Interview with commercial photographer Dan Callister

Dan Callister is a Welsh commercial and editorial photographer based in New York.

Dan Callister

What Is Your Background?

My name is Dan Callister.  I’m a commercial and editorial photographer, originally from Wales based in New York. 

At fourteen, I gained work experience at the newspaper where my Dad worked. I was placed in the photographic darkroom department, where I learned to develop and print images.  After my placement had ended, I was invited back to work over weekends and school holidays.  Under the expert tutelage of the Chief Photographer (Kevin Clifford), I learned to cover the football using a Zenit 12xp film camera and a 135mm lens. This camera had no motor drive and proved to be a beast to use, but taught me the discipline of shooting with film.   

Before my sixteenth birthday, I left school to work at the local newspaper (this was allowed back then!) After a few years, I went to work for a Manchester based news agency, and then moved to Europe.  Thereafter I was offered a job in Los Angeles for another wire service, covering news and features. I went freelance in 2002 and have been my own boss ever since.

Any Career Highlights?

There have been so many highlights interspersed with many lows. Being in Washington DC when Obama was inaugurated must top my highlights list, along with the first time I saw a Great White Shark make a full breach in South Africa. As for the lows, 9/11 must be one of them.

Ever Feel Nervous Before a Shoot?

You are always assessing the situation, what is the subject like? What is the light doing? Will they agree to the chosen location? Will the PR’s be cooperative? How long will I have with the subject? What mood are they in? What contingency plan do I have if the weather or location changes?  There are so many variables that you have to be prepared for, so being nervous is natural and keeps you on your toes!

What Do You Love Most About Being a Photographer?

Meeting real people from different cultures is enlightening and enriching.  For me, this puts the whole world into perspective.

Any Talented Individuals You Have Worked With?

I have been fortunate to work with so many talented individuals, so it would be difficult to know where to start. However, I think my Dad and the writer, Tom Wolfe would top the list.

What Must You Pack into Your Bag?

I currently use the Canon 1DX Mk II and the Canon 5D Mk III‘s.  The lenses which I most often pack would be the 24-70 2.8 MK II, 70-200mm 2.8 MK II, 300mm 2.8 IS and a 45mm tilt-shift lens. I use Elinchrom lighting and a variety of light modifiers including Octabanks from Elinchrom and Chimera.

What Is Your Favourite Lens?

I often carry a Canon 45mm tilt-shift, 24-70mm 2.8 and a 70-200mm 2.8, so it varies between these three. I’m yet to find my favourite lens.

Any Upcoming Projects?

I am continuing my work on the Great White Shark Project, with trips to South Africa and Australia.

What Advice Can Give Others?

Honestly, being a professional photographer is a hard way to make a living.  Not one day will pass without worrying about the next paying commission.  It isn’t a nine to five job with paid holidays. There is no job security but if you are prepared to make the sacrifice, then it can be one of the most rewarding jobs on the planet.

Related Article: How to Make Money with Photography

If you would like to see more of Dan’s work, check out his website and Instagram.

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About the author

Jennifer Venter

I am a passionate trained photographer currently living in China. I love travelling & meeting new people so my photos tend to fall into those categories. I love coffee, fashion & Christmas. Contact me via email ([email protected]) or Instagram (@fleetingtimephotography).

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