Photography studio, gallery and training complex

Archive for August, 2011

I Heart iPhone Art

I’m happy to admit I’ve been rather sniffy about the use of iPhones as a means of capturing and creating meaningful photographs. Well, I hereby eat my words. A marvellous – yes, marvellous – series of images in the latest (and best for a while) edition of Silvershotz by American photographer Dan Burkholder has, it’s fair to say, turned my head.

Nuff said – have a look…

You don’t really get an impression of the quality of his work from the images reproduced here I’m afraid. Take a look at Silvershotz or his website to see them as they really are.

Burkholder certainly has a background that one wouldn’t associate with an advocate of this newer technology: he was a student of none other than Ansel Adams. One wonders what the master of the old technology would make of his student’s medium. He takes, stitches, and carries out most of the post-production in-camera/iPhone with only the final “0.3% of image tweaking (colour correction, final sharpening etc)” being carried out in good “old” Photoshop.

Image by Dan Burkholder

In the Silvershotz article he candidly describes every step he takes and exactly which apps he chooses to employ to arrive at the finished result. And the results ARE impressive. Burkholder clearly sees this technology as liberating but also a return to the spirit of the “plein air” methodology of the Impressionists, where much of the production process was carried out in situ, rather than roughly captured in the field before being finished in the studio.

Image by Dan Burkholder

Burkholder says “I’d go so far as to declare that iPhone photography is one of the purest photographic experiences of the last couple of decades of photography”. And also, “the in-phone image editing possibilities are limitless”.

Definitely worthy of further investigation. See www.danburkholder.com and www.iphoneartistry.com and Silvershotz at http://www.facebook.com/#!/Silvershotz.International.Journal.Photography and http://www.silvershotz.com/


Back Through The Pinhole

A while back, pinhole photography maestro Justin Quinnell led a workshop here at fotofilia, during which he passed around a “camera” made of two 35mm film cartridges and a matchbox. So kind of a top-of-the-range Sony DSLR (just kidding, Sony users!).

Delegates were invited, or perhaps forced (in a nice way) to use this camera to take a picture of themselves or the person next to them using the camera and a portable flashgun.

Well I’ve finally had the film developed and the results are predictably unpredictable. I don’t know if group members will be able to recognise their shots from the images below, but if you do spot an image of yourself, I’m guessing you won’t be putting it on your facebook page anytime soon.

Note: Because some of the frames have over-lapped (well what do you expect when using half a clothes-peg as a winding mechanism?) I’ve cropped the images in a way that makes some sort of sense, although I’ve left a few over-laps in simply because I like them.

Anyone own up to this?

Whose fillings are these?

Earhole photography?

Starting to get creepy?

Justin Quinnell’s website again – http://www.pinholephotography.org/ and World Pinhole Day – http://www.pinholeday.org/


Confessions Of A Wedding Photographer (part 2)

Since I posted “Part 1”, a few people have asked me about my reasons for moving away from wedding photography, something I’ve been doing for about 25 years. I thought it might be a good idea to spell out some of the reasons why I feel it’s time to get out of this aspect of the business.

Over-saturation: With less people geting married (I am reliably informed) and more and more people thinking that now they have a decent DSLR, the wedding market is a soft point of entry into professional photography, there are simply less weddings to go around. I know from speaking to long-established wedding togs that bookings have dropped off year by year over the last 3 years or so.

“Weekend Warriors”: Not a term I like to use, personally, but I’ve heard other togs muttering this under their breath, interspersed with a few expletives. It is certainly a fact that on many of the weddings I have shot in the last 3 years there has been a keen amateur tog “parroting” (shooting from my shoulder) and in one case, when I went to the couple’s house less than three weeks after the wedding to show them the proofs, there was already a large canvas hanging over the fireplace which was clearly shot over my shoulder: location selected by me, group arranged by me, group smiling at me, shot taken by me AND well-meaning Uncle Fred. Years ago, when I was assisting at weddings, part of my role was to block the view of these amateurs, or to rush in after the shot was taken and place a tripod in front of the group. Now you’d need an army of large-shouldered, pointy-elbowed assistants to block all the potential photographers.

Let’s face it, you don’t need a huge pile of equipment to shoot a wedding, especially when there’s no pressure on you and all you have to do is produce a few supplementary images to hand over on a cd. I have often heard people say “Uncle Fred’s photos were better than the official photographer’s”. Of course they were! Uncle Fred only needed to hand over 10 or 20 of his best images – the official photographer will be expected to produce hundreds, and the quality is only ever as strong as the worst image. A wedding is, I believe, one part photography to nine parts crowd control. The photography itself isn’t particularly technically challenging, especially when someone else is setting up the shots, bouncing light into the shots etc. One wonders how Uncle Fred would fare if forced to round up 200 half-cut strangers as well as concentrating on the photos.

