Thursday, 28 August 2008

Joe McNally - The Hotshoe Diaries

Another heads-up about an interesting-looking book for you today. This time it is an offering from the great US photographer Joe McNally, who I have written about before (most recently here).

Looking at Joe's Blog today, I came across his 26th August post which detailed his forthcoming book
Hot Shoe Diaries: Creative Applications of Small Flashes, due out in December. In his own words, HSD will be "an irreverent brain dump of my whole history using small flash, back from when I first got my hands on flash powder to the SB-900. There will be sections on buttons and dials, batteries, flash attachments, light shaping tools from gaffer tape to umbrellas, and sketches".

So if you are into your lighting, then you might want to keep an eye out for this one. And remember, this is Joe we're talking about -
if his previous book is anything to go by, this one is almost certainly going to be a great read. Needless to say I've faithfully put in my preorder already!

Again, there will be a fututre post contining my thoughts about this latest offering just as soon as I get my hands on it.

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

'Annie Leibovitz At Work'. We'll see...

Annie Leibovitz is a world-renowned photographer. Sure, her work and her approach are not to everyone's tastes - but isn't that the case with every artist?

Me, I fall somewhere in the middle ground of opinion. I can appreciate her work and her
technical ability, but not necessarily the manner in which she goes about things. That said, I must admit that I have not taken the time to really explore her photography or outlook in any great depth, so it's a case of 'watch this space' and I look forward to being enlightened.

I do, however, love to read, see and hear about the way other photographers practice their art. Which is why I have put in my order for Leibovitz's forthcoming book - "At Work" - which I understand is a behind-the-scenes look at a number of her more well-known shoots.

It won't be hitting my door mat for a good month or two yet, but I'll be sure to put down a few thoughts and a recommendation for it (hopefully) just as soon as I get the chance.

Do you have any photography/art/culture recommendations? Not just books - but websites, exhibitions, blogs... anything which you've found to be a source of inspiration. Please let me know by following the 'Comments' link below.

Share and share alike - it's the way forward!

In my ramblings posted a few days ago, I briefly touched on the issue of working partnerships between photographers, with the promise that I would expand on my thoughts in due course...

Our industry is changing. For the better, I think. But it is changing nonetheless. Obviously we are now well and truly into the 'digital revolution', which is great (if something of a double-edged sword at times). Images can be shot cleanly and precisely, and delivered with a speed which simply wasn't possible in the past, and we can tailor a shoot minute-by-minute using instant on-camera or on-computer review. However, one of the flip-sides to these advancements is the fact that many people (formerly potential clients) are choosing to take care of photography themselves, in-house, because 'Dave in accounts is a keen photographer and is quite good with a camera”. Not such good news, then, for those of us who are trying to earn our livings from supplying good quality, professional imagery (or 'visual solutions' as I like to call it).

But more of a concern than this is the apparent paranoia and hysteria that has grown out of photographers' reactions to these changing times. Historically, we have always been a funny bunch; somewhat insular, we choose to keep ourselves to ourselves, and that includes our technical know-how and individual working practices. God forbid anyone should actually find out how we perform these visual feats!

Now, though, it's even worse – with the loss of potential clients (and therefore previously-guaranteed revenue) many photographers see their colleagues as a real threat. I experience this situation time after time. You try asking a guy at an event what his approach is and watch his initial (involuntary) expression; it screams 'reluctance' and 'I'm unwilling to share'! Why? After all, there are only so many ways to photograph a subject and, chances are, I've already thought of the same technique because experience tells me that's perhaps the best way to portray the subject.

I read something on a blog a few months ago addressing the fear that 'professional photography is dying'. Or dead, depending on how dramatic you want to be. Frankly, this is b******t (sorry - technical term!). It's complete nonsense. The world of photography – both professional and enthusiast – has never been in a more healthy or exciting state. Sure, we photographers face new challenges now, fresh obstacles that require a bit of lateral thinking in order to overcome them, but then... what?

I think the real issue here lies with the photographers themselves. Specifically, those who are reluctant to move with the times and realise that the world of professional photography is much more open now; it's a different animal, and one based on a willingness to share among your own kind. Simply put, the old way is the old way and things are evolving whether we like it or not. So guys, it's up to you to think openly and embrace the future.

