I’m excited to share an interview with a very passionate photographer from London in the UK. His name is Peter Cooper and he draws inspiration for his work from a great variety of subjects. Peter’s body of work is quite expansive and his passion and drive for photography speaks for itself. As you browse through his photos below, I think you’ll agree that he’s quite accomplished at his craft.
Peter, it was wonderful getting to know you, and thank you for taking the time to participate in this interview. Your work is inspirational and I hope to see more of your wonderful work in the future!
Can you please tell the readers a bit about yourself?
Hi there, I’m Peter. I’ve been into photography for about six years now, and feels like more and more of my time is taken up by it! Sadly, I have a completely different day job.
Where is home?
I am based in London in the UK, but I’m originally from the Isle of Wight, which is just off the south coast.
What inspired you to be a photographer?
Back in 2012, I had been backpacking around the US and Canada for several months and I was staying with some family friends for the last couple of weeks. They kindly offered to take me to Yosemite National Park, and on the way, I was surprised to be presented with a Sony NEX mirrorless that I could use for the day. Up until then, I was just using an old HTC phone to take all my photos, not having a digital camera. In fact, prior to the trip, one of the 2 cameras I’d ever personally owned was a little film camera that I got by saving up tokens on the back of a cereal box!
I absolutely loved the experience of shooting with this thing and being in an inspiring place like Yosemite, I started really putting some thought in before I pressed the shutter. When I started looking through my photos on the house TV, I was really impressed with how they looked (although I wouldn’t be now!) and promised myself I would buy myself a camera when I got back home. I picked up a Nikon D3100 with a kit lens a few weeks later and I was constantly searching for places to take it out after that.
Are you formally-taught or self-taught?
I learnt the basic concepts like the exposure triangle from websites and YouTube videos, but there’s no substitute for hours and hours of time out shooting, which I feel is where you really learn photography. It was fun (and a long process) to figure it all out!
From looking through your portfolio on your site, I can see that you are interested in a variety of photography styles. Of the styles you have explored, which has been your favorite and why?
My favourite is definitely wildlife photography. I just love animals, and being able to spend time observing them – I think each species is really impressive in its own way. I’d say it’s also the style that creates the most evocative memories most of the time. One of my favourite experiences in photography was the first time I saw a Kestrel hunt a mouse in some long grass.
In regard to marketing, how much of your time do you dedicate to social media? Do you use any special programs or services?
I only really use Instagram for photography, which is now my favourite social network. I find people on there are so supportive and appreciative of each other’s work. It’s very refreshing compared to something like Twitter, where things seem to get unpleasant fast!
What has been your most memorable shoot and why?
I think my most memorable shoot was when I managed to get seats on Centre Court at Wimbledon that were pretty much the same view as the photographer pit. My other passion is tennis, and getting to watch my idol Roger Federer from a prime photography position was really a dream come true! Got some shots that I was really happy with, especially considering the lens size restrictions they have for entering the grounds.
How do you keep yourself motivated and your photography fresh?
I think just by just introducing some kind of different element, be it a new style, new location, going out on a shoot with someone else, or even visiting the same location but a different time of year. I think looking at the work of other photographers and being open to trying new ideas also really helps. One of the good things about photography is that as long as you’re not on a job if you try something and totally mess it up, no one needs to see it apart from you. So there’s really no downside to having a go at something.
Who or what inspires you in your personal life and work?
Nature is definitely something that inspires me, and photographing it is my way of showing my appreciation for the amazing planet we live on. I also get a lot of inspiration from my Instagram, though! I love the work of famous wildlife photographers like Paul Nicklen and Frans Lanting, but there are lots of less well-known accounts producing some really nice work from different places around the world. I get to see a huge variety of different animals, cities, and landscapes from my phone!
What do you hope viewers take away from your images?
All I’d like to think is that people take the time to stop and have a good look at one of my photos. We’re really in a time now where we are absolutely bombarded with images on a daily basis, and I think it’s now more difficult to grab someone’s attention and make them stop and think for a bit.
What is one piece of advice you would like to offer a new photographer just starting out?
I think the main piece of advice I would give is just to get a camera (any camera – all the big manufacturers make decent kit despite what can be said in forums) and just start shooting anything and everything until you find what you like. The only way to get better is to practice. Shooting outside your comfort zone is always great, and sometimes you’ll be surprised what you can learn trying a new style of photography that you can apply to something you think you have more of a grip on.
This also helps with buying gear. Start with a kit lens and use that to death, and this will naturally uncover what other kits you might need. Maybe you’ll try shooting birds and realise that you need to be able to get closer, so you would look at getting a telephoto lens. If you find you’re regularly shooting bands in a dingy music venue, struggling with noise using an f/5.6 aperture on the kit, maybe it’d be useful to get an f/1.8 prime? I found the best purchases I made were the ones where I’d identified a specific need and found a product to fulfill it, rather than buying for the sake of covering all the focal lengths, or something like that.
What type of camera(s) do you shoot with? What is your favorite lens?
I have 2 camera systems now that I shoot with. My main camera is a Nikon D750 DSLR, which is my go-to when I’m going out specifically to take photos. I love this camera – such a good all-rounder and very good value for money, although I do look enviously at D500 owners for that extra autofocus speed and FPS! Obviously pairing this with a couple of lenses makes a pretty heavy kit to lug around so for more casual days I have an Olympus E-M1 MFT camera. I have a kit of mostly pancake primes and I can fit my whole kit in a tiny bag. It’s getting on a bit now as it came out in 2013, but I find it really nice to use and great for street photography.
My favourite lens is the Nikon 200-500 f/5.6, my go-to for getting closer to animals, sometimes paired with a 1.4x teleconverter.
What is in your camera bag?
Obviously this varies a lot depending on what I’m going out to shoot, but I always have spare memory cards and batteries just in case, plus a wireless shutter remote, lens cleaner, and maybe a filter or two. I usually take my Tamron 24-70 f/2.8 along for the ride too – as I’m sure many other photographers find, it’s such a useful set of focal lengths in so many situations.
What is your favorite photography accessory?
My favourite accessory is probably my 3 Legged Punks travel tripod! This thing folds up small enough to fit in my rucksack, meaning it’s so much easier to carry about than my old one and makes me want to actually take a tripod out a lot more.
What piece of equipment would you most like to get but don’t have yet?
I feel like I’ve got most of the kit I need at this point for what I do… I am tempted by one of the big Sigma ART f/1.4 primes though. My friend has the 35 and the 50 and the bokeh is beautiful, I’m just not sure how much I would really use it. I’d also like to get some more lighting gear at some point.
How important is Photoshop or other image editing software in your final images?
Really important. It took me a few months before I decided I should switch to RAW from JPEG, but I never looked back after that. I tend to mainly use Lightroom to adjust levels and a bit of cropping if it needs it. I’m not a fan of superficial additions in post, though. Fake lens flare, for example.
Was there a point in your journey when you started to feel really good about your work? If so, what did it feel like to get past that “tipping point?”
I’m not sure there’s ever been a point like that, to be honest. The times I realise I’ve made progress are when I’ve looked back at stuff I shot 2 years ago and thought “Oh my god, what was I thinking?”. That’s when you know the standard you hold yourself to has changed. Hopefully, I’m still improving – I think if I look back and am totally happy with something I took a long time ago, that might mean my photography has become a bit stagnant.
Do you see yourself as a photographer many years down the road?
I can definitely see myself still being into photography in the distant future, I definitely have the bug and I think that is a hard thing to lose. Whether I’ll be doing it professionally I can’t say, but I do like the idea. Time will tell!