Interview with Mark Condon from Shotkit on Shotkit’s Backstory & Drone Photography

Mark Condon from ShotKit

Mark Condon
Founder of Shotkit

Photography has changed the world we live in and revolutionize the way how we look at things. Join the party aerial photography using drones is booming. Today, we have a very special guest Mark Condon for this exclusive interview.

We want to thank him for agreeing to take part in our UAV Interview Series amid his busy schedules. He is a professional wedding photographer and founder of award-winning camera gear site called Shotkit. You can find photography tutorials, gear reviews, inspiration, free tools, and business advice on his website.

From being the father of 3 little ones to starring opposite the most popular woman in Japan to his mum meeting the Beatles to settling in Australia after living in Tokyo for seven years, Mark is never short of surprises in his life.

In this interview, we talk in-depth with Mark about how all it started, photography in general, how much impact drones have in his work, his favorite shots, advice for budding photographers, prediction on future of the field, and so on.

Without wasting any further time, let us dive into the interview to find out what he has to say. Mark, it is your moment take over this from us.

Welcome Mark, tell us about yourself. How did you turn out to be a professional photographer?

I lived in Tokyo for 7 years before coming to Australia. Before I left, I had some points to be used at an electronics store, so bought a little Nikon D40 (entry-level DSLR camera). It started the experimentation process with cameras and photography as a whole.

What influenced you to launch Shotkit site, initially?

It was to scratch my own itch – I was keen to see what gear my favorite wedding photographers were using.

Tell us regarding your authors plus what makes them excellent. Any exciting memories about the way the team got together?

All my authors are accomplished photographers in their own right or experts in particular fields. Some of them I have met in person at conferences, and become good friends. Others I hope I’ll meet one day!

You were touring the world and capturing weddings full-time professionally before Shotkit website. What motivated you to ought to take on your photography for the next stage?

I’m still doing that, but only to a lesser extent now due to my family commitments – we have 3 little ones. The story of how I came to shoot wedding professionally is rather unglamorous – I was looking for a way to fund the purchase of a new camera for travel.

Mark Shooting a Bridal Prep

How much is the professional photography world changed in the last 5 years, and in which ways?

The biggest change I’ve seen is in the format of the cameras being used. There’s been a huge switch to mirrorless cameras (from bulkier DSLRs), myself included. Initially the size/weight saving is the main drawcard, but certain models of mirrorless camera also offer other benefits, especially to wedding photographers like myself.

We find you are talented in photography overall. At what level did you bring in the drone to your fold?

Thank you! I don’t think of myself as particularly talented, but I’ll take the compliment!! I started playing with a drone about 3 years ago – first the Phantom 3, then the Spark, now the Platinum Pro.

What does your present drone kit seem like?

I use the Mavic Pro Platinum. Maybe one day I’ll invest in the Mavic Pro 2.

DJI Mavic Pro Platinum

Have you ever before crashed a quadcopter? What was your most awful experience?

Yes, more times than I’d like to admit! The worst was in Malaga where I shot a destination wedding. I’d hiked up to the top of a mountain on my birthday of all days, and rushed a (manual) landing – that was the end of my Spark.

What is your favorite drone snapshot you have ever captured?

This one – it’s not particularly fascinating, but to capture it, I had to battle with high winds and a queue of angry Chinese tourists who were waiting to take a photo – this is the Crawley Boat Shed in Perth – a tourist attraction that has been shot many times, but never, surprisingly, from above like this.

Drone Wedding Photography at Crawley Boat Shed

Another favorite is the one below – this was taken during a destination wedding in Bali. I decided to leave the rice paddy farmer in the shot for context, and also out of respect – he was a bit annoyed with us being there in his field.

Wedding Couples Walks in Paddy Field

You stated you were listed in multiple industry sites and international newspapers. Excellent! How did you achieve that?

Some were the result of me submitting my work directly to their sites. Others (like the Huffington Post and the Daily Mail) resulted from me photographing my own wedding – a news site picked up the story, and the next day I got a call from a newspaper in the UK (I was in Australia at the time).

