15 Quick Ways to Make Your Photography More Professional

Posted on November 20, 2018 by Admin under Business, Photo Sessions, Photography
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1. Practice Depth of Field

Let’s start with the basics, shall we? It is absolutely essential that you practice balancing your shutter speed with your aperture (and other settings like your ISO) to get the right exposure. But good photography is more than a perfectly balanced histogram, and depth of field is one of those artistic decisions that can completely change the impact of an image.

If the term isn’t ringing a bell, depth of field refers to the range of focus in your image. For example, a headshot with a dreamy, blurred background has a shallow depth of field, while a sweeping mountainscape with sharp details from the point of view all the way to the distant cliffs has a very wide depth of field. Depth of field is controlled through your aperture settings. A wide aperture (achieved with a low f-stop number such as f/1.4 or f/2.8) will give you a more shallow depth of field, while a narrow aperture (and higher f-stop number) will offer a wider one. Challenge yourself! Practice getting the depth of field you want in different lighting situations until you’re able to capture the look you’re after without stopping to fumble with your camera.

PRO TIP: An extremely shallow depth field will give you more flexibility with your shutter speed, but can make it challenging to capture the exact focus point you are going for. Practice focusing quickly and efficiently with still life setups and you’ll feel more comfortable when working with moving subjects.


2. Master Natural Lighting

In the same vein, you’ll find that experimenting with different lighting situations will really develop your eye. It will help you make good choices about location (will the leaves from that tree leave spots on your subject’s face?) and timing (golden hour deserves a post all its own!). These decisions are particularly important if you’re marketing yourself as a natural light photographer, but regardless of your specialty, you need the confidence to improvise in the event of a strobe malfunction or inclement weather.

Don’t be afraid to branch out! It’s completely fine to manipulate your natural light with reflectors and other handy tools. A friend or assistant could be key to getting these figured out, as it can be tough to adjust your camera settings while maintaining the best angle, but reflector holders are inexpensive and easy to come by if you’re flying solo. The best advantage this will give you is the ability to make artistic decisions regardless of your circumstances. You’ll be able to harness harsh light from an ill-positioned window into a smooth, consistent glow by bouncing it back onto your subject with a white reflector, or you can give a flat scene some extra pop with a silver one. A true understanding of the way light behaves and how to use it to your advantage is what will set you apart.

PRO TIP: When shooting lifestyle photography, be sure you are not forcing your natural light to compete with garden-variety light bulbs. They will affect your white balance and may leave uneven color casts across portions of your image.


3. Invest in a Good Speedlight

Even with all of that extra practice, there are times when natural light is not in a cooperative mood or isn’t available at all. A good set of strobes will open up possibilities in your studio, but a trusty speedlight can go with you anywhere. When you’re shopping for one, you’ll notice that there are adapters, diffusers, and features galore, but the most important thing is to match your speedlight to your camera model and check for HSS (high-speed sync) and TTL (through-the-lens metering).

High-speed sync is especially useful when shooting action photography or any other situation that requires a high shutter speed. Otherwise, you may end up with the dreaded black bar across your image. This happens when your shutter moves too quickly for your flash; your flash is basically capturing your shutter curtain along with the rest of your image. With HSS, your speedlight will pulse (too quickly for you to see, but it happens) providing lighting throughout the exposure. TTL is exactly what it sounds like: it allows you to meter for your lighting through the lens of the camera, based on what the scene will look like when your flash settings are active. There are a few different ways that this works, so it’s important to learn your camera settings and those of the speedlight you choose. TTL in any form will be a lifesaver when you don’t have the time to stand around taking lots of test shots.


PRO TIP: Speedlights are great for fill when there is harsh lighting behind your subject, however, they should be used carefully in low lighting situations. Find a surface to bounce your flash off of such as a white ceiling or wall to avoid washing out facial features.


4. Be Aware of Your Background

If you really want to kick your photography up a notch, there is one simple fix you may not even realize you need. When you’re shooting on location, don’t just check the posing and the light on your model’s face; look to see what is behind them before you press the shutter button. How many of us have seen a perfectly composed image and thought, if only that car wasn’t behind them?

Your clients may not even notice that there’s a pole coming out of the top of their head, but I guarantee they will like the image better if it is not there. Remove clutter in post-processing if you feel comfortable or adjust your position during the shoot, but either way, you will be amazed at the difference in your portfolio when you vamoose all of those errant pedestrians from your backgrounds.

PRO TIP: Depth of field comes in handy when you find yourself in a situation where a cluttered background is unavoidable. Blurring out undesirable objects will make them less noticeable and easier to remove in post-processing.


5. Put Your Model in the Right Frame of Mind

Everyone has off days, and that can make a photographer’s job tricky when trying to catch someone’s good side. Whether you’re photographing a wedding with an overstressed bride or conducting a commercial shoot with a cranky model, if you don’t take time to clean their emotional palette their baggage will show in your photos. Try breaking the ice with humor, or simply take the time to converse with them before diving into work mode. They’ll appreciate being treated as an individual and as a result, will feel (and look) more comfortable.

PRO TIP: If you have time beforehand, get a little superficial background information on your models, such as recent work history or basic interests. This may make it easier to find a topic that will help them relax.


6. Don’t Overbook Yourself

Leave yourself time to really assess each shoot. Sometimes the best ideas come to you in the moment, and you need to be able to act on them without fear of spilling over into another client’s time slot. It’s exciting when inquiries start pouring in and it might be tempting to book everyone ASAP rather than lose out on potential business, but a hurried shoot is a recipe for disappointed clients. Not to mention, if you are out shooting continuously, you may be forcing yourself to cut corners with your post-processing. This is a good time to evaluate your workflow and determine how many projects you can realistically take on at a time while doing your best work.

It’s also good practice to prioritize your bookings. Some clients will require a quicker turnaround or have a project with higher stakes, and it may make more sense to work through those tasks first so that you can go into less time-sensitive edits with a clear head. There’s no law that says you have to edit and process every project in the same order you shot it, as long as you maintain good communication and provide each client with a turnaround that is reasonable for their specific needs.

PRO TIP: Don’t rely on your memory when you make bookings on the go. Always have a way to note appointments the second you make them, and to view what you already have scheduled. A digital calendar that syncs across your devices is perfect for this, but an old-school planner that goes wherever you go works great, too.


7. Zoom with Your Feet

Don’t throw out your telephoto lens, but definitely leave it at home every now and then and see what you can do without it. For fast-paced sports photography, you need that snappy zoom to close the gap between you and the action, but when you’re shooting in a more relaxed setting, your feet can serve the same purpose. There’s just no substitute for getting physically close to your subject, and the ability to test different crops and compositions in real time will help kick-start your creativity.

You’ll find this especially true when working with a model you haven’t photographed before. Every face has a “good” side and some are easier to find than others, so looking at your subject from different angles and distances will give you a better idea of what is most flattering to their features. The same applies for still lifes. The best way to evaluate your composition is to experience it from multiple vantage points and while your body can move in any direction, a telephoto lens can only move in and out.

PRO TIP: Start with a standard 50mm lens. These are great starter prime lenses as they are relatively inexpensive, and whether you are using a crop sensor or full-frame they give you a result that is similar to your natural field of view.


8. Zoom with Your Mouse

Raise your hand if you’re guilty of this: you just spent hours editing this one tricky section of your image and you’re insanely proud of it. Then you zoom back out to admire the finished product and think, “What happened?!” At that point, you’re so exhausted and frustrated that you start from scratch and do a rush job that ends up looking nothing like your original vision.

