Insecurity

Being insecure is good for the photographic process.  Usually when you are out and about – you take a picture, and then review it on the back of the camera.  You might then move about a bit, and take another. You might do this a few times, till what you see on the back of the camera accords with your own internal ideas.

You can’t do that when you shoot film of course. You don’t have the benefit of seeing the ‘result’ straight away, and so there’s that element of insecurity because you are not totally sure what you have got ‘in the can’.  You are also limited by the number of pictures you can take.  36 on a roll, or 24, or maybe as few as 8 or 10.

What do we do?  Digitallly, we take lots of images – but which ones do you like the best when you get home, and look at them all together?

I often find that the images I like the best are usually not the ones I thought I was taking at the outset – things move on, even as I shoot, and it might be the 10th image that I take that is the one that I use. The benefit of the digital camera is that you can check as you go – but is this always good for you?

Sometimes I wonder if by virtue of being able to look at the back of the camera all the time, I am just confirming that what I saw was good, or am I merely looking at a preview of my ultimate expectation.

It might be both – because looking at the back of the camera all the time can disrupt the shooting process – causing us to miss things….

When I was working as an agency photographer – most times I didn’t have the opportunity to look and check what was happening on the back of the camera – I just had to keep going, and trust that the settings were the right ones. I learned to adjust as I went, working on the principle that it had to be right first time, as there were no second opportunities.

That was the insecurity which was hanging over my shoulder all the time – it made me work harder, and faster.  If I checked at all, it was briefly.

The best lesson I learned was to reset my camera to a default, at the end of every single shoot.  So the camera sat at ISO 400, f5.6, RAW, and Aperture Priority.  That would get me most times an OK shot – it also meant that if I’d previously been shooting at ISO 12,000 – I wouldn’t be doing that the next day, when the sun came out again.  

It happens to us all, we make mistakes, but resetting the camera can mitigate things.

Why not try this – put some black tape over the screen – and go out and shoot – make yourself a little more insecure – and see what happens….

It’s only pixels……..

A Lesson in Humility

I have brazenly stolen the title of this blog piece from another blog that I read – to remind me what photography is all about, and how we (as photographers) sometimes forget that a lot of the images we take can be  mostly due to the actions of others.

When we go out as a group – we have to remember that sometimes it was one person who organised the trip, and without them we didn’t get to do the shoot. It was maybe a different person who drove  you there, and yet another who suggested that rather good lunch in a cafe / pub.

There are the mentors, the friends, the people who just encourage you – the ones who are there for you no matter what.  The ones who don’t always tell you that your photographs are ‘amazing’, but actually tell you to get a grip, and realise you’re not as good as maybe you think you are.

Plus the ones who tell you that you ARE in fact better than you think you are, and push you on your way.

These then are all the people I want to thank for my photographic trip through 2018:-  I can’t name all of them, and besides if I forgot one name, I’d be eating more humble pie than I could comfortably consume – but I’m sure you know who you are.

So….. to all my family (they have to come first after all), the friends, the mentors, the groups, the naggers, the pushers.  The drivers, cafe finders, sweet suppliers, makers of phone calls, companions, and supporters.  Models, make up artists, dressers and lighters.  The photoshop gurus, lightroom experts, camera tutors and computer experts.  I thank you from the bottom of my heart.  Without you I couldn’t be the photographer person I am today.  I certainly wouldn’t have achieved as much as I did during 2018.

So, as this year comes to a close – remember that without family, friends and naggers behind you – the world would be a pretty dire place.

Take care everyone, and enjoy 2019…. because it’s coming, whether you are ready or not……

I’m ending with probably one of my favourite images taken this year. One that helped me achieve my ARPS in October.

See you on the other side……..

Why not click on the subscribe button ?- I’d love to hear from more of you during the next year……

 

 

Planning and Volume

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been thinking about shoots – planning, and creativity.  I had in mind a certain character that I wanted to portray, and spent some considerable time finding the right person for the shoot.  Once I’d found that person, I had to decide on what I wanted them to wear, how I wanted them to act and so on.  Finally, I had to find the right place to shoot.

All of this took months of preparation, and I think that in the end it all worked out, and I ended up with a handful of photographs that I am pleased with.

