MICHAEL TOMAN - INTERVIEW
Tell us about yourself. What is your background, and how did you get into photography?
My background was in graphic design and publishing. I studied media at 16 for two years before moving into interactive multi-media at University. After working for 10 years in graphic/web design, seven of which running my own company, I decided to move onto film-making. Until a year ago, I also lectured on graphic design one day a week at a local college. The last 12 months have involved a lot more photography.
Please provide us with a list of the gear you use on a regular basis:
85mm Zeiss Batis
35mm Zeiss Distagon
55mm Zeiss Zonnar
Lume Cube x2
What does your post-production process look like?
I have two very separate processes when it comes to editing. As I work as a film-maker primarily and a photographer secondary, I use Lightroom with my Tribe presets for photo-processing and Final Cut Pro X with custom LUTs for video. When sharing video stills, if I can't achieve the aesthetic I'm after in FCPx, I will export it and bring it over to Lightroom for processing.
How has your photography style evolved over time?
I think my work looks darker now than it did before, although I think this is a confidence change more so than a style one.
Beforehand, I was guilty of overthinking an image and whether it fits my 'Instagram aesthetic'! Now, I'll share it if I have an emotional response to it. I don't mind if the blacks are a little too crushed or it's too blurry - I just trust my instincts that there's a reason I like it and try not to give it any more thought than that. Obviously, when other people like it, then that's just a bonus.
In terms of style, I'm completely inspired by the subject or client. I want their personalities and style to be reflected in the final work, so for that reason, my style constantly evolves and shifts. To illustrate this, I have another brand called Behind The Fold (@behindthefold), which has an entirely different aesthetic to Story of Eve and this is because I'm creating for a different audience and shooting very different content.
What are your favourite tools for capturing, editing, and enhancing your photographs?
I love the A7Riii paired with the 85mm Batis lens. That is my favourite combination for portraits, especially outdoor portraits.
The images from this are imported into Lightroom for post processing and some tweaks in AlienSkin afterwards if required.
What is your greatest piece of advice for emerging photographers?
I hear so much advice about finding your voice, but we are very complicated creatures with lots of different voices inside of us. Just try to create work that you are enjoying, and from that, you'll most likely see a style or consistency in certain elements you're drawn to.
What type of photography do you most enjoy?
I love portraits, and in particular, black and white portrait photography and film. I'm drawn to light and shadow, which makes my work feel quite dark but it's where the light enters shadow that I'm always searching for.
What are you discouraged about in your work/business? What encourages you?
I hear so much about trends and people talking about how they hope certain trends fade away in 2019 like wild adventure sessions, moody tones, yellow skins...why would anyone want to change someone else's style? If there are lots of people following a particular aesthetic, then surely that makes even more room for someone who is actually doing their own thing. I'm really excited about this huge explosion in the crossover of skill sets that I think we are going to see more and more of where photographers and videographer roles collide and interweave. I think it frightens a lot of people at the moment and perhaps they feel a little threatened - change is always hard initially.
15 years ago when I was working as a graphic designer, the majority of my working day was spent designing magazine spreads and advertisements - by the time I moved away from design, most of my work was web and screen based. Suddenly web designers and print designers were creating the same content for these shiny new tablets and the traditional roles got very blurred...but way more exciting.
Photographers are already familiar shooting video in the form of Instagram stories, and I think we will quickly see this skill set get more and more elaborate and polished to the point where they are telling high-quality moving image based stories.
When was a time you thought you would/had failed? How did you overcome it?
My biggest failure was at a wedding only 12 months ago. I was filming couple portraits by the light of a campfire while the snow lay think on the ground. I thought it would be a great idea to go around and shoot some stuff through the flames to capture more atmosphere. It wasn't until I was standing on the ice that I realised what it was...down through the ice I went with both cameras attached to my holster. Neck deep and with a busted lip, I quickly got out of the water, dried my cameras and continued to shoot portraits for another 15-20 minutes (I can't remember ever feeling so cold or humiliated). The next day, I had one wrecked camera, another needing repaired, and a bruised lip...but I surprisingly felt really good that the worst thing that I thought could happen to me at a wedding did happen, and I didn't let it ruin my ability to do the best job possible. I ended up filming a lot later than I was supposed to as I wanted to let the couple know that I was enjoying their day and not phased by my icy encounter. Lesson learned - avoid water features, ponds and lakes! ;)
What defines success for you as a photographer? If you never achieve that, will you still be satisfied with what you do?
Success to me is working in a creative role, where I am still challenged and enjoy what I do on a daily basis. I don't believe in being a 'starving artist' so I want to work with people who love what I do and value that.
Success for me is having time...time with family, time for meeting up with friends, time for reading a book or going for a walk, quality time with my wife and kids while not stressing about the edit queue. Last year, 2018, has been the closest I've gotten to feeling this balance. I struggle to use the word balance as self-employment means hectic periods where balance seems non-existent, but as long as there are enough of the other days, then I guess this could be called balance. I like change and get bored very easily, so I don't think I'll ever be entirely 'satisfied' as I want to always feel like I'm moving forward and branching into unknown areas. Maybe this is where satisfaction lies for me...in not knowing what I'll be doing in two years time. What I do know, is that I absolutely love that I get to work in a job where I meet so many incredibly talented and interesting people as well as the opportunity to travel the world while I do it. It's a lot of hard work and it's really challenging but I wouldn't have it any other way.
YOU CAN FIND MICHAEL TOMAN ONLINE HERE: