You could say it was a “lucky accident” that Calvendo self-publisher Richard Sheppard got into photography seriously. What do we mean by that? Well, just read on and it’ll all be explained! Plus, some really good Calvendo tips from a photographer who takes inspiration from what’s around him and never fails to see the humour in a picture.
Richard, can you talk a bit about your background as a photographer and how and when you took up photography?
I took up photography seriously when I was about 17 – a long time ago now! My dad was a keen photographer (I inherited his Zenith E) and I think I caught the bug from him. When I was 23 I broke my leg while hang gliding and decided, as I lay in my hospital bed, that I was going to leave my engineering job and go to college to study photography. That was fun. I did go back into engineering however – and hang gliding! Now I shoot stock and do the odd commission but it isn’t my main source of income.
How would you describe your style and approach as a photographer?
I’d describe my style and approach to photography as scattergun and eclectic! I can never take photography too seriously. I have always looked for humour in pictures but haven’t found a decent themed set of funny shots I could make into a calendar yet. I have never become too sincere about the fine details of image making either – for instance I rarely shoot in RAW and don’t worry too much about having the latest equipment or the quality of the bokeh etc. A picture stands or falls by its content – not whether the right hand corner looks a bit soft.
Let’s talk tools: What type of camera are you using and why?
For the last four years I’ve been using micro four thirds equipment and I love it. I like the fact that I can get so much kit into such a small bag. Having said that, I don’t like to carry too much equipment about with me. A couple of lenses and a body with spare batteries is all I usually take. Last year I was lucky enough to win a Panasonic GX8 and, really, that is all I could wish for in a camera. The only thing I don’t like about M43 cameras is the rather poor battery life. I also use my iPhone quite a bit (maybe I just like equipment that constantly needs recharging). One of my door calendars was taken and edited entirely on an iPhone 4S.
What makes a good photo for you?
A good photo for me has to have either a very individual style or a subject matter that makes you stop and think. It needn’t be exotic. It can be mundane and you still think ‘wow, I wish I’d thought of doing that’. There are so many unknown but brilliant photographers around these days and we are lucky to have such great equipment to do it on. I don’t miss film one bit.
Do you have favourite photographers that inspire you?
I can’t have a favourite photographer. I have a little book I bought back in the 90s. It’s called The Photo Book and was published by Phaidon Press. It contains about 500 photos – each by a different photographer from the preceding hundred years or so. Lots of famous photographers there, but most of the authors I’ve never heard of. Each picture in the book is a kind of .. well… a snapshot of another time – and a way of thinking that is no longer with us. That is what’s so exciting about the still image. It has the ability to sum up a moment and a place and the people that have gone forever and one that we never see with our own eyes.
Can you tell us a bit about your portfolio: Which type of photography and motives to you like most? Based on the Calvendo calendars that you’ve created so far it seems you have a particular liking for doors … ?
Doors eh! It happened by accident. In 2014, I took a trip through France and Italy with my wife and kids. We stopped off in Bourge en Bresse and I saw this lovely door and took a picture of it. And then I saw another one …
But like I said, I’m a bit eclectic when it comes to subject matter. That and the fact that I’m a bit lazy! The VW vans are there just because they hold an annual show here in Malvern (and they are something lots of people love). The hang gliding and paragliding shots because I really like flying and the Malvern hills because they are on my doorstep.
Can you talk a bit about your experience using the Calvendo platform. Do you have any specific tips for first timers using Calvendo?
I think the Calvendo platform works really well. When I first started using it I got the impression that it was a bit pernickety and I had to redo some of my layout after it was rejected by the jury. But I soon realised that everyone’s submission needs to be exact in order to set a minimum standard and to comply with copyright issues etc. For first time users I’d say, firstly, make sure you have at least 15 themed images you are really pleased with. Secondly, try to keep a similar style throughout and thirdly, don’t be disheartened if your initial submission gets rejected. Just make the adjustments and resubmit, then it will go through.
Last but not least, what are your general comments on Calvendo as a self-publishing platform: Anything you particularly like? Or things that need improving?
The great thing about Calvendo is that it is a no risk venture for the photographer. And it’s great to see your work on Amazon or wherever. You can be as creative as you like too; so you can do the dreamy landscape calendar and then come up with something more off the wall (but hopefully on the wall eventually!) and if it gets accepted and makes sales then you’re onto a winner. The new templates are great too and effortlessly add more quality to the finished product. I only started submitting at the very end of last year but I made a few sales and I’m hoping for more this winter as the calendar season approaches.
Thanks, Richard, for talking to us and we look forward to seeing more of your work in our product gallery!
See Richard’s calendars in the Calvendo product gallery