Photographer Spotlight Alistair Tutton
Alistair Tutton is one of the funniest, brightest, and most cheerful clients we’ve had the pleasure of working with. Be it for customer support needs, rental inquiries, or furthering his business through sales, Alistair’s good humor and professionalism in his portfolio and business shines through every interaction he has with us at Capture Integration, and we’re glad we got a moment to sit down and talk with him about his photography.
Anyone who talks to you on the phone picks up right away that you’re (as you put it) an Englishman with “magnificent use of the Queen’s English”. With this unique perspective (and schooling in three different countries), have you used a different approach than your peers in the American market?
I definitely feel I have a different approach because I have to say everything twice – people never understand a word I say, and they always think my name is Alison or All-Star, but once we get past that they are totally into me. Kidding aside, I think the English thing is a huge icebreaker: people love to chat about England, and it’s definitely something that people will remember about me.
But the biggest “import” I took from the UK was watching my father create his own architectural practice, the long hours he worked and the commitment he showed to building something really helped me understand the level of commitment I needed to create a successful commercial photography studio. Also, having my own degree in architecture has been a big advantage. It’s a great degree for mixing design and art with the realities of problem solving, and that is truly an enormous part of the challenge of creating imagery. After University I wound up working in retail design and ultimately was a creative director in charge of multi-million design and fabrication projects. That coupled with marketing and client meetings are basically all the skills you need to be developing to run a business. One day I simply walked away from that career and into photography, but then I was really well set to take my creativity to the next level.
Why Capture Integration? What made you choose us?
I love the gear we use to make images, and I love to tinker; and I take huge pride in not just being able to create the most emotional and impactful image possible, but also the best technical image imaginable. Sharp in the right place, soft in the right place, highlights crisp or less distinct. I work hard to truly exceed the creative brief. I’ve surrounded myself with great assistants, wonderful re-touchers, amazing stylists and the last part of that puzzle is the gear – the image capturing machine in my hands. A few years ago I was in the position to jump into medium format, and the one consistent solution in that field for me had been Capture Integration. They had presented seminars in Kansas City, they had come to meet with me, invited me out to workshops and that was fantastic. My schedule finally opened up and I was able to attend a workshop. I spent three days in Montana with Jeffrey Jacobs showing me how to really light architectural imagery and getting all kinds of hand-on experience with the best equipment in the world. After that I was hooked; I knew that Capture Integration would really be the partner to work with me on selecting the right equipment and supporting me with all the technical needs I have.
Bottom line: my relationship with Capture Integration has been amazing. They have saved my ass so many times. They have kept my equipment working and helped me get the best out of it time and time again.
Your humor, evident throughout your blog, videos, and conversations sets an interesting lens to view your photography through. With the level of clientele you serve, do you feel having that personality and humor helps as compared to the seemingly stoic or clinical websites of other architectural or food photographers?
Nobody wants to spend eight hours on-set with an asshole – nobody. So the focus is to insure that no matter what is happening on-set you keep the shoot pleasant and happy; you’re there to make exceptional images, and the more positive the working environment the better the images will be. It’s as simple as that for me. We’re definitely professional, but if you’re not laughing and smiling while you’re making images then you’re not having the best day you can have. And creating photography is truly the best way I’ve found to spend the day.
The eternal debate between specialization versus generalization… You have work in a large number of genres (possibly the most out of any one photographer that I’ve interviewed thus far.) Was this a conscious marketing decision, or was it something that you just felt you wanted to do because you enjoyed?
When I first started as a photographer I wound up in architectural photography. That was my degree, and had been my entire professional experience to that point. Then I found things just snowballed from there…I started to get hired for home interiors in magazines, and they loved the images, so they’d send me food shoots; and they loved the images, so they’d send me on portrait shoots…. Also I love dogs, just love them, so I have a smattering of puppy images (I literally street-cast dogs and beg the owners to bring them to the studio or go on location with them;) and I’ve landed animal shoots from that. I am constantly reminded that I need to specialize, and I know that I will have to do that to continue to win bigger and better and more exciting shoots; but right now I am loving solving problems across a whole range of genres, with different cameras and lighting and talent and subjects, and that variety makes my career way more fun.
Your motion work features a lot of stop motion and timelapse photography. I usually find shooting these techniques easier to plan as still photographs, rather than as constantly moving film pieces. How do you set them up? What’s your planning or thought process when putting the final shot list and edit together from the planning or storyboard stage?
Every one of these projects is driven by the client brief. The two that have been most successful for us was the Sutter Home series and the Cleveland Bridge project. For Sutter Home we were challenged with creating four videos a day: the big thing was consistent angles and variety in color and props over the course of months. So we would carefully document all the lighting techniques and settings, and product position. Then we used only two camera angles, but really worked on how we could mix up some of the basic elements for variety. The agency did storyboard the cocktail building steps, but we got to add all the little human touches.
