On this blog, in 2008, I wrote about my first year of blogging and tied it in with something that happened in my first professional year of photography 30 years ago. So, to start off 2013 and celebrate a full 30 years of carrying around a serious camera, I'm recalling that post and adding some additional paragraphs to update it - it at the end.
.....Way back in 1982, I was sent, by a picture agency, to cover the launch of a British TV 'soap' called "Brookside",
at the modern, Liverpool housing estate in which it was set and filmed.
I was, in every sense of the phrase, a "fledgling" freelance
photographer and felt totally out of my depth, surrounded, as I was, by
photographers from almost all of the British national daily papers and
large circulation magazines.
At one point, during the day, I turned up a bit late, to photograph actors Ricky Tomlinson and Sue Johnston (who, incidentally was brought up in the small town - Prescot
- in which I was born and raised) who were posing as "man and wife"
outside the house their characters "owned" on Brookside Close. I was
fumbling with my camera so much that all of the other photographers in
the press pack had finished shooting Ricky and Sue, before I had even
taken my first photograph. I stood there, forlornly watching the stars
walk away from the set, when (I'm not sure how) Ricky Tomlinson noticed
me, and called across to his co-star "hey Sue, this lad hasn't got his pictures, come back and pose again for him, please" which she did, most graciously.
never forgotten that small, random act of kindness from Ricky
Tomlinson. I didn't really thank him properly at the time, but I do make
sure I mention it to friends, whenever I see him on TV - usually in the
hit show The Royle Family (which also features Sue Johnston)......
(additional notes).....I was recently visiting my father at Christmas time, when we decided to go to a local pub for lunch - with my son and my partner. We arrived in the middle of a jam-packed pub, to discover that a Christmas party was being held for a local old-age pensioners group, and the place was in full-swing.
At first, we thought that there would be no tables available for us, and left the pub, heading for the car. We were called back by a waitress, who was outside on her break, and who suggested that we should go back inside as a table would be found for us (another small random act of kindness). We went back into the pub and a table was quickly found for us. My partner and I went to the bar to order food, and I was studying the menu when she almost shouted...LOOK WHO'S HERE!
I turned around, to see non other than Ricky Tomlinson standing right next to our table. He was the invited guest of honour at the party.
I went over and introduced myself and told the subject of my long-told story, the long-told story of his own random act of kindness to me. We had a chat, he thanked me for remembering his own kind actions, and he aksed me if I was still a photographer. unfortunately, I had moved too far away from Liverpool to be of any real assistance to this now very famous actor. He said hello to my family and called me "kid" as we talked (which is a real term of endearment in Liverpool) and wished me well with my future work, before he left.
That chance meeting has brought my own encounter with him full circle and I'm delighted and amazed that it happened.
I hope 2013 will bring you lots of good things, both in your professional and personal lives and if you do encounter a random act of kindness - remember it. You never know when you'll get a chance to repay it - or just thank someone for it - and it could take 30 years!
Monday, January 7, 2013
Sunday, September 16, 2012
|Click here to go the the Cameracraft page|
Now, if you're me, and you've just finished a long photography commission and the light isn't good enough to snap a few potential stock library images; then you'll need something to read. And, not just anything to read, either. I'm not the sort of person who can while away an hour or two catching up on what trials and tribulations Katie and Peter are suffering right now or finding out how I can lose 10 kilograms in 3 weeks by only eating tofu and baked beans (with some great recipe ideas thrown in).
It had been a while since I'd read a good photography magazine, so I headed for a well-stocked newsagents to get one. But I was out of luck. Oh, there were several titles on the shelf - and some I remembered from the days when I was buying three or four photo mags a month, plus a well known weekly one too (which I admired greatly back in the day). But there wasn't one that I wanted to really read. They were full of "how to" hints and tips (many of which seemed to have been recycled from from last year, and probably the year before that.) "How to take great landscape photographs"; "How to take great portraits"; "How to take great shots of your cat" (I swear that I actually saw that article - or was it just a bad dream?) I came away without a camera magazine and still nothing to read. I don't like the idea of spending good money on recycled, dumbed-down step-by-step guides on things that I knew 20 years ago, and which were not offering me (or most readers, I reckon) anything new. And, more importantly, I think a camera magazine should challenge my view of what photography is all about - and encourage me to get a new persepctive on what is happening in the world of photography, today.
