Photography studio, gallery and training complex

Posts tagged “tips

More “New Blood”…

Looking forward to this tomorrow! And still 2 spaces left…


“Sin City” Masterclass

Fancy photographing specially-styled models in the studio and then learning how to turn them into eye-popping noir-esque images in the style of the “Sin City” movies (& graphic novels)? Well, we’re bringing in the excellent Photoshop guru Joshua Mclean to show you how in this Fotofilia masterclass event.

Only a week or so to go and still a couple of spaces so book soon…

Right Studio, Wrong Photographer

I came back to the studio one day to find that the coloured paper background had been taken down from its usual position on the wall next to the white and black vinyl rolls and had been stashed away in the storeroom. Puzzled, I asked my assistant Simon why it had been taken down. It seems a photographer using the studio had insisted it be removed because “it kept appearing in the photos”. The photographer had complained to Simon that the studio was too narrow and too low to successfully shoot the ONE MODEL he was attempting to photograph. After trying to explain that perhaps the problem wasn’t the studio dimensions, Simon reluctantly removed the background roll. The customer is always right, right?

I’ll freely admit that Fotofilia isn’t a huge aircraft hangar of a studio and that we have previously had to turn down bookings where a trapeze-type swing was involved due to limited ceiling height. However, I have successfully managed to shoot whole bands (with instruments) and even large families on our 3m wide background without the need to remove backgrounds from the ceiling hooks.

The problem, and it has happened MANY times over the years, is that photographers show up with the wrong lens for the job, often their hopeless 18-55mm kit lens, stand too close to their subject and wonder why they’re getting the doors and ceiling in the shot. After a while, I began to wonder if I should put a sign on the ceiling which reads, “YOU’RE USING THE WRONG LENS, MUPPET!

This is very very basic photographic theory, which I’m sure most people reading this will already know, but I’m putting it here so that I can send the link to anyone who moans about backgrounds/stands/doors/their own shoes showing up in their images.

Here goes. The image on the left was taken with an 18mm focal length – notice how the wider field of vision includes peripheral clutter, stretches perspective, not to mention how the wide angle shortens Emilie’s legs and distorts her body and even face shape. The middle shot was taken with a 50mm focal length – what some of my students mistakenly refer to as a “portrait lens”. Finally, the image on the right is taken with a 105mm focal length – note NO clutter and flatteringly undistorted body shape.

Copyright David Rann 2013

Copyright David Rann 2013

Please note that these shots were taken on a crop-frame camera (you’ll need to do the mental arithmetic to work out the full frame equivalent).

And if this doesn’t convince you, take a look at the head shots below…

Copyright David Rann 2013

Copyright David Rann 2013

You don’t need to be an expert to work out that most people won’t thank you for being photographed with the wide-angle 18mm lens like the one on the left here.

So in future, leave my furniture and backgrounds alone and use the right lens. Fanx.

The Photographer & The Burglar

Copyright David Rann 2013

Copyright David Rann 2013

I feel a bit of spleen-venting coming on…

If there’s one thing that makes me choke on my choccie digestive, it’s the seemingly endless Facebook status updates by photographers saying “Here’s a sneak preview of Fred and Hilda’s wedding today at…”

Aaaaargh! There’s a reason why traditionally, newspapers don’t print wedding photos until about a month after the ceremony: because you are announcing to the world (including your friendly neighbourhood villains) that the happy couple’s house is likely to be unoccupied for a fortnight and therefore a great target for burglary!

Include information about the wedding venue and even the least tech-savvy crook can often access information about the couple’s name and thereby help to locate their home address. If newspapers did what these photographers are doing, your local rag would become a kind of home-shopping catalogue for burglars. I’m imagining a couple of housebreakers sitting at home in their striped sweaters thumbing through Dullsville Weekly and deciding on that evening’s burglary schedule.

Stop it!!

And even leaving aside the security issue, I would NEVER show wedding images to the wider world before being approved by the couple! What if you post an image online for the whole world to see FOREVER and then find that’s it’s one that the couple absolutely hate? Remember who’s paying you!

