The Problems of Peer Praise in Photography

“You rock!” “Your image is awesome!” “This shot is fantastic!”

All well and good but when those accolades come from people who are friends, relations or acquaintances, do they have any real value? Are they indeed truths or simple back slapping gratuitous behaviour to enhance possibly the worst possible barrier to real progress in becoming a better photographer? I mean EGO!

It is beyond doubt that those who have an incapacity to divorce their ego’s from their images, that often negative emotional attachment that makes appropriate constructive critique a serious issue, simply feel they cannot learn anything at all from their peers or those who have proved their mettle, achieved the highest ‘measured’ standards and now dedicate a part of their lives to the education and inspiration of others.

To those in the ‘Professional’ sector it is the singular cause of angst against what they dub as ‘Wannabe’s’, ‘Weekend Warriors’ or worse.  People who one day pick up a camera, start snapping away with no experience or referring to ‘YouTube’ as their Photo Bible and call themselves ‘Pro’s’ because their families and mates tell them (in 95% of all cases) that their images are good, when in truth, the exact opposite applies!

It is an inescapable fact that all newcomers to the photographic profession must start somewhere. My firm belief is that everyone should invest in proper education. Learn the key skills that are essential to best practice. Cover all bases and master techniques. Get yourselves a real Mentor with a wide skills and knowledge base. And above all, take the well intentioned ‘peer praise’ of their friends and relations with a pinch of salt., smile, and learn the art, craft, ethics and profession you have chosen.

TO BRING LIGHT & LIFE IS TO INSPIRE…..

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Shooting to sell and not for self!

I am now in the third month of my own Continuous Professional Development Mentoring Programme and I am learning as much as my charges, particularly as I’m forced to focus on what makes a viable photographic business. My feelings that Photographers are just another kind of retailer are well know and further, that if they have the ability to divorce their ego’s from their imaging that ultimately they will sell more and become successful rather than being a ‘struggling artist’.

The key to this is to learn to shoot to sell and not for self. This demands a discipline and efficient uncommon in the photographic industry. In essence you’ll make more money marketing your business and shooting sessions rather than spending endless hours in front of a computer editing vast numbers of images for customers who are more than happy to banish 95% of what you shoot to the virtual dustbin.

As an example I am going to chat about Albums. Those collections of images that are kept as treasured heirlooms by families as they grow  and move from generation to generation. In essence a visible recorded history in images that recall moments in time never t be recreated but preserved forever.

Recently, I was invited to visit Album Epoca in Riccione, close to Bologna in Italy. These wonderful people have been friends, colleagues and indeed, suppliers to myself and some of my esteemed worldwide colleagues. From the outset I was deeply impressed at the scale of the operation being Italy’s number one supplier that has been built upon a reputation of feeling a passion for the industry, the importance of ‘team & commitment’. Indeed they are so much more than an Album company.

Led by Andrea Mainetti their stylish and visionary CEO, ably assisted by sales supremo Federico Casini, one cannot be less than impressed by the way they have steered this company to the forefront on home soil. In recent years they have been developing an enviable reputation in many countries including the USA and the United Kingdom.
Their focus is on handmade products with strict quality control. Indeed every process is carefully monitored and Epoca’s team of dedicated craftsmen and women take their jobs extremely seriously. To see such quality control procedures in action was amazing. Check, double check, triple check at each and every stage! The Album Design division feels like you are walking into a science laboratory with white coat clad technicians and creative designers working tirelessly to interpret photographers selection of images and produce story telling albums. The colour management process is continually monitored to ensure consistency, indeed no stone is left unturned in the pursuit of excellence in manufacture and customer service.
Why would any busy photographer spend countless hours at a computer designing their albums when Epoca provide that service totally free of charge? It makes no sense to me at all. The time spent on that laborious task could be better utilised in acquiring more business and generating greater profits. To me, doing to all yourself is a false economy. Help is only a phone call away with English speaking staff ready to answer your questions.
They have an impressive roll of worldwide clients who are ‘household names’ in the photographic industry.
In the coming months I will be taking a long hard look at the products and processes offered by Italy’s number one choice of Album manufacturers – Album Epoca. Please go take a look simply by clicking www.albumepoca.com/martin

Autopsy of a One2One Studio Consultancy from the ‘British Studio Doctor’

