SPECIALIZATION: IMAGE LIBRARY AND UNDERWATER PHOTOGRAPHY
For many years Peter Hince worked in the music business with artists such as David Bowie, Mott the Hoople, and Queen, whom he spent ten years with touring around the world (Hince recently published a book about these experiences: Queen Unseen, John Blake Publishing). It was around this time that he first picked up a camera and became interested in photography. During his music career he had already learned a lot from photographers who worked with the band as well as on the video shoots. So after leaving the music business, Hince decided to become a professional photographer. The experience of working in the music business stood him in good stead for producing photographic shoots: when commissions did start to roll in he was already well versed in controlling budgets and making sure things got done on time.
QUEEN UNSEEN BOOK COVER
Image Library Work
In the early ’90s Hince was approached by the Image Bank picture library to do some shoots. The London office was owned at the time by Mark Cass, who was quite forward-thinking in commissioning photographers to do shoots and generally raising the quality of work held by the library. Hince cleverly made sure he retained his right to a percentage of the royalties, which still to this day are generating sales. As he became busier, he started financing his own shoots for Image Bank as well as other libraries. Instead of giving money to the taxman, he would reinvest it by shooting more library pictures. “When you are an approved photographer with an image library, you are given access to information about which types of images are in most demand, and the image libraries will art-direct shoots as well,” says Hince. “If you invest so much, you should make so much back again. However, things have changed a lot over the last 15 years. Firstly, with the Internet, and latterly, royalty free. It’s gotten to the point now where it’s hard to tell the difference between royalty free and a commissioned image, and usage fees have gone way down. Clients don’t have to spend so much money to do a commissioned shoot if they can purchase a ready-made shot for a tenth the cost. Never mind that someone else might be able to use the same photo. This approach is very cost-effective if it is just for a one-time brochure usage. But it is just not such a viable business model these days. My images are still selling, but they are not earning as much money now. Instead of photographers getting $100 per usage, it’s now more like a dollar.” Hince points out if you are going to shoot specifically for image libraries, you need to make sure you have all the paperwork in order. “Twenty years ago there were photographers who would submit to the libraries test shoots and outtakes from commissioned shoots as a way to earn extra money. But this caused all sorts of problems, where models would see photographs of themselves being used without their knowledge. Images had to be pulled, and it all got quite messy, tracing where photographs had been used. It was a wakeup call for the industry that everyone needed to be more careful.” These days everything is checked more carefully, and the lawyers want everything to be absolutely watertight. “Submitted images also have to be checked for technical quality,” says Hince. “Agencies are now very strict regards digital submissions. Once upon a time, grainy photographs shot on film would be allowed, but they won’t be passed now. Everything needs to be shot digitally using approved cameras. They must be correctly exposed, sharp, and of a minimum pixel size.”
Work with Queen
Hince worked with the band Queen over a ten-year period. Looking back, it is remarkable that a band as image-conscious as Queen didn’t have official photographers working with them. “They would simply ask me if they could use some of my photos inside an album or tour brochure,” Hince says.
After leaving the band and starting work as a photographer, Hince didn’t want to flaunt his connection with the band or be seen as an ex-Queen roadie. So he never really did anything with them. It was only recently that the Proud gallery contacted him to do an exhibition in Central London, which then went on to Australia. “It was an interesting experience and exciting to see these shots that had been hidden away for so many years in a new light,” says Hince. “There were images I found of Fred that I’d never printed before and had gone unnoticed. For example, the one I used for the cover of my book Queen Unseen—Fred asked me to make him look mean and moody. This was shot on tour in Germany in a backstage corridor using basic flash lighting.” The photograph of Fred wearing a crown and ermine robe was shot at Hince’s London studio. “It was a personal favorite of Fred’s,” says Hince; “it summed him up as the ‘great pretender,’ which was what he was, really. In this context, having the nuts and bolts of the studio in the background made sense. It summed him up very well. It was always the show, Freddie the showman, but outside of that he was a very private person.”