Spleen vented. Nuff said.

Snow: Nature’s Softbox?

Unlike many of the photographic fraternity who, at the first flake of snow, seem to have grabbed a camera and headed outside, I really don’t like snow. Actually, that’s not strictly true. I like the look of snow. I like it in films, or on Christmas cards, or watching it through a window from the sofa with a bucket of mulled wine nearby. But I hate the disruption, I hate not being able to get anywhere, and I hate having to cancel courses because of it.

Well, the gods were smiling on my first day’s workshop at Birmingham Botanical Gardens of 2013. The forecasted heavy deluge was thankfully diverted to the North West (sorry, peeps of the North West) and so the Portraiture workshop was able to go ahead, and I, the students, and the two models were able to actually get there.

The snow gradually melted away during the course of the day but there was still enough lingering on the roof close by to provide the kind of total shadow-blitzing, wrap-around reflection that you see in this shot of our beautiful female model, Gemma Louise. A reflector of the shop-bought kind provided the catchlight in Gemma’s eyes.

Gemma Louise at Birmingham Botanical Gardens by David Rann

Gemma Louise at Birmingham Botanical Gardens by David Rann

And even when shooting indoors, the sporadic sunshine or bright white sky bouncing off the remaining snow served to raise general light levels. Here are a few more from the session…

Gemma Louise by David Rann

Gemma Louise by David Rann

Gemma Louise by David Rann

Gemma Louise by David Rann

Gemma Louise by David Rann

Gemma Louise by David Rann

Gemma Louise on Purestorm –


Batteries Included

Back in February (at Focus on Imaging, in fact) I bought a couple of new Bowens 400 studio flash heads along with two battery packs. The kit came with a single battery but I thought that as I would be using these partly for group shoots, it might be an idea to get a 2nd battery, just to be on the safe side.

Having given the lights and batteries a test in the studio first, I finally arranged a suitable run-out – the “Urban Location Model Shoot“, which was held on Sunday evening. A small group of participants plus my assistant Simon, regular Fotofilia model Michelle Grice ( and myself walked to at our first location, a local multi-storey car park (most of the gear being lugged by poor Simon). It’s worth pointing out at this point that despite my best efforts, I hadn’t secured any permission to be shooting there but as it was a Sunday evening, there was no one around and very few cars, especially on the upper levels.

Participant Mark photographs Michelle (before security arrive)

Starting with a single light fitted with a square softbox, we began photographing Michelle. As expected, the quality and power of the light was just as if the head had been plugged into the mains. We made the most of the fading ambient light by setting shutter speeds at 1/30 or 1/60. Then we added a second light trained on the background and fitted with a spill-kill and blue gel. This added a whole new dimension to the shots, the blue-tinged second light helping the background to “recede”. With two lights now being powered by the battery, one at almost full power, the recycling time was around 5-6 seconds, something that took a little getting used to when you’ve developed a “rapid fire” habit that comes of constant studio shooting. I wondered how the battery was coping but was reassured to see that all 4 power lights were still lit, indicating 100% charge even after an hour of shooting.

Michelle Grice, shot with a single Bowens light

Michelle Grice lit by two Bowens lights powered by the battery pack

Eventually, and inevitably, a white van appeared containing two bemused security guards. After a few questions, they left us to it but we had finished with this location by that time and quickly packed away (while Michelle changed) to move to the 2nd location just a few hundred yards away.

Using a simlar two light combination we began shooting again and once again the power and convenience of the Bowens kit was wonderful. I’ve shot in this location many times but have never had the luxury of such great lighting to play with.

Overall, we were lucky we didnt have to haul this kit across muddy fields or through torrential rain (we were given a heaven-sent reprieve from that for a whole day) because, though portable, it isnt light, especially when accompanied by an additonal battery, an assembled softbox and the two stands. I’d also been careful to select the softbox rather than umbrellas as there was a strong breeze when I left home and didn’t want to be flying Poppins-stylee over the rooftops of Hockley. As it turns out, the second battery was completely un-necessary: even after a good couple of hours of shooting with two lights, the battery was still showing 100% charge. I’m very impressed with this kit and look forward to using it again soon. Here’s some more of my shots from the evening…

Michelle goes “Librarian Tourist”

And with a bit of a cross-processed look…



Hey, Got Any Jobs?

