Thirty-plus year old memory

Sir John Cassels – Chair of a Government Inquiry into post-sixteen education. Photographed at his home in south-west London. May 1991. Photo: ©Neil Turner

When I published this May 1991 portrait on my Instagram feed a couple of years ago I was shocked by the clarity of my memories of shooting it. A year or so after publishing it I was giving a talk to a wonderful group of people at a camera club who had invited me to come and show some work and tell some anecdotes and, once again, I remembered so much detail about the day and the pictures. The power of still images to evoke a time and a place is a wonderful thing. I thought that it would be good to share those memories again here and this is what I wrote underneath the post on Instagram:

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Computer speed and power in my real world

When Apple announced their new desktop Mac – the Mac Studio – I watched the keynote address and was very interested in what this new bit of kit had to offer. Starting at £2000.00 including VAT it looks like a veritable speed machine. I have read some reviews and looked at test bench scores which are supposed to give us real world performance data so that we can compare one machine against another. With all of that in mind, it looks really good. But… what do those score mean for me?

In the editor part of my working life I often end up editing 200, 300, 400 or more RAW files from different cameras a day. When I am shooting my own pictures it is rarely that many and, of course, the files will all be from my own cameras and therefore not varied set of RAW formats. The most power hungry work will all be inside Adobe Camera RAW (ACR) and I want to know what time savings this new Mac will actually give me. Having watched several reviewers (mostly high-end video editors) talk about what has frustrated them in their workflow I started thinking about the relatively few times I find myself waiting for things to happen in ACR.

The truth is that there aren’t many things that take time and frustrate me with my ageing 15″ MacBook Pro but here are a few:

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Masking in Adobe Camera RAW

Subject masking in ACR 14.2

Spending a lot of my working life as an editor means that I get very worked up about changes to the software that I use. A couple of months ago I mentioned the fact that masking in Adobe Camera RAW 14 had become simultaneously better and more complicated. I have been asked to talk about what I mean and about why it is better.

In the past you could pick a linear gradient or radial gradient straight from the tool box and apply those relatively simple options to an image really quickly. You could also use a brush to painstakingly paint a mask onto an image in order to carry out local colour, tone or contrast corrections to the masked area. The two most common functions were quick and simple whilst the more complex functions were, well, complex. I grumbled about why you couldn’t have the best of both worlds because the method for selecting the simpler ones had changed from a single mouse-click to three mouse-clicks.

It turns out that in ACR 14.2 you absolutely can.

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A downside of technology

© Photo Neil Turner.

Anyone who knows me and anyone who has read this blog would probably say that I am keen on technology. I would agree – I’m a geek. Despite my love of the whole digital process there’s one thing about the way that we work these days that I am not so keen on.

What’s that then? I hear one or two people asking. Put very simply, I don’t get to meet or even chat with editorial clients any more. I know that the whole COVID-19 pandemic has put a mighty spanner in the works but even accounting for that I was disappointed and a little bit shocked to realise that I have never actually met any of the folks who have commissioned me to shoot editorial work since well before we went into the first lockdown. Some of that can be explained away by my being based a hundred miles from London where a sizeable proportion of them live and work but even accounting for that I find it really sad that I haven’t got to have a coffee with any of them or even shake the odd hand here and there.

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Looking forward to 2022

Derwentwater, Christmas Eve 2021 © Neil Turner

After another year of COVID-19 restrictions and client hesitancy I just wanted to wish everyone a merry Christmas and to wish you all a happy, creative and prosperous new year.

I doubt that it has been easy for any of us so be safe, spend time with family and let’s all make sure that 2022 is better than either 2020 or 2021.

Adobe Camera RAW 14

I am a firm believer in keeping up with technology, learning new things and generally being ‘up-to-date’. The one thing that regularly makes me question that philosophy is the changes that Adobe make on a regular basis to their Camera RAW plug-in for Photoshop. This isn’t going to be my first blog post about what they’ve changed and how it effects my workflow. I was unhappy about what they did in Version 12.3 (but I got over it). I was pretty pleased with Version 13.0 and remained so throughout its lifespan. Now that I have had some time to digest what Version 14.0 has to offer I thought that I’d come back and share my impressions.

Before I get into this remarkably short post I’d like to mention one of the relevant things that I have learned over the years – to avoid commenting on change until I have given it a chance to grow on me.

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The trials of being a ‘one-man-band’

Lots of things have come together in the last month or so to make me think a lot about my life as a ‘one-man-band’ in the worlds of editorial and corporate photography. The trigger for writing this blog was a survey being conducted by the company that supplies my accounting software. Like most surveys it didn’t ask the questions that I wanted to answer. The attraction of a free-prize-draw for those who took part made me complete it anyway. However, it did make me think about how (very) small businesses and the self-employed are treated by those with whom we do business.

The corporate side of my work is definitely better paid than the editorial but it comes with lots more preparation, admin and general hassle.

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Some advice on composition

Shaftesbury Avenue long after dark.© Neil Turner November 2014

I often refer to my photographs as “telling a story”. That’s how I look at what I do. Portraits help to tell that person’s story and the rest of my work is all about creating images that either tell the whole story of work with other elements to achieve that goal. Stories don’t necessarily have to have an ending. Many of the best stories ask a question of the reader/viewer and leave them thinking about what they have seen, read or experienced. That, in my opinion, is what photography is about; telling the right stories and asking the right questions and how you choose to compose your pictures is one of the vital elements of visual storytelling.

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