Hince learned how to dive during the ’80s but wasn’t interested in taking photographs underwater because the equipment needed then was rather cumbersome and he just wanted to enjoy the diving. However, one day on a trip to the Middle East, he picked up a Nikonos 5 underwater camera at the duty-free shop. “I bought some fast-speed black-and-white film and started taking pictures underwater using just available light and started to experiment,” says Hince. “The thing about photographing in black and white is it’s very different, because the colors you see underwater can be camouflaged.” He got his favorite printer, Klaus Kalde, to make the toned prints, and the series he produced won an Association of Photographers award. He then went on to have exhibitions at the AoP Gallery in London, and another in Brighton, as well as at several dive shows. Some images did well with the libraries, and he was able to license others directly to clients.
Underwater AD for Araldite
A few years ago, Hince was commissioned by an agency based in Cambridge, England, to photograph an ad for Araldite, an epoxy resin glue. The intention was to demonstrate the versatility of the product and how it is water-resistant. They wanted a glass fish tank held together with Araldite glue photographed underwater. When Hince was first approached to do this ad, he knew that the best way to handle this would be to photograph the various elements underwater and produce a montage from the best shots. The fish tank would need to be photographed separately in the studio. “There wasn’t very much money, and the job had been put on hold because the agency couldn’t afford to fly me out to shoot specifically for the job,” says Hince. “It so happened I had a trip coming up to the Red Sea, paid for by one of the dive magazines, and I was able to offer this as an opportunity to shoot the stills needed for the ad.”
It was quite a challenge shooting in color with an underwater housing and a regular SLR camera. It was necessary to filter quite heavily so as to deal with the blue color cast. Hince knew from his diving experience that the best and easiest dive location to go to would be the southern Red Sea. “This area offers particularly good diving,” he says. ”There are lots of companies out there that offer first-class diving opportunities, and this location also offers a much greater abundance of tropical fish compared to other popular dive locations.” For example, while the Caribbean is a very popular place to dive, you won’t get to see quite so many exotic fish. For this particular job, he booked himself to go to Hurghada on a live-aboard dive boat. He used a Nikon SLR camera with a 50 mm lens in a Subal underwater housing. Subal, by the way, mainly makes underwater housings designed to encase the latest Canon and Nikon dSLR cameras, as well as for smaller compact cameras such as those made by Sony and Panasonic. A warming filter was used to help reduce some of the blue color at the time of capture.
He returned from the dive trip with a number of possible images (see Figure 4.3). After he showed the photographs to the art director, the shots shown here were chosen to create the final composite. Hince adds, “The tank itself was custom made for the shoot and photographed in a studio. The task then was to combine all these elements.”
FIGURE 4.3 The underwater scene images and studio shot used to create the final composite image.
The biggest challenge was to make the glass tank look realistic within the underwater scene. This was mainly achieved using the Multiply blend mode in Photoshop to merge the studio-shot tank with its underwater surroundings. The fish were cut out using paths and vector masks. These were added to the composite image so the fish appeared to be swimming inside the tank. As you can see, some of these fish were duplicated, or flipped, to make it look like there were lots more fish. The client wanted greater color contrast between the fish and the water, so color adjustment layers were added to the squirrelfish to make them appear more orange. Reflections were added internally, as well as externally, to make the fish look like they really were inside the fish tank and that the tank itself appeared to blend with its underwater environment. It was also necessary to add more shading to some of the fish. For example, the squirrelfish placed at the bottom of the tank needed extra darkening in order to blend in with its shaded surroundings. On the other hand, the two squirrelfish at the top of the tank needed to be kept looking lighter, as they weren’t in a shaded area. You will also note that a lid was added to the tank. This was created using the same master aquarium tank image and edited in Photoshop to match the base. Lastly, a duplicate was made of the coral image in the foreground and placed at the top of the layer stack so the tank appeared to be behind it (see Figure 4.4). Says Hince, “The client and agency were both very happy in the end.”
VIDEO INTERVIEW WITH PETER HINCE.
FIGURE 4.4 The final composite image.