For detailed fixes, a tight zoom is sometimes necessary to really see what you’re working on, but this can also leave you blind to subtleties in color, texture, and scale that occur elsewhere in your image. It’s an easy mistake to make, and it’s made more often than you might think. If you’re in a position to spend some money, upgrading your screen size can cure a lot of post-processing woes and keep you from having to make extreme, view-restricting zooms, but you don’t necessarily have to spend money to improve your post-processing technique. Make it an intentional part of your workflow to zoom in and out periodically to get the full effect of what you’ve done so far. It will give you a better idea of how your image is progressing overall, particularly when you have several nit-picky fixes to make. You’ll thank yourself later and your clients will, too.

PRO TIP: To view your entire image without skipping a beat, use keyboard shortcuts periodically to zoom in and out. In Lightroom or Photoshop for Windows, hold down your Ctrl key while zooming with the + or — signs. You can do the same thing on a Mac using your Command key.


9. Cull Your Images

Say it with me: “A portfolio is only as strong as its weakest image.” For semi-pros just getting their feet wet in the business part of photography, there’s a lot of pressure to have “enough” images in the portfolio. You certainly feel more credible when you have scores of samples for potential clients, but it is infinitely better to have a small selection of quality images than an ambush of mediocre ones. Remember: if they want quantity, they have a smartphone. If they want quality, they have you.

If you lack formal education or training in the field, this can put you at a disadvantage. You may still be learning what a good composition looks like or how drastically a color cast can affect an image so you may find it difficult to pare down the shots that are really working from the ones that you just like. Fortunately, there are a lot of great, affordable classes and tutorials to give you that leg up, and in the meantime, it can help to look at the online galleries (and live exhibitions, if they’re available to you) of established photographers. Be sure to do your research before signing up for a photography workshop or e-course. Choose a name that will give you quality information!

PRO TIP: Do some soul-searching when selecting images for a professional portfolio. What kind of work are you hoping to attract? If your heart is in portraiture but you are showing mostly landscapes, you may be setting yourself up to take on projects that do not interest you.


10. Immerse Yourself in the Community

Take time to read photography forums and magazines. You are reading this, so you are already ahead of the game! There are a lot of opinions out there to sift through, so if you are a true beginner be sure to stick to established sites with moderators to help you separate the shower thoughts from the pro tips. This is especially true for business questions that may include legal considerations, such as putting together a good contract. Our corner of the artistic community is a very technical and, at times, fiercely competitive one, so you should always be networking, cultivating resources, and keeping your ear to the ground for new developments in the field.

PRO TIP: Many online photography resources have e-newsletters and push notifications, so you can easily know when there is new or relevant content without having to sift through multiple web pages each day.


11. Get Constructive Criticism

…and not just from people who are close to you. Even if your family and friends are known for a direct, no-nonsense approach, that doesn’t guarantee that they actually know what to look for. They might look at your image and think it’s great because they don’t know what it could look like with the right changes. This can mean shelling out for a professional portfolio critique or posting to a reputable online community, but getting objective, quality feedback is a step that can transform your work. It’s also one of the scariest steps you can take as an artist and one that many never take out of fear until they’ve already wasted years (and a lot of money) learning it all the hard way.

Those of us coming from a formal education are painfully familiar with on-the-spot critiques; pinning your in-progress works to a well-worn bulletin board so that classmates and professors alike can tell you exactly what is and isn’t working about this thing you just spent days, sometimes weeks, putting together. As stressful and, at times, demoralizing as it can be to hear negative things about your work, the next piece is always better because of it. Perhaps even more importantly, the more you hear other people talk about your work, the easier it becomes to discern which advice will help you achieve your vision. All advice is based on opinion to some degree, so keep exploring once you’ve gleaned what you can from other people’s thoughts.

PRO TIP: Sometimes professional photographers will offer critiques and portfolio reviews as part of their services. This is a great way to not only make a contact in the industry but to get feedback from someone who implements a specific technique or style you are trying to master.


12. Sharpen Your Output

When you’ve been staring at a photo series for days in Lightroom or Photoshop, your eyes can start to cross a little. It’s easy to get so focused on the color balance, levels, and spot retouching that you don’t even think to sharpen. Exporting a file to a new format (or posting it to social media) can muddy those clean, crisp edges you were so proud of, so it’s always a smart idea to sharpen at the end of an edit. Lightroom makes it easy to batch sharpen directly from the Export menu, but recording a Photoshop action is also a great way to sharpen with the tap of a key when you’re ready to consider a work finished.

PRO TIP: Apply different levels of sharpening to the same image in Photoshop using layer masks. Leave blurred backgrounds untouched and make a little extra sharpening visible on the small details around your subject’s eyes for an extra pop.


13. Use Your File Types Effectively

Let’s talk about your basic photography file types. Shooting in RAW is the industry standard right now, and it makes for powerful (and oftentimes extremely large) files. Depending on which camera manufacturer you go with, your extension may look different, but regardless, you’re going to want reliable external storage (or cloud-based storage, or both) for these. Although RAW has a very specific meaning in this context, they are also “raw” files in the sense that they contain a wealth of information from your camera sensor that may not even be visible at first glance, allowing you to go back in and edit with more flexibility. Not every software can view these natively, so you’ll need to export them to a different format if you plan to post them to social media or give digital copies to a client.

Next, you have TIFF files, which are viewable on more platforms while retaining your layers so that you can go back and make changes to those files later. They are similar to Photoshop’s native files, PSDs. Still big files, but a lot friendlier to non-photogs and great for collaboration. JPG files are what we’re all used to seeing. They’re all universal, however, you should use them with caution. JPGs are best utilized for images you are completely done editing, as recurrent edits will visibly degrade the file. They tend to be a manageable size, though, and with some of that friendly output sharpening we discussed earlier they can do justice to your skills.

PRO TIP: To keep your output looking like it did in your editing software, remember your color systems, too! RGB is for web content, while CMYK is best for anything that will be printed.


14. Step Away from Your Edits

Before you send your files on, save them and walk away for a while. Take a few days if you have that long, but even as little as an hour or two will give you fresh eyes and a new perspective. There may be last-minute changes that didn’t occur to you before that you’ll be glad you caught.

PRO TIP: Use the snapshot feature (the little camera icon at the bottom of your History panel) in Photoshop to save different versions of your edits to come back to later. You may find that an earlier version was actually closer to what you were trying to achieve when you go back in a more objective mindset.


15. Present Yourself as a Professional

More often than not, your clients will associate your images with their impression of you. It’s not really fair, but it’s human nature. Even if you’re just getting started with bare-bones equipment, be sure to extend courtesies. Answer emails promptly and proofread your replies before sending. When communicating by phone, use a polite and friendly tone. Show up on time and dress appropriately. This doesn’t necessarily mean you should wear a suit and tie to a farm shoot — it’s important to make your clients comfortable and meet them where they’re at — but communicate through your demeanor and presentation that you’re taking their time seriously. If you conduct yourself as a professional, you’ll stand a better chance of being treated as one.

PRO TIP: Get feedback from clients using a survey or questionnaire if you are unsure how you are coming across. No one can tell you what makes your clients happy better than your clients, themselves!


There’s a lot more to professional photography than meets the eye, and newcomers to the industry often feel overwhelmed by the amount of equipment, techniques, and business acumen required to be competitive. Even for hobbyists who are just hoping for more professional images, it can be difficult to know where to start when you’re facing a mountain of terminology you only half understand. Fortunately, improvement is addictive, so start with the easy fixes. Once you begin producing a new caliber of work, it will be all but impossible to put the camera down!

