Rob Watkins is the past winner of four EEF Photography Competition awards in the Amateur photography category and one in the Mobile category.
After his winning streak of four awards since 2012, Rob will serve as a judge in the 2017 competition.
Tell us a bit about yourself. What do you do?
I’m the marketing manager at Croft Filters, responsible for all the various forms promotions in the company: magazines, websites, blogs, and social media - any external marketing that we do. As part of my role I’m also responsible for product photography.
At work I use relatively basic photography equipment, including two studio lights that I use to take shots of our finished products, which go on our website as well as on promotional material. Sometimes when I walk through the workshop and see something interesting, like an interesting process or work on a particular item I set up quickly and take a couple of photos. I don’t set anything up ahead of time, I just capture a situation or moment.
When did you start doing photography?
I’ve always liked photography. My brother, who is a graphic designer and does artwork for Timeout magazine in London, was an influence on me when I was young. When I was 16 I bought my first camera (film of course). I also bought some development equipment and blacked out all the windows in my parents’ garage and started developing pictures there. My passion at the time was cars and racing cars and I was even able to get a chance to get a press photographer pass and take high-speed shots of the cars in various races.
Later on I was doing mostly casual photography, just family shots or portraits for friends when a few years ago Neil Burns, Director of Croft Filters, approached me and showed me an article about the EEF Photography Competition. I entered the competition and won the prize for best amateur photography. Since then I entered 4 more times and won each time, one of them in the mobile category.
I really love the photographs that are submitted to the EEF Photography Competition and every year I would look at the shortlisted ones and say they are fantastic and I have no chance to win. And I’m always shocked when I win. I think I’ve been very lucky to win so many times.
What photography equipment you use?
I’ve always been a Canon man. I briefly switched to Nikon and came back to Canon because I’m familiar with the camera; I know how to operate it better and I get fantastic results with it. The Canon camera I use at work is a Canon 7D Mk1, with 70-210 mm and 50 mm lenses.
I almost don’t use Photoshop at all, just darken or lighten photos or put some blur on some pictures to emphasise some things, but I never over use it.
How many times have you won the EEF Photography competition?
I won the first award, the Amateur category, in 2012. In 2013 there was also a Mobile category, where you could take the photos using your phone. That year I was shortlisted for the Amateur category and won the Mobile category. Following that I also won the Amateur award in 2014 and lastly in 2016.
What equipment did you purchase with the prizes?
Every time I won I sold my older camera and upgraded to a newer one. My last camera, which I eventually broke by accident, was a Canon 5D, which wasn’t insured unfortunately.
How did you become a judge in this year’s competition?
I was talking with EEF CEO Terry Scuoler at the awards event and Neal jokingly suggested to him that the only way of stopping me from winning again is to make me a judge.
I still enter other photography competitions and have won some in the past, but EEF’s photography competition is the big one for me and the one photography competition I look forward to every year; it’s something that fascinates me because we are a manufacturing organisation and I want to support UK manufacturing.
Do you ever run out of things to shoot?
Not at all. We are a bespoke manufacturer, so we manufacture filters in all kinds of shapes, sizes and designs and the processes also change, so there’s always something new to capture. It all comes down to whether you can see and have the perception of what you want to do. There’s always an opportunity.
From your experience, what advice would you give to young or amateur photographers entering the competition?
Take multiple shots of the same thing, as many shots as you can, using different angles and always consider the lighting situation. Try to be as inconspicuous as possible so the people working won’t even know you’re there and you can get a more natural shot.
Once you have those multiple shots you will probably need to do a bit of Photoshop retouching because some photos might be too bright or dark, for example. I usually play a bit with the clarity and contrast to make the images look more “realistic”. The important thing is not to overdo it because overusing Photoshop will stand out and not necessarily in a good way.
Enter the EEF Photography Competition 2017 by submitting your manufacturing photo for your chance to win your share the £5,000 prize fund and have your photo displayed at Westminster and around the country at EEF venues, as well in print and online media.