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Showing posts from 2010

No need to shoot RAW anymore

Intimate portrait of an orchid (jpeg cropped). Exif data . For years the jpeg v raw debate has raged. Advocates of both formats defended their positions and ‘wars’ were waged in internet forums. A Google search will bring up thousands of hits on the topic and you’re welcome to wade through all of it but if you’re short on time, here’s a quick summary. Proponents of shooting jpegs say: The files are smaller and don’t clog up your hard disk. The quality is just as good as RAW or so close it doesn't make a difference in the real world. Saves time as there is no RAW post processing to be done. Proponents of RAW say: RAW gives you all the options to tweak your images to your heart’s content, while jpegs lock you into the processing decisions programmed in by your camera manufacturer. You can easily correct white balance mistakes. You can retrieve more detail, particularly out of highlights. The quality of the final image is superior to a straight jpeg.

A new way to sell your photography

Professional photography is competitive. If you ask a lot of professional photographers about their job they seem to have a love/hate relationship. They will often tell young photography students that photojournalism is dead, the profession as a photographer will not exist in a few years time because stills will be extracted from videos and you'll not be able to make a living as a professional photographer because everyone who has a digital camera these days thinks they're a gifted photographer. The same kind of thing has been said to creatives in all media for centuries. When photography first appeared on the scene, many said that painting was dead. But painters reinvented their art with surrealism, cubism and abstract painting, and now for many years there's even been a movement of artists who paint in a style of realism that mimics photography. The perception that excellent photography is important has been eroded from publishing, with ever lower professional fees, acce

Marketing yourself as a photographer

One of the harbour cats making her presence known in the hope of getting some fresh fish, Fuengirola, Spain. And it worked. See series here . Most professional photographers do not know how to market themselves effectively. In this blog I hope to offer a few thoughts to get your creative juices going and help you differentiate yourself as a photographer from your competitors. I'm a photographer but I am also a pretty successful marketer. So I straddle both worlds and see professional photography from both the seller's and buyer's viewpoints. I don't have all the answers but I think I do have a few pertinent questions. First set of assumptions. You will be a successful photographer if: You are better than your competitors You offer something different that prospects value You are cheaper (but this is downward spiral as someone is always cheaper until they are so cheap they go out of business, and possibly drag you down into an unsustainable position) So realistically it&

An opportunity for you to help make the world a better place

How do you turn a picture of sea water into drinking water? Help make the world a better place. Upload up to three photos every day . As Mike Corso at Cool Site of the Day says: "Our aim is to generate 30,000 photo uploads before the end of the year. If we can achieve that, the total impact will be: 4.8 million gallons of fresh, clean drinking water through the building of fresh water wells. 1,700,000 hours of solar light for families in need. 45,000 kw hours of wind turbine powered electricity. When your readers arrive at the photo upload site, they will be able to upload 1 of 3 types of photos relating to either Wind, Water, or Light. We’ll turn those photos into real donations." So get uploading and spreading the word. Till soon, Paul

14 professional flash tips

Here’s a concise list of 14 tips for using flash to enhance your images. I jotted down a few notes based on my experience and the result is the ‘idea storm’ below. Seems obvious but it has to be said: the first thing to do is to establish your point-of-view, where are you going to put your camera; then look at the available light. If the natural light is good, don’t mess with it. If you do decide to use flash then be careful not to ‘over light’ your subjects and make them look unreal and garish (unless unreal is what you’re trying to communicate of course). Always remember flash light is balanced to be the same as bright daylight. You can alter the colour of the light when using your flash by applying different coloured gels over the flash head. Gels come in two basic varieties. Those used to correct colour balance (matching flash to tungsten lighting, TL lighting etc) and those used for special effects. I’ll try to keep this as concise as possible. If you have any questions just

Selling you camera dissatisfaction

No-entry sign shot in Seahouses, UK. Shiny and new is not necessarily beautiful or interesting. Taken with a Canon 5D and 17-40mm L lens. The Christmas period is coming up and there’s lots of new equipment to put on your wish-list. New cameras, new lenses and lots and lots of new gadgets are going to be thrust at you by the marketers. For those people on a budget for Christmas, not able to afford all the amazing stuff that is being raved about in magazines and on the internet, I hope the rest of this article will help you side step the marketing juggernaut. The message underlying all of this marketing is that because the new Brand X camera has this or that feature it is far better than what you’ve got at the moment and if you really want to reach your potential as a photographer then you just have to buy it. By implication, all the photos you took with your current equipment are not as good as they could have been. So maybe you should delete them and start again. Of course I’m

