Andreea and her partner Matt started their photography business, Light and Imagination in 2016. Its travel spin-off 'Click Click Travel' followed in autumn 2019 (yes, great timing, just a few months before Covid struck!).
Originally from Romania, Andreea moved to the UK almost 20 years ago. "Matt claims I’m the ‘exotic’ one – as he’s ‘only’ from Kent. Both of us have spent a lot of time abroad in our careers – in fact, when we met, Matt was living and working in China – this became one of our top photo tour destinations and is always close to our hearts (yes, despite the virus)."
How and when did you get into photography? What was your first camera?
Both Matt and I have been into photography for as long as we can remember, although in the film days it was an expensive hobby for children! My dad gave me the bug and we even had a dark room in our flat back in native Bucharest. My first camera was probably something cheap and East European like a Praktica (I honestly can’t remember) but I recently dusted off (and use occasionally just for fun) my grandad’s over 100-year-old Voiglander. Matt’s first camera was a Canon – the AV1, but nowadays he’s got quite a collection of vintage film cameras (boys and their toys). These are ‘just for fun’ though, as we are both fully digital these days.
What equipment do you have now and what is your favourite lens?
We both shoot on Canon and have a nice collection of lenses between us – which we share (reluctantly, at times). My favourite lens used to be the f2.8 70-200 but since I’ve discovered the f1.4 85mm, it’s rarely left the front of my camera. Matt’s quite partial to his f1.2 50mm lens but when we’re in our studio in Whitstable, since he specialises in high-end commercial and advertising photography, he’s almost always on his Tamron 90mm macro. Recently we’ve both gone mirrorless for our travel business and I can’t wait to properly road-test the new f1.8 35mm RF lens on!
Where do you get inspiration?
Who inspires and influences us? I think I take something out of every single image I see and every single speaker I listen to, but if I have to mention a few names, I adore the work of Helmut Newton and Annie Leibovitz. I’m also a big fan of minimalist images and Matt’s love for the imagery of Fan Ho became contagious. Thomas Heaton and Peter Lik are some of Matt’s influencers when it comes to landscape photography – and on a more ‘contemporary’ front, his photographic life has definitely changed for the better when he met his local mentor Richard Maxted, former AOP president and master of advertising photography. I’ve definitely been transformed when I discovered Sue Bryce and her amazing portraits and mentoring approach.
Studio, on location or both? Do you plan what you want from a photo in advance?
For the past few years we’ve been splitting out time between studio and travel photography but we sometimes shoot outdoors in the UK too - although I must admit I hate the cold so I am a fair-weather landscape photographer. Our travel photography business (2020 excluded!) takes us away from home a few months of the year and I adore the diversity of our work and locations. To me, studio work is all about planning and travel work is all about serendipity, and I love both because they challenge you as a photographer in different ways, creatively, technically and practically.
I think we all start as photographers by exploring and experimenting. At the beginning, we often get things right and great images, but we don’t quite know why. Equally, often we get frustrated by our inability to translate to our camera the image that we can see with our eyes and picture in our minds. As we get more experienced and educated we learn to think more about the end to end process to add to our creative eyes and minds.
Matt is a great advocate of this when mentoring, in the studio or on location. An image starts even before you fully picture it in your mind, and well before you even reach for your camera. All the way from getting the idea in your head or seeing something with your eyes, to thinking how to frame it and what settings to apply to give you the desired effect, to editing and post-production and finally printing and sharing! Of course, shooting highly planned studio images requires a lot more up-front, the mood boards, the sketches the set creation and such! Whereas street photography in an unfamiliar location is a lot more reactive and intuitive, but let’s not underestimate all the past learning and influence that filters through what and how we shoot in that situation.
What has been your most memorable photo shoot and why?
It’s hard to choose but I must say for both of us it’s been quite an experience to organise and shoot with a professional Apsara dancer at the temple of Bayon, Angkor Wat, before sunset, while running our photo tour in Cambodia. We love to offer maximum variety of photographic opportunities on our tours, and in addition to landscape and street we thought it’d be great to arrange something similar to an outdoor model shoot, which also speaks to the culture and history of the region we’re in. So we spoke to our local fixer and were able to organise this session for our participants – the sun was setting and the crowds were dispersing, and we even got some extra time when the temple was closing to finish off, as the temple guard was quite in awe of what we were doing! One of our images from that session is proudly printed and displayed in our studio – it’s a stunning ChromaLuxe panel made by GraphiStudio.
What does photography mean to you? Would you consider yourself a hobbyist or a paid professional?
Photography used to be our hobby but since we’ve gone pro it’s an even more demanding (and high-maintenance) mistress. But it is our everything, and our passion for it is stronger than ever. Turning your hobby into your career is not for the faint-hearted – especially if you come from different business backgrounds like we both do – I’m a ‘reformed’ management consultant and Matt an engineer. But you take what’s best from your whole life experience to apply it to your new ‘baby’ - this business that is all-consuming.
What is one piece of advice you would like to offer a new photographer looking to start out or to someone looking to go professional?
If anyone were to take the plunge right now (arguably, not the best time but hey, when is it ever) I’d give them five pieces of advice:
- Start small and invest in the right things only, the ones that will push your business forward. Find the money, and be prepared to spend money, including to delegate or outsource the things you’re not that good at;
- Believe in yourself and don’t sell yourself cheap – if you don’t value your work, nobody else will. Remember nobody ever paid their bills with ‘exposure’;
- Find the photography genre and type that you truly and wholeheartedly love and stay true to your goals. It’s ok to diversify and experiment but you need to stay focused in order to be seen;
- Surround yourself with positive influences and forget about seeking recognition in all the wrong places. Take all advice with a pinch of salt (yes, this article included);
- Spend time on your self-development and self-care. Nobody can give out of an empty vessel!
Want to find out more?
For anyone interested in travel photography, we have used our time in lockdown to put together a 30-page travel photography guide with some of our photos and useful tips and tricks that you can use when photographing while traveling – even if, for the foreseeable future, that might not be that far from home. Follow this link to download your free PDF
Over the autumn and winter months, since we’ve had to postpone all of our photo tours this year, we are running virtual tours instead, through our social media channels. We will also be running a number of live sessions so make sure you follow us on social media to be kept up to speed with what we’ve got going on. These will be free to attend and are sponsored by ChromaLuxe who we are proud brand ambassadors of.