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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.…

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

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 the…

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 be…

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 o…

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 ea…

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

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 …

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…

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 mor…

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

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 Jame…

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.ecehttp://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2008/may/20/military.afghanistanhttp://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/frontline/1989319/Afghanistan-British-soldier-killed-by-explosion-in-Helmand-Province.html



Paul

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 imp…

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…

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 inspi…

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…

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 br…

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 commer…

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 e…

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 …

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 r…

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

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

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 b…

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

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 s…

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

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

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 y…