Above all, practice. Every aspect of professional photography, from technical know-how to interpersonal skills, requires practice. Start with the areas which you know need the most improvement and before you know it, you’ll be snapping shots you used to only dream of without a second thought. These 15 quick ways to upgrade your photography are just a few of the many things you can do to take your photography from semi-pro to full-on professional, so keep reading for more great how-tos and inspiration from other professional photographers!

Life Class (drawing) modelling

Posted on October 13, 2018 by Admin under Modeling, Photography, Uncategorized
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Note: The author has not life-modeled and probably should not.

Modeling for drawing or painting with one artist (or a group or class with a tutor) is one of the areas of work open to models and can complement photographic and other modeling work.  It seems to be generally enjoyed by those doing it.

Finding the work

The local art centre, university or college may well have a course or session and is likely to appreciate knowing of a willing (or just interested) model.

There is a website for artists models with advice and notices – the RAM website (Register of Artists Models):  http://modelreg.co.uk

Many models here on PurplePort have modeled for life-drawing and other traditional art activities, and they seem generally helpful.

The usual conduct of a session

You will typically be expected to hold a short series of poses for just a few minutes each. The artists warm up by doing rapid sketches. Perhaps 5 of 2 minutes each.

There might be a couple of intermediate length poses (say 15 minutes).

You then go into a static pose that you will be expected to hold for quite a long time (perhaps 2 hours with a break).


Make sure you note on your diary what sort of drawings you are posing for. One model arrived in a slight rush, strode into the class and threw off her robe, to be reminded – in front of a surprised-looking class – that today was just faces [1]. It isn’t always full-figure nude.

Look at some life drawings, and think about and try out some poses before your first session.

Arrive slightly early to the studio. Warm up, go through the poses, etc, and perhaps help setup.

“Make sure you use the loo before taking up the pose, two hours is a long time with your legs crossed.” (IanWarnerPhotography)

Ensure the space is warm. (“Take portable heaters [2]…yes, even in summer! Staying still and relaxed whether nude or scantily dressed for so long, you become cold very quickly.” (CTE)

Choose your positions or poses carefully. What may feel comfortable after a minute might not be so pleasant 15 minutes in?

Relax. Deliberately. If circumstances allow, do a few minutes of relaxation exercises before you start.

If your muscles are tense or you are stressed as you go into a pose then you are more likely to cramp up. Ask the teacher to make chalk marks on the ground to show where your feet or whatever are so you can resume the same pose after a break.

Learn to flex and relax your muscles without altering your position. Then you can ease the cramps a bit without changing position. Guardsmen are taught to tense and relax their calf muscles every so often as that reduces the chances of them fainting.

Have something to think about. Compose your shopping list, imagine a holiday, or dream up a short story.

Examples of life drawing and poses:


The recurrent advice given on PurplePort is to enjoy it, to have fun.

If you have never been in a life class you may be surprised how formal it all is. You do not wander around starkers! You walk to the podium in a robe. Your robe is brought to you when you break (do wear it). The artists will usually be very quiet and the whole atmosphere is like being in a library!

You will be surprised how quickly you find you have forgotten about being nude.

Don’t stress either. You don’t have to stay unduly still. You can still scratch an itch, perhaps depending where, move a hair out of your eyes, etc. Don’t be afraid to ask to move if you’re physically in pain or shake out a hand that’s gone dead. Most groups are lovely and understand that you’re a human being.

Expect mini-breaks between long poses where you can stretch, walk about, and drink tea. If not offered, make sure you ask for these basic needs when you need them. Depending on the duration of your assignment, you are entitled to a break in the middle.

Make sure you stretch properly in between poses.

Know what poses you can sustain for the various periods. The longer pose would normally be seated or reclining. Avoid poses with your arms raised above your head unless you have proven to yourself you can do it. Even 5 minutes is a long time with arms raised. Do your most dynamic poses first since you won’t be holding them for long with the first set, and then gradually simplify the poses as you get into the longer sets.  Aim to do a variety of poses. Standing, sitting, crouching and lying. This gives the artists a variety of shapes to draw from. The class leader should make it clear for each pose how long it is for. If they don’t then don’t be afraid to ask.

Rotate yourself around when posing, so you don’t leave one artist in the far corner just drawing the back of your head or your feet [3] for the whole session. Avoid making or maintaining eye contact with an artist, as this may disconcert them.

Life models move, that is part of the artists’ challenge, so don’t stress, just try not to move a lot. Settle into your pose as early as you can to minimise change. If you need to ease it a bit then try to move one bit at a time to minimise distraction (e.g. a hand or a foot, and back into place). The tutor should always make sure you are comfortable and if at any point you are struggling to hold a pose then let them know so you can have a 2-minute break, or even change the pose.

And don’t twist your back


By all means, talk to people. Have a look at pictures. Young students in their first class may be reticent, the mostly retired people who do various classes are likely to be amiable.


As with modeling for photography life-drawing assignments might be offered in various places. At least one reportedly reputable artist has drawn a model in his hotel room (see First Life Drawing Session Tomorrow, Any Advice?). This seems no more remarkable than doing a photo-shoot in a hotel room, perhaps where someone is working away from home.

Some may be in purpose-built artists’ studios whilst others in local authority buildings, adult education centres, and the like. There is one in the back room of a pub in Chagford, Devon. One model I know conducts sessions at her home.

Things to take

The tutor or artist will generally provide any props they want (if any) otherwise an uncluttered pose may be preferred. You might ask in advance what items they have in their studio so as to have a rough idea of what you can interact with (e.g. chair, stool, yoga mat, pillows, etc). If you are invited to select and bring something then keeping it simple is probably best. The artists are more interested in the shapes you create and the emotion you can convey than any accessories. Indeed, they can draw extra bits and add them in later – it isn’t just photographs that get post-production and additions from stock.

You might take some body oil to help define muscles and something to model with (such as a long white drape).

Credits and references

Lili Thorpe

Lili Thorpe asked a question about this topic which will be asked again. This article condenses the advice of several people in a long discussion into one document.  I hope it helps.


LifeDrawingArtist pointed to good advice online at the website http://modelreg.co.uk saying their set of guidelines for models and artists/employers is useful and invite you to drop him a line if you have any other questions.

Nick McGrath



Leaf was nervous the first time she modeled nude for her local art school.  “I had no idea what to expect, and I am naturally very shy, so the thought of a large group of students all in a circle around me, looking directly at me, studying me, was intimidating.  But very quickly got used to it. it is actually a really good job.”

If the people drawing you are students, they will probably not interact with you.

If it is a ‘life long learning class’ or similar, it will be full of lovely people of mixed ages who are often regulars to the class and are really friendly and supportive.

My classes are usually 2 – 6 hours long. I usually am asked to start with some 5 minute poses first to warm up, then a longer pose, which may last for the rest of the session. They mark out where I’m sitting so I can move when I get breaks. I usually sit for 40 mins or so at a time. I recommend very natural poses, not twisting too much. Don’t put too much weight on any one limb or a particular part of your body. Try to spread your weight. Try to relax into the pose, as soon as you can. You don’t want to be tense. And the sooner you relax into a pose, the better, as you’ll shift in your position when you do this. If you need to move because you’re uncomfortable, try just moving a hand or a foot at a time, whilst keeping the rest of your body really still. Any movement will be distracting to the artists, so try to avoid it or contain it.

Don’t cycle or walk up a giant hill to your classes, like I used to do. As soon as you stop still, you’ll start to sweat! I’ve stood in front of a class many a time and visibly sweated. Literally, dripping from me, running down my body, down my crack and all. One artist painted in lots of ink splatters to represent my perspiration!

