Ross Willsher is a seasoned social and commercial photographer based in the UK. Ross owns a thriving and successful photography business, specializing in weddings, portraits, performances, food/products, and street photography. He is City and Guilds qualified and pursues his passion for photography with meaning and purpose. His creativity and visual storytelling skills are masterfully reflected in every image he captures. Prior to becoming a photographer, Ross worked with members of the community who had special needs and dementia so he is a natural when it comes to making his subjects feel at ease in front of the camera. When he is not photographing, Ross loves to spend time with family, train for half-marathons, and be creative in the kitchen. This week Ross speaks to atlas about his fabulous street photography, the process he undergoes with his camera on the street, and how he is developing his own unique style. We are thrilled to showcase Ross and his work once again.
Since we last featured your beautiful photography work, what have you been working on recently?
This year I have been busy building my photography business and have photographed a range of subjects and locations. I have shot quite a few weddings in a reportage style that my street photography has definitely helped with. In addition, I have also photographed families, food, and products for websites and captured some live performances including the Military Wives Choir. It has been such an exciting and diverse year. As the festive season approaches I have few charity balls to photograph and once again my street photography will help me to get lots of natural shots of the guests and speakers at these events.
Your street photography is so rich and compelling which makes you a talented visual storyteller. Street photography can be challenging for some photographers. Some sit in the same spot for hours waiting for the right shot while others just point and shoot randomly. It can be so unpredictable. What is your approach to creating your street images?
One thing I do not do is take lots of photos and just hope some are good. Of course, when you upload the images from the day’s shoot onto the computer, some you thought were going to be great turn out not to be and vice versa. But I usually know which ones have worked and why as soon as I have shot them. I very rarely sit and wait in one location for a long period of time. However, once I see a story unfolding in front of me, I do wait for the best moment to click the shutter — such as a certain expression or gesture taking place. I like to wander — sometimes around the same area for several hours — but in busy areas people come and go and several different stories can be captured in one location in one short period of time.
How did you learn street photography? Did you attend a formal class or just started photographing?
I studied photography in London for three years but I never saw myself as a street photographer. There were other photographers on my course who had been doing street photography for years and I never envisioned that it would be something I would naturally have a flair or passion for. I got into it after challenging myself to take street portraits of strangers to build my confidence as a portrait photographer and it grew from there. I was surprised how popular my first few shots were on social media and it made me think that maybe street photography was not just for London “artsy types”!
In your opinion, what is most challenging about street photography?
Probably the fact you have no guarantee of coming back with any shots. This is not a problem as street photography is a hobby and not where I make my money as a professional photographer. However, sometimes on cold wet days after a delayed train journey into the capital city, I hope and pray it will be worth it.
I love these images you shot from London. Each one tells a little story, plus the composition and the style are masterful.
I am starting to see my own style develop with these shots. I like straight lines and order to my photos and in these shots I tried to embrace that. I admire photographers who can find order in the chaos but that does not seem to be what I have an eye for so I played to my strengths with these and kept things simple and uncluttered. London is such a busy vibrant city and it is nice to find little moments where people are isolated from their fellow city-dwellers.
When you head out to the streets with your camera, what is the first thing you do? Can you explain your process?
The first thing I do is photograph something – anything! A bit like at a wedding (when I start with the cards, the shoes or the popped champagne corks at the bride’s house), taking those first photographs gets me into the mode of photographer and within 5-10 minutes I have found my focus (no pun intended). I have found that waiting for the prime moment to start shooting rarely works. You have to be in the mode and already shooting to see the story in the first place.
You now own a successful photography business. How did you get from being an aspiring photographer to now doing it full time with your own business?
I studied in London on a part time basis for three years. I then worked part time for the past year while starting my business and have been lucky enough to go full time this summer. It’s all been about getting out there, pushing yourself and facing your fears. Self-confidence affects many new photographers and I am no different. Opportunities have come as a result of taking risks and working hard to always improve my skills.
Thanks for being our featured photographer of the week, Ross!
For more information about Ross, visit his website. All images © Ross Willsher.