Jorja Smith by Will Beach

Interview With Photographer & Director Will Beach

Photography by Will Beach

Editor’s comment: The Fade In Magazine had the pleasure of talking with the London-based photographer and director Will Beach, to gain insight into Beach’s process of creative direction, shooting style, and memorable shoots. Will Beach furthermore talks to us about his career within not only directing and photography but also about his work in music management. 

What’s your story as a photographer, how did it come along that you wanted to be in that field of career?

There was something I just liked about being able to show something through an image. Even when I was a kid, I was always taking pictures – I had some small Kodak camera – one of those ones you could print straight from. I loved it. I think my late teens were the beginning of the Instagram years, which encouraged me to shoot more.

I didn’t come up through the old school routes: assisting a photographer or going to art school. I started just shooting friends of mine who made music, this just snowballed. Like anything, when you start doing it and putting yourself out there, the jobs only get better, and you’re only going to get better with time – 10,000 hours and all that. Each gig led to another, and before I knew it, five days after I handed in my dissertation, I found myself on the Ed Sheeran tour with Anne-Marie doing her tour photography, an opportunity I will forever be thankful for. It really helped me break out as a photographer and get my work known.

Anne-Marie by Will Beach

Where do you creatively draw inspiration from when you’re directing a shoot? How do you usually prepare for a collaboration with a client?

I reflected on this recently, actually. During this Covid-19 pandemic, I’ve retreated back to my family home in rural Herefordshire. I grew up on and around farms for the most part, as well as stints in Southampton and Cardiff. My grandparents are farmers and I always enjoyed being in and around the farm – in fact my first ever portfolio was based on the farm. I’ve come a long way since then, but when I look at the tones and color palette which I use, it makes sense where it came from. I love natural colour palettes. Something farms have lots of.

Music is also a super big part of my influence; I grew up an absolute music head – in fact, I’m pretty sure if I wasn’t a photographer, I’d now be a producer or even artist. I used to make tracks back in the day – even now, I run a music management company. Growing up, I used to study music videos and was absolutely fascinated by the creativity and storytelling in them. Directors like Nabil are big icons of mine.

 Covid-19 “Stay Creative” by Will Beach

When I’m collaborating with an artist or client, I just try to bring what makes me different. On my first few big shoots, they can be quite intimidating, and it’s easy to do what they want before I learnt that I actually have something to show people and a style that represents me. I think it’s true that you get the best out of someone when you let them be themselves and express themselves. I hate making mood boards, to be honest with you, although, in all honesty, this is where most creative processes start.

I’m an overthinker, or as I like to think: an aim higher kind of guy. I usually start with some crazy big creative direction, which I would love to achieve and then look at ways in which it can be scaled down to be achieved. I actually think the creative direction bit is the most frustrating part sometimes because of budget restrictions.

Bossy LDN by Will Beach

You’ve worked with a lot of exciting clients and artists – can you highlight a gig that was special, for any given reason, out of all the projects that you’ve worked on?

Ahh, this is tricky – there have been a lot of special moments for different reasons. There have definitely been a few more special than others, though. The most exciting ones are when you know you’re lucky to be in the position you’re in, that makes you feel amazing. That’s what I love about doing the tour photos. Snapping everyday things of an artist which most people wouldn’t see. It’s those moments that you’re part of – you never know what might happen.

Loyle Carner by Will Beach

Every photographer wants to be the first to capture something or the first to concept something new. For this reason, the Jorja shoot was one of my favourite ever. Jorja told me during the shoot it was the first time she’d been shot with her natural hair, which gets you excited as a photographer – the fact you have a chance to capture something like that before anyone else makes it feel like I’m not just another photographer shooting with her. I also worked with an incredible team on that shoot, which sweetened it even more.

Jorja Smith by Will Beach

To be completely honest, though, my favourite shoots are sometimes the smaller ones. For me, working with an artist you yourself love is a wicked feeling. It’s like when you save your favourite photo of an artist you love to use as your phone background – well imagine being the guy who gets to direct and capture their favourite artist, doesn’t get much better than that.

What are the main things that you prioritise during sessions? What do you look for in a picture?

If its portraiture – it’s rapport and relationship. My first goal is to strike some sort of relationship with the artist or model. Once you’ve done this, the shoot is easy. I’ve not been brought through the ranks learning how to shoot studio; I had to educate myself on it and ask others around me. Therefore, I’ve carried quite a “behind the scenes” feel through from my tour photography. For me – less is more when shooting portraits. I want to see who you really are, capture that moment that shows your genuine personality, not how well you can pose to a camera.

Sam Wise (House of Pharaohs) by Will Beach

If it’s tour photography – being ready at all times. It takes one moment where you might stumble across something that just needs capturing. I had so much fun with this when we were on tour in Asia with Anne-Marie. Whilst coming back from a meal, we stumbled across this beautiful room where the lights changed colour – it was an opportunity that couldn’t be missed.

“Think about what you’re trying to put out and how you can achieve it. Not what camera you can buy for your budget. Do your research and find what you feel will be best for your storytelling.”

Will beach on photography

What’s the best advice you could give an aspiring photographer?

Enjoy it, be confident with it, don’t let people tell you it’s shit, and if they do, don’t be put down by it. Photography is an amazing world, there is absolutely no boundaries to it. I think young photographers assume they have to have the best kit and the cleanest photos. It’s not about that at all. In time you’ll find a kit that works for you. It could be a toy camera or a top of the range medium format. I’ve seen shoots in massive magazines on nothing more than a toy camera.

Think about what you’re trying to put out and how you can achieve it. Not what camera you can buy for your budget. Do your research and find what you feel will be best for your storytelling.

 Octavian by Will Beach

And at last, what’s your go-to equipment? What do you always bring with you on sets?

My 50mm Pentax lens. It’s one of the lenses I’ve just fallen in love with. It always seems to be better than any other high price lens I have. It’s almost a little more unpredictable because it’s an old manual lens. I find it makes shooting a little more enjoyable and imperfect like the old school cameras, which sometimes leads to the best shots

Check out more of Will Beach’s work online here