I’ve had lots of questions about exactly what I cover on a Studio Consultancy so I thought I’d share the notes from a recent experience that proved to be a ten day task disassembling a business from the ground up! Prior to commencing this marathon ‘surgery’ I asked the Studio owner to make a comprehensive shopping list of areas they wished to cover. I was not quite prepared for what turned up, so here goes…

Section 1 – Technique:

Camera Settings:
what do they all mean, P,A,Ae,S,M,B etc
A. The most important settings as far as you are concerned are Manual and Aperture Priority. As far as White Balance goes, AWB, Flash and ‘K’ (Degrees Kelvin) are critical. 
Also, when to change them, in what settings/environments; which ones work together with each other (AV, flash etc); which ones to use inside/outside; when to use a flash and when not to use a flash?
A: After the last ten days, this you should now fully understand. You have determined ‘ideal’ settings for the Studio but just to clarify, you should now be shooting at 125th Second at f5.6 at 100 ISO with a ‘Daylight’ White Balance. That is the small shining sun icon on your camera. This is based on the colour temperature measurement of your Photogenic Studio Strobes. Outside on location try to work at 100 ISO too and shoot at shallow apertures for maximum separation of subjects from their background. The exception to this is if you have a multi layered group that exceeds the depth of field capabilities at the shallow aperture selected. Adjust your exposures by increasing or decreasing your shutter speed and NOT your aperture on location.
Lighting:
Different techniques? Softboxes vs.Umbrellas and the placement of the lights
A: You now have an appreciation of both short (Narrow) and Broad Lighting techniques. Remember, you are looking for the most flattering lighting position for your subjects based on ‘Physiognomy’ techniques and not your own convenience! Try to always centre the Iris in the eye sockets and keep the catchlights high in the eyes at either ten minutes to Ten or ten minutes past Two O’Clock!
I need to understand Metering!
A: Believe me, you now know how to use a Lightmeter!
How many lights should I use and when?
A: This was a more difficult one to answer, but you have had, amply demonstrated, the use of One to Four lights in the studio. Less for Low Key and more for White Background or High Key. Accurate exposure is critical in your High Key and White Background work. If your working aperture is f8 then your ‘Keylight’ is f8. Your fill, one stop less at f5.6 and your background lights at one stop over at f11. This way you should achieve a clean white background. For your Low Key work, remember your ‘One Light’ technique and try to fill with a reflector to open up the shadows. Feather off the edge of the light. Remember that lighting on the vertical axis as well as the horizontal is essential to a good lighting pattern. Finally, less is more! Be subtle!!!
 
Sports teams/groups (how to light them properly)
A. Planning sessions is your best move. Indeed all assignments out of studio should be carefully planned to make sure you have the right kit with you to undertake your assignment.
How do I meter each light and what numbers they should each be set at?
A: Working at shallow apertures increases subject from background separation. This you now understand. In the Studio you are finally working at f5.6 for individual portraits rather than your habitual f9.1 to f11 and all apertures in between for everything! 
Flash settings and techniques
A: Amply demonstrated and understood
 
Scrims and reflectors (how to properly use them)
A: Amply demonstrated and understood
 
Posing:
Babies, Kids, Families, Grads etc.
A. What you need are very specific ‘posing sets’ for each style of photography you shoot. If you like, a shot list. This is in combination with ‘Studio Set Building’ where you design individual sets for each assignment. Each set should be photographed, with notes, so every one is repeatable. You now have ample sets in Families, Seniors, Children of many ages, Business and Boudoir. Use them wisely and continue to add to your repertoire
Photoshop & Retouching
Please teach us ANYTHING!!! We need a lot more knowledge about this!!
A. Efficiency of workflow means less time on your computers and more time spent marketing your business. Essentially, the more you get right on camera, the less time you will need to spend ‘fixing’ things. I have seen many examples of you needing to fix things, some I have done for you and others have had to be done by your lab thereby incurring more expense and a dilution of your profits! This has to stop IF your business is to survive!
Should we be buying NIK – editing help needed BIG TIME!!
A. Nik Software is a valuable image enhancement tool and could be a useful part of your workflow. 
Section 2 – SALES & MARKETING:
 
Sales:
We need to be selling larger prints (bigger than 8×10)
A. First and foremost…Shoot images with significantly more space around the subject. This enables a variety of croppings and compositions from the same frame. It’s a hard fact that if you shoot for 8×10 then that’s pretty much all you’ll sell. when a tightly cropped image that is enlarged shows a head close to and exceeding life size, your clients will not easily make a purchase. 
 
