To prove I’m more sinned against than sinning I put together a sometimes tongue in cheek frequently asked questions section over on my main site. Its a mixture of a true FAQ and some of the more off the wall type of comments you get sometimes, just for entertainment value.
Ive used this as the basis for this blog post but have elaborated a bit more in some places.
Q. Did you take all these photos?
I get asked this mostly at events where I have an advertising banner showing the images but it is also relevant here. It is my name above the door so to speak so yes I take all the photos and there is only me. If I am already booked I do have a colleague that I recommend but then your business is with him (unless you are a regular client but then you know that already!)
All the images on this site are from actual client photography and displayed with client approval except the travel section. The travel section contains published images only, again some developed with clients and agencies, others just used widely. There are no personal projects, demo setups or speculative work on this site.
Of course part of me wants to sometimes scream ‘No I stole them!’. I mentioned this on an online forum once and was surprised at the number of photographer sites people told me about that had used bought stock photos or just simply lifted some other photographers images off the net and used as ‘samples of the type of photography available’.
I occasionally write reports for legal disputes (I hate to use the term ‘expert’ but its sometimes known as ‘expert witness’) which involve disputes concerning purchasing photography. So say for instance someone hires a wedding or corporate photographer and is in dispute over the final deliverables I can compare whats on their website, with what they delivered and what they paid relative to the market etc and write a report. My background in teaching photography also allows me to comment on the quality of the images and again where they should lie in the marketplace. Most of the conflicts occur when people who say they are full time photographers, say work in an insurance company by day and the ‘clients’ they ‘sold’ images to previously are themselves in their office or for their own living room etc. That’s false representation, as is using models for ‘wedding shoots’ or using images taken as part of a one day workshop or course as representative of their normal work. Or indeed the just lifting the images from a photographers site half the world away.
Maybe its a very valid question after all!
Q. How did you get interested in photography?
When I was 11 years old it was 1981 and living in West Belfast everything had kicked off big style. There was a European cultural exchange programme for children from under-privileged backgrounds where they could go and live with a family in Europe for a month. I got shipped off to Geneva in Switzerland. The night before I went my aunt turned up at the door with a compact 35mm camera and a load of film saying that I couldn’t go all that way and not take photos. The entire time I spent all the spare money I had on films. That got me hooked on not just photography but travel as well. 11 years old in a foreign country for a month, not knowing the language, with a family you had never met whilst the nightly news showed your home town burning really was the experience of a lifetime!
10 years later I had just graduated with a degree in Electrical and Electronic Engineering and in the summer between that and my Masters degree I spent every last penny Id saved from weekend and summer jobs on an East German Praktica film SLR, an Inter-rail ticket for a month round Europe and 10 quid a day to live on. On that trip 10 years to the day that the family took me to the Mer De Glace in Chamonix I stood on the same spot and took the same photo.
Im sure there are some people who are in my position who would/can/do say they have been a photographer for 34 years or longer. I always say Fisher Price cameras don’t count!
Q. How did you get into the photographic industry?
After my Masters I spent about 10 years working in the software industry for various multinationals including working and managing teams across the globe for a multi million dollar account. Then my life changed when my Dad got cancer and we all decided to spend his remaining time with him. As much as I loved being an engineer, after that I didn’t really think the office environment was for me any more. My great plan was to open a bed and breakfast with youth hostel attached, buy a fishing boat and take tourists out for fishing trips and build a small tourism/hospitality empire. Everything was going well until one day in September 2001 changed the tourism world completely. So having temped for a while in 2002 a friend of mine said that a local photographer was looking help with moving to digital and as I was handy with a camera, knew computers and communications would I mind going and talking to him, I said yes. Id done some part time work in a local shopping centre doing their Santa Grotto photography so went to work for minimum wage doing exactly the same sort of thing. I worked for the photographer on and off for a year and eventually he said I was wasted working for him and that I should try this business for myself. Even then I had no intentions of trying to make money from photography but did a City and Guilds course at night, went on a small business course and gave up the temporary contract and gave myself six months. Six months being the time I had left before Id have to get a ‘proper job’ or sell my shiny new(ish) Alfa!
And Ive been giving it 6 months for the last 12 years, and I still have the Alfa.
So to clarify a lot of the questions, yes I have been doing this full time, for a living, as a job and would have it on my passport (and have it on my linkedin profile) for at least the last 12 years.