Of course, everyone has to start somewhere but it does worry me just how many people seem to be shooting weddings without at least first assisting a more experienced photographer. There are laws and customs that one only usually learns about in practice.

Diminishing Returns:  As recently as 10 years ago, it was possible, if not usual, for a photographer to make more from wedding re-prints than from the wedding itself. Most couples now expect a cd or dvd of high-resolution, copyright-free images as part of their wedding photography package. This obviously means the photographer waves goodbye to any possibility of commission from reprints. In fact even before this, I have know people use their (increasingly sophisticated) home scanners and printers to reproduce the images in their wedding album for circulation amongst family and friends. Completely illegal of course, but very common.

The price of wedding packages has also come down (due to all of the above factors). Lisa Lester, one of fotofilia’s photographers, recieved a phone call a few months ago from someone asking “We’ve been quoted £75 for our wedding photography, can you beat it?” That’s £75!!! For attending a wedding for a whole day, travel, taking images, insurance, and post-production (which might be two days’ work). I myself have quoted for a wedding and offered what I thought was a very competitive price only to be told that “a bloke in the office has said he’ll do it for £40”.

I have no doubt that there are people who will shoot weddings for these amounts. But would you really entrust the memories of what is supposed to be the biggest day of your life to someone with no experience? One camera? No insurance? What if it all goes horribly wrong? Just because someone takes great pictures of landscapes doesn’t make him an ideal wedding photographer.

Danielle & Ezi - the kind of wedding I'll miss.

Unrealistic Expectations:  Here’s an example – I was emailed a photograph of a man who was standing (at least I think he was standing – I could only see his top half) squinting in strong sunshine and asked to “photoshop him in” to a wedding group shot which was taken indoors on an Autumn day. The couple thought this was a perfectly reasonable and simple task.

I have also been told “Aw! You’ve made it look rainy on that one”. I replied, “Yes, it was raining”.

Reportage:  I’ve lost count of the times I’ve heard couples say “We just want unposed/reportage photographs”. Again I know plenty of togs who specialise in that style. Often, this means the couple don’t want to be bothered with the formal posing bit, which I can quite understand. What the couple don’t realise is that the best reportage/candid images are actually at least partly set up. I once attended a wedding where there was a reportage approach and the whole day had no structure… People wandered out of church, looked at their watches and headed for the car. The wedding photographer is also often the Ringmaster, organising the day’s main set pieces – the confetti-throwing, the cake-cutting etc. I’ve seen reportage albums which have consisted mainly of people moving from one place to another, or looking suspiciously over their shoulder as they try to enjoy a drink in the bar. I’ve heard reportage photographers say that the couple then say, “You didn’t get a shot of me with Auntie Ethel” when they never went near her during the day.

The approach I have mainly used is to set up some formal and less formal (but still posed) shots while my assistant grabbed candids from the sidelines. This gives the best of both worlds: people are in the right place, with the right light and the right expressions but not looking directly at camera giving an unposed feel whilst actually quite carefully contrived.

Weddings CAN be fun.

But…  although shooting weddings is undeniably stressful, increasingly underpaid, tiring, and frequently under-appreciated, it can be very rewarding and yes, even great fun. Over the last twenty-odd years I’ve learnt a lot from weddings that I’ve been able to carry over into other areas of photography. Thankfully, for every miserable bridezilla, grumpy mother-in-law, or tantrum-prone bridesmaid, theres many a lovely, glowing happy couple. I’ve been priviledged to have been a part of so many people’s special days and to have helped record them for posterity.

If you are interested in starting out in wedding photography, I regularly do 1-1 or 2-1 tutorials which will give you enough ideas and information to set you on the right path. Contact me for details.

Thanks to Danielle & Ezi whose wedding is pictured here – one of those weddings that made it worthwhile.  


The Right Model For The Job (part 1): Omie

As we approach the first anniversary of our move to the Regent Parade premises, we’re still managing to squeeze original shoots from this inspiring location. A couple of weeks ago, we set up a 60s/scooter shoot using the knockout combination of the local streets, a genuine 1960s Vespa GS (that goes by the name of “Pearl” – kindly supplied by Nick Shale), and a model with an unrivalled collection of 1960s outfits.

Omie and Pearl

I’m not sure which came first: the idea for the shoot – or the model. I’ve worked with the wonderful Omie many times over the last few years and she remains an immediate and obvious choice for any 60s fashion shoot. Omie has been a hair model for Vidal Sassoon and her look is still very much based on his retro cropped styles. The sixties are clearly in Omie’s blood. She has tattoos of Mary Quant’s flower logo as well as the Rolling Stones logo.

