One to One Photography Training in Brighton

For a limited time only I am offering one to one tuition for a one-day people and street photography course for £200 per day. This is for a course in Brighton but will travel for additional mileage costs and/or accommodation.

Head Firrst Acrobats, Brighton Fringe City

Head First Acrobats, Brighton Fringe City

After a briefing on what we are going to be looking for we’ll hit the streets and get you taking images, thinking about and recognising opportunities as they arise. After the shoot we’ll sit down and go through some of your best. As this is a one to one, we can focus on what you wish to get out of the course.

If you are interested fill in the contact form and I’ll answer any questions or we can sort out a date.

Festival and Event Photography Workshop

My interest in people photography began when I started taking images of the varied Brighton outdoor events and festivals.

After my first event, I uploaded all of my images to Flickr and noticed a marked surge in activity on my account. People were searching for the images and I discovered that if my images were different or unusual they would fly to the top of flickr search for images of the event. There are so many photographers at these events, you need to come up with something that stands out if you want your work to be noticed.

This process continued for years, and soon I acquired a distinct following of people, it was my first successful involvement in the world of social media. The idea that publishing work that people have an active interest in was good for marketing.

Since then I have added Facebook and Google Plus to my armoury, and still coverage of festivals and events do much to attract followers and engagement with people.

Brighton Naked Bike Ride 2014

Brighton Naked Bike Ride 2014

I do it because I love it of course, not just as a marketing tool, it’s probably shows that I love it in my work, which helps. I’ve also been doing it for so long now that I’m a lot better at it now than when I started, so I’ll share a few tips and a few images.

If you want to join me and learn in person I am holding two festival photography workshops during the Brighton Fringe Festival. The first one is fully booked but there are a few places left on 16th May, only six max per course.

You may think that festival photography is easy. After all it’s all happening in front of your eyes waiting to be captured. It’s hard, however to identify and isolate an image that will work when there is so much going on around you. Everything will be happening fast, so you’ll need to move around a lot, think and act fast to get the best shots. Also everyone has a camera, the trick is to come up with images that are unique. That are great because they are composed well, framed well, taken at the right moment.

Your first challenge will be the light. This will be constantly changing as you shoot from different angles, shooting into the sun, and then shooting away from the sun. Flash is my solution. I use flash constantly during events, unless there are reflections I am trying to capture as part of the image.

I use the ETTL setting on my speedlight, this ensures a perfect exposure of my subject even if I take a number of shots in quick succession facing in different directions. It fills in the shadows when someone has strong sunlight on their face, and fills the whole face while exposing the sky or environment well when shooting into the sun. (Note this is best for outdoor daylight photography). I use the camera in P mode, using the top dial on the camera to change the aperture or speed.  P Mode is like auto but you can still change anything you like using the buttons and dials. This mode will ensure that any flash pictures are taken at shutter speeds fast enough to avoid blurs with ordinary subjects. EOS cameras in P-mode will set shutter speeds with flash between the camera’s fastest x-sync speed, down to 1/60th of a second. So balanced fill-flash is possible even in sunlight.

It’s best to use matrix metering in this case. Spot metering will cause haphazard effects if your camera selects a particularly light or dark area of an image to calculate exposure.

The things I concentrate on are:

The background

Often I’ll isolate my subject by shooting upwards, if you are not surrounded by close tall buildings or trees, it can provide a great simple sky to highlight your subject.

Sometimes I’ll find the right background and move my subject to the background I like. Other times I’ll see a great background and someone approaching and I’ll frame the image and wait for my subject to be in the right position to take the image.

festival photography

Shooting up towards the sky allows you to get a clean background. Beware though, it can be a very unflattering angle 🙂

The frame

With so much paraphernalia around, it’s often possible to frame your subject with an interesting foreground.

british life awards - Brighton Fringe

Smokey Sausages – Brighton Fringe City

The spectators

It’s easy to get so caught up with the action that you forget to look around at the public. The best images tell a story. If you can see emotion in the audience it can often make a more interesting image that the performers themselves. Relationships can be created in your images by capturing performers and the public together in unusual situations.

Watch the audience

Watch the audience

The performers

It’s often impossible to get to the front of a crowd to get a clear view. Sometimes I’ll sit and wait at the front before an act begins (sitting will allow the kids at the front to see!). During the festival though, there are performers wandering around, getting ready or advertising their festival shows. This is my favourite time to capture them. It gives you the opportunity to position them if you wish, sometimes, if they are off guard and just being themselves it can lead to more interesting shots too. It’s often easier and more interesting to photograph around the performances rather than the performance itself. You will also give yourself a better chance of coming up with something original.

