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…)
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…)
Not many, I know. I am delighted by the quality of those followers though because they include at least two dozen photographers whose professional and personal work I admire along with a small number of picture editors and commissioners of photography. Sadly, the young picture editor whose comment triggered this project still hasn’t added herself as a follower but that’s probably just as well because out of those sixty-nine images only eight have the hashtag #newwork which I’m using to indicate brand new pictures shot since I established my account. It has been great going back through archives to find the others and I’ve still got a dozen or so #archivephoto options that haven’t been posted yet. (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…)