Saturday, December 31, 2011

Celebrating real photography

Therese in front of her souvenier shop in Bruges. She has been there for almost 50 years. Nothing much changed in her shop in all that time. This year she is retiring.
I've been thinking about writing this blog for quite some time now. It's not easy. I could take a critical line like I did in my blog post about the photographs I hate looking at (and why) but instead I decided on a more positive approach, so this post is in praise of all those photographers who respect and celebrate the relationship photography has with reality, truth and photographic 'seeing'.

Arguably the real value and power of photography is in showing the world as we actually see it. Photojournalism has a strict code of ethics forbidding altering an image substantially. This has to be adhered to because if it were not then a photojournalist's images would be worthless. Likewise individuals taking family snapshots, or local photographers recording daily life as we see it make images that become valuable records of our world today.

These are the photographers and images that I want to praise and that I think are really important and interesting. The passing of time will add to their value.

Now consider the real value of so many of the popular images we see all over the internet. I really do not understand why these 'fad' pictures attract so much attention. What do I mean?

  • Portraits of people with airbrushed skin (plastic looking) with bright white teeth and glowing eyeballs
  • Bad cartoonish HDR 
  • Over saturated  landscapes that look like they were taken on another planet 
  • Pseudo 'artistic' often blurred pictures with scratch effects and filters that do everything they can to NOT look like a photograph

I could go on but I'm sure you get my drift. If anyone could explain the value of these images to me I would be very interested. Ah, perhaps they are art. But isn't real art supposed to be powerful, interesting and a reflection of the human condition. Surely applying a filter in Photoshop does not equate to making art, especially when a 100,000 other budding photographic artists have also downloaded and applied the same filter and pushed a few sliders about.

In the above I do NOT include the great digital artists out there that incorporate photographic imagery in their work and blend perfect visualisation of a powerful image with immaculate technique. But these are few and far between. Ironically one thing these digital artists often have in common is that the strength of their work lies in making a visual construct that looks incredible, precisely because it appears so real. They pay attention to every detail, the way light falls, shadows... all to fool you brain into thinking the impossible construct really did exist.

Again it comes down to the true strength of photography being its relationship to reality, the truth and what we actually see in the world around us. So I ask again; why on earth are all these awful, unrealistic messed up images so popular?

To all the photographers out there who enjoy capturing the real world, I urge you to keep up the important work of showing things, places and people as we see really see them in the great tradition of photography.


Saturday, December 10, 2011

My social media strategy

I find myself spread very thinly across all the different social media sites. There are simply not enough hours in the day to keep up. So for now I've decided on the following strategy:

Google + is my new social media hub (home) where I publish photo stories, images and news.

My photographic portfolio, about me and the centre of my online universe is

My blog, which you're reading now is where I write my more indepth views on life and photography.

Twitter is good place to catch up with what I am posting and sharing at that moment

My Facebook page is the place where I'll post links that interest me and I want to share.

I am aware this strategy is tricky because the golden rule of social media is to go where your audience is, so I may have to review this.

What is your social media strategy?

See you,

Twitter: paul_indigo
Facebook: Paul Indigo
Facebook Page:
Google+: Paul Indigo
Flickr: paulindigo

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Saturation slider test

The saturation slider test (click to open large version)
I've devised a fun self help test for photographers. Where do you put your saturation slider.

By the way defines kitsch as "something of tawdry design, appearance, or content created to appeal to popular or undiscriminating taste."

This post is intended to be a playful jibe, humorous and I know that I've definitely pushed my saturation slider too far to the right (and left) in the past LOL.

Till soon,


Twitter: paul_indigo
Facebook: Paul Indigo
Google+: Paul Indigo
Flickr: paulindigo

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Suzanne 1919-2011

Suzanne 1919-2011, originally uploaded by paul indigo.

Known to family and friends as Marraine, Suzanne was always happy to pose for a portrait. Over the years I made a number of images, both posed and candid of her. She always had a kind word, a smile and a laugh to share.

In 2010 I gave her a print of this portrait and when she saw it she thanked me with a tear in her eye. It moved her. A wonderful moment and one I will never forget.

