Monday, July 23, 2007

Some advice on being a creative photographer

I recently had the great priviledge of spending time with a few of the world's best selling authors, including Lee Child and Harlan Coben. Many of the things they said struck a cord, an affirmation of the ideas that I've held for a long time. You'll probably recognise these ideas too but just like me I'm sure you won't mind hearing them again.

There are many things which apply across all creative endeavours.

Integrity to your art and vision is everything. You write a book, or in our case take a photograph, because it expresses something essential in yourself. It is your vision, your voice. If you're not true to your vision, your inner voice, you will never achieve your full potential. Do not copy others. It's got to come from inside you. This is true even when we're working for clients, to a brief.

The client has chosen you because of who you are, your vision, the injection of that special something which is uniquely yours.

If you see a band wagon then it is already too late to jump on it. Don't emulate the style that is in fashion. You'll just be following on. You're better off doing your own thing and deliberately going against popular trends and cliches. If what you do is good, then it will be recognised as such, no matter what the current trend. Logically you can't ever set trends if you're always following them.

Harlan Coben said he sees himself as an artisan. He is working at his craft. The moment you see yourself as an 'artist' with airs, you're dead in the water. Any creative worth their salt is a hard worker striving continually to improve their technique and refine the way they express themselves. Harlan said sometimes he feels the muse is with him and he's writing brilliant stuff but mostly it's hard work and just getting each word on the page is like having unbelievable constipation. Now here's the key. He said when he looks back at his writing he can't tell which parts he wrote when his artistic muse was with him and the rest.

For all of us creatives getting the job done requires effort, sweat, sheer hard painstaking work and attention to detail. The force that drives many creatives is a strong fear of failure.

If you think you're just writing or taking pictures for yourself and it doesn't matter what your audience think then you're deluding yourself. Laura Lippman compared the attitude, 'I'm only doing it to please myself', to another self pleasing solo activity. Pretty good comparison.

The truth is you want to please your audience and you're writing or photographing to get a reaction from them, an emotion and give them a fresh insight into the world. This by the way is a far more powerful motivation than money. We all need to earn a living but ultimately the reward we seek is audience approval and the feeling that we've given them something worthwhile which will enrich their lives.

On that note, I hope my few words here have given you something worthwhile. There's certainly no financial gain for me in writing this blog. I just hope that you find it useful and it spurs you on to be true to your vision, to recognise that other creatives share your concerns and experiences and to go out there and do it.



Sunday, July 22, 2007

Portrait of Harlan Coben

Best selling crime writer, Harlan Coben, is a gentle, witty, charming, intelligent guy. Chatting to him you can't help wondering how he can come up with such brutal and murderous characters.

He says, maybe it's therapy. Gets it out of the system, which is why crime writers are such gentle folk.

If you've not read any of his books then you're really missing something. Check out his website (

I'm working on a portrait project. Will keep you posted.


Saturday, July 21, 2007

Lee Child interviewed by Paul Blezard

Paul Blezard and Lee Child field a question from the audience during an interview with the best selling author at the Crime Writing festival in Harrogate, 20 July 2007. Lee told many entertaining stories and spoke about his writing and the creation of his famous character, Jack Reacher.

It was great meeting them and chatting to them after the show. If you get a chance to go along to one of Lee Child's talks I can highly recommend it. More pictures here.

His books are fantastic. Check out (



Saturday, July 14, 2007

It's about photography

Magda floats down for a photo shoot on a rainy summer day along the British coast.

I've had numerous emails from people wanting to see more of my photography and asking about buying images. As you know I do respond to every email but to make things a bit easier here's where you can find my work.

I also have portfolios on numerous photography community websites. I plan to do a review in the near future on these websites and my experiences, which have not always been positive. Having said that I've made friends with wonderful photographers across the globe. Hi guys!

I also sell Rights Managed and Royalty Free images for editorial and advertising. Please contact me for more information on the licenses available for the particular image you have chosen.

I am available for photography and writing commissions, and work mostly in the UK and Western Europe. Happy to discuss any proposals.

Hopefully this covers some of the FAQs. You can find out more about me here if you are so inclined.