Three steps to great images

Vincent shows the model he is working on of Leonardo Da Vinci's "Flying Man". Vincent is an artist, musician, sculpture, maker and repairer of musical instruments, a "renaissance man" himself. Firstly, I think I should apologise for the long absence of new blog articles. To say I have been busy of late would be, to put it mildly, an understatement. All good things. But I really felt it was time to get into gear and ship my blog again. So how can I make it up to you? Well as usual I hope to provide some food for thought. If you want to make great images you need to ensure that three steps have been taken. Miss any of them out and your image may be good, it may be interesting for awhile but it will not be remarkable. The magic only really happens when you: Have an authentic reason to take the picture.  Want to use the image to express something, to communicate with your audience. And you actually make the picture happen, using your knowledge and expert

Best camera for a learner

Regular readers know that I very rarely write about cameras and equipment. However as a photographer I am often asked, “which camera should I buy?” The follow up question from me is how much are you willing to spend and what do you want a camera for...there are hundreds to choose from? This summer I helped a number of friends find cameras which means I had to do some serious research. So why not share what I found out on my blog. If you’re serious about learning photography and giving yourself room to take it to the next level then you will want a Digital Single Lens Reflex camera (DSLR). Yes, they are heavier to carry around than a compact but these days the entry level DSLR models are pretty light and portable. There are numerous small compact cameras that deliver excellent quality, so long as your subject stays quite still. The moment you’re confronted with a relatively fast moving subject (people at a party, sports, street photography, active kids) you need a DSLR. It’s simply the

On the road

Mr Hewitt, a traveler, rests his horses on the way to a fair in Yorkshire. These images are from a series I recently shot with a group of travelers encountered on one of our road trips. We were made to feel very welcome and it was easy to come away with a series of interesting portraits. Jimbo. Looking after the horses. The Hewitts. Young Hewitt with his tattoos. Resting in the bow top. More can be seen on my Flickr account . Till soon... Paul

How much should you charge for a photo-shoot?

Working out how much you should charge is one of the questions most frequently asked when setting up as a professional photographer. I’ll endeavour to answer the question but it may not be the answer you expect. I have a view that breaks with industry tradition. Traditionally photographers charge for a shoot by applying half day or full day rates. The rate is the same, no matter how their images are being used or what value their images add to the client’s business. I think this is wrong. We are expected to charge by a fairly arbitrary system based loosely on the time we spend at a photo-shoot. It’s a pretty archaic way of working things out which originates from a mass production factory mentality. As photographers we’re not cogs in a machine. Our uniqueness, our approach and the value we can add through our creativity and ability to solve problems should be reflected in the amount we charge. I live and breathe to deliver the best possible work. I use my insight, creativity, u

Art happens when you bend the rules

Interesting art is new and different from everything that has gone before. It's impossible to break new ground and produce something fresh if you follow the rules and imitate other people's styles and techniques. We all learn from the past, our mentors and the giants who have gone before us, but true art only happens when you break free from them. Don't get me wrong. I think it is valuable to study the masters and to be aware of what your contemporaries are doing but how can you ever hope to stand out if all you do is repeat stuff that's been done before? There's a big drawback to doing innovative new stuff. If you break the mould people will not immediately associate your work with stuff they've been told is good – art that follows the rules and can be neatly categorised and classified. You lose the 'recognisability' factor and you don't fit in until the rest of the world starts to catch up. However once the world does recognise your ability, yo

Why we need more creative photojournalism

To tell a story visually is difficult as any picture editor knows. You have to grab attention, communicate the essence of the story in an image and engage people so they follow through and read the article. There's the old saying that a 'picture is worth a thousand words' and it keeps being used because it's true. Getting people to pay attention relies on three elements working together - picture, caption and headline. Two of the three most important elements relate directly to photography. Pictures sell magazines, newspapers and website content. Unfortunately editorial departments are under siege, often drained of human resources, budgets and under increasing pressure to take the 'safe' creative option as editors fight to keep the wolf from the door. There are many exceptions and numerous editors who will take risks and put their necks on the line to support good photography – thank goodness. Most editors are just trying to maintain the status quo. This is n

How do you measure success as a photographer?

What signs should you follow? If you upload pictures on social media websites you will know there is usually  some form of audience judgement of your success as a photographer. How good you are is supposedly measured in votes, clicks, awards, views, badges... This is a good strategy for website owners because everyone likes a pat on the back and so visitors keep coming back to their website for the rewards and little treats. As they say in website terminology it makes the site more 'sticky' and more visitors equals a bigger audience share and more revenue. Photographers fall into the trap of trying to please broad website audiences and they let this cyber-gang steer and even rule their creativity. Do you really want to let people who breeze past your image barely giving it a glance or pausing to comment, vote or paste a badge determine the direction of your creativity and influence your vision as a photographer? Most visitors are hoping you'll return the favour

Whose opinion about your photography really counts?

