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Stuff Meets: Greg Williams

BAFTA's first ever photographer in residence discusses shooting celebrities and making you a better snapper

I work in the entertainment business

I’ve worked on over 200 movies as a specials photographer, which means you go on set and produce material to complement the film. I’ve shot posters for four Bond films and try to bring authenticity to everything I shoot – whether that’s stage side at the Oscars, BAFTAs or in an actor’s home.

I’m a candid photographer

It’s very in-the-moment and you will often see a first person interaction with the lens. I want the audience to feel like they are breathing the same air as the subject.

I started photography when I was six

By eight I knew what a Leica camera was, but I was 32 before I could afford one. I mostly use a Q2 with a fixed 28mm lens. It’s a small, light, unobtrusive and you know the millisecond you push the shutter it’s captured the shot. For portraits I switch to an SL2 with 75mm and 90mm lenses.

Getting a great picture only takes a couple of minutes

Maybe I’m in someone’s hotel room before a red carpet or on set between takes, so the Q2 allows me to work extraordinarily fast and I shoot really close up, generally around 0.7 metres to two metres. I recently released the Daniel Craig X Greg Williams limited edition Leica Q2 which was a career highlight.

Empathy plays a bigger part than my photography skills

If you’re not in the dressing room, not on the plane, on the boat or on set you can’t take the picture, so you have to build trust with people incredibly quickly. I’ve shot big Hollywood actresses minutes before a premiere, literally met them and within a minute I’m in the bathroom photographing them brushing their teeth.

My online course is called ‘Candid Photography Skills’

The idea is you can take great photos in any scenario without any specialist equipment. Sounds big headed, but I don’t know anyone that’s watched the course and hasn’t improved their photography… apart from a couple of very, very good photographers who laughed and took the p***.

The first thing that attracted me to photography was the cameras

I love all the shiny kit, and when you’re younger you think you need it, but you don’t. It helps you, but not having it shouldn’t hinder you. I dart in with a camera and leave two minutes later with a really cool picture, and the course teaches you to do that with a phone.

I speak to so many people who say: ‘I can’t take a good photo’

I challenge you that’s not true – they’ve just never thought about it. You start by having control and thinking like a photographer. When you reach the highest point, and this is still without any specialist equipment, you’ll go in with an idea, but also the ability to immediately spot something better.

Apple’s iPhone 12 Pro Max has an astonishing camera

I go out confident that if everything went wrong I still have my phone. Automatic cameras tend to expose towards a mid-grey so having control over your exposures is probably the single most important thing to look for in an automatic camera and Apple has smashed it.

Think about your photos before posting them on Instagram

Don’t be lazy, stand up, use shapes, use angles, stand on tables, lie on the floor and look up, move around and try to make your pictures more dynamic… look for the detail in the story you’re trying to tell.

I’d love to photograph Barack Obama at home

Which is odd because it’s not like he’s not really well photographed. He just represents something to me in politics that genuinely brought hope and he was also honest about his flaws. When you shoot someone at home you know about the books they read, the art they like, their furniture and their taste… or lack of it.

For Greg Williams’ Candid Photography course visit skillsfaster.com The Daniel Craig X Greg Williams Leica Q2 is available from gwshop.uk

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