portrait

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…)

Location lighting half day workshop in London

Thursday 23rd May at the wonderful Cherryduck Studios in Wapping.

For anyone who remembers that far back my www.dg28.com website started out as a vehicle for me to post updates about the work that I was doing along with some technique examples that I rather pompously called “photographer education”. Well, that was in 1999 and a couple of years later I started doing occasional workshops and lectures about my use of portable flash on location. I have done a lot of talks over the years including a couple on behalf of The BPPA to coincide with exhibitions that were held on the old SS Robin at Canary Wharf. SS Robin attendee Steven Frischling said

“He’s good folks… totally worth the price of admisssion, got off the plane and went right to work with what I learned from you within hours”.  
(Steven had flown from Pennsylvania and was en route to Germany!) (more…)

A very big 20th anniversary

A portrait of a college IT expert taken on my first full day using the Kodak DCS520 camera. Photo: NEIL TURNER. 19th November 1998. ©Times Supplements Limited.

A portrait of a college IT expert taken on my first full day using the Kodak DCS520 camera. Photo: NEIL TURNER. 19th November 1998. ©Times Supplements Limited.

On the 18th of November 1998 my working life changed. Forever. That was the day when I received my first professional digital camera that was solely for my use. The Kodak DCS520 was a Kodak/Canon hybrid camera (also known as the Canon D2000) based on the Canon EOS1N that had a 1.9 megapixel CCD sensor with a small LED display on the back and removable PCMCIA flash storage cards. It was a revolutionary piece of kit and it didn’t seem to matter that it had a 1.6x crop factor. Nor did it matter that it didn’t work properly with the 540EZ Speedlight which was the top-of-the range offering from Canon at the time. We didn’t even mind the shutter lag because the DCS520 was infinitely better than the previous DCS offerings and much more convenient than having to process and scan colour negative film. (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…)

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…)

The third kit fetish

The Phottix 70cm collapsible beauty dish, adapted to fit an Elinchrom Ranger Quadra head.

Everyone knows about the fetish for camera bags shared by most photographers and anyone who has read this blog will know about my own personal one for card readers but there is a third one that has been exercising me of late. I have mentioned it quite a few times over the years and a particular need to have a repeatable set up has led me down this particular equipment rabbit hole once again.

I’m talking about lighting. I’m talking specifically about light modifiers. Those umbrellas, snoots, dishes, soft boxes and hybrid gadgets that you place on the fronts of your flash units in order to control and improve the light. (more…)

Moody technique post from the old website

I have been cleaning up some of the behind the scenes stuff on my original dg28.com website and got side-tracked looking at some of the old technique posts (again). I really liked this one from July 2003 which was originally entitled “Choosing a Mood”. Anyway, here is the original post cut and pasted:

©Neil Turner/TSL. July 2003. English, Media Studies and Philosophy teacher in a north London comprehensive school.

©Neil Turner/TSL. July 2003. English, Media Studies and Philosophy teacher in a north London comprehensive school.

Every time you take a photograph you are saying something about what is in the image. It’s impossible to avoid a frozen frame being anything other than an interpretation of that moment so it becomes a mark of a good photographer to make sure that every element of the image (composition, subject matter and light) helps to paint a consistent story. 

The mood required for every image – especially with portraits – is something that you have to consider very carefully.Some lighting guides will tell you that there is a lighting set up for each mood and that it is a simple matter of placing light A in position B and light C in position D to achieve this. I have to agree that there are some obvious starting points for many of the moods that I use, but there are many other factors that have to be taken into account when setting the scene. (more…)