Monday, December 29, 2008

Photography: Tips for starting out...

Recently I’ve been getting a lot of emails regarding starting out in the photography business and people wanting tips and advice on how to go about it. Now these are questions I’ve been asking myself over the last few years so I don’t really think I’m in the best position to answer. Nevertheless such a response probably wouldn’t be appreciated all that much! Therefore I do try my best to respond with some basics. This in one recent response that I thought I’d make into a blog piece. Although it is more relevant to documentary photography some of the lessons are still relevant across the genres.

First of all, what's it like working in the industry? As I hope to one day work in the area of documentary photography, I guess I wanted to know how you are finding this side of your work? I also wanted to ask how it was finding a job after you graduated and if you had done any particular work experience before hand?


Documentary photography is changing and evolving, let it evolve around you - few people know what it's next form will be, but a lot of it is moving towards multimedia and lots of people you speak to would suggest it's even harder to make a living from. You shouldn't let this worry you. You haven't been doing it before, so these changes will happen around you in a way that you can adapt to as you get into it rather than having to unlearn everything you know to cope, as some people in the business and the middle of their careers seem to think they need to do.
With digital technology reliance on labs and other outside sources is far smaller and thus its far easier for people to start out. This above is my office, tucked away in one corner of my bedroom...

The number one rule IMO is that you must always remember to do photography for yourself. Stay true to yourself. Shoot what interests YOU. However just because something interests you don't ever assume it will interest other people - if it does then you're doing something right. If it doesn't, you're not doing anything wrong, it's just don't be disappointed if people's initial opinions are frosty.
This above is a page from my scrapbook - snaps for a trip to Hong Kong a few years back. Shooting for yourself is what keeps you interested in it.

Take as many opportunities to shoot, learn and therefore grow. The more you shoot, the more you learn. If you want to get into documentary work, start documenting work that you feel passionate about, but that is accessible to you and not overly ambitious. The bigger your plans, the further you will fall if you fall. However at the same time immerse yourself in new environments, cultures, locations; sometimes you will find it hard to look with fresh eyes on things you see every day.

Whilst shooting your own stuff keep an eye on the rest of industry. This has never been easier, with the internet you have so much more access to the industry than people did ten years ago. Build up image references in your mind. Look and learn from the masters, but don't feel you have to copy their style. Learn from their experiences maybe rather than their work.
Inspiration can come from many different areas, I tend to keep things of interest on my wall, but also a much bigger archive on my computer. As you can see even the London tube map interests me in terms of design...

If you want to get some experience inside the industry then try and get internships at magazines, on picture desks, in art departments etc, to try and see the business from the other side. This will allow you to see the pressure and stress that picture desk, and picture editors are up against, especially with time frames and putting their trust in photographers to get the work done. Alternatively assist other photographers who’s work you respect in order to see how they deal with the business from their end.

In the meantime - check out relevant blogs and online resources regularly, read articles, let them inspire you, make you ask questions and then apply the answers to your own situation.

At the same time try and build up an index of photographers website to refer to and to help inspire you from time to time on those down days....

Along with some books that are worth looking at. If you can get your hands on a copy, read: 'On Being a Photographer' by Bill Jay and David Hurn. Plus any autobiographies of famous documentary photographers. I'd recommend Tim Page's 'Page after Page', Don McCullin's 'Unreasonable Behavior', Russell Miller's book 'Magnum' and Jim Lo Scalzo's 'Evidence of my Existence' as a start.
P.S. Hope everyone had a Merry Xmas and is looking positively on the new year (in the face of everything else).

Monday, December 22, 2008

2008 in pictures

(photo AP Photo/Xinhua/Fan Changguo)

These posts are worth checking out for some interesting pictures from over the last 12 months. Just try to ignore the political rantings that people feel the need to divulge in every time images from a certain ongoing conflict in the middle east pop up.
I love the above photo just because the concept of anti-terror police deploying on Segways is pretty amusing in itself. Less amusing is the fact that in the caption for the photo below was the following (for those who claim this image has been digitally altered, here is a larger detail of the photo - the halo is from backlighting, not photoshop). It's worrying to say the least that people will see a photo like this below and immediately assume it's been manipulated. I guess it's good that people are willing to question images and not believe everything they see - but at the same time it's kind of heartbreaking. One of the many grey areas of digital imaging.
(copyright REUTERS/Alessandro Garofalo)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Platon interview

