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…)
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…)
I’m not actually sure why but I have avoided Instagram since it was launched. I am aware that it can be used as a good shop window for photographers and I am equally aware that it can suck hours from your day. The thing that finally made me sign up and dive in was when a third picture editor informed me that they didn’t look at portfolios unless they’d seen an Instagram feed first.
When it happened for the first time I wrote it off as the narrow silliness of a very young picture editor. The second time made me think that the whole industry was going nuts but when it happened a third time I decided that I had to move with the times. Now this isn’t the first time that I have been (too) late to a party. I used Flickr when it first came out but deleted my account fairly promptly before getting back in the saddle a couple of years later. I had perviously used EyeEm as a mini-folio but that appeared to be a waste of effort after several months of putting effort into it. Could Instagram be the answer for me? (more…)
Back in January 2009 I had been freelancing again for just over four months and I posted what I called the “obligatory bag shot” and went on to detail the kit that lived in my everyday camera bag. At the time that was a Lowe Pro Steath Reporter 650AW – a bag that I still own and use from time to time. These days I am more likely to either have a Domke J3 (with less kit) or a Think Tank Airport Take-Off rolling bag (with slightly more kit) and I wanted to compare notes on what I had in the bag back then compared to now. As a direct comparison I am going to talk about how I load the Lowe Pro when I use it:
According to the usually reliable Canon Rumors website there is going to be a new mark 2 version of the Canon 70-200 f4L IS very soon. As regular readers of this blog will know I went over to using f4 zooms for the bulk of my work a couple of years ago and the 70-200 f4 became part of my every day kit. It’s small and light and the image stabilisation is good but the thought of having an up-to-date version of this lens with better (and dare I say it quieter) IS would be something that I’d be really interested in – especially since my back operation last year.
Let’s hope that the rumour is true and that the lens comes in at an affordable price.
A good workstation for editing pictures is something that all photographers should have. For quite a few years now I have favoured having a good monitor married to a fast laptop. I have tried using an iMac and I have owned a couple of desktop computers but having a high end (MacBook Pro) laptop and a quality monitor has provided me with a very flexible set up that allows me to grab the laptop and work on that if I need to be away from home without the complication of having multiple computers. Well, that’s sort of true; I do have multiple laptops and use the MacBook Air when I am travelling light and on longer trips I take my spare MacBook Pro along to either use as a makeshift server or as a back up “just in case”.
My home office is a relatively small one and so my set-up is somewhat dictated by that. I am always evolving what I use and the way that I use it and my current monitor is a three year old 25″ Dell Ultrasharp (now discontinued) which has not only served me well but has been packed up in a flight case many times to go with me on trips where I have been working as an editor. When I’m at home the monitor is wall-mounted so that I can get it as far away from me as I can and give me as much desk space as possible. It is connected to a dock and so there is only one Thunderbolt 3 cable that needs to be plugged into the MacBook Pro. (more…)
Once upon a time I had six 128 and 160 megabyte PCMCIA memory cards and I happily rotated them through my 1.9 megapixel Canon/Kodak DCS520 cameras. That was over nineteen years ago and, like most other photographers, I have kept on buying more and more newer, faster and larger cards ever since. In 2002 when I was shooting with the original Canon 4.1 megapixel EOS1D I graduated to a small pile of 256 megabyte cards which were replaced by 512 meg’ cards pretty quickly. Nine and a half years ago (2008) when I went freelance I was shooting with 8 megapixel Canon EOS1D MkII cameras and I had eight 2 gigabyte cards (along with a stack of ‘retired’ cards) and rarely needed more than four of those a day.
Fast forward to today and I still have a Think Tank wallet with eight compact flash memory cards in it – but now they are all 32 gigabyte plus three spare SD cards for the Canon EOS5D MkIVs and the 7D MkII. On top of that I keep a couple of 16 gig’ CF cards, six 8 gig’ cards and a couple of specialist SD cards in my ‘just-in-case’ case. further on top of that each camera starts the day with a 32 gig’ CF card as well as a 32 gig’ SD card. (more…)