Do not eat too much beforehand. No beans or anything like that lol! Bring water, and something sweet. You’ll feel sleepy so sugar is helpful.

I recommend staring at one spot on the ground, to keep your balance, and to make sure your head stays in the same position. If I’m seated, I usually close my eyes after a while.

I go into a serene and meditative state when I am life modeling. I also come up with bizarre ideas for shoots whilst I’m sitting there – most of my surreal images are a result of this! It’s a good time to start thinking over problems, solutions, and plans for the future. It’s wonderful to have time to think – a real luxury!

If you are worried about them being strangers and feel intimidated, go round and talk to everyone. Tell them it’s your first time. They will all be supportive. Talk to them about their drawings on your break – their techniques, materials used, etc. By the time you get back for the second part after your break, you’ll feel like you’re in good company. I love to see how others have drawn me, it’s very interesting, and they will love some feedback from you!


[1] This may be apocryphal. It falls into the category of stories too good to check.

[2] https://purpleport.com/portfolio/colonel556/image/3309544/Model/?type=tag&tags=life%20pose&referrer=studiof11 (heater in use with pose)

[3] Unless, I suppose, they really want to.



Posted on October 12, 2018 by Admin under Business, Photo Sessions, Photography
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After 12 years working as a professional photographer, I realise now more than ever the value of having working relationships with industry vendors. We all have a job to do, we all want to be successful, we all want to make money. I see a lot of businesses take an isolationist approach, which can be detrimental to the success of your business. Instead, I find ways to foster mutually beneficial relationships with vendors.

Recently I was looking at where my fashion portraiture referrals were coming from when I noticed that a venue I used to shoot at several times a year had completely fallen off my radar. We had not shot a wedding there in almost five years. How could that be? We picked up the phone, scheduled a meeting with their team and did something about it.

Below is how we went from an afterthought to front-runner—and rebuilt a relationship and our portfolio along the way.

Know what you bring to the table. 

We are creatives. All businesses need creative talent. They need graphic design, photography services, video services and also someone with vision and the ability to execute ideas.

There is great value in what we bring to the table, and we have to parlay that into a winning situation for ourselves. That’s why we are doing this. Be transparent. I know I was.

We offered to stylise a commercial fashion shoot and promotional video in exchange for premium placement in this venue’s salesroom. It was a lot of work to commit to, but in the end, it was a great way to position the studio as a premier partner. I was doing something no other photographer was willing to do. I bet correctly that the images we produced would drive new business to our studio and galvanise our relationship with the venue.

Think about what your vendors need. 

Anyone involved in this project needs something. We are all in business to make a profit. Most vendors don’t have time to help you with a stylised shoot if there is nothing in it for them. We all need to be a little selfish here, and that’s ok.

So, what do they all need? Updated images for their marketing. This includes social media, print advertising, and billboards—all of which require images. It’s easy to just photograph for yourself and not think about the other vendors involved. That’s a huge miss.

For this shoot, we delivered new prints for their sales room, a multipage flyer highlighting both the venue and my photography to be handed out, and a video commercial. Of course, I got some incredible images for my portfolio to showcase at the next show.

Own the concept and idea. Every piece of it. 

This is your idea. Own it. If you want to just be a heartbeat with a camera, then let someone else run the show—but all you will have accomplished is to prove you are nothing more than a nerd who knows how to use a tool.

Instead, own the concept from beginning to end and showcase yourself as the director, producer, and vision of the project. You will be bringing incredible value to the team. Who wouldn’t want to work with a rock star? Once the word gets out that you and your team pulled this off without a hitch, you will be received with open arms by any vendor on future projects. Screw this up, and, well, you know what will happen. But hey, no pressure.

We owned the entire concept from beginning to end. There are a lot of moving parts to something like this, and you need to stay organised.

Bring in your tribe. 

We all have vendors we like and who we have a good relationship with. Involve those people. This is the trifecta. You now add and galvanise your relationship with existing partners who want to be part of everything you do: florists, limos, tuxedos, models, hair and makeup.

We expanded the shoot to include a bunch of vendors we have relationships with. This shoot had a little bit of everything, so we needed help from our partners. In return, they got imagery. See how easy this is?

Deliver on your promises. 

Don’t you dare come this far and screw this up? You better deliver on all your promises, and deliver fast, none of this six-month delivery time. We had our images ready in two weeks from this shoot. We were sharing and tagging vendors in less than 24 hours after the shoot. Do not half-ass this. If you do, the resulting negative publicity will not be forgotten anytime soon. These are vendors that you have to see week in and week out.

Invest the time and energy needed to complete the project. Hire someone, outsource if you need to, but do it right.

Stay connected to vendors on social media. Thank them for their involvement. Share behind-the-scenes images and stories. You are doing this to keep the excitement and momentum going post-shoot. This is something everyone invested a lot of time and energy into, and you need to do everything in your power to make it worth their while and ensure no one leaves with a bad taste in their mouth. If they do, they will never do it again.

It doesn’t need to be complicated. Is it a lot of work? Yes, but trust me, the results are well worth it. Once you find your rhythm and formula, repeat it all over again.

Dominate your local market.

Shooting in Hotels

Posted on October 11, 2018 by Admin under Uncategorized
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Helmut Newton’s remark that women do not live in front of white paper and his preference for shooting in smart hotel rooms gave one reason.


Studios are excellent in many ways, but real and existing rooms offer lots of sets and have a narrative plausibility. One of them might fit the artistic requirement for a particular shoot. Costs, geography, and convenience are other respectable reasons. A hotel is neutral ground (which neither the model nor the photographer’s home is) and has slight and distant supervision.

A touring model may well book a room overnight or longer. One option is to book a rather nice large room, and besides sleeping in it and preparing to meet the coming day may offer availability in it for shoots, intending to at least defray the cost of the room.  This perhaps works best in or near a sizeable town.

A photographer may also be touring, or away on other business, and mix a shoot with it, or perhaps repeatedly use a local hotel in daytime[0] or take it overnight.

Types of location

As well as individual hotel rooms it is worth also considering: suites, AirBnB, B&Bs, and studios made like hotels [4]. In addition, hotels and pubs have function rooms, and hiring one for a declared shoot (of rather larger size and complication than one to one in a room) is a slightly different topic.

Some hotels will hire out their rooms by the hour. Of the ones we might like to use, boutique hotels tend to be aware of photographers. You will probably not be allowed to use the bath/shower or have the model get into the bed because they would have to get the room cleaned again. Boutique hotels may only do this in the quiet seasons. Some few hotels actually present themselves as studios, either occasionally or whenever they are not fully occupied.

For example South House Retreat, Near Dorchester, Dorset

Other hotels or houses may be booked in their entirety among several photographers as a shared location and used much as for any other party or corporate away day.  A slightly different topic.

For example, The Old Rectory (near Bridport, Dorset) or Studland Bay House (also in Dorset) each are a scene of several shoots by groups from PurplePort.

It is helpful if you have seen the actual room before finally booking or accepting it since some look better in their photographs than in reality. On the other hand, that’s also the business you are in. Geography may limit your options, and the question of whether to book into the same room every month with a different person visiting is not absolutely simple to answer.


Life is simpler near home. Laws and customs may be severely different in some other countries, and local knowledge and research are desirable. Contemplating how you return your images to home may also be worthwhile – some customs barriers might be better passed with the camera cards sanitised, in both directions.

To tell or not to Tell?

