Photographer and UX designer
As you mentioned, you’ve come from a graphic design background, we were wondering what made you transition into more photography and do you still practice graphic design? Could you elaborate on your graphic design experience?
I started at music college, and I came out of that more into the creative art side of things, which then got me working towards the graphic design sort of thing, spending almost all my time watching Youtube tutorials trying to learn all I possibly can, which got me into doing free work for a studio that had a client base mainly around the music industry which worked very well for me. After a couple of months of doing that I moved to a different job that was mostly about user experience design and app development, it’s based around psychology and how users perceive certain services or digital websites.
Do you have a process? If so what is it and is it always the same for each project?
I don’t really have a specific process, it depends on the project and client, but I always do my research on the location I’m going to, and usually walk around the day before, and if the weather conditions are right I go and take photographs.
Did you find it difficult to put yourself out there?
There are definitely always cases where you wonder if you should put this out there, whether it’s more of not knowing if the work is good enough or if I’m presenting myself in best way possible? Are people going to like this? And I think its finding that balance between doing it because you enjoy it and caring about how people respond to it.
When you get a brief, how much do you bring to it in terms of your vision and style, do you have to limit your approach towards it?
It entirely depends on the client. Sometimes people come to you because they love your work, and sometimes in some cases people just need a photographer, but the nice thing about photography is that it can be very versatile like graphic design where you can do very different designs based on the client whilst trying to put your own spin on it, you might need to change your style to suit the client and the brief.
Do you have a targeted audience in mind when you upload your photographs?
I think I started out with ‘I’ll just post this and see what happens’, it takes a while and over time I started thinking about what I want to achieve with this and trying to find who I want to interact with and knowing that the way I shaping my work is helping me go that way.
The case should be targeting the right audience. Even if something didn’t completely get the hit on Instagram, someone would see it and like it and be like “I want to work with this person” like, I took this photo of a Mercedes, and you know it wasn’t a particularly a GREAT picture, it did terribly in comparison to the rest of my stuff, but the amount of work just from that picture was really really bizarre.
The struggle of social media
I recently went through a phase of hating Instagram because, well, it goes like this: going out, taking the pictures, going home, editing it, posting it, and then completely forget the picture. And then I be like “why did I go out and done this?” and you could just lose touch of what you just created. O, I took a break of a week or two just to appreciate what it is.
What do you do when you’re faced with a mental/artistic block? How do you surpass it?
It depends initially on what it is. If it’s photography, ummm it could be… because photography you’re using something else as your canvas; especially in landscape or travel. It is about going out to find what, essentially, your canvas. So, I’ll still go out and shoot and follow the composition rules and everything else; so, I’ll make sure everything has been done correctly, even if I am unhappy with it at the time, I just need to give it time. Some days, I just need some break from photography and the come back and look at the files and see shots I really like. So, purely for me it’s time. O away doing and focusing on other stuff for a bit. I have my guitar in the corner and I’ll just go and play with it for a while.
For design, that’s a hard one. Because, if you’re working on a standard 9 to 5 job as a designer, sometimes you’re limited with time schedule and, sometimes, its difficult to come up with something and you’ve got nothing to work with and finish at 5. So, in terms of that, just purely get away from the screen and take a walk for even 20 mins. Just get stuff out on paper. And that was a great discipline for me, because in my first job, I had one of my colleagues, absolutely legend, as soon as he sees me going for the screen *he laughs* he would literally slap my hands on the mouse, and tells me “get off, get some piece of paper and draw” and I was like “ughhh, why bother?”. But I would always come back and say “you were right”.
Coming back to photography, I find it similar to illustration when I’m editing my photos and I’m not really happy with the style I’m going for, so, I press “reset/ clear” and leave it for a day and come back to it and say now I know what to do with it.
Sometimes, just really, stepping away and enjoying other hobbies. So, for me, I’m a huge film nerd and that drives a lot of creative inspiration. Also, culture inspires me a lot, like I’ve got the chance to go and watch a Bhangra show down in Birmingham. Well it was really random and I didn’t expect to go there at all, but my mum really wanted to go and watch it. And I was like fine I’ll go with you. But I actually ended up really enjoying it. It is extremely colourful type of thing.
From all the mishmash creative things you do; do you find it difficult to settle for one thing?
I have in the past, but for the last two years I worked solely on the photography side of things. When I was a teenager. All I wanted was to be a musician. And the experience from it was great, but after a while it started to whereof. And said what else can I can get into? And that time I said “ohh maybe I could try graphic design and give it a go”. But like with photography, because there’s so much you could do with it, I never really find myself to the point where I’m bored with it. So, for now I don’t think photography is something I’m bothered with.
So, why didn’t you consider doing a freelance job?
I was actually freelancing for some years, as well as doing some part-time work, but It was really a tricky one especially with paying all your bills. It’s pretty difficult. But freelance is definitely where I kind of want to be heading full time. That’s the big step, but making sure you’ve got enough of the work coming in. so, making your connections first and then establishing your freelance career. Yeah, literally that and I wouldn’t want to freelance in user experience design. I could easily do that, but not something I would want to do as a. freelancer. For as, like, photography gives you so much flexibility because it allows you to work on your personal brand and as well not as working on other’s personal brands.
We are going to end this day with 5 tips from Ellis Reed…. GO…
Working for free is not wrong, it’s finding the right opportunities to do it for free. If you show what is worth and you could provide value to both who you are doing the work for and the person providing value. It will always end up doing the right thing. I think it doesn’t set you up for limitations, and doesn’t stop you from progressing from meeting new people, depending on the context and the reasoning behind it.
TIME: I think time is a great healer, even with mental block. Literally, just get away from the screen or whatever you are doing and get out and take a walk. Do something else to take your mind from it. It may take an hour or even 5 days. Eventually, once you come back to it. Everything will start to make sense.
Style: don’t necessarily try to copy people, copying is fine if you’re learning. Ad ask yourself: how can I learn from what this person is doing? How can I apply certain elements of this style to what I’m doing.
Online platform: don’t worry on what other people think. If you can focus our work on certain type of market then great, but don’t necessarily be worried on your posting. If you like what you’re doing then post I, if other people like what you’re posting then great. I think people usually like authenticity.
Commission work: just experiment, and say yes to most of the opportunities even if it seems really weird. And see where it leads. Doesn’t mean you will do it in the future, just it helps you to learn and to shape with other potential jobs.
Interview conducted by Haya Awaad, Jared Appleton, Ru Tutton
Ellis Reed is a self taught, user Experiencer, Graphic Designer and Photographer who has a passion for creativity no matter the platform. Based in Bath, he uses both his city and community to influence his work. His Photography focuses on travel and lifestyle and has a big social media following. His passion for design has seen him through both freelance and industry work. We met up over a coffee for a chat about his creative and colourful world.