Sadly she passed away on 8 November 2011 at the age of 92. She will be missed.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Content is king

Artist Willem Vermandere delicately uses a small file to express himself through his marble sculpture
In my previous two posts I covered the topic 'the real value of social media to photographers'. These articles explored why and how you should use social media to engage with a specific audience.

The thing that I did not cover in great detail was content, which, as the title of this blog implies, is the most important element to attract people to your work. Once people have found your website or blog you have to give them a reason to return. The simple logic is they have to find something of value in what you write about.

There are many blogs that attract readers by simply being curators of content. In other words they find great content and then link to it and by doing this become a good resource, a one-stop-shop for people wanting to find valuable content.

I prefer to create original content. This does not mean that I never link to anyone else. It just means that I choose to publish my own thoughts and ideas. After so many years of writing Beyond the Obvious I've covered hundreds of topics and it's a challenge to keep coming up with original stuff. I really don't want to repeat myself.

It delights me to see how many of my old articles continue to be read. That means that people find real value in them. Of course other stuff I've written has been left dusty on a forgotten shelf in the great storage cupboard of the Internet. The barometer of how successful an article is over time is directly related to whether I've written about a subject that is regularly searched for on the Internet. It's a difficult thing to predict, however here are some subjects that people always want to find out more about:

  • Technology and gadgets
  • Camera reviews
  • Software articles
  • Techniques and tricks of the trade
  • How to articles
  • Personal experiences of professional photographers

If you write well about the above you'll probably grow an audience.

Although I do cover many of the above topics my focus on aesthetics, philosophy of photography and the attitude required to succeed as a photographer is certainly not mainstream. But then again I just write what I feel rather than what I think will make my blog popular.

Thanks again to all my regular and loyal readers. It's because of you I keep on writing.

I recently launched a new portfolio site of my photographic work ( Please take a look and let me know what you think.


Sunday, October 02, 2011

Real value of social media to photographers #2

Build a social community that lasts

In my previous post I asked what the real value of social media is to photographers, highlighting the challenges we face to make money from our work. If you've not read the blog post yet then I recommend nipping over and catching up before reading on. The focus of this article is getting a business benefit out of social media. If you just use social media because you like sharing your work for fun then that's a whole different ball game.

Nowadays it's not a question of whether you should use social media. The question is HOW should you use it to help promote your photography. I'll keep this brief. All of the points below are based on experience and backed up by personal research.

Steps to getting real value from social media:
Set clear goals - what do you want to achieve. The clearer your focus is the higher the rewards for your effort. For example if you're trying to sell work to advertising agencies but then spend all your time building a network of other photographers (your competitors), well it that is obviously not going to deliver a return.

Identify your target audience - eg couples wanting to get married, publishers, corporations, agencies etc

Concentrate on the most appropriate social media channel - Facebook works well for big brands focused on consumers, Twitter allows you to engage quickly with a wide range of individuals, LinkedIn is great for reaching business decision makers, Google + is for techies, early adopters and has strong photographic community...the key is to go where your target audience congregates. You'll need to research this.

Get people to come to your own website where you control the content, the way it is seen and you own all the intellectual property rights. Beware of giving all your precious content away on social media like Facebook. Don't drive traffic to Facebook and other social media channels unless you can funnel it into your sales process.

Engage with the right people - ultimately it doesn't matter how many followers, votes and Likes you have; it's about reaching the right people, the people willing to PAY for your work. What's worth more, a thousand votes or one person willing to spend a £1,000 on your photography?

It all takes effort, focus and time. Ultimately people will want to find out more about you if they think your work is good and crucially if they think they will like working with you. Social media is well suited to opening doors on both fronts but it is not the silver bullet to solve all marketing requirements. It's another channel, exciting and full of opportunity, yes, but it needs to be balanced with other channels.

That's probably enough to chew on for now... I'll write more on the subject if you say you're interested.

Here are some of the place you can find me on the net:
Till soon,
I'm a Getty Images Artist

    Sunday, September 25, 2011

    Real value of social media to photographers #1

    Street musician, France
    Photographers can get their work seen by thousands of people across the world and receive instant feedback on their images. A socially popular photographer can reach a larger audience on the internet than a major printed magazine. But what is the real value in that to the individual artist?

