Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Looking back at 2008 and forward to 2009

To all my blog readers I would like to say thank you for your continued interest in my writings. Your comments and emails make the effort worthwhile.

I wish you all a very happy and prosperous new year for 2009.

You may have noticed that I’ve been quiet lately. I’ve covered numerous topics over the years from photographic technique to the thought processes behind creating strong images. Looking back over my stats, I see that thanks to Google searches many of my earliest articles are still being read on an almost daily basis. I see no reason to repeat myself. There’s a handy search feature on my blog. Feel free to use it if you have any specific subject you’re interested in. You may well find I’ve covered it in an earlier blog. Failing that you can always send me an email via my website with a specific question.

What will 2009 bring? On the technical side we’ve already seen the integration of HD video recording into mainstream DSLR technology in the Canon 5D Mark II and Nikon D90 cameras. Both cameras have serious flaws for professional film makers but it is an interesting indication of things to come. A new company on the DSLR block, RED, promises to shake up the market next year with the release of a modular system that shoots high quality video as well as stills. The system should appeal to photojournalists. We can see that a serious attempt is being made to merge video and still image capture. There is one huge issue to overcome though and that is ergonomics. The requirements for holding a still camera and a professional film camera are completely different. Here RED’s modular approach will give it an advantage. The idea being able to upgrade elements of the camera without having to buy a completely new model each time is appealing. Watch this space.

For me still and video are two distinct media which we consume in a very different way. The psychological impact of a still is quite different to that of video. The images that remained ingrained in the consciousness of the public are invariably still images. Movies flash by and very little is retained. There are of course notable exceptions. The video clips of the jets flying into the World Trade Centre and Kennedy’s assassination will always remain ingrained in our consciousness. Interestingly these moments are often broken down into frame by frame stills when they are shown. What if each frame had the clarity of a high quality DSLR image? Newspapers in the USA are already using this approach to photojournalism.

I’ve not done any scientific research into this but it seems to me that when things happen in our lives the human mind has a tendency to freeze an image. Perhaps still photography is so powerful because it mimics this. Note to self: must research this idea further. I also wonder about the mindset of the photographer. A film maker usually sticks to one perspective and angle because they need to keep the camera still while filming, while a photographer will keep moving around the subject hunting for the best angle. I wonder how the difference in approach will impact on the creativity and power of the resulting still images.

Leaving technology to one side, 2009 promises to be a tough year for many professional photographers. We’ve seen manufacturing and retail hit by the economic downturn and the natural follow-on from this will be a negative impact on professional services. The media may see only recession and doom and gloom but I see opportunity. Businesses that survive and thrive now will be winners coming out on the other side when things pick up again. A lot of the deadwood will be cut out. It is now more important than ever to effectively market your photography and produce high quality work. All the evidence suggests that businesses that advertise and increase their marketing during a downturn benefit tremendously with an increase in market share. The Financial Times has showcased some helpful research on the subject.

And what about me? Well I’ve had a really good year in 2008 and am looking forward to an even busier year in 2009. Indigo2 Photography will be launching a new service to help photographers improve the way they market themselves using the web and digital media as well as traditional methods such as direct marketing and advertising. In addition to photography, at Indigo2 we are offering web design, copywriting for your website, retouching and post production photography services as well as well as marketing consultancy. If you would like to win more business, need help with your website or post production work on your images, please get in touch.

Have a good one.

Warmest wishes,

Paul
www.indigo2photography.co.uk/

Sunday, December 07, 2008

The raconteur

Willem Vermandere telling it like it is during a solo concert in Flanders, Belgium.

Willem Vermandere is a great raconteur, able to tell a story so that you hang on his every word. Take an everyday experience, add a keen mind, sharp perception, insight into human nature, wit and a deep harmonious voice and you've got Willem keeping his audience enraptured.

Willem Vermandere is one of the most influential and well respected modern Belgian artists. He refuses to be pigeonholed as one or other 'type' of artist. His sculptures are in private collections and galleries, his folk music concerts are invariably sold out, his latest book of poetry is on the bookshelves and his paintings and drawings adorn the walls of public and private spaces across Belgium and beyond.

Willem lives in a small Flemish village, a humble man and a wonderful friend who enriches the lives of everyone around him.

Cheers,
Paul
www.indigo2photography.co.uk

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Why use a professional photographer instead of stock images

Waiting for something to happen. People on a bench in Ostend, Belgium.

Why should you use a professional photographer instead of downloading an image from a stock library? Well there are many good reasons and I hope that photographers reading my blog find something useful here when pitching for new work and marketing themselves.

I've got nothing against stock libraries as such and in fact I contribute to a few. These days though the returns are diminishing and articles keep appearing challenging the viability of making a living as a traditional stock photographer. Enthusiasts and amateurs have swamped the stock library market with images and unfortunately designers and agencies, with pressure increasing on their budgets, all too quickly turn to stock libraries for their picture needs.

So it is becoming more important than ever for good professional photographers to differentiate themselves from the offerings of stock libraries.

Here goes...

When a company hires a pro photographer they get far more than an image file. They get the benefit of the photographer's experience, creativity, knowledge and insight. Essentially a company is not just paying for an image they are paying for that particular photographer's skill and ability.

With the current economic situation business is more competitive than ever before and a lot of companies are selling similar things. How can they make themselves stand out? The only way is to push their brand, to have something unique and instantly recognisable in the market place. So a style of imagery which is in line with the company's brand needs to be developed and kept consistent.

A company cannot differentiate itself by downloading a hotch potch of images from a stock library and trying to shoe horn them into their corporate brand. These images may well be gracing the adverts and brochures of their competitors too. The only way to get a truly unique image is to commission it or pay a stock library for exclusive rights, which would probably turn out more expensive than hiring a photographer in the first place.

A good professional photographer will take a brief and analyze the requirement in the context of what the client wants to achieve. The photographer will develop an understanding of the brand and how the company wants to portray itself, what makes it unique.

When it comes to the actual day of the photo shoot the ability to make last minute changes and explore spur of the moment creative opportunities can be invaluable. The client will also have excellent control over the quality of the final image. The client's creative team working together with the photographer means more brain power, skill and experience are brought to bare on solving the core issue of how to sell the product and market the company effectively through visual media.

Littering a company's website, brochure and sales leaflets with 1$ stock library images can cost that company a lot more than using a professional photographer because of the damage it can do to the brand, corporate identity and the image of the company. And when you think of the costs of designing, printing and delivering a marketing campaign then the cost of hiring a photographer is fairly small in the overall budget.

