Student & Graduate Stories - Art, Design and Fashion

Fraser Stephen

Freelance Cinematographer

Fraser Stephen

Fraser graduated in 2010 and is now as a freelance cinematographer and manages the planning and creation of images on film and video projects.

What have you been doing since graduation?

After graduating I worked for 6 months as an in-house eCommerce photographer for Amazon before establishing myself as a freelancer providing music and sport coverage for clients such as: BBC, News International and Universal News & Sport. My highlights of this era of my career included photographing artists such as The Strokes, Biffy Clyro and Rihanna at festivals and concerts in Scotland.

I completed a Masters in Film (Cinematography) in 2015, where I studied to become a Director of Photography. My graduation film 'Event Horizon' was screened at over 50 film festivals worldwide and won several awards for cinematography. Another of my student films, which is called 'Lucid', was nominated for a BAFTA Scotland New Talent Award.

In 2016 I co-founded a film production company called Shakehaus, which has been supported by Creative Scotland and the Scottish Film Talent Network with a view to developing and producing film and television projects.

Shakehaus is currently developing a slate of projects. In 2017 I was the Director of Photography on the comedy sketch show special Pity Party which was broadcast on BBC Scotland and is available to view on iPlayer:

In 2018, I resigned as a company director with Shakehaus in order to facilitate a move to London where I returned to freelancing, this time as a cinematographer. In London I have been shooting commercial projects for brands such as Amazon Music, Linda McCartney Foods, Breville, Carphone Warehouse, Vype, Wray and Nephew and a few of the big banks like Deutsche Bank, Royal Bank of Scotland and TSB.

What does your current role involve and what do you most enjoy about your current activities?

My role as a freelance cinematographer is to manage the planning and creation of the image on film and video projects. I have worked in TV, commercials, short films and documentaries but the majority of my work tends to be in branded content. I work alongside highly creative writers, producers and directors, as well as a diverse range of other creative and technical crew, to help turn an idea from script or treatment to screen.

On a typical project I collaborate with a director to plan the ‘look’ of the piece and then identify the camera, lenses and lighting requirements in pre-production. Once we are in production I instruct the lighting crew and operate the camera on location or studio based shoots. In post-production I collaborate with directors, editors and colourists to help ‘finish’ each project.

When I am not engaged on a specific project, I am also responsible for managing my business as a sole trader. During this time my typical daily tasks are related to administration, sales and marketing including financial management, building and maintaining a personal website and using social media and direct outreach to potential clients in order to network and land future work.

My work is highly varied, with no two jobs ever being the same. Being a professional photographer and cinematographer has given me the opportunity to meet a lot of amazing people and travel to places around the world to work.

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Why did you choose this particular course?

I chose the course because I wanted to be a professional commercial photographer. I came through the HND at Aberdeen College, which was a wonderful way to explore the diverse genres of photography from architecture and landscape, to portraiture and still life. I then chose to progress onto the BA (Hons) Photography. This stage allowed me to refine my craft, add more theorical/academic knowledge to my skillset and focus in on more of a niche.

We were given the freedom to self-assign our final major projects and I decided to focus on fashion photography. I now have clients who I make fashion and beauty films with, so this stage of my development was extremely important to me.

What advice would you offer to an applicant who is considering a course at RGU?

My advice would be to spend some time in the city and visit the campus to see if you feel comfortable and happy there. If you can’t visit, research it thoroughly online and explore that way.

What advice would you offer to current students?

My advice to current students would be to begin planning or thinking about their first steps after graduation as soon as possible, do not wait until your final year. Engage with the professionals in your area via social media and reach out to them for advice or mentoring opportunities.

What was the best thing about studying at RGU?

My experience at RGU was overwhelmingly positive. It was a great environment for me to be part of as a student. I enjoyed spending time at the campus and in the city centre. The social aspect of being at university is hugely important and was valuable in my personal development.

What was the best thing about studying in Aberdeen?

Aberdeen is a great city to study with excellent access to nature. Take the opportunity to visit the beach, explore the towns and villages outside of Aberdeen such as Stonehaven and hike up some of the great hills in the area like Clachnaben.

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