Shoot what you love…

Shoot what you love… That’s what they tell you. Someone told me it when I first started shooting. I’m not sure who told me that, maybe it was one of my lecturers, maybe someone else. Come to think of it, maybe I just read it somewhere. I’m really not sure, but that’s not the point…

In my day to day life, throughout the years I have worked with hundreds of models and actors etc, capturing their portrait. But as much as I have enjoyed every single shoot, my very favourite person to photograph is my wife Emma. I think a lot of it is because, obviously, I now her so well. I already have a connection with and I already know what will work really well and what might not work so well. I think comfort comes into play here too. I’m comfortable enough to ask Emma to do anything for a shoot and she’s comfortable enough with me to do it. It instantly knocks down boundaries. She has seen, and lived with my frustration first hand when I haven’t quite got the “the shot”. She understands how much it plays on my mind, how much it bothers me. That’s why I think she’s always patient with me while I’m shooting her. She understands I have a vision for the aesthetic of the shot, and she’ll work tirelessly to make sure we achieve it.

I bet if I had to pick the favourite 50 portraits I’ve ever taken, at least half (and probably more) would be of Emma. She has soaked herself in fake blood, hung around town centres at 2.00am, got drunk and even pretended to murder me, all for the sake of my photography. The most recent shots I took of her, are the ones above – taken on a rare sunny afternoon. The ‘Model’ t shirt is really apt, as I’m pretty sure she’s probably been photographed a lot more than a lot of professional models.

I already can’t wait for our next shoot…

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For my next trick I’ll need a volunteer…

I made a decision a few days ago… For years now I’ve been shooting models, not just for standard portraiture work but for my conceptual work too. I’ve decided recently, that rather than models I’m now going to try and shoot my conceptual work with actors and actresses.

My favourite work to produce is work that has a narrative. Images that offer a glimpse of a story. For me that’s why it makes complete sense to work with actors. Because that’s exactly what they want to achieve. They are natural born story tellers. They will understand what I mean by emotion. By fear, sadness or confusion. They’ll get it immediately because it’s something that is asked of them every day.

I have a few ideas for new shots I want to create, and they are very much what I’d describe as “narrative shots”. Where as I’d normally work with a model I know or have worked with before, or post a casting call on Model Mayhem, I have this time decided to post the casting call on ‘Star Now’ and specifically seek out male and female actors. So far I’ve had lots of casting submissions from people, so I can’t wait to get started! As part of this series we are also going to be creating some YouTube exclusive, behind the scenes videos, which will include interviews with everyone involved as well as footage of the actual shoot.

I’m really hoping this will start a new chapter in my creative work, and I hope you all enjoy the images as I come to share them…

Thanks for reading. Fade to black…

A Photographers Love of Polaroids: An Instant Love Affair.

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If I spoke to ten different photographers from ten different backgrounds, working within ten different areas of the field, I would hazard a guess that at least eight of them would have a love for the instant photograph. Whether it be the age-old chemical process of the Polaroid or the (relatively) new electronic mechanism of the Instax. They probably wouldn’t be able to explain their love or fully understand it themselves. Like a married person in the heat of an affair. Unable to comprehend it, or explain it but fascinated by it. Drawn to it.

For me, I think it’s the physical attribute of the process. It is the anti-digital but with the same immediate result. Look through the viewfinder, release the shutter, and seconds later you are holding a physical print. Something to keep, to frame, to use as a bookmark or prop up on a shelf. It gives you an instant sense of ownership, something that will live with you. In a similar way that the 12” records from the 60s and 70s look like they have been lived with – they look like they could tell a story. Every crease and coffee stain revealing something else. Put this in comparison to shooting 35mm film and it’s easy to understand the love of the instant. For most people – or at least those like me who don’t own darkrooms, you can shoot a roll of film and wait up to a week for the prints to arrive with you. It’s somehow just not the same for me. It doesn’t have the same substance. I feel a little withdrawn from the process of it.

A few months ago I went away for a weekend with my Wife, I decided to document the trip on the Fuji Instax Mini (discussed in this blog post). I took approximately 40 exposures, and those photographs have already been looked at dozens more times that the equivalent would have been – ten to twenty photographs lurking in a gallery on my iPhone. Pushed further and further down the gallery with each click of the shutter and with each screenshot.

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I like things in my life that are unpredictable. Nights out, late nights, work projects. Unpredictability fascinates me. That’s what instant film offers. It’s like the unplanned “quick pint” with your friend that ends with a 4.00 am drinking session and an almighty hangover. You’ll never know what you’re going to get with instant film. You can do your best to create the “perfect” shot. Check your lighting, stage your subject, but I can almost guarantee you won’t get the same results twice. With limited to no control over exposure, ISO, and shutter speed, and without the ability to look through a single lens, every image will be different. Each will have it’s own personality. It’s own failings and equally it’s own brilliance.

This is nothing new, photographers have been fascinated with instant film since it came to light. Professionals used it, families used it. There would have been countless nude photographs taken of partners, hidden at the bottom of drawers during a time where instant photography was the only private photography.

