Kevin Murray is a photographer specializing in golf, whose clients include St. Andrew’s Links Trust, Golf Monthly, Troon Golf and Footjoy. He talks to Hightail about bringing an artistic eye to the game and the major U-turn that changed his career.
My background is in advertising
I was the art director at an ad agency working on an account with Callaway Golf. We needed photos of one of the St Andrew’s Trust golf courses for an advertising campaign, but I had been frustrated by the general lack of great golf photography so decided to take them myself. When St. Andrew’s saw the results, they asked me to shoot all of their courses for them. That was about eight years ago and it led to a massive U-turn in my career.
The first two years were a learning curve
When I first started working as a golf photographer, I didn’t even have any of my own equipment and had to do a lot of research about what I’d need. But I had studied visual communication at college and, as an art director, had worked with the ad industry’s top photographers. So I was comfortable behind a camera and ultimately it wasn’t that difficult for me.
St. Andrew’s Links Trust never had an official photographer
It was a great honor to have that title bestowed on me last year. I’m also staff photographer for Golf Monthly and I cover Europe and the rest of the world for Troon Golf, which manages about 250 courses globally. I’ve done fashion shoots, usually for golf apparel, and I occasionally join the European Tour where I get to work with the players. There’s a lot of travel involved. I’ve been away five times already this year and have another six trips coming up.
My training allows me to change styles
As an art director you don’t just work on one account. We had a host of different products and clients to promote so you had to be flexible in the way you approach different problems. That experience has helped me switch my photography style from landscapes to editorial and fashion, even more technical stuff, like capturing a golfer’s swing sequence. Whatever you’re shooting, it’s about making sure you deliver the best quality image you can at any one time.
I do the critical thinking for my clients
At the ad agency, I was highly critical of any photographs we’d use in campaigns and I apply that thinking to all the shots I provide to my clients. When they employ me they’re not getting a photographer who’ll just go out and shoot. I think about it, look at the angles, push the boundaries and try to make it different.
I photograph landscapes that just happen to have golf flags
I try to make my images for everyone to enjoy not just golfers. I want to make them a little different to the usual golf photography. I’m inspired by the Impressionist painters and try and get the same kind of drama into my images, while American artists like Frederic Remington have influenced my color palette. I see my work as more art based than completely commercial.
Getting artwork ready used to be a labor of love
In the pre-digital age, all the post-production work could have taken you a week to do; now it’s an hour. We embraced new technology very early at the ad agency. It cost us a lot of money: I remember we bought two Apple computers, software, a scanner and printer and it cost us £33,000. Your iPhone probably does more now than all that equipment did.
I do all my own post-production work
People like my work because it’s totally me. I don’t farm out any retouching because I want to ensure the pictures accurately represent what I remember seeing. You get 95% there when you take the photo and do the rest in post-production. But you always have to make sure the image remains real and doesn’t become over-stylized.
I’m a big fan of Hightail
It’s the easiest way to share photos with my clients. Plus, I can track what I share and make sure my client has seen the work before I go back and ask if they need anything else. Being able to see how many times the files have been downloaded is a good way to know if there’s a potential problem. Multiple times means they’ve may have been passed on to others for a second opinion. It’s useful to be prepared for situations like that.
I was a latecomer to golf
I took it up as my main sport after I finished playing soccer. When we won the Callaway account, I had been playing for about four years so that was great fun for me. Now, when I go to the Open and other major tournaments, I get to work with some of the legends of the game. That’s a great experience for me as a golf fan.