It has been some time since I worked in a studio with models and make-up artists, so when I got chance to have some fun and raise a small amount of money for charity, I took it.
A make-up artist friend of mine (Tammy) works with a charity called "Look Good, Feel Better" which works to provide practical and very effective free services for women and teenagers struggling with the visible side effects of cancer treatment, and she arranged this photo shoot to raise some money and awareness for this charity.
The theme for the shoot was selected as "Twisted Nursery Rhymes", which was essentially to take a nursery rhyme and give it an alternative twist (which normally means gore). Tammy gathered together make-up artists, models, photographers and designers and arranged the shoot, and re-arranged the shoot for various availability issues, which was a challenge but she rose to it well.
As the date of the shoot approached, I was keen to try out a new portable lighting rig I had (Godox RS600P) which was more than equal to the task at hand and it served me well enabling me to light up the scene I wanted and balancing the shadows against the natural light coming through the windows.
Models Agi, Ali, Matt and Sarah were made-up with various grotesque styles by make-up artists Tammy and Mairead. The photographers set to work arranging the lighting and models accordingly with many an unusual approach being taken that had surprisingly good results. On hand we had a designer and stylist (Rachel) who had various props with her and was also exercising her ability to take photos as well.
We spent all day in the disused space above the Pit and Pendulum pub in Nottingham that is hired out as a photography studio, it's an amazing space with high ceilings, large windows and bare wooden floors and the occasional trap-door. Fun was had by all, and I hope you will agree, some good images were produced, so that just leaves me to let you see the ones I took, you can decide which nursery rhymes if any I managed to capture, I hope you enjoy.
I was invited along to the Dash of the Titan event at Thoresby woods through my camera club (NOPS), with a view to helping the event out with some photography.
As with most events that I go along to, I had some reservations about the quality of photos I would get and to a lesser extent about how well the event would be organised, but after a few emails and a call to one of the organisers, I decided it would be a fun day out and committed to going.
On the day of the event there were mixed opinions of whether it was going to rain all day or not, which made me wonder if I had made the right choice, but waterproofs to the ready as I prepared my cameras and lenses and loaded up the car. Half way to the event I realised I had left my waterproof trousers hanging over the stair bannister, a small groan and mutters about how stupid I was I carried on anyway.
Arriving onsite I was greeted by one of my camera club buddies, Sue (you can find some of her photos from the day here and here), we quickly gathered our thoughts and discussed tactics and locations and merrily went our separate ways. It turned out whilst the courses (5 miles and 10 miles) covered quite some ground, they were centred around the field where the start and end were and it was easy to move between the various obstacles set out for contestants.
I started out at the muddy pond, that quite frankly stank worse than most smells this nose has ever experienced, but it was highly entertaining to see the contestants grab a car tyre and plough in through the mud, the facial expressions alone were priceless, but very occasionally on exiting the pond some contestants would pose for a photo.
Over fences, into muddy ditches, between framed car tyres and in and out of extremely deep ditches, the course seemed quite gruelling, but just about every contestant seemed to have a permanent grin on their faces. You could sense a certain childlike thrill and enjoyment of the exercise combined with getting really muddy without caring. There was of course some very serious individuals who appeared to be showing quite aptly how supremely fit they were, some leaping fences rather than climbing them, and others just making the whole thing look a doddle.
I was extremely impressed with the almost even split between the genders of the contestants and the extremely wide age range, which just goes to show that age shouldn't be a barrier to exercise or getting muddy.
I thought it a little unusual, but also kind of intriguing that a bunch of young ladies were running the dash for a birthday celebration, I don't know about you, but my birthdays tend to be a little less exercise and mud and a little more relaxing and drinking.
All in all, it was a fun day out doing something I enjoy with other people doing something they enjoy, but there had to be a winner overall, and here he is in all his mud and glory, he led right from the start and finished a good 13 minutes before the second place contestant, the winner being James Rushton.
