What is your name and where are you from?
I am Simon Jones from Manchester.
How long have you been taking pictures?
I’ve been taking pictures since my early teens, although looking back, the quality was absolutely abysmal!
When did you get into photography and why?
I’ve always loved capturing moments, and was always the designated photographer, armed with a disposable film camera many years ago. From going to clubs, gigs and festivals to holidays, I always wanted to capture special moments. I didn’t know anything about the technicalities of photography back then though.
I really got into photography after proposing to my wife on Christmas Eve in 2014. My initial proposal plans fell through due to sickness, so I made short film – a chronology of the things we’d experienced in life together to that point.
All of the images I wanted to include in the proposal video were terrible. Out of focus, poorly framed, and just generally awful. On Boxing Day, I went and bought the entry-level Canon DSLR and fell in love with photography from there.
I became obsessed!
What would you say your style is and has it changed throughout the years? If so why?
My style definitely leans more towards the darker, moodier edge of photography. When I first started, I didn’t really know what I wanted my style to look like. A lot of what I seen on social media was much lighter and fluffier, especially in terms of portraits; but I knew that wasn’t for me.
Over time, I really fell in love with the darkness! The shadows, with much lower light.
I go on hikes at weekend, so also take long exposure landscape shots. They also tend to have a lot more mood in them.
Of course, when I work with people I provide a really broad variety of looks, based on the intentions of the shoot. There will be lots of lighter, airy shots in the output, but I do love the darker imagery more. It adds a bit of mystery I think!
How do you approach a shoot? Do you pre plan, or is it a click and run?
I always try to plan ahead. Depending on the purpose of the shoot, I’ll have an idea of location, shooting time and what the overall output should look like. I’m a natural light photographer mainly. I tend not to use strobes or flash, so I always have to think ahead about good light and the shadows so I can achieve my look.
Naturally, some shoots are booked last minute, so less planning goes into that. Just a quick discussion around clothing and location; and then we just run with it! Some of my favourite shoots have been in this manner, and produced the best results.
Also, living in Manchester, it’s hard to account for the rain! I did one shoot in the driving rain last summer and it was one of my favourites. The results were fantastic. We just ran with it and got soaked.
Is there an end goal you’re trying to achieve with your images, be it an aesthetic or story?
I tend to go more for an aesthetic. You can shoot in such a broad variety of locations, lights and themes, but I always try to retain a certain aesthetic. A signature style. Ultimately, I want to try and produce images that engage people. Especially given how throw-away and transactional the age of social media is, I want people to pause for a moment and be captured by the photo.
Do you have an influences you can share?
I’m a huge lover of cinema and I actually studied film production in my earlier years. I take a lot of inspiration from film. I’ll often sit with my wife watching a film, and during certain scenes, I’ll pause and say ‘that would make a great photo’. I love the lights, shadows and mood. David Lynch and his productions have always been an influence on me. That dark, moody appearance that people hopefully find engaging. I try to re-create images that leave something to the imagination at times. I don’t always post this content to my social media but certainly use film influences within my photography.
Music also heavily influences me. I’m really into my dance music, and, although it might sound weird, what I listen to also impacts on my photography. How I edit is certainly influenced by some of the music I listen to during that creative process. Maybe I shouldn’t listen to such dark, thumping music whilst editing!
In terms of photography, Annie Leibovitz and Peter Lingbergh have always had my attention. I love their work.
What inspires you?
I tend to get inspired by locations and their surroundings. I’m always location scouting. I’m not one for shooting in a studio. Being more of a natural light photographer, I’m always on the look-out for interesting locations, examining what the light is like at certain times of the day and whether it would be great to shoot there.
I’m always inspired to try something new – create new, interesting images in new places, with great new people. This photography journey has introduced me to some fantastic new friends, and opened me up to places I wouldn’t have gone to if I weren’t taking pictures. I’ve had some strange encounters along the way, both with people and locations, but it’s all part of the photography fun.
Is there such a thing as a bad photograph?
Photography and its quality is subjective of course. What I might think is a bad photo could be perceived as being brilliant to somebody else. And some of the rules of photography are there to be broken.
For me, I like things to be natural. I like images to be authentic and engaging. I take a lot of long exposure landscapes on the weekend, and on social media, I see a lot of landscapes that have been produced purely within Photoshop, using stock images. So no use of the camera – just computer trickery.
In terms of portraits, I’m not a fan of over-edited photos – we’ve all seen it – where the subject doesn’t look real. The skin and eyes are over-edited. For me, this can make a photograph bad.
