New work (at last)

Portrait of TJ Okor

TJ Okor is a final year Physiotheraphy student at the University of Winchester. ©Neil Turner. September 2020

I’m pretty sure that everyone is fed up of hearing that work has dried up, incomes have suffered and how frustrating it is being a creative at the moment. I’d like to say that the work has started to flood in again but that wouldn’t be true. Happily a couple of clients have picked up the phone and booked some work and so I thought that I’d show one of the most recent bits of imperfect portraiture and talk a little bit about it.

The young man featured in this set of portraits is a Physiotherapy student in the final year of his degree and I was asked to go and shoot a (socially distanced and safe) portrait of him to go with a piece about Black History Month to accompany an article about people in the professions and how they have experienced racism and discrimination over the years. There has been an awful lot said and written about whether this kind of work should be shot by BAME photographers and I have an open mind about the subject but I felt that I’d do a good job and so I went along to meet him and we walked to a park very near where he lives in Hampshire and where he had been exercising whilst his gym was closed.

It was a lovely late summer day and there was plenty of shade for me to use one of my favourite starting-point techniques – getting the subject into the shade, lighting them and balancing that with an ambient light exposure for the background. That’s precisely what happened and this was one of those shoots where we could have packed up after the first half a dozen frames with a “job done” high five and gone home. TJ is an interesting young man and we got to talking about football, Nigerian brewed Guinness, his many travels and the joy he gets from doing the clinical practice that he has been doing on his course. I’ve worked with a few Physiotherapists over the last three years myself so we compared notes as I continued to shoot.

It took almost exactly an hour to do what could have been done in ten minutes but that was fine by me because the lack of real assignments has made me a little bit rusty and so I just took my time and enjoyed the shoot. The client that this was shot for loves to see lots of pictures and I ended up delivering 58 images. That sounds a lot but they had one single caption and none of them needed more than twenty seconds in Adobe Camera RAW to get them looking how I would want them to and only a tiny number needed any cropping and so the post-production (which I was far from rusty with) only took an hour. Another job where the time spent driving was greater than either the time spent shooting or editing. Did I mention how much I enjoyed this shoot?

Here’s a small selection of the other pictures:

For those who love the technical stuff, the bulk of the pictures were shot on Canon EOS5D MkIV cameras with 24-70 f4L and 70-200 f4L lenses. Lit with Elinchrom ELB400 kit and a 60cm x 80cm soft box. The main image at the top of this post was shot at 200 ISO, 1/200th of a second at f7.1 with the 24-70 zoomed to 30mm. The flash would have been somewhere between 30 and 40% power and exactly two metres from the subject. The last two images in the contact sheet were shot on a Canon EOS6D with a 35mm f2 IS Canon EF lens. No flash, wide open at f2 and a bit of departure from the normal stuff that I post on this blog.

I have been shooting a lot of my personal images with the 6D and the 35mm f2 for a while now and it is a great combination of quality, ease of use and light weight. It’s also a relatively low cost set up that I don’t mind taking everywhere with me in a bag with my (very) old 85mm f1.8 USM and a basic speed light.

Anyway, I’m back on the proverbial horse and looking for lots more work…


  1. A great set of images Neil, the client must be happy with those.

    Picking up the camera and making photos with purpose is what we all need. My first shoot post lockdown was so mentally uplifting for me it was more a case of “photo-therapy” than photography.


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