Every photographer wants to improve. But how do we know we are getting better? Besides looking critically at our own work we listen to the opinions of others. Allowing other people to judge your work is essential. But you have to be cautious about who's opinion you value. It is human nature to give a negative opinion more weight than praise. The bad comments tend to stick in your mind. So be careful of giving the following people the power to influence your art: There are plenty of great photography teachers that just love sharing their knowledge and are very good educators but there are also some who teach photography but may harbour regrets and be a little bitter about not making it to the top. You have to spot the difference. You'll know the ones to avoid because no matter what you do they will always seek the minor faults and flaws and you will never be able to please them. People who knit pick on small things but don't really help you develop your vision. Someone who m

Fleeting expressions and picking the moment

Taking a photograph that tells a story requires patience, knowing what you want to say and then picking the right moment. I noticed this lady selling jewelry on the market. She was chatting to customers and showing them her merchandise but nobody bought anything. She was aware of me taking pictures and didn't mind. I kept an eye on her and picked the moment that I thought told the story of her day on the market. There are still many businesses struggling with the recession and people have certainly tightened up their budgets, even on items like market jewelry. I decided to upload this image to illustrate how waiting patiently and picking the right moment can produce an image that communicates the story. A few seconds later her expression changed and the brave sales face was back on again. Sometimes photographers take a lot of images in the hope of getting one good one. Seems too hit and miss to me. The real key to getting that good image is figuring out what needs to happen in fron

Photographers: reasons to be thankful

Emiel is a horse breeder. He also helps out in his community doing things like driving the school bus. Here he listens to an amusing anecdote his wife is relating during a chat with friends and family at his kitchen table. Emiel amused. Emiel day dreaming. As a photographer I consider it a great priviledge to be allowed into people's lives. When someone chooses to share a few moments of their life with you in front of your camera it is a gift. I have the impression that some photographers think that owning a camera gives them the right to take photographs of anyone they come across. I do not share that view. To me every smile or glance that says, "Yes, it's fine; you can take a picture of me," is a precious gift, to be treated with respect and care,and to honoured with the best photograph that I can make. It's sad that when someone says "no" to a photographer they go away in a huff, feeling angry and rejected, as if their camera has given

Photographing with available light

Belgian sculptor Willem Vermandere talks about his work at the opening of his exhibition in Poperinge, 31 March 2010. I wanted to capture the atmosphere and not to disturb the event with flashes going off all the time; so I used available light (gallery spots). It was a challenge as Willem can be quite animated and he was moving in and out of the light all the time. Trying to get everything together, expression, the moment and the light wasn't easy. Multi-talented artist, Willem also gave a speech and played his bass clarinet. Till soon, Paul

Photojournalism: to take a picture or save a life

10 minutes after it happened. What do you do first as a photo journalist if you see someone in grave danger? Take a picture or help. I know the answer 100 per cent, from personal experience, because that's the situation I was in on Sunday 4 April 2010. As a photojournalist I've been in many tight spots and when it's your own life on the line you just take risk as a given. In certain situations you expect danger. But when you're out for a walk on a beach in Belgium, taking pictures on a clear afternoon, you don't expect to be plunged into a life and death situation. Magda, my wife, and I were photographing near the harbour in Ostend. As photographers we often venture into areas not open to the general public to get more interesting images. So we went under the rope cordon and crossed into a construction area. 20 minutes later I heard a shout for help and to my horror 10 meters away I saw Magda sinking into quicksand. I rushed over and managed to stay just


To me photography is all about speaking with light to tell the world about the reality I discover in a person, place or subject. I seek truth and authenticity because these are the only things really worth pursuing. Without integrity there can be no love and without love there is no passion. My images are gifts to you. Perhaps they will make you smile, feel warm inside, nod as you recognise something real. Some of my images may not touch you. But my hope is that I will make an image that does move you, that does touch you and shows you something more than you expected from a mere photograph. Till soon, Paul

Buy something

Wagon wheel in Normandy, France. Regular readers of my blog know that I'm generally against buying equipment unless it is absolutely essential. There's a lot to be said for keeping things simple and focusing your attention on creativity rather than lugging equipment around and fiddling with it. Give me any camera, with any lens and I'll come up with a shot that's interesting. It's a bold claim but I have every confidence in following the creative process. Each photographic opportunity can be approached in a million different ways. It's up to the photographer to find their own artistic interpretation with the equipment at their disposal. If my image is not all that it should be then I certainly will not blame the equipment. Now having said that; buying a new piece of kit can unlock a new creative experience. A good macro lens can open a whole new world to you as a photographer or a reflector panel can inspire you to explore doing different things with light. So y

Railway men

Two railway men in driver's cabin of their steam engine, Pickering, UK. Till soon, Paul

