When I published my piece last month about the arrival of the Kodak DCS520 cameras I included an interesting portrait of Theresa May MP taken just over eighteen years ago. Several people – including some picture editors – got in touch and asked to see the whole shoot. It was the second time that month that I had photographed Mrs May which, given that I was working for a group of education titles, wasn’t that unusual back then. As always the interview overran and the time for pictures was severely curtailed. The inside of a Member of Parliament’s private office is rarely interesting and so I went tight with what little time I had. (more…)
On the 18th of November 1998 my working life changed. Forever. That was the day when I received my first professional digital camera that was solely for my use. The Kodak DCS520 was a Kodak/Canon hybrid camera (also known as the Canon D2000) based on the Canon EOS1N that had a 1.9 megapixel CCD sensor with a small LED display on the back and removable PCMCIA flash storage cards. It was a revolutionary piece of kit and it didn’t seem to matter that it had a 1.6x crop factor. Nor did it matter that it didn’t work properly with the 540EZ Speedlight which was the top-of-the range offering from Canon at the time. We didn’t even mind the shutter lag because the DCS520 was infinitely better than the previous DCS offerings and much more convenient than having to process and scan colour negative film. (more…)
The other day I was chatting to a young photographer and trying to explain why a consistent and logical workflow was so important. I confidently referred to my own (this) blog and the many years that I have been writing about photography in general and about workflow specifically. Much to my own embarrassment it took me a few minutes to find the posts that I was looking for. I made a note to come back and create some “greatest hits” lists of posts for various topics and this is the first one – workflow and Photo Mechanic. (more…)
When I returned to the world of freelancing ten years ago one of the biggest changes that I noticed was the arrival of the “style sheet”. Almost every commercial and PR client had a prepared guide that let you know what they wanted from a commissioned shoot and a few pointers of what they, or their end client, liked and didn’t like in their pictures. These ranged from really helpful pointers about what kind of clothing should be worn for portraits or whether or not images should have unfussy backgrounds through the obvious such as “images should be properly exposed” to the mildly bizarre “avoid any and all references to money”. I wish that I had kept them all – they would have provided me with a mixture of useful references and a good laugh.
Recently I have seen two rather odd things in style sheets provided to me by three totally unconnected clients. The first oddity appeared when talking to a PR company about an upcoming commission. They are based in London and the job was for an insurance company. Their style sheet featured three identical pictures and one completely identical paragraph to a style sheet supplied to me previously by a Manchester PR company. I cannot see a connection between the two PR companies and so you have to think that they are getting their style sheets from a single supplier or that they have both copied something from a third PR company. Either way, it explains why so much of the PR and corporate sector has come to look like a catalogue for a stock photography company. Bland people doing bland things with even lighting is a bit dull and I’m pretty sure that every single one of the photographers involved would have been capable of something way more interesting.
The second oddity came when a PR firm working for an educational establishment sent me a style sheet with one of my own photographs used in it. A picture that I created almost twenty years ago and which bore no resemblance to anything that I was being asked to do. When I asked them where they had obtained the images for their style sheet they told me that they had got them from Google Images over the years. Bizarre indeed. (more…)
Throughout my 32 years as a photographer August has been something of a “silly season” with little freelance work on offer and very small editions of the papers where I was employed and because of that there has been a lot of soul-searching and career planning done in the height of the English summer.
As July turned into August this year I had been really busy – mostly with editing work but with the odd commission here and there too but as soon as we passed August 1st it all turned quiet again and the annual time for career reflection had begun. This year the plan is a very simple one: to continue to get fitter and to make sure that my regular clients are kept up-to-date with that progress.
One year ago in August 2017 I was in hospital having had some major spinal surgery. Whilst in hospital I spent a lot of time trying to work out what I was going to do for the rest of my career. Of course there was really only one option and that was to get back to freelancing as quickly as possible. (more…)
Every photographer has a lens or two that they love to use. In my day-to-day work that would be my Canon L Series zooms but when I am shooting quieter and more personal pictures I reach for a very basic and non-L series Canon EF 35mm f2 IS. I am going to try to explain what it is about this lens that makes me love it and I guess that the fact that I have had lenses of that focal length for pretty much my whole life as a photographer (amateur, student and working professional adding up to 38 years or maybe more) and that I appear to know precisely what kind of picture I’m going to get from a 35 make a good start. Canon make an L Series 35 – the 35mm f1.4L but that’s a big, expensive and heavy lens which, at f1.4, is really hard to focus. When I owned one I always shot at f2 or f2.8 even when the light was poor or even when I wanted shallow depths of field because the amount of sharp images that I could get at f1.4 was too low. That was probably due to shortcomings in my technique rather than the lens itself because so many photographers whose work I love are very happy with it. (more…)
When I’m away from home working as a Photo Editor on big sporting events I like to have a compact camera with me. My relatively recent entry into the world of Instagram has made my desire to have a camera in my pocket/rucksack/bag has grown. Regular readers of this site will know that I have owned and loved quite a few but, having sold all of my Fujifilm cameras, I felt the need to buy a new one.
The list of features that I felt that I needed couldn’t really be filled by one camera and I considered several options before finally making a purchase. Top of my list was probably the Sony RX100 MkV and the Panasonic TZ100 was also on that list but the combination of my familiarity with the Canon system meant that I want for the G7X MkII. The Sony was a little expensive (almost £500 dearer than the Canon) and the Panasonic just didn’t produce the results in the way that I wanted. (more…)