Platon, a photographer I'm quite a big fan of, is captured in brilliant piece of audio, talking to students at the Eddie Adams workshop. It's quite long, but well worth a listen to as he goes into lots of the stories behind the pictures. It reaffirms my belief that a child like inquisitiveness and almost an innocence can go a long way for portrait photographers - he has a great sense of humour and cheekieness that come across well in this piece. Check it out here. Thanks go to Vincent Laforet for posting it.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Andrew Zuckerman - Wisdom

An interesting package from the photographer Andrew Zuckerman. Interviews and images, his book of photos comes with a 55 minute DVD where he interviews the sitters on their views on the concept of Wisdom. The interviews are more interesting than the pictures in my opinion, but then this wasn't really a project about pictures, it's more a record and a document. Well worth visiting his website to have a sneak preview.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Chris Buck interview

Found an interview this morning over at APE with the photographer Chris Buck. I'm a big fan of Chris' work which often gives a unique view of personalities and situations. The interview was also of particular interest to me due to Chris' perspective on assisting:

Well, if you look at the careers of assistants there’s a number of problems with it. You can certainly learn things from assisting, but I guess what I recommend for people if they feel any clarity about who they are as a photographer then I would really recommend that they intern rather than assist. And, I mean a real internship not sweeping floors. Don’t intern for photographers where you have no access to them or the shoots. People tell me they intern for big name photographers for their resume, but why do you have a resume. If you’re a photographer you don’t need a resume. Your portfolio is your resume, not some piece of paper.

I always find opinions like this quite reassuring that by not having ever assisted I haven't necessarily made the wrong decision. Yet at the same time the whole 10,000 hours thing as discussed by Chase Jarvis in a recent blog post, and as I read myself a few weeks ago in an extract from Malcolm Gladwell in the Guardian Magazine, is quite daunting. Knowing that you have to really be dedicated to follow a path for at least ten years is in some ways a frightening prospect - what if after ten years you still suck...
All photos copyright Chris Buck

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Henry Herbert

More work for Henry Herbert - the bespoke London tailoring company. For anybody who was at my birthday bash a few weeks ago - these are the guys I was yammering on about who made my suit...

City living...

I've had an idea in my mind for awhile for a shot I've been trying to create, something a bit different from my normal work, something a bit 'artyer' perhaps. The purpose was illustrate my personal mixed up feelings I have of living in a city - a lifestyle that I've never truely been comfortable with. I find cities pretty intense places; so many people stepping on each others toes, so much pent up frustration and aggression, brutal landscapes and harsh realities. A real stamp of human influence and enedvour branded on the face of nature. Quite a lot to try and some up in a picture really!

Anyway I recently got the opportunity to set up a temporary studio, so I took the chance to shoot something for it. I had to move fast because I didn't have the space for long, so I'm not 100% happy with the outcome - I would have preferred a different 'scene' perhaps and spent a bit more time to plan it, and make the mood a bit darker. Nevertheless I shot it and thought I'd share with you the first concept (and at the same time my first proper attempt at a comp, albiet a fairly easy one!). Thanks go to Erika for her patience, enthusiasm and willingness to jump up and down lots of times. Click to see the pic bigger.


These are some concept images I shot recently for and idea I've been working - maybe more to come on this over the next few months...or maybe not, we'll see.

Recent Studio work

These are some recent photos I shot due the availability of a spare room that I could turn into a studio for a few days. Recently been very inspired with the work of Steve Harries who uses a lot of coloured gels along with the work of Nadav Kander who I've spoken about before on this blog. I was lucky enough to spot that Nadav was talking at the National Geographic Society a few weeks ago for photo voice event, and was able to catch his small exhibition over the Flowers Gallery. Steve's photos have a dream like quality, slightly surreal due to his use of colour, and at the moment I can't get enough of them.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Feature in F2 Magazine

Just a heads up that I have a 5 page feature in this months F2 magazine in the 'starting out' section. It followed an hour long phone interview that I did for them a few weeks ago - quite frankly I'm always nervous as to how things like that are going to turn out. Thankfully they were kind to me and didn't present me as the gibbering idiot that I probably sounded like on the phone! Anyway I've included some scans for you to look at. And before anyone asks, in the profile pic those are sunglasses on my head and not a Yarmulke!