And please remember, all photographs belong to someone and are automatically copyright. Before you use an image you have to get the author's permission. In my case all of my images are "All rights reserved" and may only be used if I have given permission in writing.

Well that's more than enough about my stuff. Thank you for your interest in my photography.


Friday, July 13, 2007

Another image stolen, by the same guy

Stephen Baker, the same member of the Fuji website has stolen yet another photo from Trekearth and used it in the current Fuji competition. I believe Fuji are dealing with the issue.

Fuji have now removed the image from the competition website and replaced it with another winner. See my previous post. This story is being picked up all over the net. We have to do something to increase awareness about copyright infringement.

Thanks to everyone that emailed Fuji about this and it's good to see they've responded promptly.



Thursday, July 12, 2007

Stolen image wins £200 in Fujifilm competition

Click on the image above to see the large version. This shot was stolen from here and used to win second place in a Fujifilm competition.

We all know that images get stolen from the Internet but two recent examples really take the cake. A certain Stephen Baker from Essex appears to have stolen an image, taken by Pamela DG, from a popular photo-sharing site and used it to win second place in a Fujifilm online competition. The prize money he is accused of fraudulently obtaining is £200 pounds.

It is unbelievable that people think they can steal photographer's images from the Internet and use them for their own purposes.

Another much publicised case revolves around images plagiarised from a popular flickr photographer. The company that allegedly stole them produced canvas prints and sold them for a healthy profit without the photographer knowing anything about it. The whole thing erupted into a bit of a dispute with flickr but that has all settled down now.

The heart of the issue remains that as a photographer we unfortunately expose ourselves to the theft of our work every time it gets uploaded, even relatively small low resolution versions. It's not the first time that I've heard of supposedly respectable companies riding rough-shod over copyright laws.

I hope the thieves get their just deserts and Fujifilm should certainly retrieve their prize money and take whatever action they can to discourage this kind of thing in the future. Condoning it will hardly do their brand much good amongst us photographers.

I'll keep you posted if I hear anything else. I happen to know the photographer's mother who brought this incident to our attention on a forum.

Stay safe, and please if you come across any images you think have been plagiarised let the photographer in question know and drop me a line too.

UPDATE: He's stolen another image! See here. But Fuji have now reacted.


Tuesday, July 03, 2007

The discipline of composing full frame

Full frame landscape composition. This rocky arch can be found in Perranporth in Cornwall.

There's an aesthetic discipline in photography which has all but dropped off the radar these days. It's to make your composition in camera using the full available frame and keep that through to the final print without any cropping.

Photographers advocating this discipline often proudly printed their shots in the darkroom with a thin black border, or even the film rebate visible in the print to show that their composition utilised the full frame and negative without any cropping. These days with the digital darkroom to hand most photographers crop their images. It's so easy to do.

One of the reasons for using the full frame is to preserve quality. The more you enlarge a negative in the darkroom the more the quality suffers. The rule also applies to digital photography. Your camera may have 10mp but if you crop a small part out of it you could be left with a 1, 2 or maybe 3 mp image, which will not hold up quality wise when enlarged.

Besides the quality issues surrounding severe cropping there is also the discipline of composing the shot there and then without having to crop later. It does give one a tremendous feeling of satisfaction to get it all right in the camera first time, well at least for me it does. I think it is an excellent way to train your eye. And you get the benefit of using every pixel your camera is capable of delivering.

I'm not against cropping. I do it all the time but I do try to always make the best use possible of the full frame. When it comes to professional work it's a different ball game altogether. You often have to compose very precisely to fit within a certain format, for example a magazine cover, spread, or the proportions of an advert (with the added complication of leaving uncluttered, evenly coloured areas for the text the designers will want to add.) But that's a different blog.

If I do crop then it will be the longest side of the frame. Cropping both the longest and shortest sides of the frame is in my book almost sacrilege and to be avoided at all costs. However you want to approach it; from the point of view of exercising a discipline on your photographic eye, or to ensure maximum quality - getting it right in the viewfinder does give a great sense of satisfaction.

There are many examples of master photographers who composed and printed full frame. Probably the most famous is Henri Cartier Bresson, but a little research on your part will reveal many more full frame master photographers than you perhaps thought.