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Showing posts from 2007

Tag yourself

What tags would apply to you as a photographer? It's a fascinating question. In a sense the tags are your photographic DNA, or in marketing speak your brand. People who know how diverse my work is may wonder what tags would apply to me as a photographer. I wonder too. Different editors and art directors will no doubt have their individual set of tags depending on what they use my work for and how they perceive it. I don't think that I can be easily pigeon holed. But maybe I'm missing something. There's a very interesting article on one of my favourite blogs which you should read if you're interested in how photographers are perceived by photo editors. I've had a go at picking my own tags: color black & white digital available light location portrait photojournalist fine art captured moment quirky real people I'm curious to know how you would tag my photographic work. Please leave a comment or send me an email . Many thanks, Paul

The expressive moment in street photography

She suddenly realised. Carefree. Out on the streets with my camera I find that I am often hunting for something which I call "the expressive moment". The expressive moment is not the same as HCB's decisive moment. I also do not use it in the context of the writings about the expressionists. To me it is simply the moment captured through the lens when there is a clear expression of mood, emotion and feeling which can be easily read by the viewer looking at the image. In contrast the decisive moment can be an image which captures something which is simply visually in perfect balance and harmony but does not have a powerful inherent emotion. I see a lot of street photography which to me looks haphazard and I can't help wondering why the shot was taken as there's nothing special about it. The two images above capture the expressive moment for me. The emotion, feeling and mood are clear. To use another phrase: the images speak to the viewer. And that is

A career as a professional photographer

Boys playing on a sea-saw in South Africa. This shot has been in my portfolio for a long time. It has won numerous awards and been in exhibitions all over the world. So now as I glance back over my shoulder at where I've come from it seems an opportune time to show it here. Best Viewed On Black EPUK has published a great article which ties in with my previous blog . The article asks ten top photographers, "What do you wish you'd known when you started out ?" I wish I'd known that things are not always fair and that taking good images is not enough. I also wish I had known how kind and wonderful people are all over the world. It seems the less people have the more generous they are, and often happier. I also wish I had known that I didn't need to buy most of the cameras and lenses that are sitting in my studio. I would have saved a fortune. I highly recommend reading this article . Cheers, Paul

Is professional photography still a viable career?

I am not against amateurs and semi-professionals selling their photography. It's a great way to earn some extra cash. However I am concerned about the level of high quality published work and the standards that clients and the public accept these days. It seems that just about everyone is a photographer. The line between amateur enthusiast and professional is fuzzy to say the least. Photography enthusiasts are selling their images through stock libraries and microstock websites, directly to magazines or through their own and third party sites. They're accepting commissions to shoot weddings, being hired to shoot for magazines and selling fine art prints from their websites. They're teaching photography on the weekend and guiding photographic holidays and safaris. Photography became accessible to the masses with the first non-expert cameras and the famous Kodak slogan"You press the button, we do the rest." The digital camera age has taken the whole thing to a ne

A site for professionals

Have you got 20 minutes, well better make that a few hours? Take a look at a relatively new site ( ) that features the work of many top professional photographers. Anyone can sign up. You don't have to submit your own work, you can vote for the photographers who have submitted their portfolios or act as a photo editor and submit your own favourite professional photographers. I've submitted a portfolio of my "most interesting" images on Flickr and I will be submitting my website once it's had a revamp, which it definitely needs again. Got to keep things fresh in this fast moving world. So go on, check it out and have fun. Cheers, Paul

Design in photography #3

A canal near Damme, in Belgium, provides the perfect landscape to create a strong design statement in photography. I've written two articles on using design in photography, here and here , and I said I would be adding to the series. Unfortunately I never got round to writing more but I hope this image illustrates several of the points I made in the earlier articles. There's a rather strange phenomenon that happens. I look back at what I've written some time ago and somehow it seems fresh and I discover things that I'd not thought about for a while. This is exactly what happened when I re-read my articles on design in photography this evening. As the readership of this blog keeps growing, at a quite phenomenal rate, I'm sure that some of you will not have read these articles and hopefully you will discover something of value in them that can be applied to your own photography. So in the best tradition of TV re-runs here they are once again: Design in photography 1 De

A day in the life of a portrait photographer

This couple came to our studio for a portrait and I just knew something special was going to happen. She was very bossy. If you've ever seen the English TV sitcom Hyacinth Bucket , well that's exactly how she was. The real Hyacinth. Everything had to be the best and most expensive. Eventually she fell under the spell of my irresistible wit and cracked up with laughter, and I got my shot. Actually come to think of it it was probably Magda's wit as I tend to go fairly quiet during photo-shoots. Her dress was very expensive but didn't quite fit, which she was really annoyed about. So Magda used washing pegs on the back of the dress to make it fit, an old fashion photographers' trick. Oh by the way the flower thing was 'Hyacinth's' idea. Credit where credit is due... Hope the image makes you smile. Cheers, Paul

Do photo 'enthusiasts' really want to learn?