Life changing at the speed of a shutter click

Watching the Winter Olympics I was constantly amazed by how small the difference was between the top athletes. Less than three seconds separated the top three in the men's Olympic 30-km Cross Country skiing where Marcus Hellner of Sweden finished first, with a time of 1:15:11.4; Tobias Angerer from Germany placed second, at 2.1 seconds behind, and Swede Johan Olsson took the bronze, just 2.8 seconds after the winner. That’s over a 30km race lasting one and quarter hours! In most of the Olympic sports only 1/100’s of a second separated the winning contestants. Take a typical shutter speed of 1/60 second. It could mean the difference between winning or losing a race in the Olympics, or the difference between getting a great shot and an average one. If you think about it most photography is about picking that perfect moment, when light, subject and all elements fall perfectly into place. It takes a lot of work (and a bit of luck) to either make those moments happen or allow them to

Photography and visual plagiarism

In layman's terms photographic plagiarism occurs when one photographer copies the work of another photographer, by making a new image that is so similar to the image being copied that any viewer looking at the two images is struck by their overwhelming correlation. You'll soon see what I mean when you look through the examples in the articles below. Having seen blatant plagiarism of my wife Magda Indigo's work on Flickr I decided to write a blog on the topic. However I soon discovered that the subject of photographic plagiarism has been covered extensively, so I refer you to a selection of articles which I found interesting... Getty Images wins plagiarism appeal Visual plagiarism Plagiarism in photography Visual plagiarism strange case of Rosie Photographer gets plagiarized then censored When does similar become too similar Plagiarism in 2008 Madonna turns to Cowboy Kate for ‘inspiration’ There is nothing better than coming up with something new. To stand out from the cro

The value of a good freelancer

Take this to the bank. A good freelance photographer can make all the difference between getting a press release published and having it disappear forever at the click of an editor's delete button. Why? Because the photograph that accompanies a press release often determines whether the story gets published. "A good freelancer is worth his/her weight in gold to a company. When we look at press releases the photograph is often the deciding factor whether we publish a story. We 're always looking for good pictures for the newspaper. That's where it starts. Sometimes a story which is not as strong may be chosen because there's a good picture. And once we have a good image in the library we may use it again for another story at a later date," I was told by the deputy business editor of a large newspaper. And he's the guy that makes that decision. Keep it or delete it. He fails to understand how time and again companies send in press releases

Light and time - the essence of photography

I had no idea when I was making this portrait, that Mrs M only had eight days to live before she passed peacefully at the retirement home. She had a full life and was one of the pioneering Belgian woman photographers, specialising in social photography. She used a large format, bellows camera. While I made the portrait we chatted happily about the changes in photography. Her hair was in slight disarray but she would not let her son touch it, leaving the sea breeze to play with the strands. That's how she was. At the moment I took the image she was staring out to sea, seeming to look past her mortal existence. When I look at this image and think of that sunny afternoon it touches me. I hope it moves you too. Photography is all about light and time - that particular, never-to-return moment we freeze forever in a picture of light that becomes an 'aide-mémoire' . Till soon, Paul

Favourite black and white portraits

I decided to publish a collection of my favourite black and white portraits in a slide show. It's a really subjective choice. Sit back and enjoy and please feel free to write a comment or ask a question. Click through to YouTube to see a larger version. Till soon, Paul

Slide show of some of my black and white work

I am building my portfolio on Lightstalkers and have so far created a gallery with a selection of black and white images. Here's a beta version slide show... [Edit ...whoops that didn't work in this blog format] You can hopefully see the slide show here . Feel free to comment. Thanks, Paul

Give your portraits some space

Looking through photo-enthusiast's portrait photographs on the Internet I notice that nearly everyone goes for a very tightly framed shot with prominent head and shoulders or face. If there is any space in the frame the photographer often gets a comment along the lines, I would have cropped the top or side or whatever. The purpose of this blog post is to suggest that while Robert Capa's maxim, "if your pictures aren't good enough, you're not close enough," is definitely worth keeping in mind, you can really enrich a portrait by using the environment to help tell the story. I'm not saying anything new here and anyone who studies the work of the "father of the environmental portrait", Arnold Newman, will immediately see that his sitter's face is often quite small in the composition - stuck in the bottom right corner or off to one side of the frame. Arnold intelligently and creatively used the whole context to enhance the image. Editorial phot

RAW software update

Portrait of Vincent, a real craftsman who makes and repairs musical instruments with enormous care, love and dedication. And he doesn't use any software to do it. Click the image to see a larger version. The topic of which RAW converter to use for your digital images files is as hot as ever on the Internet. A while back I wrote an article comparing different packages and I've seen that the article is regularly read. So for those of you who are curious here's a little bit about my latest experiences. I used Lightroom 1 from when it came out and quickly became a big fan. All my digital workflow went through Lightroom and Photoshop for the final processing. About a month ago two things happened. I got a laptop and I've ended up using it for most of my work. And I decided to give Lightroom 3 beta a try on my new laptop. Now I know Lightroom is Beta and all that but the slowness of opening an image, waiting for it to render sharply on the screen and run through each proces