Behind the Portrait with photographer Tim Kavanagh

We would like to showcase our fabulous partners during this challenging time – friends of Dovetail who support us for client events and projects. They are all incredibly talented and deserve recognition and our support for their own businesses during this time. We invite them to showcase their art, their expertise.

Last week we introduced the food photographer Elainea and this week we are delighted to feature Tim Kavanagh who has worked with Dovetail for more than 15 years on many different projects, from portraiture to interiors, architecture and events.

Working from his studio in Putney, London, photographer Tim shares an insight into his portrait photography. 

I like to think of portrait photography as hunting a rather elusive prey. The prey is not the person but an unguarded moment. When confronted with a camera lens, an invisible coat of armour flares around most people. This armour consists of false modesty and excuses about hating photographs. This is curious for a nation that takes one billion selfies a year.

As a photographer, one has to find gaps and holes in the armour or break through it completely. This may be done through humour, distraction or even bullying. The famous portrait photographer Yousuf Karsh, when faced with a grumpy Winston Churchill, stepped forward, plucked the cigar from his mouth then quickly took the photograph. Churchill couldn’t help but smile at the courage of the man and another photo quickly followed. Armour pierced; iconic portraits taken.

With modern celebrities it is more camouflage than armour. They’re so used to the camera lens that you have to negotiate a way past the practised poses to access the true personality within. The secret is to strike up a friendship, with someone who doesn’t need any more friends, with limited time, in a stressful environment, whilst looking through a camera and worrying about lighting. Easy!

Luckily, I’m still friends with a lot of the celebrities I have photographed. So next time someone wants to take your picture, drop your armour and try to enjoy the moment. The photograph and the world will be better for it.

More of Tim Kavanagh’s work can be viewed at

Amy Winehouse

Paul Lewis 

Damian Lewis

Stephen Fry

Derek Jacobi

Boris Johnson

Toby Jones

Alice Temperley