Hiring a good professional photographer is the only solution for a company that wants exclusive photographic imagery that sets it apart from competitors.

Unfortunately individual photographers are up against huge corporate stock library marketing machines when it comes to persuading agencies, designers and companies to make the right choice. But if we speak with one voice and consistently push the benefits forward of using a professional photographer we can hopefully start to redress the balance.

Comments and feedback welcome.

Paul Indigo
www.indigo2photography.co.uk

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Linux photography

This image of a seagull was processed out of RAW using UFRaw and Gimp, running under Ubuntu Hardy Heron (Linux).

I've been using Linux OS and free Open Source software to process my pictures on and off for a week now. There's a lot to learn and I've only scratched the surface.

My early impressions are that it takes a lot more effort and fiddling about to get the results that I want. Using Lightroom and Photoshop is like driving a Bentley to get from one place to another. Everything is comfortable, fast, smooth and easy. The Linux image editing tools I've used so far are more like driving a very basic small car (not naming brands here). It will get you to your destination too but you are going to feel the potholes more, you're going to have to top up the oil, the windscreen wipers aren't great...well I am sure you get my drift.

Sadly from a professional photography workflow point of view Linux is too cumbersome. It is possible to use and to generate high quality beautiful professional images. And I know that there are several professional photographers who use Linux applications exclusively. But for me the process is not slick enough and would harm productivity. So I remain enslaved to Windows.

However I am going to work with the Linux community and one day we will get there. I do prefer the OS (particularly Ubuntu) GUI. Open Office is superb and it does everything that I could possible want. All the other applications, surfing the net, music, video etc are excellent. The answer for me in the near future will be to run Windows and Linux side by side.

I will keep you posted on any further developments in my experiments with Linux. Please do contact me if you are a photographer using Open Source image editing programmes. I would very much like to hear about your experiences.

Cheers,

Paul
www.indigo2photography.co.uk

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Credit crunch photo software

Taking the plunge. It's good to know that some of the best things in life are still free. Free Linux software, digiKam was used to tweak the above image and prepare it for upload.

Free photo software that delivers image results as good as you get from Photoshop or any of the other paid for packages. Sounds too good to be true. Well I have been researching the possibilities here's what I found for the cash strapped photographer. Very topical, I'm sure you will agree.

The image above of the Sand Piper was processed using digiKam, UFRaw and Gimp.

My mission started two weeks ago when my shiny powerful PC had a hardware malfunction over the weekend. Our other PC was being put to full use so I hauled out my old laptop, 2003 vintage. It worked but was very slow despite a Gig of RAM. It had software driver conflicts and all sorts that needed sorting out. I got more and more frustrated with Windows.

Suddenly I had a light bulb moment. It had been a while since I looked at Linux as an operating system and the last time I investigated it, it just seemed like too much hard work to get it up and running properly from the hard drive. I didn't want to lose my Windows software either and dual booting appeared to be in the realm of geeks and hackers.

After a bit of investigation I found a Linux distro (version) which sounded accessible and easy enough for a noobie like me to install and use. I chose Ubuntu. After wisely backing up my laptop files I installed Ubuntu from a DVD that I had got with Linux Made Easy magazine. I meant to use the options to partition the hard drive but ended up making a wrong choice and installing Ubuntu over the whole hard drive - wiping out Windows completely. Yeah, I know I'm and idiot.

The installation was quick and much easier than Windows. To my surprise the laptop was cured of its ailments. I had never seen it boot up, access files etc as fast. Linux runs much more efficiently on your hardware than Windows and you can breathe new life into an old machine.

One of the first things I wanted to try was to download images from my CF card using my USB card reader. I plugged it in and the Sandisk card reader was instantly recognised. I've never seen a card of images download that quickly on my laptop. This was great!

To my delight I could immediately see the RAW images in F-Spot which is a very basic image management piece of software that comes with Ubuntu. I quickly discovered that I could not work on any of my images in RAW although the Gimp photo editor software (Linux's answer to Adobe Photoshop) enabled me to work on JPEGs. I found Gimp fairly intuitive and if you know your way around Photoshop you will quickly recognise the usual stuff we all use like, levels, saturation etc. The drawback everyone seems to harp on about is that it only supports 8 bit mode. But I found other Linux photo software that happily works in 16 bit (if you really need it). More on that later.

This seems a good time to point out for those who do not know, Linux is Open Source software and just about all of it is completely free. You can download Ubuntu and run it off a CD or DVD to try it out. You can then choose to install it and all the programs you need as a photographer are completely free!

I think it is amazing and wonderful that programmers and users all over the world are working together to come up with fantastic software that rivals Microsoft, Apple, Adobe and all the other big guys.

A few days later I had got my PC back and it was up and running beautifully again. I thoroughly enjoyed myself working on images in my favourite programme, Adobe Lightroom, with slick transfer to CS3 for the finishing touches. One thing I noticed though was how slow things were compared to working with Linux Ubuntu on my Laptop, and my PC is a much more powerful machine.

An email arrived advertising CS4, Adobe's latest release with loads of new features which I would probably never use. I know that I've barely scratched the surface of what CS3 can do. I looked at the price tag for CS4. Hmmm...

While thinking about this I had a Robinson Crusoe thought. Could I survive as a photographer without using paid for software? So I set myself the challenge to find out.

I had read it was possible to install Ubuntu alongside Windows on one hard disk without creating a partition and endangering the Windows installation. The install is done using a very clever little programme called Wubi. These Linux guys have some funny sounding software names. The instructions are all on the Wubi page and the Operating System (OS) is completely free.

In Windows XP I downloaded and installed Wubi, did the required reboot and then went through the update process, and was up and running with a dual boot system in less than 60 minutes. Absolutely amazing.

The first thing I noticed though when I opened my images was that they did not look the same as they in Windows. Quickly figured out it was because my screen was now no longer calibrated. You need to calibrate it with each OS.

This is where I hit my biggest nightmare. Before you panick. Yes, it is perfectly possible to calibrate your monitor, printer, scanner etc in Linux. The problem is that it's not as simple as plugging your calibration tool in and clicking through a few screens. I use Spyder and although you can use the profile and get it to work the whole thing gave me a serious headache and hours of research in forums and on websites to work it out. Not for the faint-hearted. Wikipedia provides a helpful starting point on Linux color management but before you dash off to tackle it take a look at the options integrated in the photo-editing software below.

