Interview With Photographer David Bailey

Man behind the camera: Guardian talks to David Bailey

David Bailey Has Dementia

Update Sept 11th 2021: Whilst updating this page, I learned today that David has vascular dementia. Our best wishes to David and his family. However, his spirits seem to be good as he said in the article linked above: "It’s a fucking bore but it’s just one of those things. In some ways it’s good: I can see a film and forget it, then enjoy it again two years later. And it doesn’t seem to affect my work at all." - Legend!

Image Attribution: Nick Step, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

This is a great interview of well known photographer David Bailey from a few years ago by the Guardian (see video below). I have liked the guy since I started photography as a young boy. I love the fact that he is so frank and honest about his opinions and thoughts…

However, this got me thinking about my own approach to modern day photography and my business. Can I afford to have the same outlook and (sometimes) crass attitude? At the start of 2013, I decided to be a lot more "myself" than "professional", even though I would consider myself professional in most respects.

What I mean is, I am trying to remove the "polish" or unnecessary marketing flak and BS that is designed to make me look better in my clients' eyes.

I am fairly confident in my abilities. I feel (hope) that I am likeable and amicable when it comes to people and potential clients. Of course, honesty is always the best policy right? So, if that is the case, why should I pepper my clients and website with terms like "I work in an unobtrusive manner" or "I really care about your special day". That should be obvious from my work and the fact that I choose to shoot weddings as part of my business.

Less pfaff, more facts

I think most people are pretty savvy these days and know what they like and want. Personally, I hate pfaffing or fannying about and just want the facts when buying something or booking someone. None of the sales fluff or (p)regurgitated jargon.

  • Client sees work...client likes work
  • They meet photographer...client likes photographer
  • Show them my prices...client likes prices
  • Client books photographer


After you watch the 8 minutes interview with photographer David Bailey, ask yourself if you could afford to be quite so laid back with that attitude with your own clients. I think David can afford to be the way he is because he has earned that right. He has proved himself countless times and is now, for want of a better phrase, in the twilight years of his career.

For those younger photographers adopting the same attitude, I think it would come across as arrogant and cocky. It could, more often than not, lose potential clients.


I have reached 51 now and feel I am about half way there (I plan to sail past the age of 100 : ). I've a long history with photography with some great successes and stories (good and bad). I don't rely on photography work as much as I used to (I do quite a few other things these days). Even though I still shoot between 6 and 10 weddings each summer, they are not the main source of my business. I shoot a lot of video and aerial work these days.

My attitude when I meet couples now is fairly laid back and almost care-free. I want the job but I am not (or I don’t come across as) desperate which can be a real problem with newbie photographers when they meet potential clients. I'm confident, polite and professional in my work and approach but also "playful", fun and genuinely interested in the people.

My point here is that David Bailey is famous with longevity in this industry. He has photographed numerous celebrities and dignitaries and is the "go to" photographer of choice for many. He has earned his position in this industry, therefore, he can truly be himself.

My advice?

Be inspired by others but be yourself. Don't emulate everything about your peers and "heroes" but take the best bits and apply them to yourself if possible. A newcomer to photography has to take an altogether and entirely different approach to his or her work and business. They have yet to earn their stripes.

Be humble, be polite, be professional and be honest. Don't be cocky, don't be arrogant, don’t be pushy and don’t be desperate. You will get there!

"I can't photograph someone's soul…that's all a load of old bollocks". Great quote, love it, hope you enjoyed the interview : )

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