During the shoot itself – I spent more time setting up lighting, than I did actually taking pictures – and I see that as part of the creative process.

In this world of rush, rush, rush – I see photographers who have a massive output of imagery, some of which leaves a lot to be desired, as though thought fell out of the window, in the hurry to make pictures – pictures of anything, with no planning, and no imagination.

I see instagram, and Facebook pages full of mediocre work, in an overwhelming volume, with no sense of organisation and heavy, often poor, editing – almost as though the urgency to produce an image immediately after a shoot is in preference to waiting a while and being selective in what is published.

There are two kinds of  photographer – those who think, and those who don’t.

Those who do, tend to be slower, more thoughful, and use locations and also models in a more respectful way.  They plan, reconnoitre, judge safety and legality – get paperwork in order, use the right people, at the right time – and edit afterwards slowly and images appear sometimes weeks after the shoot.

I watch groups of photographers pile out of cars, rush to the same spot, and start shooting – the odd person will walk around, take in the view, inspect what’s there – and then take some images.  Rushing the planning makes for a poor result in general.

Ignorance shows mostly in comments passed …  by ‘photographers’ (and I use the word in inverted commas intentionally), who don’t know the history of photography, or how the process began.   Ask one who their favourite photographer is,  and I’d expect to hear names like Ansel Adams, Henri Cartier Bresson, Mann Ray, Annie Leibovitz, Dorothea Lange, or Robert Capa – to name but a few who inspire me, but I bet I wouldn’t.

We’ve all made the same mistakes at the start, but we need to grow up – and stop being disparaging of those who want to take it slow and get it right.

Let’s do the right thing – the input and planning is far more important than the output – get the first right, and the other will follow as a matter of course.

Enjoy your image making.

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Art or Content

Show a person who likes dogs, a picture of a dog, and they may love it – even if it’s not technically perfect, because it’s a picture they can understand, and relate to. Show them one of a subject they are not interested in, and no matter how artistic it is, they won’t necessarily like it.

It’s Christmas eve, and I was sitting here reviewing images taken over the last 12 months, and thinking how fortunate I’ve been to be able to work with some amazing people – both models and photographers.

Meeting new people, models, photographers, studio owners is always a good thing.  The more people you interact with, the more ideas you can get, and the better images you can produce.

I’ve been blessed with two particularly good shoots in the last months – both have been quite artistic, and well received in the competitions that I’ve been entering.

I did think that I might print some images off and give them as gifts, but I’m not altogether sure that friends would enjoy them in the same way that I do.

I think that as photographers – we are very much emotionally involved in our images, and that the general public often appreciate the content much more than the creativity that goes into the art we make.

Show a person who likes dogs, a picture of a dog, and they may love it – even if it’s not technically perfect, because it’s a picture they can understand, and relate to.  Show them one of a subject they are not interested in, and no matter how artistic it is, they won’t necessarily like it.

Pictures are appreciated by people more when it actually pertains to their life.  Other people’s photography generally appeals to photographers simply because we ARE photographers..  A month or two back, I went to hear a photographer speak, and although it wasn’t a genre of photography I was particularly interested in, I admired the images – so much so, that at the end of the talk, I bought his book.  Each picture is exquisite, but I’d never go out and shoot that subject; but that didn’t stop me admiring the composition, textures and story that each image told.

There is a particular image that I’ve used in a number of competitions this year – an abstract – it did the rounds locally, in camera club battles – it scored highly every time – not getting less than an 18 out of 20 – and mostly getting 20.

Thinking that I’d got a winner on my hands, I entered it into a national competition – waiting eagerly for the results, I was astounded to find that it scored the lowest mark I had ever had in a National.  So what did I do?  Well, I still loved the picture, and when the print was returned to me, I mounted it, framed it, and hung it on the wall;  …….. and here it is…….

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It’s a bit ‘marmite’ I understand that…..  but none the less…..

I doubt I’d offer it as a gift to anyone, but it does look great on my wall – or at least I think so.

And on that note, I’d like to wish you all a happy and peaceful Christmas, and an amazing, and artful 2017 – let’s make images to be proud of……….

