Only a few short months ago in London, when the Sun was sort of shining, on and off, meeting my best friend from school and walking around the National Gallery was a wonderful way to recharge life’s batteries and put many things into perspective. Recently I have had many people ask me what photographers have influenced me creatively and my answer is always the same….none. It’s not that I don’t have respect for fellow professionals past and present or admire their work, it’s way more than that. Let me first ask who or what are photographers in the 21st century? Surely if there had been cameras around in the Renaissance or the Baroque, wouldn’t they simply be called artists? Isn’t a camera simply another tool of capture and expression as much as a paint brush, palette knife or canvas? Wouldn’t they have been driven, patronised and commissioned by exactly the same people back then? Those being the Church or the extraordinarily wealthy wishing to commemorate their status in society and buy their way to immortality via the Pearly Gates?
What made them artists in those halcyon days was their use of light and its importance in showing a three dimensionality to their subjects. So if I have to identify a great difference, then it would be that on the whole, photographers have extremely poor lighting skills and simply forget that our art and craft is all about flattery! I think if Lorenzo de Medici commissioned your average photographer back then, it would not have been long before their heads adorned spikes in St.Mark’s Square! So here’s a wake up call to all those who have poor or no skills and scream “It’s all about expression and the moment”. How wrong can you be and if only it were as simple as that!
I remember my first day on my Fine Art Foundation Course just like it was yesterday. A bunch of enthusiastic, idealistic Art students proudly turn up with mahogany boxes loaded with Windsor & Newton oil colours, palette knives, sable and hogs hair brushes only to have them gathered up and locked away in a cupboard. Our tutor, a crazy Yorkshireman called John Yeadon, whose idea of a holiday was throwing stones at the troops in Chile, travelling with his beloved Cello and wrinkled clothes crammed in its battered case, handed us each a toothbrush with the immortal words “You buggers will learn to see light in all it’s beauty AND learn to paint with this!!!! When you’ve learned that, you can have your posh boxes back!” Talk about a wake up call!
Next instalment coming very soon….
Debate rages all over the internet on Photography Awards with a plethora of choice out there, just what should you consider when choosing and entering?
The primary question seems to be one of motive. Why exactly are the organisers offering such amazing prizes or huge financial rewards? What do the organisers get out of it? Will they steal my copyright? Will they hijack my identity? And possible the real big one, are the results ‘fixed’?!!?!
So what makes a great award well worth entering? First of all, integritity. One where the honoured judges are not compromised by being given a whole list of do’s and don’ts that undermine and potentially embarrass them. After all, the final results are firmly pinned to the reputations of the judges rather than the organisers themselves! If a worldwide award purports to truly represent the very best of imaging then ‘censorship’ is highly inappropriate at any level including cultural or religious differences. One shining example of ‘Best Practice’ is the World Press Awards which are probably the most sought after and highly valued accolades. If its ‘Press’ then there are no holds barred which results in a massive diversity of imaging that illustrates or highlights issues, situations or conflicts that affect us all. Their judging process is clean and efficient and their judges are drawn from the upper echelons of the press. Practitioners who have truly seen it all and as they say, got the T Shirt.
Another renowned competition is HIPA, The Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashed Al Maktoum International Photography Award. With a 2014 prize fund exceeding $400,000 USD and a top Prize of $120,000 it is indeed the World’s richest award. This year it has four categories with it’s flagship being “Life in Colour”. This is not what it appears to be at first view. A more understandable interpretation my be more culturally termed, ‘life’s rich pattern’. I am sure the Judges will be looking for far mote than a kaleidoscope of actual colour within images! The other categories are ‘General’ (essentially an open category), Faces (especially for Black & White submissions) and ‘Night Photography’. For more information you can visit http://www.hipa.ae/en/life-in-colour-2014-2015/categories
Finally, and this is one close to my heart for many years as its Chairman of Judges, is the CBRE Urban Photographer of the Year awards with the acronym, ‘UPOTY’. With a single theme, “Cities at Work”, it poses an exciting challenge to its entrants which for the last two years has been worldwide. Historically there have been prizes for each of the 24 hours of the day with a top prize of a photo safari somewhere in the world. Once again, for more information please visit http://www.cbreupoty.com
Good luck, share your images and be successful!
“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…..
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.
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:
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.
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!
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.
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!