updating – February 2017
I asked Paul Hartley how he carved a path to becoming the country’s top watch and jewellery photographer. Here’s what he said:
“I graduated with a BA in Photographic Art from the Polytechnic of Central London in 1976. Then it was one of only two places in the world offering a degree in Photography, the other being Rochester, NY (home of Kodak).
My first job was working as an assistant in the then fledgling AV industry shooting animated stuff for car launches and conferences. Pretty soon I went freelance and capitalised on the niche skills of that sector, but the writing was on the wall with video becoming more affordable and I moved across to general advertising still life. 20 years ago I was shooting cosmetics for Yves St Laurent and ten years ago shooting 3 Ton fork lift trucks for Hyster world advertising. At the same time I started jewellery which has grown and grown till it’s 90% of my business.
The turning point was when I went completely digital in 1999. I’d been learning Photoshop since 1992, but the introduction of the one-shot Philips chips made digital feasible. I guess I was one of the early adopters, suddenly I had the chance to create the whole look and feel of digital jewellery photography from scratch. The thing I realised was that digital is not just a substitute for film, it’s a whole new medium with new rules.
The other thing it did was, as far as I was concerned, blur the boundaries of who did what. There are still guys who hand over the shots and let the client retouch. To me that’s commercial and creative suicide. I only hand over the retouched job and never release the raw files and that’s given me far more control over my business.
Since 1999 it’s been a constant push to do better, buy new technology and make better pictures. I wince when I look at my early digital attempts, but that’s how it should be. It means I’ve got better.
What’s the most expensive thing I’ve shot? Well, I was called in to shoot the Millennium Star diamond and 11 blue diamonds that were displayed in the Dome. Had to go to DeBeers for that of course!”
One of the key points that Paul makes is his reference to digital photography having a different approach to that of film. Amazing to think that photographers are still trying to explain to clients the need for post production. Pauls outstanding images illustrate the power of Photoshop in the hands of a professional retoucher.
The ‘look and feel’ of digital photography is something to ponder on. I recently mentioned photographers using the Aptus digital back refering to the film like quality of their images.
( Profile article on Paul Hartley and his work in Professional Photographer (UK) magazine February 2009 )