On the whole, nobody cares. Large corporate chains, if approached through their head office, are likely to say “no” by reflex – this may not apply if you are shooting for Vogue or even Playboy.  The receptionist might be interested but is unlikely to be troubled. A general view seems to be “don’t tell, don’t ask”. Good hotels are very helpful to good guests [2]. Lying is probably a bad idea. Including hotel branding material in a shot is tactless and may lead to an upset.


Bring in a bag, perhaps two bags. Bringing in the whole studio lighting set, C-stands and wind-machine in one go seems unwise [3]. Check-in and shortly afterward go back for the rest. If an eyebrow is raised, the explanation that it is unwise to leave it in the car or that your insurance requires you not to is both plausible and probably true. Indeed, it is good advice.

Artemis Fauna’s four-suitcase packing list [1] for touring probably looks less unusual with a model than with most photographers.


You probably should. If it is a business hotel, then look as if you are doing business. If it is a country house then dressing as if you might be involved in some country life seems better than a black t-shirt and cargo shorts. And boutique hotels may expect hipsters.

Undressed photography in the corridors has been practiced by David Bailey (the real one) and others, but at the very least it should be carefully done out of consideration for other guests, and later photographers and models. Whereas in the rooms, well that’s part of the point, isn’t it.

Check Out

If you breach explicit conditions on the use of rooms or are unfortunate enough to upset the manager, then you might be ejected quite suddenly.  Make sure you have transport or some other retreat plan available.

If (as is usual) all has gone to plan and you have completed your shoot, and have a home to go to, you can check out early, leaving the model or photographer to enjoy the facilities. Or you use the facilities yourself. If you are staying on someone else’s tab then draining the minibar and leaving breakages would be …bad.


Packing lightly seems sensible. A second body and flash give resilience, but the first probably won’t fail, and you can work around lighting problems. Turn the beeping down, avoid flashing under the door and perhaps through the windows, eschew smoke, and generally be discreet.

Police reports, interest, and questions

In general, police are sensible. They are not troubled by people who are not criminals, so long as they are not also arseholes. If the ins and outs of a room excite interest, be ready to show that you are not acting unlawfully and discuss that lawful activity.

References and credits

[0] For instance via www.dayuse.com or www.between9and5.com, but many hotels are used to people booking a room to bath and change between work and events.

[1] A Model’s tips for UK Tours. Fauna, A.: purpleport.com a-models-tips-for-uk-tours

[2]  DWM “once ‘fessed up to the receptionist at a lovely hotel in Doncaster, and then asked if she had a step ladder that I could borrow. She duly produced one for me. But, mostly, in, out, job done.”

[3] Although monsignorphotographic who shoots headshot sets (amongst others) checks in ” … first with a small bag then ferry the other stuff in after, lights, backdrop roll and stand, stool….”

[4] E.g. purpleport.com/portfolio/towerbridgepenthouse/

Colin Adams on boutique hotels near Gosport. GJP, Nigel68 suggested specific hotels.

Many others made specific points.

In 2017-18 these hotels were mentioned:

ChrisD3 offered these links a little while earlier



Posted on July 2, 2018 by Admin under Business, Motivation, Networking, Photography
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Carriage with four grey horses

The secret to all business is relationships—the good ones and, yes, even the bad ones. The bad ones drive us to do things like start a blog. The good ones support us, sometimes every step of the way, sometimes literally from the ground up.

“It’s not about what you know, it’s about who you know.” I used to say that with a twinge of bitterness in my mouth. Now, a decade or so later, I realize that isn’t a snide statement. The best thing you can do in business is expand your network.

If so much of our success sits on the shoulders of whom we know, then it’s our job to get out there and expand our reach. Here’s how you do that.

Get Uncomfortablehead portrait of horse

This year I spoke at a convention for equine photographers. Pretty obscure. But those people need social media advice too, and that’s what I was there to teach.

I knew absolutely no one, not even the person who invited me there to speak.

There I was at the opening-night mixer. I dressed confident but not intimidating and walked into the ballroom. My heart was ready to burst out of my chest as I surveyed the room. I had no idea what on earth I was going to say to anyone. I held my breath, walked to the nearest circle of people talking among themselves and said, “Hi, my name is David.”

I didn’t stay long talking to anyone, so it didn’t get that awkward. When the conversation died, I simply excused myself and found another group and did the same thing. By the end of the night, I had met at least half the people there. No, I didn’t remember their names (I should work on that), but the next day when I had to teach them, I knew a lot of smiling faces. By the time the next night’s party came around, I felt like I was out with friends.

Shy? Me too. If that story made you sweat, you are not alone. The success with new relationships doesn’t come from how comfortable you are meeting new people. It comes from you simply doing it regardless of how you feel.

Shut Up and Listen

The next step to building relationships is to simply stop talking. I don’t care if you’re meeting someone on Instagram or in person. If you want to start the relationship right, at least act like you give a damn about the other person.

It’s not brain surgery. People like to talk about themselves. They like to brag and have people gush over them. So, give them the opportunity for both. Ask questions about what they do, how they started, what motivates them, what they’re most proud of in their life right now. Anything works. (Well, maybe not politics, especially these days.)

When you do talk, replace the number of times you typically use the word “I” in your dialogue with their name. According to Dale Carnegie’s classic How to Win Friends and Influence People, the sweetest sound to anyone’s ear is their own name. Just don’t overdo it like this girl I went out with once, who said: “David, why don’t you, David, tell me what David likes to do on the weekend, David.” We didn’t go out again.

Be the Cool Kids Table

One of the first times I went to a big photography convention, I remember feeling like I was back in senior school. I was never at the cool kid’s table then, and I certainly wasn’t at the photo convention either.

In fact, I remember once sitting in a room with a couple of speakers from the show just watching how they interacted with one another like old friends having the time of their lives. I wondered how I could get in with that group. Then it dawned on me: I couldn’t, at least not to the extent that they already were. I didn’t have the history they had together.

Instead, I realized that it was never about getting into the cool kids club. It was about making your own club. I don’t look up; I look across to find colleagues with whom I can form friendships that’ll last a lifetime. I make my own circle, and you can too. You can do the same thing with vendors in your area, with families, with any kind of business relationship you can imagine. Be your own cool kid’s club and develop relationships over time that will help your business grow as you help theirs.

Being in the photo industry is an amazing privilege. Being a part of the Guild of Professional Photographers family has been incredible. There are no others like us. We are the cool kid’s table.

Night time portrait



Posted on June 14, 2018 by Admin under Modeling, Photo Sessions, Photography
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                                                                                                           Catchlights are the lights reflected in a subject’s eyes. I normally use strobes to capture them. Catchlights add life and sparkle, while their absence can result in dull, lifeless images. There are no hard and fast rules, and sometimes you may want dead and lifeless. It’s all about knowing what you want, why you want it and how to create it. But portraits are almost always better with catchlights.

Single vs. multiple catchlights

Regardless of the light source used, the goal remains the same: replicating what exists in nature. In nature, we have only one light source, the sun, and there’s only one. I’m not a fan a multiple catchlights. There are exceptions to this, notably in the studio with certain fashion, cosmetics and beauty lighting applications, so we’ll look at them both ways. While studio lighting is a bit more forgiving in the catchlight department, my preference is still a single catchlight created by an overhead keylight. A single catchlight is more natural looking. Multiple bright lights reflecting in a subject’s eyes screams artificial lighting.

