getting nosey 2! I chat to...Bob Kirchstein from Opal Creative...

Name: Bob Kirchstein

Business: Opal Creative

Links: | Website | Photography Website |

How long have you been a photographer / web designer?

I sold my first photo in 1996 but didn’t turn fully pro until 2001 when I was made redundant from the electronics firm I was working for at the time.

Did you study or are you self taught?

Apart from studying Art at A-level and a City & Guilds evening class in portrait photography in 1997 I’m self-taught. I owe everything to Practical Photography! I used to buy all the photographic mags and learned partly from them and partly by trial and error. Mostly I was driven by seeing amazing images in ads and magazines and wanting to be able to take photos to the same standard.

You seem to be doing more web based material these days such as websites, e commerce and content management. Is it a sign of the times or just felt you needed to stretch your wings?

I’ve always done website design as well as photography because I really enjoy both and I like the variety. It tends to go in phases – sometimes I get more website work, other times it’s more photography.

I know that you have always steered away from wedding photography, how come?

How long have you got?!!! Way too much pressure for me for a start! But also I’m a perfectionist and I know that I wouldn’t be able to do the job to my own satisfaction without a huge amount of work to get up to speed. It’s so specialised these days and there are some amazing photographers in the field.

The other reason is that I prefer to work slowly – I used to do a lot of still life work and I could easily spend half a day on a single shot, so the thought of trying to get hundreds of great images in a few hours fills me with horror! I’m just not suited to it.

Do you believe the social networking sites such as facebook, blogging and twitter are essential marketing tools and do you use them at all?

To be honest, I don’t know. Everyone seems to be plugging these things as marketing tools lately but I don’t use them myself – not yet anyway. I think it probably depends on the market you’re aiming at and whether your potential clients are the kind of people who use Twitter, Facebook etc. They do say that social networking improves your ratings on Google, which is probably true but pay-per-click advertising (ie Google Adwords) can do that too.

What changes have you seen over time in terms of making a living and running a photography business?

With the arrival of digital photography everything changed! In the days of film I think there was a much bigger gap between amateur and pro photographers. Broadly speaking, pro’s tended to use transparency film and got great results, amateurs used negative film and got poor quality prints back from the mini-lab and believed they were rubbish photographers as a result!

When digital photography arrived that distinction disappeared, and of course the internet has opened up so many more opportunities for photographers. So there’s more demand for images now but there are also many more people producing them and aspiring to making a living as photographers.

Do you believe its important to have personal projects as a photographer and are you working on anything at the moment? (If so pics please!!!)

Yes, it’s so important to have personal projects! I know that for a fact because I haven’t done any personal work for a long time and I really miss it! It’s easy to get focussed on the business side and forget why you got into photography in the first place. I’m thinking of going back to exploring still life again because for some reason I connect with it emotionally.

Technically, you are pretty darn good when it comes to photography. Do you think young photographers and visual artists are losing sight of that these days and relying to heavily on digital media such as photoshop?

Thank you Carli! Actually I only got to grips with the technical side in order to be able to get the results I wanted, and it was much more difficult with film because of the time lag between taking the shot and seeing the result.

I think everyone finds their own way – so some young photographers might see photography as a craft and want to explore all the technical possibilities, others may just find a formula that works for them and stick to it. I’m not a purist and I don’t feel that there’s a right or wrong way of doing it.

Quick fire round.....are you ready?

  1. Do you enjoy modern art, such as Damien Hirst, Tracie Emin and so forth? – not keen on Damien or Tracey but I love Andy Goldsworthy and Antony Gormley.
  2. If you weren’t a photographer / web designer what would you be doing? – Painting probably, or maybe graphic design if I had to earn a living!
  3. Your pet hate? - In Buddhism hatred is one of the three poisons – I try to avoid it!
  4. What do you wish you knew more about? – Why we’re here.
  5. Favourite word and why Discipline – because after years of rejecting it the penny is finally starting to drop!
  6. Three things you want to achieve in 2010 – Start painting again. Rediscover what turned me on about photography. Take singing lessons.
  7. Your shoe size. – Same as the number of this question (I have small feet for a bloke!)

And finally, is there any advise you can give those young talents trying to get into photography or web design or any kind of visual art?

Do you mean as a profession? Yes…take a business course! There’s an old saying that a mediocre photographer who’s good at business will be more successful than a great photographer who doesn’t have good business skills. It seems to me that that’s more true than ever these days when there’s so much competition. The other thing that I think is really important is networking – most of my work has come through word-of-mouth and referrals, more so than through advertising or the website.

Well...I have certainly learnt things I never knew before - thank you - very interesting!!