opinion

Style sheets and client expectations

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…)

We all have a favourite lens or two

Bournemouth, Dorset. May 2018. Fisherman’s Walk on a sunny May day. ©Neil Turner

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…)

Clamshell mode

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…)

My iPad workflow – some conclusions


Over the last couple of months I have been looking hard at the whole idea of an iPad and iPhone based workflow for the kind of photography that I do. I have tried to find a workflow that is repeatable and adaptable that could replace my tried and tested (and damned good) workflow on a laptop or desktop computer.

I’ve failed.

After trying different iPads and iPhones as well as dozens of apps and an endless combination of those apps I have come to the conclusion that there is no way that an iOS device can replace a computer for the vast bulk of my work. There are several reasons for this but the main one is that iOS was never designed for this kind of heavy lifting and the way that you move files around between apps is still pretty painful and that it is even worse with RAW files. Don’t get me wrong, using a fully-loaded top of the range iPad Pro with decent internet connectivity and a keyboard you get really close to a good workflow but by then you have a device costing at least £1,000.00 (and a lot more if you go for the 12″) which weighs and costs almost as much as an Apple MacBook without the access to rock solid made-for-the-job applications. (more…)

iPad workflow part four

Screen grab from Transmit for iOS on my iPad showing a twelve image upload in action.

There are so many ways that I deliver images to various clients these days that I feel that I’m bound to leave something off of this list. The great news for users of the iPad or iPhone to do quick edits of their work is that every single option that I use on the desktop machine is also available on iOS devices;

  • FTP– I use Transmit on the iPad and iPhone. I also have FTP options inside FSN Pro and Shuttersnitch that can all do a good job but Transmit does it all better.
  • Email – adding large numbers of attachments on the iPad isn’t my favourite way to send pictures but it works.
  • Dropbox – The iOS Dropbox app means that I can easily add files to folders on the cloud service and send links to those folders before, during or after the job. It has a very simple interface and works really well.
  • WeTransfer – I wasn’t very happy when the WeTransfer iOS app went over to functioning as “Boards” – making it a very different user experience from the ever-so-simple desktop version but I’ve got used to it and it works really well.
  • Photoshelter – The professional image sharing platform has a dedicated iOS app which is fairly easy to use and very functional.
  • Third Light – This is a niche Digital Asset Management platform used by two of my corporate clients and the iOS app does its job well.

(more…)

iPad workflow part three

Welcome to the third instalment of my investigation of the best iPad workflow for the kind of work that I do. At the end of part two I came to the conclusion that adding images wirelessly to the iPad (or an iPhone) was the best way to go for me and in the few days since I made that observation I have largely moved towards using FSN Pro to get the pictures to where I need them to be.

I mentioned several times in part two that I wanted, wherever possible, to avoid storing anything in the Apple Photos app without explaining why I am so keen to avoid it. The simple answer is that my normal workflow for several clients involves keeping the original camera filenames intact so that it is possible to follow up at a later date and find them again without having to spend any time looking. Why Apple are so keen to rename every file with the clumsy “img_1234” formula is beyond me. I guess that it must make what goes on inside iOS easier for Apple – if not for photographers. By avoiding the app it is entirely possible to retain the original filename from start to finish. Don’t get me wrong; if I was rushing and getting a couple of quick edits away to a client then I’d happily rename files and/or settle for the img_xxxx option but when there are five, six or more photographs going through then renaming becomes a pain. (more…)

A freelancer’s nightmare

It all started with a twinge in the small of my back. The twinge became an ache and the ache became pain. A visit to the Doctor led to some prescription pain killers and a referral to a back-pain clinic two months into the future. Still working at full speed, I lost the feeling in the soles of my feet and had a few cramps. Every day it got a little worse and then, one Sunday morning, I couldn’t get out of bed without crying with the pain. We made our way to the accident & emergency department of the local hospital where an MRI scan confirmed that I was in trouble. They admitted me to hospital and just over a week later I had two operations on my spine.

The operations were three weeks ago today and, although I’m back home, I’m looking at several months before I can even start to think about working as a photographer. I’m on crutches, my rehabilitation is underway and it’s a struggle.

It has to be one of the worst fears of the freelancer – suffering some sort of injury or illness that keeps you from doing your work which in turn means a loss of income and knowing that your clients will have to look elsewhere for someone to provide the services that you have been providing.

All of this devastating news made me want to compose this rather different blog post and my advice comes in two parts:

  • What to do to avoid and prepare for a sudden, unplanned period of time off
  • What to do if it happens to you

The message has to be that it can happen to you. One minute you are buzzing around going from job to job and regularly burning the midnight oil to get those edits done, your cashflow is looking good and your clients keep coming back and the next you are laid up with an injury. (more…)