For Cleveland, we had to cover the final action of moving a lifting bridge into place. This shoot involved the movement of a million pounds of steel bridge a half mile down the river. We captured this from a variety of vantage points, so I had to scout the location with the engineering team to determine the critical steps and best vantage points. Then we had to arrange access to those areas, assemble a team from a mixture of local and Kansas City talent that all understood how time lapse photography worked. Each shooting position was set to accomplish a different type of shot: some had motorized heads, some were set to capture full motion, but most were time lapse. This shoot took over two days to complete and involved dusk and dawn time lapses, so we had to bracket for those moments to insure a seamless capture. When we had the final take we’d captured over 130GB of imagery, and then had to edit this all down to tell that story.
What’s currently in your bag? What are you shooting with, what are the go to essentials on your sets, or even for when you’re editing or lighting?
We love our IQ260, it’s simply a stunning image making machine. We love partnering it with the Cambo body or the Phase One body. The tonal depth, the colors, the detail are simply breathtaking. We just added some Profoto B1s, and they are game changers to us. It is so easy to set up lights without a huge amount of gear, just getting away from cables feels so amazing. We’re using them for product and food, and for architectural imagery. It’s a wonderful set-up to fly with or use with editorial work. But one thing that shocked me with how good it was is the Arca-Swiss Cube Head – seriously, that head is amazing. It totally transforms the level of control you can have to composing your images. I highly recommend it.
The parrot shoot (and the video behind it) that you did is hugely entertaining; what made you choose parrots as subjects to test motion for the IQ260?
We wanted texture and detail, and we wanted to capture animals. We decided that the perfect combination of those would be birds, and reached out to a local rescue group and the next thing we know we have three parrots on set. They were incredibly well behaved and the images are simply stunning. Seeing the breathtaking detail of every single element of every single feather was exactly what we wanted. Plus the color was superb. Definitely a great case study.
I see you don’t have the fullest list of social media on your website, but know you have a presence on various other sites than your photography Facebook page and your blog. Have you made a conscious decision to separate out the work presence from the home?
My personal social media is definitely a tad more edgy than my business page should be; my sarcasm is completely untethered there, and what a fabulous experience that is for everyone! But I must admit I assume that people want to see photography on the photography social media and me on my feed, so I’m definitely going to keep that theme going. The big change I want to make is in making a much more dramatic investment in highlighting what we’re doing on the photography Facebook page. We’re trying to develop a system for doing that, so we can consistently feed through final retouched images, and show some behind the scenes imagery too.
The big development for me on social media is that my girlfriend, Lisa, and I are developing a new food blog – she cooks and I shoot. It’s been an amazing experience; it’s really fun to work with someone you love doing a job you love. We’re creating some beautiful images and eating some amazing food – peasloveandyorkshirepuddings.com
What would you want to see next in the industry? Any big changes to your gear or photography that you want to see in the next year?
I’m desperate for that full frame CMOS medium format sensor that I can use in the Cambo and in a Phase body. I just want all that tonal depth and clarity that create jaw dropping visual awesomeness, but at a crazy ISO like 200, or heaven forbid 400. After that I think the big change for 2016 is going to be an almighty push in food. I simply love creating those sexy food images. The big shift here could be building a new studio. Right now I work in a 1920’s silent movie theatre, it’s huge and wonderful to work in; but I want to build some home sets, a couple of kitchens that I can light easily on a cloudy day and walk out of my back door to work in. The other big change has to be in staffing. I would love to add a producer, or a rep, or both, we’re insanely busy and I just want that one super organized person that can get us organized and be pounding the streets while I’m trapped behind the camera. The final shift is going to be pushing the blog with Lisa as hard as we can – it’s an amazing creative release and I’m really excited to see those images start to feed into my portfolio next year.
To end on a more humorous note: alright, Mr. Englishman…you photographed an MLS stadium for Sporting KC. How was your American football experience? And have you ever done similar work in a more football-centric country?
I did love climbing all over Sporting’s amazing stadium, I got to see every part of the stadium and captured some beautiful images. The best part was the passion of the fans, the Sporting faithful are concentrated in their North stand, in the “Cauldron.” They are incredibly passionate and loud, and full of energy and it truly makes for an amazing game. I’ve also shot Arrowhead stadium, the home of the Chiefs and the College World Series in Omaha. It’s superb to sit back and capture that amazing atmosphere of the crowd. The one sport I would love to shoot is rugby, I absolutely adore rugby and have traveled all over to watch it live, and even travel across the country to catch it live in some darkened bar at the crack of dawn before the internet saved our lives. The only issue is that I would spend all my time watching the game and not capturing the scene!
You can find more of Alistair’s work below: