After 20 years as a graphic designer, Clive Booth decided to follow his lifelong ambition of becoming a photographer and filmmaker. The British Canon Ambassador is now in constant demand for his atmospheric fashion, beauty and portrait imagery.
Not only is Clive Booth a celebrated photographer and filmmaker but he's also still a practising graphic designer. "I like to think of myself as a designer with a camera," he says. "In the early 90s, I had shot stills and films for the Royal Geographic Society in the High Arctic, among polar bears and icebergs. I also worked as a cameraman for BBC TV, and in particular [British children's TV show] Blue Peter, but I never went professional; it was simply down to a lack of confidence. I had commissioned and art-directed photographers for years until finally, in 2003, a chance event changed my life."
This chance event occurred when Clive agreed to help at a charity event on the Scottish Island of Islay to raise money for the RNLI and the Children's Hospice for Scotland. Clive and his team rowed around the Island, which is famous for its whisky, on old skiff boats, picking up whisky from each of its then eight distilleries, with the idea of creating a unique blend to auction off.
"I had agreed to design the label and a photographer friend agreed to do the shoot," Clive continues, "but he broke his leg a week before and rather than let everyone down, I hired two cameras and did the photography myself. It was a seminal moment, which gave me the confidence to begin a career as a photographer."
It would be another twist of fate, this time in 2006, which would give Clive the professional push he needed. "I had been working with LVMH (Moët Hennessy – Louis Vuitton SE) as a designer, but my passion for photography had led me to taking my camera everywhere, including some very lavish Moët parties.
"One such party was to celebrate the then 25-year career of fashion photographer Nick Knight. I took along my Canon EOS 5D and 85mm prime, and shot a series of candid reportage pictures – all in low light – which at the time was very new, as literally every other photographer was using flash. Moët sent my edit to Nick and he phoned me the next day – within a few weeks I was shooting backstage at London Fashion week for his online fashion magazine SHOWstudio.com."
It was here that he developed his distinctive style of selective focus with natural, available, continuous, found light. It's this style that gives his work an atmospheric, ethereal quality.
Today, Clive's unique style, along with constant experimentation with new technologies and techniques, has attracted numerous international clients. These include fashion brands House of Holland, Hackett London, Louis Vuitton, H&M and beauty brands Amouage, Shu Uemura, MAC Cosmetics and L'Oréal. He also works for corporate giants including Asus, Intel, Fiat, EY (formerly Ernst & Young), and Aston Martin.
Islay remains an important place for Clive. One of his personal projects is a long-term study capturing the day-to-day life of the people on the island and its landscape. This includes working closely with the Royal National Lifeboat Institution and HM Coastguard. Clive regards this work as some of the most rewarding of his career.
He is also hugely passionate about the art of photography and filmmaking. His deep level of understanding, along with his keenness to always be at the forefront of technological change and advancing processes and equipment, has meant that he has been one of the first in Europe to shoot stills and films using the Canon EOS 5D Mark II, Canon EOS C300, Canon EOS C300 Mark II, Canon EOS C500 in 4K, Canon EOS 5D Mark III, Canon EOS-1D X Mark II, Canon EOS 5DS, Canon EOS 5DS R, Canon EOS 5D Mark IV and Canon EOS R.
He was also the first in the world to shoot with a pre-production Cinema EOS C700 and the first to make an HDR film for Canon Europe using the Canon DP-V2420 reference display. His study and love of fine art print-making has led him to be chosen to be the first in Europe to use the Canon imagePROGRAF Pro-1000 and Canon imagePROGRAF Pro-2000.
How do you prepare for a shoot?
"Before nearly every shoot, whether it's a film or stills, we create a several-page treatment that gives us a kind of script to work to. I try to think through every possible scenario and outcome. I fear failure, so the best way to succeed is to prepare."
How has your background in graphic design helped you as a photographer?
"My decades as a designer have helped hone a skill for very quickly assessing a scene to decide what will and won't work. I have a kind of library of composition in my head, and it's become instinctive."
What source of lighting do you prefer?
"I am obsessed with light, particularly natural, available and – my favourite! – window light. I rarely shoot with flash, although I do occasional studio shoots. Every so often I light for both film and stills using tungsten, which is so soft, atmospheric and complementary."
How much work do you do in post?
"I often estimate that my pictures are around 80% in the capture and 20% in post-production. This goes back to preparation because I want to give every shoot a look and feel."
In your experience, how can a photographer stand out from the crowd?
"I'm an early adopter of technology, and will use whatever I can to give my work a point of difference – whether that is through collaborating with other creatives who are doing new and cool stuff, or through lighting, lens, location, subject or technology."
"Preparation is key. Do your research and have a clear vision of the outcome, even if this changes. Going in with an idea is always better than winging it. If you can, take time to get to know your subject or sitter and find some common ground, as so often photography isn't about the technical but more about interpersonal skills. Learning to edit your work is one of the hardest skills to develop and it's vital to know what to keep and what to lose. Always go for a 'less is more' approach; it's better to submit three great pictures than 20 average ones!"