How much of your still photography knowledge carries to your drone quadcopter? Do you feel it helped? We mean, you will find a ton of options on such DSLR cameras.

On my cameras, I shoot in aperture priority mode with auto ISO, adjusting the exposure with exposure compensation. It allows me to react quickly, and not have to worry about shutter speed (which I set to 1/200 as a minimum), nor ISO (which I allow to rise automatically to 12800).

On my drone, due to the limited sensor capabilities, I try and keep the ISO as low as possible, adjusting the shutter speed for exposure. I can’t wait for the day when a full-frame sensor can fit into a pocketable drone – I’d like to dig deeper into the dynamic range of those files. Software like Lightroom and Luminar has really opened the doors to simple but powerful editing in post-production.

Any advice to photographers fresh to the field? What are a few mistakes they could avoid?

Keep it simple! I’ve shot weddings with just one fixed lens before, and not even an expensive one (an f/2.8). The less gear you have, the more you force yourself to be creative. If it’s a fixed (prime) lens, you’ll also get better with your compositions much quicker, since you’ll get used to ‘seeing’ in that fixed focal length, even before you look through the viewfinder.

Also, unless you’re putting yourself or someone else in danger, always ask for forgiveness rather than permission – that way, you’ll have a better chance of getting the shot.

Finally, if you’re getting into wedding photography, assuming your work is already decent, it’s marketing/SEO that will be the make or break of your business. I share all the tips, tricks, and hacks that have worked well for me in a book called More Brides.

More Brides Book by Shotkit

Where do you find aerial photography on the next 5 years?

I see new laws and regulations getting stricter surrounding non-commercial drone use. The fact that any idiot with $500 to spare (like me, for example!!) can own something that can invade privacy, can cause significant flight disruption, and can even be potentially lethal, is crazy to me.

Many people consider you as an expert in the space of photography; who are a few photographers you believe others should look up?

That’s very flattering. I don’t have any go-to photographers, to be honest, but I have a lot of respect for photojournalists, particularly those covering sensitive topics and warzones.

What is something exciting people do not know about yourself? When you are not behind the cams, where will we locate you?

Behind my desk writing for Shotkit, reviewing one of the latest travel tripods, or under a barbell at the gym! Pretty boring, right?

Mark as a Japanese Model

Here’s something a bit more interesting – I starred opposite the most famous woman in Japan (at the time) in a prime time TV drama about 15 years ago. I was famous over there for a good few of years – if you do some googling, you can probably find examples of my terrible, wooden acting.

What has the UAV can do for you which you would not otherwise manage to shoot with conventional cameras?

Pretty obvious – getting photos from the sky. Another use I find for drones is when I travel for destination weddings – I love being able to scout potential shoot locations from the comfort of my hotel room.

A lot of photographers ponder how they could take pictures like you. Any advice you may share that might help their works?

Hmm’ get so adept with your gear that you no longer need to think about settings, then concentrate on capturing the moment as creatively as possible. If nothing is happening of interest, push yourself a little to create something out of nothing.

One of My Creative Wedding Photography

Do you keep all your media on your camera, or will you make use of any cloud server for backing up your works? When might somebody consider adding some backup, so they do not lose their all work?

When traveling, I’ll make sure I backup once to my laptop, leave one card in my camera and have one in my pocket. When shooting locally, I back up to two external hard drives and upload my client’s images to a ShootProof gallery, where they’re stored indefinitely.

What have been a few of the most beautiful places you have traveled and photographed, and the reason?

Japan, without a doubt. The people, the places, the energy – it’s unlike anywhere else.

For travel and adventure photographers visiting different countries, would you suggest any handy resources to investigate that nation's drone laws?

To be honest, I’m a bit blas’ about all that. However, I do recommend having a good look at this excellent resource on drone laws by a site with which you may already be familiar 😉

Check out Mark Condon on the web!

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