5 minutes with: Tom Leishman

 If you've ever seen the work of Mr Tom Leishman, then there's no doubt that you'll have been blown away. Self taught, Tom has worked with a countless amount of awesome people (and creatures) and his creative talent ensures that each shot stands apart from the rest.

I caught up with him to find out what he's been up to recently...

Sup Tom! How are things with you?

Hello, I'm in great health and everything’s going pretty good thanks! I've been so busy recently! I've just finished shooting the new McFly press photos for their new album, album 6, and straight after that, back to back we then did the press shots for the McBusted 2014 tour campaign! I love being busy! 

So everyone can get a feel of what you’re about – describe yourself in five words…

Male, mid-twenty's, beard, awkward, passionate.

So last time I saw you we were up in North Yorkshire doing some rather special things for the Great British Farm Project. How did you find the day?

It was an absolutely incredible experience, it's photoshoots like that-that really wake me up from my core and make me appreciate how fortunate I am to do this job. However more importantly than that, I found myself being constantly overwhelmed at what Stephen & Tracy do at the farm, it's incredible, they're incredible. They've left an everlasting impression on me.

I'll try to explain...
I'm not proud of it, but I'll admit it in life I've often found myself walking past situations and thinking to myself “Somebody should do something about that”, well the unsung heroes Stephen and Tracy at The Great British Farm Project are the “Somebodies” who have selflessly committed a life to caring after these abandoned and often abused animals, that takes a serious amount of dedication and it's so admirable. 

Neither of them had any experience of running a farm previously so I can only image how much of a struggle it's been for them. I'm so glad they've pulled through and made it work because you just know that despite everything that's put in their way they'll put the animals before themselves every time. 

Working alongside them on this project was a dream, I actually wanted to bag up some of their kindness and take it back home to London with me to spread out in the city like a virus! Hell, if you've spent 24 hours in London town you'll know this town could do with it. If every person had little bit of Tracy or Stephen in them this world would be a much nicer place to live in.


Hopefully now that we've gifted the farm with these incredible images I hope they'll be able to generate some well earned money and media attention. The calender being our main objective is what we hope will kick things off for them. What makes it even more adorable is the fact that it's the animals who are making the money for the farm, think of it as if the animals are re-paying Tracy and Stephen for all their hard work! … And let me tell you, the animals loved it! Like little diva's posing on a catwalk! You'd have thought they'd done it before!

The shoot obviously had it's challenges, I mean... Photographing a 22 stone pig isn't as easy as it sounds! But armed with two of the best friends a guy can have in Richard Cullen and Layla Anna-Lee, it was a breeze! They made the day possible. On the long drive home back to London I felt like a “Somebody” for the first time and we'd helped someone do something about “That”. It was then I realised I was capable of doing something extraordinary and it was so easy... You can too, so do something extraordinary today.

Tell us how you ended up getting into photography? Was it something you had always wanted to do?

I'm not going to lie, I kinda sucked at most other things so I'm really glad I found out I was good at photography, but it wasn't never a thought out plan of mine until quite later on. When I really think about it I was always the family video/photo guy at birthday parties or on holidays. Composing photos came quite natural to me and I love being a fly on the wall, just observing things happen. I love taking those individual photos that completely tell the story. Being a music obsessive I've always surrounded myself with musicians, but as far as I'm aware I didn't possess any musical talent, yet I wanted to be involved somehow so It wasn't really until when I was 18 when my cousins band who were a small local pop-rock band invited me to one of their shows, it was probably only £3 entry but as I was jobless at the time I couldn't afford it so I blagged them to put me on a guest list as a photographer, I thought “how hard could it be!?” so armed with the family sony cybershot camera I strutted my way in the venue and the rest is history. For a short period of time I did attempt the educational route at Stafford College, but I was never good at the theory side of it, I had plenty of enthusiasm when it came to being creative or practical, but writing essays I wasn't as passionate about. Ever since I found out I was good at photography, I ran with it... I've been running as fast as I can ever since.

