Beyond ‘Mentoring’ – engaging a Business Consultant

Very recently, I have given a great deal of thought about my previous provisions of a ‘Mentoring Programme’ that simply by the term ‘Programme’, intimated a structure almost equivalent to a curriculum. I also realise that due to the individual needs of every photographer, that such a structure is far from ‘one size fits all’. I have to acknowledge that recipe cannot be the most effective route to meeting the needs of today’s photographers. Some ‘mentees’ or  clients have greater needs than others and require more time and engagement.
Outside of the UK I fully embrace my role as a photographic business consultant which I operate on a fee driven basis commensurate with specifically delivered and measured activities. The closest analogy is engaging the services of a ‘professional’ who charges on a time basis for services rendered. This will be my future business plan governing my engagement with those who I have formally termed as ‘mentees’. The role of a consultant in this industry is in my qualified opinion, to be reactive and responsive as a kind of ‘knowledge bank’ from which a client may choose to access certain information or skills.
In the past there has been a case for working with a select few on an engagement basis where a reduced monthly fee has taken into account a reasonable level of access to my services and advice. Such time being advantageous to those few where a normal consultancy rate per interaction would far exceed the monthly remuneration paid. As an example, any interaction, no matter how brief would be charged at a ‘minimum rate’. From now on I shall offer my services on ‘professional’ rate that is realistic and appropriate.
I shall of course continue to organise a limited number of workshops in a year, for only 8 delegates on each, where the engagement between trainer and attendee will be advantageous and productive. One such intensive two day workshop for those who wish to expand and explore their creativity will be held in the Peak District of Derbyshire on the 24th and 25th of July 2016. At this point there are still a few places available, but I do not anticipate this being the case in the near future. Occasionally there will be other workshops in cooperation with colleagues or organisations.
So, if you need a one off consultation, a ‘how to’ in a specific genre of photography or process, or you’re trying to push your boundaries then contact me, and I will help you.
2016 Rates:
Day – £750.00
Half Day – £350.00
Session of up to One Hour – £75.00
2016 Preferential rates for past Mentees:-
Day – £475.00
Half Day – £250.00
Session of up to One Hour – £50.00

10 things a Photographer should know – Part 9

9. A-Gamers work with A-Gamers.
If you are good at what you do, then you work–or seek to work–with other people who kick ass too. If you suck, then you put yourself around sucky people to feel better about yourself. If you want to be the best, seek to be around awesome people–be it other artists, assistants, producers, clients, partners, whatever. Shoot high. Shoot for better than yourself.
Chase Jarvis
This is all about not setting your sights too low or underpricing, indeed undervaluing your work because you are more concerned about what your low price competitors are up to. People who know me well understand I value the quest of  attaining a ‘Professional’ qualification by a recognised Institute or Association. Why? Because its a personal benchmark. A form of self motivated quality control that drives us to excel in every walk of our photographic lives. Without a doubt in the UK, the BIPP and MPA lead the way with processes that examine our businesses in more depth than ever before. In conclusion, do aim as high as you can. Think of yourself as a purveyor of the finest quality as if you had received an enviable ‘Royal Warrant’. Don’t settle for less!
Martin Grahame-Dunn

10 things a Photographer should know – Part 8

8. “Value” is different from “price.”
Don’t compete on price alone. That is certain death in any creative field. Focus on delivering value and price yourself accordingly. If you deliver great value with your images — better than expected, and better than your competition– and you can illustrate that through any means, then you should be more expensive. And remember that value comes in many forms.
Chase Jarvis
* Businesses in Photography fail because they try to compete on price, fact! To simply base your pricing structure on what your competitors are offering without the same costs and overheads is nonsensical and best and financial suicide at worst. Yes, sure, people are motivated by price. We are often told that the customer cannot see the difference but I ask you…can you? Do you accept sub standard based on price and make do? Or do you feel bad about that and go for quality, longevity and by implication, better value?
Martin Grahame-Dunn

10 things a Photographer should know – Part 7 – Make mistakes, learn quickly!

7. Make mistakes, learn quickly.
Simply put, you need to be able to learn from your mistakes. Avoiding failure is not the goal. The goal is recovering from mistakes quickly. That goes for ever element of your photography–creative, business, vision…you name it. If you’re not willing to make mistakes, you’ll be paralyzed with inaction. That is the devil. Get out there and do stuff. If it works, do more of it. If it doesn’t work, change it. Quickly.
Chase Jarvis
* Making mistakes is an essential part of the socialisation and learning processes of every human being on this planet. Perhaps we can master mechanical techniques but rarely can we apply these techniques to the letter of the law on our flawed subjects. While symmetrical faces are perceived to be attractive, completely symmetric faces are disconcerting and are not perceived as normal and that is a fact! What we try to do as photographers is to come close to facial symmetry by using light and angles to correct irregularities. A great practitioner will learn to observe defects by studying physiognomy and lighting into the same. That is a practical example of making mistakes and learning how to correct them.

