Who is Keith Barraclough?
I am a New York-based advertising and editorial portrait photographer.
What was the turning point in your career?
It’s hard to pick one exclusive, career changing turning point - there have been many in my career. The most recent would have to be my move to NYC ten years ago. When I was in Washington, DC my work was mainly from PR, corporate and editorial assignments. My portfolio was a mix of all of these and not very focused. I was the “master of none” so to speak. The work I was not very focused and when advertising agencies viewed my web site and book they couldn’t connect it to the concept they were working on. They didn’t see the consistency that would give them confidence to hire me. Moving to NYC forced me to focus on what I really loved - portraiture. I started building a portfolio solely based on portraiture.
What's the biggest challenge you have ever faced?
It would have to be finding my voice. It was a big change moving from what I was comfortable with (PR, corporate photography) to strictly portraiture for advertising and editorial clients. Having images with a consistent style took time. A lot of work and patience was key.
What's the biggest mistake you have ever made and what lesson did you learn?
I don’t really see mistakes as being negative. They are something to learn from and grow. That being said, there were a few times that I didn’t take advantage of opportunities give me and “burning some bridges”. Ignoring advice and not following up with clients/contacts is a big mistake.
What's your biggest professional achievement so far?
The biggest achievement is building a reliable production crew (assistants, producers, videographers, etc) in which I can collaborate and create images that meet the clients needs.
What's the most valuable lesson you have learned in your entire career?
Find your passion in life and stick to it. Do what you want, not what you think others want.
What's the number one thing "you wish you knew" when you started? What advice would you give to your younger self?
Learn the business side of photography. I only took photo classes in college. I wish I took some business/marketing classes. You can have great images, but if you don’t know how to run a business you will fail.
How do you summarize your style?
In a few words, engaging, fun and intimate.
Can you describe the type of gear and team composition on one of your typical productions?
Gear can vary from shoot to shoot depending on the need. Mainly I use Canon cameras for stills and Sony for video. I use Profoto lights. The team is usually one/two assistants (or more depending on the assignment), hair/makeup, stylists and a producer to coordinate the pre and post production.
How do you prepare for a new assignment?
I always learn as much as I can about the subject I am photographing. I’ll find out their likes and dislikes - type of music they like (playing that during the shoot), what is the favorite food (if they have allergies), and things they hate. Believe it or not some people hate certain colors and can’t be around them or don’t like a lot of people on set.
For the shoot I will always have a variety of set ups in mind (a plan A, B and even C) just in case the first doesn’t work. I have lighting set ups map out so the team knows what I am thinking and what I want to achieve. And I have more gear than I need. If inspiration hits I hate being on set and not having something - ie: a gel to throw in some color. Pre-production is key to any successful shoot.
How long does it take to go from getting the assignment and delivering the final product?
This really depends upon the assignment. It can be a month between getting the job and the final image delivery. Once the assignment has been shot we upload images to a gallery (on the back end of my web site) where the client can review all the takes. Once they make their picks I can deliverer the finals in a week or two. If there is extensive retouching then if might be a bit longer. I would say two weeks is the average.
How do you get new assignments? Is it word of mouth, cold calling, through your booking agency, etc.
Word of mouth is quite important. It shows how much they enjoyed working with me and the team. So I really appreciate the fact that my name gets passed from client to client. Personal meetings is key to getting new work. It’s the opportunity meet clients face to face so they know my personality and work ethics. Cold calling doesn’t work for me.
How did you get clients when you first started and how do you get clients now that you are established professionals?
I’ve been around for a while - before the internet, so things have changed. When I first started it was cold calls, post cards mailed out and personal meetings. Word of mouth was very important. What hasn’t changed is the fact that we have to keep in touch with clients - meetings, promos, etc. The Internet has changed everything. With a web site anyone can be a photographer, so I have to advertise myself not as just a good photographer but also someone who can understand the client’s needs, will collaborate and produce a successful shoot from start to finish.
You started your career in Washington, D.C. and in 2009 you moved to SoHo, Manhattan. Did you start from zero again? Did you already have clients? How difficult has been to set up your business in a new city?
2009 was when the US economy tanked, so it was difficult to get work which made life a little stressful. I did have a few clients who hired me (Discovery Channel / Animal Planet) but outside not much was going on. It was also hard to get meetings with agencies. They didn’t have a ton of work and when they did they used photographers they had a working relationship with. Because of the move my book needed to be completely redone - moving away from PR and corporate to more of an advertising feel. I took a lot of time shooting personal work and rebranding myself. Being a member of APA (American Photographic Artists) was a huge help in getting my footing here. Getting know other photographers and talking with them about their experiences helped as well.
How do you make sure your clients will keep coming back to you?
Do good work. Stay fresh. Be professional. Keep in touch.
How do you stay creative? How do you get inspiration for a new job?
I look through Instagram to get inspired. There is a lot of great work posted and much if it is personal work which I love seeing. I don’t necessarily try to follow trends - once they seem to be popular the trend is already fading.
Can you tell us more about the Readhead Project? What is it about? How did you come up with it? What do you want to achieve with it?
The Redhead Project is an ongoing series of personality portraits of natural redheads. The photo shoots are a collaboration between me and each redhead resulting in portraits that reflect the subject's personality and style. For the shoot each redhead brings five distinct props that show who they are - clothes, food, hobbies, activities, etc. We take stylized, quirky portraits of them with each prop. The project was created to market my work showing clients that I can take compelling portraits of people who are not use to getting their portraits taken and showing my ability to make people (models and non-models) feel comfortable in front of the camera. It has grown beyond my wildest dreams. We’ve photographed over 450 redheads and have been featured in numerous articles and news stories across the country. I would love to have an exhibit and book published, but there are no immediate plans.
Can you tell us more about your collaboration with the National Geographic Image Collection?
I have been working with Nat Geo for just about ten years. Most of the images I have with them are of NYC. They have exclusive rights to license the images. It is a wonderful collaborative experience.
Who are your favourite photographers and why?
To name as few and in no particular order:
Cariier-Bresson - for his ability to capture a moment in time so brilliantly.
Sebastião Salgado - Beautiful portraits. His book “Workers” is inspirational and my favorite one a constantly go back to for inspiration.
Eugene Atget - for how he constructs an image. Wonderful composition
Gordon Parks - for his story telling
Timothy O’Sullivan - Beautifully photographed the U.S. in the mid 1800’s.
Is there a brand you would really like to work for? Why?
Honestly I don’t have a dream brand. There are campaigns I wish I had the chance to shoot - ones that show a quirky side to the subject.
What's next for you?
I am starting to incorporate more motion in my portfolio. I want to create compelling videos beyond the BTS footage I see on many sites.
What interesting books have you read recently?
I am reading two biographies at the moment. “Washington: A Life” written by Ron Chernow and “Endeavour: The Ship That Changed The World” by Peter Moore
Who do you admire and why?
I admire anyone who is passionate about what they do. Anyone who can commit to something and completely immerse themselves.
What is your passion in life, besides your job?
I love playing and watching soccer (football).
Any final thoughts or anything else you would like to share?
Nope - that pretty much says it all.
Where can we find more about you?
Web site: www.keithbarraclough.com