The next step was to find a good photo management software. After a lot of research I chose digiKam which is amazing. It allows you to import images, organise them in a database, tag, comment, rate and all the rest of that stuff. It also comes with an image editor which suports 16 bits. You also get a slide show feature and a very handy Light table. Colour profiling and calibration are also supported and integrated in digiKam.

There are numerous other free Linux software programs to enable you to manipulate images, manage them and work on RAW files. One thing they all seem to have in common is speed and stability. I have only tried a few but have been thoroughly impressed so far. Don't expect the slick interfaces of Lightroom and Photoshop. The paid for programmes are still ahead in terms of range of functions and GUI (Graphical User Interface) and there is functionality I have not found in Linux. On the other hand I've found handy tools in Linux which I've not seen in Adobe software.

The real test though is: do I think I could survive as a photographer by just sticking to free Linux software?

The answer is a resounding, "Yes!" However I am not going to dump Windows and my beloved Lightroom and CS3 just yet. I've got my workflow set up, I am used to these programmes, and they provide everything I could wish for in terms of software to work on images. Working with Linux, especially from RAW is a lot trickier. Having said that I've heard of several pro photographers that use nothing but Linux and free software.

I'm keeping Ubuntu with digiKam, Gimp, showFoto and UFRaw on my old laptop, which is running like a dream. When out and about I know that I can download, see and produce a finished JPEG from RAW much quicker than I could with my previous Windows XP system.

Living a good life in the UK I feel priviledged to be able to afford and use Microsoft and Adobe products but for photographers who find themselves in less wealthy economies, or those who would rather spend their money lenses, travel or stuff to help them capture good images, Linux offers a real alternative and more. There are some brilliant free plug-ins which I will be experimenting with in the near future, which are not available in the paid for software.

I hope the above will give you food for thought and encourage you to experiment outside Windows software. If do decide to go the whole hog and switch completely to Linux and you really miss Photoshop, I believe you can run CS2 (and earlier versions) under a program called Wine, which allows you to run Windows applications under Linux. As far as I know Lightroom and CS3 are not yet supported under Wine but watch this space.

Windows, Apple and Linux have all got their their fans. If you read the various forums on the net you'll find endless debates about which system is best and slagging off the competion. It can all get a bit adverserial. I prefer an open approach, discovering new things, being prepared to take the time to listen and explore. Sitting here today, nothing beats Lightroom and Photoshop but that comes down in part to personal preference. I will continue to experiment and enjoy new software and ways of working on images.

Questions and comments welcomed. I am aware that I am very much a noobie and have just dipped my toes in the Linux waters. I do like the look of that penguin though.

Cheers,
Paul
www.indigo2photography.co.uk

Some resources (copied from Wikipedia)

"A list of Linux color-managed applications

  • GIMP, the GNU Image Manipulation Program (CMS is available in the 2.3 development version and later versions)
  • CinePaint, a 16-bit-capable image editor
  • Krita and Karbon14, an image editor and vector graphics editor, respectively (parts of KOffice)
  • Scribus, page layout software (using Little CMS)
  • digiKam, a digital photo management program for KDE (using Little CMS)
  • Bibble Pro, a RAW digital image converter
  • Pixel, an image editor (supports 8bit/16bit RGB, CMYK, Lab, 32bit HDR, and RAW files)
  • LightZone, an image editor and RAW processor
  • UFRaw, a RAW converter and GIMP plugin
  • RawTherapee, a RAW converter (supports 8bit/16bit RGB)
  • PhotoPrint, a utility designed to assist in the process of printing digital photographs (prints with GutenPrint)
  • GQview, an image viewer and photo organizer
  • XSane, scanning frontend for Scanner Access Now Easy (CMS support since XSane-0.992/0.993)
  • LPROF, ICCv2 compliant Hardware Color Profiler for cameras, scanners and monitors
  • xcalib - xcalib is a tiny monitor calibration loader for XFree86 (or X.org) and MS-Windows
  • Inkscape, a user-friendly, standards-compliant vector graphics editor that uses SVG as its native file format (CMS is available as of version 0.46)
  • Phatch PHoto bATCH processor and exif renamer, which supports RGB(A), CMYK, YCbCr, I (32-bit integer pixels) and F (32-bit floating point pixels). It has a lot of features: scaling, cropping, rotating, shadows, rounded corners, reflection, perspective, ...

Friday, August 29, 2008

The important things

Jumping for joy.

Today my wife Magda asked me what have been my photographic highlights over all the years I've been photographing. Now that's a tough question.

I thought about it for a few minutes. Several images and sessions popped into mind and of course I could not choose the ONE. "It's impossible." I said. But something interesting started to emerge.

My all time favourite photographs are not necessarily the most perfect photographically. Instead the images and photo-sessions that stand out for me are the one's that have been made special by the people I photographed and was with at the time, by the circumstances and by the whole experience.

Naturally when you show your work other people don't know what you experienced when you took the image so they judge your work on its technical merit and there's usually an emotive element too. People looking at your image connect it to their own emotional world and experiences.

I've warned photographers in earlier blogs about being too emotionally attached to an image when they're putting together a portfolio. A magazine editor doesn't care how many hours you sat waiting for the shot, or whatever else you went through to get it. They can't smell the ocean and hear the birds, as you did when you took that image. Your experience at the moment you took the shot doesn't count when an image is being judged for an advertising campaign, a brochure, a competition or a magazine.

But it does count in real life. Every image is personal. You were there. You saw and you photographed. As image makers we should cultivate and treasure the personal bond we have with our work. We should become attached to the images we like and value them.

Many of my images are like old friends. A diary of my life. Memories to revisit. Some make me smile and others make me sad. That's life. And for me photography enriches life.

Cheers,
Paul
www.indigo2photography.co.uk

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Exploring a place


I watched this chap going up the stairs after I spotted the conspicuous white strap, which I just knew would link wonderfully to the architectural structure. I kept taking images until he was in the perfect position. I love these little visual nuances in an image. Click on the image above to see the large version.

I know some of you must have wondered what had happened to me as it's been a while since I last posted a blog. The thing is I've been incredibly busy again and very focused (if you'll pardon the pun) on getting a number of projects completed. And I'm off on my travels again next week.

In the meantime do please visit my online show with more images from the British Museum, which show my exploration of the phenomenal atrium space. Please let me know what you think.

Cheers,

Paul
www.indigo2photography.co.uk

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Photographic clarity versus manipulated images

A young girl plays amongst the pillars at the King's Galleries, Ostend, Belgium.

Strong simple clear composition, clean colours, sharpness and good exposure are all elements of something that I call 'photographic clarity'. Good capture techniques and fine tuning in an image editing program will deliver professional results.