Art in Photography Workshop – Derbyshire Peaks 2016

In a previous post I gave notice of an exciting workshop to be held in the summer of 2016 to bring to life the imagery of the literature of Jane Austen and Emily Brontë with stunning costume portraiture in dramatic locations, come rain or shine. I have given much thought to this project and instead of making two, one day workshops I have come to the conclusion that a two day offering would be more beneficial for all.

To give a little background and context it is generally believed that Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” was partly written in the town of Bakewell, which she calls ‘Lambton’ in her novel. Occasional visitor to the Peaks, Charlotte Brontë, author of “Jane Eyre” may have written much of the book in Hathersage. 

Period portrait by Martin Grahame-Dunn

Period portrait by Martin Grahame-Dunn

The Workshop will be held on Sunday 24th July and Monday 25th July 2016 at locations in the Hope Valley area of the Peak District of Derbyshire and suitable for Amateurs and Professionals alike of a creative and artistic disposition wishing to expand their technique or simply indulge a love of photography as an art form.

There are just 8 places available and the fee of only £495.00 per person will cover all tuition, models in period costumes and a post event produced Album Epoca Event book designed by Martin incorporating some of the best images from the workshop. Picnic lunches and an evening meal on the first day are also included. This will be two days indulging in art through photography and literature. For more information or to secure your unique place either email Martin at or call 07854 249710 very soon.

Out with the old, in with the new. Happy New Year 2016

Looking back on 2015 it has been a year of mixed fortunes for many and glimpses of an upturn in our industry for others. The key to success both as image makers and business people is the determination to amass further knowledge of photographic technique, product, presentation, marketing and sales methods, in short, education. Not one of us can say with any sincerity that we ‘know it all’ and indeed if we did our profession would be recognised and valued beyond measure by our clients. Perhaps your New Year’s resolution should be to increase your knowledge by training? One of mine will be to communicate better and more often, offer better and more varied ‘education’, so watch this space.

Presenting at HIPA HQ in Dubai

Presenting at HIPA HQ in Dubai

My year has come to a close with a packed presentation in Dubai for HIPA on the theme of attempting to create award winning images and a roadmap for success in much sought after accolades. As I write this las post of the year the deadline for HIPA entry is fast approaching as it closes at midnight UAE time with what I believe will be a record breaking number of entries for a worldwide competition of this magnitude. My personal thanks to my dear friend and colleague, Mohammed Al Daou and the team at HIPA led by HE Ali Bin Thalith (congratulations on publishing your book Truly, Madly Deeply) for their hospitality and ongoing trust.

Mohammed Al Daou of HIPA and Martin Grahame-Dunn

Mohammed Al Daou of HIPA and Martin Grahame-Dunn

So for now, all that remains is to wish all those entrants, the very best of luck. To my wonderful mentees all over the world, may 2016 bring you prosperity and success. And to all of you, wherever so dispersed across the globe, whatever be your race, colour or creed, may I wish you all a very happy and prosperous New Year.

10 things a Photographer should know – Part 6 – Simple is good!

6. Simple is good.
Almost every photo that is bad has too much information. Outside of technical basics, the number one reason that most photos fail is because there is no clear subject. Often this is the case with design, film, fashion, you name it. Remove clutter, remove distraction. Tell one story, and tell it well.
Chase Jarvis
* KISS! Keep it Simple Stupid! Never a truer word spoken for simplicity is everything. Images with clutter or no definitive focal point simply fail. For the ‘Social’ photographer engaged in the Wedding industry this is particularly relevant. I have been asked so many times “Why are there almost no Fellows (if any?) in the discipline of Wedding PJ, Wedding Documentary or whatever other name you wish to apply?” My answer to this is simple. It’s probably a lack of attention to detail and an obsession with being observational without any form of intervention to tidy a shot. Personally I find the high brow approach that ‘PJ’ means don’t change, interact or affect an image in any way, highly inappropriate in the Wedding industry. Sure, in the world of ‘real’ photojournalism in media, news and war zones, it’s all about ‘the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth’. But my question is, does a Bride really want the ‘truth’ of half drunk beers, bottles on the neatly manicured lawn or cigarette packets strewn in their scene featuring many thousands of pounds worth of haute couture?  More questions than answers and I certainly don’t expect some people to agree with me. Are we losing a grip on reality and our true  purpose as professionals that have an eye for detail? I wonder. I think I’ll keep this for another article in the future!