And the rest of my photos from the day that I deemed fit to share are here:
A wonderful day out with some of my camera club buddies saw us shooting (that's taking photos of, not killing) birds of prey.
One of my colleagues at the camera club I attend had been on a photography training day involving birds of prey and thought it would be a great idea to arrange one for our club, minus the training part so that we could focus entirely on getting photos of these magnificent birds. Turns out we were able to handle them as well, as demonstrated by me holding a Harris Hawk below (photo courtesy of Lois Webb):
There was a great response at the club for this and two dates were arranged in the amazing grounds of Newstead Abbey in the wonderfully named Paradise Field. The day I was to attend arrived and the weather was overcast but dry, which was OK by me, I would have preferred a slightly more feature rich sky, but these events are rarely perfect.
Bird after bird came out allowing us to shoot portraits and action shots of Tawny Owls, Barn Owls, Merlins, Kestrels,Harris Hawks, Long Eared Owls, to name but a few. It saw photographers will all sorts of kit lining up to get the "killer" shot.
Much discussion was held over best position relative to the birds, what lenses to use and how to focus,
especially for the action shots, which proved tricky to say the least.
There was time for a lunch break at the Newstead cafe, where we topped up on food and drink and discussed achievements so far. There was a mixture of elation and disappointment when "chimping" through the shots taken with cries of "oh no, it's not in focus", and "Yesssss!". Then it was back to it, with some aerial acrobatics from the beautiful feathered speed demons and some interesting if a bit gross demonstrations of how the birds feed on their prey.
Late afternoon, early evening it was time to wrap up as the rain started to fall and we all headed home to process / delete a load of photos. A follow up session of show and tell at the club revealed some wonderful images. Some of my favourites that I took from the day can be seen in the slideshow below.
I recently graduated from the Photography Institute (http://www.thephotographyinstitute.co.uk) with a Diploma of Professional Photography and wanted to tell you about it. The reason I took this course was all about self-belief and confidence, my photography had kind of plateaued, I felt like I wasn’t progressing and I needed something that reassured me I was capable of taking my photography further should I want to. I had shot a couple of weddings both as a second shooter and on my own and decided that this might be something I’d want to pursue further, and having some sort of qualification might help me in this respect.
I looked at a number of courses and self-starter books and either the course was too involved, pitched at the wrong level or simply just too expensive, the books just not cutting it either, then I stumbled across the photography institute course, the write up sounded ideal so I applied for a prospectus to read more and did nothing more about it for a couple of years. If you know me, you’ll know that procrastination is my main failing. After numerous emails following up the application for a prospectus trying to convince me to join the course, I finally gave in and joined at the start of 2014.
I had read lots about this course, some people being dissatisfied with the lack of recognition the diploma gets, but to me it’s merely an acknowledgement I had completed a body of work to a satisfactory level and that’s all I was after. So, I threw myself into the course, finding out there were multiple Facebook pages for sharing and support, both internationally and UK specific. Now, trust me when I say this, there are an awful lot of people doing the course, some that should never hold a camera ever and some that were simply born to take photos, with a whole host of variations in between. I guess in that respect it’s no different to any other subject you might choose to study.
To sum up the course, there are 12 modules and 11 assignments that you have to complete in order to graduate (module summary later). The course notes stipulate that you can complete the course within 6 months, but you have a year to do it. I later found out that as you hit 12 months, if you still haven’t completed the course, you automatically get another 3 months, but anything after that will cost you extra. In the end it took me 14 months to complete, so I needed the extra 3 months. Why did it take me so long? My old nemesis, procrastination!