    I watched a French street musician performing (see pic), putting his heart and soul into every song. He was doing classic Edith Piaf. He stood in the street between two restaurants, moving from one terrace to the other, focusing his attention on individual tables for 15-30 seconds at a time during the song, working the largest audience possible.

    Some people looked up appreciatively, nodding, while others did their best to ignore him, perhaps afraid that if they did look at him they would be morally obliged to give him money for his efforts.

    It struck me that this man had to earn his living by performing so well that people were prepared to pay for his art there and then. The age old custom of people handing over their spare change to street performers provided a set of expectations between performer and audience - a social contract without obligation.

    On the internet we do not have this tradition. It's very much a culture of giving everything away for free. Millions of beautiful images are uploaded for people to enjoy every minute of the day. Artists perform for the masses with no expectation of financial reward. For someone who wants to make a living from their photography that's tough competition.

    Social media facilitates the culture of giving everything away for free. It's phenomenally easy to share images,  a single upload can go viral and proliferate around the world. In no time your image can appear on hundreds of websites, shared on Facebook and blogs.

    While it may be flattering to the ego to have hundreds of Likes. +s, views and votes what is all that really worth to the creator of the image. It's not going to help you buy a new camera, lighting equipment, pay for your travels or put a meal on the table. If you were the street musician you'd be playing your heart out with not the slightest hope of anyone chucking a coin in your hat.

    Photographers are happy to share their creativity for free. In years gone by if you wanted to see a photographer's work you had to buy a magazine or book and the publisher paid the photographer - a neat business model. That model still exists but is rather tenuous, with demand and rewards rapidly diminishing because of the ubiquitous availability of free content. Value and rarity are directly proportional and beautifully crafted images are certainly not a rarity any more.

    So how do you get a return on your investment of time and effort sharing your work through social media and on the internet. I plan to explore this in my next blog.

    In the meantime feel free to comment and share your ideas.

    Till soon,

    Sunday, September 04, 2011

    Three ways to make more interesting photographs

    It's not the camera, it's the photographer. I completely agree. However these days cameras are so good at ensuring images are sharp and well exposed that most of the 'technical' edge that serious photographers used to differentiate themselves from the masses is gone. Anyone can get a sharp, well exposed, professional quality image, with no more effort than pointing and pushing the button. Add to that a little knowledge and effort in Photoshop and just about anyone can produce interesting 'creative' work.

    No wonder so many cameras are sold and photography has become such a world-wide phenomenon. I think it is  fabulous that so many people are enjoying making and sharing images.

    With the difference between photo enthusiasts and professional photographers constantly narrowing, I asked myself what separates professional photographers from the masses, if anything. Here are three things that spring to mind...

    The men's locker room at  the AELTC  where players like Djokovic and Nadal change for the Wimbledon Championships. See my photo story 
    One of the key differences between professional photographers (this applies especially to photojournalists) is that they gain access to places, subjects and people that most other people do not. Gaining access is probably the hardest part of being a photographer and it usually takes considerable effort.

    Pro photographers make sure they're in the right place at the right time and they will go to extraordinary lengths to achieve this.  It's simple. If you're not there, you're not going to get the shot. There's an old photojournalist saying, "F8 and be there."

    Once you've gained access to your subject, you'll most likely find you're not alone. Other determined photo-journalists have been there and done that before you or they're right there next to you.

    You're under pressure to come up with something new. The first thing you need to do is to get your camera somewhere different. Pick a unique viewpoint. Find a different angle of view on your subject. Lie on the floor, stand on a ladder, climb a tower, go to the other side of your subject...get something unusual.

    When you're a photojournalist you don't always have the ability to control the light as you have to react to fast changing situations. However on editorial assignment, a skilled approach to lighting your subject will help you set your images apart from the work produced by other photographers.

    Light is at the heart of making beautiful images.

    The three steps to making extraordinary images are: get access to somewhere or someone unusual; pick a unique viewpoint and then use light to make your subject stand out.

    Till soon,

    Thursday, July 21, 2011

    Book published, Google + and stuff

    Portrait of Christian D, senior Belgian civil servant.
    Just finished a privately commissioned book of portraits of one of the most senior civil servants in the Belgian government. It's always a great feeling when you complete a project.

