Sunday, September 30, 2007

Doorway to great photography

This doorway on a cross channel ferry caught my eye because of it's graphic qualities. I think it's quite appropriate to show a doorway as I hope to open one for you to thousands of wonderful images and hundreds of talented photographers.

When you've been around as long as I have (well it's not all that long I suppose, being in my early 40s), anyway, you get to know things, like which are the best photographic agencies around the world.

I thought tonight, why not share these links with everyone? So without further ado here are my list of top photography agencies.


I've put more links on my website. These include links to publications and photography festivals and fairs.

I'm human, so I'm sure I've missed a few important links along the way. If you would like to send me any you think may be of interest which I can add to my growing list, please don't be shy. Either make a comment, send an email or fill in the form on our website.

Many thanks.

All the best,

Friday, September 28, 2007

1980's Hasselblad better than latest Pro DSLR

It may be time to dust off your old medium format gear and give it a new lease of life with a digital back. The results are stunning, better than the latest Canon Pro DSLRs and cheaper!

Prices of digital backs have come down and you can now get one for around £5,000 in the UK, even cheaper second hand.

Comparing the results between a 16mp digital back on an old 1980's Hasselblad C/M and a new pro full frame Canon DSLR is an eye opener. The quality from the Hasselblad is better. Images are super sharp, files stand up to interpolation better, there's more shadow and highlight detail, colours are spot on and the files are true 16bit from RAW. DSLRs don't actually generate true 16 bit RAW images.

One way to try a digital back on your medium format or for that matter large format camera is to hire the appropriate back. It's not cheap but if you incorporate it in your costs for the shoot on the day then the extra quality could well benefit your work and give you an edge that clients will appreciate (if you're a pro).

Working with medium format is slower. My old Hasselblad C/M doesn't have a lightmeter, no autofocus, everything is manual. I don't even use a pentaprism so the viewfinder image is reversed. This means taking a more considered and slower approach which is not a bad thing at all.

Coincidentally a professional photography magazine in the UK has just done an article on the same subject and their writers were raving about the results. They hired a back from the Pro Centre in London. The magazine remarked that for faster work pro photographers could settle for a D300 or a D40, to save some cash and use the digital back solution for super high quality stuff in the studio and outdoors.

No doubt prices will continue to fall as many pro photographers move up to the larger mp backs available today.

One thing to bear in mind is that there is a crop factor so for example the Hasselblad's standard 80mm lens becomes a 120mm. If you like shooting very wide angle then you will have to consider the implications.

I'm glad I hung onto my old Hasselblad gear now and I may dust off the Mamiya Pro 645 too. We'll see.



Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Pictures that pose questions

This images symbolises the way our childhood seems to pass so quickly. Childhood now seems to be a little like a dream, like someone else lived it, although inside I am still that small kid sometimes.

The telephone wires and the road perhaps signify the journey we travel and how we are linked through our ability to communicate.

Then again perhaps it is just an out of focus picture of a little girl running along a road. The joy of photography is that I can present you with an image. You have to also do some of the work in interpreting it. All I can say is the photograph was meant to be and I chose it.

I think photographs should get people to think and to ask questions.


Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Exploring the subject

The four images above were taken within a few minutes of each other. The subject is the side of a railcar. The aim was a series of images which explore a single subject with the emphasis on strong graphic compositions.


Monday, September 17, 2007

Popularity is not a measure of artistic merit

This bit of industrial design/architecture resides in the far corner of a supermarket parking lot in Belgium. At first it looks like and incredibly straightforward image but the more you look the more you discover. Click on the image to see the larger version.

It never ceases to amaze me how diverse audiences respond to different images. Some images have broad appeal while others have a much smaller appeal but are liked with a passion.

A word of caution to my colleagues out there. Popularity is not a measure of artistic value. If it were then most of the modern art museums would have to throw their exhibits in a skip.

So what is an appropriate measure of artistic value. That's a tough question. I don't know the answer but what I do know is that if a few people respond passionately to an image I've made, it makes me happy.


Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Foundations for successful professional photographers

Descriptions about what it takes to be a professional photographer are often quite fluffy and insubstantial. So with my best analytical cap on I've decided look at what it takes to be successful professional photographer.

Let's first clear a few things up. You don't need to own a camera, any camera at all, you don't need lights, you don't a studio and you don't need official qualifications. You can hire everything you need from cameras to studio managers and digital artists. You certainly need knowledge and skill but not necessarily a diploma to hang on the wall.

To be a successful professional photographer you will have to develop four key foundations besides being able to make brilliant photographs and the traditional business skills which apply to everyone running their own company.

The foundations are creativity, professionalism, knowledge and skill sets. Although this article is written for advertising and editorial photographers I am sure you will see how the principles can easily apply to other branches of professional photography too.

As professional photographers we need to see ourselves through the eyes of our clients. What are they looking for and what are they really buying? Why would they choose one photographer rather than another?


