it up online.

What camera do you use?

My main camera is a Canon 5D Mark III, but I also have a couple of film cameras I like to play around with – a Holga 120 CFN and a Canon EOS 30.

Nowadays a picture doesn’t go online without a filter on top, what apps would you recommend for easy editing?

I’m not a massive fan of filters and tend to use them very sparingly. I would actually recommend getting to grips with the Curves and Levels functions on Photoshop, you can learn to manipulate colour and contrast without making your image look like everyone elses.

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What do you enjoy photographing the most?

People! For one, they can move when you ask them to (no amount of yelling at an object will make it move, unfortunately), and it’s a joy to depict people as they are, or styled into someone completely different.

How do make sure the final photo is like the original vision you had in your head?

I try not to have a rigid idea of what I want in my head before I shoot an idea. Sometimes the idea you have isn’t physically possible, so you have to be flexible and think on your feet for what else you can do.

What advice would you give your younger self about photography?

I don’t think I would say anything, it’s worked out fairly well!

Like every industry at the moment becoming a well known photographer is very hard, how do you make sure that your work stands out from the others?

This is actually a lesson I learned on my textile degree. I spent my second year trying to create work that I thought the tutors wanted to see. Inevitably, it wasn’t great work and I received low marks. So I decided to embrace my weird in my third year and create work I wanted to make. Not only did I create work I loved, and create possibly the weirdest final major project the textiles department had ever seen (it was displayed on medical skeletons hung from the ceiling), I received high marks from my tutors. You stand out when you are your authentic self, don’t try to mould it around other people’s expectations – they can always tell!

Do you think photography is a harder industry to get into now because of social media?

No. If anything I think it’s made it easier. A couple of decades ago, to be noticed in photography meant living and working in major cities. Now, you can create incredible work living in remote places, upload it to instagram, and have a massive audience for your work.

DSLR or Polaroid?

DSLR.

Colour or black and white?

Bright colour and contrasting black and white.

Why do you think it’s important to take photographs?

To tell stories.

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