How do we ge larger orders?
A. Shoot more variety in every session. You now have a far more extensive repertoire on every session  you shoot. Remember to keep building those shot lists! And while you’re at it, keep an image scrapbook as we discussed!
 
Offering images on a CD?
A. Absolutely! Do not be afraid of ‘shoot & burn’. Even if you make print sales its a good idea to offer a disc some time after the closure of the initial sale. After all, why spend time and resources with files on your system other than those you select as samples.
 
Refer a friend, does it work and how?
A. Friend/Client referrals are an excellent way of boosting your business. There are several options. Either a straight fee per session that the client brings in or more preferably, complimentary products from sessions you have already shot for them. Remember there is no such thing as free and everything you produce has a retail value.
Specials: (Halloween, Christmas, Easter etc.)
How do we get more customers in the door on these ‘specials’?
A: Tasteful and classy is best. If you look cheap you’ll sell cheap. This to date has been your downfall. It does not matter what your competition does, simply do it better. You’ve had plenty of advice on this from me
 
How do we advertise better?
A: Save your money and maximise your use of all social media channels. This you have had plenty of evidence of this last week so keep it up! Your local clientele are now literally going nuts seeing the vast differences in the quality and variety of your sessions. Making the short movies with Pro Show Web you now see is so important and engaging.
 
Offering images on a CD?
A: It is a harsh fact that this is what the market now demands. It does not mean you have to give your sessions away. In XXX for example the averages for a Senior session cut to disc is between $XXX to $XXXX. Don’t give your work away as its a one way ticket to business failure.
 
Pricing for these things (sittings, packages, minimum order??)
A: It is another harsh fact that you both have an unshakeable belief in a ceiling of achievability in your sales based upon what your competition is charging and other historical factors. In truth, people DO RECOGNISE QUALITY and are willing to pay a premium. You simply need to believe that too but right now, for me trying to convince you of that is a ‘No win scenario’. You now have a pretty full range of Product Price Lists in hand in PDF and a Master ‘Editable’ PSD format. Play with them. As you are now producing significantly improved standards of photography, you should have the strength of your own conviction and faith in your business to move your prices up now!!!. DO NOT add crap and gimmicks as it will only succeed in cheapening your presentation. 
 
Are our packages and things we offer not a good thing?
A: Your packages are a habitual part of your business however, you should at least try to be confident enough to sell wall portraits and other premium products. This is most effectively done by ‘pre-selling’. That is, talking about Wall Portraits, Wraps etc at the time of shooting. Continually referencing and reinforcing the beauty of display products.
Seniors:
How do I get kids back here and what can we offer to get them to sign up early?
A: T Shirts and branding! Design a ‘cool’ line of merchandising that is directly attributable to your studio. You also now have a number of excellent sample images that outshine your past efforts by a long way. This summer you should maximise your opportunities to add to your meagre portfolio. Also consider a Seniors ‘Ambassador’ programme. It wouldn’t hurt you to spend some tome on the internet researching such things. For example look at the business practices of great Senior shooters like Jennifer Hilenga from Minneapolis and Blair Phillips. If you chat and mix with fellow professionals you’ll find them happy to share their knowledge. 
Packages/Pricing/Products:
Are my prices too high too low?
A: In a word YES. But right now and unfortunately, its about believing what you can sell at prices you believe you can achieve. I can do nothing to change that mind set if you’re not prepared to grow some!!!!
 
Am I offering enough stuff or too much stuff
A: Far too many products but this has once again been dealt with amply. Lose the table full of tacky junk and gimmicks and concentrate on selling quality not trite XXXX!
 
Should I offer Metallic prints?
A: If you still don’t believe you can sell wall portraits then this question is irrelevant. Metallic prints are simply a different premium finish. Do your maths on them with your lab and take it from there.
 