More than enough has been written in magazines, books and online to provide everyone with all the information required to produce the highest quality results. So why do we see so many unsharp, strangely manipulated, grungy and distorted images? I think that in a way history is repeating itself.

We have entered a new era of pictorialism and photographic enthusiasts have fallen in love with digital filters, effects and the heavy manipulations offered by image editing programs. Open most pages on a site like Flickr and you will see images dotted about that are unclear, weirdly coloured, 'over hyped' and distorted. And yes I have done my fair share of these too.

However, here's something to bear in mind for any budding professional photographer or amateur that wants to earn some extra cash. The market for 'pictorialist' images is very small - perhaps some fine art galleries. Even most of the photographic collectors I know prefer 'real' photographs. Advertising agencies, magazines, calendar and greeting cards manufactures all want high quality, clean, clear images ie photographic clarity.

If you want to see for yourself, just visit some stock library websites, or take a look at adverts in a magazine. Muddy colours, heavy vignetting, bad HDR, unsharpness etc just don't do it anywhere except on social photography sites where everyone seems to be intent on applying the latest digital filter/effect that's in fashion.

Personally I'm a bit bored with seeing all the heavily manipulated stuff. Give me good, honest straightforward photographic clarity every time.

Cheers,
Paul
www.indigo2photography.co.uk

Monday, June 30, 2008

Getting the light right

Glass artist and painter, Ivan, enjoys a cup of coffee. I used two medium sized softboxes and a flash with a honey comb to rim light the black beret so that it separated from the black background.

You've heard it so many times before. Photography is about light. It seems obvious but I still see photography enthusiasts obsessing about cameras and equipment rather than concentrating on the one simple element they can use to improve their pictures - lighting.

Yes, studio flash costs a fair amount but as the Strobists demonstrate you can use off camera flash and get amazing effects. Light modification devices abound, anything from a piece of foam to a Tupperware container will do. I've seen fabulous portraits created with just one naked light bulb. Then there are thousands of ways to modify daylight from using reflectors to black panels that absorb light (subtractive lighting).

It's not equipment that is a limitation, it is rather a lack of imagination and creativity. So I urge, think about light not camera equipment.

To see some more examples of how I have used light click here (especially the mono portraits portfolio).

Cheers,

Paul

www.indigo2photography.co.uk

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Facing danger as a journalist

'Tomo'

BBC Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen has written an insightful article describing how war reporters deal with danger as a routine part of their job.

I can relate to the things he says having been shot at while doing my job. Few things though are as scary as being chased by a blood thirsty mob that take exception to your presence. Mostly soldiers, and police are under orders not to harm journalists. But of course you never know. And as Jeremy says about his lucky escape, all it takes is to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

That's what happened to my friend Tomo. He was in the SAS so he was very much in harms way. He was extremely fit and had received the best training in the world but he got caught in an indiscriminate explosion. The irony is he had taken the place of someone else on that patrol. So much comes down to chance. Tomo was near the end of his tour of duty and making plans for holidays. He wanted to get his diving certificate. Nobody gets up in the morning and thinks that it is going to be their last day.

My days of facing that type of danger are passed. I've settled into a far more sedate corporate life. If you want to know what it's like to live with danger then read Jeremy's article here. He tells it like is.

Cheers,
Paul
www.indigo2photography.co.uk

Friday, June 06, 2008

Brass tradition lives on


Every year the Whit Friday Brass Band competition brings brass bands together in a wonderfully traditional event held in villages in the Saddleworth area near Manchester, UK.

This year I photographed the evening competition in a small English village called Delph. The atmosphere was terrific.

Enjoy.

As always, comments are welcome.

Cheers,

Paul

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Rest easy dear friend


James AKA 'Tomo'. Rest easy dear friend. 1981-2008.

Yesterday I went to James' funeral. There are no words to truly express how much we miss him and the huge impact he had on so many of us.

I took this portrait shortly before he left the UK for his first tour of duty. I believe it captures his mischievous spirit and sense of fun. As the pastor said yesterday at his funeral service, "He lit up the room with his smile." But the impact he had was so much more. He was a force of life and wherever he went he left people feeling more cheerful and optimistic.

He had a serious side too. Professional, dedicated and calm, he was the kind of guy you knew you could count on without question.

Here is the official press release and you can read the earlier news releases in my previous blog.

I know my blog is about photography but I had to write something more personal because I feel it so badly. And in a way this article is about photography too because the pictures we have of James are now tremendously important. They are tangible memories we will treasure. He will be remembered and talked about, and children not yet born will gaze at pictures of this special man, while they listen to stories of his adventures and exploits.

Take care of yourself and each other.

Cheers,

Paul

Monday, May 26, 2008

Tragically lost his life

You may have noticed I've been quiet lately. It's a sad time. A friend was killed a week ago in Afghanistan. His funeral is next Friday.

He was a wonderful, strong, funny chap and I miss him. I can't believe he is gone.

Here are some of the news articles.

http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/campaigns/our_boys/article1184685.ece

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2008/may/20/military.afghanistan

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/frontline/1989319/Afghanistan-British-soldier-killed-by-explosion-in-Helmand-Province.html





Paul

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Capturing 'once in a lifetime' photographs again and again. What does it take?

Everyone has to find their own way of seeing the world. I photographed this youngster at a Brass Band festival in Delph, a small village in England.

How do photographers get those great shots? Most writers focus on the obvious answers like photographic technique – composition, lighting and enhancing images in the digital darkroom. Obviously these are important but there's something perhaps even more important that barely gets a mention.

So let me a share a few 'secrets' about getting 'once in a lifetime' images again and again. It all comes down to luck. You were there and everything fell into place perfectly, just at that moment just as you pushed the shutter button. Look at many of the astounding photographs of our time and what do you think? Yes, that photographer was darn lucky to be there at that moment.

Why are some photographers luckier than others? Well there may be an element of pure chance but on the other hand there are several strategies you can use to improve your luck. As Samuel Goldwyn said, "The harder I work, the luckier I get."

It takes determination, perseverance and effort to make good images. You need to prepare your mind as well as your camera bag. Here are the strategies I use when preparing for an editorial assignment. The principles can be applied to any photographic mission.

The first thing I do is work out what the story is really about. I try to nail down the essence. Then I develop several themes that will help me tell the story visually. Depending on the type of story and depth of coverage there may be up to 15 themes. The next step is to think of picture ideas that fit under each theme. Breaking everything down like this gives you a systematic, logical and targeted approach.

