FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

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What kind of cameras do you use?

I currently use Canon 5D Mark III cameras with mostly Canon prime lenses. You will always find the following lenses in my bag:  Canon 16-35 f2.8, Canon 35mm f1.4, Canon 50mm f1.2, Canon 85mm f1.2, Canon 200mm f2.8, Canon 400mm f5.6

For underwater photography, I use a Canon 5D Mark II with a mark 1 16-35mm f2.8 lens in an Ikelite housing with an 8″ dome

For those of you wondering about the chest vest that I use to carry all my lenses when I’m working… it’s made by newswear.com and I highly recommend it.

Can I be your assistant/carry your bags?

Unfortunately, I rarely need any extra assistants in the field.    The vast majority of my work is a long haul flight away where I use known and trusted local fixers to help me.  If, however you discover that I happen to be working in the same country as you, there’s nothing to stop you dropping me a line…  sometimes things come up at the last minute.

How do I get a job at BBC Earth/National Geographic etc?

This is a very interesting question in these rapidly changing times.  If you’d have asked me this ten… or even five years ago then my answer would have been much more succinct.  In fact, I’ve answered this question many times before from the perspective of how I made my way through my career, but in recent years, many of those age old methods of networking have been somewhat blown to smithereens by the new media models.  You could try reading this interview or this one for some preliminary suggestions on starting out in photography the way I did…  but as far as the new ways to make it as a photographer… well,  I’ll try and elaborate a little with reference to the things that I have seen change in the industry over the last few years.

Firstly, if you are just starting out as a photographer then you should think yourself very lucky.  As far as I can see, the fantastic technological innovations we have seen in recent years have certainly democratised the whole process of getting your work out there and into the public eye.  Assuming you have access to the internet and a half decent digital camera, then the world is now very much your oyster… as it will also be your witness and judge.  If your work is good, then the right people will inevitably see it.  If you really want to work for Nat Geo or BBC Earth or whoever then the internet is now your foot in their door, but you will have to prove yourself first.  One thing I would mention though.  Before you instinctively aspire to work for these older, well established publications, make sure you aren’t overlooking some fresh new opportunities to innovate with lesser known but more exciting organisations that are moving a bit faster with the times.

Personally, I would suggest that you should work out a way to get out into the world and do your thing and wait for people to find you when the time is right.  Relationships with high brow publications usually develop over some time. That doesn’t mean to say that if you shoot an incredible set of pictures then publication ‘X’ won’t notice them… they will… just don’t expect to get your dream assignment with them the next day.  Picture editors like to employ photographers they know well… people they trust and enjoy working with, and these are friendships that don’t tend to spring up over night.  Certainly, if you plan on approaching a high end publication for the first time I would suggest that it would be a good idea to have something tangible to offer them other than just your talent.  Phoning them up and asking for a job probably won’t work, but contacting them with an idea that will be beneficial to both of you may well get their attention.  As is the case with all the best creative jobs in the world… my advice is to be bold with your strategy…

First create a job… then give it to yourself!

Another excellent thing about being creative in the 21st century is that you don’t need anyone’s permission to publish your work. Conceivably, you could post some work on a web page tomorrow and get more viewers than read the New York Times on the same day.  That’s an incredible opportunity for you, and something that was inconceivable to me when I was starting out in the media.  Of course, the creative challenge is the same as it has always been… your work must be exceptional.  However, there has never been a better time to publicise what you do and get your talent recognised so that you can start generating an income from it.

Establishing yourself in the public domain involves making your mark on the internet.  I would say that this is the most fundamental thing that you must get your head around if you want to be a successful and well paid photographer in the 21st century.  When I was starting out, a photographer’s reputation was based upon the frequency with which his or her images appeared in the big publications like Time, Nat Geo and various high end newspaper supplements etc.  Magazines like these were read by everyone in the industry and a beady eye was always kept on the names that appeared in their picture bylines.  All that has changed now.  These days, Google or social media are often the first port of call for many younger picture editors and designers researching stories or looking for new talent.  If you have a particular photographic speciality then it’s imperative that your images or name rank highly in a search on that subject or technique.  On top of this, no matter who you are, it is vital that you work on developing your own brand and elevating its presence on the web. You can do this by being pro active in blogs, Social media, photo groups etc, but preferably by building up a solid reputation via your own interactive website or public social media platform.  In the past photographers succeeded by aligning themselves with well known publications or agencies… these days the photographer’s own brand may well supersede that of the publication, which is something you should definitely be aiming for and the reason why I say that..

Creating a strong personal brand on the internet should be your ultimate mission for the next 5 years.

My best advice to you if you want to be a successful photographer is to practice your craft passionately  and not to be afraid to share what you have with others.  By this I don’t just mean your images… I’m also talking about your ideas and knowledge.  It’s important to share what you know with others, especially your contemporaries.  Many photographers fall too easily into the trap of believing that they will somehow put themselves at a disadvantage if they reveal their ‘secrets’ to others.  As far as I’m concerned, this kind of attitude will never take you on to great things as an image maker.

Most of all.  Do what you love doing.  The rest will naturally fall into place in my experience.

Timothy Allen, Aug 2010.

See also: I want to quit my job and do what you do. Any advice?

I want to become a BBC natural history cameraman/woman and work with David Attenborough

I’m not the best person to ask about that.  However, Gavin Thurston, a BBC colleague of mine started an ‘Ask Me Anything’ thread on Reddit a little while ago which explains how he became a BBC cameraman.  Find the thread here.

I’m writing a college project on you/one of your images. Can you answer the following questions….?

Sorry, I’m afraid I can’t answer your college project questions about my work over email, it is just too time consuming I’m afraid.  There is however a wealth of information about who I am and what I do on the internet.  You could try making a start here.

Can I use one/some of your pictures on my website?

That depends on who you are…  As a general rule of thumb, if you have advertisements anywhere on your site or if it has any financial or money making aspect to it then the answer is ‘Not without permission… please ask first‘.  Similarly, if you are an individual selling something, a company, corporation, religious or charitable organisation, then the answer is also ‘Not without permission… ask first‘… but  please don’t be naive… in all these cases you will be asked to pay well for the privilege of using my images.  All the images on this site are copyright Timothy Allen.

The rest of you bloggers and internet folk who are doing it just for the love of it… be my guest… help yourself… and while you’re at it, if you feel like lending a hand to the cultivation of our new relationship, then why not credit the images with links back to their source?

It’s simple.  If in doubt… ask permission.

For all other syndication related enquiries please use this form and someone will get back to you the same day.

Do you sell prints of your work?

Yes we do.  Details HERE.

Do you undertake speaking engagements/public appearances?

Yes, I am an experienced keynote and public speaker as well as a regular contributor to TV and radio programmes.  Please submit your proposal here.

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