    So if you wondered what happened to me recently, I've been working on the above and a number of other projects. And then of course there's the big distraction of Google + which just sucks up time. It's certainly very lively in the photographic circles, if you'll pardon the pun. Twitter, FB and all the rest are being left to one side as photographers get stuck in sharing their work and discoveries. If you're on Google + you can find me here. Contact me if you'd like an invite.

    I don't know how anyone has the time to create anything any more with all the social networking that's going on. What do you think?

    Till soon,

    Monday, July 04, 2011

    Framer, Ostend, Belgium

    Framer, Ostend, Belgium, originally uploaded by paul indigo.

    I saw his wonderful full white beard through the shop window and stopped in the street. The light and the warm coloured walls also caught my attention. I said to Magda, "I really want to make a portrait of him." We headed into the shop and after a chat he agreed. A lovely man.

    These days we see many portraits that are tightly cropped in but I wanted to let this one breathe with plenty of space. I don't follow trends.

    Every element here is carefully considered. Look at how lines intersect, where they touch and where the subject breaks through them. The whole composition is used to incorporate all of the visual elements and compliment the subject.

    Sunday, July 03, 2011

    Selection of most popular articles

    Colourful beach huts
    Here's a selection of some the articles on my blog that are the most read and a few of the new ones that I think are worth bringing to your attention again.

    My blog has been going since 2005 (unbelievable) and I've written 361 posts. I only write when I think I've got something worthwhile to say. Hopefully the quality speaks for itself.  It's thanks to your encouragement that I keep going. So please feel free to leave a comment and your emails are always welcome too.

    Read on...

    Get social

    Take a look at my website

    Till soon,

    Sunday, June 19, 2011

    The Belgian Street Party

    I've finally got round to making a slide show of a photo story I shot in August 2010 in Belgium.

    Every year a group of Belgian people from a closely knit neighbourhood, and their friends, get together to have a street party.

    The street is closed off and a marquee erected.

    The neighbourhood raise funds and celebrate together eating Belgium's favourite meal, mussels with fries, and of course the best beer in the world. As you will see above everyone lets their hair down.

    I was invited to the feast and had the opportunity to document it. The event's ceremony master welcomed my wife and I to the event, "all the way from England".

    If you'd like to see the still images they're on my website in the photo story section. There are a few of my other photo stories there too.

    Till soon,

    Sunday, June 12, 2011

    The Mad Brewers

    The happy brewer
    As promised in my previous post, Appreciating Photographs, I am going to try to offer an insight into why I think an image 'works'.

    The photograph above is from my latest photo story on the Mad Brewers of Belgium (De Dolle Brouwers). You can read the actual story on my website and see a large slide show with the rest of the images.

    The brewer, Kris Herteleer, looks happily on at the latest batch of beer cooling in the large copper basin. Steam rises from the hot beer creating atmosphere. The brewery machinery is visible in the background. For me the way he is holding the edge of the basin, leaning forward and especially that happy smile says it all. The image stands on its own but when seen in the context of the full photo-story it gets an added dimension. It is also a very important image to the story as it show's Kris' sense of accomplishment. 

    De Dolle Brouwers have to work hard to make a success of their small traditional brewery in a very competitive market. Luckily people still appreciate the quality that can only be achieved by experts like Kris dedicated to the art of traditional brewing.

    To see a larger version please go here (and for the full story).

    Till soon,

    Sunday, May 29, 2011

    Appreciating photographs

    When you see a picture you generally either like it or it does nothing for you. Images evoke an instant emotional reaction in the viewer before we start analysing the content.

    When I look at many of the images uploaded on social image sharing websites and see that they have pages of comments and heaps of praise I often wonder what it is in the image people are responding too. Many of the shots are technically poor, the content is of little interest (to me) – so I wonder…

    Then there are other images that, if you really look and ‘read’ the image, have many wonderful elements, but they appear to be passed up by the mass audience.

    Highly manipulated arty photos, pictures of pretty girls and the usual visual clichés seem to do much better than photojournalistic images that show the human condition.