The course starts off with equipment and throws you in the deep end with the first assignment asking you which kit you’d use for each outlined scenario, this instantly panicked me, but the on-line tutor I was given assured me this was just to assess capability and current levels of knowledge. Had I wanted to, I could have applied for the primer that gives you some background reading, I didn’t, but if you’re new to photography and want to do this course, I highly recommend it. Matt (Matthew Evans), my tutor, was available to be contacted through the website, and gave me plenty of encouragement and also gave me a list of background reading that I might find helpful. Some of the books he recommended I had already read, others I plan to read going forward. The course is written by a photographer called George Seper, he has done most types of photography in his career, but is most notably and currently known for his food photography, with many examples of his work in the course material. One particularly good example was presented for when he is shooting on white plates and how he uses the zone system to get his exposure just right, this is covered off in module 3.
Further modules took me through camera settings and their relationships, exposure and metering, film vs digital photography, light and colour, lighting, how to take better photos, equipment and software, post processing and printing, studio work, constructing a portfolio and photo agencies and how to get work. I have listed out the course coverage below if you’re interested, but that’s as far as I can go without breaching copyright. For me though, the most useful aspects of the course took me on an exploration of my camera and its capabilities and talk of pre-visualisation, which I now use a lot even for other artistic endeavours than photography.
In summary, I found the course to be both useful and hard work, mostly hard due to me stalling mid-way through the course and needing to give myself a kick up the backside to get moving again. You could argue that a good book would teach you the same things, but having a course structure and deadline and on-line support makes all the difference. Does this make me a better photographer? I will allow my peers to decide, but what it has made me is a more complete and considered photographer and allowed me to understand more about the business, where I can go with my photography and what some of the challenges might be.
Some examples of the images that I used to pass the course are shared here, with my 6 portfolio images for the last assignment that I submitted on the subject of wedding photography. I hope you have found this article interesting and informative.
Some of the images I had to submit for my assignments, not all I might add.
And these are my final images for my wedding portfolio to close out the course:
The Course Breakdown
Cameras & Lenses
Introduction to the Professional Photography Course
About the Author
The Small Format SLR
The Medium Format Camera
The Large Format Camera
Small & Medium Format SLR Features
Depth of Field Preview
Integrated Light Meters
Interchangeable Focusing Screens
Barrel & Pincushion Distortion
Flare & Vignetting
The Normal Lens
Wide Angle Lenses
Speciality Lenses & Attachments
The Tilt-Shift Lens
Caring For Your Lenses
Practical Lens Choices
Portrait & Beauty Photography
Architecture & Interior Photography
Sport & Wildlife Photography
Shutters, Aperture, ISO & Their Relationships
The Aperture / Shutter Speed Relationship
Depth of Field (DOF)
Circles of Confusion
Depth of Field Scale
The Depth of Field Preview Button
Depth of Field & the View Camera
Digital Sensors & the View Camera
SLR Shooting Modes
Aperture Priority (AV) or (A)
Shutter Priority (TV) or (S)
Program Mode (P)
Putting it all Together
Exposure & Metering
Hand Held Meters
In Camera Light Meters
Average Reflective Metering
ISO & Exposure Compensation Control
The Shutter Speed, Aperture, ISO Relationship
The 18% Grey Card
Dynamic Range & A Metering Method
The Stepped Greyscale Test
Zone System Basics
Building Your Own Zone Ruler
Metering Colours & Other Tip
Some Final Thoughts on Metering
The Sunny F/16 Rule
The Film & Digital Process
A Brief History of the Photographic Process
The Optical Process
The Chemical Process
Composition of Modern Film
The Wet Process
My Darkroom Method
Colour Film Processing
The D Log E Curve of Film
Digital Image Capture
CCD & CMOS Compared
Tri-Linear Array Scanning Backs
Film V Digital
The D Log E Curve of Digital
In Camera Controls & What to Do With Them
Adobe 1998 RGB
Saturation, Contrast & Sharpening
Light & Colour
The Colour Spectrum
Early Colour Theory Development
Maxwell’s Triangle and Modern Colour Theory
Additive and Subtractive Colour Systems
The CIE and LAB Colour
Useful Filters in the Digital World
The Mired Scale
The Colour Temperature Meter
Digital White Balance
Custom Colour Balance
Seeing Like a Camera
Some Useful Tricks
Looking through a ND Filter
Closing One Eye
Making a Fist
Rotate the Image
Setting Shadow and Highlights
Black and White
My Favourite Method
The Red Channel in RGB
The Blue Channel in RGB
The L Channel in Lab
I love Daylight
Artificial Light Sources
Time of the Day
Lighting People & Small Moveable Objects
Fill in Flash
The World's Best Lighting
The Daylight Look Indoors
Lighting Method 1
Lighting Method 2
Lighting Method 3
Pros & Cons
Balancing Flash & Daylight
Unisex Portraiture Lighting Scheme
The Vanity Index
Lighting Men and Women
How To Take Better Photos
The Big Question
The Little Photoshop on the Corner
Back to Business of Taking Pictures
Why a Duck?