Then I heard about Cameracraft. It's a new subscription only, glossy, high quality quarterly photography magazine published by Icon Publications and Edited by David Kilpatrick in Scotland and associate editor Gary Friedman in Los Angeles. The publishers make the claim that Cameracraft returns to the foundations of good photography. They also claim that their "...invited retrospectives and working project portfolios will set a new standard." And that the "...visual content will open your photographic eyes, our view of photographic technology and history will absorb you, our practical advice and experience will help you."
Then they make another big statement - which reminded me of the array of dumbed-down "how to" mags currently on the newsagaents shelves". We promise this will not be just another photo magazine and the work we print will not be a repetition of popular themes.
Well, I got a copy the other day and you know what - they have kept all of their promises, and then some.
OK, a small proportion of my own work is in the first issue but, even if it wasn't, I'd still be feeling and saying the same things about this important and very welcome new edition to the photography publishing world. It is a serious, well written, intelligent magazine with a top class selection of imagery, beautifully printed and presented on high quality paper. It's a joy to hold and read - and yes you have to hold a photography magazine in your hands, in my view, electronic versions just don't "cut it".
The publishers have gone to great lengths to make sure that the images are presented to the highest possible standard. David Kilpatrick (who has worked on my many top photography titles, including some of my favourites from way-back-when) told me: "...we...use a very faint blue, almost impossible to see, which makes b/w images appear to separate from the page better. Using these very pale tints let the white of the photo appear brighter, without apparently colouring the page." And the difference is there for all to see.
One thing I tell all of my online photography students is that in order to make good photography, you have to look at great photography. Sadly, the opportunities to do that are becoming less frequent, certainly via the medium of the photo magazine. But in my view, Cameracraft provides a welcome revivial of serious photography publishing and a magazine to read with satisfaction and to keep with pride.
I just wish it had been published before I got to Kerry that wet weekend!
Thursday, July 26, 2012
You may lose the Sale - but you should Never Lose the Client!
All you need to be successful as a photographer is a good camera and a good understanding of how to use it, right? Wrong. You need to find potential clients -and when you have found them, you need to turn them into new clients - or at least good contacts for future sales. I've become a bit concerned by seeing how some photographers operate with new clients and even with each other, sometimes.
Giving a sense of professionalism and going the extra mile for a client can make all the difference to winning or losing new business. Even just using a person's name in a message - I frequently get "hey there" or "_______" (nothing) as the greeting line in messages to me - can give a new client a good or bad first impression of how professional or "experienced" the photographer is likely to be, and if they should continue the business process.
Very late last night, just as I was stopping work and heading for the TV, I got an email from the CEO of a well known specialist record / CD label that I recognised, but with whom I hadn't ever worked or been in contact with, previously. In fact, I had always thought, due to its name, that the company was based in Ireland (as I am) and it struck me that they were working over-time in the office. On Googling them, I discovered that they are actually based in the USA, and so the time difference suddenly made sense.
The email outlined the fact that the label was urgently looking for an image to feature on the cover of new compilation CD that they were launching, and they had seen one of my images that "had the right vibe" but which didn't quite meet the criteria they were working with. Did I have any other images from the same shoot? Was I able to let them have some samples to view, as soon as possible?
The fact is that the image they saw had been taken over 6 years ago, and it, and all the other shots taken at the same time, had long since been archived. I wasn't even sure which hard drive they were on - I have several stored away.
The first thing I did was immediately email the CEO back, thank him for contacting me and tell him that I was aware of the company, and that I had even bought some of their albums in the past (which was true). This set up a rapport with the (now) potential client who came straight back, thanked me for my prompt response and gave me more information about precisiely what they were hoping to see in my images.
The next thing I did was start looking for the image they had seen. I found it in about an hour, and a few others with it. I then re-processed the images (it's amazing how Lightroom 4 can really make an older processed image look completly transformed) and then went on another search. Within 2 hours I had found 16 images that fitted the brief from the potential client. It was now after midnight in my part of the world.
Then I contacted the CEO again and told him that I had found the images and I would build a web gallery and send him the link by the next morning (his time) so he could preview them.
I then built the web gallery and sent him the link - sooner than he was expecting it: making a promise, then going a bit further for the client always gives a good impression of your ability to provide a top class service. And then I went to bed (close to 2.30am my time).