It's often better to capture performers when they are not performing

It’s often better to capture performers when they are not performing

Watch your focus

I usually use a wide angle lens. This means that most of my image will usually be in focus including my subject. If I have time I will prefocus by pressing the shutter button down halfway while you compose the shot focusing on the subject, then recompose and shoot without taking my finger off the half compressed button. Sometimes it’s impossible because I shoot blind. Sometimes, as I’m shooting in P mode because of the speed with which I need to react, I’ll use the dial on top of my camera to set a narrower aperture (bigger f number), the flash will fill in any extra light I need.

Watch your focus

Watch your focus

 

 

That’s it for now. If you want to join me on one of my festival event photography workshops you can book through Silicon Beach Training or call them on 01273 622272.

 

There is also more information about the event on their blog.

 

 

British Life Awards and the stories behind the images

I always advocate taking the time to enter some awards, if you win there is usually quite a lot of exposure that goes with it. Many ask an entry fee, so you need to be choosy. Go for ones that get lots of publicity, that way you get more than just a prize, you get yourself out there which is good. Some of those who notice you may become your followers or readers. It can open up channels of communication. Last years RHS photographer of the year award got me a commission to shoot people at Chelsea.

I recently won an award at the British life Awards, I had 4 images in the exhibition at the Mall Galleries in London. There are 12 of my images in the book.

This was the category winner – “Brits on Holiday”

Brits on holiday british life award winner

Brits on holiday british life award winner

It was taken on a camera club day out, I was trying to get another shot but couldn’t get Mehrak to look natural, so I told her she was a ‘ham actor’. Sheema and Mehrak  laughed and I moved the camera up to her face as she leaned in and then took the image blind. It’s good to get into the habit of just shooting blind when the better image is somewhere you can only reach with your hand. With practice you can start to imagine what will be in the frame and it allows you to move the position of the camera very quickly. Had I been looking through the lens I would have missed this shot.

The were three other images in the exhibition and also in the book

This is an image of Sheema, Mehrak’s friend, also in the exhibition, highly commended in the portraiture category.

Sheema

Sheema

 

I noticed one day the great silhouettes that were created by the strip lights in front of the cupboard doors in the garage. I was also thinking of ways to create interesting animations for the Saatchi/Google animated gif competition. I asked Mehrak and Sheema again to come to the rescue dressed up as “working girls”. I had to explain to Mehrak that – No I didn’t mean her pinstripe suit.

I shot it in jpg in burst mode, the idea being to try and capture two almost identical poses in a sequence so that I could create a small stop frame animation or gif. I going to write about this in another post.

The result was loads of jpgs to choose from, too many in fact, but some of them make nice still images so I selected one for the portraiture award.

This image of the Brighton naked bike ride also made it into the exhibition. I did ask this gentleman’s permission and he stood and posed for me for this shot.

Can you see me now? - Brighton Naked Bike Ride

Can you see me now? – Brighton Naked Bike Ride

I’ve been taking pictures at Brighton events for years now and have been honing my event photography skills for very long time. I am planning to offer two event photography workshops in May – working on the outlines and presentation now. If you are interested in booking let them know at Silicon Beach Training 01273 822272, and they will send you the dates as soon as I provide all the paperwork.

I will only be offering 6 places on each of the event photography course so if you were interested the sooner you register your interest the more likely you will be to get a place. Just phone or email Silicon Beach Training.

Another Brighton event image that made it to the exhibition in the portraiture category. This image was taken after the parade on my way back home. He was having a break in the pub and I asked his permission for the shot, persuading him to keep smoking for the image. The effect is enhanced by the wide angle lens used, but you do need to be very close to get this effect when shooting wide.

british life awards Brighton Pride portrait

british life awards Brighton Pride portrait

Another event image that made it into the book is this one taken at the Goodwood Revival. Shooting wide again, I asked this couples permission as I needed to get close with the wide angle lens. I shot the first one blind but didn’t quite hit the spot, so I lay down on the grass and tidied up the area of modern items, and shot using fill flash against the sky. In post process I have darkened the blues and lightened the oranges (skin tones).

