Ashdown Forest

My first published image, and the lucky break that came after!

So, it’s been a little while since I wrote a post. I try to aim for one a month, but sometimes other commitments get the better of me. Anyway, I’ve been quite busy with photoshoots here and there, but you may remember an image I posted of Ashdown Forest. It wasn’t necessarily one of those shots that was set up because there was definitely an element of luck with the man and the dog, that appeared from out of nowhere, which I feel made the shot. For those of you who did not see it, here it is:

Not long after I took this photo, I received a phone call regarding a local festival and having someone cover it photographically. They told me they will be producing a little A5 magazine and needed an image of the local area for the backpage. The timing literally could not be better. Considering I had done just this image of Ashdown Forest, I offered them the ability to use the photo I had taken, and they accepted.

So, this is how it turned out.

Not bad in A5, but the image here doesn’t really do it justice. Obviously I had to crop a lot of the image and rework some aspects of it, but I’m quite happy with the printed end result.

Being published, albeit on a tiny scale, gives a great boost to one’s confidence. I am very rarely happy with my own work, and struggle to ever assign any monetary value to it. But more recently, I have been finding it a bit easier, and that’s due to the fact that I do get a lot of people asking for photos, and essentially they want it for free. I don’t have the time, what with a full time job, to say yes to everything.

That said, there was one request recently where I did say yes to unpaid work. Friends and connections of mine had clearly been vouching for me, because I landed a gig working with US Hollywood star Michael Malarkey, from the Vampire Diaries. He was shooting a music video, and I was invited to document progress behind the scenes. I wouldn’t have been satisfied to just snap away – I always have to leave an artistic stamp of my own on every image.

So, without further ado, here is one of those snaps from that time I got lucky to shoot someone of global fame!

Every step forwards is progress, no matter how small the step seems to be. When I look back now, I wouldn’t have believed I’d have come this far in such a short amount of time.

 

painterly portrait

How To Get A Cheap Photography Studio

Ever since I started taking photography seriously again, I’ve dreamt of having my own studio space. Space big enough to the likes of dance photography, and big enough I can use at least 85mm portrait lenses. For me, it was a barrier to progression. How could I possibly improve on what I know without being able to practice, practice, practice? There was no obvious cost-effective solution and so I started to get studio envy. How was it some people had these fantastic studios, and I didn’t?

I had hired studio time before for portrait work, but that seemed very costly, and usually came with gear I didn’t need to use. Sometimes studios came without the use of TTL strobes, which are especially useful for dance.

I needed another workaround, something that suited me and my budget (which is low). It turns out the answer was right in front of my eyes. Where I live there is a multi-purpose hall, which is often used as a dance studio, and it occurred to me – why don’t I just set up my own ‘pop-up’ studio?

It turns out that council rates on public halls are very low. But it’s not like the I have space is without facilities either; it has toilets, storage and a kitchen, and it’s an excellent size. I decided I would make contact, and make a regular 3 hour per week booking. I purchased a very sturdy Lasolite backdrop frame, some Colorama paper rolls and another light and softbox.

Okay, so I don’t ‘own’ a studio, but I do own time that I can use for studio work, and 3 hours is just about enough. I started with 2, but to include time for build and dismantle, you really need to spare 30-60 minutes for this. I still hope that one day I can own my own studio full-time, but until then, this works, and it’s not breaking the bank. More importantly, it’s on my terms and allows me to practice when it is convenient for me.

If you’re a photographer, and don’t have convenient access to a studio, why not contact your local council and see what the rates are on your local halls. You might find that, you too, can operate a ‘pop up studio.

