Road to the Societies’ Convention: George Fairbairn

George Fairbairn

Just one week to go. The Societies’ Convention  is in our sights.It also means it’s time for the final installment of our Road to the Societies series, our countdown to the first big show of 2019.

Over the last seven weeks, we’ve caught up with some of the talented photographers hosting masterclasses on all manner of subjects. This week, we hear from George Fairbairn about his seminars and the beginnings of his exciting career.

Getting started in photography

Having briefly studied photography in high school in Chicago, only to go onto a career in the military, George found his way back to the craft when he permanently moved to the UK and bought a camera for day-to-day use:

“I wanted to create something again, or at the very least capture something interesting.”

George Fairbairn

George has always been passionate about music, so he began shooting local gigs and discovered his love for photography:

“I headed to Cambridge armed with my camera and absolutely zero knowledge of how to photograph a gig and started photographing local bands playing in pubs. This inevitably led to some of the bands asking if I could take portraits of them for the press and PR. I happily said yes and proceeded to start taking rather rubbish band promo portraits. But, I loved it.”

Realising he found a job he loved, and wanting to get better at it, George worked hard to develop his talent so that every portrait was better than the last:

“I practiced and practiced. I watched YouTube video after YouTube video trying to learn everything I could about taking awesome band photos. Once I produced something I really liked, I was hooked. People were starting to pay me to take their photos. For the first time I thought I could do this for a living.”

Now as a successful photographer, George travels around the world photographing famous bands and artists for renowned titles, but shoots weddings and other events too. When it comes to selling his work, he loves using the Acrylic Gallery:

“I have always had a love for acrylic prints and Loxley’s are amazing!”

George Fairbairn


All Locations are Good Locations

George has been hosting educational seminars for over four years. He wants to show fellow photographers that learning new skills can be an adventurous step rather than a daunting one. One of his masterclasses at the Convention this year will be about making the most of venues and locations. His background working for publications like Rocksound and Kerrang means he has shot in a variety of weird and wonderful locations, but he believes this has helped improve his skills:

“Some would be spacious and photogenic, but most would be run down and tiny. This ultimately greatly improved my photography as I could photograph in literally any location.”

George Fairbairn

He hopes this masterclass will prove to delegates that a good image is all about the photographer behind the camera and less about the quality of the surroundings. George has a prime example of when improvising with the environment and using a bit of innovation can create a truly great image:

“Recording studios always sound like awesome places for a shoot, but most often are rammed full of recording equipment with little room for an actual shoot. This was precisely the case with this studio. There just wasn’t any room, and where there was room it wasn’t very inspiring.”

George noticed a small closet in the back of the studio that was just big enough for himself, lighting and two members of the band. He used items in the closet to create the backdrop for the shoot, which turned out to produce some of his favourite work:

“There was a giant red office cubicle divider in there. I propped it up against the wall and did the entire shoot right there.”

This proves a little bit of imagination can go a long way. George wants delegates to know there’s always an image hiding in every location, regardless of the type of shoot.

“I really want people to learn that there really is no such thing as a bad location. There is always something you can do at a location to give you usable images. I think people get hung up on locations a bit too much instead of using them for what they are… to compliment a photo, not BE the photo.”

George Fairbairn

Every location has got something to offer, George’s masterclass will help delegates understand this and will educate on how to look for that perfect shot:

“I have shot in some locations that were totally disheartening when entering. But, I quickly learned how to work within any location I am thrown in. I want to share what I have learned to help other photographers not get disheartened and to help them utilise locations to their full benefit.”

His ‘All Locations are Good Locations‘ seminar is on Friday 18th January at the Societies’ Convention. Secure your place and never have to worry about a dreary location again.

Creating Stop Motion

George’s other masterclass focuses on using photography to create unique stop motion animation. An art form that always intrigued him, George tried his hand at stop motion and realised how enjoyable it was:

“I have always been fascinated by its use in movies… I knew that stop motion is simply photography with a lot of individual movements, so I decided to give it a go one day. The stop motions that I create are nowhere near as awesome as something like Kubo and the Two Strings, but they are something I really enjoy creating and have incorporated into my business.”

His class is about showing delegates how simple this style of animation is, and encouraging people to take up a new craft:

“I want photographers to realise that stop motion is easy… It’s time consuming and takes patience, but it’s easy and most importantly it will get you being creative again.”

George hopes a boost in creativity could open new doors for photographers as stop motion is particularly popular in advertising:

“There is a huge market out there for simple stop motion animations and it’s a very simple and natural jump for photographers to make.”

George’s ‘Creating Stop Motion‘ masterclass is on Saturday 19th January. Get your tickets and make learning this creative skill your new year’s resolution.

Getting creative and taking that next step

George’s advice for staying creative is to take some time to shoot for yourself and not get too bogged down in work. Some of George’s personal projects include his own family portraits and some experimental photography with Lego characters. Trying new things as part of a personal project can help you relax and discover different ways of thinking:

“Shooting projects is hugely important to me. It gives me a chance to try new things without any pressure. It allows me to shoot things that are ‘me’. The personal work is almost always the work that leads to new work.”

Becoming a full-time professional photographer is a goal for many, but George believes you shouldn’t rush to make this step. Waiting until you are ready and then switching to part-time in your day-to-day job can be a good first step:

“If you can, shoot in your downtime, shoot in the evenings, shoot on the weekends, shoot whenever you can. But if you don’t have to, don’t jump to full-time till you are ready. I was working for a few years before I made the jump.”

Becoming a full-time professional photographer in stages rather than one big step can prepare you:

“Doing it this way allowed me to bank the money I was making as a photographer so that I had a ‘buffer’ when I did make the jump and wasn’t panicking about getting shoots all the time. This made for a fairly stress-free transition.”

If you want to be inspired and learn more about location shoots or animation skills, make sure you get your tickets for both of George’s masterclasses at the Societies’ Convention.