photography

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…)

Tinkering with my folio

I spent a long time working as a photographer specialising in education and I spent as long as the rest of you in full-time education as a pupil and a student too. I think that those two facts combine to make me feel that “new year feeling” in September as the kids go back to school and the not-so-young ones go away to university. January is the new year of course and April sees the beginning of the financial year but September feels like to ‘work new year’ to me.

And it is at this time of year I start to think about getting out there with my folio looking for new and interesting work and, at the same time, I like to have at least a minor refresh with my on-line folio too. (more…)

Batteries – can you ever have too many?

Canon batteries August 2019. © Neil Turner

A few weeks ago I was on a simple PR job alongside a small video crew and another photographer. Like most jobs we talked about what we needed, let the video team go first and then shot our pictures. As the day progressed the pattern was repeated until just after lunch the other photographer ran out of power for his camera. He was using a single Canon EOS5D MkIII and I was shooting with two EOS5D MkIVs so we had the same type of battery and I offered to lend him one of my spares. When asked how many spares I had I said that I had four in my camera bag and another four in the car along with a battery charger that would run in the car or on mains should I get desperate. He was amazed that one photographer could own so many and I was equally amazed that anyone doing this for a living wouldn’t. Since then I have been asking around and it turns out that I am quite unusual. (more…)

How big do you want them?

This chart is for one “average” photo and represents a comparison for that picture as a guide. Closed image file sizes vary widely due to their content. The photo in question is an environmental portrait taken with a Canon EOS5D MkIV.

Sometimes I post blogs which describe how I do things and others are intended to be conversation starters and thought promoters. This one falls directly into both camps but it was originally written to start discussions.

How we deliver images to our clients is a subject that photographers can debate until the cows come home or until the technology changes and the debate has to start all over again. For the kind of work that I do most of the time (editorial, PR and corporate) there are a huge number of compromises to be made – most of which are dictated by a small number of factors:

  1. Does the client have a digital asset management system?
  2. Will the client want to do anything to the pictures before sending them out?
  3. Who are the end users and what will they want?

Once you start to gather the answers to these questions you can start to discount a lot of options that, as photographers, we would like to see. Ninety-nine percent of the pictures that I deliver are in JPEG format. It isn’t the best format for quality but it is almost universally recognised and it offers the ability to compress the files. It makes sense to us to save our images at the highest quality available and to deliver the pictures in a way that allows for that quality to be maintained but a surprising number of clients simply don’t want or can’t handle that. A modern DSLR with a 24 megapixel chip produces very large files – even as JPEGs; Too large to safely email. Too large for them to be stored easily unless the client has a decent server or at least a method of storing (and retrieving) a lot of data. (more…)

Workflow “greatest hits”

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…)

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…)