A Process for Photographing Objects
A Mental Shooting Checklist
Thinking Like a Lens
Colour Management in Camera
Adobe RGB (1998)
The Cameras Preview Tools
Low Resolution LCD Colour Preview
Black & White Histogram
The Photoshop Trap
Warning --- Danger Ahead
Sticking to a Subject
Be Honest With Yourself
A Word on Plagiarism
A Cut-Out Portfolio
A Style to Call Your Own
Equipment & Software
The Small Format Camera System
The Medium Format Camera System
The Large Format Camera System
My Choice of Camera System
Small Format System
Medium Format System
Large Format System
Questions & Considerations
Buying V Hiring
Which Lenses do I Need?
Old Film Lenses in a Digital World
Where is the Technology Going?
Studio Flash Units
Which Brand Should I Buy?
Second Hand Gear
Computers & Monitors
The Calibration Device
Compact Discs – CDs
Digital Video Discs – DVDs
Disc Dos and Don’ts
External Hard Drives
The Future of File Storage
A Storage File Formal Suggestion
My Storage System
The Graphics Tablet
Capture One Software
Adobe Photoshop, Bridge & Camera Raw
Retouching, Resolution & Printing
Photoshop & Other Retouching Software
Adobe Photoshop Elements
Adobe Photoshop Lightroom
Aperture by Apple
Corel Paint Shop Pro Photo
Adobe Creative Cloud & Corel Draw Graphics Suite
Other Image Editing & Retouching Tools
The Interesting Issue of DPI & PPI
Image Size…How Big is Big Enough?
Output Devices & Resolution Requirements
Photo Quality Inkjet Printers
The Professional Print Lab
Working in RGB
The CMYK Workspace
Colour Channels in Photoshop
File Formats for Digital Imaging & Printing
File Formats for Print Bound Images
Photoshop’s PSD File Format
Other Random File Formats
Working with 16 Bit Files
HDR for High Contrast Images
Every Digital Image Requires Sharpening
Traps for Young Players
My Sharpening Methodology
Camera Raw Image Adjustment Basics
Camera Raw Toolbar
Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Image Adjustment Basics
Do Your Prints Look Like the Screen Image?
Calibrate the Whole Shebang
The Photographer’s Studio
Do I Need a Studio?
Hiring a Studio
How Big a Studio Do I Need?
