Member Spotlight: Pete Harper

Pete spent his teens and twenties playing in bands and dreaming of rock stardom. Today, he’s expressing himself with his camera – with chart-topping results.
We first became aware of Pete’s wonderful work when he emerged as the winner of our ‘Green’ competition. We wanted to find out how Pete came to produce his prizewinning image, how he got into photography, what equipment he relies on, and why he’s a member of Karl Taylor Education.

In search of instruction

Pete grew up in Oxfordshire, England, but moved with his family to Scotland when he was 10 years old, and still lives there today. Throughout his time on the Aberdeen and Edinburgh music scenes, he enjoyed taking photographs and videos of bands performing on stage.
Food photography by Pete Harper

© Pete Harper

Around the time of his 30th birthday, as his hopes of making a living from music began to fade, Pete decided to get more serious about videography. He took a filmmaking course in Edinburgh and then went back to college to study TV production. At this time, his interest in photography was growing, and he bought his first ‘proper’ camera – a Canon 550D.
Product photography by Pete Harper

© Pete Harper

After college, Pete found work making music videos and corporate promos, while also dabbling in short films. Eventually he got into camera and video assisting and worked on a number of notable TV dramas, including Case Histories and Outlander, as well as on TV commercials.

When he became a dad, Pete picked up a steady part-time job converting old VHS tapes to DVD. Taking photographs for the company website one day, he became frustrated at his lack of technical knowledge and decided to seek out some training online. That was when he first discovered Karl Taylor Education.

Pete Harper

© Pete Harper

Lockdown learning

As the COVID-19 pandemic drove everyone indoors, Pete decided to make the most of the opportunity. Converting his garage into a home studio, he began working his way through the many classes on Karl Taylor Education, covering lighting, product photography, portrait photography and much more.

To put his learning into practice and push himself creatively, Pete started doing the Weekly Challenge and participating in Working to a Brief assignments. “They got me trying new things and helped me get out of my comfort zone, which really helped me to improve,” he says.

Still life photography by Pete Harper

© Pete Harper

With Pete’s enthusiasm for photography at new heights, he decided to enrol in a two-year photography course at a college in Edinburgh. Though he enjoyed the course, he says that he learned just as much (if not more!) from Karl Taylor Education.

“It was a bit frustrating,” he admits. “There wasn’t much emphasis on product or still life stuff, which is what I’m most passionate about, and which Karl obviously specialises in.”

For his final college project, Pete put together a portfolio of his best work. It was one of these images that went on to earn Pete first prize in our ‘Green’ competition.

Behind the scenes

© Pete Harper

Home and away

Though Pete did some great work in his home studio, he found the small space quite restrictive. “I was struggling with the inverse square law!” he says. So he decided to rent an office in a converted barn, close to his home in Haddington, East Lothian. In addition to enjoying the extra space, Pete also appreciates having a studio away from home.

So what gear does he have in this studio? His primary camera is a Fuji GFX 50s. He uses that in a “Frankenstein setup” with some Hasselblad HC lenses, which he found for a reasonable price secondhand.

In terms of lighting, Pete uses Bowens flash heads and Pixapro softboxes. He also has some Godox projection attachments. Software-wise, he shoots into CaptureOne and edits in Photoshop on a PC.

Beverage photography by Pete Harper

© Pete Harper

ONLINE PHOTOGRAPHY CLASS

Whisky Product Shoot

Discover how to make bottles and beverages look beautiful.
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Reality check

Pete regularly tunes in to Karl’s LIVE workshops, taking the opportunity to get his questions answered in real time. Of the 700+ classes on offer, his favourite is Healthy Living Flat Lay Food Photography, featuring Anna Pustynnikova.

“I love that class and have watched it more than once,” he says. “It definitely played a big part in the shot I submitted for the ‘Green’ competition.”

ONLINE PHOTOGRAPHY CLASS

Healthy Living Flat Lay Food Photography

Karl is joined by food photography specialist Anna Pustynnikova in this delicious demonstration of some tasty lighting techniques.
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Product photography by Pete Harper

© Pete Harper

Pete’s main takeaways from learning on Karl Taylor Education include the importance of the ‘hero’ in every shot, and how to compose images in a way that holds and guides the viewer’s eye. He has also learned many techniques to help him light even the most challenging surfaces.

The Working to a Brief assignments have helped Pete understand the sort of demands he can expect from clients. Relatedly, he says that Karl’s honest, harsh-but-fair feedback on his and other members’ work has served as a crucial “reality check”, emphasising the importance of maintaining a professional attitude and approach – which includes recognising when your own work isn’t quite good enough yet.

“I’m really thankful for the platform and grateful for what you do,” he adds. “And I really do love the live shows!”

Glasses by Pete Harper

© Pete Harper

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How to Photograph Glasses

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Local focus

With his ‘Green’ competition win as well as his college qualification under his belt, Pete is excited to push his photography forward. He’s eager to narrow his focus to his favourite genres (still life, food, product) and bulk out his portfolio with new work.

Though some photographers aspire to going fully professional, Pete isn’t sure he wants to go down a commercial path. “Working with demanding clients doesn’t massively appeal!” he admits. With a young family at home and a steady part-time job he enjoys, Pete is keen to maintain a happy work-life balance and avoid too much stress and pressure.

Instead, he’d like to focus on working with local East Lothian business and organizations – as he did when he captured one his favourite images to date for a local museum (below). Something else he’s keep to pursue is working with local artists who need their paintings photographed for reproduction.

ONLINE PHOTOGRAPHY CLASS

Photographing Paintings for Reproduction

Learn how to capture artworks on camera.
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Museum photography by Pete Harper

© Pete Harper

Most importantly, Pete wants to keep taking photographs, refining his skills, learning new techniques and improving his results. “Any day I’m not working, I want to be shooting something,” he says.

We can only commend Pete for this excellent attitude, as well as for his terrific work. It’s members like Pete that make Karl Taylor Education what it is – a thriving and supportive creative community that keeps on growing.

Explore Pete’s work at peteharperphotography.co.uk.

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