Poppy Barley

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The Read

On Becoming a Fashion Photographer

If you’re curious about photography, Calgary-based photographer Tyler Stalman is your man. Sure, it looks glam through all the flashing lights: he’s working with major clients in the fashion industry, he’s got a model wife (literally, she’s a model) and travels far and wide. But at the core, he’s just a super-nice guy with an intense passion for cameras, technology and creating beautiful imagery.

Tyler has been published in magazines like People, FLARE, FASHION, LIFE and Canadian Business. He’s worked with clients like Getty Images, Nordstrom and American Apparel. He’s also the co-founder of Stocksy, runs the podcast Cameras or Whatever, and blogs a lot about camera gear over at TylerStalman.com. He and his life/business partner, Ania B., are also both the faces/minds behind our Summer 2015 CollectionOxford CollectionMen’s Collection, and brand new Fall 2015 Collection (we sent them to the Rocky Mountains!).

Although we can’t share all his secrets, we promise a few golden nuggets of information about the meat-and-potatoes of photography in this candid Q&A…

Tyler Stalman and Ania B

Describe your typical day.

Most days are either shooting or editing, and they are almost like two different jobs. When we shoot, Ania is usually organizing what we are shooting and where, and I’m loading cameras into the backpack or setting up lights. Outfit photos for the blog will take one to two hours, but if we are working on a bigger project or traveling we will sometimes be jumping around different locations all day. Editing days are much slower and involve gradually going through everything we’ve shot. It generally takes 2-3 times as long to edit a set of photos as it took to shoot it.

What about photography caught your interest?

Gadgets and technology has always been exciting to me. As a kid I took apart my parents video camera to try to figure out how it worked and I made little stop motion videos on my computer back when there was no app to do it for you.

What was the first photograph you remember taking and thinking, “Yeah, this is pretty good”?

I thought that a lot of times before it was actually true at all; it took a long time before I had any taste in what was good. I remember when I first started working with strobe lights and a softbox I thought that every photo was amazing.

Tyler Stalman speaks to Poppy Barley about his passion career: photography

What equipment did you begin with when you first started out?

My first camera was the Olympus OM-1 with a 50mm lens and I got a job at the Black’s photo lab so I could save money and develop my own film. Later when I worked at iStockphoto my boss lent me a professional digital SLR and that’s when I was able to start turning photography into a business.

What equipment are you using these days?

When I met my wife and business partner Ania we both had matching Canon 5D mark III cameras, and that is still what we shoot most of our professional work on, although lately we have done quite a few jobs shot all on our iPhones. For fun, the camera I really love is the Contax T2, a little film point and shoot that makes really beautiful photos and is really fun to use.

Tyler Stalman speaks to Poppy Barley about his passion career: photography

What sparked you to start your podcast Cameras or Whatever?

Since my very first iPod I’ve loved podcasts, they keep me entertained for hours while I edit photos and I really wanted to be part of that community. I learned most of what I know about photography from the internet so it felt important to re-share all the things I’ve learned over the years. Plus it’s a great excuse to talk to talented photographers.

What are the challenges of a running podcast about a visual medium?

A lot of podcasts about photography aim to introduce people to new concepts, where as our show assumes the listener loves photography as much as we do and is already somewhat familiar with the topics we cover. An audio show for beginners would be a much bigger challenge so we have skipped that and talk straight to the pros.

Who has your favourite Cameras or Whatever guest been and why?

Half the reason I started the podcast was to start conversations with photographers I respect and try to learn their secrets. There’s no way I could choose a favourite, I’ve just been so glad to have real professionals that have been so candid about sharing real, practical wisdom about their craft.

Tyler Stalman speaks to Poppy Barley about his passion career: photography

What’s the most important advice you would give someone interested in getting into photography?

Try to keep a clear perspective about the quality of your work. It can be really easy to set the bar too low when you’re just starting out.

What gear would you recommend for a novice photographer?

The landscape of cameras is changing so fast, so it’s hard to be sure which brand is on top. For professionals it’s still usually either Canon or Nikon, but Sony has become really impressive. The A7 series is really interesting right now. And be sure get a fast fixed focal length lens too, like a 50mm 1.8 or similar. You’ll learn a lot more than with a cheap zoom.

Tyler Stalman speaks to Poppy Barley about his passion career: photography

You got your start doing stock photography and are the co-founder of Stocksy. What’s that world like?

What I love about stock is the creative freedom it affords. We try to avoid shooting anything that looks like traditional stock and focus on shooting what we think looks great. There is a market for practically everything.

Who are your biggest photography influences and why?

I’ve spent a lot of time dissecting the lighting setups of Annie Leibowitz and Dan Winters. They both have such perfect control of how light shapes their images, there is always something new to learn by looking at their work.

Poppy Barley Fall 2015 Collection by Tyler Stalman and Ania Boniecka

You and Ania work together a lot; photos are often credited to both of you as a team. What’s that collaborative process like?

Working together has opened up a lot of doors for us. She is the one with the real taste for style and brings a lot of energy to our photos. My tastes are sometimes so minimal you might call them boring, and her incredible aesthetics, art direction. and great taste bring the photos to another level.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 10 years?

Wherever technology takes us, that’s where we’ll be. Our business couldn’t exist 10 years ago, so who knows what we will be doing in the future. As long as it involves making cool stuff, I’ll be happy.

Caroline Gault

Director of Content & Community, Poppy Barley
Caroline handles social media, online content, and media relations at Poppy Barley. She's also a freelance lifestyle writer, editor, and a die-hard Instagram fan.