"I don't have an expensive cameras and software to manipulate my images," says one photography enthusiast in reply to a critique of their image. The faults I spotted were basic exposure and framing. Things you could get right on the most simple of cameras with a bit of care and attention. But many amateurs snap away, upload their pictures to the net and then expect to have plaudits heaped on them for their fantastic images. And they do get lots of awards and praise for the most appalling rubbish. Social networking can do that for you. Praise enough people and they will come back and praise you. It would seem that many have a desperate need for applause no matter how hollow and empty. Either that or a good deal of the online photo community is on happy pills or delusional. So what happens when a photographer with a bit of experience, who has suffered the stinging critiques of editors, curators and other far better photographers writes a simple honest critique on a pho


View from the ferry leaving Calais in France. You probably thought I'd disappeared. Yep, it's been a while since I updated my blog. Longer than a week anyway, which is a record for me. So what have I been up to? Well the usual pressures of work but I've also got ever so slightly addicted to Flickr. You can check out my profile here . Magda (wife and fellow photographer) and I have launched a group too which within 48 hours had over 165 members, which I think is pretty good. Best of all it's a great bunch of people. The launch has proved time consuming though but well worthwhile. I keep encountering friends and acquaintances on Flickr. It seems the whole world is on there! I'm amazed. I've tried several other upload and photo sharing sites in my time but none have had the scope of Flickr. There are critics of the site. Typically the problems revolve around censorship and images being stolen by unscrupulous people and companies. Ah nothing is plain sailing unfo

Advice for street photographers

This gentleman agreed to pose for me. He wanted to know whether my camera was digital or film. He said he would pose if it was digital but not if it was film. I am not sure exactly what his reasons were. He was patient and followed my directions on where to stand. Several photographers have asked me how I get people to pose for me. Rather than repeating myself I'd like to refer you to an article I wrote back in May 2005. I hope it helps you and as always your comments are gratefully received. Cheers, Paul

Street portrait project

This image of a young lady, taken in Leeds, UK, is from a series of street portraits which I'm working on at the moment. The aim is to produce a series of powerful street portraits that immediately connect with the viewer's emotions on a deeper level. I'm continually amazed by how generous people are with their time, agreeing to pose for me on the street. This young lady was no exception. Cheers, Paul

The portrait photographer

The above images are from my gull portraits series. Both images have a strong sense of eye contact with the photographer (me). The gulls hung around and I had a sense of connecting to them. They were definitely aware of me and as they hovered in the breeze I had a sense they were posing (yeah I know it sounds weird ). I've come to realise that in a sense all of my photography is about making portraits. The strict definition is a likeness of a person. But the Roget's Thesaurus expands on this: Main Entry: portrait Part of Speech: noun Definition: representation Synonyms: account, characterization, depiction, description, figure, image, likeness, model, painting, photograph, picture, portraiture, portrayal, profile, silhouette, simulacrum, sketch, snapshot, vignette (Roget's New Millennium™ Thesaurus, First Edition) Most of my images are portraits, in other words a representation, depiction, description, account or characterisation of the subject. I supp

Great images may be technically flawed

If you look at the great masters of photography and their images, many of which have become iconic, you see that there is a distinct gap between text book perfection and what they've produced. Most great pictures that touch our hearts have technical flaws. The technically perfect advertising shots will never have this kind of power and impact on humanity. There are so many examples I don't know where to begin. Look at Robert Capa's shots of the Normandy landing. Grainy, blurred, scratched (the negatives were trodden on in the darkroom during development) and yet all of that somehow contributes to their impact. Even top modern photographers like the legendary Annie Liebowitz get away with publishing pictures which would be severely criticised or ignored by the masses of photographers critiquing each other's work on the Internet. For example in Annie's book, Woman , there are a number of portraits which are not perfectly sharp (the greatest sin that can be committed a

Legal issues of street photography in the UK

Spotted by Magda and friend Marleen who became aware of me taking a candid shot of them as they as were chatting in the street. David Toyne has written an informative piece on the recent verdict in the British courts which supports the freedom of street photographers to take candid pictures of people in public places. Read the full story here . Cheers, Paul

Doorway to great photography

This doorway on a cross channel ferry caught my eye because of it's graphic qualities. I think it's quite appropriate to show a doorway as I hope to open one for you to thousands of wonderful images and hundreds of talented photographers. When you've been around as long as I have (well it's not all that long I suppose, being in my early 40s), anyway, you get to know things, like which are the best photographic agencies around the world. I thought tonight, why not share these links with everyone? So without further ado here are my list of top photography agencies.