Goodwood Revival 2014

Goodwood Revival 2014

Another event image take at Brighton Fringe is in the book. Wide angle again using the sausages and smoke to create that frame, fill flash.

british life awards - Brighton Fringe

british life awards – Brighton Fringe

Five of my Naked Bike ride images made it into the book in the ‘Documentary series and photojournalist category’here are four of them:

Brighton Naked Bike Ride

Brighton Naked Bike Ride

I took a few shots between this mans legs but nothing great, so I showed him the images, asked him to stay a little longer while I waited for the moment, and then it happened 🙂

Brighton Naked Bike Ride 2014

Brighton Naked Bike Ride 2014

Brighton Naked Bike Ride 2014

Brighton Naked Bike Ride 2014

Brighton Naked Bike Ride 2014

This one of my friend Chantal at Birling Gap made it into the book

Birling Gap Teapot

Birling Gap Teapot

That’s about it, don’t forget to contact Silicon Beach Training if you want to reserve a place on the event workshops in May. I haven’t confirmed the dates or finished the outline yet although I plan only two groups of 6 people. Silicon Beach Training 01273 622272

 

 

 

Can you make money out of street photography?

Simple answer, you can but it’s probably the hardest photography genre to make money at.

I take street images because I love it, I could make a lot more by doing weddings, product or studio work. It’s the love of it that keeps me going, if it were the income I’d have given up years ago.

Most street photographers have jobs that sustain them; street photography is what they do for love. If you were to give up your job for the art, consider this. To generate an income from your art will require you to do more promotion than photography. This comes as a shock to many, the amount of hours you need to put into the marketing side is far greater than the time required to get out shooting, if that’s not for you then you are unlikely to make it. Even if you do make it it’s unlikely to make you rich and hard just to make a living.

You need to be visible. That involves creating and publishing a constant flow of fresh material. Accumulating a following takes time, sometimes years, your followers though, are the ones that may possibly be your customers.

Customers for what though? You need products and services. Your products will be prints and books, your services commercial shoots and possibly teaching and workshops (if you are interested in my courses click here). Teaching though is another art to master, not all great street photographers make great teachers.

If you develop a particular style, you can attract commercial work from those who love your style. These commissions may not come often but for me they are a joy. I get a thrill out of taking images of people in my own style and getting paid for it. I get asked to do portrait shots for business people and personal portraits in my own style.

Client portrait shoot

Client portrait shoot

I was commissioned to cover people at Chelsea Flower Show last year, again in my own style. It’s very competitive though, there are so many photographers out there now, and many are prepared to sell themselves cheap to get the job. You have to work out what you think you are worth per hour and stick to it. Work out realistically how many hours it will take you to prepare, travel, shoot and post process the images and stick to your rate. Do not undersell yourself; even if all those around you seem to be willing to do it, you will only get disheartened.

Commission by RHS Chelsea Flower Show

Commission by RHS Chelsea Flower Show

As mentioned before, selling photography products and services will depend on how you promote yourself. With so many photographers out there competing for business, you need to be the one that stands out.

First of all you need a great website, one that shows your images off to their best potential. It should rank well in Google so you will need to learn the basics of good SEO, although that has changed radically in recent times. The site needs to be fast. Google loves a fast site. The fastest sites are custom built but most photographers do not have the budget for that. WordPress is often the answer, but WordPress is notoriously slow. If you are using WordPress, use a theme by a reputable theme designer/developer, one that gives great support if you have any problems. Keep the plugins to a minimum; these will slow your site down. There are WordPress dedicated servers you can use. I am going to re-host my site soon to take advantage of the speed gains. They will store your plugins and some of the functionality elsewhere on their server, greatly improving site speed.

Take care with your titles and urls. Have a good think about what you are offering and what people would type into Google to find a service like yours. Make sure that these keywords are prominent on your site, in headings and titles as well as body text, but it must not seem un-natural, write like a human.

You need other sites to link to you. Link building used to be a dark art, now it is white as the driven snow. Google is looking for natural links, people who are linking to you because you are relevant, interesting, creative etc. It’s not easy, the quality has to be really good. Think about what your potential customers would like to see or read, what they would find inspiring or useful to share with others.

Google knows if you are using a CMS system like WordPress. If you are, they expect frequent updates and will reward you if you do this, but be careful. Remember what I said about quality; if it isn’t worth publishing don’t publish. Gone are the days when publishing for the sake of an update did you any favours, it’s about quality not quantity.