Q. Do you have any qualifications and what is your experience?
As mentioned above I have a BEng in Electrical and Electronic Engineering, a MSc in Electronics and qualified as part of the journey through IT as an ISO 14000 (environmental systems) auditor. I had courses in various skills such as presentation, time management, interviewing and assessing techniques and all the other things that don’t appear relevant to being a photographer, that is until you are actually a photographer. Then you realise that your City and Guilds qualification in photography is as useful to what you do now as my Ships Radio Operator Licence. The Radio licence is more useful because if Im out on a shoot on the boat and we start sinking, I can legally call for help! The Photography qualification was enough to get me through the door in certain places and to show I was interested in this as a career and not just someone doing it at evening and weekends.
From 2005-2013 I tutored photography as part of a degree pathway with the Open College of the Arts in the UK.
I worked for local newspapers in Belfast early in my career before progressing to Ireland correspondent for Wireimage. When Wireimage was acquired by Getty Images I continued to work for Getty all over Ireland specialising in entertainment, celebrity and hard news photography. In total I worked for them for almost 7 years. During that time I worked with many PR agencies, organisations and celebrities and reported to news offices in London, New York and Seattle, often working to their timezones. My fastest image sale from pressing the shutter, downloading to laptop, editing, uploading to agency and being bought by a client was 6 minutes (photograph of Russell Crowe used front page in the Sydney Telegraph). I worked red carpets and press rooms, concerts, gigs, riots, 1-1 with a-listers in a highly competitive and cutthroat environment. Not only did you have to have the best photos of all the pack, but you also had to have them in the quickest.
I escaped that unscathed (if you discount Shirley Maclaines PA grabbing me by the throat when a News of the World photographer pointed to me and said I worked for the News of the World!) to set up my own agency but gradually move away from the hard news area.
Im a firm believer in the 10,000 hour rule. Something I had a long discussion with a bunch of musicians, agents, producers when I was in Nashville. They were saying that to make it in the music industry (or any industry) you have to put at least 10,000 hours in to be competent. Full time at 40 hours a week that’s about 5 years, which ties in with the qualification time for accredited engineers and other professions. After that period my history in engineering came to the fore with a push for continuous improvement and developing skills that I knew I couldn’t develop here in Northern Ireland. Over the last 5 years Ive worked on six continents including Antarctica and still at this stage every day is a schoolday.
With the latest iteration of high end digital cameras and lenses it has never been easier to take photos. In some of my specialist areas including low light, it used to be the realm of the few purely due to the technical limitations of the equipment and the technical knowledge required to get any sort of photo, never mind create something. Now the latest low light capabilities mean that anyone with a small amount of experience can take photos.
Which means it has never been more important to highlight the ability to make photos instead of just taking them. The knowledge and experience and reading of a situation to plan, anticipate and to use the light to create an image. An interesting point made to me by some colleagues in South America. Only in the English language do we take photos, in most other languages we make them.
I also have an emergency first aid at work certificate, well you cant be too careful when you go to some of the remote places I travel to, and yes, unfortunately I have had call to use that training (other than on myself)
At a recent event a lot of these type of questions became clear to me. I was getting this a lot and was very confused until I saw a local photographer offering training courses to photographers and they had only picked up a camera themselves 3 years ago. One thing it did was make sure I updated all my websites that had been languishing for a while. If someone has to ask me that then I obviously wasnt putting the right type of images across and using the wait a year principle before using a customers photo on my site wasnt a valid excuse for updating it from the 2005 version!
Q. Do you have any awards?
I do have, somewhere. I think I won a grand once and I have a lovely big crystal bowl in a box somewhere in the attic. To be honest I’m not interested in awards, well ok the grand was nice, but to me its more important that I develop a relationship with my clients and suit their needs rather than constantly be on the look out for photos that might win a gong or two with a completely different set of judging criteria than my clients needs. A lot of awards are just clubs with people taking turns and there are the ones that have real professional credibility (I do sometimes submit images to the World Press Awards, with permission to promote projects on behalf of some of my regular clients) but in general Id rather spend my time researching my next stock shoot, trying out new techniques or planning my next travel.
At the time of writing this in March 2015 I had just submitted images from my recent Antarctica trip and others to the World Press Awards and to the Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition. Two globally recognised competitions that I was happy that I had a few images that were worthy of submission. I didn’t win but that didn’t really matter to me, it genuinely was about the taking part.