The ‘Technology’ Wars

Thinking about buying a new camera?  Maybe getting a new one for Christmas?  A simple question, but one that assumes you know what you are doing.  Plus it assumes that you are not simply upgrading, for the sake of it.  How many times do people change their gear, because getting a ‘better’ camera will give you better images….

I’m using the Canon 1D MK4, bought in 2010 – but I see a LOT of people now who are more than happy with their mobile phones, or tablets for their images.  Does this mean the death of the DSLR?  I’d like to think not, but it is true that some newspapers have removed all their photography staff, and given the journalists an iphone or other ‘smart’ gadget.  Maybe the ethos of ‘better images’ is starting to vanish, and we are experiencing a new boom of quantity over quality.  The sheer amount of visual images on the internet now, through flickr, facebook, and so on, means that you are seeing far more poor quality images than ever before;  and the sad thing is that the more poor quality things you see, the more you get used to seeing them, and the more you accept that as a standard.

That’s not to say there aren’t the great photographers out there – they are there, and they are putting an enormous amount of energy and skill into producing some outstanding images. I use Google+ and Flickr to share pictures I have made, and they are great places to experiment, and see what sort of reaction there is to new stuff that I produce.  In the end analysis though, it’s still social sharing, and maybe it’s not as real as showing them in the ‘real’ world.  What is the value of strangers ‘liking’ an image if they are not prepared to explain what it is they like?

Has the ease with which images are captured actually devalued their credibility?  Have images become worth so much less since the advent of the mobile phone?

I ask myself this more often these days.  For example – at a dinner I was shooting the other month, a chap came up to me and asked why I thought I needed such a big camera – he himself had his ipad mini – and was more than happy to show me his ‘brilliant’ pictures that he had taken with it.  I’m not saying his images were bad, but he what he really wanted to show me was that I didn’t need the gear I had.  Somehow though I think that if a ‘professional’ photographer turned up at his wedding with an ipad, he might be just a little underwhelmed !

The whole value of images is reducing almost on a daily basis – I get asked to work for free all the time “for exposure”, and that I should be grateful to be asked, because, after all, they could have done it with their compacts, or phones.  (Try asking the plumber to come along for free – see how he or she reacts to that one…..)  On the other hand, with the better cameras, and powerful software, why shouldn’t they try it for themselves.

My own thoughts are that photographers have to move with the times.  I’ll confess to having taken images with my ipad, during a conference where the lens I had with me would not fit the whole lecture hall in.  My fault I admit, for not having the right lens with me.  The ipad image though was quite acceptable, and the client didn’t even bat an eyelid.  I just added that one shot in with all the others, knowing that the images were only going to be used on line.  The problems arise when a print is required and you can’t get the image quality.

I would say though that just because there are more people out there taking photographs, doesn’t mean that there are more ‘good’ photographers.  I think there are about the same number of people producing good images as there were before – it’s just that they are somewhat overwhelmed by all the other ‘stuff’.

It’ll be interesting to see in the next year or so, where we go with the new DSLR type video cameras, from which you can capture one frame as a still.  Why worry about taking individual images – video the whole event and pick your shot.

Next year’s technology could be worth looking at…..

 

 

Water Fools – Salford Quays – Manchester

The French outdoor theatre company ILOTOPE put on a spectacular event this weekend at Salford Quays.  I was down there to shoot the dress rehearsal which, although brilliantly done, did not have the fireworks going.

Water Fools, Salford Quays-11It did feature though, a floating car, with a caravan, a huge floating bed, and lots of other magic.  At 9.30 prompt a car arrived, dropping a man off on a platform in the middle of the water.

Water Fools, Salford Quays-14The story is rooted in the fanatical, as a surreal world explodes out of a man’s head, transporting him from the rigmarole of his everyday existence to a landscape populated with mythical creatures and inexplicable magic, while all spectacularly taking place on the water’s surface. Caravans, prams and penny-farthings will feature, defying all logic, bringing an impossibly innovative piece of entertainment to Salford Quays.

Water Fools, Salford Quays-48Choreographed by French artist Bruno Schnebelin the routine had chain breath-taking visuals, punctuated by pyrotechnics, with engrossing theatre while fellow countryman Phil Spectrum composed an original score to make the show spectacular in all aspects.

