Monday, December 25, 2006

Camera equipment buying frenzy

Around this time of year a lot of camera equipment gets bought and many a photographer will find something with a lens on it under the Christmas tree.

Everyone evaluates what they've got and what they need. I saw a forum thread in which a budding freelance photographer asked which camera outfit he should get for weddings and portraits. He also complained about the expense of camera gear. I wrote a reply and thought it might be a nice idea to share it with you as well, in case you're also struggling to balance wish lists and budgets.

Don't get hung up on equipment, is my advice. If you're selling portraits and wedding photography then the only thing that counts is your client's opinion of your work. They don't care which camera you use whether it's an old Rolleiflex TLR, a Holga or the latest DSLR. By the way I know photographers that specialise in using the above three cameras, almost exclusively and are very successful.

I used Nikon for 20 years and have now switched to Canon. Magda Indigo has stuck to Nikon. We use film and digital. Our clients love the results and don't remark on any differences. I've shot many portraits, weddings and commercial assignments using a Nikon D70. Ultimately it's the quality of the photography rather than the equipment that counts.

By the way I switched to Canon because I wanted to work with full frame DSLR (love wide angel) and I do shoot billboards, so I needed bigger files. Wedding and portrait client's don't need such large file sizes.

Save your money. Concentrate on your photography and developing a style that fits with your equipment or if you do have a very clear vision of what you want your style to be then acquire camera gear that is suitable. But for heavens sake don't just rush out and buy the latest thing that the marketers are pushing.


Saturday, December 23, 2006

Season's greetings

Christmas is upon us and 2007 is waiting in the wings. I'd like to wish all of my readers peace, happiness and good health. Hope you have a wonderful festive season and a Merry Christmas to my Christian readers.

Thank you to everyone for your comments, sharing ideas, all the emails and the support, which has kept me writing. It's very much appreciated. We truly have a world-wide audience here from New Zealand, Iceland, India, the USA, South Africa, Russia, Dubai, the UK ...everywhere.

If there's one wish I've got it is that there should be more kindness in the world. Wherever I've seen it, whether it is in conflict zones, relationships, businesses, families, on the street, during a natural disaster, in sports competitions - a touch of human kindness does so much to enhance people's lives. It can make all the difference and it's a great gift and as important as food and water.

I am off on a photographic commission and a bit of holiday but I'll be back in the New Year with lots more. In the meantime please browse the archive of articles if you get withdrawal symptoms.

All of the best,


Sunday, December 17, 2006

The X-Factor

I'm not a big fan of reality television shows like the talent show X-Factor but I've just seen part of the final in the UK tonight. It looks like the birth of a big star, certainly two careers have been well and truly launched.

The concept of the X-Factor is quite interesting when applied to photography. Some photographers seem to have 'it'. What 'it' is exactly is very hard to describe. I suppose the makers of the TV program faced a similar dilemma. What is that special ingredient which lifts someone's work way out above the rest.

The X-Factor in photographic terms seems to be the ability to consistently produce images that have something special. No matter how hard one tries to sum up all the constituent parts, like technique, emotion, subject matter, lighting, composition etc there's always that elusive something extra, that 'X-Factor' which the stand out images have. It's impossible to create from a formula or a recipe; it's extremely elusive and thank goodness it just cannot be mass produced.

I think ultimately it is the product of every element working perfectly together to produce a single strong visual statement.

An experiment was conducted which you may have heard about. Researchers took the most beautiful nose, eyes, lips, ears, jawline from many different top models and actresses and put them together to construct, in theory, the face that should have represented our ideal of beauty. The result was monstrous. Beauty it would seem is the product of harmony between elements of perfection and imperfection. The analogy can be applied to photography too.

No wonder images that have the X-Factor are so elusive.

All the best,

Friday, December 15, 2006

A photographer's life

Magda Indigo enjoys a break in a cafe in Brugge during one of our photographic journeys.

Well it's almost Christmas and the end of another busy year. I can't believe how much happened again.

I've been commissioned to photograph some of the strangest things this year, from recycling bins for a billboard and ambient media campaign to traffic lights for posters, lots of portraits, toys, weather, books, flowers and the list goes on...

