I need people in photographs

Children play football with an improvised ball in the Copperbelt of Zambia. ©Neil Turner/TSL.

Like most members of the photographic profession, the bottom has dropped out of my business and any and all photography bookings between the first week of March and the end of July have been postponed or cancelled. Not my fault, not my client’s faults either so I’m being pretty calm about it and getting used to being in lockdown. Lots of my news photographer friends are out there day after day coming up with fabulous picture to illustrate the only story that anyone is interested in – the Coronavirus Pandemic – and I applaud them warmly. That applause goes for the health workers, retailers who are at work, the emergency services, delivery drivers, refuse workers and every other key worker who is there doing their jobs to keep society ticking over and, more importantly, safe.

Again, like most members of the photographic profession, I am looking back through old images of mine to remind myself what it is about the job and making the pictures that I love so much. I’ve also been looking through some of the hundreds of photographic books that line the shelves in my home and it has taken almost no time at all to re-affirm what I already knew: (more…)

Fascinated by Instagram but useless at it

Rain drops on the lens near Fisherman’s Walk. October 2019 ©Neil Turner

I just might be the worst user of Instagram amongst the photographic community. I don’t post new pictures often enough, I don’t go back through my archive and post interesting images from it often enough and I don’t interact with other people’s posts often enough either. Sometimes I have a real go at putting an effort in but I don’t seem to have the pictures, the patience or the attitude to keep it up.

That doesn’t stop me finding the whole thing quite fascinating. There are hundreds of quite brilliant images sitting in my feed as I type. I follow just over 600 people and businesses and between them they produce amazing content on a daily basis. I also have a couple of searches running permanently which give me an insight into just how bad and boring pictures that get posted can be. (more…)

Terry Jones and memories

Terry Jones lecturing in March 2008 about the death of Geoffrey Chaucer. ©Neil Turner/ TSL

When you hear of the death of someone who has been in the public eye it is rarely anything other than sad. When it was someone that you spent some time photographing then it’s that little bit sadder. Neil Innes, Nicholas Parsons and Terry Jones are all recent examples that come directly to mind.

I know that many of my friends and colleagues also photographed Terry Jones (one of the members of the Monty Python team for those trying to work out who he was) and for me he was funny, charming and very keen to be part of the process of being photographed. As a massive Python fan it was a privilege to meet him. (more…)

What are you up to these days?

This chart shows the percentage of my income earned in the tax year 2018-2019 from different activities.

If someone takes the time to ask me a question I will do my best to answer it fully and honestly. Sometimes I take those questions and answer them as a posting here on this blog. Today I am trying to answer a question asked directly to me when I met up with some old colleagues. That age old ice-breaker “so what are you up to these days?”

When it took me about five minutes to give a full answer I realised that my working life has gone from quite easy to explain “I’m an editorial photographer” to being way more complicated “I have a portfolio of roles within photography”. If I were on the receiving end of an answer like that I’d be tempted to glaze over and start to contemplate a quick change of subject or even a semi-quick exit. Everyone was kind enough to find what I had to say mildly interesting and so I’m going to try to repeat it here. (more…)

Mission Creep

I have lost count of the number of times I have agreed the details of an assignment with a client only to find out that they want to add a few “little extras” on the day of the shoot. Sometimes it is a job where we agreed to do a dozen headshots only to find out that they’ve added another six or seven. It can be a school prospectus shoot which was meant to end with the school day where, over a cup of coffee, they casually add an after-school club that doesn’t start until after you were supposed to be off-site. In the most extreme case I can remember it was to do half of the job in central London and the rest of it a two-hour drive away on the outskirts of Coventry.

The military term “mission creep” sort of covers this except that most definitions use the word “unintentionally” whereas this kind of “job expansion” is pretty often entirely intentional. How you handle this regular occurrence says a lot about you as a photographer and can define your relationship with that client for years to come. What might seem as a harmless addition to the brief can leave you with extra work, less time to shoot parts of the original brief and can get you into a row with the client.

For me the worst part of mission creep is the almost inevitable additional time that will have to be spent in post production. It stands to reason that even if you can shoot extra pictures in the time given for the job there will be a greater number of images to be sorted, captioned, cropped and toned. The client almost always ends up getting what they perceive as more pictures for the same fee. (more…)

Older than old school…

Equipment and my equipment choices tend to evolve pretty slowly. Way back in the 1980s I was using a lot of off-camera flash on location and that meant either owning and running a lot of extension cables with my Elinchrom mains powered units, buying (or renting) a Norman system or using some basic flashguns (the term speed light hadn’t really entered common usage by then, other than as part of a Nikon model name) to do the job. I came across the Lumedyne range (old school) in the mid 1990s, although they had been around for a while by then. Before that I spent many happy years with my cobbled-together battery powered flash kit which was based around the already long-in-the-tooth Vivitar 285 system. I call it a system because there was a ton of accessories that you could get for it and it had some common connections that meant you could pair it up with almost anything you wanted to.

I mention all of this because I stumbled across a pretty much complete Vivitar 285 kit when I was looking for something else in my many boxes of disused and “may-come-in-handy-one-day” kit. In the box were: (more…)