I am Amy Shore, a photographer based more-or-less in the middle of the UK, which has turned out to be pretty handy to travel around this little island and beyond.
New Nikon Ambassador Amy Shore never thought she would become a professional photographer, let alone one specialising in cars and bikes. In fact, she was so convinced she would never be able to make a living in photography that she chose to study silversmithing at university instead. But her abiding love for imaging helped finance her degree with a side-line in wedding photography – experience that has since proven vital in honing an automotive-shooting style that is intensely personal and immersive. As she explains, "My intention is to give the viewer the feeling that they are driving down the road in the car."
Her client roster includes Goodwood, Jaguar Land Rover, Octane magazine, Evo magazine, Revolution magazine, Ramp magazine, Lexus, Renault Alpine, Triumph, Classic Driver, The Distinguished Gentleman's Ride, and many more. It's pretty impressive for someone who only turned professional four years ago. And her appointment also marks a new departure for Nikon, as she is our first ever Ambassador in the automotive field. Here's your chance to find out what drives her ambition…
I always loved photography but didn't think I would have any chance of getting a job in it, so when I left school I did a degree in metal- and silversmithing, and kept photography as a hobby and a way to earn some money – I shot weddings all the way through university, mostly for friends and very cheap!
The summer I graduated, in 2013, I had the opportunity to do my first ever car shoot, with the replica Ferrari P4, and Easton Chang, who's one of the top guys in car photography, reposted my Instagram pictures on his Facebook page, after which my site blew up with visitors. As a result, the classic car hub Petrolicious contacted me to do some shoots and articles, and Classic Driver found me from those. Around the same time I took my dad to the Goodwood Revival, and sent some of my images to Goodwood's Facebook page in a message, and off the back of those they asked me to do a shoot for them at their 72nd Members' Meeting. The wedding photography was also really taking off by then, helped by me shooting a stunning wedding with a really beautiful couple and the images getting picked up by a number of wedding magazines, so I ended up working in these two very different fields.
For a while I did both, because I wasn't getting enough car or wedding work to give up the other completely. But by last year I had to make the decision which one to continue: the cars or the weddings. I went for cars, as weddings are so stressful in comparison. Looking back, it's mad to think how much has happened in the last four years.
Kind of crazy! I didn't know anyone at Nikon, so it came completely out of the blue, and I'm over the moon about it. They're taking a leap of faith with me as they've never had an Ambassador in the automotive field before, and I'm so excited to be working alongside Nikon this coming year.
I'll be doing a series of talks at the Photography Show next March and promoting Nikon gear, but I've been doing that by myself for years – I love my Nikons! I'm also keen to set up a car photography workshop – it can be quite a stereotyped genre, with people thinking they need to take shots in a certain way, from a certain angle, using specific types of lighting, and I want to challenge this.
I started at 16 with the Nikon D50, which was a present from my mum and dad, but my photos really shot up in terms of quality when I got my D600, which I still have, and started shooting in RAW. It was a major turning point. Today my main camera is the D5, followed by the D750, and I still use my D600 as back-up if one of the others has gone in for repair or I'm going on a personal trip.
The D5 is amazing. The speed, focusing – especially in low light – and the lack of noise are absolutely brilliant. It's great being able to shoot at high ISOs knowing that the images will be superb. I love shooting at night and I don't like using flash, so as long as my eyes can see I completely trust my Nikons to be able to see. What I like about night shoots is that they're so atmospheric – they gives the viewer a real sense of what I'm seeing, so they feel like they are there, which makes the shots very authentic. And while it's tempting to fiddle about in post, my aim is to capture what it was really like.
The D750 is brilliant, too – in fact, I always use both cameras on a shoot. I've got a Hold Fast Strap, which is a bit like a leather bridle, so I can have both of my cameras on me at the same time: the D5 on my right hip with a 35mm, which is great for personal, 'in the moment' shots, and the D750 on my left hip with an 85mm, which is a fantastic focal length for closer work. I only use prime lenses, and I really love the angle of view you get with 35mm – it best captures what I'm seeing so the viewer really feels like they were there. My first 'proper' lens after the kit lens I got with my D50 was a Nikon 50mm f/1.8, which I still use today.
