Interview With Award-Winning Photographer Seb Palmer

ePz chats to Seb Palmer who won last year's SWPA Sports category with Okol Pawel.

| Interviews
Photographer Seb Palmer is one half of the award-winning photography duo Palmer + Pawel. Their portfolio, which comprises of still life, portraits and action shots of sports men, has received international recognition with the team winning 1st place in last year's Sony World Photography Awards Sports category as well as taking 1st place and receiving 4 Honorable Mentions in the 2012 Int’l Photography Awards.

ePHOTOzine was given the chance to chat to Seb about his portfolio of work, his ideas and what winning a Sony World Photography Award has done for Okol Pawel and himself.


Firstly, congratulations on winning the sports category in the 2012 Sony World Photography Awards with your MMA project! How has winning the Sports category helped your career?

"Winning the sports category has not only allowed us to gain more exposure but it's also resulted in us being funded to carry out our Sao Paulo Nights project. We shot the first part of the project, which is about Transsexual street workers in Brazil, while out in Sao Paulo during our time there when we were invited by Sony Brazil to give talks about our work. We will be returning in December to continue the project in more depth."

Interview With Award-Winning Photographer Seb Palmer: MMA Project

How did you decide what images to enter for the 2012 Sony World Photography Awards and in your eyes, what makes a winning shot?

"As with anything, it is all subjective. Nor is there such thing as a 'winning shot'. I think the only thing you can do is push yourself to attempt to produce what you consider good work and then enter the images you are most satisfied with."

How did you come up with the concept for the shoot? Do you always have an idea in-mind before you begin shooting?

"The concept for any shoot that we do arises from things that we are interested in or a subject matter that we feel will have a strong impact at the end.

We are very ideas based and believe all of our best shoots are born out of a good solid idea. I think that it is fair to say that we always have an idea set out before we begin shooting and 99% of the time we have done as much planning as possible in order to realise that vision."

Your shots of the boxers, which you won third place in the 2011 Sony World Photography Awards with, have a real sense of movement about them. Did you do this in camera? If so, can you share a few tips on how the 'look' was created?

"Yes. Everything was done in camera. We are purists in that sense, and try and achieve as much as possible in camera.

There's not much to it apart from a combination of flash to freeze the subject combined with a slower shutter speed to get the movement. There are other ways to achieve similar effects but I think the key here is to experiment as much as possible. As long as you understand what aperture and shutter speed do the rest is down to experimenting and seeing what happens."

You use a varied and impressive mixture of lighting techniques, can you give our readers a few tips on how they can create similar effects?

"As with anything in photography it's about playing around and experimenting. There may be several different techniques and tools that can be used which will produce the same outcome. Just play around and see what happens.

For the shots where faces are half lit, it's a combination of using the right light source and positioning it in the correct place and then exposing for the highlight.

For example, if you were taking a portrait and placed a big open light (whether that be with a big softbox or an umbrella) square on to the subject, they would be fully exposed; as opposed to using a smaller source of light (possibly a flash head with a snoot) positioned to the side of the face which would give you this effect of having the faces half lit."

Interview With Award-Winning Photographer Seb Palmer: Boxing

Both the MMA project and Boxers series highlight strength. Is this an important factor to try and capture in sports photography?

"It depends on what you are trying to say with your images (which links back to having an idea at the outset and planning to make this idea a reality). For example, we could have shot the same fighters in a different way to show their vulnerable side.

Also, as we are talking about our work on fighters this concept of 'strength' lends itself well to the subject matter as opposed to a ballet dancer. However, that is not to say a ballet dancer isn't strong or doesn't have 'strength'."

What made you choose to work with darker backgrounds on both projects?
"For the MMA project, the background choices were due to aesthetic reasons. The Dark crimson red gives mood and can signify blood while the lighter backgrounds used for our still life shots, for example, create juxtaposition and impact.

The Boxers were shot on a black background partly due to the mood of the shoot but also due to technical reasons in order to get the pictures with movement.

On other shoots, what backgrounds we use will change depending on aesthetics, ideas and technical reasons."

For more information on Palmer + Pawel, visit their website:

If you're interested in the Sony World Photography Awards 2013, visit the World Photography Organisation website.

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