An Interview With NYC Based Photograph Franklin Thompson

I’ve always loved photography, ever since I was a kid. I’ve always been fascinated with capturing moments in time. My first “real” camera was a Kodak disc camera I got for Christmas after begging my parents for months. In high school I carried a camera with me all the time taking pictures of friends in the hall, behind the bleachers, on the handball courts, etc.

I started to take a photography class in high school but then dropped it and switched it for a cooking class after the first week. I didn’t have the patience for the darkroom and technical stuff. I just wanted to shoot. Finally, when digital cameras came about I was able to shoot as much as I wanted without having to wait 2-3 days for the lab, or spend a ton on processing. My first digital camera was a 2.3 megapixel Sony. At the time, I thought it was the greatest thing on earth. Then I graduated to my first DSLR… the Canon 10D.

My first subjects were mainly buildings, graffiti, trains and other random objects that I passed on the street during my daily commute. Pretty soon I got bored of that and realized I really enjoyed shooting people. People had emotion, life, energy and character unlike the lifeless objects I had been shooting. I minored in fashion design in college so I had a natural interest in shooting fashion and beauty. My first attempts were terrible though. Unprofessional internet models with their own clothing, shot with a typical male perspective. I was shooting models and couldn’t understand why my images weren’t coming out like the one’s I’d seen in magazines.

The big changing moment in my photography came when I took an internship with fashion/beauty photographer Sarah Silver. When I told my wife that I was interested in seriously pursuing a career in photography she said I’d have to go out and assist and learn like everyone else in order to get into the business. Being the stubborn rebel that I am, I said no way, I’m going to do it my own way…. That is, until I met Sarah. I immediately fell in love with her images, lighting and style. She was a pioneer in high end digital photography. At the time most fashion and beauty photographers were still shooting film.

While I had already graduated college, and was much older than most other interns, I decided to take the internship and it was the best choice I could’ve ever made. It was 100 times better than any book, class or school. The first semester went well and we decided to extend the internship for another semester. After that, Sarah hired me as her permanent digital tech.

From Sarah I learned how to light (with other fixtures other than umbrellas), how to talk to and direct models, how to create and use an efficient and effective digital workflow, how to retouch, and more importantly, how to shoot shoot women…. (why my photos were looking like they were… the difference between Maxim and Vogue). For instance, men naturally want to accentuate boobs and butts in photos. It’s sexy yes, but it doesn’t necessarily make a better fashion or beauty photo. It’s a completely different image.

How do you learn your techniques?

Most of the techniques I’ve learned have been from the photographers I know or have worked with. A great deal of it I’ve learned from Sarah Silver over the years. Another huge resource has been other photo assistants. They have valuable knowledge about lighting techniques, troubleshooting, and gear because they’ve worked with more than one photographer and can offer advice based on the techniques and experiences of many photographers. Don’t underestimate photo assistants. Many of them are incredible photographers themselves.

My first main photo inspiration was my dad. He was always taking pictures of everything. Of course Sarah Silver. She changed my life when it comes to photography. Also, Ryan Beny and Aaron Muntz, two photographers who have answered countless questions about lighting, technique, gear and just photography in general.

Another huge learning tool is experience. You always hear photographers say “shoot, shoot, shoot”. It’s the best way to learn your own techniques and style. You need to find out what works for you, what you feel comfortable with, and what you like. The only way to do that is to shoot, shoot, shoot!

Who are your photo heroes? Or who has inspired your career?

I never fully studied photography or it’s history so I don’t have a huge list of ‘famous’ photographers that have influenced me, but I find that I am in love with the photos of:

Paolo Roversi, Steven Klein, Henri Cartier Bresson, Patrick Demarchelier, Steven Meisel, Solve Sundsbo and Craig McDean. I was also recently inspired by Annie Liebovitz’s new book “At Work”. For once, I read the entire photo book in one sitting (instead of just browsing the pictures).

What is the worst part about doing what you do?

Right now, I’d say the worst part about what I do is that there are so many other people trying to do it. The industry is so saturated with photographers and people thinking that they are photographers because they have a cool digital camera or the money to get the latest gear. Prosumers have entered the market with their 21 megapixel cameras. Finding a job in photography can be quite hard.

What is the best part?

The best part is I love what I do! Who could ask for anything more? When you can get paid for doing something you love it’s like having your cake and eating it too!