We don’t offer cards or albums and there’s no excuse for it, just need help to get going on them.
A: Once again, in  a word YES. But right now its about believing what you can sell! Putting together an album is not difficult given the range of templates available in most ROES programmes. Failing that you can learn to do it either in ‘Adobe In Design, Yervant’s Page Gallery or in Photoshop. 
Answering Phones:
Are we not taking enough info down when we make appointments and are our phone techniques and skills okay? How can we improve and make them better?
A: You do a good job when you answer but never let a phone ring more than three times!
Sessions:
How much time to be spent with each sitting?
A. The average time on ANY session should be one hour unless it is a complex large family group or one that requires travel to and from a location. When shooting small children, patience is a virtue. Do not be afraid to take regular time out sessions during the shoot. If a particular pose or set isn’t working, have the strength of your convictions to abandon and move on.When shooting Seniors, go for a balanced session. Combinations of Studio and Location work well. In such cases allow a double session as you’ll find the returns are well worth it. You need to develop a mentality of shooting for album or photo book as this will encourage more variety of poses.
How to get our customers to leave some sort of comment on facebook after their session?
A. Social Media has become an important facet of every Photography Studio all over the world. The most important thing is to be positive and refrain from either personal or negative comments. NEVER invite comments on the style of a photograph. ALWAYS show your best work. When shooting Seniors for example, post a ‘mini-album of four or five shots from a session. This will enable you to build a following and an ‘Ambassador’ program. ALWAYS make sure you give each client at least one, low resolution, watermarked Facebook image to share with their friends and families.
 
Should we be offering something at their session if they refer a friend for any sort of session they will get (something) off their order? What to offer? What works & what doesn’t work?
A: Amply discussed with you. Remember, you can’t make a living by giving everything away free! Discount with product and not hard cash if you have to!
Ordering after customer sessions:
Should there be a minimum order total?
A: You already have these
 
How do we get them to come back asap to order so we aren’t tracking them down months after their session for an order?
A: Do a face to face viewing and ordering session where you actively SELL!!!!
 
Should there be a penalty for not ordering after so many days after the images are posted online?
A: By doing a proper face to face viewing session this should be avoided.
Should we have a contract for them to sign at the session for any reason, ordering time, picking up photos in a decent timely manner?
A. You should have a ‘contract’ with Terms & Conditions of business signed and in the file of EVERY client. Its all to do with expectations! It is known as ‘transparency in trading’ and it is something you can always fall back upon.
Networking:
All we use is Facebook, we don’t know or understand Twitter, but know it’s something we should be doing, especially with the high school aged kids.
Blogging.
A: There are plenty of articles and information about Twitter and other Social Media channels on the internet. research them all and simply try. You have nothing to lose. You must be far more active on Facebook as it seems to be the only channel you drive work from. Post regularly and in a chatty way.
Packing Photos: (when orders are complete)
In our coupon we include a free 5×7 and $10 off your next sitting (to be used in one year) stupid
A: No point in giving yet more free products away. It achieves nothing
Copyright letter
Should we include business card in with pictures?
A. You should ALWAYS have some kind of card that keeps your studio in the mind of your customers.
Donations:
How much should be spent each year on donations/benefits?
A: Simple answer is that your total marketing budget should be a minimum of 10% of your total income. More realistically 15% is sensible to budget for in a growing business that is trying to be a local market leader! Remember that anything you give away has a retail value with a ascribed profit margin. When considering a giveaway, look at the retail and direct costs of doing so. You are giving away valuable product and therefore this should not be done lightly. 
 
How do you tell people “NO” when you are getting asked for donations/gift certificates constantly for benefits for people and nobody is cashing in on them?
A: This is a easy one! Just look at my answer to the above question. Any giveaway has a real value and is not simply a throw away gift to be disposed of or abused. Packaging is everything and must be relative to the value of your giveaway. A beautifully printed voucher looks expensive. Under no circumstances give pieces of paper, promisory letters or emails! If the giveaway is for a good cause you must DEMAND that you are mentioned in any promotional materials or you will not honour the ‘gift’. Make your terms and conditions of giveaways extremely tough. Put very tight expiry dates on any gift, indeed a maximum of one month is more than sufficient. If an organisation has been given such a gift before that was not redeemed, then simply explain that there is a direct cost to your company of ANY giveaway and say NO!
School and Sports Photos:
Should people have to buy a package or spend a certain amount of money on each order. Sports, Proms, School pics etc. Should I include a copyright letter with each kids pics we return to them?
A: ALWAYS include a copyright letter explaining that it is illegal to copy images in any way and is indeed a criminal offence akin to theft. You will find suitable wording on the internet. As for ‘Packages’, you should always make sure every package you sell gives you the minimum profit margin you need to make the assignment viable. On the premise that less is more, keep the number of packages down to avoid confusion ad maximise sales. 
Old Backgrounds/Muslins/Props:
What to keep, what to get rid of?
A: Make a list of all your surplus backgrounds and props. Sell them on Ebay or similar. Again, to make room for replacements if needed. Some great backgrounds are produced by David Maheu and Denny Manufacturing. It is going to depend upon the style changes that are implemented in your “Studio Survival Plan”.
Old Assignments:
Should I be selling their files after so many years?
A: Make lists of customers/files 2,3,4 and 5 years and design a letter, hand signed, explaining that you are making space on your servers and this is a one time opportunity to purchase and keep their digital files/negatives at a very special rate. If you do not feet a response with letter 1 then send a final follow up letter, after which simply delete the files. Clearly explain that once deleted there will be no opportunity for retrieval. 
 