Water Fools, Salford Quays-40The rest of the images from this shoot can be seen HERE

Google vs Getty

The Google / Getty Stock Images Situation

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Over the last few weeks, I have closely followed the situation that currently exists between Google, and Getty Images.

It comes almost immediately after the problems with Instagram terms of service – which were re-issued to state that

“Some or all of the Service may be supported by advertising revenue. To help us deliver interesting paid or sponsored content or promotions, you agree that a business or other entity may pay us to display your username, likeness, photos (along with any associated metadata), and/or actions you take, in connection with paid or sponsored content or promotions, without any compensation to you.”

“Instagram does not claim ownership of any Content that you post on or through the Service. Instead, you hereby grant to Instagram a non-exclusive, fully paid and royalty-free, transferable, sub-licensable, worldwide license to use the Content that you post on or through the Service, except that you can control who can view certain of your Content and activities on the Service as described in the Service’s Privacy Policy.”

These terms have since been revised, Getty though has continued to broker a deal with Google that seems on the face of it to be totally unreasonable.  On the Google Drive Blog  they announced 5000 new images were to be made available free of charge to Google Drive users.  Create an image on Google Drive, and choose your image to illustrate it.  Whether for personal, or commercial use the images are free.

Where do these images come from?  Well, a lot seem to come from ‘i-stock’ , and others from the Getty/Flickr relationship.

This is a licence deal arranged with Google, through Getty images and iStock RF collections.  There was an initial pool of several thousand images licensed from Getty and iStock RF that are on the Getty platform.

What does this mean – well initially we have seen that some photographers whose images are sourced through Flickr to the Getty RF pool, have received around $12 per image, to have their images on the Google Drive search.  Images which have had the metadata stripped and can therefore not be traced back to the photographer.

So – initially, if you have photos on Flickr, which are currently in the Getty pool, you may find them turning up on Google Drive.. You will know if this has happened, as it will show in the October / November 2012 statements.  The main problem as I see it, is that you have images of people who have signed a model release stating that their image will not be used for certain purposes – but once out in the wild – they could end up anywhere – and the photographer can’t do anything about it.  The Getty contract is suitably vague, and even if you pull out of the programme, you can’t recover images already sold.

There has been another post on the iStock website

“We’ve heard you, and we’ve met with Google and are working with them to refine the implementation which we believe will address some of the concerns raised over the past several days–including copyright ownership.”

Maybe the agreement will be changed.  I’ll be watching to see how this one develops.

Happy New Year

Happy new year for 2013 – and it’s been great so far…

Already we’ve had a fabulous studio shoot with the wonderful Laura Norrey – a 1950’s style pinup model.  She’s quite new to modelling, but I think that she’ll go far – a lovely personality, willing to work hard and takes direction exceptionally well.  I really hope we can get her in front of the camera again in the near future.

Here’s a few images from a brilliant shoot – enjoy

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Barlow Studios Portrait Shoot
Barlow Studios Portrait Shoot

Shooting London Fashion Weekend

Thanks to the team at Canon CPS, I was able to travel to London recently, to shoot the London Fashion Weekend at Somerset House to shoot catwalks from the photographers pit.

It was a fantastic experience, and producing a great set of cohesive images was a challenge to say the least.  Canon were superb, and their briefing was very useful, especially to those of us who had not shot professional catwalks before.  Shooting was all hand held, (no tripods or monopods allowed) so shutter speeds had to be upwards of 1/500th second.  We were told in advance that the lighting would be set to 3200Kelvin, and so adjusting our white balance to take this into account meant that every shot was correct.

A flashgun wasn’t essential for this shoot, as the catwalk was so well lit, but some photographers did use one to lift the light a little under the model’s hat, and to add some catchlights.

The challenge was to get the models in focus, all the time, so using the ‘Servo’ setting was essential.  Although the models were not moving that quickly, they were moving faster than I expected, and the pause at the end of the runway, was only for a few seconds.  It was great to have time to be creative, and to experiment with different types of shots….

Achieving great compositions was difficult, as we only had the one chance to get it right – no-one was going to repeat anything for us, and so it was shoot it or lose it.

All in all it was a great shoot, and I offer many thanks to Canon, and to Vodafone for the experience.

To see more shots from the Fashion Weekend – please click HERE