Spotlight Interview … Photographer Mike Chatwin

JRP: Multifaceted photographer Mike Chatwin joins us for this episode of JRP Blog. Thanks Mike for taking time with our readers. Where is your home base of operation?

Mike Chatwin: I live and work in Vancouver, BC.

JRP: How did you get your start in photography? Do you have any formal training in your background?

Mike Chatwin: After high school I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do so I went to art school. I did about 4 years of graphic design and illustration then a year of web development. When I graduated I was working with a few bands on album art and their web sites. I started taking pictures at the shows and a few of the bands asked me to do promo photos. That’s where I discovered my love for photography.

JRP: How big is your support staff and what areas do they handle?

Mike Chatwin: I wouldn’t use the word “staff” to describe the people I have around me. In general I’d say it’s just me, but I do have a few people that I work with consistently.

JRP: What equipment would I find in your camera bag or studio for a typical shoot? What lighting equipment do you favor and why?

Mike Chatwin: I use minimal equipment. I shoot with a Canon 5D Mk2 and my favorite lens in a 24-105 L Series. If I can get away with natural light and reflectors I’m happy. Other than that I have 3 AB 800’s with a bunch of diffusers like soft boxes and shoot through umbrellas.

JRP: Could you please describe your digital work-flow and the software you use?

Mike Chatwin: I always try to get my shot as close to the final image as possible in camera. I at least want to know what I want it to look like after post production. I put all my RAW images into Aperture where I organize and crop them. From there I export my tiffs to Photoshop for final touches. I apply filters there, clean up blemishes and do any reshaping that needs to be done.

JRP: Do you print your images?

Mike Chatwin: Only for my portfolio, which reminds me … I need to update that.

JRP: With today’s economic environment share with us how you remain productive and keep your creative edge.

Mike Chatwin: I’ve never been the type to depend on big budgets or big sets. I really haven’t been doing it long enough for that to be a factor in my work. Creativity isn’t about being “large”, it’s about having a great idea and pulling it off. Sometimes it’s just about “winging it” as I like to say. The best part of being a photographer for me is creating something beautiful in simple spaces.

JRP: Do you have any memorable images or shoots you could share with us? What made that image or shoot special?

Mike Chatwin: My most memorable shoot was a one I called “Quicksand”. I have this reference folder on my computer’s desktop. When I bump into photos that I love on the net I throw them into that folder. I had this one picture in there of a model named Allison who is based in Vancouver as well. I thought she was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen, so when I felt like I was ready to shoot her I got in touch of her agency. We went out to this beach by the airport and literally everything went perfectly. The light was amazing, the wind was perfect and as soon as I looked at Allison through my camera I fell in love. The truth is, in that moment I fell in love with photography all over again. She was magical and I think they are some of my best photographs. I try to shoot her as much as I can now.

JRP: What was some of the best advice given to you by another photographer?

Mike Chatwin: When I was first starting out I emailed Jim Fiscus, my favorite photographer at the time. I asked him what schools were the best and how I should go about choosing the best one for me. He gave me a list, but he also said that he didn’t think school was necessary. He said that school can be great for some people but I have to think about where I want to end up. I decided I wanted to develop myself through practice and experimentation and I’m really happy I’ve chosen that route.

JRP: What special advice would you like to share with other photographers?

Mike Chatwin: I think a lot of people that first pick up a camera think if they shoot, shoot, shoot they’ll get better and become a great photographer. My advice is to learn your camera and really pay attention to each shot you take. Don’t just blast away and play the odds. Anybody can take a thousand shots and find a few that look great. It takes a real photographer to only take a handful of shots and end up with great ones.

JRP: Thank you Mike for taking the time to share your thoughts and images with us. It has been a real pleasure.

Mike Chatwin: Thanks for having me 🙂

JRP: To view more of Mike Chatwin’s photography please follow this link:


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