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…)
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…)
Like most photographers my workflow has developed over the years and there are some bits of it that are more to do with convenience and habit than they are to do with efficiency. Cataloguing my archive is definitely something that I haven’t given enough thought to. Well that’s not entirely true; every time I look at Lightroom one of the things that attracts me to it is the cataloguing function that it brings with it. The idea of having an application that does so much and that is effectively free (as I subscribe to Photoshop CC anyway) is a good one but every time I have given it a go, I have decided that it isn’t as convenient at Media Pro as a catalogue. I have had Media Pro in its various forms for a very long time now and it has served me well. Phase One’s decision to stop supporting it has made me look around for an alternative.
Being a long-time fan of Photo Mechanic I have been holding out and waiting for them to bring out a new version of the application that forms the core of my workflow with a cataloguing function. Camera Bits have been saying for years that “it is coming” but I have decided to look around for other options.
A few months ago I was reading a thread on a Facebook photographers’ group that mentioned NeoFinder. I thought to myself “how come I have never heard of it?” A quick search on the web brought up their site and I realised that this was a newer name for the old CD Finder application that I tried and quite liked half a dozen years or more ago. They offer a free trial and I had some time on my hands and so I downloaded and installed it. I made a quick catalogue from about 20,000 old images and I was shocked by how easy it was to use and how good the searches it allowed were. The question popped into my head “why keep trying to make Media Pro work when this is available?” All of my pictures have their metadata intact and I have tried hard over the years to get my captions and keywords as good as I can make them. Moving from Media Pro to NeoFinder was a doddle. The developers even offer a “sidegrade” discount for people making this transition. (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…)
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…)