1980's Hasselblad better than latest Pro DSLR

It may be time to dust off your old medium format gear and give it a new lease of life with a digital back. The results are stunning, better than the latest Canon Pro DSLRs and cheaper! Prices of digital backs have come down and you can now get one for around £5,000 in the UK, even cheaper second hand. Comparing the results between a 16mp digital back on an old 1980's Hasselblad C/M and a new pro full frame Canon DSLR is an eye opener. The quality from the Hasselblad is better. Images are super sharp, files stand up to interpolation better, there's more shadow and highlight detail, colours are spot on and the files are true 16bit from RAW. DSLRs don't actually generate true 16 bit RAW images. One way to try a digital back on your medium format or for that matter large format camera is to hire the appropriate back. It's not cheap but if you incorporate it in your costs for the shoot on the day then the extra quality could well benefit your work and give you an edge

Pictures that pose questions

This images symbolises the way our childhood seems to pass so quickly. Childhood now seems to be a little like a dream, like someone else lived it, although inside I am still that small kid sometimes. The telephone wires and the road perhaps signify the journey we travel and how we are linked through our ability to communicate. Then again perhaps it is just an out of focus picture of a little girl running along a road. The joy of photography is that I can present you with an image. You have to also do some of the work in interpreting it. All I can say is the photograph was meant to be and I chose it. I think photographs should get people to think and to ask questions. Cheers, Paul

Exploring the subject

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

Popularity is not a measure of artistic merit

This bit of industrial design/architecture resides in the far corner of a supermarket parking lot in Belgium. At first it looks like and incredibly straightforward image but the more you look the more you discover. Click on the image to see the larger version. It never ceases to amaze me how diverse audiences respond to different images. Some images have broad appeal while others have a much smaller appeal but are liked with a passion. A word of caution to my colleagues out there. Popularity is not a measure of artistic value. If it were then most of the modern art museums would have to throw their exhibits in a skip. So what is an appropriate measure of artistic value. That's a tough question. I don't know the answer but what I do know is that if a few people respond passionately to an image I've made, it makes me happy. Cheers, Paul

Foundations for successful professional photographers

Descriptions about what it takes to be a professional photographer are often quite fluffy and insubstantial. So with my best analytical cap on I've decided look at what it takes to be successful professional photographer. Let's first clear a few things up. You don't need to own a camera, any camera at all, you don't need lights, you don't a studio and you don't need official qualifications. You can hire everything you need from cameras to studio managers and digital artists. You certainly need knowledge and skill but not necessarily a diploma to hang on the wall. To be a successful professional photographer you will have to develop four key foundations besides being able to make brilliant photographs and the traditional business skills which apply to everyone running their own company. The foundations are creativity, professionalism, knowledge and skill sets . Although this article is written for advertising and editorial photographers I am sure you will see ho

Sensitivity and respect in your comments

Many photographers upload pictures of people for comment on photo sharing websites. I think it is important to point out that comments made on a picture are often read by the person in the picture. On the whole I think that most people commenting on a picture do show respect and awareness of the subject's feelings and emotions. However sometimes a comment is made that reveals a lack of regard for the person in the image. Classic examples are comments which turn an attractive woman or man into a sexual object, or mock, trivialise or patronise the subject. Even if the person in the photograph will almost certainly never see the comments made on their image, I believe it is of fundamental importance that comments are respectful and that you only say what you would be prepared to say looking that person straight in the eye. The internet is vast and people on your screen can appear somewhat abstract and removed from the real human being, but each person you see in a photogr

Meet Willem Vermandere

Flemish sculptor, painter, artist and folk musician, Willem Vermandere sings from the heart during a visit to his house in West Flanders. Magda Indigo arranged a visit for us the last time we were in Belgium. Willem only performs in Flemish so his work is not well known outside Belgium and Holland although he has performed in the UK. Recently South African academics have also shown an interest in his poetic texts and his work is being translated into and performed in Afrikaans. Willem is a kind, warm, generous man who has tremendous humility. He is a legend in Belgium. It was a priviledge to meet him. I wanted to capture something of his spirit here. Cheers, Paul

