A multi-skilled, creative-thinking photographer specialising in a wide range of content production. Jack Archer’s primary focus is on automotive photography working with both private and commercial clients.
He is also, however, an experienced videographer, drone operator and camera assistant with a true eye for capturing faces and a hunger to expand his portfolio. This week, in our last member spotlight of 2022, we caught up with Jack to discuss everything that makes him the photographer he is today and where he hopes to see himself in the near future.
How did you get into the industry?
I started with photography when I was young, I can’t remember exactly how old, but I’d have been around ten. My grandfather and uncle both loved photography and one day invited me to go out and take some landscapes.
As a child, I couldn’t understand the enjoyment of standing out in the countryside, in the rain, taking pictures of some broken old bridge but as I got older, I started to enjoy shooting more often and understanding the satisfaction of getting a good photo.
When I passed my driving test, I would shoot at car shows and events which led to private shoots and eventually making a bit of money. I wish I still had the bridge photos but unfortunately, I think they’re long gone.
Where are you based now and who do you work for?
I’m based in a small town called Shildon in the North-East of England. I was born here and have lived here my whole life. I’m completely freelance now with most of my work being with private clients and some local businesses but I’m hoping to start getting further afield to meet and work with as many new people and companies as possible.
If you weren’t in your current industry, what would you be doing?
When I was younger and asked the question of what I wanted to be when I grew up, I never really had one definite answer, however, the ideas of working as a pilot or in the film industry (two very different things, I know) have always been at the top end of the list.
As much as I’d love to, I don’t think I’ll be flying you on holiday anytime soon but working on film productions is something I’d love to explore.
Can you explain your creative process? What makes it unique?
As a beginner, I didn’t know a whole lot about what all the different camera settings do, but over time you learn your tools, you learn techniques, and dos & don'ts. Eventually, I hit a point where I was shooting the same way all the time and sticking to all the camera setting rules. I didn’t feel like I was making any improvements.
So now, from time to time I go out and shoot like I don’t know my camera or what the settings do. I do everything purposely ‘wrong’ and yes I end up with a lot of poor images but I often get one or two that I find interesting. The lighting might look dramatic, a blur that looks interesting or the grain of a high iso adds to the feeling of a photo.
I think it’s important to forget what you think you know from time to time, go back to basics and get into that beginner mindset of wanting to learn and improve.
How would you describe your style?
Adaptive. Style is good to have when working in any creative field, it’s what makes your work recognizable as yours but I found I was limiting what subjects I shot or the colours I capture and the way I’d frame a picture, just to fit some style that I was aiming for.
Instead, I like to treat every shoot and subject with its own style and just go for what I think looks good for that specific photo instead of trying to match the look of my last. Over time I noticed that although every set of photos I’ve taken can look quite different, they all in some way, through subtle similarities, feel like mine.
Whether it's the way I've framed my subject, the way I've captured light or the colours from shooting in similar locations, they all in one way or another have something that makes it feel like my style. What exactly that style is, I'm still working out.
Which individuals do you gain inspiration from? Do you have any heroes in the industry?
When it comes to automotive it has to be Larry Chen for his run-and-gun type approach to photography. Often dual-wielding two heavy cameras and getting right into the action, he’s not only become an inspiring photographer to many, but also a huge part of car culture.
Keith Bernstein is also a huge inspiration for his stills work in film production and for capturing the photos others don’t. He has a fantastic series on the tough life of movie extras, giving them the exposure in his photographs that they don’t always get on screen. He captures them in unique and meaningful ways that differ from many other photographers.
There are so many creatives I look up to for inspiration and as hero figures in the industry, I think it’s important to take a little from all of them and to also look at those in other fields like comic illustrators or filmmakers. Often I find inspiration in their work that could be translated into some pretty cool photos.
What tips would you give to aspiring creatives looking for work?
Shoot as much as you can, even if it’s not for work. If you're in between jobs or struggling to find jobs, go out and shoot for fun or offer a few local businesses some free work.
