Photographer and cinematographer Alex Thursby works closely with Epic Studios, photographing, filming and editing in-house productions alongside his own independent freelance work under the name AJ Digital. Self-taught, he began his career four years ago (aged just sixteen) as a club photographer in Norwich, and he hasn’t looked back since. These days freelance clients include Lamborghini, Bentley and British luxury motor yacht builders Sunseeker. How did he manage to secure success so quickly in such a competitive industry? I wanted to find out…
Your first paid photography gig was snapping clubbers in Bar 11 (Norwich) in 2013, before you had even left school! What kind of experience did you have back then and how did you manage to convince the management that you were the right person for the job?
A mate’s Dad owned Bar 11 at the time and their photographer didn’t turn up for some reason. So, I got a message saying: “You have a camera, can you come take some pictures this weekend?”. I did it and the manager was happy with what she saw, so she asked if I’d like to become their resident photographer. Obviously, I said yes!
At this point of my life I was going through my GCSEs, so the late nights were a bit of a killer – and all the way though my GCSEs and A-levels my teachers were trying to make me quit my job. In the end, I decided to focus on making the most of the opportunities I was getting outside of college. Luckily, it worked out well for me.
You’ve worked with a wide variety of subject matter since then, producing both still and moving imagery – from modelling shoots, to high energy sports car promos and music videos. How difficult was the transition from still to moving image?
It wasn’t as hard as I expected to be honest. I just had to teach my self the ways of filming and how to use a new editing software. For me, with both filming and editing, it was mostly trial and error. I would try things out and go with what I thought worked well. If I got really stuck with something I’d watch the odd tutorial on YouTube. I think the most important thing is to have a ‘good eye’ and really enjoy the process. I started on Premiere Pro back then and still use it today.
What are the pros and cons of working with people vs inanimate objects, stills and video – and which do you enjoy the most?
With product shoots I often get some free stuff for around the studio, or to wear, as a thank you which is quite cool. When I shoot people (mainly bands), a perk is getting invites to their events with AAA or finding myself meeting other interesting acts they may be supporting. My favourite projects to work on are usually music videos because they’re generally quick to shoot, pretty relaxed and you often get full freedom to do what you want.
What would you say was your most memorable job to date?
There are two in fact! The first one has to be when I was asked to shoot the launch of the Lamborghini Performance & Aventador S at Lamborghini Birmingham’s Dealership earlier this year. The other would be when I went to Spain to film an exclusive client party for 200 guests at the remarkable La Fortaleza in Mallorca, for sunseeker in 2016.
…and your most challenging job to date?
This would definitely be the Sunseeker shoot in Spain. Getting the right footage on my own was really hard! I rigged Go-Pros and other cameras up around the venue hoping they would catch something, fortunately they did!
What does your kit consist of these days?
Hardware-wise, I mostly use a Canon. I think they’re easier to use than other cameras I’ve worked with. So, I have a Canon C300, a 5D MKiv, 5MKiii and two x 6Ds. All my lenses are also Canon, except one, which is a Samyang. I also use two stabilisers – a DJI Ronin-M and a DJI Osmo. For post-production, I use Adobe Premiere Pro, Lightroom and After Effects.
How do you maintain workflow / approach marketing?
I have a new website under construction right now, the launch will be announced shortly on social media platforms I use (Instagram, Facebook and YouTube). Aside from this I get the majority of my work from networking, personal recommendations and repeat customers.
What advice would you give to a budding photographer / cinematographer who is trying to make a name for themselves?
I would say always take every opportunity that is given!
Could you give examples of some freelance projects that you are working on right now?
I am currently working on two WAW (World Association of Wrestling) teaser video edits and a Lamborghini event, they are all due for completion over the next five or six weeks.
Where can our readers view your work?
All my videos are on YouTube under the name AJ Digital
Tags: AJ Digital, Norwich cinematographer, Norwich editor, Norwich Photographer