I Love My New Sigma Art Lenses

I don’t know about other photographers, but I am constantly adding to my wishlist of camera must-haves, which often involves me looking at the latest lenses, flashes and other accessories. As we all know, really great lenses can cost an awful lot money, and sometimes you can often be left feeling like ‘was it worth it?’. I ‘upgraded’ from my Canon 80D to a full-frame 5D MkIV which was way, way more expensive. There were times when I had wondered if the jump in sensor size was really worth all that expense and, admittedly, the jury is out on this one. Yes, it has been heaven sent when shooting in more difficult, low light situations, and the fast focus does help with the work that I do so on balance it probably has been. I think might decision to upgrade was probably a little premature – I just wanted the latest.

It caused me to rethink my photography objectives. I genuinely believed that having the best and most well known brands would automatically lead to be better images. Deep down I knew it wasn’t true, but something kept tugging at me saying ‘go on, upgrade, go full frame, get red ring only and you’ll look so cool’ and I nearly always yielded.

That was until I decided I had, had enough – no more indiscriminate spending!

At the time I had an f4.0 35mm lens and the Canon f1.2 50mm, and was on the look out for the f1.2 85mm. Naturally I was looking at the red ring, and thinking, ‘well obviously this is what I need’, and there it was again – that tug. I decided this time I might actually do some research, partly off the back that, despite all the hype around the f1.2 aperture, I was always secretly disappointed by the 50mm’s slightly soft focus and middling performance. Is this the best 50mm money can buy? Really?

As I started shopping around, a name kept reappearing in reviews and it was Sigma. I thought…nah….I mean, good…but…nah. But the more I researched into the Art lenses the more I was convinced that I was onto something. Nearly every comparison rated them as a much better lens choice, especially for 50mm and especially for the price.

The Canon 35mm I had was okay, and for the money it did what it was meant to do, but I never ‘got into it’. I hoped it might work as a stepping stone to a better, more complete 35mm lens, but I wasn’t feeling it, so I took a left turn. I ordered a Sigma Art 35mm lens instead, and oh my god! Okay yeah it was more pricey, but it was still less than Canon and I could not believe how good the images were on this. I loved nearly everything about how it rendered colour, the deep rich and warm feel I was getting, I absolutely loved it.

So I took another stab and got the Sigma Art 50mm. Instantly I could tell I was onto something (and so was Sigma). Within a day I decided to sell my Canon f1.2 50mm, because not only was the Sigma faster, it was also much sharper. Perfect for the kind of work I do. At this point I’ve gone all in, and got the Sigma Art 85mm too and I could not be happier. I have, of course, kept the Canon f2.8 70-200 lens, because this tank of a lens has never let me down.

The moral of the story here is that you must keep an open mind. Don’t upgrade to something assuming it will make you produce better images, because it won’t. And don’t just dive head first into the highest price lenses assuming they will produce the best image, because they don’t always.

Keep an open mind folks.

All images in this article were taken on Sigma lenses.

If you like what you see, and would like to work with me, feel free to flick through my images and get in contact.

 

 

dance photography

Dance Photography – More Than Just Portraits

So if you follow my Instagram, which you totally should btw, you might notice I have ventured into dance photography. I had my usual portrait shoot with a lad called Jaxson, he was actually a pretty cool dude, but it was really just a standard portrait shoot, modelling various pieces of fashion and streetwear that related to his interest – street dance.

But I had something else in mind. So, that day, I packed my new bag with as much as I could. A tripod, TTL speedlite, Octabox and my beloved 50mm lens (remember I use a crop sensor), and hopped on the train.

I knew he was a talented street dancer, and seized the opportunity to make the most of this opportunity. I had been looking at the work of other dance photographers and it looked really exciting. The challenge of freezing an awesome post – I just had to try it.

I had a general idea of how I was going to start it, I knew I needed a fast shutter speed. At least 1/500 (that’s actually only just fast enough, some say to use 1/1000). I knew I would need a flash to provide enough light, but one that could sync at high shutter speeds. I also wanted a shallow depth of field, because for some reason I love that. I think it focuses the composition better, perhaps. And I also wanted that really low ground level perspective, which I find lends itself to equal proportioning.

Not a bad first attempt don’t you think?