Positioning your catchlights

Catchlights are best positioned in your subject’s eyes at either 10 or 2 o’clock, just like the ideal hand positions on a steering wheel. Use 10 and 2 as your catchlight position guideline. There’s one more position, the one you never learned in driving school but use every day: the 12 o’clock position. You want your catchlights creating crescent shapes at the tops of the eyes. So 10, 2 or 12 are the ideal positions for catchlight reflections in a subject’s eyes. As long as you stick with those three positions, you’ll be on solid ground.

Rarely do you want a catchlight in the lower portion of the eyes, under the retina. This occurs when a light source is placed below the subject’s eye line. We’re attempting to replicate what happens in nature, with light always coming from above. Lighting a subject from below creates a ghoulish effect

, but there are exceptions to every rule. When you add a second light above that acts as a dominant keylight, you get a pleasing over-and-under effect known as clamshell lighting. I cover other lighting patterns and their catchlights below. In any lighting pattern, any secondary catchlight should be subtle and subordinate to the power and appearance of the keylight.

The position of the catchlight reflected in your subject’s eyes is a direct result of the height, angle and position of the keylight in relationship to the subject. The 10, 2 and 12 catchlight positions are created using these classic lighting patterns: Paramount/clamshell light (12 o’clock) and Rembrandt/loop light (10 and 2 o’clock). If you want a catchlight at the 2 o’clock position in your subject’s eyes, move your light to the same position left or right around the circumference of your subject. The same is true for the 12 o’clock position of the catchlight created with Paramount and clamshell light—simply position your light source above your camera positioned directly in front of your subject. To control where the catchlight falls height-wise, raise and lower your keylight until the catchlight is where you want it. For me, that’s a crescent shape at the top of the eyes.

Filling in the shadows

To fill in the shadows on the side of the face opposite the keylight, you’ll need a reflector, which provides subtle fill without distracting secondary catchlights. Reflectors are incredibly flexible despite the fact that they don’t have their own power source or light modifiers. With reflectors, you use distance to control the amount of light they contribute. The closer a reflector is to the subject and keylight, the brighter the fill light. Conversely, the farther away the reflector is from the subject, the less light it contributes. You also have a range of fabrics to choose from that reflect light with different efficiency, intensity and contrast. The basic rule of thumb is white fabric for a softer, more subtle effect and silver when you need more light and contrast.

The ideal catchlight shape is a matter of personal taste and is dictated by the shape of light modifier on your keylight. There are a few modifiers that are perennial favorites based on the more natural-looking catchlight shape they create. Octabanks were invented for this very reason. Their octagonal shape creates a natural-looking reflection in contrast to that of square or rectangular softboxes. The beauty dish is another modifier favored for the circular catchlight it creates. Umbrellas are another option; they don’t provide a lot of control in the way of light spill, but they are a large round ball of light not unlike the sun. Square and rectangular softboxes can be used, but the reflections in your subject’s eyes will mirror those shapes. It’s all about individual preference.

Ring lights

Ring flash and ring lights are niche lighting tools that are in a category all their own. These lights create a signature doughnut-shaped catchlight dead center in a subject’s eyes. Stylistically, there isn’t much middle ground with ring flash and ring lights; people either love or hate the catchlights they create. I love them.

Catchlights are also useful when you’re trying to decode how an image was lit. They provide telltale clues about the lighting tools and techniques used. You can make educated guesses about what kinds of lights were used, how many were used, how they were modified, what their positions were and how far they were placed from the subject. So when you’re trying to reverse-engineer lighting you see in a magazine or on a movie poster, look to the catchlights.


Posted on June 12, 2018 by Admin under Business, Motivation, Photography
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I have worked my ass off building a successful business. But it hasn’t been easy. The last two years have been enough to break the strongest-willed person.

So, what do you do? I am sure as you read this you can relate on some level. You have had things go wrong in your life or business. We all have. I don’t have all the answers. All I can do is share with you my lessons learned and how I have managed turmoil, adversity and negativity in my recent past.

Roll with the punches.

One thing I have come to realize is that you just have to roll with it. I don’t know, maybe it’s just experience that has led me to this conclusion, but what are you going to do? Give up? Whatever you are doing in life or business, it is going to be met with some level of friction. It’s impossible for it not to. I stress this to myself and my team constantly: “If it were easy, everyone would do it.”

That’s not just some cliché line. Think about it. The people who are successful are there not because they are the best or the smartest. Many times it’s because of their sheer will to do things that others are unwilling to do.

All too often, I see entrepreneurs struggle when they hit pain or friction. The first “no” they hit, they just sort of panic and give up. You just need to tell yourself, “I got this” and roll with it.

Don’t let the negativity get you off your game. And by the way, that negativity can come from friends and family, not just “haters.” Once you start climbing your success ladder, people will become very negative and very few will truly be happy for your success. I have found that circle in life to be very small.

It’s not me, it’s you.

When adversity strikes, you have a choice to make: cower in the corner with fear and panic or strike back. My philosophy has always been: I didn’t start this, but I sure as hell am going to finish it.

We are all entrepreneurs. The challenges I am speaking of impact you whether you are building a business or a career. The corporate world is cutthroat. I know, I spent 40-plus years in it. Climbing that corporate ladder? Rest assured, there is someone trying to chop your legs out from under you. You have either felt it or experienced it. If not, then I promise you, you are not the rising star in your circle.

I believe in success for all. I don’t believe your success comes at my failure or vice versa. Not everyone feels that way. Is it jealousy? Or is it pure laziness? I believe it’s laziness. You may want success but are too damn lazy to go out there and work your ass off to get it. Many of us make excuses to make ourselves feel better. “Oh well, he got the promotion because he is a kiss-ass. I am more qualified”—I guess that’s one way of looking at it. Or, “He got the promotion because he spent more time selling himself, making sure the people in the office knew how qualified he was, and spent time networking with the key people in the office.” See my point?

Is photography really any different? I had to laugh when I was reading in a local Nottinghamshire photography forum about a photographer who was a guest at an event I was shooting. He was mocking me and my business because we were supposed to be a high-end studio, but I was wearing Chino’s at the event. How unprofessional of me. Really? That’s all you got? You are sitting home broke, your business is failing or struggling, and your thing is I am wearing Chino’s. So you are better than me because of that?

We all know what it is like to deal with the cattiness of our peers. Do not let it break your spirit. Instead, realize that this comes from a place of negativity and a refusal to accept that they are where they are in life and business because of the decisions they make. It’s not you. I promise you. It’s them.

Keep that in the back of your mind. These people are pathetic, they are jealous, they are a cancer in your life. Disconnect from them. Disconnect from these groups. Focus on what you are doing because you are doing something right.

Deal with the hand in front of you.

I have learned in both business and in life that I can’t always control what lands on my doorstep, but I can sure as hell handle how I respond. I believe in fighting fire with fire. You come at me, I am bringing the heat back at you. I will never run from a fight. I am just not wired that way. Now, that might lead you to think I like conflict or adversity.

Actually, nothing could be further from the truth. I would much rather have peace around me. You can’t control what the people around you do. I have learned that over and over again. But you can control your own destiny. You will be dealt a hand and then have a choice to make. Fold and run or stay and play it out.

If you decide to fold and run, you are not meant to run a business and you will struggle your entire life to find success at any level. Harsh? Perhaps. Reality? Most definitely.

Success is not easy. It’s hard. It’s messy. It’s a struggle to get there and even harder to stay there. You need to learn how to fight for what you want when it gets tough. Most importantly, you need to learn when to bring some offense to the fight so you’re not always playing defense. An attack will come fast and furious at times, and you will need to take what you have been dealt and make the most of it.

Fight the fight, and, most importantly, fight to win. Let everyone around you know that you are in this to win and that if they come at you, you will push back on them even harder.

