Aotearoa NZ Photographers . . . Amanda Aitken
In our ‘Aotearoa Photographers’ series we sit down with NZ based photographers to learn more about their photographic practice and how their photography career got started.
This week we chat with photographer, Amanda Aitken an architecture, interiors, and commercial photographer based in the Bay of Plenty on her photographic approach and processes behind her work and career journey as a commercial photographer.
This article is sponsored by MyChillyBin.
Tell us a little about your background – what path/key moments or people led you to becoming a photographer, and to doing what you’re doing today?
When I was 14 my parents opened up a Kodak image lab – still film in those days. I took photography in 6th form (Year 12) and was instantly drawn to the camera. I studied camera manuals back to back, shot for family and friends and went on to work in other image labs. In Australia I was printing for professional photographers and it gave me an intriguing insight to the pro world. Moving to London in 2002 landed me my first full time job as a photographer – I was totally hooked. My Mother and Father in-law were a massive support while my two girls were young (and still now, they’re 11 and 14 yrs).
How would you describe your photographic approach?
Considered, with attention to detail.
Balance of light – the mix of ambient, natural and introduced light is a technical control that is important in my style of shooting.
Connection – whether it be with people and their relationship within their environment, or aspects of a shoot which relate to what the client is trying to achieve.
Beauty, clarity, softness, form – I search for these things through my lens, with the above in mind.
What pieces of equipment or tools in your photo tool kit can you not live without?
Canon R5 cameras and L-series lenses – they handle both stills and video beautifully. My drone is essential, and fun to fly – I love the different perspectives (avoiding aggressive seagulls is a constant challenge!). Super tall tripod (can go up 7 metres!) and door stops.
Looking back to your earlier career, how did you start landing your first commercial gigs and what have you learned since then?
My first commercial project I was 17 and manager of a camera shop in a mall, the security guard there volunteered for NZ Police and asked me to shoot a search and rescue drill along with Royal NZ Air Force. Hanging out a helicopter flying over the kaimai ranges for 2 days is still one of my most memorable shoots. Although I specialise in Architectural and Interiors, I’ve learned that shooting a variety of work challenges me to adapt and broaden my creative mind. Forever learning, fine-tuning and developing my skills keeps the enjoyment alive.
What do you enjoy most about interior/architecture shoots? How much of the styling and art direction are you involved in?
People don’t see how much effort goes into the final shot – even in the most clean/staged sets, there’s still a lot of work to do to translate the right look and feel through the lens. I imagine I’m painting a picture with changes in the set, the light and framing. Adding motion over the last 8 years has added another level of creativity and inspiration.
Usually I shoot with available styling, moving things around to suit the spaces with the interior knowledge I’ve picked up over the last 20 years. Often an interior designer will be involved in the shoot, as they’re likely interested in licensing the images too. As far as art direction – mostly it will be the client and/or marketing team if they’re at the shoot. Having the architect at the shoot is helpful to get the story as we walk through. I do love collaborating so that I can focus on getting the shot and allowing others to add their expertise. But with all commercial photographers – we need to wear many hats for many roles, and I’m happy in either situation.
What goes into a commercial interiors shoot? Could you give us a bit of an insight into the process of shooting for a commercial brief?
Research and pre-planning is key. I use an app which tells me the direction of light on a map at any selected time. A brief is really important – even if it’s loose (some of my clients have been with me for over 15 years) the conversation around the project helps determine expectations. Even slight changes in a shot can shift it’s focus and purpose. So identifying what the intention is – and shooting for that – achieves the best outcome.
On the day, I shoot a lot of architectural/interior work with multiple exposures, and blend them in photoshop. What we see through our eyes (or more what our brain interprets) is different to a single capture through the lens. It’s a long process but the only way to achieve a balanced shot with a natural look.
Shooting stills and video at the same time has been a challenge. I’ve found that having a separate rig for each, and an assistant to quickly switch them out makes things a lot smoother. I’ve had a few 12 – 15 hour shoot days and having an assistant with me then is a no-brainer.
Post production – for architectural, the clients receive a gallery of proof images to make a selection from. For branding or editorial work generally I pick the best shots, work on them and send them all through.
How do you see your photography practice developing, what are your main aspirations for the next couple of years?
After having an assistant with me 4 days/week for 6 years, 2022 was my first year back on my own. It was a big adjustment and a very busy year. So at the moment I’m focusing on getting the right balance and making sure I allow enough time for post production. As much as I enjoy video editing, that’s something I’ll be outsourcing this year. I may look at other collaborations too. My biggest photography goal is to create some space for personal projects – I’m not sure what that’ll be right now, but I know it’ll benefit across all areas of my work as well.
How can people get in touch or see more of your work?
Phone: 021 127 5061