Tom Martin is an advertising and editorial photographer from Leeds, UK. Tom’s journey into photography started in the music industry, shooting regular gigs for NME and Kerrang! Magazine and working with bands like The Stone Roses and Elbow.
Now shooting a variety of commercial commissions and personal projects his work is distinctly recognizable for its unique, colorful take on portraiture and reportage. Tom has been commissioned extensively by Canon and travelled all around the world creating imagery for the manufacturer, as well as a range of other major brand clients and agencies.
Tom is speaking as part of the Turning Pro Masterclass at The Photography Show, taking place next week from 18-21 September at The NEC in Birmingham, England.
10 quick questions with Tom Martin
1. How did you start your photographic journey?
When I was little I would collect music and skateboarding magazines, and loved all the pictures in them. Everything I liked was always very visual. I got the chance to try developing my own black and white film rolls on a college course as a teenager and almost instantly knew that was what I was good at, and wanted to do from then on.
2. What attracted you to the music industry for photography?
I initially started photographing gigs and musicians because that was what I was passionate about as a student. But soon after I started looking into the world of advertising I loved everything I saw; I love the big bold colors and how endlessly creative ad campaigns have to be. For me it is the most interesting part of the photographic industry.
3. What was your big break that took your photography and your career to the next level?
In 2015 I started working with my wonderful agents over at the Peter Bailey Company. The first commission I had via them was a nine-day shoot in Munich for Canon, shooting lifestyle and product imagery for three new camera launches. It was honestly a massive baptism of fire, and although it was a bit scary at times I did a really good job. I think that it definitely elevated what I was doing in terms of my photographic practice.
4. What was your first camera?
My first camera was a Canon EOS 400D – it was silver, which I liked because everyone else’s cameras were black. I photographed hundreds of gigs and musicians with it and it went to lots of parties, all sorts of adventures and travels!
5. Why did you choose Canon?
The college I was at used Canon cameras, so it was the first thing that I got used to using. But even when I was able to try other cameras I always stuck with Canons; they just felt the most comfortable to use. I also think the color profile that comes out on Canon images is nicer than any other brand.
6. Are you considering making the switch to the EOS R mirrorless system?
I’m still on my Canon EOS 5D Mark IVs at the moment, however I have been very impressed by what I’ve seen from the Canon EOS R5 and Canon EOS R6, so I think a system change is coming my way very soon. I was part of the team that shot imagery for the R series product launch, so I was one of the first people to know about it. It was very exciting and, of course, a huge secret to keep at the time.
7. Which lenses do you use and why – do you have any favorites?
I’m a creature of habit, so I essentially only use two lenses: the Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM and Canon EF 85mm f/1.4L IS USM. I will use others if I need to go wider or longer, say at a gig, but if I can get away with it I stick to those two for most things. Oh, and I’ll have a dabble with my Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L now and then because who doesn’t love a fiddy!
8. How do you choose where and whom to photograph?
I like to try to be as spontaneous as possible with what I shoot… I suddenly get inspired by something and then want to go and shoot it straight away, before I even know that much about it. That way the things I see are new to me; I’m seeing it for the first time and I’m genuinely interested. Traveling is one of the best ways of doing this, I think.
9. Where and who are you excited to photograph next?
People and travel! It’s been very difficult in the last 18 months to travel or photograph anything with large gatherings. I want to go out in the world again and photograph new faces and lots of people having fun.
10. Finally, give us a piece of photography advice that you've learned.
I think my best new work always comes from finding the right subject, something you are genuinely interested in, that combined with being on some level out of your comfort zone. When a shoot is not easy or a given, you will push yourself further and work harder – and in the end produce something new that you can be much more proud of.