I say first attempt, that was about 10 shots in, but I got what I wanted. After seeing that I had pretty much achieved what I wanted, albeit only at my level of skill, so I was excited. I needed more.

I was glad it was working out, because this is an area I’d really like to explore as it’s just so much more exciting.

My next goal is to use flour, and 2 high speed TTL flashes, and whack the shutter right up to 1/1000, or even 1/2000!?

If you have any tips to share, then feel free to ping me a message, or to find out more about me and where I am, take a look here.

How To Improve Your Portrait Photography

Okay, so I lied a bit, I can’t really tell you how to improve your photography, as that depends entirely on where you are and what your objectives are. I can, however, describe the process I have been through to improve my own portrait photography.

As artists, you know how it is. You’re never really quite happy with the work you produce; you’re always looking for ways to better your work and reach that point when you can finally say ‘that’s the best I can achieve’. It’s a funny thing, because whenever I get that feeling of having improved, it doesn’t take too long for me to look back on that work and think ‘mmh, now I’m not so keen’. I think that’s quite normal, it’s a bit like winning levels in a computer game, where you get the satisfaction of completing a level, but you’re still nowhere near completing the game. Unfortunately, photography is a never-ending game, you can always do better – and I’m okay with that, it keeps me going.

So, how have I improved my portrait work?

When I started out, I was so concerned with the settings on my camera, and appearing to look like I know what I’m doing, that fundamental compositional elements got completely looked over. I would take images with bright sun on their face, or hard shadows, or with a lot of background distractions. What’s more, is that I didn’t even think they looked that bad (to be fair I had seen worse).

I had read a lot about what settings would be best, and every account seemed to differ. I use a crop sensor DSLR, and a 50mm f1.2 lens, which is supposedly meant to give you the perspective for something around 80mm, which you’ll read is the most common length for portraits. But then you’ll read in the next article that a 50mm on a crop-sensor doesn’t adjust perspective, as it’s just that, a cropped perspective of 50mm. I discovered that f1.8 to f2.2  with a 50mm on crop did give me pleasing results, though.

The above image is such a shot, but I do often find I have to really work the shot to fill the frame, and really work my position to find the most flattering angle. I feel like this is where one needs to spend their time. By working the shot you ensure you don’t have unflattering shadows, and that you’re not too high up or too low down. Consequently, I found shooting from lower down to give me the best results. It’s funny, because all my life I have been told that shooting from lower down are the least flattering.

I’ve just never found this to be true. Although when I say lower down, I don’t mean shooting directly up at close quarters, I just mean that I’m nearly always crouched when taking shots like this.

In the image above I have a shallow DoF and I’m crouched, and I would say the result is really flattering. The other difficulty I keep encountering is changeable cloud cover – should I let me camera figure out white balance, and shutter speed or not? To have total control, you’ll find you’re changing these settings constantly to fight the changing environment and I imagine it’s a good skill to learn. It’s not a sunny image, but it is balanced an even, and maybe to some that’s not very interesting. I might be inclined to agree, but you can only work with what you have.

I also used to bring my strobe everywhere, but I rarely do that anymore either. Nearly all my portraits are done in natural light. It’s not that I’m scared of using a strobe, if anything, I want more of an excuse to use it, but I just don’t find I need it that often.

All that said, I am generally pretty happy with the results.

Feel free to contact me to let me know what you think, or if you have any advice.

 

sitting metal steps

How Important Is It To Have A Niche In Photography?

If you’re into photography in a serious way, you might find that you get asked what type of photography you do. It never seems the right thing to just say, “well I just kinda take pictures of anything and everything”, a bit like when people say they like ‘all music’ – it just comes across as flimsy low-effort explanation. Problem is, that it could actually be the truth, and I like to consider that I take my work rather seriously.

I actually do enjoy photographing lots of different things, and I take pride it making the result good, and something I want to share. The key component in the whole photography mechanism is my camera. The relationship I create between myself, the camera and the subject is what interests me. This relationship is what drives my results, and although I am serious about it, I am still only a ‘hobbyist’.

