I started using a camera at the age of 16 when I bought my first camera (A yashica SLR) and a 50mm lens. After using the camera for about a week or so I realised that I needed to learn more about the technical side of photography. I read every magazine that was available ranging from Amateur Photographer to The British Journal Of Photography. I knew from an early stage that I would like to try and become a professional photographer one day, but had no idea about running a business or marketing to get the right customers. I kept thinking that one day I would get published in a magazine and it would start my career. In early 1997 I started a course that would change everything.
I studied fine art photography and worked in black and white exclusively for the next five years exposing film, developing it in a small tank in my bathroom and producing fine art prints using fibre based paper and selenium toner. My work was meticulously scrutinised by my tutor (which I thank him for today) and photography became a real passion. I worked as a landscape photographer covering a large area from The Malvern Hills through the Elan Valley up to Aberystwyth and along the coast. Using 35mm film in a Nikon FM2 with a 24mm Nikon Ai lens and 6x6cm film in a Mamiya C330 twin lens reflex camera with an 80mm lens.
I registered the domain name www.pureprints.com and started planning a new website. Also in early 1998 I received a call from The British Journal of Photography who wanted to feature a few of my images in the magazine. I sent off the prints and had a portfolio and profile printed in the April edition of the magazine. I got one job from the feature, with a landscape photography calender company, I was supplied with some camera equipment and a selection of Fuji Velvia transparency film, and asked to travel around the area photographing the landscape producing colour images to be used for calendars and postcards. I found it difficult to work with Velvia at first after using black and white film for so long, but I soon realised that the print industry mainly needed colour photography and so I focused on learning colour.
I started to think about stock photography and advertising photography and decided to work with Fuji Velvia slide film exclusively, and tried not to use black and white film for a while. The post card and calender business made me realise that if I wanted to make a living from photography I needed to produce work that customers actually needed, not what I thought they "needed". My style of photography changed and I started to think about commercial photography more.
After meeting Sharon and planning to get married it was my job to book a photographer and organise the music for the big day. Imagine how hard it is to book a photographer when you are a keen photographer yourself. I knew very quickly what I wanted and after discussing it with Sharon we agreed we wanted a very relaxed photographer, that would just capture the wedding in a documentary style. I organised a meeting with a general documentary/reportage photographer and did not look for a professional wedding photographer.
The meeting went well and we booked our photographer. After the wedding I realised how great it was that we did not have to interact with our photographer all day, and it just happened without any problems. The results were also just what we wanted, relaxed images of us both enjoying the day with our friends and family, a few formal family group photographs and detail shots of the cake and tables. I never thought I would start photographing weddings but it made me realise there must be other couples that would want a similar relaxed informal style. At this stage I never new I would spend the next fifteen years photographing weddings.
Shortly after we got married our friends started getting married, and after attending a friends wedding I came back with about six black and white images I liked. One of the images became the logo for our new wedding photography business. I set up the wedding photography business and decided to call it Richard Barley Photography. I used the domain name www.pureprints.com to test the market, and produced a website that was like a commercial image library with one section for wedding photography. We booked twenty six weddings in the first year and forty six in the second year which gave me a very good start. I was able to produce a wedding photography portfolio and another website www.richardbarley.co.uk.
I have now photographed over three hundred weddings and teach photography courses to help people improve their photography skills and get past the complicated digital cameras we all have to use. I believe in mastering the basic techniques first and not complicating the process. I have been asked by many students "How did you do it" and I hope I can now share with you thirty three years of experience as an amateur and professional photographer buying and selling cameras and running a photography business.