Working from Home
The Wedding & Portrait Studio
In Your Studio
The Question of Daylight
Colours & Decorating
Bus & Train Routes
Hiring Out Your Precious Studio
Where to Begin
How To Construct A Professional Portfolio
Where to Begin
Selecting a Speciality Area
Fashion & Beauty
Weddings & Family
Nudes & Glamour
Travel & Resort
Product & Still Life
Architecture & Interiors
Industrial & Corporate
The Photographer’s Assistant
Career Path Suggestions
Try to Get a Look at Other Photographers’ Work
Look at the Portfolios of Stylists to get Ideas
How to Find the Right People to Schmooze
Talk to Photo Agents
Don’t Dilute the Portfolio
Is One Folio Enough
Get Other Opinions
Think About Your Presentation
This is Where to Spend Money Wisely
Some Ideas on Marketing Tools
Photo Agents - Picture Agencies
How To Get Work & Keep It
The Photographer’s Agent
The Role of the Agent
The Photographer/Agent Relationship
How to Find a Photo Agent
Avoid Mixed Agencies if You Can
Be Prepared for Your Interview… You Only Get One Chance
Fees & Charges
Photo Libraries & Picture Agencies in a Nutshell
The Copyright Issue
How to Submit Images
Do Your Homework
Write Down Names in the Lift
Going It Alone
Befriend the Art Buyer
A Final Word
Landscape, by Charlie Waite (C&B publishers)
First Light: a landscape photographer’s art, by Joe Cornish (Argentum)
The Complete guide to night and low-light photography, by Lee Frost (D&C)
Lighting for interiors photography, by John Freeman (Rotovision)
The art and technique of business portrait photography, by Andre Aymot (Amherst Media)
Taking pictures for profit, Lee Frost (D&C)
Sell and resell your photographs, Rohn Engh (Writer’s Digest Books)
The Freelance Photographer’s Market Handbook (current year)
The Writer’s Handbook (also current year)
When many people find out I am a photographer, the first thing I hear is "Oh I would like to talk to you about which camera to buy", so I thought I would write an entry about it on my blog.
First and foremost I insist that it isn't a great/expensive camera that takes good images, it's the person that holds the camera that does the work, the kit helps obviously, but a great camera does not a great photographer make. I have seen very expensive kit wielded very badly resulting in shockingly badly exposed or blurred images or simply plain images that could have just as easily been snapped with a camera phone. And of course that is a perfectly valid tool these days, if you are just after snapshots you probably already have the camera you need within your phone.
Moving on to the subject at hand and trying my best to avoid the rant about kit and ability, we first have to ask ourselves what it is that we want from a camera, or on a deeper level, from photography. I start with the assumption that if you are asking me, I'm pretty sure you don't need a large or medium format camera, and to that end I won't go into any detail on those types, if you want those types of camera, you should really know more about photography than me if I'm being honest. That leaves us with the small format camera, which in itself is a wide range of cameras and pretty much covers all consumer level cameras right from the simplest P&S (Point & Shoot) up to some fairly expensive DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras.
So far we have narrowed down a massive choice of options in terms of cameras down to a slightly less massive choice of options, therefore we need to start asking questions of the potential photographer to determine the next steps. The questions go something like this
What sort of photography will you be doing?
Will this be for occasional use/for fun, a serious hobby, or are you looking at a career in photography?
Then, based on the answers I get, we have a range of options, and these options seem to get more varied as time goes on and camera manufacturers come up with new ideas and types of camera. So let's look at the choices and how they might relate to the answers you might give.
Point and Shoot (P&S)
This is pretty much as it says, the camera is fully automatic (maybe with some pre-set scene modes and a built in flash), and you simply point the camera at what you want to take a photo of and press the button (shoot), the camera does the rest of the work for you. This camera is not unlike the camera you will have in your phone and as indicated previously, the lines between the usefulness of these cameras versus the camera in your phone are becoming blurred.
This type of camera is usually very portable and very useful for holiday or family snapshots, only go for this type of camera if you have no plans to delve into photography deeper.
A bridge camera is so called because it essentially bridges the gap between the P&S cameras and the more involved manually operated advanced DSLR cameras. The key differences between this and a P&S is that firstly they are usually a little more bulky, they have a larger lens, possibly a greater zoom range, and more importantly tend to have manual operation modes allowing you to explore the skill of photography more so than the P&S. The key differences between this and a DSLR are that the lens whilst having a large range of focal lengths is permanently attached to the camera and hence you cannot upgrade or change lenses to suite your needs and budget, also these types of cameras don't tend to have the same range of file formats such as RAW, and although somewhat subjective the image quality doesn't tend to be as good. This sort of camera is for someone who has no plans to get serious about photography, but wants to dabble and have a good range of options all in one package.