From enthusiast to professional photographer

A surprising number of photography enthusiasts do not have a clue about the absolute basics. Some of them are taking on commercial work and thinking of becoming professional. It's frightening. These days it seems like just about everyone wants to become a professional photographer. Thanks to outstanding modern Digital SLR technology, the ability to delete poor images and 'fix' others in Photoshop many enthusiasts believe they can produce professional results without having to learn and understand basic concepts. What's more the Internet provides a ready made audience of their peers and upload and share community websites ensure they receive a steady stream of praise for their efforts. All of this helps give them a false sense of confidence in their ability to be a professional photographer. I'm not saying the enthusiast without basic knowledge can't take a good picture but there's a world of difference between going out and capturing something on yo

Hold your horses

A horse mane makes an interesting subject for a minimalist composition. I like textures so this was a great subject. Working flat out at the moment on several major projects. Just not enough hours in the day to get it all done. So hold your horses, I've got loads of ideas for blog articles, but in the meantime just wanted to let everyone know that I'm still about. Thanks for your visit to my blog. There's plenty of stuff to read on here, check out the archives or do a search for something of interest. I'll try to add a new article this weekend. Cheers, Paul

Street Portrait

I spotted her in the crowd and she saw me. We looked at each other, communicated with a few gestures and as a final shot in the sequence she treated me to this one. Classic attitude. I wanted a bright colourful image, celebrating an individual's right to self expression. Cheers, Paul

Highly recommended blog

If you're looking for more than tips on how to take pictures and what equipment to use and you'd like to find out about the soul of truly creative photographer then take a look at Magda Indigo's blog. She's known almost as well for her well researched and informative writing as she is for her photography. And yes she is my wife, I love her very much and I consider it a privilege to share my life with someone as talented as she is, so if you've not discovered her work yet what are you waiting for? Cheers, Paul

The joys of wedding photography

These two little bridesmaids decided they'd had enough of being photographed. The family watched, highly amused as I battled to get these two little devils to pose. I got the shot later after giving it a few minutes break. I don't do weddings anymore, mostly corporate and advertising work now, but this wedding could not be refused. The reportage went brilliantly, the couple are thrilled, and they want this shot too. I find that people often like the off-beat moments. The days of the stiff formal, traditional wedding shoot seem far away, certainly in my neck of the woods. People want photography that reflects real life and has emotion. So although at the time it may seem a challenge that the child bridesmaids don't want to be photographed it is in fact a great opportunity to make a shot that's a bit different. The picture sums up my attitude to photography and life. Every hurdle and challenge is in fact a great opportunity to make something special. The best stuff in lif

Laura Lippman bestselling author

Best selling American author Laura Lippman. Here's an extract from her official bio: Laura Lippman was a reporter for twenty years, including twelve years at The (Baltimore) Sun. She began writing novels while working fulltime and published seven books about “accidental PI” Tess Monaghan before leaving daily journalism in 2001. Her work has been awarded the Edgar ®, the Anthony, the Agatha, the Shamus, the Nero Wolfe, Gumshoe and Barry awards. She also has been nominated for other prizes in the crime fiction field, including the Hammett and the Macavity. She was the first-ever recipient of the Mayor’s Prize for Literary Excellence and the first genre writer recognized as Author of the Year by the Maryland Library Association. NOVELS Baltimore Blues* (1997, nominated for the Shamus Award for best first PI novel.) Charm City* (1997, winner of the Eddgar ® and Shamus awards for best paperback original, nominated for the Anthony Award.) Butchers Hill* (1998, winner of the Agatha Award

Don't use your camera on manual settings

Antwerp successfully preserves a sense of tradition and history, here with the horse drawn carriage and the famous Cathedral in the background, making it attractive to tourists, while at the same time boasting some beautiful modern architecture. The picture above was a split second grab shot. As usual my Canon EOS 5D was set to AV (aperture priority) and I trusted my light meter to give me the correct exposure. As it happened the background sky was extremely bright and the foreground in deep shadow, so the background was a bit overexposed. Using the RAW file's information I was able to retrieve detail everywhere important. Read any guide to improving your photography, listen to photographers advice and you'll be told to set your camera to manual. Using program mode is strictly for amateurs we're told. Well I beg to differ and respected photography tutor John Wade shares my viewpoint. Camera design these days has advanced tremendously and automatic metering has become relia