Q. Do you have a published client list?
No. You can work out some of my local, national and international clients from the captions on the photos of this site. I personally don’t think its professional to list every single client who ever used a photo and similarly some of my clients have embargoes, campaigns in the planning/execution and there are other reasons such as client confidentiality to take into consideration. From the photos on this site I hope it is obvious that I have a range of clients from local SMEs to large global multinationals. The travel/stock area of this site also shows examples of my published work and Ive been published everywhere from the Newtownabbey Times to the New York Times, from Rolling Stone to MTV, stills featured in TV programmes from Ballymena to Buenos Aires. Each and every day about 5 of my images are newly published somewhere around the World.
Q. How much do you charge?
I don’t charge by the hour, I tend to charge an all inclusive price depending on the requirements of the job with travel distance and duration being a factor in that. Nothing ever takes an hour, nothing ever takes ‘just 10 minutes’ or other such things. My batteries take an hour and a half to charge! I tend to work with clients who prefer to know the costs up front and who don’t want to be surprised when the final bill comes in. Most of my clients are on tight time timescales and want to have the job done properly and don’t have the time to to and fro with individual jpegs or costs or how much for? or be nickel and dimed or have people turn up late/leave early because not everything goes to clockwork.
That sort of goes back to my background working with multinationals in an IT environment. They just want the job done, properly, to time and within an agreed budget. I’m happy to discuss budgets and am happy to work with my regular clients.
I want my clients to feel they are getting value for their investment and that they are valued. Like the old car salesman philosophy, I don’t want to sell you one car today, I want to sell you 20 cars for the rest of your life. I want you to be happy to come to me and be your ‘go to’ guy and if I’m not your ‘go to’ guy for a particular instance I will tell you so.
On a lighter note I don’t generally accept ‘a credit line’ or ‘will be good for you’ or ‘good exposure’ or other such empty promises as payment for services rendered. Of course should the Chancellor of the Exchequer or more importantly Tesco/Sainsbury/Lidl/Aldi/Maxol/Shell etc recognise this as payment for goods then I might change my mind. To be fair to people asking though Ive never really driven up to a supermarket fuel station and asked that if they filled my tank with diesel I would write down the side of the vehicle in day glo marker ‘fuel credit to xxxx’. I have a suspicion I would either be told where to go in words of one syllable or be having a long chat with the boys in blue in the back of their vehicle.
Q. How detailed a brief do you need?
With new clients I prefer a fairly detailed brief. I want to know the style of photography you are looking for, the destination of the photographs and how you think they are going to be used and any ‘on message’ or brand you want conveyed. With regular clients I am more familiar with their short, medium and long term goals so in a lot of cases I ask for any particular specifics and then just go and do it. With regular clients I am also involved in the creative process and bring a lot of experience to the table. A simple ‘have you tried this because this works well in X region’ can make all the difference. Whilst a global understanding of the market may not seem relevant, anything placed on the web will have global reach.
Q. How far do you travel?
As mentioned above in the last 5 years Ive worked on six continents (still to go to Australia). Ive worked in most environments from Brazilian rainforest to Sahara Desert to Antarctic glaciers. Its only a question of time and money!
Q. Are you insured?
Yes I have 2 million public and products liability and 50,000 per incident professional indemnity.
Q. Do you sell prints? Do Landscapes or Fine Art Photography?
Yes. Please visit my dedicated Fine Art and landscape site joe-fox.co.uk
Q. Are you Access NI checked?
I am Access NI checked for one of my main clients for regular working with children and vulnerable adults. This check is not transferable between organisations and I would ask if the job requires working with children or vulnerable adults that you provide me with a copy of your current child protection procedures. If this is to be a regular occurrence then contact me to discuss similar checks to the above.
Q. Can you get model releases signed on a job?
I am registered with the ICO as a data controller giving me legal right to record personal details and pass the relevant details on. I am also experienced with the legal requirements in obtaining correctly executed and processed model releases for photographic use. Please contact for further details if this is a requirement.
That doesn’t necessarily mean I will stand outside your premises pulling people in off the street to stand for photos….
…and yes that has actually happened.
