Photographers at Whitby Goth Weekend

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People climb the 199 steps to the Abbey only to have it spoiled by annoying photographers

I’ve written an article on steampunkjournal.org about the issues surrounding photographers at Whitby Goth Weekend but this happens at many other events. Sadly some people who take pictures (it’s difficult to class them as photographers) are simply there to take pictures of girls in short skirts. They even say as much on some forums, so it’s not an assumption.

By behaving in this way, they spoil it for people who are having a good time and who want to take pictures the right way.

You can read my thoughts here:
The issue with photographers

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Relinquishing copyright – the photographer’s nightmare

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When you use me as the photographer for your wedding, I have some competitive prices compared to others. I’ve placed myself in the market for people who are wanting great quality pictures that don’t cost a fortune. My full day package would be at least three times more elsewhere.

For that I will spend all day (up to 12 hours in some cases) take hundreds of photographs, edit 20 of your favourites (which can take up to an hour each image), print them at a professional lab and supply them in an album. This is all included so I don’t really make that much on it when you consider the cost of equipment, a new memory card every time I shoot, travel costs etc.

A portion of my income comes from repeat sales; that is customers coming back for another picture for a relative or friend, or maybe to replace a damaged one. The point of this post is that I get requests asking for all the pictures on a disk or memory card. I do offer this service as do many photographers, however if I give them away, I lose that additional return business. In order to try and offset that I charge £400 for the pictures. They’re all on a custom memory stick (one bride loved vintage fashion so I provided them on a USB stick made from a 1950s Coco Chanel lipstick tube), unedited with a letter absolving my rights to copyright. Without this letter it’s against the law for anyone other than me to print the pictures up.
It’s priced high to try and dissuade people from buying them but also because of the lost business on my part.
If you want to ask for them for free (after all what can a photographer do with pictures of one person?) consider if you’d ask a mechanic to provide his service for free. Or would you ask a school photographer for pictures of your children for free? Or would you ask to leave a restaurant without paying?

Photographers like me still have a business to run. We still have bills and food to buy, children to clothe. But we also have equipment to buy and maintain as well as skills to improve.

I have no problem with you buying all of the pictures to use as you please, but remember you’re taking away any future business and that’s why it costs so much.

5 portrait tips to improve your photography

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Portraits are a distinct favourite of mine. The amount of history and emotion that can be expressed just through the eyes is astonishing and I never tire of telling stories.

There are a number of aspects I take into consideration when shooting and sticking to these guidelines ensures trouble free, pleasurable photographs. Learning these tips has taken years of practice, experience, trial and error and can’t simply be picked up, but by all means try them at home.

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Model - Helga. The eyes are the catalyst of the story.

1) Nothing is more important than the eyes
The eyes tell the story in a photograph. They give immediate confirmation of the subject’s mood. They might be smiling but is it a truly happy smile? The eyes will confirm it.
They’re the first part of a portrait that the viewer looks at. They have to be in focus and bright. Also having no reflection in them makes them look dead so tilt the head up slightly if no catch lights can be seen.

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Model - Helga. The hair isn't that important unless you're shooting hair photography

2) Unless you’re shooting hair, the head isn’t important
One of the most frequent comments I get is “Top of her head’s chopped off!” By that the viewer means that I’ve cropped into the skull and left it out of the shot. In a portrait you have a story to tell. You’re conveying emotion and wisdom through two eyes and facial expressions. The subject’s hair does nothing to enhance a picture (unless it’s actually a shot of their hair) and so therefore can be omitted.

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Model - Emma. Disjointed hands can look as though they belong to someone else.

3) Watch your exits
Where skin exits the frame can be problematic if you don’t keep an eye on it. A close up of someone can be dramatic but having their hand coming up from the bottom of the frame and touching their face can look disconnected and surreal.
Similarly with shoulders and backs going out of the side of a frame, there’s no way of knowing where the body goes after that and can make the subject look bigger than they are. Typically it’s best to have them leaving the frame at the bottom, not the sides. If they do have to leave at the sides, don’t have bare skin leaving the frame; cover it with something.

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Model - Missy Bird. Place eyes in the top section of the frame to reflect where they are on a face.

4) Place eyes in the top third
This ties in with cropping the head. Eyes are situated in the top section of the face and this needs to be reflected in the frame. Seeing eyes in the centre of the frame or towards the bottom looks uncomfortable.

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Model - Rosie. Using a mid range to shallow aperture throws the background out of focus and centres attention on the subject

5) Use the correct aperture
Portraits always look more effective and have more impact when there’s nothing distracting in the frame. There are many ways of doing this,but the most effective – and therefore the first one to try – is by using a medium to shallow depth of field.
A lens is at its sharpest in the centre of it’s aperture range (around f/5.6 – f/11) and if it’s a zoom it’s sharpest in the middle of its zoom range. Using an aperture around these aperture settings will both give very sharp results and throw the background out of focus. A blurry background that melds into smooth colours isn’t distracting and allows the viewer to concentrate on the subject. Always focus on the eyes.

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Model - Abi. Bringing the background in focus can sometimes add to the picture.

Of course rules can and will be broken. You can use a narrower depth of field (larger f stop) to bring the background in focus and add to the story.

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Model - Char. The eyes don't always have to be on the camera. Looking down or up can create mystery (what are they looking at?)