The image below is one such time when I have managed to align these 3 things to create something I feel tells story.

A portrait in its most simplest expression. It’s edgy and it’s moody, and that suits the environment. An urban portrait, that many young urban teens could probably relate to.

I don’t class myself a portrait photographer, but it is something I enjoy doing.

But then, I also enjoy doing landscapes, it’s something you can do by yourself and it’s actually quite therapeutic.

You often see scapes a lot like this, but the exposure of a vehicle going past I thought added a unique element to this image, that again meant that the 3 elements align. Me, my camera, and the subject.

But, I’m not really a landscape photographer either, I just enjoy doing them.

Then we come onto the rather interesting topic of bodyscaping. I have only done this a couple of times, and it’s a lot more simpler than it looks. The below image is of a female bodybuilder that wanted to show off her definition.

Definitely very interesting and very different.

But I’m not really a bodyscape artist either, but it’s a great way to learn lighting.

So, we go back to the question of ‘how important it is to have a niche in photography?’

The answer for me is it depends on who you’re talking/selling to. I’m wondering if I might find that other photographers, although specialised, actually enjoy taking photos of lots of different things in equal measures, but their business is specialised.

And maybe that’s the difference, when you throw business into the mix you may have no option other than to cast yourself as a certain something, in order to establish credibility in that field.

If anyone looking to hire me asks, then yes, I am a portrait photographer, but to those who are just interested in photography, then I enjoy and practice a little bit of everything.

If you like my work and would like to work or collaborate with me, then don’t hesitate to get in contact.

 

muscular torso bodyscape

Bodyscaping – A New Love

As I am in the process of building up my portfolio I decided I really needed to find a way to create variety in my portfolio. The problem I had was that I wasn’t really sure how. I had seen and still see numerous photos that make me go ‘wow’, and it’s those photos I aspire to be taking. The highly artistic type that appear to have had an entire team to put together, from stylists to MUAs and Hasselblad medium format cameras.

But there was a way…

I found I could express a type of artistic creativity without the requirement of fancy makeup and Hollywood photographic equipment. And that artform is known as bodyscaping.

The shot above was one of my first attempts at bodyscaping. I was generally pretty happy with it, but it somehow felt a little one dimensional. The light feels harsh, but I like the shadows that are cast from the back muscles and shoulder blades. But something is missing…

I went to the forums and complained about why I wasn’t completely happy with it. I said I did with and without a softbox, high and low, close and far…

The a kind soul gave me a tip…

Use 2 lights, key and fill and opposing angles. Really? That simple? Well so I had a go, and here is what happend:

Well it’s a lot damn closer, but before I got this I was playing around with talc and oils and various other household bits to see how it affected the light. I’m pretty pleased with the outcome, the light moves round the ‘canvas’ really nicely, but if anything I feel the light to be a little harsh.

Anyhow, I kept on. And I finally got my break. A mature female bodybuilder, and what an opportunity for bodyscaping if any. I took what I had learned and gave it my best.

This is my masterpiece:

A simple 2 light set up and a little bit of oil.

Simples.

If you would like to explore having a bodyscape done, then please don’t hestitate to get in contact by sending me a message!

Welcome to thefashionproject

Welcome to my first post on thefashionproject!

I have been going back and fourth on whether to keep this site a gallery site, a blog site…or some kind of hybrid. In the end I decided I will make it a hybrid, simple because this is my platform in which I can express my views on fashion, art and whatever else I feel like.

Hopefully my writing will appeal to other people and they will want to engage, and I encourage this. Always feel free to ping my an email.

I had an email recently off the back of one of my images, informing me they are an ex art teacher. Their interest was mainly black and white imagery, and the use of light. Interesting, I thought, and also pleased someone took the time to email me.

Anyway, I hope you all enjoy my posts.

Thanks for stopping by!

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