Initiative is no bad thing

It’s that time of year again. The time of year when my inbox is inundated with speculative emails from not just the usual year-round would-be photographers and studio hands, but a legion of just-released-from-uni new graduates, out there seeking their first industry jobs.

These emails range from the polite, considered and professional through to the mis-spelled, abrupt and downright rude. I recieved one this very morning from one hopeful which began “Hey, I was wondering if you have any photography work going at your studio right now? I’m a music photographer from ******* and I would love to help out in a photography studio. Wether it’s taking photos or just helping with the editing that would be great!”

Whatever happened to “Dear…” or even “Hello, my name is…”? And what happened to spellcheck? This particular email went on to say, “Please take a look at some of my work here, also some quotes from bands I’ve worked with…”  followed by the URL of her website.

Yes!!! You are just the person I’ve been looking for! I really need a semi-literate oik with no relevant experience (as far as I can tell from the scant information included) who doesn’t even sign her name on her email, can’t be arsed to attach a CV or examples of work, or even a proper link! My clients will be so impressed by your professional manner, I’m sure. Start at 10am tomorrow! Is £30k a year okay for starters?

Email deleted.

Actually, on this occasion I did have a look at the sender’s website and the work was ok. Irrelevant but not bad. But I would never dream of having this person working in my studio. I’ve discussed this with a couple of photographers and studio owners over the last couple of months and the concensus seems to be that any email that starts with “Hey”, “Yo” (yes, I swear I get these too), or other, similarly inappropriate over-familiarities, plus those that leave out such pleasantries altogether, are headed straight for the “Recycle Bin”. I would add any “check out [yuk!] my website/Flickr…” emails to that too. As one photographer mate asked “What the f*** are they teaching them at college?”

So these are my tips for anyone sending speculative emails to photographers/studios for work…

  • Find out a bit about who you are writing to. Yes, we are a bit vain, but it also helps if we don’t think you’ve cut-and-pasted the same hastily prepared drivel to every photography-related business that google throws up.
  • Be polite!!! Imagine you are writing a letter. Or write a letter! Use traditional terms of address.
  • Say what you can do, what you can’t, and anything else you can offer (Maybe you’re reliable, have an ethical standpoint, live locally – these things are important).
  • Attach a CV, or offer to send one in a follow-up email. Or include important details about age, experience, qualifications. If you don’t include these, you’re expecting the recipient to ask – but they probably won’t bother, and might imagine you just don’t have anything to offer or you’d include details.
  • Include your name and contact details.
  • Attach an image or two. Don’t expect anyone to follow a link to your website – these can be virus-ridden, and businesses have better things to do than spend hours browsing other people’s websites. It may be hard to believe, but they might not be waiting around for you to drop into their lives. You contacted them, not the other way around.

Yes, photography is part of the creative industries – yes, I go to work in jeans and a t-shirt most days – but that doesn’t mean that basic professionalism and courtesy goes out of the window. I don’t care how great your photography is, if you come across like a chav, I won’t even meet you. I try to reply to everyone who sends me an email about employment. After all, I was in that situation once and I got a break (eventually). But I’ve now decided, in true grumpy old man fashion, that I will not even take the time to reply to people who: can’t be bothered to find out anything about the studio, don’t include a CV or even offer to send one, don’t take the time to compose a respectful and polite email.

By contrast, I have been known to take on interns who, in one case, admitted he didn’t have much photographic experience but highlighted other skills he had that might be useful to the business. He knew what we were about and what was needed. He had lots of ideas and was a real breath of fresh air for fotofilia (this is you if you’re out there, Ben). What he lacked in actual experience he made up for in enthusiasm and willingness to learn.  I’d much rather work with someone who has little experience but a keen professional attitude than a “fully formed” photographer with bags of attitude and an amateur disposition.

So there it is. Woe betide anyone who addresses me with a “Yo” tomorrow. Grrr.