You can exclude the eyes in the shot to emphasise an emotion.

How shutter speeds work

Using a slightly slower shutter speed gives the effect of movement in the water.
Using a slightly slower shutter speed gives the effect of movement in the water.

Some would argue that the golden age of photography was the era of the 35mm film. Because of this, despite the acceleration of technology, the basic components of a camera remain. One of those components is the shutter. The shutter is a piece of retractable plastic that opens and closes at varying speeds when you take a picture.

You may remember that when I discussed apertures I mentioned that they’re intrinsically linked with shutter speed and ISO. The shutter speed is the time it takes for the shutter curtain to open and close and is measured in seconds and fractions of a second.

But what is a shutter curtain?
Well this goes back to that aforementioned golden era. 35mm film is a light sensitive strip of gelatin. Any exposure to light can ruin it if it’s not done in a controlled way. Therefore, in order to get a photograph, the lens must be focused, the aperture set to the correct value and the shutter speed adjusted so that the appropriate amount of light hits the frame.

These days the shutter curtain is a piece of retractable plastic but was originally light tight cloth. When you press the shutter release, the curtain opens, exposes light onto the film or digital sensor, then closes again. While not in use, it hides the sensor or film from light which allows you to take off the lens to change it. Compact cameras don’t generally have a curtain because they don’t have interchangeable lenses.

How do we use the shutter speed to our advantage?
Depending on the type of photography you do will depend on how you use the shutter speed to your advantage. A general rule of thumb is that if you want to get sharp, blur free images hand held, then don’t use a shutter speed lower than the focal length of the lens. For example, if the lens is set to 50mm, don’t go below 1/50sec. If you find that the picture is underexposed, open the aperture or use a faster ISO setting to ensure that you don’t break this guideline.

There are a number of different photographic disciplines where you would use the shutter speed more creatively.

Angling the camera slightly gives a sense of power from the car as you'd lean while it goes round a corner. The slower shutter speed leaves image trails - or blur - to enhance the movement. These cars were travelling at roughly 10MPH.
Angling the camera slightly gives a sense of power from the car as you’d lean while it goes round a corner. The slower shutter speed leaves image trails – or blur – to enhance the movement. These cars were travelling at roughly 10MPH.

Motorsport is a fast, high octane event and photographers want to convey this in their pictures. They do this by using the shutter speed to their advantage. Setting the camera to around 1/200sec will get sharp, frozen cars or bikes. That means that the wheels will be frozen too and won’t give the viewer a sense of the speed they can go. So a photographer will find a part of the track they go slower at – such as a hairpin bend. The camera will have a slightly slower shutter speed than is recommended and the focus will be manually set to a predetermined position. When the car gets in view, the photographer will pan with the car and at the focused area will take the shot, all the time panning. Following the car like this will keep it sharp while the slower shutter will blur the background and wheels giving a sense of movement.

Using a very long exposure allows any light burned on the image to remain there. When using lights at night this creates a light trail.
Using a very long exposure allows any light burned on the image to remain there. When using lights at night this creates a light trail.

Night landscape photography utilises a slow shutter speed to get car light trails on roads while some urban photographers have become extremely adept at using torches to create stunning night time abstract images.

This may sound simple but takes years of practice. A professional photographer understands how a shutter speed works. A camera in Auto mode can easily recommend a setting but it doesn’t have any creativity and can’t break rules against its programming. That’s why a photographer will give you much better results than a friend or a camera phone. I’m trained and have extensive experience in different types of photography. If you have an idea that I may be able to help with, please get in touch.

Progressing ideas is a slow process

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Ideas come to me pretty quickly; I consider myself an ideas man. Usually I think up things without considering application and execution. On my new project, I’m approaching it much more thoroughly though. I don’t want to do this wrong, you see.

So today I’ve revisited Remo’s café in Broomhill to finish up some shots that I thought of as I was leaving last week. It’s a progressive thought process and I’m learning from it all the time.

I think I’m done, though, so I can get back and start editing the pictures ready for uploading to a new website and social media. Then once I have an idea of how much it will cost me to provide this service, I can work out a retail price.

If you would like to chat about what I can offer your business, please get in touch.

Anyone can be a photographer, right?

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There’s a common misconception that anyone can take photographs. Photographs are what photographers take and snaps are what everyone else takes.
A snap is a quick image of life and is short for snapshot. The name is quite explanatory in that it is a rectangular memory of a fleeting moment of your life. Everyday cameras are great for recording snaps. Snaps can make sure you don’t forget your child’s first steps, a gorgeous holiday or passing a driving test.

The word photograph derives from  Latin for “Photo” – which means light – and “graph” – which means to draw. Drawing with light. Essentially a photographer is a painter but uses light instead of oils to transfer the image directly to the canvas, or film/digital sensor.
A photograph tells a story and a photographer has the skill to say it in one frame. No movement, no narration.

The ability to convey a message simply via a single frame is really something else when you think about it. Yet photographers are constantly undermined by industry simply because a camera can be bought in a shop or is attached to a phone. They offer work with no pay and hide it behind “experience” and/or “exposure”.

If you want some photographs for your business, it doesn’t have to cost the earth. I already offer product photography and will soon be expanding to include website creation and social media promotion. Please consider that the photographer you want will have bills to pay, children to feed and equipment to buy. They can’t do that with exposure alone.