The next morning (today), there was an email waiting for me, part of which read..."Thanks for your quick action. I am going to show the photos to others involved in the project…great photos in any case..."
Between then and an hour ago, there were other emails in which I established more connections between myself and the CEO - telling him that I had a new book out on music photography and that I had actually photographed some of the label's artists. He asked about the book and I sent him a link to information about it and samples from it.
An hour or so ago, the word came that my images did not meet the criteria that they were looking for (and photography is so subjective that unless you shoot to a specific brief, it's unlikely that everyone involved in a selection process will find what they need from 16 images, so I was never that hopeful, really. But, I am extremely pleased with the outcome. The final email from the CEO said:
...but we really appreciate your response to our query and we'll keep you in mind for future needs! Best regards...PS: will check out the book!
Remember, this is the CEO of a major record label, whom I did not know of until late last night, saying he will keep me in mind for future work and that he will look at my book.
Would you say I lost a sale? Or that I made an important new contact? And, which is more important?
Both are obviously important, but in the long term esptablishing good professional contacts and giving new clients a good impression of yourself is vital to professional photography. I'm actually very happy with the way it turned out and I will be sure to make another contact (without being too pushy) in weeks to come.
OK, my image may not be adorning the new CD cover...but I am now in with a chance of getting the next one!
Monday, July 2, 2012
|Wide depth of field|
I get (mildly) irritated by lots of things...grey skies when I need blue ones for a travel shoot; stale milk when I'm craving a bowl of cornflakes...the way the England soccer team take (or don't take) penalties; a power cut at dinner cooking time in my all-electric house etc, etc.
There is one thing that seems to be irking me more than usual though, lately. It's when photographers say "great depth of field" when looking at an image that has limited focus in it. Because, that's not "depth of field" at all. It's "shallow depth of field".
|shallow depth of field|
My definition is...
Depth of field is the area in front of and behind the subject that is also sharp when the subject is in focus".
Depth of field roughly extends 1/3rd in font of and 2/3rd behind the focused point. How far it extends depends on the aperture chosen - wide apertures (low f-stop numbers) give a shallow DoF and small apertures (high f-stop numbers) give a broad DoF - and also on the distance of the camera from the subject (DoF falls off quickly the closer you take a lens to the subject) and the focal length of the lenses (wide angle lenses have broader DoF than telephoto lenses at the same aperture).
When photographers talk about the background being blurred in an image, or objects being more in focus than others, as "depth of field" (as in; "I wanted depth of field in this image so I blurred the background"), this is not technically correct - and it is more accurately described as "differential focus" or "shallow depth of field".
OK, I'm much calmer now that's off my chest. Please; let no one pronounce I.S.O. as "eye-so" (it's an abbreviation - International Standards Organisation- not a word) and I'll have a perfectly relaxed day!
Thursday, June 28, 2012
Alamy, the major international online stock photography agency, have published their "white paper" on possible changes to image licensing issues, following a "round table" discussion (actually, the table was rectangular from what I saw in the photo they published) with "key industry figures" (you work it out - I know I wasn't there).
You can download the white paper by clicking here.
They asked for feedback on their Facebook page and I have offered mine, copied below, for what it's worth to them (probably as much as a "novel use" image fee).
The comments you quoted from Roy Clarke come close to echoing my own long held views. But in addition to "dishonesty" (and I have had over 40 infringements of image use in the last 2 months) I would add the concept of "umbridge", to suggest that some buyers are reluctant to pay above microstock rates for images, as they may believe alternatives can be obtained for free or for less than Alamy rates.
It may be a problem of ignorance ("why do we have to pay for photographs anyway") and/or a trend towards a devaluing of imagery generally, both by the general public and - sadly - the publishing media. The fact that my own images have appeared unpaid, uncredited and without my permission in printed and digital media published by professional journalists (often members of professional associations) have led me to conclude that photography is sometimes considered to be "cheap" and photographers not even worthy of professional courtesy at times.
What I didn't add, because it may have seemed churlish, is that the stock photography "industry" seems moribund, to my mind, if not dead-in-the-water already. The market is over-crowded, micro-stock agencies sell images by the dozen for a pittance and photography, generally, is losing the status of being a valued commodity - "hey, he published it on the internet, it must be free for everyone to use whenever we like" (everyone in agreement with the previous point please note: "use" is an anagram of "sue").
Is this the end of profitable stock photography as we know it? Maybe it depends on what Alamy do next?