In other news I had a feature on the popular lighting website strobist which was a real honour. They did a feature using the Colin Firth behind the scenes video and raised some interesting points, David Hobby is particularly good at giving constructive feedback. That's what's great about the web community - you get a lot of feedback and debate. You do also get the odd, what I like to term as, 'armchair opinion', but as long as you don't take it all too personally then it can be very useful.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Behind the Scenes: Colin Firth shoot

I was very fortunate last month to get the chance to shoot the Hollywood actor Colin Firth for Time Out London. The piece is in fact in this weeks edition, on the shelves now. And as a nice little present to you all I shot a behind the scenes video of the shoot to show you how it was done. Special thanks to Ben and Alastair for all their help on the day.

Basically I new we didn't have much time with the man himself and so I made the lighting pretty simple - just two softboxes either side and close so that the light would fall off pretty quickly behind him and thus not making it look too flat. It also meant it didn't matter which way he turned or moved - the light was always going to be right on him. The backdrop was a safety precaution - I'd assumed we be in a hotel room, as it happened we were in a conference room in the basement - I would have been mightly miffed therefore if I hadn't brought the backdrop.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Cage Fight - East London

These images are from a series that I shot following the cage fighter, Jamaine Facey, during a recent bout at the Troxy in East London. You can see the full series here in the bottom corner of the table.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Tearsheets from Readers Digest Mexico

A recent spread from an assignment I had through WpN for 'Joy' magazine, part of Readers Digest Mexico, a few months ago. I had torrential rain during the majority of the time available to shoot the piece, but I guess that plays up well to the stereotype of the UK...

Click on the images to make them bigger.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Some more treats to bookmark...

Just some links that I thought someone out there might appreciate. Firstly a great design orientated blog, from the design consultant, photographer and Director Iain Claridge. I spent hours on this - full of really interesting links and articles.

And secondly, and related to the first piece because I found the link through Iains blog, is the work of the illustrator and artist Phil Noto. Inspiring stuff.

Sunday, October 26, 2008


Back out in Kefalonia shooting until 30th October then back to London.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Portrait: Alastair Humphrey

Photo of Alastair Humphreys an explorer and man of many other talents, who is currently planning a trip with fellow adventurer Ben Saunders, that will be the first return journey to the south pole on foot, and the longest unsupported polar journey in history.

Alastair is currently helping out on a few shoots in order to add to his already great photography skills before he departs for is adventure.

see more at

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Recent work

CEO of insurance firm RSA, Adrian Brown. London, October 2008

British Insurance Brokers Association (BIBA). City of London. October 2008.

Interesting times to be an Insurance Broker.

Tim Watson, Professor of Microscopy in Relation to Restorative Dentistry in one of his labs at Guys Hospital, London. October 2008

Winter fashion shoot for London, October 2008

Saturday, October 18, 2008

New Scanner

WARNING: I have a new scanner so expect posts purely of random scans...

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Bowens Delux Kit Bag: Mod

If any of you have the bought yourself a brand new Bowens Delux Kit bag then you have my deepest sympathy. I believe that the newer version of the bag may be an improved model, I don't know for sure, but if like me you have an old version be prepared for it to be completely useless in it's current state. For the amount of money it's sold for - its pretty upsetting. Thankfully mine wasn't bought new....

My Bowens kit bag, designed for carrying lighting equipment, is made to standard that allowed it to fall apart within the first few outings. If like me you don't like to give up on these things then please read on to discover how I bodge modded mine to make it more acceptable.

The first problem with the bags is that they're aren't made with much structural support, especially around the wheels (see below). This tends to mean the fall off (as they are attached to material rather than a hard surface with screws rather than nuts and bolts). Eventually this leads to the wheels wearing away in a manner that causes the bag to wobble uncontrollably when it's being wheeled.

The first task then is to add structure and sturdiness to the bag. Bowens quite happily replaced the wheels for my bag, twice, so the company did well on this front. But as you can see in the picture below the support on the rear end of the bag is a petty sad looking piece of flimsy plywood. After taking this out I replaced it with maple 9 ply.

At the same time I also layered the bottom of the bag with ply board. To support the corners I took a two pieces of bent aluminum and placed one on the inside and one on the outside - thus giving the wheels something solid to bolt onto.

Remember to cut the bolts on the bottom of the bag so that the ends don't grind on the floor, or worse, into the wheel. You will also need to re-drill the holes in the Bowens wheel brackets unless you have a larger bit of aluminum.

And there you have it. A very simple, very ugly bodge/mod of the Bowens lighting bag.