balance

Two set-ups at once

Bill Cockburn at the School Teachers Review Body. ©Neil Turner/TSL

From time-to-time I repost one of the fifty technique examples that were posted on the original dg28.com website between 1999 and 2008. I have timed this one to go with uploading this particular frame to my Instagram feed as one of the series of archive portraits that I’ve been putting there for well over five months.

The idea here is to have two separate lighting set-ups for one interview portrait without having to constantly move around the room adjusting lights. This interview was with a senior businessman who chaired a body that decided how much teachers’ pay rises will be each year. The reporter wasn’t all that comfortable with me shooting through the interview but it was what the picture editor wanted, so that’s what I did. This job required a bit of quick thinking so that I could get two different set-ups in place. (more…)

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. (more…)

Imperfect Portraiture

Pascale Allotey, Professor in Race and Diversity at Brunel university in west London.© Neil Turner/TSL November 2005

I have had the title for this piece rattling around in my head for several weeks now but before I dive in I want to explain that it is about a certain style of editorial portraiture that appeals to me. It is equally important that nobody reading this thinks that I believe other forms of portrait photography are somehow inferior or are “less portraity”.

I suspect that every sentiment that you will read in this mini-essay will have been expressed somewhere on my blog at some point in time. After all, if you did a search for the word “portrait” on this site you would get hundreds of hits. From explaining the anguish of editing your own work to my definition of what is and is not a portrait. I have written about why this kind of photography speaks to me so loudly and so consistently but I have wanted for some time to bring all of those thoughts and impulses together. As always, there are two reasons for doing this; the first is to stimulate thought and debate amongst those who care to read it and secondly to help me further clarify my own opinions and, by doing so, make my own work better.

Of course there isn’t a strict set of rules about what constitutes a portrait. Back in 2011 I wrote this; (more…)

Adobe Camera RAW 12.3 – ouch!

My workflow has revolved around Photo Mechanic and Adobe Camera RAW for a lot of years now and, bit by bit, it has evolved along with those two key applications to become a slick and well-ordered professional process. Adobe have posted regular updates to their RAW converter pretty regularly and those updates have almost always been logical and very welcome. Occasionally they have made quite big changes and I have welcomed pretty much everything they’ve done. Until now.

The latest version, 12.3 wasn’t flagged-up in advance as being a major change and so I (stupidly) hit OK on the update without giving it too much thought. I was more than a little surprised when I opened my first set of RAW files to edit them because what I was seeing were a whole raft of changes that were, in my opinion, not needed and/or not wanted. (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…)

Shooting fish in a barrel

London. January 2011. © Neil Turner

In 2008 when I had just left my staff job at TSL I was asked by a reporter working for a photographic magazine about what I intended to do with my career. I pointed out that I had an enormous amount of experience working in schools and universities and that in my time working for the Times Educational Supplement, Times Higher Education Supplement and Nursery World Magazine I had shot pictures in over 3,000 places of learning in at least 13 countries and that it seemed like a “no-brainer” to market myself as a photographer specialising in those areas. Plenty of prospectuses and websites as well as editorial shoots later my tally of educational visits and shoots tops 3,500 and I’m still in love with the genre. The reporter asked what special skills I had that made me good at that part of the job and my response was that if you can’t get great pictures of kids then you really shouldn’t be a photographer because it was “shooting fish in a barrel“. (more…)