    It’s interesting that audiences are attracted to arty pictures with added textures, HDR and hyped colours. On the other hand, when it comes to wanting to see a news image, the same audience demands the truth, not an artistic visual manipulation. This also generally applies to most adverts – we want to be shown the real colours of that dress, food or whatever is being advertised.

    I suppose it just means that images are consumed in a different way when they’re shared with other photography enthusiasts to when we want them to provide useful information.

    If you think about it, commercially most successful images are straight photographs, but web photo-audiences, on websites like Flickr, seem to show far more appreciation for manipulated images.

    Photography is a process of making choices – from location to lighting, to enhancements in Photoshop, to selecting which images to show. In the coming weeks I hope to provide insights into why I find a selection of images interesting.

    Till soon,

    Monday, May 09, 2011

    Importance of relationships in photography

    Natural woman - the real Kim.
    Most photography courses concentrate on technique and equipment. Few emphasise the most important ingredient for making a good portrait; the relationship you build with the people you photograph. Once that connection is made and you've collaborated artistically it can create a link for life.

    By chance we recently bumped into Kim. Many years ago we worked with her as a model and we did a number of shoots together including a high fashion look advert - glossy lipstick, hats, gloves - the works. 

    Photographers are always moving on, meeting new people, flitting from one job to another like busy bees buzzing from flower to flower, as my wife, professional photographer, Magda Indigo often says.

    After so many years it was great to see Kim  again and for old times sake I shot a few quick portraits in the street. Wonderful to re-establish contact.


    Sunday, March 13, 2011

    Street photography body language

    Man with cap

    This gentleman stopped to pose for me with his colourful cap at a jaunty angle.

    There are two approaches to street photography. You can stop people and ask them or you can document life as it happens in front of you - sometimes shooting from the hip. I do both.

    When you ask people it's important to quickly building rapport with your subject. Most of that is done through body language, expression and gestures - not words. It's a subtle art and absolutely essential to getting the most out of the few shared moments on the street.

    When people stop to pose they are giving you a tremendous gift - their time, their humanity and the opportunity to make art.

    Check out my Street Fashions blog.

    Till soon,

    Friday, March 11, 2011

    New blog launched

    Music, smoke, bag and boots
    I have launched a new blog called Street Fashions. I hope you will pop over, take a look and follow me there using the Google widget, which is a great little tool. You can find out more about what I aim to do in the first article, Getting Started

    Street Fashions is my street photography blog celebrating people who express their individuality through their own sense of fashion. Hope you enjoy the photography. Please feel free to comment.

    Till soon,

    Saturday, March 05, 2011

    Making remarkable photographs

    Vincent shows a scale model of Leonardo Da Vinci's flying machine which he is working on. The model is as Da Vinci described with intricate joints, pulleys and wires designed to help the 'pilot' move the wings and tail to mimic  a bird's movements in flight. Click on the image for a larger view.

    Every photographer that has made remarkable work has used exactly the same three basic tools: light, a camera and their brain.

    Remarkable photography has been produced by people using everything from shoebox pinhole cameras to toy cameras, to technical view cameras, through to the latest sophisticated digital cameras. Not having the latest lens or camera is no barrier to producing remarkable work.

    Remarkable photography has been produced by photographers with very little time to spend on their photography, on weekends, evenings, during holidays or while engaged in other work. Being busy with lots of things is no barrier.

    Remarkable photography has been produced by amateurs, enthusiasts and professionals. Labels don't mean anything.

    Remarkable photography has been produced by photographers with very little money in all sorts of circumstances, in slums, living under oppressive regimes, anywhere and everywhere. Where you are and how much you earn is no barrier.

    Given that light is everywhere and you can use any form of camera to produce remarkable work then the only barrier between you and making better images is what happens in your brain, your creativity and your drive to make meaningful images.

    So there are no real barriers, no obstacles, no excuses. Scary right?

    Till soon,

    Check out my latest photo story...

    Sunday, February 27, 2011

    What makes a real photographer?

    Colourful beach houses in Whitby. Click on the image to view large.

    Before getting into what makes a real photographer - yes it's been a while since my last blog, and I'd like to thank you for the emails and comments chasing me up for fresh content. Nice to know my articles are appreciated.