Slideshow Movies:
A: Use a Pro Show Web account form Photodex.  Currently it is a great price at $150 per year for a Premium Account. I will demonstrate slideshow building but yet again, there are plenty of ‘How To’ resources on the Photodex website at http://www.photodex.com
 
So, this was a synopsis of the feedback given to this ‘struggling’ studio. I’m pleased to say that they began to turn the corner while I was still there with the phone ringing off the hook with bookings and enquiries. Now, they are on a steady and sustainable growth, establishing themselves as the market leader in their area. If you are in a similar position and want to discuss One2One Mentoring from the “British Studio Doctor” then contact me soon. For this studio and others its been their best business decision ever!!!!

Keep it simple and start the right way with Studio Lighting

It’s high time I put together a post on getting started with lighting in studio and the simple principles to help you along. On the premise that ‘less is more’ my studio flash heads of choice are the extremely well engineered and constructed iLux range available from Photomart. Starting with the 150’s to the popular 300 & 500 RD powered heads and culminating in the new 600 Summit Cordless, there is really a unt for every purpose. In a subsequent post I’ll chat more about the cordless range and its versatility.You really can’t go wrong with the superb RD 300’s that I have in everyday use in my Leamington Spa training studio. But, what is also critical to me is the choice of light modifier or softbox.

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Photomart have a healthy number of kits on offer at prices that are extremely affordable, but they will also help you put together a kit to suit your personal needs and I’m always here to give advice. Just send me a message and I’ll be pleased to help.

I must admit I’m not a huge fan of umbrellas as I’m a total lighting geek who wants to exercise maximum control in the emulation of directional, natural light. After all, the most gifted of Renaissance painters had just that to work with, hence my plea to keep it simple.

As yet I have not had the opportunity to play with the iLux 150’s but would say quite clearly, that for any newcomer to Studio Portraiture that they have a great build quality for such an inexpensive unit and with individual heads at around the £80 plus VAT mark and kits starting at £237 plus VAT they represent excellent value. In forthcoming post I’m join to look at lighting starting with just one head complete with simple lighting diagrams and examples. So, get online and order your starter kit now. You won’t regret it, I promise!

Simple portrait with a single studio head, modified with a soft box, flagged in the foreground and filled with a simple reflector only.

Simple portrait with a single studio head, modified with a soft box, flagged in the foreground and filled with a simple reflector only.

 

A Definitive Shot List for a UK Wedding

As the Wedding Season is upon British photographers I thought it might be useful to share a ‘shot list’ I used when my very busy studio in the heart of Warwick was in full swing. Indeed I used it well after that as a mental note and in training other wedding photographers over the years to be both reactive and responsive. It is based upon actually listening to Brides and fulfilling exactly what they want.

In recent years there has been a leaning towards the genre’s of “Wedding Reportage”, “Wedding PJ” and what I feel is the most appropriate description, “Documentary Wedding Photography”. I have heard well known ‘Rock Stars’ in the industry lie through their teeth describing their work as free from intervention but have seen great evidence that they have indeed choreographed images in various ways including, creating a predictable environment. Indeed I extol those virtues rather than seeing them as a negative. After all, surely our job has always been to make our clients dreams and visions become realities? I still feel that a wedding without some structure and choreographed flow is a visual disaster just waiting to happen.