Ah yes, the life of a photographer. Certainly interesting. I heard of a photographer who only takes pictures of racing pigeons. He's very good at it and in high demand. I can't imagine being so totally specialised. Give me diversity any day. At least that's what I have to tell myself when as recently happened an agency approached me on behalf of a council about doing a poster for an anti dog fowling campaign. Hmmm...

Paul Posted by Picasa

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Brief review of Jill Coleman and busy times for me

Busy times indeed. My work is now being represented and sold through IRISF64, which is a great site. Do visit. Besides my stuff which I've just started uploading there are a number of other very talented and interesting photographers representing a vaste range of different styles.

Among them is one of my favourite photographers, and a friend, Jill Coleman. Her black and white portraits are powerful and striking. They cannot fail to move the viewer. She captures her subjects in moments when although they are clearly aware of the photographer they have let their guard down to reveal themselves to Jill and to us, through her images. I highly recommend taking a look at her wonderful work.

I'm also doing more and more portrait photography and thoroughly enjoying it. Again and again I am struck by how important light is and the absolute control of it in the making of an outstanding image. If there was one thing I would advise other photographers to really think about then it is the quality of the light. If you want to see natural light being used effectively do take a moment to view Jill's images.

And as always I would appreciate hearing from you. Please visit my latest online exhibition on


Thursday, December 07, 2006

Seeing the light

Marraine has seen much change during her life. With a smile she describes how hard life was when she grew up. She tells of the war and her experiences. But she does not run the youth down of today. Marraine wants to take part, to be involved. In her heart she's 19 years old.

I'm doing more portraits than ever and really enjoying work with natural light.

All the best,


Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Seeing with emotion

To really see a photographer needs to look with eyes, mind and emotions. If you do not feel emotion for your subject then your picture will also lack emotion.


Sunday, December 03, 2006

What do great photographers have in common?

This is something that fascinates me. What makes a great photographer great? What do they have in common? I think I know the answer and I want to share it with you.

It’s not good cameras. Although judging by the amateur photographer’s obsession with the latest consumer offering and number of megapixels you would be forgiven for thinking that technology is the be all and end all. The perception that a great photograph is linked to a great camera pervades society. Someone walks into a gallery, sees one of my images and says, “Wow that’s amazing. You must have a fantastic camera.” Oh well. You just learn to shrug.

Yes, well you know it is not a good camera that makes a great photographer. Is it the ability to compose, to control light and excel in the technical aspects of photography? Well these certainly help the photographer to achieve the look he/she wants. Millions of photographers possess excellent technical skills but it isn’t enough to differentiate their work. And many of the greats were not very concerned about the highly technical aspects of their photography.

I think the thing that the great photographers all share is that photography in itself is not all that important to them. It is merely a vehicle, a medium, they use to explore and communicate.

Ironically it seems to me that so many photographers wanting to capture that ultimate image are too obsessed with photography to actually achieve something meaningful. They keep chasing the next technique, the latest camera, a new fad, a style they’ve seen and want to imitate. By concentrating on photography for its own sake they are limiting what their work can achieve. All it is likely to do is win praise from other photographers similarly obsessed with producing high impact visuals that dance vividly on the screen to empty applause and are then quickly forgotten.

Here are some of the real drivers that I’ve identified among the truly great photographers in their different fields:

  • Photojournalists: the best are often driven by the need to show the truth, to fight injustice, to inform and educate people about issues that they think are important
  • Landscape photographers: the best are in awe of nature and its beauty. They want to show and celebrate the world we live in and are often concerned with the preservation of this beauty
  • Wildlife photographers: the best want to show how precious and special animals and wildlife are. They are often concerned with conservation and are driven to communicate the feeling they have that life, in all its forms, is wonderful and should be protected from the destructive nature of mankind.
  • Artists: too broad a category and probably a meaningless classification as it overlaps across the board with other categories. However artists in essence are concerned with holding up a mirror for all of us to look into and ask ourselves, “Is this me I am seeing?”
  • Commercial photographers: the best bring flair to their work which is all about pleasing their clients and making a living at the same time. Success is measured in the bank because how much you get paid is ultimately a reflection of how well you please your clients and how much they think your work is worth.

You get the drift. The answer to the question, what do great photographers have in common, is that they are all profoundly driven to use photography as a vehicle to communicate something that concerns them deeply. None that I know of are just concerned with making a pretty picture.

As always your comments and emails are valued.