Personally, I love this 'new wave' that the industry is following. Hey, I wouldn't be publishing a blog if I didn't! My company, and the way we operate, is all about educating our clients – not just about making great pictures for them. I will talk openly to anyone about the way we work, our equipment, the way we light our subjects... anything you like.

And you know what? People like openness. They don't like secrecy.

I had a meeting with another photographer some time last year, arranged through a marketing company contact we both share. The idea was that we would get together at his studio and, over a cuppa, have a chat about our working practices so as to see if there was any synergy there. If he needed a back-up I could step in on his behalf and vice versa - that sort of thing. Well, the first alarm bell rang when we sat down and the guy said - and I quote - "So, what are we talking about, then?"

Clearly he had no real interest in talking to 'the competition' because, as we all know, I was only there to see if I could muscle in on his patch. Oh please.

Just the thought of that day irritates me even now. What a wasted opportunity!

At the end of the day, it comes down to trust and professionalism; I have a number of photographers in my contact list who I know I can turn to if I can't make a job or if I need assistance. I know they won't try to pull a fast one - just as I wouldn't try to steal their clients behind their backs. Want an example? Check out this post which detailed a collaborative shoot undertaken with a fellow enlightened photographer.

As you can probably tell, I'm rather passionate about this whole 'open minded' approach to the way we work, and I'd be very keen to hear your thoughts on the matter, regardless of your profession. So please do take a moment to post me your thoughts by clicking on the 'Comments' link below; you can do this either anonymously or with identity, I don't mind. You never know, we might get a bit of a discussion going.

Oh, and if you've found this little rant of interest, please feel free to link to it - remember, it's all about spreading the word!

Monday, 18 August 2008

Last-minute call-out

In an ideal world, everything would run like clockwork. Trains would not be delayed, clients would be completely organised ahead of their shoot, and our workflow would be seamless – to the point where the weeks pan out exactly as we would like them to. But, of course, this is not an ideal world, and this is very rarely the case.

Take today for example. Having shot a wedding on Saturday and taken the unusual step of having a completely work-free Sunday, I was looking forward to starting this week off with a day in the office, editing through those most recent pictures. That was a great plan up until about 9am this morning, when I received a call from another photographer, asking if I could cover an assignment due to his sudden ill health.

Luckily, my editing duties were not so heavy that I was forced to decline – and besides, I have no issue with helping out my colleagues; in fact it is something of a compliment to be asked to step up and represent. So here I sit on my return train journey, having spent half the day at an architecture practice shooting candid portraits alongside a design team for the client's soon-to-be-launched new website. Because this shoot was relatively quick and straight forward, I will still be able to get some editing done before it gets too late. So, it's win-win all round.

Just to go off on something of a tangent for a moment... The issue of photographer-photographer working relationships is actually quite interesting, and is a topic I will write about shortly. I will not labour the point here, but suffice it to say for the time being that I see nothing wrong with collaborations – in fact, I believe it should be actively encouraged, for many reasons. [Edit: This follow-on post can now be found here]

Back to the shoot - For those who are interested in the techical details and workflow... Today's images were all lit using one 800-watt tungsten lamp bounced off ceilings/walls. Lens/camera combination was Nikon 80-200mm f.2.8 AFS attached to a Nikon D200, and all images were shot as JPEGs then downloaded directly to our designer's Mac. Simple, quick, effective – and as I head back to the office, the client will already be discussing and visualising their portraits in the new web layout.

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Photo Junkie

OK, I admit it - I'm a junkie when it comes to photography. But I make no apologies for that.

I love the art, I love talking about it (no surprises there then!), and I love listening to what others have to say, too. Which is why I want to share the following video with you (I've watched it countless times already, so it's only fair you get a go!).

I have great respect for Joe McNally - an internationally acclaimed American photographer, whose command of technique is, very often, quite simply breathtaking. A man after my own heart, he's all about sharing when it comes to photography. His latest book - The Moment It Clicks - is a constant source of both pleasure and education, as is his blog.

In this video (brace yourself, it's over an hour long - but well worth it), Joe talks about the book and his experiences as a working photographer.