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Tommy Reynolds Interview
Written by Vanessa Champion   

If ever there was a photographer with energy to match the Duracell bunny, then Tommy Reynolds is it, mix that up with a sophistication of styling and an accomplished lighting pro, and you've got the elements of the great image maker. We caught up with Tommy Reynolds, Photographer | Director | DP to find out how he started, about his love of travel and why grey for him is a must in the studio.

Flag Test by Tommy Reynolds

1. I have to know, what got your started in photography? Looks like you might have been born with a camera in your hand, it's so part of you.

Haha! It's funny you word it like that because when I teach classes on photography I describe my camera as extension of my arm and being comfortable and knowing your camera is paramount as a working professional. You gotta know how to use every inch of your camera to get yourself out of any situation but anyway, I'm going off topic already! Haha I first discovered photography when my mum and dad bought me a Wallace & Gromit disposable camera (which, I still have on my camera shelf in my studio) and I fell in love with the idea taking peoples' portraits.

2. What was your first assignment, can you remember? How did you feel and how did you approach the shoot?

This is such a tough question. I can remember my first wedding when I was in my teens. It was my first paid wedding which I charged about £200 for. I thought, how cool is that!!! I was so bloody nervous though so I brought my friend with me as my ‘second shooter'. Ironically, he had two different camera bodies which were both better than mine! My first DSLR was a Nikon D40 with a kit lens and flashgun. At the start of the day, I always remember shooting the groom at ISO 800, outdoors, in the harsh sun and wondering why my photos were coming out so bright! My nerves took over and I totally forgot how to shoot in manual mode. Luckily my friend was very supportive and to this day remains my closest friend. Cheers Andy! The couple were really pleased with the photos and I became more and more confident photographing weddings from then on!

3. You travel a lot? The India blog you did, is great, shows that you and the people you shoot are having fun and enjoying the process. Is that important to you? Can you describe the best place you've been to photograph and why?

Varanasi by Tommy Reynolds

I love to travel! especially Asia. I first got the travel bug when I was 23 years old. That was the age I got my first passport and not long after that, I was approached by Paul Scally, Chairman of the charity, Take Heart Mercy Mission (also Chairman of Gillingham Football Club). The charity visits Sri Lanka every year to perform paediatric heart surgery and I was asked to travel on their next trip, all expenses paid. I literally couldn't believe the opportunity I was given. I absolutely adored the country and became my favourite place I've visited so far. I've travelled there 3 times now with the charity and each time I visit, it's so eye opening. That's why I look to visit Asia in general, how the people live is so different to how we live in UK and Europe. The people are approachable, friendly and love having their photograph taken. When I photograph someone I always get their name and a few details about them to include in my caption when i upload their image online. This context is so important to me and adds value to my images when you can include a story behind the photo. I always like to capture most of my travel portraits of the individuals in their natural environment but finesse it slightly using off camera flash.

4. Back home in Blighty, you shoot weddings and studio work among other things. Your wedding slideshow pre speeches, is pretty impressive. How do you manage the workflow so quickly? Do you have any tips?

Sam and Luke's Wedding by Tommy Reynolds

Thank you very much. That's my most popular wedding feature! When it gets to the point of the day where the wedding party are having their wedding breakfast, I'll be fully editing around 50 of the best images of the day and then projecting them in front of the bride and groom as their evening guests are arriving. I use a slideshow website called Animoto.com to atomically turn the edited images into a professional slideshow within a couple of clicks. I would highly recommend it for professional and personal use. I then get the DJ to play some music to really set the mood. It's an amazing moment to see the guests first reactions to the photos it really is. I was once asked to turn my projector off by a catering manager because she said "we need to serve dessert and no one is sat in the dining room" because they were all watching the slideshow. It was a really funny moment. The way I'm able to edit the images so quickly is because I have a bunch of great filters on my Adobe Lightroom. I mainly use VSCO filters and modify them to my liking. I've been editing images for 10 years now so I'm pretty quick at doing by now. I know exactly what I want or what a shot needs to improve it. There' no time to experiment at this stage.

5. In the studio you use Creativity Backgrounds (for which, thanks!) why do you use ours?

My friend I mentioned earlier found you guys. We had just built our studio together which is now become solely mine and he recommended you guys due to your quality and affordability. Not to mention one of your sizes, coincidently fits the width of my wall PERFECTLY. It looks made to measure so that's why I stayed with you guys from the start and haven't used anyone else since.

6. Some photographers have two or three colours they love and use all the time, are you the same? If so which colours and why and if not, why not?!

To be honest I used arctic white for years and years. This was because I could set up my lights to make the white backdrop look grey or black if I wanted. So it felt like I had 3 backdrops. Once you know how to manipulate the light, you can change the exposure hitting the backdrop and create the appearance of a change of colour or brightness i should say. This year I tried grey for more commercial work and just wanted to change it up a bit. I love it. It's still a neutral colour that could be used on almost anyone so this seemed like a natural next choice. I see myself using this colour for a while actually. I also tried a sky blue which was a curve ball for me but was appropriate for Disney presenter and actress Samantha Dorrance. This was an example of a backdrop colour really adding to the image. Colour can make so much difference and the blue fit Sam's look perfectly.

7. How do you select the backgrounds you use on a shoot? What governs your choice and why?

Actress and Singer Samantha Dorrance by Tommy Reynolds

Grey is now my go too because it's the most neutral colour that could fit pretty much anyone whether that be fashion, editorial, commercial, head shots etc. So this is my go too.

Sometimes however, like in the case of Samantha Dorrance, I knew this needed to be fun because of what she does. I don't often photograph people in her profession and wanted to try a new colour anyway. So most of the time its grey or white and as I said I can manipulate using lighting the brightness of the background to appear a different colour.

8. In a nutshell do you have two top tips on creatively lighting backgrounds that you can share?

If you position a strobe or flashgun behind your subject pointing at the backdrop it will create a lovely vignette around the subject causing them to stand out more and give a nice natural gradient to the background. Another tip would be as I've said already; if you use a light background, you can manipulate the light fall off to either hit the background and exposing the exact brightness of it or you can grid the light and make the light fall off before it reaches the background causing it to look almost black. You just need to experiment positioning your subject nearer or further away from the background.The further away from the background they are, the darker the background will be. So I could turn a sky blue into a very dark blue if I wanted too just by changing the light position and power

9. Where can people see your work?

You can find me at
Twitter: @tommyreynolds89
insta: tommyreynolds89
Facebook: Tommy Reynolds Photography

Tommy Reynolds Reviews Creativity Backgrounds

Tommy Reynolds reviews Creativity Backgrounds Tommy very kindly made a video reviewing Creativity Backgrounds background paper in his studio, and in the video demonstrates how to dramatically change the appearance of the background by simply changing the placing of the lighting.


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