Welcome to Beyond the Brief, where we venture into the world of creativity beyond our own.
In this series we chat to creators across various disciplines, seeking inspiration from their passion and processes. Brave ideas from photographers to musicians, writers to animators.
Photographer & Director
We caught up with Julian Love, a lifestyle photographer and director based in the UK.
His photography is commissioned by advertising and design agencies worldwide for its premium and authentic feel.
Julian also regularly shoots and publishes personal work. His ‘Europeans’ series won Silver at the Creativepool Awards and featured in the British Journal of Photography.
Tell us a little bit about you
I’m a people and lifestyle photographer, now based in Bath having lived in London for 20 years. I’ve worked for all sorts of global brands over the years, from hospitality and fashion to consumer electronics, pharmaceuticals and consumer goods. I’ve also worked with several of the biggest advertising agencies in the world.
So what exactly is lifestyle photography?
So lifestyle photography captures people doing stuff and experiencing things, to give others a glimpse into that life or experience.
It’s pretty diverse. For example, I’ve shot for Club Med, the Corinthia Hotel in London and The Four Seasons in Croatia to depict the beautiful life you can have if you stay with them.
I’ve traveled around Europe shooting with InterRail to portray people enjoying getting around by train – especially non-traditional demographics like families and older people.
I’ve also shot for Aberdeen Asset Management financial services company trying to show how they help guide you through the complex world of financial investments. So it’s varied but always aims to tell a story.
“The best way to get work commissioned, is to shoot the stuff you love.”
Tell us about a project that you are proud of
So a while back I shot a project called ‘Handmade London’ where I photographed artisans around London. It was a very different kind of imagery to my commercial portfolio.
They were all very highly crafted pictures. Each frame was very carefully selected, propped and lit with lots of retouching to get this specific look on the pictures. I just wanted to explore a scene that I was interested in.
I got to meet lots of interesting people and learn a little bit about how to blow glass or how to do screen printing or how to fire pottery, which is all pretty interesting stuff. And this project went on to win a Gold award in Creative Review.
I published the work as a little book and sent out about 150 of these to creative directors around London to show them a different side to my work.
How did you created this photography effect?
The way we do it is that we would build up the lighting by lighting different parts of the frame on different frames. So each one of these is a different photo that’s pulled together, and we light up all these different bits and then I blend it all together in Photoshop to get the final effect.
So you can create something that feels like it has a kind of Hollywood lighting style, but with a very small team of people because you’re building up each shot individually.
This actually won me commissioned work – a big campaign for Unilever where we used the same approach to photograph different people in different careers across the company.
So outside your commissioned work, can you us a bit more about your personal work
After the Brexit vote, I was kind of motivated to go out and show a little bit of what I felt about it so I wanted to photograph EU nationals living in London.
But I did it in a very different style to my commissioned work.
This time, I just went out with my Hasselblad film camera, and a roll of film. I’d shoot one roll of film with everybody on that.
It started out by shooting a couple of friends and ended up with 100 People from every nationality in the EU. l’d chat to them for half an hour and hear a bit about their story. And then we’d spend half an hour making some pictures together.
This work went on to win a silver award at Creative Pool and it also was a feature in the British Journal of photography.
And, again, led on to lots of commissioned work.
Which do you prefer, film or digital to shoot on?
It depends what I’m photographing. I think for lifestyle stuff, you have to shoot on modern digital cameras because you need fast autofocus and high frame rates. And we might shoot 5,000 frames in a day of shooting, and we’ll edit it down to the best 30.
But film cameras are best for portraits. They are just beautiful bits of mechanical engineering and lovely to operate.
“I really like to shoot on old film cameras, people have to trust you to get the shot.”
It sounds like you have a brilliant job traveling around and meeting interesting people. It can’t always be great, can it?
Haha, it can be quite stressful, I did a shoot for a Turkish nappy brand – four days in that studio in London with babies at every age band. The art director was convinced that the babies had to have their eyes open in the photographs.
And if anybody’s had young babies will know that like a new year old baby only opens its eyes for about a minute a day. So yeah, it was quite a stressful shoot.
Babies aside – how do you get the authenticity of people across in pictures?
Well about half of the work I shoot is with professional talent – actors and models. But about half the stuff I shoot is real people who aren’t necessarily used to being in front of the camera. And I think there’s two things I do.
One is just to talk to people and get to know them a bit. And just, you know, you don’t get the camera out in the first five minutes, just get people relaxed, and get them to know a little bit about what’s going on.
Often just talking to them as I’m shooting them so that they are not thinking too much about what they look like or what they are doing. That works!
How much of your work is planning versus the shoot and post production?
Planning is a critical aspect of any shoot that I undertake, and a significant portion of my time goes into it. To start with, I create mood boards to ensure that the shoot’s atmosphere and overall feel align with the creative vision.
If it’s a commercial shoot, I also spend time casting for the right talent, selecting the perfect wardrobe and props to achieve the desired look for the brand.
On the shoot day itself, my focus is on lighting and setting up the shot to capture everything we need, while also sticking to the planned schedule. In terms of post-production, it can vary significantly depending on the shot.
For simpler lifestyle shots, we might only need to do colour grading to enhance the contrast and colour of the image. However, for more complex projects, such as incorporating 3D renderings of products that don’t exist yet, post-production can be an incredibly intricate process.
Finally, what is your most important upfront consideration when you are trying to tell a story with a set of photographs?
Usually, what a client is trying to do is simplify what they’re trying to say. And often people are trying to get a picture to try and say a thousand words..
So really, it’s trying to get everyone agreed on what’s the one thing you want somebody to remember after seeing this picture or this series of pictures, and get that message really simple and really clear