Q and A: Interview with Liam Collard, Co-Owner and Professional Photographer at Collard Studios

In recent years, Liam Collard and his partner Stam Chananakon have built a hugely successful commercial travel and lifestyle photography business. Here Liam discusses what inspired him to become a photographer, the best ways of gaining access to remote communities and reveals the secrets to stunning travel photography. He also shares a few images of him on his travels this year.

 Introduce yourself

I'm from the UK but have been living and working in Thailand for the past five years. I have always loved travelling the world and south-east Asia is such a wonderful place to experience different cultures. When I’m not off somewhere on an assignment, I love nothing more than taking our French Bulldog Bob for long walks through the Thai jungle.

 What inspired you to become a professional photographer?

I’ve always been fascinated by photography and had a desire to express myself creatively, but I got stuck doing a boring office job. Eventually I reached the point where I was willing to take the leap of faith to give a career as a photographer a go. Photography is a great way to tell stories and be creative, so I was naturally drawn to its possibilities.

What type of clients pay for your services?

We have a great mixture of clients, from luxury hotel brands looking for inspiring content of their locations and resorts, to other high-end businesses in a range of fields, such as BMW. We also recently completed a brief for a diamond jeweller in Hong Kong – they wanted to showcase their products in stunning cityscapes and we were very happy to make this artistic vision a reality for them.

How have you built your business as a photographer?

Traditional travel photography as a profession has fallen away since the introduction of digital cameras, with fewer commissioned assignments on offer. However, we’ve always believed our work has a strong commercial value, so we developed the idea of creating aspirational and bespoke content for brands around the world. We tailor the content to our clients’ needs, but always with a focus on creating dynamic and unique images and video. We recently completed a project at the Four Seasons Resort in Bora Bora and examples of this and other work we’ve done for various international clients can be found here. We also use our client visits as an opportunity to photograph local culture and communities, which we do both for personal enjoyment and to provide extra content for our customers.

 How would you define your style of photography?

For our personal projects we mix documentary photography with powerful portraiture, spending more than a week living with a hill tribe in Thailand to following indigenous people in remote parts of the Amazon rainforest in Brazil.  Our client coverage includes these elements but is frequently focused on aspirational lifestyle content, which you can see in our Client Collections section of this website.

How do you go about arranging access to remote tribes and communities?

It’s all about choosing a destination and doing as much research as you can before you leave. Then, when you get there, enlisting the help of local people, from hotel staff to tour guides, to help you gain access to the people and places you want to photograph. For a recent project in Thailand, we met a hiking guide with knowledge of the remote villages we wanted to visit, and took him along to introduce us. 

What is the secret to great travel and photography?

Focus on being an open, friendly person before you pick up your camera and point it at people. This will help get you great results when you are looking to capture portraits or gain access to people’s lives. Also, if you can bear it, get up at sunrise for authentic scenes uncluttered with tourists.

You work in partnership with Stam - what's the best thing about being part of a team?

Stam encourages me to push myself and not just settle for the first idea I come up with. She also challenges some of my ideas, which all helps to make me a better photographer. Travelling together is great fun and it’s wonderful to share all the amazing experiences we have, both as a couple and a professional unit.

What's the best photograph you've ever taken?

Travelling through Vietnam I met a lady selling scallops on the back streets of Saigon. She sat down in the doorway of her house for a cigarette break. The backdrop of her house and the atmosphere of the moment made for an amazing image. I still get a sense of excitement whenever I look at it.

 How do you pass the time when you’re travelling from A to B?

I always have some good acoustic playlists downloaded from Spotify to listen to when I’m editing on the go. When we’re on long-haul flights, I love listening to true crime podcasts to help pass the time

Liam Collard