Shit happens—keep pushing forward.

On your journey through your career, you will be faced with adversity on many levels. Do not let these moments break you. It’s hard, I know. But it gets easier with every passing day. You are not alone. Everyone’s dealing with their own demons. It can feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders at times, but you can do it. You can push through this. Just stay positive and surround yourself with positive people who want the same things. You will soon realize that your circle should remain tight. Keep the cancer out.

Remember: If it were easy, everyone would do it. It’s true. People are lazy. They want the fruits of success without the incredibly hard work that is required to get there. If you are one of those people who gets this and understands that success is not about luck but about working longer and harder than your peers and doing the things that no one wants to do, I am speaking to you.

Success is there for you. Work hard, and when you feel like quitting, push even harder. Pull an all-nighter. Do what you need to do to achieve your goals. When those around you are laughing at you, mocking you, telling you it can’t be done, use that as fuel. Prove them wrong. Be motivated to show them you will succeed. The ways you handle the pressure will become your defining moments. I believe in you.

And by the way, I am wearing Chino’s as I write this.


Posted on May 16, 2018 by Admin under Modeling, Photo Sessions, Photography
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The most exciting kinds of artificial lighting are those that mimic natural light. It’s not easy to recreate nature’s subtle, atmospheric qualities. Beginners make the common mistake of throwing way too much light at what they’re shooting. Whether you’re shooting people or products, less is more. The more focused the lighting, the more interesting and visually compelling it becomes. If there’s light everywhere, there’s no direction for the viewer’s eye to follow. If there’s a scarcity of light, the areas that are illuminated become the focal point. We see this kind of subtle light in nature.

Lighting geeks like me love nothing more than watching the way sunlight behaves as it streams through a narrow opening, moves across the sky or scatters into beams of light as it breaks through clouds or strikes the leaves of a tree overhead. It results in unique shapes and patterns. These magic lighting moments give me pause and remind me how powerful light and shadow can be in creating mood and atmosphere.

In photography, we recreate these effects using tools known as “go-betweens,” aka “gobos.” These are typically a piece of wood or metal with a series of shapes and/or patterns cut into it. A gobo goes between the light and the subject to cast a shape or pattern onto it. There are also constant lights and strobe modifiers with built-in mechanisms that allow shapes to be created with light and also permit the definition of those shapes to be varied as desired.


The concept for this “Slash of Light” shoot was the result of a collaboration between local model Laurel Mona and me. We connected via Facebook, where I always post new work, which is a great way to cultivate new relationships with creatives interested in collaborating. Laurel sent over a series of sample images of concepts she was interested in shooting. Several of the images reminded me of a concept I’d been wanting to shoot that was inspired by the striking patterns and shapes created every day on my walls by the afternoon sun streaming through my windows.

This warm, defined, dramatic light changes its shape and angle with each passing hour. We settled on this concept, and over the next few days, Laurel followed up with multiple wardrobe and accessory options. Nailing down many elements before the shoot helps assure everybody is on the same page and working toward the same creative goal.

Styling is a big part of the equation. Ideally, the colours of the background, wardrobe, and hair and makeup should work together to support the overall look and feel of the concept. We chose a warm-toned wardrobe and accessories to help accentuate her auburn hair, a mottled-gold background and the look of afternoon sunlight.


One of the best tools for creating shapes with light is Profoto’s Pro Zoom Spot. With this focusable Fresnel and a strobe, you can create a beam of light that you can adjust from zoom to spot and soft to sharp.

Popular Fresnel models are available from Bowens, Elinchrom and several other manufacturers. What differentiates the Pro Zoom Spot from the crowd is its four built-in user-adjustable blades that can create an endless variety of shapes. When you combine this shape-making capability with the Fresnel’s ability to create anything from soft edges all the way to super-crisp shapes, things get really exciting. The Pro Zoom Spot acted as my key-light and is responsible for the slash of light you’re seeing in these images.

The new model, with its built-in 4,800-watt-second strobe, wouldn’t make sense for me at its prohibitive price tag of £8,000. But the legacy model I use, to which you add your own Profoto Pro Head, can be found on eBay for around £300.

I have seen people get close to this effect using a speed-light. In this method, a cardboard tube is attached to the speed-light. At the front of the tube, two strips of gaff tape are used to create a rectangular shape with the light when the flash is fired. Lastolite makes a set of gobos with which you can create shapes and patterns with speed-lights. You won’t achieve the same degree of crispness on the edges of the shape, but they offer a cool, inexpensive way to get close.

The shape created by the Pro Zoom Spot was confined and hard-edged, with no falloff to illuminate Laurel’s body or the background. This resulted in a flat look that lacked separation, layering, and dimension. So I added two fill lights, one at a time, to better judge their contribution.

These additions needed to be extremely low-key or I’d risk destroying the subtle effect created by the key-light. I needed a kiss of light on the backdrop to create separation and bring in its gold tones, and an equally low level of light on Laurel’s body to provide detail and avoid everything falling into black.

To illuminate the background, I used a Profoto B1 500-watt-second strobe with a 20-degree grid spot. This created a subtle circle of light on the background, providing the separation needed to create more depth in the images.

To add detail to Laurel’s body, I added a second Profoto B1 500-watt-second strobe modified with an Elinchrom 14 x 35 strip box. I varied the strip box’s height and horizontal and vertical orientation for ground and standing poses and positioned the fill lights. For the tighter portraits, I used the gridded strobe camera left as a hair light and angled the strip box slightly toward the backdrop to maintain separation.


Word to the wise: This is not a forgiving style of lighting like clamshell, which we might use when shooting beauty and portrait work. This light has much harder qualities that accentuate every line and blemish. Expect retouching to be more laborious and time-consuming, but the payoff is beautiful dramatic images. For retouching, I used my go-to Beauty Retouch Panel by Retouching Academy, an inexpensive Photoshop plugin that takes care of many of the repetitive tasks required in retouching.



Posted on May 1, 2018 by Admin under Motivation, Photography
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Many photographers dream of working on location in incredible places where one might encounter the occasional giraffe or dolphin. A few years ago I was exposed to the dark side of destination shoots when I was invited by my good friend Brian to shoot inside a vast abandoned country house in West Yorkshire erected before the Civil War. Since then, I’ve had the urge to visit destinations where I am more likely to get tetanus than to see a family of elk.

There is a strange allure to working on location in these abandoned buildings. Part of it is the architecture and history of the building. But to be honest, I’m mostly into it for the spooky factor. At the house, my mind was free to ponder the 100s souls who died there. When I walk through the halls of places like this, I let my mind wander to the history. I also think about the architectural workmanship of those who are long dead and forgotten.

In the nursery room, the name of a nurse was carved into the concrete floor. That gave me an odd, ghastly feeling. Perhaps I was feeling what those gizmos adorned with a lot of blinking lights measure on those ghost hunter shows.

Most of the subjects I enjoy shooting fall into two distinct categories: those that complement the place and those that oppose it. Shooting high-fashion and artistic nudes contrast strangely with the destruction all around the subject, and that dichotomy is interesting to me. The other category embraces the nature of the place, and that is where I get into my arcane mood and work on somewhat disturbing images that evoke an emotion. I am not into gore or blood, but enjoy the more subtle ways of giving those little hairs on the back of the neck a workout. Creating spooky images and seeing the proper response is more natural than some other forms of art where pretentious people come up with all sorts of wild reasons you made an artistic choice. In this case, they just drop their glass of wine and freak out, and you know your mission is accomplished.

