Photographer Tom Bunning on a passion for shooting, portraits & gear

Filed in Ask a Pro, Pro Photographers, Products, United Kingdom by on September 4, 2013
The Homeless FA – West Bromwich Albion. © Tom Bunning

The Homeless FA – West Bromwich Albion. © Tom Bunning

Editor’s note: Tom Bunning is a London-based photographer who specializes in music, fashion and portraiture. This range of subjects keeps Tom at the forefront of what’s new, what’s fresh and what matters. Tom regularly shoots for Nike and Levi’s, and shoots backstage at London fashion Week for TONI&GUY. He also serves as the portrait project photographer for the Homeless FA (Football Association), England’s national homeless football charity.

We caught up with Tom in between assignments to ask about his inspiration, shooting style, gear list and what’s up next.

Read this exclusive interview and check out his gorgeous imagery on his web site and blog.  

Was there a particular moment in your life when you decided, I think I’ll be a photographer for a living?
I really got in to taking pictures as a kid but after finishing my Art Foundation course at 19, I stopped. I’d decided to put all my energy into working in the industry of my other big passion – music. After a temporary stint at Universal Music as the post boy, I landed a job at Abbey Road Studios. A couple of my colleagues there would go out shooting on their Holgas and Horizon Panoramic cameras and develop the film in the staff kitchen during lunch breaks. Seeing these guys get excited about their shots encouraged me to pick up a camera again so I dusted off my old Pentax that my Grandfather gave me and had another bash. I began going out in the evenings shooting bands and club nights and soon I’d well and truly caught the bug again. I scrimped and saved to buy my first Digital SLR and as soon as I had it in my hands I left the studios to give the photography thing a proper go. I had to work day and night at a bar to supplement my income for the first year or so but seven years later, here I am, a bona fide photographer. Yes!

The Homeless FA – Team England. © Tom Bunning

The Homeless FA – Team England. © Tom Bunning

Your portraits are incredibly vivid and have a certain kind of “bright” moodiness – if that makes sense. How would you describe your portraiture shooting style?
Every person and every project is different and a lot of the time I won’t know until the last minute what light I’m going to have to work with, and how I want to light the subject. However with The Homeless FA project, I did a series of lighting tests before the first shoot. I wanted each shot to have a distinct style and feel and for the series to make sense as a body of work. It was also extremely important to test and decide upon a lighting style that would suit both male and female subjects. Whatever the circumstances I always try to capture a simple, clean, honest portrait that gives the viewer a sense of the person in front of the lens. For some people, that’s a lot of themselves, for others, it’s just a glimpse. Although I have lighting and shooting techniques that I revert to as standard, for me, the subjects and the circumstances have to dictate the style. For example, with the Homeless FA, I found it worked best to have the subjects looking just off camera, over to my right shoulder. Whilst some of the guys and girls were confident and strong looking head-on in to the camera, many of them found it unnerving. To give them a focal point outside of the shot allowed them to relax, and really show off the strength and confidence that the Homeless FA has given them.

The Homeless FA – Derby. © Tom Bunning

The Homeless FA – Derby. © Tom Bunning

What is the Homeless World Cup and how did you get involved in this organization?
The Homeless World Cup is a really great charity that really helps homeless people turn their lives around through football. The UK organisation is run by a chap who I’ve worked with before on many other projects, and I jumped at the chance to get involved I pitched the portrait project idea to them and they went ahead with it. The charity uses football to help homeless people develop their skills and abilities – both on and off the field – to gain self-respect and confidence, to improve their health, and ultimately to transform their lives.

But they can put it way better than me. I do pictures, not words! Check out their website:

The Homeless FA – Team England. © Tom Bunning

The Homeless FA – Team England. © Tom Bunning

What kind of camera gear is in your kit…and which Lowepro bags do you rely on the most?
I have too much kit bulging out of cupboards and shelves in the studio but in my regular kit bag:

Cameras: Two Canon 5D MKIII’s (I always carry two bodies, just in case I have any trouble with one on a shoot).

Lenses: I use Canon’s L-Series range: one 24-70mm 2.8, 85mm 1.2 one 35mm 1.4 and a 70-200mm 2.8 MKII IS.

Lighting: I use 4 x Elinchrom RX600 mono blocks and diffusion for studio set-ups.

A Ranger RX Speed for location lighting as well as the Ranger Quadra kit.

I normally edit in either Lightroom or Capture one to process files, and Photoshop for additional retouch. I use a MacPro in the studio with Eizo monitors and but on location I use a 15″ MacBook Pro.

I rely heavily on the Lowepro Pro Roller x-Series range for both location and studio work. The x300 is one of the only bags on the market that I can carry all my kit in, and know that it’s well protected. And it can take the weight of the camera, mono blocks and batteries for location lighting.

Pro Roller x300 with gear. © Tom Bunning

Pro Roller x300 with gear. © Tom Bunning

Any upcoming projects you’re excited about?
This September I’ll be back at London Fashion Week for another year. Always a hectic, but fun time. I’m shooting a lot for Nike at the moment too and in November I’ll be back with The Homeless FA shooting another series of portraits. We’re working on an exhibition of the project towards the end of the year. In the midst of all that I’m hoping to have the odd day here and there for personal work. I’ve recently picked up a lovely Mamiya RZ67 Pro II. It’s really fun to shoot with and I love getting my hands working with film again.

While we’re on the subject of exciting stuff, I can now announce that I’ve just shot the cover for Mo Farah’s forthcoming autobiography Twin Ambitions. It’s out on 10th October. What a top, top guy – and super nice to boot – go buy the book!

That’s it! Exciting times. Long may they continue.

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Katrina is the Senior Editor & Communications Manager for Lowepro.

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