Your site should also be designed to look good on mobile. That means it should be responsive (change appearance the smaller the screen). There are some great responsive themes out there to choose from, if you need something tailor made, expect it to be expensive. Search results on mobiles are different from the results on a desktop; good quality responsive sites will usually outrank un-responsive ones.

Note: don’t forget to add alt tags to your images. Also make sure all of your Social Media profiles are easily accessible, and that you have visible share links to all the biggest networks on your posts.

That’s your website sorted! Now you need a strong social media presence. Again it’s about quality not quantity. Basic rules are, don’t take on more than you can chew. Decide which platforms will be most useful to you; maybe choose ones you already have a following on. If you take on too much it can take up all of your time, you need to be able to respond to people. Only post you best stuff or share things that you think your audience will be interested in. Never post for the sake of it, it’s OK to take time off now and again. If you want to join lots of photography communities try Google+, if you want to build relationships try Facebook and LinkedIn. Flickr is a lot less popular than it used to be but it is all about photography, so if you are posting a constant stream of good images it’s worth updating. Instagram, however, is on the up and up so it’s worth having a profile there.

If you need to build links the only valuable way is to offer really good content to the best photography sites. They will be inundated by people trying to get published with poor quality content, so you will need to be personal with your approach and let them know you have something worth publishing. Be different with your approach, I’ll leave that up to your imagination. If you can show examples of great content you have written it will help, and if you can demonstrate that you have a big following that might help too. Publishing the best content on your own site works too, by using social media to put your content out there, you are more likely to attract organic links to your site.

You may be thinking that it’s the photography itself that will determine how well a photographer will do financially. To a point that’s true, you have to be a good photographer to make it, but consider Andreas Gursky’s image “Rhine II” which sold for $4.3 million back in 2011.

Andreas Gursky’s image “Rhine II” which sold for $4.3 million back in 2011

Andreas Gursky’s image “Rhine II” which sold for $4.3 million back in 2011

It was a record back then but has now been surpassed by Peter Lik’s image Phantom sold to a private collector for a $6.5 million last year.

Peter Lik’s image Phantom sold to a private collector for a $6.5 million last year

Peter Lik’s image Phantom sold to a private collector for a $6.5 million last year

 

I doubt that if I took identical images I would be able to sell them at all! It’s a fact, to make any money out of photography you have to be well known. I’m not saying you need to be as famous, but you need to be well known for your art, and that takes time and perseverance.

As I have been in the digital marketing business for so long, I have always advocated using digital marketing for photographers. Often I hear the same mantra, I don’t do all that stuff, I hate Facebook and Twitter, I won’t get involved. A few might get lucky but most will fall behind. It’s one of the few things in our grasp that we can learn to control, that we do have access to. Anyone rejecting it completely is, in my opinion, putting themselves at a huge disadvantage.

It can be overwhelming; it’s difficult to know where to start, (see my last post Being Human in a Digital World). I recommend taking one step at a time. Set yourself goals and deadlines. Be mindful of the trap of continuous notification checking and addictive update making. Use social media a networking tool to find and communicate with potential clients, publishers, galleries etc.

Getting out there is not just about being online though; nothing beats seeing your art on a wall. Consider organising an exhibition, this is something you can do with other people. Look around for exhibitions; see what other photographers are doing, and think about how you might approach your own or shared exhibition.

Some awards and competitions are well worth entering. Winning the RHS photographer of the year 2014 competition was the best bit of marketing I think I ever did. I was linked to and mentioned (Google will note mentions as well as links) all over the world. The front page of MSN and Yahoo, magazines and newspapers, even a TV appearance the list is so long I won’t even bore you with it. Beware of some competitions with an entry fees though, check out their credibility, I see a lot of awards run by dubious organisations these days.

foxgloves and bee RHS Photographer of the year 2014

foxgloves and bee RHS Photographer of the year 2014

Magazines are often crying out for great content, most will have an email address to contact for editorial. Don’t send them jpgs though, better to send a link to your work, images clog up their accounts, a link to a dropbox folder is usually good. Make it tidy, interesting and to the point, the easier it is to publish it the better chance you have.

In short, you cannot wait around to be discovered, you have to work out what time you have, set some goals, make a plan, and use every way you can to increase your exposure, on-line, on walls, in magazines, and in books.

Being Human in a Digital World

Until recently I had been in charge of digital marketing for a business since the beginning of the Internet. I’ve seen many changes in the ways we use online tools to promote a business. It all moves along so fast it barley gives you time to stop and think about what you are doing. Now I am primarily a photographer, I need to apply some of what I’ve learned over the years to my own site, but it’s different, and everything has changed so much.

