Photographer Spotlight: Mark Laing

Posted by: on Feb 8, 2012 | One Comment
Photographer Mark Laing
Photographer Mark Laing


Mark Laing is a London-based photographer specializing in brochure and marketing imagery.  We think of him as a sort of stunt devil-photographer hybrid who has managed to combine his love for photography with flying fixed wing and rotary aircraft. Not a bad gig, if you ask us! Some of Laing’s clients include Cunard and Honda. A self-proclaimed gear-hound, he told us that his next purchase will be an Alpa Max with a Phase One IQ180 back.  Mark shoots with TetherPro’s new Low Profile Casing FireWire 800, which will work great with this kit.

My first camera was…
A Zorki 4, given to me at the age of 13 by my Uncle Ernie. It was Ernie who got me really interested in photography and then set me up with a darkroom in the roof void of my parents house. There was no sink, water or drains, and it was more than once that I spilt developer and fixer on myself while lifting the trays in and out of the roof hatch.

I got started in photography…
Unfortunately by lying about my age! But this allowed me to get a job as a sales assistant in a Scottish chain of camera retailers. I worked after school and on Saturdays and quickly mastered every piece of kit in the store. Although very part-time, I became the best salesman of camera accessories (the commission was higher), insisting persuasively to purchasers of cameras that they must have a leather case to protect their coveted purchase.

I was allowed to borrow cameras (Canon A1 and Nikon F Photomic) and loved shooting reels of film. The excitement of pulling the film off of the plastic reel and seeing my images on wet celluloid was fantastic! At 17, I moved to Glasgow and studied photography.

In my second year of study, I was chosen to be the “official” photographer for Glasgow at the Queen’s Silver Jubilee party in Hyde Park, London. My eyes were opened and on the flight back home to Scotland, I made a promise to myself to ‘come to London’ and work. At the age of 23, after working for a Scottish ad agency, I moved to London. There, I ended up working for two top photographers before setting up on my own just over 10 years ago. I now employ 11 full-time staff.

Photo by Mark Laing
Photo by Mark Laing

I wanted to become a photographer because…
I had a taste for travel and realized that photography could pay its way for me – something that the business has enabled me to fulfill.

My first paying photography job was…My first BIG paying photography job was…
My first paying photography job was at the age of 21, working for the Scottish ad agency in Edinburgh. I came to London without a job and touted more than 20 studios for a job. I told them that I had to be better than the worst photographer they had ever employed and I eventually got a break working in a central London studio. My first big paying job was for a government agency, not long after setting up my own business.

I would describe my style or shooting philosophy as…
Technical, not particularly creative. I’m a good listener and interpreter of clients’ requirements. I’ve no ego whatsoever and still manage to surprise myself at times when I see the final images.

Photo by Mark Laing
Photo by Mark Laing

Some of my industry role models are…because…
Edward Weston, who I think is probably the most innovative and influential photographer ever. I go walking with a digital camera and two lenses…he went with a wooden and brass camera, mahogany tripod, glass plates, chemicals and a portable darkroom! Also, Henri Cartier-Bresson is a master of photojournalism and the best capturer of “the precise moment.” Sir Norman Parkinson, who gave me his 500c Hasselblad (which I covet), is another. Of course, my Uncle Ernie is my favourite living photographer who still manages to produce exceptional shots of his explosives business.

If I could choose one dream gig, it would be…
An air-to-air helicopter shoot at night with portable lighting. The risk assessment and civil aviation permissions have been interesting. I’ve been working on it for a while. There is another photographer in the United Kingdom doing something similar but they haven’t gotten the shot yet.

My favorite piece of gear is…
My Minolta III light meter and 18 percent grey card. Some habits just never change!

Photo by Mark Laing
Photo by Mark Laing

Do you shoot tethered? If so, what is your current set-up?
I always shoot tethered when in my studio. My setup is a FireWire 800 straight out of the Hasselblad H back into my PowerBook Pro. On location, especially arial shooting, I like to shoot tethered to the 100GB Hasselblad ImageBank – a portable drive no bigger than a pack of playing cards. CF card capacity and speed has increased immensely lately, although I still like to write directly to hard drive. I’m told that ‘solid state’ is the way forward. The thought of a card being dropped out of the open helicopter door whilst sitting on the skids during changeover makes me sweat just imagining it. Also, when shooting in the studio, the tethered setup backs all images to the raid servers and also to an off-site location, negating the need for end of day back ups.

Have you integrated your iPad into your workflow yet? If so, how?
I love the iPad apps and use the Hasselblad Focus and Capture One applications. The Capture One app is perfect for clients looking at what’s going on. Just make sure that the camera adjustments controls are switched off when you hand your iPad to the client! I love the technical advances in our profession. I’m a real gadget man and sometimes find that the smallest pieces of kit, thoughtfully designed, are often the most essential – like the Tether Tools Jerkstopper for camera to laptop. The number of times that I have been disconnected from FireWire has been totally eradicated by such a small but essential piece of equipment!

Photo by Mark Laing
Photo by Mark Laing
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