So, here we go and I hope that this framework proves useful. It can be applied for any venue or circumstance…

At the Bride’s home before the Ceremony….In an observational and choreographed manner…

  • Detail shots of shoes, corsage, bouquets, jewellery and the dress
  • Hair styling
  • Application of make up using mirrors and other reflective surfaces
  • Bridesmaids getting ready. Introduce play
  • The Bride getting ready, putting on the Wedding Dress

At the Bride’s home before the Ceremony….In more formal manner…

  • The Bride alone
  • Bride & Chief Bridesmaid
  • Bride & other individual Bridesmaids, Flower Girls or Page Boys
  • Bride & all of the Bridesmaids
  • Bride, Bridesmaids and the Bride’s mum
  • Bride, Bridesmaids and the Bride’s mum & dad (total wedding party)
  • Bride with her mum
  • Bride with her dad
  • Bride with her mum & dad
  • Bride with her mum & dad and any siblings

And now, it’s off to the Church or other venue to meet the lads….

  • Groom alone
  • Groom & Best Man
  • Groom & individual Ushers
  • Groom, Best Man & the Ushers
  • Groom with his mum
  • Groom with his dad
  • Groom with his mum & dad
  • Groom with his mum & dad and any siblings

And in a more informal manner….

  • Guests arriving for the Ceremony
  • Cameo shots with the Groom
  • Cameo shots with other key participants

Now is the time that YOU ensure that the Groom & Best Man are settled in Church and the guests go in too….

The Bridesmaids arrive with the Bride’s mum (You’ve already done quite a few images at the home so keep this short!)

  • Informal images as the Bridesmaids await the Bride’s arrival
  • The Bridal car approaching
  • Bride in the car through the window
  • Bride in the back of the car
  • Bride & dad in the back of the car
  • Dad helps his daughter out of the car
  • The Bridal party approach the door
  • The Clergy or officiating minister greet the party
  • The veil is put in place and the Bridesmaids help
  • Bride & dad (tight shots)
  • The Bride looks back before she goes through the door

The Wedding Ceremony….

Depending upon the Venue and officiating clergy or minister, you will be allowed to take some of the following images, WITHOUT FLASH and without disturbing the proceedings…

The Bride’s veil is lifted

  • The Groom’s first sight of his beautiful Bride
  • Faces during the first hymn
  • The Bridal couple sharing an ‘Order of Service’ (concentrate on their expressions and glances)
  • The vows
  • The exchange of rings
  • The massed congregation as an elevated shot or from the back of the venue
  • The signing of the registers (observed)
  • The signing of the registers re-created at the instigation of the officiating clergy, minister or registrar
  • Walking down the Aisle

After the Ceremony….

  • The first happy, smiling shot of the newly weds
  • Reportage images of the couple with their guests
  • Cameo shots of both the Bride & Groom in conversation with their guests

Use this time to explain to the Best Man and Ushers their ‘real’ purpose at the remainder of the Wedding. They are there to assist you in the organisation and the smooth running of the minimum of ‘formal’ images that hold EVERY wedding together….Groups need not be an unpleasant chore!

  • Arrange a ‘confetti’ shot
  • Pics with the Bridal car, champagne and the chauffeur
  • Farewell wave from the couple through the car window

The ‘Formal’ groups….

  • Bride & Groom, full length, half length and head & shoulders in rapid succession
  • Bride & Groom with Best Man
  • Bride & Groom with Best Man & the Ushers
  • Bride & Groom with Best Man & chief Bridesmaid
  • Bride & Groom with chief Bridesmaid
  • Bride & Groom with chief Bridesmaids & the Bridesmaids
  • Bride & Groom with Best Man, Ushers & Bridesmaids (This is the formal Bridal Party)
  • Bride & Groom with Best Man, Ushers & Bridesmaids with both sets of parents (This is the extended Bridal Party)
  • Bride & Groom with the Bride’s parents
  • Bride & Groom with the Bride’s parents & siblings
  • Bride & Groom with the Bride’s parents, siblings and Grandparents
  • Bride & Groom with the Bride & Groom’s parents
  • Bride & Groom with the Groom’s parents
  • Bride & Groom with the Groom’s parents & siblings
  • Bride & Groom with the Groom’s parents, siblings and Grandparents

And that’s it for the ‘Formals’! No more than 15 minutes stress, but probably the most important images of the day!

The ‘Documentary’ or ‘Reportage’ section….

The time remaining before the couple sit down for the Wedding Breakfast affords you an opportunity to capture some of the memorable and delightful spontaneous moments of the day. You must be continually observant and ready to respond in an instant. Look for important details that mark the quality of the guests, their clothing and accessories.

