Fiona Murray’s keen eye for colour, texture and shape marks out her photography, so it’s no surprise to find that her career was borne out of a fine art degree at Glasgow School of Art. Having had a hands on approach to creativity since an early age, Murray took her training in composition, colour and light behind the camera to photograph for an array of editorial and commercial clients, including the ever-vibrant Kirstie Allsopp. Here she talks to EIZO about her grounding in fine art photography and how this, alongside her lifelong creative drive, helped cement her identity as a photographer in the commercial world.
Photo by Fiona Murray
You felt a creative drive from an early age, how did you start out?
When you’re artistic you have a passion for it, it’s rooted in you. I think I’m lucky as I have friends who are still searching for what makes them tick, but I knew from a very early age. I started art school at 17 and graduated by the time I was 21, I made big decisions about my life really young. But I was lucky because I felt that by going to art school, no matter what experience I got out of it at the other end I was really driven to pursue a creative career path.
Fiona Murray’s Kit List:
Canon 5d Mark III and II
Canon 16-35mm f/2.8L
Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L
Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L
Canon 50mm f/1.4
2 Canon 580EX Flash Heads
3 Bowens 500 Digital Heads, plus various softboxes, dishes and honeycombs
A couple of Metz 60c flashes with mini softboxes
Most importantly an EIZO CG243W
Do you think studying at art school rather than a straight university made a difference?
We didn’t actually learn all that much technical stuff initially and I didn’t touch a camera in my first year. My degree is in Fine Art and I specialised in photography, so in the first year I was working with painters, sculptors, environmental artists, so you think about colour and light much more, composition is massively important. I think it made me a more rounded creative.
Which techniques have stayed with you in your career?
I have a few things that I always keep in mind compositionally. I can remember my tutor saying ‘look after the edges and the middle will take care of itself’. Also forget the name of the thing that you’re seeing, I know that sounds a bit airy fairy but really stop looking at an object as a named object and really start to see it in terms of shade, colour and form. Really hold onto light, find out why it’s so important. Light is probably the most important thing in photography, and the same in painting, in all art forms and the way that we see.
Your portraiture must draw on your social as well as technical skills?
I’m always nervous before a portrait, because 98% of people, the first thing they’ll say to me is ‘I hate having my photo taken.’ Probably 60% of my job is to make people feel relaxed in front of the camera and 40% is the technical part. Cameras can be really horrible to some people, I’m not particularly photogenic and I’m a great one for spending maybe 45 minutes just chatting to someone before I take a picture. It’s a cheat’s way of seeing how people move, how people will move their face, how people will move their body, how they naturally sit.
Photo by Fiona Murray
So it takes groundwork to get the perfect shot?
Usually the best shot won’t be the first shot, it’ll be further in when I’ve stopped looking through the camera to make sure everything is ok with the lighting and so on. It’ll be the one when I’m using my cable release and looking them in the eye, making them feel comfortable. As a photographer it’s really difficult to find that elusive smile, real smiles have such a short lifespan.
What about after the shoot, what’s your post-production process like?
The shoot is important but how the image appears is probably more important, because you want it to be just as good and if there’s a missing link anywhere along the line then you’re not really showing your work to the best it can be.
Photo by Fiona Murray
Your work is very colourful, so your post-production must be very precise.
I’m quite brutal when it comes to post-production, I’m such a perfectionist. Lots of people still use Mac monitors because they get them in packages, but EIZO are just the best. It’s really difficult to deny that they make your image processing quicker, because they do. If you have a really good calibrated monitor and you know what is true colour – I colour card lots of things so I know what true colour is - then they just make processing and retouching so much quicker because you know that at the other end you’ll have an image that is real. It’s what actually appeared.
You can learn more about Fiona and her work here: www.fionamurray.com
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