Working in photography

Logo: RSPB Images

We asked a few questions of Ben Andrew, Picture Researcher at RSPB

Profile picture of Ben Andrew

Name – Ben Andrew

Do you work directly for RSPB?
Yes, I work as the RSPB’s Picture Researcher and I also manage our photographic library – RSPB Images. I also do undertake photoshoots for the RSPB from time to time and in my spare time take wildlife photos which the RSPB often uses

Hedgehog sitting up amongst bright autumn leaves
Hedgehog in autumn leaves, Bedfordshire (Ben Andrew)

How long have you been taking photos, how did your interest start?
I’ve been taking photos since 2008, I’ve always loved wildlife but a holiday to South Africa and borrowing my wife’s DSLR peaked my interest in not only seeing wildlife but trying to photograph it!

Preferred equipment and medium:
digital / film / video I’ve only ever used digital!

Your favourite subjects to photograph, and why? 
I love all wildlife, I focus mainly on British wildlife and do have a soft spot for reptiles and amphibians but happy to spend time photographing plants, insects as well the more well known and loved species such as foxes, deer, badgers etc!

Best job you’ve had:
Honestly it’s the one I am doing now! Its so interesting and is a wonderful combination of creativity mixed with more functional day to day work

Four Kestrel chicks in a hole in a brick wall being used as a nest
Kestrel chicks in nest, Yorkshire (Ben Andrew)

And the one you dread / hated and for what reason:
I’ve never done a job I’ve dreaded or hated but I did used to be a zookeeper and whilst that was once my dream job I did start feeling like I wanted to spend more time outside with nature rather than caring for animals in captivity

Anything especially memorable, either because of the ease / problems of obtaining the photo or what it’s been used for?
Whenever you have to work really hard for a photo such as a big slog up a mountain for Mountain Hare or a long drive and a nervous wait for something that may or may not show its always memorable and rewarding when that comes off. One of my most memorable encounters and something I am not sure I will ever witness again was photographing a male Capercaillie about 10 years ago, they are such rare and secretive birds!

What do you think makes a good picture?
I don’t think there is one thing that makes a good picture, it really depends on what you are trying to say or do with the picture, the most simple wildlife portraits with good eye contact from the subject, lovely bokeh and light etc is just as good as something complicated that may have taken ages to set up. Everyone likes something different and that’s a good thing!

Water vole sitting at the entrance to a water pipe nibbling on some grass
Water Vole eating in pipe, Kent (Ben Andrew)

They say a picture tells a thousand words, how do you think a picture can tell a story or make an impact on the reader / viewer?
A picture has the ability to make people do a whole range of things from simply eliciting an emotion all the way to taking action and a set of pictures can tell a story too, sometimes one single image is enough, but often a small selection of images is needed, images are very powerful things

We’re hoping that our readers will capture things from their jobs and behind the scenes, what advice would you give them to get a great image?
Try and do what you love, don’t feel the need to adopt a style, technique or pick a subject because you think others want or need to see it, if you love it and have a passion for it then that will result in a better image!

Few of our readers will have “proper SLR cameras” and many will be using their phones, are their any tips on how to get the best photos?
I could talk about tips for hours but for me its about 3 things most of the time – making the most of the light you have, thinking about things such as foregrounds and backgrounds and not rushing your work, if you need to keep perfecting that shot wait, be patient, keep checking what you have and learn from what is and isn’t working and continue plugging away!

Ben is on X @benandrewphotos

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Posted On: 28/05/2024

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