Research is critically important. I try to find out exactly what I am getting into. Having an idea of what other photographers have done provides a benchmark. I know you have to do better. Editors don't want to see me producing the same image as another photographer did. They want to see something unusual that excites them. I aim to take a shot that nobody else has done before.

So with the main themes in place and loads of 'knock em dead' picture ideas and research done I move onto the next stage, the logistics of ensuring that I am in the right place, at the right time with the right equipment, the right people and environmental conditions. Did I mention determination, perseverance and effort? You need a hell of a lot of it to get things done. Actually taking the photographs is often the easiest part of the assignment!

Once I do get to the photography I am constantly looking for ways to make the images stronger, more exciting, interesting and beautiful, while never losing site of the theme of the shoot and the essence of the story. I am 100% focused on making the best image possible. All that technical stuff is a reflex and happens unconsciously. Probably the biggest challenge photography enthusiasts face is to move past thinking about their equipment and the act of taking pictures, and to instead direct their full attention to how best to use a photographic opportunity to communicate with the audience.

After the shoot I reflect on the images I've taken and how they can be improved further. Often the key to getting those 'once in a lifetime' shots is to use the knowledge you gained the first time shoot and go back and do it all again, if you have the opportunity. And then go back again. And again. Always refining and pushing it further. Never settle for second best.

And once you've got the shots, lavish them with tender loving care. Make every pixel count toward the final impact. That's how you get lucky in photography. Making your own luck is hard work. The ability to get things done and determination to succeed are as important as a 'good eye' and technical ability.

If you find this article interesting and helpful please let me know. Leave a comment or send me an email via the contact form on my website. I would also be delighted to discuss assignments with picture editors and art directors.

Cheers,
Paul

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Photojournalism today and the World Press Photo competition



A man lies collapsed in the street, attended by a policeman who put him in the recovery position and stood by him waiting for the paramedics. Click on the images to see a larger version.

This week I came across the event above and took two different images. The first is a clear no frills photo journalistic image. The second image uses photographic language and aesthetics to create an emotion. A friend said of the second image, "I would not qualify it as photo-journalistic as it is too artsy (in the right way) to be published in a newspaper. But man, it does have a strong impact!"

I found that interesting. Thinking of the beautifully lit images that W. Eugene Smith made. Would they be considered too artsy for a newspaper these days. Which brings me to the recent debate about the beautifully lit image of the Thai prostitute discussed in Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin's hotly debated article "Unconcerned but not indifferent", which goes behind the scenes at the World Press Photo Awards.

Th
ere is a a tension between aesthetics and content. The judges differ as to where the emphasis should lie in deciding which pictures are in and which are out, and no doubt the debate will continue for as long as photojournalism exists.

The arguments are complex and well worth delving into if you have any interest in the current state of photojournalism.

I highly recommend you read the following excellent articles published on Foto8

Also take a look at Reuters, Bearing Witness: Five Years of the Iraq War

So what's my take on things. Well I like to keep it simple. To me photojournalism is about communicating information as effectively as possible. The way the communication is received depends on the context of the viewer, their social awareness, beliefs, morals, knowledge and intellect.

Just an image is never enough. Photojournalists rely on words to support the communication brought by their image. Viewing and judging images purely on aesthetics divorced from context renders the value of a photo journalistic image purely in terms of artistic merit. I would argue this is a rather pointless exercise given that the photojournalist is out there risking life and limb to bring us the "story". Anyway, I've never come across a magazine, newspaper or news broadcast that doesn't use any form of caption to explain photo journalistic images.

Having said this it is clear that in recent years the World Press Photo competition has evolved into a soapbox to highlight important issues and there is of course no harm in doing so. The more ways we can make people aware of issues the better.

Fundamentally though the aim of the photojournalist is to bring the story to a wider audience and all methods are valid and necessary, whether it be the more abstract post event approach or the hardcore eyewitness. Whatever approach we use, ultimately the effectiveness will depend on how receptive the audience is and their context.

I hope this provides food for thought and look forward to reading your comments.

Cheers,
Paul

Monday, May 05, 2008

True emotion

Ken and his border collie, Pinch, stride through along the Bempton cliff tops in Yorkshire. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Man and dog have a centuries old relationship, with dogs working alongside us and earning the title "man's best friend'. I think this image illustrates that special bond with Pinch looking up at Ken waiting for his next instruction.

She was so attentive. A typical border collie - fast, intelligent and ever willing to please. This image to me has real emotion. Ken strides confidently along through the field. He looks down at his dog and she spins round to look up. The connection between the two of them is as clear as daylight. The image has space to breath, texture, light and a pleasing composition, all working together to tell us the story of man and dog.

I hope you like it too. In the coming months I'll share more of my images and tell you why I think they work. Hopefully my thoughts and pictures will interest you and perhaps even inspire you.

Cheers,
Paul

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Wedding photography again


On the swings. Click on the image to see a larger version.

The radiant bride. Click on the image to see a larger version.

I had stopped shooting weddings and now I'm back at it again. Never say never again.

There's something really wonderful about sharing these life changing precious moments with people. In a way its a gift to be able to record and document the couple's special day.

And then when you deliver the wedding book and see everyone in the family pouring over the over it, tears of emotion and joy in their eyes and they want to give you hug - what more reward do you need for your work.

As wedding photographers the images we produce become part of family history. In the same way that you and I look back at photographs of our grandparents and great grandparents, in generations to come people will look at our wedding pictures and wonder about the people in them. The photographer will be long forgotten but our images will continue to touch and intrigue.
Wedding photographers have an awesome responsibility. We have to capture the spirit of the day in a modern exciting way that suits the style of the couple and yet has the gravitas to stand the test of time. Our images have to be authentic and meaningful as well as creative, exciting and interesting.

We combine studio lighting techniques with on the spot photojournalism, portraiture and we apply the creativity of an advertising photographer, and there's absolutely zero chance of doing a re-shoot. It's high pressure, its exciting and it genuinely affects peoples lives.

I'm looking forward to the next one.

Cheers,
Paul

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Attention to detail


Spurn Point sea defences. Click on the image to see the larger version.

Sometimes you see a great shot on the net. You know instantly the moment you see the thumbnail. In anticipation you click on the thumbnail and as the larger version displays you get hit by a feeling of intense disappointment.

The picture is not sharp in the right places, there are dust bunnies or some areas have been badly cloned or manipulated. And you think, damn it! What a waste. This has got potential. If only the photographer loved their image as much as I like it. If only they had put a bit more care into the way they worked on it and paid attention to every detail.