If you're not on a job you're not getting paid so by doing your own projects or offering some unpaid work, at least you're gaining photos for your portfolio which is vital to landing more paying clients down the line. You never know when the business you did free work for will ask you back to do some paid jobs. Shoot for friends, family or work colleagues just to get that portfolio looking good and the work opportunities will come.
Just be cautious with offering free work as some businesses can try and take advantage, but offering a small taster shoot for free is often a win-win for both and is great for developing your skills and relationships with potential clients.
What tips would you give to other professionals to get more clients?
A solid portfolio and time spent networking are a must! Having a huge following on social media can be great for getting your work seen but the misconception that it's required often discourages a lot of people.
Some of the most successful photographers don’t have large followings or share much of their work on social media at all. Instead, they build connections in their client's industry and their work comes from referrals and long-term relationships with specific clients. LinkedIn can be great for connecting with people.
Try and build relationships with them, share some of your work and don’t be afraid to reach out with a portfolio. Worst case they’ll say no, or not right now. There will be a lot of no’s but eventually, an email will land in the right inbox or a connection mentions you at an office party, and you end up with a job.
My top tip though is to try and build the foundation of a relationship with someone before pitching your work, they’re much more likely to accept or think of you further down the line if they feel they already know you a little and It can be much more comfortable for you both when meeting in person for the first time.
What kind of tools/kit/software could you not do without?
I guess the obvious one would be my camera, it would be difficult to be a photographer without it. But, something that has had my back on numerous occasions is Adobe’s software.
There’s been plenty of times I’ve taken a picture that looked great on-site, on the small display, to then get home and realise there was a smudge on the lens or that a rogue object was in the frame. The ability to quickly remove objects or artifacts, fix lighting and colour grade my photos, really is one of the best parts of shooting digital and can really save you if you can’t go back and reshoot.
Another would have to be storage drives. There's nothing worse than losing photos or running out of space. There are so many tools I find important like a good lens, camera body, filters and a solid tripod, but it can all be wasted if you can’t fix your mistakes in post or lose your photos due to a corrupt drive. Sorry film shooters.
What’s your secret to staying inspired and motivated?
I think the secret is to chase something that you love doing and that goes for anything that takes a lot of work. There’s been a few times I’ve thought about selling my gear because things weren’t working, and thinking it’s a lot of money tied up in equipment, but then I go out for a walk with my camera or shoot random things in the house and remember how much I love it, with or without it making money.
So if you're trying to make your passion into a business and it isn’t working, go out and do it for fun to remind yourself why it's worth chasing.
What’s the work achievement you’re most proud of?
I’d probably have to go with my work with the Jaguar XK120 because it’s led to some discussions with a dream client and the scope of working with them in the new year. It’s also a reminder of how far I’ve come from shooting my own car when I’d just passed my test.
Not only have my photos improved massively since then but I’d never thought that taking a few pictures in the local shop’s car park would have led to speaking to some of the most awesome people in the automotive industry.
If you had told seventeen-year-old me that my car photos would be featured on a platform like Creativepool and that I'd be interviewed about my work, I wouldn’t have believed you for a minute. It really goes to show that sticking with a passion does eventually pay off.
What is the one thing that you would change about the industry?
I wish there were more opportunities for the lesser-known names to get their work seen by the right people. I understand why it's the way it is and I don’t think there's a whole lot that can change in that aspect.
There are so many fantastic photographers and other creatives who just can’t get their work seen because they either don't have a large following or a company's policies won't allow them to work with photographers outside their network. It makes so many talented people lose hope before ever getting noticed.
It's why networking is so important in the industry, it's still really tough but without it, your chances become very slim.
Any websites, books or resources you would recommend?
Websites and platforms away from the usual social media sites that focus heavily on creatives are great! Behance and Vero are both great examples and you can tailor your feeds to exactly the kind of creatives you want to see work from.
National Geographic and Tate also expose some brilliant photographers and their work! Tate also has their photography ideas book which has a whole host of interesting photos and the techniques of how they were shot which can inspire your photos.
As far as the business side of things, LinkedIn is a must, it's probably the best way of getting in touch with potential clients, making connections and getting your work in front of the right people.