UK

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…)

Marsha Hunt – the contact sheet

Photo: Neil Turner/TSL Education. October 2005.
Marsha Hunt photographed at the home of her friend in St John’s Wood, London

As I get towards 100 imperfect portraits added to my Instagram feed I have had lots of nice messages about the pictures and the stories behind them. Along with those I have had a few requests for more of the ‘contact sheets’ such as the Dennis Healey one that I added to this blog last month. My portrait of Marsha Hunt has had three requests so I thought that I’d so that one first.

When I posted this on Instagram I added the following words;

It is hard to think of actress, model and writer Marsha Hunt without thinking about Patrick Lichfield’s photograph of her taken when she was starring in the musical “Hair”. In October 2005 when I arrived at the flat where she was staying in London I was a little surprised by her baldness but she has the most amazing presence that I forgot about it is seconds. The shoot was fun and she was just about the most professional subject I have ever been asked to shoot. It was tough to choose which frame to post but this one really shows how she was on the day.  #lovemyjob #portraitphotography #archive #locationportraiture #editorial #canonukandireland #digitalevolution #imperfectportraiture  #timeseducationalsupplement

This is quite a wide edit but you can see that we didn’t change locations during the shoot at all. There were two reasons for this; the first is that Marsha had been having treatment for cancer and not been that well so we decided that once we had our location, we would work it. The second is that it wasn’t her home so nothing in the background added much to the story anyway.

The eagle-eyed lighting geeks amongst you will notice that the position and angle of the light changes a fair bit and that’s something of a feature of the ay that I shoot this kind of work – always fiddling with the (normally single) light source and combining it with the ambient in different ways as I go.

Technical notes: All of the lighting was with a single Lumedyne battery powered head and pack with a shoot-through umbrella on some and a 60cm x 80cm Chimera soft box on others. The cameras were Canon EOS1D MkII bodies with 16-35 f2.8L, 24-70 f2.8L and 70-200 f2.8L lenses

Dennis Healey – the contact sheet

Lord Dennis Healey taking a photograph of the photographer. ©Neil Turner/TSL

When I have been posting archive portraits on Instagram and Facebook I have been including a few memories of each job. On more than one occasion I have commented that it was a tough job picking a single frame from a shoot and one of my colleagues contacted me when I posted  a frame of the late Dennis Healey to ask me to post a wider selection from that job. I thought that it would be best to show the whole edit as it was sent to the magazine in the form of a ‘contact sheet’. (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…)

More about archiving

Interview portrait of Lady Helen Brook, founder of the Brook Advisory Centres which gave advice to young women about contraception starting in the in the 1960s, aged 85 at her home in north-west London. 05 May 1993 Photo: Neil Turner

Here we are in day sixty-something of the UK Coronavirus lockdown and I’m still ploughing through my very old work and trying to knock it into a usable archive. There are a number of stages to the process and stage one has been to make a detailed catalogue of somewhere approaching three thousand rolls of negatives from dates on the negative sleeves married up with my old (Filofax) diaries and a few memories kicking around in my head. Stage one is now pretty much finished. There are a few gaps where I cannot work out the exact details of when and where pictures were taken and there are a lot of sheets of negatives missing where the films were processed in newspaper darkrooms and I never got them back.

What I have done as a first step is to create a spreadsheet with columns for the film number, date shot, client who commissioned the job or if it was a self-funded project, a generic caption for the whole sheet of negatives, specific frames where applicable and the digital filename range of files created. From there I can import any or all of that data into the IPTC metadata once I get to the captioning of those images. There will be some rolls of film that will never be touched and there are others which will be given a lot of attention. (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…)