All-in-all, everyone has different preferences and views on photography – just keep snapping away!
Are you looking for a career in photography or are you just having fun?
I take photographs for varying reasons. Sometimes it’s for a brand promoting a product. Other times I’m working with models. And then at the weekend, I’m half-way up a mountain or hiking around a lake taking long exposures of the landscape, with my children in tow. I approach each differently and the end goal is to produce something interesting to look at. Photography should always be fun. For me, it’s a huge stress relief away from the turbulence of my other work and family life.
Which social media platforms do you use and why?
Instagram has always been the best social media platform for showcasing photography, and connecting with fellow creatives; although in more recent months, their new algorithm has become increasingly harder to crack making follower engagement more difficult to come by.
I’ve recently signed up to Vero and ‘Ello, and probably need to start getting to grips with those platforms as I haven’t really put a lot of attention into their functionality. ‘Ello seems like a fantastic concept, giving users the ability to submit their work to appropriate bodies.
Which photographers do you mainly follow on social media?
When I get a spare few minutes in the day to look at social media, I like to be engaged and inspired. I tend to follow a mix of portrait and landscape photographers. My time is mostly spent between Manchester and London, so it’s great to see some of the world through the lenses of other photographers.
For portraits, I’m always interested to see what Peter Lindbergh and Alexi Lubomirski are producing. I also speak with a guy in America a lot who is fantastic – Jon Cruz (jonthephotographer on Instagram.)
I tend to follow the guys you can have a conversation with about photography, regardless of geographical location.
A friend of mine is also a portrait photographer – Bach Nguyen (@flashbachphotos) – I often shoot with him and he really accelerated my love of it. He’s full of great, positive energy and always keen to explore new approaches.
For landscapes, Rachael Talibart’s work always amazes me. I love long exposure work – it gives a totally different perspective to a landscape.
What are your thoughts on mobile photography versus DSLR / mirrorless?
A good photo is a good photo, regardless of what device it’s been taken on. Of course, with a DSLR, you have much more control over how you want the image to look.
I have seen some impressive shots taken on mobile phones, and I’m hearing more and more about this portrait mode on the new iPhone X, which I know little about currently.
For me, a phone will never replace that of a DSLR. Photography is an art, and, whilst you can capture some great images on a phone, the control you get with a proper camera allows you to influence the photographic outcome much more.
What’s your main go to camera, lenses and how did you make that choice?
I use a Canon 5D Mark iii. My go-to lens for portraits is a 35mm 1.4 L-Series prime. It’s razor sharp, and very fast to focus. One day, I’ll purchase the 85mm 1.2, but for now, I love what I get with the 35mm.
For landscape photography, I literally use the kit lens – a 24-105mm 4.0 L series. It does the job nicely.
What is your dream location to shoot at?
I live in rainy Manchester, so get me on a beach somewhere warmer and I’ll be happy!
Describe your favourite picture and how you captured it?
A photograph I took last week has now become my favourite actually. The model has access to some botanical gardens here in Manchester as she grows tropical fruits and plants. So we did a shoot across four huge, connected greenhouses.
Outside, a snow blizzard battered the windows. Inside, it was 30-degrees of warmth. Every now and then, the sun pierced through and we got some amazing light. We used cactus plants and other trees to create shadows. We played around with the looks – we had a kimono, and vintage Chinese dress. I’m really happy with the outcome.
I tend to shoot anywhere between 1.4 and 2.8 to blur the background, and it worked well in this setting, bringing in some of the trees / leaves, but nicely blurring the rest.
In three words how would you describe your photography?
Dark, moody, playful
How would you describe the current scene in photography?
I’m seeing some amazing images in the scene at the moment by some inspiring creatives, spanning all ages and backgrounds. More and more people seem to be taking up photography, and the scene seems to be in a great place.
How do you feel about better quality cameras being put into smart phones?
I’m all for advancements in technology and it’s always good to be able to capture a reasonably good, quick-fire image of the kids unexpectedly with my smart phone, but give me a DSLR any day.
What are your thoughts on expensive cameras? Do you think they create better images?
Some of my best and favourite images were taken on my less-expensive, entry-level DSLR when I had it, but the dynamic range you get from a more top-end camera allows your creativity to go to the next level.
I used to struggle in low light, which isn’t so much of a problem with the Canon 5D Mark iii. I also knew that I needed to upgrade to a full frame camera if I wanted to kick on with photography.
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