Compact System Camera (CSC)
These type of cameras can also be referred to as mirror-less and in some instances depending on the dimensions of the sensor, micro four thirds cameras. They typically have the same functionality as the DSLR (in some cases more), but they are smaller, more compact and operate more like bridge cameras with the added bonus you can change the lenses. The key difference between these and DSLRs is that there is no prism and no mirror and they tend to have Electronic Viewfinders (EVF). This type of camera normally is for what I would refer to as an enthusiast, someone who is a keen hobbyist photographer, but we are seeing more and more professional and semi-professional photographers using these, I have one myself. The sway towards this type of camera is largely due to size, weight and portability. For the less able bodied photographers who are finding a large DSLR increasingly harder to hold steady and moreover is struggling to carry the kit around, this type of camera is a great compromise. These cameras are currently in fashion and therefore tend to demand a high price tag, certainly for the good ones and compared to the P&S and Bridge cameras.
Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR)
Once the holy grail of cameras and the sole domain of the professional photographer, this type of camera is now widely available to the consumer varying from a few hundred pounds (GBP) to several thousands of pounds (GBP). When considering this type of camera, the first thing to consider is that you aren't so much purchasing a camera as committing to a lens system, and this should be the prime reason you pick one make over another, perhaps ease of use should be first, but I tend to find most of the high end cameras have a similar user experience (I know people will dispute this). The reason I say you are committing to a lens system is that the DSLR is designed to have different lenses attached to it and in order to be able to get the right lenses for the type of photography you do, the system first has to have that type of lens and secondly it has to be within your price budget. Of course it helps if you know lots of people with the same lens system, that increases the chances for you to borrow lenses rather than purchase them. This type of camera should be chosen if you are going to be serious about photography, intend to learn about it and increase your skills in photography, or if you are planning to go professional. Now, as I have mentioned there are wide ranging price points for the DSLR, if you are planning to go professional, you need to go for the most recent and most highly rated model that you can afford, once you have the camera body, you also need to factor in budget for lenses, the kit lenses are OK, but they suffer from lower image quality (IQ) generally speaking. Be wary of purchasing entry level cameras and lenses with the expectation that you can keep the lenses and upgrade the body over time, there does tend to be different lens mounts for different price points. I have a couple of DSLRs myself, and a reasonably wide array of lenses, and if you're interested and it matters to you, I tend to favour Canon cameras.
Makes and Models and closing words...
You will hear photographers evangelising about the make of camera they have, and why one manufacturer is better than another. The classic discussion is Canon vs Nikon, and the truth of it is different makes tend to be better at different types of photography and situations and each manufacturer has a subtly different approach to the user experience and how the camera looks and feels. If you are opting for a DSLR, I personally would stick with either Canon or Nikon simply because they have very well established lens systems, but some of the other makes are equally good cameras. At this point, the only advice I can give here is to do your research, and see example photos, but be wary most photographers don't show what comes straight out of the camera, there is some editing going on. First and foremost the camera has to suit your hands, your budget and the way you think, if the camera meets those criteria, you won't go too far wrong.
I hope this article has helped, but feel free to contact me if you want to discuss anything about your choice of camera, or need help narrowing things down a bit.
So I have finally got around to updating my website from the ageing HTML 4.0 hand written site to this, which is CMS driven, in this case I'm using Koken and it's hosted from my own personal web server, another first for me.
This site will hopefully showcase some of my best work and also allow me to ramble on about various things in the format of a blog, I may even introduce some videos and tutorials at some point if I start to get brave.
If you wish to get in touch, please use the contact page or follow me using the social media links at the top of the page, I will endeavour to get back to you as soon as possible.