I embrace the feeling I get from a specific location. Most of the time, this isn’t going to be a happy one. We might as well call it creepy. As you can probably guess, I love creating images filled with emotion in places like these. Most of mine also include a figure, which might be wearing something that fits the theme, or a beautiful nude. Another common reason for risking entry into these abandoned locations is the sheer wealth of goodies for compositing. I have found unique textures and scenes that just don’t come along frequently, and capturing them adds a unique character to my images.

You’re probably wondering if I believe in ghosts. I don’t, but I have been in many places that should be on any respectable ghost’s list of places to haunt.

Now that you know the reasons I enjoy it, you are probably ready to grab your camera and find some busted house for your next photo session. Before you do that and end up in jail, or worse, let’s talk about some of the things you need to know before you venture forth. Keep in mind this isn’t an exhaustive list, and I am not an expert like some hardcore “urbex” photographers.

Don’t Go Into Basements

There are structural concerns in most of these places, and being on the bottom of the pile doesn’t give you the best odds of survival. Secondly, if there are ne’er-do-wells, wild animals, crazy spiders or exploding fungus, this is where they prefer to live. Bring a sword and a torch or two if you plan to venture down those stairs alone because I am not coming with you.

The Opposite of the Basement Is the Roof

The roof is often the weakest part of the structure for load bearing. Walking on an old roof is a riskier dice roll than the band of stupid adventurers that went into the basement.

Don’t Go Into Houses

Houses are where people are likely to be living (duh). After the last legal residents have moved on, homeless people often take their place, and they don’t much care for visitors. Unless you are an aspiring crack dealer or have a death wish, just stay out of houses. They also have some of the weakest floors and decay much more quickly than their commercial counterparts.

One of the phrases I have heard uttered is “Breaking and entering is a felony, but trespassing is a misdemeanor.” Now, I am not condoning you enter places illegally, but keep in mind that you are probably breaking a law or two in most cases. Be especially careful at federal properties, like abandoned post offices—entering those places is a felony even if the front door is wide open or even missing.

City Permits and Safety

There are plenty of abandoned buildings you can enter for a small fee and enjoy a day of photography without fear of being hauled away in handcuffs or face a hefty fine. Contact a city’s film and television office and ask about an urban explorer pass or permit. They often have lists of locations and descriptions of the safety of those spots.

Just because you have permission doesn’t mean you are safe from those willing to do you harm and take your camera gear. Use common sense, be aware of your surroundings and don’t go alone.

Wear Proper Clothing

Many of these places are downright dangerous. Wear safety shoes to protect your feet from rusty nails, strategically hidden poo and other scary things you probably should kick before they bite you. Change your shoes after you leave the building. You don’t want to track whatever you stepped in all over anyone’s house or car.

Don’t Do Damage

Even if you are in a place that is filled with graffiti, you are there to explore and document, not to alter the location. Be a ghost. Don’t disturb anything. Every time you move something, you stir up dust that can contain a lot of things you probably don’t want to breathe into your lungs. Consider wearing a mask. Fungal spores, mold and lung-shredding particles of asbestos are often prevalent. Depending on your research of the location, any or all of these safety precautions are things you should consider. As I have said before, use common sense.

Many of the most exciting places are those off the beaten path. Most cities have buildings that might still have their original furnishings and equipment or be in pristine but an aged condition. These are goldmines that are closely guarded secrets among those who discover them. A little research can open a door (literally) that would not otherwise be available. Having a robust portfolio of work can also talk you into locations where they know you will respect their property. That portfolio can get you out of a situation with the law when they can see your work and know you are not the type of person they would want to arrest. Of course, all of this goes out the window if you happen to be in a place where the owner of the property wants to wreck your life and sue you to set an example.

Keep all of these things in mind. Have a plan, do your research and work quickly. The less gear you take with you, the better. Best of luck if you choose to follow this path, worthy adventurer.


Posted on March 21, 2018 by Admin under Business, Motivation, Photography
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2 full days spent at the NEC for this year’s Photography Show, and thoroughly enjoyed it all…! I attended the Pro Conference for the first time (two mornings) and was treated to some great talks from inspirational photographers and even an accountant, and the Sunday Times Magazine picture editor… They all combined to describe how to make yourself a better presented, organized, managed and tax-reducing photographer… all good news to the ears! Sometimes you can get waylaid down on things like accounts and make the job at least pay for itself and it was good to see people who are successful at this craft. And they are happy to share their wisdom and experience with us too. Thank you to them! See some of the links at the bottom for the speakers/companies involved, especially if you, reading this, are photographers!

Some highlights… Day 1 – Emma Taylor kicked it off with a rousing talk about taking control and trying to define your style. This was followed by a talk on presenting yourself on websites and portfolios… has made me think again on my quite busy website, and will adopt some tips given on the day by Allie Astell (websites) and Marc Schlossman (printed portfolios). Then a very lively talk and quite inspiring one for me by portrait photographer Mark Wilkinson talking about the end to end process and the problems of setting the ‘right’ price for what photographers do… Didn’t have the answer (as no-one does) but gave some pointers to help! Then a useful end of the morning by accountant Eric Longley who told us a few tips on how to keep the money we do make!

Day 2 started with Amy Shore discussing how to get to the front of the very busy field photography is. She is a car and lifestyle photographer and developed quite a niche for herself, but getting there was a journey of disappointment and ultimately delight! Then Tom Barnes gave a very enthusiastic and at times lightning speed talk through the subject of remaining creative and inspired and was an inspiration as he understood the lows and the highs of this art. He is a very successful commercial photographer. Then we were lucky enough to have an interview style Q&A with the Sunday Times Magazine picture editor, explaining what he wanted to see from photographers and how they should present their work to him. Very interesting, especially with the range of images the magazine covers, they are looking for photojournalistic / documentary photos that tell a story. And the second morning finished with award-winning photographer Emma Blau describing how important personal projects are in getting a photographer more exposure and other work through them. Again a great inspiring talk.

As well as this there was the show itself that ran for 4 days 17-20 March, a huge trade show with hundreds of stands with all sorts of stuff from the expected camera stalls to the more bizarre cat’s protection league, from photo holidays to photo printers (some absolutely huge!), lots of peripheral / add-on items, a plethora of photo and album stalls, and a lot of talks available on the many big stands and ‘stages’ around. I dipped in and out of a few but I was pretty well talked out by the two full morning sessions. One demo I did catch was at the Rotolight stand where Jason Lanier was demonstrating the latest LED Rotolights and was particularly interested in the smaller Neo 2 light which can be a continuous light, a flash, and High-Speed Sync Flash too… Very nice, in fact, I bought one!  I had a good wander, talked to quite a few people, met a few faces from back home and a few more contacts made too. All in all a good couple of days. I wasn’t intending to spend a lot but did succumb a bit (but then, when in Rome!).  I would recommend this show, anyone interested in photography will find something to look at, buy, or be inspired by. There were also many hundreds of photos hung around the arena, some great images to look at too!

A couple of notes:-

1) All pics were taken on a camera phone, so apologies for the poor quality of some (it was just a note-taking device really!).

2) If you want any more detail or ask about any of the people/talks just comment below or message me on david@dwmphotography.com

Some Useful links:-

The Photography Show – https://www.photographyshow.com/

Some of the speakers (their sites have some great images!):-

Paul Wilkinson @paulwilkinsonphotography (Instagram) https://www.paulwilkinsonphotography.co.uk/

Amy Shore https://amyshorephotography.com/category/automotive/

Emma Blau http://www.emmablau.com/

Tom Barnes https://tombarnes.co/


Thanks, David!



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