I love the reportage style of Magnum Photos and Time magazine, the speed of photojournalism and the complete lack of being able to prepare for a lot of things. I try to keep it as natural as possible, too. I've always been influenced by photojournalists who have really been in the moment of what they're photographing, like Don McCullin, Sebastiao Salgardo, Ragnar Axelsso and Harry Benson. My dad bought me Benson's book when I was 17 and I was so inspired by his photographs of the moments you can't plan. Car events and road trips are difficult to repeat or have a second go at, so I try to keep things as raw and realistic as I can. The thing is, I never intended becoming a car photographer – I was always way more interested in people. But applying the aesthetics and love for people and portraits to cars has helped me create my style, driving down the road in the car or feel that they know what it's like to visit the Goodwood Revival, despite being on the other side of the world.
In the early days people wouldn't take me seriously; they wouldn't put their trust in me until they'd seen the shots and were surprised how much they loved them. It was as if I couldn't do a good job because 'girls don't photograph cars…' I was on a job recently in a workshop, and this guy was telling me to keep out of the way of the sparks while he was grinding – he was being nice, trying make sure I was safe – and I just said, 'Don't worry, it's fine, I studied metals at university so I've done this myself a lot!' He seemed quite surprised and then said, 'That's not a very feminine thing to do…'
But there are some major advantages. I'm definitely remembered more – I'm recognised as that girl with the press pass, taking photos of cars – as there aren't that many women photographing cars, or indeed working in the automotive industry. I do feel that it is really beginning to change, though, with more female riders, drivers, enthusiasts, mechanics, writers and photographers. It also helps that I now ride a classic bike and I have my own classic car, which always stops people in their tracks.
My bike is a 1972 Honda 350 Four – big enough to shift a bit but not too big for me to handle. I only passed my test in September. One of the reasons I learned to ride was so I could talk to people about bikes – it helps them open up a bit more and gives me something else I can relate to them with. My whole work and life are mainly surrounded by classic vehicles and it didn't even occur to me to buy something that was new – classics are so stunning.
The car is a 1985 classic Mini Mayfair, and one of the best weeks of my life was driving it from my parents' home in Leicestershire up to the far west coast of Scotland and Skye, then back. I was completely on my own, with no phone signal and my headphones in, driving along singing loudly and photographing everything. It was brilliant!
They are generally the ones where clients want 'the best' but don't know exactly what that is – they're never happy because they don't know what they want themselves. The best clients are the ones who trust you, who give you a loose brief then let you get on with it.
That's a hard one to answer as I've had so many. I was invited by a pilot friend to go up in a Pitts Special – a little two-seater aerobatic plane – to photograph another one for a marketing campaign. We were doing tandem loops and barrel rolls and I was losing the horizon and it was so much fun, although it did test my stomach, which I thought was pretty strong after four years of hanging out of cars.
I had another stomach tester quite recently when I hopped into the new Renault Alpine to photograph professional racing driver, Nicolas Lapierre, while he was being filmed racing down this hairpin Alpine road as fast as he could. I hadn't even considered feeling sick, but by halfway down I was thinking, actually, I could really do with a window open…
My biggest career highlights so far include photographing Guy Martin attempting to break a land-speed record at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah for Triumph Motorcycles, and having the pleasure and privilege of meeting John Surtees when I photographed his daughter's wedding.
No! I travel a lot, and I'm currently going abroad a couple of times a month, sometimes for a few days and other times for over a week; by mid-February this year I'd already been away five times. All my work is commissioned and so far I've had such little time for myself, but now I've stopped the weddings – my very last one was in Pisa a couple of weeks ago – my diary is much more flexible, so I'll have time for some personal projects I really want to do.
I've never used studio lighting on my own – I've never been taught how to use it and I've no intention of learning any time soon! Limited light can be great fun because you have to make it work for you and that makes your creative cogs start turning. And sometimes your location does it all for you – when I was the Bonneville Salt Flats, they acted as a giant white reflector, so everyone's faces were lit perfectly.
In life and in general, even though it looks like everyone else knows exactly what they're doing, they don't. So many amateur photographers have said they're quite embarrassed to ask me how to do this or that but… and I just say, don't worry, there was a point where I was exactly the same. We're all fumbling our way through. So don't worry about being scared or asking for help or not knowing what you are doing – we're all kind of blagging it! Challenge yourself to do the best you can, and don't compare yourself to others – be inspired by them instead.