We've all come across people doing their jobs who have that, "I can't be bothered, I don't really care, it's not worth the effort" attitude. I don't understand it. My motto is, "If it is worth doing then it is worth doing properly."

In my experience one of the biggest differentiators between an average and a brilliant photographer is attention to detail. If you get all the small things right then the big things take care of themselves.

If you as a photographer feel the slightest niggle about something in your image that is not working then you'd better do something about it because that's what people are going to see and lock on to. That tiny problem in your image is all that they will see.

Go for perfection every time. Make each image better than the one before it.

I sincerely hope that I've inspired you to take even more care of your images.

Cheerio,

Paul
www.indigo2photography.co.uk

Saturday, April 05, 2008

There are two types of photographers

Spurn Point lighthouse. Please click on the image to see the larger version.

There are two fundamentally different approaches to photography. Identifying which type of photographer you are could help you focus your approach and remove inner creative conflicts that you were not even aware of.

You have to ask yourself whether you prefer observing and capturing what you see happening in front of your lens or do you prefer to control your subject matter and direct the action to produce the result you envisage?

Once you decide which type of photography best suits your temperament, creative approach and mindset you can focus your energy on playing to your strengths. Don't struggle against your nature. Go with it.

The split between the two fundamental approaches is of course as old as photography itself. On one side we have the photojournalists, documentary photographers, street photographers and landscape photographers out to capture that special moment. And on the other side we have commercial, studio, advertising, editorial and artist photographers seeking to control every aspect of the final image.

Of course you have a complete spectrum of photographers who do both but I think everyone, if they honestly examine themselves, will ultimately have a preference for one side or the other.

You should acknowledge which side your heart is on and then turn that into your strength. However there is a proviso. By exploring the other side and using the knowledge you gain you can enhance your photography. For example a photojournalist can benefit from using a bit of off-camera flash to improve the image or an advertising photographer can get something new and fresh by allowing an element of spontaneity on a photo shoot.

The above covers capturing the image. Post production using software or in the darkroom is a different realm. There everyone tries to get their image to radiate quality and beauty.

So have you decided which type of photographer you are? Remove the clutter and frustration from your creative process. Do what you want to do, recognise where your creative strength lies, and make every image better than the last one.

I hope that if you feel in conflict with yourself when you read this article you will feel a weight lifting from your shoulders and you will be liberated to pursue your authentic creative vision with renewed passion.

Till soon,

Paul

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Approach to taking a portrait

Portrait of Amitabh Bachchan. Click on the image to see larger version.

Every portrait is different but there are also elements which are the same, whether you’re shooting the famous or the locally famous.

Fame is of course all relative. It depends on profession, accomplishments or media celebrity status. Whoever the ‘famous’ individual is there are millions of people in the world who will never have heard them.

For example I photographed the legendary Indian Bollywood actor Amitabh Bachchan, who amongst his many accolades was awarded the Legion d'Honneur, the highest civilian award of France. But I’m positive that many people in North America will not have heard of him – although he has more fans than Tom Cruise, Jack Nicholson and Robert De Niro put together.

I find that however well known a person is cracking through egos and insecurities is really important when it comes to getting authentic strong portraits. However I hasten to add that when it came to photographing Amitabh the experience could not have been better. He is a gracious, warm, friendly and actually very interested in photography being a photographer himself.

Some photographers like to arrange every single thing before the photo shoot and they know exactly what they want and how they are going to get it. I’m different. I like spontaneity. I like to set the stage for interesting things to happen. Sometimes though you do have to take a more rigid approach particularly if time is severely limited, like when you’re photographing a well know individual who has decided to spare you ten minutes for a portrait shoot.

Taking an open approach to a photo shoot however doesn’t mean you can ignore preparation. It’s absolutely essential. Here are a few things to think about:

Background. Find out about your subject. Whether you’re photographing a politician, an actor or a school teacher, it’s good to have common ground that you can talk about and the more you know about them the better. By the way if you’re photographing a football player, don’t chattily say you’re not interested in game. Tact is important!

Equipment. Only take what you need and make sure that it all works properly and you’ve got a backup plan if something goes wrong with a camera body, flash or lens.

Location. Some will say it is essential to scout locations. I think it depends on the circumstances but you should have an idea of what to expect. Make sure you know where you are going and that you get there in plenty of time. Nobody likes to be kept waiting.

To show or not to show. Shooting digital means that you can show the portrait session to your client/subject as you are taking the shots. Be careful not to kill the flow of the shoot though by stopping and starting too often. There will be natural breaks during changes of clothes and lighting. It can be good to show what you’ve been up to and sometimes this leads to great creative collaboration. Always keep control of the shoot though.

Making magic. In essence when your subject is in front of your lens they are acting themselves and you’ve got to help them give you something special. One well known portrait photographer used to speak very quietly and the subject would lean forward straining to hear, and at that moment the shot would be taken. The result was the subject looked alert and attentive. Another photographer makes his subjects stand for hours in a swimming pool before taking their portrait – thereby stripping away all facades and expressions. Whatever strategy you use it is up to you to direct your subject and create the right environment for something special to happen so that you have a unique portrait that is meaningful and has authenticity.

There is much more to write on this subject but for now I hope the above has provided you with food for thought and that you’ve found it useful.

Till soon,

Paul Indigo
www.indigo2photography.co.uk

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Creative insights

For many years I have admired Victor Habbick's creative genius. He combines tremendous skill in photography, the digital darkroom and graphic design to come up with extraordinary images.

Victor has finally given in to the constant requests for information about how he achieves his images and decided to share his wisdom in a book, CD and as a download which you can buy here.

He describes his book on his website:

"The first collection of work by Artist and Photographer Victor Habbick, including chapters covering the first 10 years as a conceptual stock artist for The Science Photo Library. Candid biography of his early years and articles providing a fascinating and insightful look into the creative processes involved in the creation of his art and photography. Featuring a cornucopia of ideas and styles, science, technology, space, the human condition, fantasy, wildlife and so much more. Includes articles dealing with presentation and typography and a large selection of before and after shots giving the viewer a chance at last to see the raw imagery that goes into many of his most popular pieces. Foreword by Dr. Gary Evans, Manager of Scientific Relations at The Science Photo Library, London."

I can highly recommend a visit to Victor's website. He's an inspiration to many photographers and I'm fortunate enough to count him as a friend too.

Till soon,

Paul

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Where's the passion?

A couple doze peacefully on an English beach during a bank holiday weekend.