10 things a Photographer should know – Part 5

5. Aesthetic sensibilities actually matter.
Go figure on this one… I’m constantly surprised as how much this is overlooked. Read this and believe it: You must develop a keen understanding of design, color, light, and composition. To just say “I know a picture when I like it” isn’t going to get you anywhere. You need to know –for your own sake as well as the sake of your clients who will ask you– WHY a photo is a great photo. WHY is this one better than that one. If you don’t have any visual vocabulary, opinion, or aesthetic sensibility you won’t be able to explain these things. You won’t get the job. Or if you do get the job, you won’t be able to explain why your photos are worth getting hired again by the same client for the next campaign, story, or video. Trust me on this. Develop a sense of visual taste.
Chase Jarvis
* I have covered much of this in my recent and ongoing series on the subject of ‘International Photographic Judging and Scoring Systems’. If you are so honoured to be put in a position as a judge or assessor of Photography then do it respectfully. I have personally ‘fired’ so many judges whose vocabulary is limited to the words “I like it” or “I don’t like it”, without the knowledge or skill to articulate how an image may be improved in some way.  To become truly successful as an image maker who actually makes money from the industry I cannot stress too strongly the importance of understanding the psychology of why a client finds an image appealing, fit for purpose, successful, merchantable or not! This you can learn. No better way than a highly skilled mentor and an appreciation of art.

10 things a Photographer should know – Part 4

4. Big challenges create the best work.
“If you get assignments that are pushing your vision, your skills, then awesome. Kudos to you, keep getting those assignments. If you’re not getting those assignments, then you need to be self-assigning that challenging work. Give yourself tough deadlines and tougher creative challenges. You do your best work where there is a challenge that is clearly present and 10 feet taller than you think you can handle.”
Chase Jarvis
* All I have to say on this one is ‘Command and Control’. Command the respect of your clients as a real expert in high demand even if you’re not at this time in your career and its all smoke and mirrors. Control situations and make sure you are seen to be in control! There is a huge benefit in self motivated ‘projects’ to boost your business. Consider it essential research and development. Don’t be afraid to ‘cold call’ potential clients if you have a product you truly believe in and is a benefit to them and their businesses. Price you products realistically and make offers that are difficult to refuse. Over 80% of the contents of your essential business toolbox should be sales and presentations skills. Get out there and shoot new images that are commissioned by yourself as a practical presentation pack. And above all, make that presentation consistent!
Giving clients high quality presentation and variety is essential to your business image.

Giving clients high quality presentation and variety is essential to your business image.

Judging Professional Photography – Critic or Critique?

There are clear definitions of both in the world outside of photography. A Critic is a professional who communicates his or her opinions and assessments of various forms of creative work such as art, literature, music, cinema, theatre, fashion, architecture, food and indeed most importantly here – photography. Critical judgments, whether derived from critical thinking or not, may be positive, negative, or balanced, weighing a combination of factors both for and against.

In our industry, the perception of one who is critical when making an image assessment is more often than not perceived as destructive. Looking for every facet to express a negative opinion without the means or guidance towards a resolution that may result in a successful submission at a later date. These ‘critics’ also use projection to negatively influence the opinions of others on a jury. The worst example of course is the judge that instead of talking to a print, stands, faces the audience and loudly exclaims how he or she would have made the image and perhaps finishes with the comments, “I’d have done it this way…”. Not satisfied with that ‘showboating’ they proceed to offer their training wares for a price.

On the other hand, ‘Critique’ is a method of disciplined, systematic analysis of a written or oral discourse. Although critique is commonly understood as fault finding and negative judgment, it can also involve merit recognition, and in the philosophical tradition it also means a methodical practice of doubt.

In practice, the very best jurors will offer a deeply constructive analysis of the image before them, always addressing it directly and finally offering possible solutions to problems detected. Suggestion rather than unjustified command to execute an image in the way they would have done it. We must always be respectful to image makers and forever bear in mind, like it or not, we can influence careers.  This clearly illustrates exactly why Judge and Audience (participant) training is vital to the worldwide photographic industry.

In 2016 it is my intention to hold a series of workshops in the UK as well as overseas, to train photographers in the various judging procedures that they may better self analyse images in preparation for both competitions and qualifications. If you are interested I strongly suggest that you contact me at to register your interest. My Leamington Spa training studio is perfectly and centrally placed, fully kitted out for the exercise including the equipment and software to perform ‘mock judging’. It is so often said that photographers learn more from constructive image critique than any other type of workshop.

Judging in action at WPPI 2015

Judging in action at WPPI 2015