With Google being the centre of the digital universe, that’s where most businesses will spend their time and money. It’s always been about gaming the system. At first we learned that links equalled ranking, so the world started generating billions of superfluous links from dubious sources. It lead to link rings and microsites, software that enabled you to swap links with others. Google’s reaction was to use its algorithms to identify these pointless links and devalue them. That in turn lead to negative SEO, at Silicon Beach Training we would get them all the time, even now we still get them, cowboy SEO companies who add links to your site from seriously bad sites.

being human in a digital world

All this pointless activity on the Internet needed to be addressed by Google to keep their results relevant to searchers. With time they developed ways of detecting how relevant these links were by the content and quality of sites in which the links were placed. So far so good, but what that lead to was the continuous flood of poor quality, keyword rich content with links to sites. Sites were established for businesses to connect with other business sites that would publish their content with backlinks. The result was lots of pointless, poor quality content. So Google developed ways to detect content for the sake of content, it slammed down hard on these sites and began to penalise the businesses that used them.

Google began to use location as a factor in search too. Google’s local search algorithm update put a lot of people out of business. Local physical businesses with services that cannot be provided over the network, that have (or had) a national or international customer base could no longer appear in search results when searchers were out of their area. This has resulted in many businesses setting up virtual offices and fake Google business locations in areas they want to reach. More pointless activity.

When businesses realised that social media allowed them to connect with the wider world it lead to another wave of Internet activity. Businesses tried to connect with an audience using Social Media, and some did it, and still do it well. But this too opened a can of worms. We are encouraged to get friends and followers; we are still playing the numbers game.

Now the only way really to improve ranking in Google, or even your general online visibility, is to produce content that actually matters enough to others to make them want to engage with it. That should be a good thing, but algorithms are not humans, no matter how clever the engineers are. With almost every business in the world trying to clamber to the top, there are no sure bets anymore, no matter how good your business, your product or content is. You still need to structure your site in an SEO friendly way, to make it load as fast as you can, to use micro data and keep the content quality high. You still need to write content in the right way, with good titles and some keywords. You still need to engage somehow with your clients, using social media and mailing lists, promotions and incentives. Your content must be interesting, useful or entertaining. It should be better, our on-line experience should be relevant, tailored, personal, a joy to use. But it isn’t.

It’s a constant flood of distraction; pointless messages from people we don’t know, spam emails, and spam Facebook posts, endless updates we don’t have the time or energy to sort. We are not physically or mentally capable to connecting to all the (so called) friends and followers we collect. We tend to pick out a few that we recognise, or some that may interest us, but it’s just not possible to take in and respond to the incoming avalanche of messages in a meaningful or human way.

We are bombarded with our own data. What we have liked or looked at online pops up everywhere on our screens. I am constantly unsubscribing to email lists to which I not consciously joined. I friend people on Facebook as I use it for marketing primarily, only to find they put porn on my page at night while I’m sleeping. We spend more time filtering crap than consuming the information we really want. There is just too much data in the world already, and the flow is still accelerating. We spend our lives creating that data. Every purchase, like and comment is collected and used to create more data and content which is then thrust upon us in a never-ending stream.

What about choice? Algorithms decide what we want. In fact ‘decide’ is the wrong word, it suggests humanity. There is nothing human about a machine, it does not make decisions, it makes calculations. We give Google and Facebook endless amounts of data about ourselves and they use this to reconstruct the data to throw back at us weather we like it or not. I read a really heart wrenching article written by a man who lost his young daughter last year. The Facebook machine sent everyone their animated year in pictures. There on the front was his daughters face, he didn’t share it of course, it hurt to even look at it. But even after he had decided not to open the file it was pushed and presented to him every time he logged on with no way of switching it off. A machine is just that, it does not think it merely calculates, and sometimes it gets it very wrong. We are connected or not, and unless we withdraw we have no choice.

By the way, while I’m on the subject of Facebook, I’d like to know who thought it a good idea to allow anyone to add you to a group you are not interested in and let them constantly message you against your will? Are they crazy!

The Internet, built to connect and improve relationships between people and businesses, is consuming us, and nobody can stop it or slow it down.

Where does it leave us? As a business that wishes to connect to consumers we have to take part to compete.

In some ways people subconsciously and consciously filter out the constant noise, I rarely see the ads, I begrudgingly spend time unsubscribing and deleting spam comments, Facebook posts and emails. What the world needs now are human filters.

