Having watched his dad convert their bathroom into a darkroom as a child, Peter Gardner was always fascinated by photography. His career has taken him through the industry's full evolution, with the rise of digital photography playing a pivotal role on his career path.
Find out more about his career with FocalAgent and as a portrait photographer - with clients including Buckingham Palace and the Queen...
Shooting with FocalAgent since: April 2014
Locations covered: Surrey Hills, Basingstoke and surrounding areas
First camera: Polaroid Swinger Land Camera
How was your interest in photography sparked?
My dad was a keen photographer. He'd convert our bathroom into a darkroom to process his films and prints. I can remember being fascinated by the whole process of printing.
When I was 13, I was given my first camera, which as a Polaroid Swinger Land Camera. It was great fun to get the photos instantly at a time when film processing usually took at least a week.
Your FocalAgent Business Coach, Mel, tells us that your hobby quickly became a career. How did it evolve from there?
Once I left school, I got an apprenticeship at a London design studio, and it was then that I bought my first film camera. It was a Praktica; very basic but great for experimenting.
As for the rest of my career, I've worked in the professional laboratory and studio environment for most of my life.
I've done every job: from printing to client liaison, management to photography.
I've photographed famous places and faces, including the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh in Buckingham Palace.
It sounds like you were doing some fantastic studio work. What made you consider a change?
The introduction of digital cameras had a great impact on professional photography, and the studio I was working for had to close. It made me rethink my career and I realised I had potential in another field.
Working in a studio environment, I had to keep accurate record of film stock, expenses, time sheets, invoices and the company diary.
I don't have a problem with admin, but I knew that working freelance would give me the freedom to organise my own diary and work locally.
I was reading the British Journal of Photography one day and came across at advert to work with FocalAgent. I knew I had the skills to make a good freelance property photographer, so I applied.
It was a great decision. Now, most of my work is FocalAgent property photography, but I still do some corporate portraiture. The split's about 90/10.
We'd love to know more about the kit you use.
Over the years, I've refined my kit for property photography.
At the moment, I'm using a Canon EOS 70D with a 10-20mm zoom. I've got a 30D as backup.
I always bring my speedlight, tripod and even a small step ladder in the car, as it's really handy for getting an elevated or an over-the-hedge shot.
Do you have a philosophy for customer service?
Yes - my philosophy is to 'be gentle with the vendor'.
I always think it's important to make an effort, be smartly dressed and polite.
Some of the people I've met are moving for the first time in 20 or 30 years, and it's not just another property. It's their home. It's good to keep that in mind - no job is just any old photoshoot.
Thanks to Peter Gardner for sharing his story - and his favourite FocalAgent photographs - with us! You can read the interviews with our other Photographers of the Month here.