Maybe all of that is part of it’s charm. Today there are artists who only shoot on instant film. I truly admire that but have to admit it’s not something I could do. After a week or so I’m always pretty happy to go back to the comfort of my DSLR, like the cheating partner walking back through the door of his house. It feels like going home.

When you think of instant film it’s hard not to think of the resurgence of analogue. Vinyl is back in record stores and outselling physical CD’s. It’s a throwback to a simpler time, a time when “things” meant something. A time where things weren’t thrown away. A time where not everything was considered disposable.

– Carl Beebee.

Saal Digital Review – Photobook.

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I’ve been looking for somewhere to print a small run of photo books for a while now – with the idea of self publishing a small book to sell exclusively at exhibitions etc. After seeing a featured add from Saal Digital on Instagram I decided to check them out…

I downloaded their software and eventually decided on a glossy 19 x 19 book with approximately 30 pages…

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The software was really simple to use, but much more importantly it was effective. A simple case of ‘drag and drop’ for the files you want to use – all embedded into the software at high resolution. There are many templates available within the program but I opted for either their ‘blank’ or ‘double’ pages. A note here: the double pages look incredible! No loss of image within the fold or crease at all, which means your images are seen how they are meant to be!

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Once completed you simply upload your final design, choose your shipping method and pay. The book took about a week to arrive, and I have to say I was so impressed. The quality of the product is exceptional. All too often as a photographer, I’ve uploaded images to print, only to be left disappointed with the quality. That’s certainly not the case with these photo books. They look and feel great. Thick pages with a high gloss finish really make the book stand out.

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Over the years (too many to mention) I’ve tried and used many publishing tools to create books to self publish, but Saal Digital are definitely the best for ease of use, quality of the product and delivery/shipping times.

For more information on their products head on over to www.saal-digital.co.uk

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Live Music Photography

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When I started taking photographs (all those years ago) I used to take a lot of band portraits and live sets. It made sense, I had friends who had good reputations in the music industry, so bands were the very people that were accessible to me. For years, this is what I specialized in, picking up commissions from music magazines such as NME, Kerrang!, Metal Hammer and Rock Sound etc. I loved the work, as at the time I felt it allowed a creativeness that you didn’t really see in more commercial photography. I loved doing the promo shoots on locations and I loved that the gigs took me all around the country and into parties, that quite honestly I’d never make it into under normal circumstances…

After a few years something changed and I stopped. It no longer felt that creative, I felt repetition was seeping into my work and I hated it. That along with the fact that, in the internet age many music publications were either falling under or losing all of their budget, seemed to make it a difficult career to maintain. That’s not to mention the endless list of photographers who are prepared to shoot their idols free of charge. (I don’t blame them by the way, that’s how I started).

Every now again I’ll get offered to shoot a live band, and if it’s something that interests me it’s something I’ll do. Simple as that. When I start to shoot the right band (for me) it does something to me. It takes me back. It reminds me of why I love music so much, and sometimes it even gives me the “bug” to do it all again. That “bug” is usually met the following morning with a hangover and the realization that a life spent in London depresses me more than anything at this current time.

Still, those times, those gigs and those bands remind me of something bigger. Something better. They make photography exciting. The same way it was all of those years ago. Music and photography are two of the most important parts of my life. They are so incredibly ingrained in my personality and my culture.

Sometimes the music industry as a whole depresses me. I look and listen to new bands and they just don’t talk to me. They don’t reach out to me. I’m very aware that this is absolutely because I’m getting older, and typically these bands aren’t meant to speak to me. But when you hear a band you love (new or old) and you’re front row ready to capture that moment, there’s simply nothing better.

iPad. Workflows.

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iPad Collaboration with Emma-Louise Gibbons.

So, I made somewhat of a big switch recently. After watching hours of YouTube videos and reading everything I could find I purchased an iPad Pro and Apple pencil with the intention of completely changing my workflow so I could constantly have my “editing suite” with me.

Installed on my iPad from Adobe CC I have Adobe Fix, Adobe PS and Adobe Mix as well as third party programs such as VCSO and Enlight.

The shot above was actually shot on the iPad, edited on the iPad and then “drawn on” using Adobe Sketch on the device…

It took a while. It was a huge learning curve for me but I’m delighted with the results. I absolutely love editing images on the iPad, and in truth, I’ve barely used my MAC since.

There are downfalls. The file handling is somewhat frustrating as you’re restricted to the built in Camera Roll. So for example, if I take an image into Adobe Fix, work on it then it exports the image to Camera Roll. I then want to edit in VSCO, so I do just that it, save it and it exports to Camera Roll. All of a sudden I have 3 varied images all on my machine. Not so much of a problem if you’re just handling 1 image at a time, but for larger shoots with 100+ photographs it can become somewhat confusing. I almost wish there was a way to overwrite previous versions of the image on saved to the Camera Roll. Despite all of this though I don’t think I’ll ever go back. I love the handling, and the precision the Apple Pencil gives you and having it on the rad with me, at every shoot, on every train etc has been a massive time saver.

With news that the next OS update will give the option to handle true RAW files (not through a  conversion in Lightroom mobile) I only see it becoming more and more of a “must have” tool for professional photographers.