Expensive shoes, handbags, jewellery and watches are excellent opportunities for cameo images. Be outrageous and if the circumstances permit, encourage extravagant behaviour. Try to look for natural couples that may well be your future clients. Shoot well separated, half-length shots that could grace their homes or office desks.

Finally in this section, you may wish to create some more dynamic images of the wedding party, more specifically, the Bride & Groom. Don’t be afraid to do this in front of an ‘audience’, as your importance as a showman and entertainer should not be underestimated. This is your big chance to leave a lasting impression on those who may never have the opportunity of seeing the images you create on the day. Look for unusual locations. Nice cars, stunning architecture, pastoral and beach scenes, barns, pergolas and other features that may afford you top shade are all equally important.

The Reception and ‘End Game’…..

During the Wedding Breakfast you may have the opportunity to shoot some ‘table pics’ between the courses. Again, focus on natural groups and couples and then step back and observe behaviour from a distance. Watch the dynamics as people chat and flirt with each other, all valuable images in your coverage.

At some point in the proceedings the couple will be called upon to cut the Wedding cake. You may have already pre-staged the shot before the commencement of the meal when the area was free from clutter and distractions. This time, shoot it as it happens and be ready to swing around and gauge the guest’s reactions. Do not be afraid to animate the couple at this stage, as by now they will be used to and welcome your direction.

The speeches are your final chance to capture those all important reactions and emotions that make for a truly great wedding coverage. Be prepared to shoot in both directions to capture the speaker and the audience. You will need to be quick to react to the little jokes and quips that encourage great photographic opportunities. The images captured at this stage will enable the couple and their families to re-live the moment for years to come.

Meal finished, speeches over and it’s time for the ‘first dance’. The images captured at this moment will close your wedding album and MUST leave a lasting impression. It is undoubtedly a difficult situation to capture so again, do not be afraid to intervene to get your prime shots. Be mobile and consider using supplementary lighting with your assistant. Pre-visualise the finished image which no doubt will involve some level of intervention in Photoshop. Think about a kiss that is not a kiss, and explain this concept to the couple before they get onto the dance floor. In short, choreograph and design, physically and conceptually, every image you shoot and remember, you are only as good as the last wedding you create.

 

 

NEW!!! Custom Workshops on Demand

Lots of things happening in my world at the moment. It’s amazing what a good holiday with lots of walking, fresh air, good food and excellent company can achieve! So, I have decided to totally change the way I organise training days and replace them with Custom Workshops on demand.

The way it works is either One2One, Two or Four participants. From the ‘Menu’ on the Training page on this site, you choose your topics and take it from there…simple! 

A One2One day with me will cost you just £399. Two of you will pay £299 each and a group of four friends or colleagues can ‘design’ their very own workshop day at only £199 per person! You won’t find value like that for the best in hands on photographic education anywhere!

These are amazing introductory prices and each participant will receive my ‘Wedding Photography Workout’ & ‘Back to Basics-Composition’ DVD’s; My ‘Little Book of Lighting’ Ebook and a couple of Template Discs absolutely free! (Worth well over £100) So, contact me now to secure your day. Education is not expensive, its priceless!

International Judging and Scoring Systems in Photography – Part 18 – “MIND & HEART”

PART 18 – The conclusion of my series on International Judging and Scoring Systems in Photography. I hope everyone has enjoyed it and found it useful. My header image is one of my inspiration, my muse and my life. Good luck to all of you in your future quests!

On the subject of…’MIND & HEART’

It is my contention that the essence of great judging is “Mind & Heart”.

I was asked recently by a very knowledgeable and talented photographer who is now involved in judging, “When should I disregard the ‘rules’ and let my instincts take over when I feel I am looking at a great image that breaks rules?”. My answer to him was simple. Use your MIND to assess the Technical elements that are essential – Exposure, Focus, Lens selection, Colour, Print surface, Mounting & Presentation and use your HEART to ‘feel’ the image, see the stories, bathe in the light. If it stirs your soul, regardless of any so called ‘rules’ into which you have been indoctrinated over the course of your photographic career, go for it! Score high and celebrate a fantastic image.

International Judging and Scoring Systems in Photography – Part 17 – “Story Telling & Subject Matter”

PART 17 – On the subject of Story Telling and Subject Matter. The penultimate post in this series.