    Speaking of appreciation, I received a lovely email from the Acadamy of Art University in San Franscisco saying nice things including, "Your site is a great resource and source of inspiration for many of our students here at the Academy of Art University."

    One of their students, Elena Zhukova, has attracted media attention. She was featured in CMYK Magazine in January. Check her out.

    So what makes a 'real photographer'

    Trying to define the difference between a photographer, as in someone who takes pictures and, for lack of a better term, a 'real photographer' is tricky. We recognise real photographers when we get to know a bit more about them and have been exposed to a significant body of their work. For me the recognition seems intuitive. It's as if there is a huge jump across a chasm separating photographers from 'real photographers'.

    Intrigued to find out what criteria my subconscious is using to make the distinction I set about trying to define what makes a 'real photographer'. Fundamentally the output of a 'real photographer' is consistently interesting, stimulating, fresh, different, individual and aesthetically pleasing. A 'real photographer' has a recognisable 'voice', although the way an individual expresses that 'voice' may be through different aesthetic styles.

    Being a real photographer is not about:
    • a job title ie Professional Photographer
    • having a qualification
    • selling your photography
    • taking pictures every day
    • carrying the latest camera around
    Real photographers can be enthusiasts, amateurs or professionals.

    A real photographer:
    • produces work that is interesting and significantly different which gets him or her noticed
    • sticks to their own authentic vision and makes work that rings true with the audience
    • is more interested in communicating than in the process of taking photographs (has something to say)
    • has an eye for a great image
    • is creative in everything they do - their approach, the way they create opportunities for pictures as well as the aesthetics of making the image
    • has emotion in their work which the audience responds to
    • applies technical knowledge
    • is driven to make images - it's not a choice, "I feel if I don't photograph I will die"
    • pays attention to the smallest detail
    • is willing to put a huge amount of effort into getting the best possible image
    • succeeds in consistently creating interesting images (that does not mean they never make a bad picture - just that their success rate is high)
    I'm sure this is not an exhaustive list and I'd be very interested to know if you can add any other criteria that would help define a 'real photographer'. If we can find a definition it will help fellow photographers to know what they should be aiming for, or at least what it takes to be a 'real photographer'.

    Till soon,

    Update: The debate continues. See Juha Haataja's article on his blog Light Scrape and my response. If anyone has any further comments please post them here so we can continue the debate.

    Sunday, January 30, 2011

    New ways to fund photojournalism and documentary photography

    Portrait of best selling author Harlan Coben. I am working on a project photographing the creative people I admire. The question is: how to fund it?

    New ways to fund photojournalists, documentary photographers and writers are emerging.

    The Internet has changed the way we can communicate. It's given us a direct link – a platform and a way of interacting with audiences. It also means we can look at new ways to make money from our creative endevours.

    The mainstream market and fees continues to shrink. The days of self-funding a documentary or photojournalism project, and knowing that if it was good you stood a reasonable chance of selling your work, are gone.

    The way people consume information has also changed. People don't passively just read and view stories. They want to comment, to get involved with the story and to find out more if they are interested. There's a huge appetite for information and the growth of new channels (mobile and pad), make it ever easier to consume stories, view images and interact wherever you are.

    So how do you go about raising funds directly from your audience. In short, you find a way to reach as many people as possible and then you offer your patrons something exclusive in exchange for their support. This basic crowd funding model can be adapted and enhanced.

    One brand new example just launching for photojournalists is On their website they explain how it will work:
    'Crowd funding has already proven successful in other areas, and we believe photojournalism has a large and enthusiastic following that would be willing to contribute financially when given the right incentive. offers this incentive in the form of exclusive access to top photojournalists carefully selected by a board of reviewers composed of industry professionals.'
    Other examples of successful crowd sourcing used by photographers can be found on Kickstarter. On their website they say:
    'Kickstarter is the largest funding platform for creative projects in the world. Every month, tens of thousands of amazing people pledge millions of dollars to projects from the worlds of music, film, art, technology, design, food, publishing and other creative fields.' 
    Other photographers continue to self fund their projects while sending out feelers to the wider creative community for support and to increase awareness. That's how I discovered Brandon Stanton. He sent me an email and asked me to watch his youtube video about his project Humans of New York.