Holiday portraits

Three holiday makers on a bench in Ostend in Belgium. The couple on the right didn't know the gentleman on the left. I love taking spontaneous portraits of people on the street. The couple didn't know this other chap on the left but by asking to take a portrait of them I brought this little group together for a few minutes. It was great fun. Several hours later I passed the couple in the street and we waved a cheery greeting to each other like old friends. One of the wonderful things about being a photographer is that it enables you to meet all sorts of people, not only the famous but also folk like you and me and the people in this picture. Cheers, Paul

Back from holidays

Peace. Scarborough, Yorkshire, UK. I'm back from my visit to the continent and I've got thousands of images to process with hopefully a few real gems. It's been an incredibly busy time but wonderfully refreshing. I've also got ideas for quite a few new blogs. Watch this space. Cheers, Paul

Some advice on being a creative photographer

I recently had the great priviledge of spending time with a few of the world's best selling authors, including Lee Child and Harlan Coben . Many of the things they said struck a cord, an affirmation of the ideas that I've held for a long time. You'll probably recognise these ideas too but just like me I'm sure you won't mind hearing them again. There are many things which apply across all creative endeavours. Integrity to your art and vision is everything. You write a book, or in our case take a photograph, because it expresses something essential in yourself. It is your vision, your voice. If you're not true to your vision, your inner voice, you will never achieve your full potential. Do not copy others. It's got to come from inside you. This is true even when we're working for clients, to a brief. The client has chosen you because of who you are, your vision, the injection of that special something which is uniquely yours. If you see a band wagon the

Portrait of Harlan Coben

Best selling crime writer, Harlan Coben, is a gentle, witty, charming, intelligent guy. Chatting to him you can't help wondering how he can come up with such brutal and murderous characters. He says, maybe it's therapy. Gets it out of the system, which is why crime writers are such gentle folk. If you've not read any of his books then you're really missing something. Check out his website ( ) I'm working on a portrait project. Will keep you posted. Cheers, Paul

Lee Child interviewed by Paul Blezard

Paul Blezard and Lee Child field a question from the audience during an interview with the best selling author at the Crime Writing festival in Harrogate, 20 July 2007. Lee told many entertaining stories and spoke about his writing and the creation of his famous character, Jack Reacher. It was great meeting them and chatting to them after the show. If you get a chance to go along to one of Lee Child's talks I can highly recommend it. More pictures here . His books are fantastic. Check out ( ). Cheers, Paul

It's about photography

Magda floats down for a photo shoot on a rainy summer day along the British coast. I've had numerous emails from people wanting to see more of my photography and asking about buying images. As you know I do respond to every email but to make things a bit easier here's where you can find my work. I also have portfolios on numerous photography community websites. I plan to do a review in the near future on these websites and my experiences, which have not always been positive. Having said that I've made friends with wonderful photographers across the globe. Hi guys! I also sell Rights Managed and Royalty Free images for editorial and advertising. Please contact me for more information on the licenses available for the particular image you have chosen. I am available for photography and writing commissions, and work mostly in the UK and Western Europe. Happy to discuss any proposals. Hopefully this co

Another image stolen, by the same guy

Stephen Baker, the same member of the Fuji website has stolen yet another photo from Trekearth and used it in the current Fuji competition. I believe Fuji are dealing with the issue. Fuji have now removed the image from the competition website and replaced it with another winner. See my previous post . This story is being picked up all over the net. We have to do something to increase awareness about copyright infringement. Thanks to everyone that emailed Fuji about this and it's good to see they've responded promptly. Cheers, Paul

Stolen image wins £200 in Fujifilm competition

Click on the image above to see the large version. This shot was stolen from here and used to win second place in a Fujifilm competition . We all know that images get stolen from the Internet but two recent examples really take the cake. A certain Stephen Baker from Essex appears to have stolen an image, taken by Pamela DG, from a popular photo-sharing site and used it to win second place in a Fujifilm online competition. The prize money he is accused of fraudulently obtaining is £200 pounds. It is unbelievable that people think they can steal photographer's images from the Internet and use them for their own purposes. Another much publicised case revolves around images plagiarised from a popular flickr photographer. The company that allegedly stole them produced canvas prints and sold them for a healthy profit without the photographer knowing anything about it. The whole thing erupted into a bit of a dispute with flickr but that has all settled down now. The heart of the is