10. Story Telling & Subject Matter

This is definitely, after ‘Impact’ the most determining factor in the success or failure of a competition image. There is an old adage that “A picture is worth a thousand words” and although in many cases this can prove true, what happens in the case of a more passive subject? A landscape for example? In such cases a belief by the viewer that one could live within the image is a powerful emotional response. This is augmented by the ‘mood’ achieved by colour, tone, texture, depth and density.

An experienced Juror will be actively looking for clear narrative within the image. How accurate that story may be is down to personal perception as it is our nature to make up stories that suit us and our personalities. In essence, if an image has a meaning to a Juror, he or she will score it appropriately.

The subject of an image may not always be the choice of the artist. On a professionally commissioned image, the artist should demonstrate that they have made every effort to integrate the subject into an appropriate location with a mood of lighting to support the narrative. Not all images need to be manufactured for entry into image competitions and where it is clear that a properly commissioned portrait or wedding image for example has been submitted, due respect for the artist and their working conditions should be taken into account when scoring.

International Judging and Scoring Systems in Photography – Part 16 – “Photographic Technique”

PART 16 on the subject of Technical Excellence

9. Photographic Technique

“Is the approach used to create the image. Printing, lighting, posing, ‘digital negative’ exposure, film choice (If used), digital output to file, paper selection and more are part of the technique applied to an image.”

This at first view appears to be a duplication of the ‘Technical Excellence’ section but should be viewed as a more complete approach that just like ‘Creativity & Style’, distinguishes one image maker from another. Application of chosen techniques must be viewed as appropriate to the outcome or success of the image.

The Third Season HIPA Awards – Grand Event and aftermath

As I sit looking out of the window here in International Falls, MN close to the Canadian border and a few days into an action packed One2One consultancy with Cedulie’s Photography I look back on an interesting few weeks for me! Its only a week or so since I returned from the United Arab Emirates as the Worldwide Ambassador for HIPA, where I joined a throng of honoured guests, Judges, journalists from all over the world and of course, the lucky ‘winners’ for the third season of the  Awards – ‘Creating the Future’.

It all came together on March 17th (St.Patricks Day but I doubt there was a shamrock or pint of Guinness in sight!) in the shadow of the DIFC Gate here in downtown Dubai. An impressive stage with a ‘floor show’ performed by ‘Cirque du Soleil’. But it must be remembered that this was first and foremost about a celebration of Photography as ‘The World’s Richest Photographic Awards’ gave away prizes amounting to $389,000 US Dollars.

Special awards of recognition went to world renowned press photographer, Steve McCurry whose iconic images taken in Afghanistan just before the Soviet invasion and Yi-Ren Ng who in 2013 was honoured with the Royal Photographic Society’s Selwyn Award, given to those under the age of 35 years who have conducted successful science based research connected with imaging.

The main category, ‘Creating the Future’ was undoubtedly driven by Dubai’s bid to win the 2020 World Trade Fair, which we now know was secured at the end of last year. A challenging subject for photographers indeed and I’m pretty sure the Judges were faced with numerous cliches, not the least, ‘sand, seedlings and big buildings’!

The winner came from China and immediately faced waves of controversy that always seem to be attracted to awards of this grandeur and monetary value. The initial question? Was it or was it not retouched beyond all recognition or credibility. My good friend and colleague, David Kilpatrick of Icon Publications fame, went to a great deal of trouble to examine the file I sent him that was a little below par on the resolution front.  His analysis seems to prove quite conclusively that alleged ‘arm fixing’ was not evident and the retouching on a high ISO file was pretty commensurate with the trends we see in so many competitions nowadays.

The second ‘bombshell’ hit a few days later with reports coming out of China that the venue for the winner was a kind of ‘Studio Set’. Even so, revenues generated from this location are put to good use in the community so does that make it ethically wrong? I’ll leave you to judge that for yourselves. What I do know is that HIPA are working desperately hard in the face of all the usual adversity surrounding worldwide awards to do the very best they can to bring photography to the fore with all the considerable resources they have at their disposal.

My message? Bear with them. Give them a chance as they are only just three years all and like any child of that age, have a world of learning and experiences to gather in their laudable journey. The 2014 season’s main theme is ‘The Colour of Light’, which in its Arabic form means so much more than the picture it paints in English. I’m sure that together with the other new categories that it will present challenges to photographers at all levels and with a prize fund of $400,000 US Dollars it continues t be the World’s richest photography awards. But remember, ‘Rich’ should be considered in many ways. In culture, in content, in legacy. So, good luck and happy shooting!