Home / Zero to Hero / James Harriss

James Harriss

 19th Oct 2016

My photography journey started when i was in my early twenties, I remember aspiring to a dslr and spent many of my early years shooting on a Sony dsc-h5 bridge camera off my dads old Velbon tripod. I'd attend car meets and have massive envy over people using much bigger dslr cameras. All things automotive have always been my passion, my main drive and direction in photography. 

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It wasn't until about 7 years ago when my First child was born that I finally got a dslr. I think it's something we all do when our children are young with the fixation of capturing every possible moment, but I've lost count of the amount of people who buy one and expect it to do all the work for them. They get disheartened because they don't take the pictures Nikon or Canon showed them they could take, therefore they get stuffed in a cupboard well before their first born's first birthday. Having young children can really take a toll on your social life, most evenings were spent burping and changing nappies etc. My boy would fall asleep on me regularly resulting in me pinned to the sofa for hours with fear of him waking if I moved ever so slightly, so I'd found myself on my tablet or phone watching YouTube videos. 

high speed car shoot

I struggled a lot at first with composition and didn't actually realise it was something that could be learnt, I honestly thought, you've either got it or you haven't? But how wrong was I? I remember watching some of Mikes early videos on youtube and being completely enthralled at the fact that I can make things look pleasing to the eye. That I can use focal length, aperture, foreground and rules to create a pleasing composition. Team this with the dawn of wifi sd cards and wireless flash triggers, cameras with flippy screens and I quickly became a complete 'camera geek' (I was a tech geek, long before a photographer) 

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My first dslr was a Nikon d5000 with a twin kit lens (18-55 & 55-200), then came the sb700 and 35mm f1.8, I soon outgrew the 18-55 and picked up the fantastic 17-70 from sigma, I then decided the d5000 'wasn't taking good enough pictures' so I upgraded to the newly released and much anticipated d7100. What a fantastic camera! 

It was at this point in 2013 I started second shooting weddings with Sarah helen from http://www.helensarah.com A job I actually got off the back of a photograph I took of a neutral friend that Helen later saw, she was keen to meet and soon after we started working together. I've now been shooting as a second photographer with Helen for over 3 years and my equipment has grown, shrunk and grown again. I used a d300 as a second body to the d7100 for a while, added an 85mm f1.8, 70-210 f4 and the wonderful Tokina 11-16 f2.8. However the dx Nikon kit has now been replaced by a d700 (still an amazingly capable thing of beauty) a 80-200 f2.8 push pull, 50mm f1.4, 24-120 F4. I seemed to have gone full circle and found myself back with Sony having picked up an A7 with a beautiful little zeiss 35mm F2.8. 

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Having watched hours if not days of YouTube videos, reading countless books, gaining experience from Helen and over 30 weddings in the bag a friend approached me one day and asked if I could photograph his wedding. 
I immediately said 
"of course, when is it?", 
he replied "next month" 
ARGHHH!? OK?? this was it! My first paid job as a wedding photographer and I loved it! 

All this time I’d been in the background, I'd attended car meets and shot cars for friends of friends. Soon my flashes were off my camera and I began light painting cars, not your average abstract squiggle light painting but more collecting artificial directional light reflected from body panels and combining complex composites of light to create the unusual. This practice made it easy to transition the techniques learnt from wedding photography.

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I decided to take it a little more seriously, so I made a website www.jharrissphotography.com and a Facebook page www.facebook.com/jharrissphotography. I shot 12 cars in 12 months and released a calendar last year, I got my equipment and public liability insurance sorted, I set up as a sole trader to make sure I'm paying the right tax. I started charging customers, the equipment then started paying for itself and it works a nice sideline selling prints and enjoying what I do. I still have a day job but with three young children I think that's the safest way to play it for now. 

I don't think I'll ever be without photography and I've found myself in very sticky situations over the years, especially recently. I just wish I found photography earlier, I'd love to have had the opportunity to study it at school or college, but I'm pleased I found it as without it I'd see the world very differently. It's taught me to appreciate the planet we live on, to capture emotion, to share stories, build communities, make friends, share good and bad times and have people come to me and ask for my opinion!? Like it even matters!? Like I matter? All this from a little black box that records light!? I don't consider myself a Hero, but I know I'm definitely not a zero.

Thanks for listening


James Harriss