    There is no doubt that certain projects will eventually generate interest but to make it commercially viable, cover costs and earn a living you need to get people involved and explore new ways to fund your work.

    You never know how connections are going to be made and who knows who. For example I photographed Harlan Coben and some time later in Spain I gave our web address to a lady we had met. The next day she said, "I really like your picture of Harlan. He's a friend. We've known each other for many years. We met in our youth and we've always stayed in touch."

    If you have an interesting project you would like to share with me please don't hesitate to get in touch.

    Till soon,

    Monday, January 03, 2011

    Behind the scenes shooting a photo story

    Colourful fishing nets in Fuengirola harbour.

    What goes on in the mind of a photographer shooting a photo story? I thought some readers may be interested in a 'behind the scenes' insight into my latest story, "Catch of the day".

    You can see my full photo story here and a shorter version here on the International Guild of Visual Peacemakers website.

    Travelling with fellow professional photographer, Magda Indigo, to Andalusia in Spain, we had a number of ideas and shooting opportunities lined up. Photographing the fishermen in Fuengirola was not fixed but as we're always drawn to harbours and fishing we knew we would head down there.

    The fishing quay is not open to the public but we managed to gain access. The fishermen were mostly friendly and open. A few were suspicious of us and one was fairly threatening. People are people and you just have to adapt and deal with each situation.

    Communication consisted mainly of hand signals, facial expressions and I had learnt one or two phrases to ask someone to pose for a portrait. Magda speaks a bit of Spanish so she faired much better than I did. Some of the fishermen, from North Africa, spoke French and she could converse fluently with them. She managed to get on the right side of everyone with her inimitable charm. By the last day of the shoot she was receiving marriage proposals! The fact that we are married was waved away with humour as minor obstacle.

    When we work we go off in our own directions, although we do keep an eye out for each other.

    Yours truly on the hunt for images. Photo by Magda Indigo.

    The photography

    The first day we scouted the scene quietly and discreetly, not taking many images, and we made contact with some of the local fishermen.

    Equipment decisions for the second day of the shoot were fairly straight forward. I didn't want to come in with all guns blazing so I stuck to a single DSLR with a 50mm lens. On subsequent trips I went in with my full kit (see pic above). By then we'd got to know a few fishermen and they recognised us, so we were more easily accepted.

    By the time we left Fuengirola fishermen were hailing us in the street with a friendly wave, "Ahhh los fotógrafos!"

    Spending time on the quay opened up the possibilities with scenes unfolding throughout the afternoon. The light was another consideration but when you're shooting stuff that happens, as it happens, you cannot wait for light, just hope it is good and look for compositions that maximise the beauty of the available light.

    To construct the photo story and have it make sense I had to show wider scenes, details, the various activities (mooring, sorting the catch, replenishing supplies, fixing nets, cleaning, repairs and sorting out equipment to ready the boat for the next day etc). I also wanted to show the character of the fishermen and the general atmosphere.

    The quayside cats provided a nice little thread in the story, symbolising the generosity and kindness of the fishermen, through showing their interaction with the animals (feeding and petting).

    When we returned home I had a lot of material to sort through. Editing the images down to the essentials is a key process in creating the photo story. You need to look for the right balance and make sure that the images work together. Some visually strong images didn't make the final selection for this reason.

    I think about the colour palette and style of the images to ensure consistency as well as balanced content. I dislike heavy photoshop manipulation. It has no place in the way I see the world and is at odds with a photo journalistic approach.

    After the edit I was satisfied that I'd got my "Catch of the day". Yes, I know, awful pun.

    The words

    In the case of this photo story I had not done any research before. The story kind of happened. So when I got back I wanted to find out more about the Spanish fishing industry. Spent many hours researching and checking my information, so that I could, in words, provide the social and political context in which these fishermen work.

    Decisions in the EU affect their daily lives. Politicians are often so distant from the real people.

    At the end of the day, these fishermen are, like you and me, just trying to make a living. I wanted to show our common humanity.

    One last thing I feel I should add. When we were photographing we promised some of the fisherman a print. Before we left Fuengirola we found a small photo lab and had prints made which we gave to the fisherman. I feel it is extremely important to honour any promises you make to people.

    As always your comments are most welcome.

    Till soon,