THE HARD YARDS


For Ben Moore, professional success came only after years away from cameras and many more of determination

Growing up, Ben Moore knew he wanted to do something creative, yet never once suspected that he’d become a successful commercial photographer. His time in education revolved around art and design, which he pursued almost to the exclusion of everything else.

“At college, I did GCSE photography as part of an intermediate course in art and design,” says Ben, who grew up in south London, “but I was just doing it to get the pass. I never thought that it could be something cool.”

A decade after leaving college, a creative career was nowhere in sight. In 2010, raising his kids and working a job in IT he hated, he came back to photography on a whim. A love of gadgets led him to buy a Nikon D3000 from a friend. “My mate gave me a terrible deal,” he recalls, “something like £50 off full retail price. But the way that you could change lenses and stuff was just so intriguing.”

He started taking photos of his children – really bad photos. “They were all blurry, because all I could remember from college was never to bump up the ISO because it makes your pictures grainy. So I was shooting indoors on slower and slower shutter speeds. I really struggled, but then I took this one picture of my daughter and it came out so well, I was blown away. Of course, it was a lucky fluke, but I thought it looked exactly like a shot from a magazine. It was at that point that I wanted to be a photographer.”

Wanting and being are completely different, as Ben realised when he was shooting a friend’s wedding over the shoulder of the official photographer. “Another guest asked me, ‘Are you a photographer?’ And I said, ‘Sort of.’ But she said, ‘No, you either are or you’re not,’ then invited me to a meet-up group. She was a makeup artist and I started to get together with this group of models, makeup people and photographers, who all needed each other to put our individual portfolios together. So I was taking part in shoots, but I wasn’t getting paid and I still hadn’t found my direction.”

The money problem was solved mostly by grinding away: years of photographing in London’s clubs along with bread-and-butter wedding and school portrait gigs. His direction, however, was ultimately driven by social media, with daily Instagram posts not only showing which images gained traction, but also leading to personal recognition and paid commissions. Now, he shoots mainly urban, architecture and landscape, and in the last three years has built up regular commercial work in these areas, as well as shooting portraits.

In person, Ben is upbeat, but you don’t get that from his photos. His cityscapes reveal the complexities of urban environments, usually under oppressive skies and often with a solitary human figure visible. Similarly, his portraits often show the subject hooded or turned away. Grouped together, his work looks like stills from a lonely yet stylish sci-fi movie.

He insists he’s not trying to be downbeat. “Having a single person in a shot is just a bit of showmanship,” he says. “Amateurs can only go to a place when it’s open. I want to be there first thing, when it’s closed and I’ve got the place all to myself.” And the brooding skies? “I want moody weather,” he says. “Grey skies, rain, fog. I’m not really a sunset or sunrise photographer. I’m more like golden hour or blue hour. I want to see the buildings fade away into the sky.”

No longer gadget-obsessed, Ben now takes a more practical approach to technology. He packs a drone, but purely as a camera platform, and upgrades his gear only if he sees a commercial advantage. “Technology is the tool kit that enables me to get good content,” he says. “If it works, I’ll put it in my bag. But there’s no point getting attached to the things themselves because in five years, we’ll probably be using something new.”

Nikon Pro spoke to Ben as he was arranging a self-funded assignment to Chicago, the city’s famously harsh winter weather and towering skyline an irresistible combination. Although there’s no immediate market for this work, he sees such trips as an investment in himself. “There are so many avenues for making money once I have the good shots,” he notes. “It’ll pay off by showing variety and by growing my social media profile. But work like this also goes into stock libraries, so it could pay for itself a long way down the line. Get enough good work out there and people will start to come to you.”

Ben’s journey to be a creative, commercial photographer has been a long and winding one. He never had a big break and instead used social media to grow his business. “It’s been more of a progression than one single moment that made the difference,” he says.

“But I feel happy where I am. I wish I’d started photography earlier, but now I’m getting recognised, which is the hardest thing in photography. So that makes me feel like I’m on the right track and that I’m doing the right thing.” 

BEN MOORE

UK

It was the first camera I bought and I liked how it felt, how it operated, how the camera itself was actually training me while I was using it. I’ve been so comfortable with how Nikon has progressed its technology since that I’ve never wanted to change.

My new Z 7 and a D810 as a second body. My lenses are: AF-S NIKKOR 50mm f/1.4G, AF-S NIKKOR 85mm f/1.4G, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8G ED and AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II. I also have a Nikon SB900 flash and a DJI Mavic Pro drone.

I would love a Nikon 200-400mm lens or maybe a 600mm, just to shoot some National Geographic-type stuff. Just sitting for hours waiting for an amazing animal to appear in the viewfinder. Something completely different to what I’m used to would be really interesting.

Z 7

AFS-NIKKOR 50mm f/1.4G

AFS-NIKKOR 85mm f/1.4G

BaselWorld, Basel, Switzerland, July 2019

Z 7, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 100, 1/8000 sec @ f/2.8

Hide Restaurant, London, August 2019

Z 7, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mmf/2.8G ED, ISO 500, 1/60 sec @ f/2.8

FHNW Campus Muttenz, Switzerland, July 2019

Z 7, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 100, 1/125 sec @ f/2.8

Bloomberg London, London, April 2019

D810, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 800, 1/125 sec @ f/3.5

LSE Library, London, June 2017

D800, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 640, 1/100 sec @ f/4

British Museum, London, June 2018

D800,AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 100, 1/1000 sec @ f/4

FHNW Campus Muttenz, Switzerland, July 2019

Z 7, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 100, 1/500 sec @ f/2.8