The title of the blog, where's the passion, has got nothing to do with the image, although I admit the juxtaposition amused me.

The question is really addressed to other photographers but I suppose it could apply to anyone in their career. Photography is one of those jobs that requires passion and care.

As the years go by I have encountered many professional photographers who sadly have lost their passion. It's usually replaced by a cynical attitude, cutting corners, going through the motions and often hidden behind a massive ego. These photographers use a tired formula that hasn't changed in years, get paid and move on to the next routine job. Even more sadly they frequently don't realise that they've lost that wide-eyed passion and enthusiasm they had when they first started. Yes, life can wear you down but when it does you've got to do something about it.

Fortunately some photographers realise what's happening and they move on to other fresh photographic challenges. Sometimes you'll hear about a really successful photographer, maybe in advertising or fashion, who gives up their mainstream career to pursue their own projects. These are the photographers who realise that the time has come to move on and reclaim their passion.

Amateurs often have more passion than pro photographers. They aren't exposed to the chores, repetition and constraints that pros face. Some amateurs though are more passionate about equipment than photography but that's another story...

I'm fortunate, I've never lost my passion and the joy of getting it right down to the smallest detail. There's always room for improvement, always a new challenge and more to learn.

However if you're reading this blog and secretly you think to yourself, "Hmm I recognise what he's saying here." Then I implore you to take action now to make yourself happier and more satisfied in what you do. Re-ignite that passion. Change direction. Start doing research. Get out of your rut. Take a course. Start shooting with film again (if you work digital now) or vice versa. Don't use that old excuse about having to pay the bills. A fresh boost to your creativity and passion and you may be in much stronger position to earn more than you do now. What are you waiting for?

And to those photographers who are sitting there reading this and who have got passion... I say, watch out for the early warning signs, like when you think to yourself, "Is it worth the extra effort. Will the client even notice? If the client doesn't care why should I?" These are not the thoughts of someone who is passionate about what they do.

One last thing. Don't flog a dead horse. If you don't feel passionate about photography anymore, and you can't see yourself taking a different route in photography, then why not consider doing something else? Life is too short to be stuck doing something you don't feel passionate about.

And if you are full of enthusiasm, obsessed with getting every detail right, love what you're doing and photography is your passion and life then be happy. What you have is rare in this world where most people work to live, rather than live to work.

Right that's enough for tonight. I'm off to work on my latest batch of images. Can't wait!

Comments welcome as always.

Cheers
Paul
www.indigo2photography.co.uk

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Life on the street

Leeds is a vibrant city for of life and diversity. I love it.

A big thank you to everyone for their emails and messages. I'll be back soon, April I hope. In the meantime I'll keep uploading the odd bit here and there.

Cheers,
Paul

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Contemplating life

That's life. We all know the feeling. Spotted this chap doing a bit of contemplating in the street in Leeds, UK.

My life seems to revolve around unpacking boxes and sorting stuff out at the moment but I'm not complaining. Just wish I had more time for the blog and my own photography.

Till soon,

Paul

Saturday, February 16, 2008

New start and RAW software

Star and moon.

I'm sitting in my new studio/office having just gone through the trials and tribulations of moving. Everything is up and running but there's still a lot of work to be done.

I've got quite few ideas for new blogs so stick around. More soon. I've noticed that quite a few people are reading older articles including assessments I made about RAW software back in 2006.

Things move on at quite a pace in our digital world, so if you are doing research on the net it's always handy to check when an article was written and then try to find the latest information. Sounds obvious, I know. Of course some things don't date as quickly, like editorial viewpoints.

On the subject of RAW software; I use Lightroom and am extremely happy with the results. I also use CS3. I think the last time I wrote about RAW conversion software I was using DPP from Canon, which is fine for what it does. I've also tried the latest version of Capture One but don't see any real benefit (for my purposes) over Lightroom. As with most things it's up to the user to get the best result from whatever software they are using and often the choice comes down to workflow preference rather than the quality of the result.

I'll be back with more articles soon.

Cheers,

Paul

Monday, February 04, 2008

Big project

Locked ship's hatch.

I thought I'd best upload an image in case you were wondering what had happened to me. I'm working on a big project at the moment - which leaves me with barely a spare minute. The decks should be cleared in about two weeks and I've got some cracking ideas for articles in the near future.

See you soon,

Paul
www.indigo2photography.co.uk

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Technical knowledge is not that important

Everyone is telling you that you've got to learn the technical aspects of photography. Blogs, websites, books all hammer the message home and if you don't know your f-stops, the difference between a jpeg and raw file and how to use every tool in Photoshop, you're somehow inferior and can't possibly take a good picture.

I suppose in our technology obsessed world it's not surprising that the how you do something takes precedence over the why you do it.

Technique and the technical aspects of photography are vitally important. You have to have enough technical knowledge and craftsmanship to be able to create the image you envisage each and every time. As a photographer you have to have the skills and technical knowledge of a builder, or you house will fall down, but you also need the vision of an architect to create something beautiful and interesting.

Recently on two separate occasions I saw promising new professional photographers at work. They knew their technical stuff, had a good understanding of lighting and composition, were enthusiastic and motivated to deliver good images but as I watched them I realised something vital was missing. During the shoot both photographers appeared to lose focus on the most important thing of all, the reason they were taking the pictures.

These photographers were far to busy with the 'how' questions while taking their images instead of the 'why' questions. They broke the flow of their sessions by constantly chimping (looking at the screen of their digital cameras) instead of keeping their attention on their subjects. Every time they looked at their screens they went off into their own little universe and lost contact with their subjects. They worried about exposure, histograms, lighting ratios, camera settings etc. While they should have worried about whether their images would communicate with the audience.

A few professional photographers I know say how liberated they feel when they go out with a Lomo or Holga 'toy' camera. Just point and shoot. They enjoy taking the images. Neither camera has a sharp lens so you don't have to even worry about that aspect of technique. It becomes all about making an interesting image. The technical burden is lifted from their shoulders.

For me technical knowledge is far less important than communication. You have to know what you want to say and why you're taking a picture. The technique follows from this. In architecture the phrase is often used; 'form follows function'. In photography you could say, 'technique follows expression.'

Lets look at this from another perspective. If you think of the great masters of the craft of photography then Ansel Adams is bound to spring to mind. But why was Ansel so obsessed with the technical aspects of photography? He had to master the technical aspects so that he could to put the vision of the final image he had in his head on paper.