Q. What equipment do you use?
I use a range of Canon 1-series professional cameras and a large variety of professional lenses (with backups) from 15-500mm. I also have tilt and shift and macro professional lenses for specialist photographs. I have a series of studio lights and a number of portable flash units. I also have on site printing and on site wiring capability. To give you an idea of the level of equipment I carry I am insured for 25k of equipment every time I leave the house and I can show you my physio bills to prove it!
I do have access to video equipment. I also have a waterproof camera capability which you will understand if you see me trying to kayak!
I have loads of camera bags. and props. and stuff that I bought years ago that I have no idea what its for and why I bought it.
I tend to weep when I think that my entire photographic lens/camera/studio/assorted kit collection cost more than my house. In fact I probably own more equipment than most photo rental places.
Don’t get me started on the props, regular clients have long since stopped raising eyebrows when asking me ‘do you know where we can get…’ and I generally, say I have one of those at home, I’ll bring it along… If only I only had one of those… Ebay is terrible.
Q. Are you flexible?
As above I have travelled and worked globally, have more equipment than I can really justify and have access to a range of vehicles (car, van, boat, kayak, campervan) etc to conduct my photo agency work. Ive been under Iguazu falls in a rib, over Niagara Falls in a helicopter, blizzard in Antarctica, photographed in -25C low humidity on the prairies of Canada and +45C in the rainforest in Brazil. Ive worked from the Arctic Ocean to the Sahara Desert.
Ive also managed to get into Belfast from the snows of Glengormley last winter, probably one of my greatest achievements to date!
I’m 45 years of age and can still bend down and touch my toes. I don’t make any promises that I wont make any strange noises on the way down or the way up though.
Q. Do you offer onsite transmission of images?
Yes. I used to work for Wireimage and Getty Images News/Entertainment so I am well used to high pressure tight deadline onsite transmission.
Q. Do you offer onsite printing of images?
Yes. I offer onsite printing for events up to 9×6 inch.
Q. Do you submit tenders?
No. Well most times no. Most tenders I think are offered to the lowest bidder. I try to work with clients that value photography and value my creative input and who realise that value to them is much more than a figure on a spreadsheet. I harbour no ambitions to be the cheapest photographer in Belfast or indeed Northern Ireland. In fact I don’t even aspire to be the best/most popular/most different/insert non-measureable term here photographer in Belfast or Northern Ireland, my ambitions are more on a global scale. For one of my agencies I have been in the top 100 contributors in terms of sales worldwide for the last 5 years, Ive been in their top 50 for the last 2 years and I aim to grow that then move on to replicate those sort of figures with my own agency. I can then bring that sort of experience to my clients.
To give you an example of why I don’t do tenders, in Feb 2013 I was on a boat in the Arctic Ocean off the Nordkapp in Norway (yes I am mad) and trying to download emails by satellite broadband. Unknown to me some civil servant sitting in a warm office back in Belfast decided to just randomly send out a large tender document to emails harvested off the internet before going for lunch…. It took me 2 hours of sitting on a boat in a sea where I didn’t know whether to rush to the muster station and get into the lifeboat or just sit and crack open a bottle of whiskey because lets face it, nobody is going to find us here. Needless to say I was apoplectic and he got emailed back, his boss got emailed and his boss’s boss got emailed. I don’t think I would have got that tender but to be fair my environmental policy saved him because it would never have allowed me to print off all the pages, roll into a ball, drive down to his office and beat him to death with it.
To the next person who decides to just randomly send me a tender document I have no interest in, I warn you not to email it to me without talking to me first. Or in the immortal words of Liam Neeson ‘I will not look for you, I will not pursue you. But if you don’t, I will look for you, I will find you and I will kill you’.
Q. Do you have a blog?
Yes you are reading it….
Not for this aspect of the business but I do for my agency work. This is a conscious decision because I retain the professionalism I developed as part of my previous career. My view on it is that my clients should be the first people to see their images and it is up to them how they should be distributed in blogs and social media etc. A lot of my work is subject to embargo, print deadlines or promotional releases as well as child vetting/protection procedures and my arts work may also be part of an ongoing performance run or development and any ‘reveal’ before paying customers see the performance may diminish what my client is trying to achieve. I have occasionally made blog posts in conjunction with my clients but it was been with their 100% buy in and direction and in most cases they now have their own blogs and social media exposure that I helped to develop. I can supply images ready for social media/blog inclusion along with high res images.
The images on my website generally lag a calendar year for this same reason, I need to be sure the client is happy with their full release and only the images they want used to portray their brand.