Omie (and Nick) on Pearl

But above all, Omie just oozes the look of the period. She has studied the fashion and poses of the era and naturally and effortlessly goes from authentic pose to authentic pose. She knows what suits her and has many outfits to choose from. Even her make up is carefully considered and matched to the outfits she brings along on the day. In previous posts, we’ve discussed the problems and uncertainties of working with models. Omie is one of those valuable group of models that can be depended on to be on time, professional, and to look great at all times. I’d hate to think I was typecasting Omie – she actually suits a wide range of themes – but I feel that if its a look that the model clearly has an enthusiasm for and empathy with, then the images will be all the better for it, and Omie was clearly in her element that day.

Omie and Pearl

 

Omie’s Model Mayhem profile: http://www.modelmayhem.com/786472

Omie’s PureStorm profile: http://www.purestorm.com/profile.aspx?id=omiepick1

 


Confessions Of A Wedding Photographer (part 1)

Perhaps the title should read “…Ex-Wedding Photographer”. I’ve removed myself from every wedding photographer listing that I can remember I am listed on and have not booked any weddings at all this year. I won’t rule out ever shooting weddings again, but for the moment I’m more than happy to take a sabbatical from what has become an increasingly thankless area of photography.

In this, the first part of this series, I’m going to tell you a few tales from over 25 years of photographing weddings – some from first hand experience, some – let’s say – “passed on”.

The Drunken Vicar:  From conversations with other photographers, the phenomenon of the inebriated cleric is much more common than one might expect. When working for an un-nameable wedding studio in Shropshire in the 1990’s, I found myself regularly bumping into (almost literally) one particular un-nameable vicar who seemed to have more than a casual fondness for the communion plonk. As most vicars do, he tended to stick to exactly the same sermon for every wedding, but even this proved something of a challenge. In his defence, it can’t have been easy to remember a couple’s names when they look so much like every other couple who’ve stood in front of you that week/year.

Not the actual drunken vicar

The Bride’s Mother:  Back when we used to use something called film (ask your dad), and didn’t have Photoshop (Really! No Photoshop! Can you imagine?) we relied rather heavily on “filters” – grotty bits of semi-opaque plastic that we fitted in front of our lenses (I know! Hilarious!). One popular filter range were “soft focus” filters, a bit like the diffusion effect on Photoshop, except far more primitive. Wedding photographers employed these pretty liberally, especially when trying to “improve” dodgy complexions or even dodgier backgrounds (perhaps by using the “soft focus with clear centre” option). I remember walking into the studio one day to overhear my boss engaged in a heated discussion with a bride’s mom, who was attempting to claim a discount because some of the photos were “out of focus”. “Soft focus!” said my boss. “Out of focus!” shouted bride’s mom…

Another bride’s mother pressed a piece of paper into my hand as I was about to leave, which I was disappointed to find wasn’t a £20 note, but her other, unmarried, daughter’s phone number.

Potty-mouthed Vicar:  I confess I’ve only encountered one such vicar, but he warrants a whole section of his own. The first time I met him I had arrived at the church early because I’d never shot there before, and found him standing on the church steps chatting to a couple of his flock. I introduced myself and asked, as I usually did, if there was anywhere he didn’t want me to shoot from etc. He looked me in the eye and said, “Go where you like. But if you get in my way, I’ll b*****k you and f*** you off out”. Interestingly, his two parishioners didn’t bat an eye.

I once saw this same vicar stop a hymn after a single verse because the families weren’t singing heartily enough, saying “Look, if you’re not going to bother, forget it”.

And finally, “The Robin Hood Story“:  Now this may well be a kind of photographic urban myth as I’ve heard it from two different sources, but it made me laugh and so I’m going to pass it on…

A young couple go to see the vicar and ask if it’s okay to have some secular music during their wedding. The vicar, eager to please, happily agrees. The couple ask if it would be okay to have that hit song from the Robin Hood film (meaning the Bryan Adams song, “Everything I do”) played as she walks down the aisle. The vicar looks surprised but nods and they all leave happy. The big day arrives and the bride begins her walk down the aisle. As planned, the music starts up – “Robin Hood, Robin Hood, riding through the glen…”

Well, it made me chuckle.


A Life Of Grimes

I recently discovered (apologies to those of you for whom this is old news) Joel Grimes thanks to Mark Cook, one of my colleagues from my summer stint of graduation photography. Grimes is a California-based photographer whose first coffee table book, ‘Navajo, Portrait of a Nation’ (1992) garnered a number of photographic and design awards and resulted in an eighteen-month solo exhibit at the Smithsonian American History museum.  Nuff said. Let’s see the images…

Image by Joel Grimes

You’ll quickly notice Grimes’ trademark style – side-lit HDR-ish portraits.

Image by Joel Grimes

Image by Joel Grimes

How does he do it? There are numerous instructional videos on YouTube but here’s a photo of the man’s set-up…

Do try this at home, children.

Joel Grimes’ website:  http://joelgrimes.com/3/artist.asp?ArtistID=12191&Akey=P7FJP8B4

…and his Flickr page:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/29210138@N04/