Saying that creativity is not enough to be successful will probably sound familiar to you. This is often qualified by saying that you have to give the client what they're after and tailor your creativity to suit the campaign or publication you're working on. All sound advice and true enough. But for me this does not go far enough.

To differentiate yourself from the masses of professional photographers you have to demonstrate your creativity is making a positive contribution and helping your client achieve their aims. If your client is not aware of how important your creativity is to the success of their campaign or brochure then they are not going to properly value your input.

So we come to the concept of managing your creativity. As a professional you are not expected to have off days. Clients want you to produce results on demand. You have to see your creativity as a resource not as some strange form of inspiration that floats down from the ether. It’s inside you and there are techniques for accessing it at will (perhaps the subject of a future article).

As a professional photographer you have to generate ideas and learn to leave bad ones behind. Don’t defend an idea to death. If the client doesn’t like it move on or adapt.

This brings me to innovation. You have to keep innovating to stay ahead of the game.

Creativity is about challenging the status quo, asking questions, changing things, destroying and rebuilding, finding new approaches and new answers.

But remember the context. The ideas you generate, the concepts, the innovations all have to be within the parameters of what your client expects and wants. It has to have substance. Your images are visual communications and your clients are looking to inform and persuade readers. Substance will always trump flashy style. I firmly believe form must follow function.


When it comes to being professional you have to follow best practice. Learn from the experience of your colleagues.

Some of the aspects to consider are your:

  • Values – ethics, environmental considerations, sustainability, conduct
  • Process – the methodology you apply to your work
  • Communication – written, oral, inter-personal – all have to be professional toward your clients, suppliers and colleagues
  • Administration – keeping to regulations, meeting legal requirements


You have to know your craft and keep up to date with the latest developments. The world of professional photography is fast moving and clients want solutions that work for them and integrate with their systems and ways of doing things.

If they have to choose between a photographer who can shoot on location and instantly transfer print ready images to their network or someone who has to have a film developed and scanned, who do you think they are going to choose (given that the two photographers are equally capable)?

Knowledge goes further than just your own craft though. Increasingly photographers have to demonstrate knowledge of their client’s organization and strategic goals. Clients want to work with photographers who understand their brand and can interpret their brief intelligently.

Knowledge is about getting education, training, understanding theoretical aspects. It is also gained through experience. You need both academic knowledge and practical knowledge gained through working in different environments. You need knowledge of business, people, customs, geography, products … you need to know everything about everything.

Skill sets

A skill is knowledge translated into ability and action. Knowing something in theory is not enough. You have to be able to do it and that takes practice.

To acquire a skill you have to work on your techniques. It takes self discipline, effort and determination to succeed. Steadily you build up a portfolio of skill sets which can be applied to meet different challenges, each one another arrow in your quiver.

I hope the above has given you food for thought. Creativity, professionalism, knowledge and skill sets are the four foundations you have to work on to ensure a solid and successful career as a professional photographer.

If you are interested in publishing a more in depth article in print please contact me. In the meantime I would be delighted to receive comments on this overview article.


Friday, September 07, 2007

Sensitivity and respect in your comments

Many photographers upload pictures of people for comment on photo sharing websites. I think it is important to point out that comments made on a picture are often read by the person in the picture.

On the whole I think that most people commenting on a picture do show respect and awareness of the subject's feelings and emotions. However sometimes a comment is made that reveals a lack of regard for the person in the image.

Classic examples are comments which turn an attractive woman or man into a sexual object, or mock, trivialise or patronise the subject.

Even if the person in the photograph will almost certainly never see the comments made on their image, I believe it is of fundamental importance that comments are respectful and that you only say what you would be prepared to say looking that person straight in the eye.

The internet is vast and people on your screen can appear somewhat abstract and removed from the real human being, but each person you see in a photograph has a life, aspirations, hopes, fears, relationships, experiences and feelings just like you or I.

Of course the respect for a person's feelings and dignity does not only apply to commenting on pictures of people, it is also fundamental to the ethics of photography. When we lift our cameras to take a picture of another person we have to be aware of their humanity, the ethics of what we are doing and our subject's right to dignity and respect.

I'm sure the people reading this share my feelings and as usual I'm preaching to the converted, but hope that you will appreciate me putting the focus on this subject, which is not often touched upon in blogs and articles.



indigo 2 photography

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Meet Willem Vermandere

Flemish sculptor, painter, artist and folk musician, Willem Vermandere sings from the heart during a visit to his house in West Flanders.

Magda Indigo arranged a visit for us the last time we were in Belgium. Willem only performs in Flemish so his work is not well known outside Belgium and Holland although he has performed in the UK. Recently South African academics have also shown an interest in his poetic texts and his work is being translated into and performed in Afrikaans.

Willem is a kind, warm, generous man who has tremendous humility. He is a legend in Belgium. It was a priviledge to meet him.

I wanted to capture something of his spirit here.