You will see the world in a completely different way to Ansel. You will have your own emotions and thoughts that you want to communicate. For your images to have real authenticity that touches the audience you only need to learn enough technique to be able to produce on paper or screen the vision you have in your head. Of course if you don't know enough then you will fail too.

So to summarise here are dos and don'ts that will help you become a better photographer:
  • Don't be seduced by the craft of photography
  • Don't learn photography theory that you don't need and won't use
  • Don't waste time trying to learn everything there is to know about Photoshop
  • Don't worry about technical stuff when you're taking pictures (it's too late)
  • Don't let technically obsessed people make you feel inferior because you don't have a clue what they're on about
  • Don't make the mistake of thinking that if you have enough technical knowledge you will somehow become a fantastic photographer. Why you take pictures is far more important.
  • Don't chimp constantly
  • Don't let craft and technique get in the way of you getting the shot
  • Don't fiddle with your camera and lights constantly when photographing people

  • Do think about why you are making the image and what you want to communicate
  • Do give your full attention to your subject
  • Do learn the technical knowledge that you need so you can realise your creative vision
  • Do become so familiar with your camera, lighting setup and other aspects that they become routine and automatic
  • Do focus your efforts on your creative vision rather than on learning the technical aspects of photography
Technique and technical knowledge are there to serve you, to help you express yourself. To use a metaphor. If you are making a speech you can have perfect diction and a pleasant voice but if what you are saying is boring, or doesn't make sense, your audience will soon lose interest. If you do not know why you are taking the picture and you don't feel it in your heart, then don't bother pushing the shutter button.

Comments welcome.

Cheers,
Paul
www.indigo2photography.co.uk

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

On-the-move now live


The image of a 'fashionista' belongs to my on-the-move series but is not included in the web gallery. Let's call it a bonus image for my blog readers :-)) Click on the image to see it larger.

In my post on 9 January I mentioned that I would soon publish my on-the-move series. You can see it here on our recently revamped website .

Comments welcome. You can also send me an email if you prefer.

Cheers,

Paul
www.indigo2photography.co.uk

Thursday, January 17, 2008

New indigo 2 photography website

We've just launched our new website http://www.indigo2photography.co.uk/ , and we would value your opinion. The old site was getting a bit bulky having grown organically over the years.

I hope you like the new streamlined version with bigger images and simple straightforward navigation.

Cheers,
Paul

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

On-the-move series

For several years I've been working of and on creating a series of images involving the impression of movement.

It seems that everything moves faster and faster these days. Except perhaps air travel. They took Concorde out of service. Anyway, people, careers, the supermarket (they keep moving stuff around on the shelves) and especially technology, keeps changing at an astounding pace.

I wanted to capture a sense of the dynamism of our lives in my images. When the series is 'complete' I'll post an online exhibition. In the meantime, here's another image as a sneak preview. Comments welcome.

Cheers,
Paul
www.indigo2photography.co.uk

Friday, January 04, 2008

Setting your goals

The white cliffs of Dover in gently evening light.

How good a photographer do you really want to be? Where should you set your sights?

The first rule of setting a goal is that it has to be realistic and achievable within a given timescale. It should also be measurable but that's fairly tough in such a subjective field. How do you measure how good you are as a photographer- sales, awards, praise, response to exhibitions, the opinions of critics or your peers? All of these methods are influenced by factors other than the pure quality and aesthetics of your images. You'll have to to decide on which measure works for you.

One traditional way of trying to establish where you are in the vast range from novice to acknowledged master is to actually look at the work of successful photographers in their respective fields. How do your images measure up?

If you're interested in portrait photography, find out who's hot and have a long think about what makes their work better than yours. Then try to do something about the areas where you think your weaknesses lie eg lighting, composition, relationship with the sitter etc. The same applies to landscape, wildlife or any other photographic genre. Each genre will have its own set of challenges.

Looking at who's really hot works in every field except perhaps art photography. When I look at some of the photographs that are called art and hung in galleries, I cringe. Not for all of it of course! But some of the stuff you see is such utter rubbish, totally uninteresting and not even original. So I guess if you want to be an art photographer anything goes so long as some sucker is prepared to pay for it.

The toughest arena to succeed in is professional photography. However I think it is fair to comment that as with any profession there is a huge difference in the quality of the work produced by the professionals; for example the snapper in the supermarket taking portraits of toddlers and a top editorial photographer taking portraits for a prestigious glossy magazine are worlds apart. I am not knocking the abilities of the store photographer.

As a professional photographer you play the cards that are dealt to you and you try to do the best job possible under any given set of circumstance. Today you may be photographing toddlers in the supermarket, or churning out portraits for some commercial chain but who knows what the future will bring if you set your goals and aim high.

If you're an amateur then comparing your photography to that of other amateur photographers on sites like Flickr is probably not a good way to set the standard for yourself. Social photography sites are great fun but overall the quality of the photography reflects the general standard of amateur photography which is not very high. There are of course many exceptionally talented amateurs.

I'll probably be standing on toes here so let me explain my measuring scale. If you have a graph with ratings from 1-10, with 1 being clueless and 10 the best in the world; then I would say the peak of the curve for amateurs is between 3-4. The average professional is a 7. The best in the world at what they do are 10s. For me James Nachtwey is a 10. The measure can only applied to a whole body of work by the photographer, not an individual image. Anyone can take one or two brilliant images.

You may say, "I'm perfectly happy doing what I do and just enjoying it. I have no ambition to be a master photographer." That's fine. You've set your standards and know what you want to achieve.

If you really want to improve your photography and set high standards for your work then you should spend time looking at the work of the best professional photographers. I reached into my bookmarks and grabbed a few links to some of the photographers who've caught my eye. No particular ranking or order is intended. Hopefully you will be inspired.

Andrew Eccles Photography
Greg Gorman Photography
Jeanette Hägglund (Swedish photographer friend who is making a name for herself)
Joe Buissink (weddings)
Steve Bloom (wild life)
Obie Oberholzer (my first photography teacher who is represented by Bilderberg I will forever be grateful to him for his mentoring and pointing me in the right direction)
Eryk Fitkau
Sheila King Photographers (lots of good photographers represented by this agency)
Noelle represents (another good agency)
Rankin
karin taylor (still lives)
BOB MARTIN Sports Photography
Jerry Avenaim
Pep Bonet Photographer
Mark Tucker
Tom Stoddart
James Nachtwey
Nicolas Guerin
Grant Pritchard (a friend and excellent all round photographer)
Magda Indigo (my wife and inspiration)

There are so many more but that lot should keep you busy for a while.

Till soon,
Paul
www.indigo2photography.co.uk