Behind the Lens: A Photography Q&A with WSG co-founder Mark Wilman
Meet the man behind the lens!
This week, we thought we’d give you all an inspiring and educational insight into one of our co-founders and original Saints, Mark Wilman.
Having founded Where Saints Go with his partner Tracey back in 2015, Mark is heavily involved in all aspects of the company, but one of his most creative traits is his skill and flair with a camera.
All of the gorgeous product images you see on the WSG website were captured by Mark’s hand – his distinctive and imaginative techniques allow us to flaunt our goodies in style, showcasing the various eclectic designs and features in a truly artistic light.
We thought we’d ask Mark some revealing questions regarding his early years in the trade, as well as enquire about the trusted methods he uses in order to achieve such dazzling results.
So, what’s the secret? Here’s what our co-founder had to say as we lifted the lid on the behind-the-scenes magic...
Hi Mark, thanks for taking the time out to engage with our Q&A interview this week. In terms of your skills with a camera, let’s start from the very beginning.
Q1. How did you get into photography? You clearly have a natural flair for it.
A1. I actually got into it by accident! My father employed a photographer – he owned a wallpaper company called Coloroll/John Wilman Interiors which was a successful wallpaper manufacturer in the 1980s.
I was an apprentice joiner at the time, but mostly helped out at weekends. It wasn’t long before I got the bug for it, and soon afterwards, I got myself a full-time job working as photographic assistant for a company called Carlton Fox. This was a large photographic studio in Manchester that specialised in catalogue photography.
Catalogues were the predecessors to the internet at the time, and the North West was a real hub for the sector – the likes of Grattans, Kay, GUS, JD Williams and many more were all based there.
The studio had eleven senior photographers, who on a daily basis would be given several catalogue pages to photograph - this involved a vast range of different items, including anything from microwaves to bicycles, curtains and rugs. We specialised on the backend, which was all home furnishings.
This was a great time in my life, and I loved the creative aspect. Photography was a lot harder in those days before the digital revolution – many of the tricks I developed whilst working with film are now sadly obsolete.
I then went on to have my own photography studio, working for some of the top advertising agencies in the country at the time such as Saatchi Saatchi, BDH and McCann Erickson.
I moved away from photography in the 1990s and then didn’t even touch a camera for over for twenty years! It’s funny how things have gone full circle – I’m now involved with photography almost every single day.
Q2. What type of gear would you recommend for anyone looking to get into amateur photography? Are there any budget buys that you endorse?
A2. The picture quality is of upmost importance. I use a Canon 5D Mk 111, a full-frame camera which lets in more light. We also use a daylight studio with no lighting, so we need as much light as possible.
In my opinion, the image is everything, so in order to be a bit different, we deliberately don’t portray our products on a traditional white backdrop, opting for a darker set instead. In this regard, I like to think that we stand out from crowd with our own identity. It’s the WSG way!
Q3. How important is lighting? Any tips on how to use it for best results?
A3. Really important! We use a daylight studio, using only the light that comes in through the windows, but we do control this to a degree with reflectors that bounce the light back in.
At the moment, most of our items are bar stools and dining chairs, which makes it difficult to create lifestyle images. However, once we get other types of furniture and home accessories in, we will definitely do some more lifestyle shots.
This will include making small room sets and creative lifestyle shots that show the products in situ, such as a dining chair next to a dining table which has been styled nicely. I find something like this to be just as important as the lighting.
Q4. All of your photographs on the WSG website make our products really shine! Given your years of experience at photographing furniture, what have you learned during your time in the trade? Are you a perfectionist, always looking for areas to improve?
A4. Certainly, I would like to think that I am a perfectionist and always want the products to look their best. We always show each product from all angles, plus two images on white backgrounds for interior designers to use on their scheme boards.
We also include a separate image for the dimensions, which is very important. Consistency is so important for the overall look and design of the website.
Q5. We run a regular photo competition over on Instagram where anyone who tags us in an image with our products has a chance of winning a £100 WSG gift card. Do you have any advice for our Saints on how to capture a perfect interior snap?
A5. We have some fantastic images sent in by our Saints portraying real life situations. I definitely think that some of them could teach me a trick or two!
Q6. Finally, how important is post-processing? Does a beginner need to sharpen their skills with software like Photoshop or Lightroom in order to achieve professional-looking results?
A6. This area of photography is now more important than ever before. We put all of our images through a cleaning process that does all sorts of clever stuff, including colour enhancing and cleaning up the floors and walls to get them looking perfect.
All the images also need to be re-sized, and with the correct margins. All of this is essential now in making the website look totally uniformed and professional.
Some terrific insights indeed from our co-founder Mark. It just goes to show that something that starts out as a mere hobby can eventually lead on to either its own career or perhaps a side gig that balances work with pleasure.
Thanks again to Mark for getting involved in our little Q&A session this week, and we hope these insights have been useful for you all.
Don’t forget our photography themed Instagram competition too - we love to showcase the very best of our Saints’ camera skills. To enter, simply tag us with an image of one or more of our products in the home that you’d love to share with us! There’s a cheeky £100 WSG gift card up for grabs for the winner too.
That’s all for now Saints – stay safe as always.
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