Q. Are you on social media?
My linkedin account is here. I do have a facebook account but its for friends and family only.
My twitter account is for my agency site and is quite sporadic and only really used when I am on travel assignment for last minute or immediate on site client contact. For all the reasons above I don’t use client images or current travel assignments on social networking. Client all inclusive pricing can include social media use and I just think its more professional to allow clients to use the images in their own social media.
I have a dormant flickr, pinterest and other such stuff lying around somewhere. I keep being told about the importance of social media but until one single person shows me the paper trail between social media engagement (read as time wasting) and cold hard cash you will find me on netflix, nowtv, out in the fresh air, swearing at old cars whilst bleeding and holding a spanner, fishing or generally just sticking pins in my eyes, something other than sitting in front of the computer/tablet/phone.
Q. Do you take part in business networking?
I used to do a lot more than I do now but have cut back due to the workload in the last couple of years. Workload permitting I still get involved in my local council small business network and have presented to them on photography as part of the schedule of events. I really don’t buy into the scraping my sorry ass out of bed at the crack of dawn to sit and have breakfast with people who are only interested in trying to sell me things or are only there because their boss said they have to go!
If I am pouring the espresso into me at 4am it is usually at a clients behest, travelling to somewhere or there is an exceptional sunrise in some part of the country I haven’t photographed yet.
Q. Do you have a studio?
I do. Its a small studio I built a few years ago at home to help with small to mid sized product photography, occasional headshots and as a demonstration area for 1-1 corporate photography training. Often clients want a series of images taken of a product or a setup in addition to anything onsite so I can take the products back to the studio (or have them delivered) and photographed there. This is in addition to my usual on white or small setup product photography.
The studio contains props for all sorts of occasions/time periods (halloween, christmas, easter etc) as well as a variety of backgrounds, worktops etc for small product demonstration areas.
Q. Can you do video?
I can do video. I have a couple of separate video setups to offer small web clips, vox pops, interviews etc in addition to the photography. Whilst I can do small stand alone video and have done in the past for regular clients, the majority is a bolt on to a photography commission For full scale video production I am happy to recommend a broadcast quality video company I work with regularly.
Q. How do you supply images?
Unless there are particular specifications, I supply images to international magazine and press standards as downloadable jpegs from a closed area of my site. Certain clients require image delivery by ftp or by one of the web portal transfer companies. (e.g. wetransfer). All images are manipulated using industry leading high end processing software to accepted editorial standards. All the images except were noted on this website have all been edited to this level. Advanced manipulation and processing is available and can be billed on an inclusive or per image basis.
Q. Do you offer photography training?
Yes I do. I offer professional level training only, from individual 1-1s to company training for large groups, day out presentations and photography talks and interactive lectures. Please view the details on my photography training page.
Q. Do you supply and source stock imagery?
Yes, I have my own stock agency www.radharcimages.com. If I don’t have the image or can supply custom stock I have a network of some of the worlds leading stock photographers and can contact them on your behalf.
Q. Can you supply custom stock imagery?
Yes. I can provide an all inclusive perpetual license as well as other licenses for custom stock. This can be billed as with commissioned photography or if the images are released have residual value I may offer more favourable terms. Please contact to discuss your requirements
Q. What are your terms and conditions?
Q. Do you have a quality or environmental policy?
I don’t have a published quality policy but having been used to working in corporate ISO9000 registered environments I am familiar with working to quality standards.I do have a published environmental policy and you can find it here.
Q. Do you take on students or assistants?
From time to time I do but only from people I already know or have worked with before. I don’t consider applications from random emails and prefer to take new applicants through colleague referrals.
Unfortunately due to child protection rules I cant consider work experience for school students unless I already know their parents and have their approval.
Q. Do you do Weddings or family portraits?
I used to. It was a valuable experience and the different techniques and business approaches were excellent cross fertilisation opportunites with this part of the business but I now restrict to friends and family only.
Q. Why haven’t you answered my text request?
Despite all my years in IT and despite being early 40s, single no kids and wouldn’t look out of place on ‘The Big Bang Theory’ I simply don’t accept text messages as a professional way of doing business. My phone is set up to block texts from unknown numbers so if you have a business query then just email it through.
Photos on this page copyright myself, David Cordner, Gaspar Cabrera, Lauren Venezia, Robert Peraino and Billie Rothwell.