What kit did you start off with when you began your career?

I started off with the family Sony Cybershot DSC-W5 we bought it for dirt cheap from a police auction website! Later on with my parents support I bought my first Digital SLR, which was a Canon 350D, I didn't get any lighting equipment until quite a few years after, I took out a small loan from the princes trust.

I can't stress this enough to new photographers getting started, it really not important how great or expensive your equipment is at the start. Take for example; If you give Michael Jackson a cheap microphone he's still going to sound amazing, if you give Van Gogh a basic brush his painting will still look incredible. An expensive camera won't automatically give you incredible results.

You’ve worked with an endless amount of famous faces - was there a particular breaking point which kicked it all off?

The first known famous person I worked with was my friend Frankie Sandford from the girl band The Saturdays, we had mutual friends, one of my good friends Dan (who I met photographing his band) went to school with her. We were introduced at a party years before she was even in the girl band, when her band got together she asked me to photograph her band so I did! 

Since then I've been recommended and passed on. Working with McFly has been incredible, I really enjoy their company even if they do fart ALL the time! We get on great, working with them really enhanced my name as a photographer. It was never my intention to photograph famous people, it's just happen, it's fun though.

What inspires you?

I could write a list with hundreds of thing's that inspire me, I'm curious about so many things. I'm forever asking questions, I want to know how everything works and why it does what it does. I have found in life if you surround yourself with dreamers and people who are positive it'll rub off on you. But most importantly surround yourself with people who believe in you.

“You can't soar like an eagle when you hang out with turkeys”

Describe a typical day in the life of Tom Leishman?

It's probably not as interesting as some people may think! On an exciting day if I'm shooting something important it usually involves me having a restless night up planning/worrying and over thinking what I'll do on the shoot, I'm probably also stressing over our wonderful british weather, hoping it doesn't rain! By the time my morning comes, I'm relatively calm subdued with tiredness. Once I'm ready, I'll be banged into a taxi with all my gear, on route to the studio or location via the nearest place that sells coffee. During the photo shoot until I get that first shot that makes everyone excited I won't relax, thankfully those shots tend to come sooner than later, 

I think I do a good job of masking the fact I'm worried, my confidence tends to grow throughout the shoot, I feed from the responses from my clients. Once the shoot is finished and we've packed everything down I go straight home and edit through the night! I usually don't sleep until the early hours, I find I'm most creative late at night.

When I'm not shooting, I like mostly listening to music, reading or watching football.

Tell us about your favourite shoot you’ve done to date?

I don't think I actually have one, I have many fond memories of shoots that I've enjoyed, however there's not one that stands out from the rest - they've all been equally as challenging and engaging. The day I do a shoot and it's not a challenge or I'm not enthusiastic about will be the day I need to make some changes.
And your ultimate dream shoot?

I'm aiming as high as possible, I would love to photograph people who have changed the world, made a difference, made an impact. People like Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Karl Marx... I could go on. But these people are rare, these people have to be documented. These kind of people changed the world we live in, photographing anyone of that calibre would be a dream shoot.

What’s in the pipeline for you for the rest of 2013?

I can't believe how quickly 2013 has gone! We have a few cool shoots booked in, mainly bands and musicians! I'm just excited about the Great British Farm Project 2014 Calendar we made, which is out now for you all to buy, here

And finally, what key advice would you give to others interested in having a career in photography?

Believe in yourself, stay up all night, break habits, speak up, collaborate, stop procrastinating, learn as much as you can, find inspiration in everything, network, educate your clients, trust yourself, ask for help, create concepts, learn to take criticism, spell check, do research, sketch out your ideas! Be so good you can't be ignored!!

Thanks a million to Tom for taking the time and effort to give such a detailed interview. Make sure you check out his website, here and be sure pick up Professional Photographer Magazine where the man himself is featured, next month!


  1. great interview with a great chap :) x

  2. woah, so awesome! I love what he said about having positive people and people who believe in you surrounding you -- so true!

    1. It really is! Positivity makes all the difference :) x


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