I want to be a filter. In order to stay sane and engaged, there will be no content for contents sake; I will only write what I might be interested in reading myself. Already I only publish what I consider my best images. I will be more selective with whom I friend. I will not worry if I haven’t updated for a week or two (another of Google’s algorithmic ideas that has backfired is a preference for those who update often). I used to update Google+ once a week because some people use machines to filter out those who do not update so often, but who needs followers that only connect with the constantly connected, using machines not minds to connect. I will endeavour to be the filter that people crave. The one who doesn’t spout for the sake of an update.

Sure I will use these platforms to sell my street photography workshops, where I meet people in person and talk to them, to sell my images, which I constantly create because I love it so much, and to share them online. However, I wish to attract customers, not by pushing, but by pulling them in.

I put my new site out there for critique. The Internet is great for that! I was amazed at how much great advice I received. I posted in creative and marketing circles. The creatives loved it and the marketers kept telling me, I am not a blog, where was my marketing strategy, what was I selling, it is not clear, what about my ROI etc etc. However, right now, I am a blogger and a photographer, I just create, and I believe that that is what people want. Online, I want to create useful and interesting content first and foremost, my writing and my images. When people buy my images and workshops they are buying some of the creative part of me. This is what I want to share online.

Of course for larger businesses and brands, it’s another story, they need to work out how to become perceptibly more human, the ones that achieve this will be most successful. The rest of us need to stop peddling so hard and start enjoying the ride, focus on connecting with genuine people, rather than trying to use the machines to improve numbers.

For me, and self-employed people such as myself, who are providing a craft or service I believe that this is the way forward.

If you got this far, thanks for reading  and if you have anything to say please post here and share your thoughts

What Makes Me Click by a Brighton Photographer

I love making images.

Sometimes the process of photography starts with a concept or idea which I plan and create. Though the sweetest moments for me are those when real life presents a moment when everything falls into place.

nun and dog in rome

Sweet Moment in Rome – the best moments are when everything falls into place – click to purchase image

I LOVE wide angle photography and the way it distorts reality.

I get in really close necessitating the need to communicate with my subjects. A wide angle lens adds drama to an image, sometimes it creates caricatures of people, and sometimes it allows you to portray a piece of everyday life as if it were happening on a stage.

Crawford Market Mumbai

SHOOT WIDE – Crawford Market- Mumbai – click to purchase image

The equipment you use will have a huge bearing on the outcome. You’ve heard it said before that good photography is not about equipment, most people now have the technology to get a great image in their pockets – on their smart phone. It’s also true to say though, that some images (or looks/styles) are reliant on the type of equipment you are using.

I use my canon 16-35mm on a full frame camera most of the time. On a full frame camera that’s a really wide lens. Favourite situations are Brighton events, where everybody is dressed up, happy willing to chat, laugh and have their photograph taken. It’s like Christmas for a photographer like me.

Brighton Pride 2012

Brighton Pride 2012 – Don’t be afraid to ask people to pose for something you can visualise – click to purchase image

Often people show me their images, they say “I tried to take pictures like you, but it came out like this, what am I doing wrong?  The answer is often the same. Your lens is not wide enough, you were not close enough, you were not low enough (I have a penchant for images taken from a low viewpoint).

Read more

Real or Photoshopped? Who gives a ****?

I’ve been uploading some of my images from a recent trip to Iceland. Now the landscape in Iceland looks pretty unreal, and I might be quite well known for a little fiddling with my photos! So I surprised myself when I started getting a little erked when asked:

Q: Was that rainbow really there?

A: Er yes!

Skógafoss waterfall Iceland

Skógafoss waterfall Iceland – click image to buy

Q: Was the snow really blue?

A: It’s not snow it’s ice and yes it’s very blue.

and…

Q: Have you Potoshopped that sun in?

A: No I held a polariser tight up to the lens as it didn’t fit and fired the shutter.

Jokulsarlon-Lagoon-Iceland

Jokulsarlon Lagoon Iceland – click to buy this image

What surprised me was not the fact that people suspected I’d fiddled but the fact that I got annoyed that they asked me when I hadn’t. What is wrong with me? Why did it matter? Should it matter?

I think it mattered to me because I wanted to show people how different from reality the landscape appeared to me, I wanted them to look in awe at what  I had seen with my own eyes. I had witnessed something unbelievable and nobody believed me! That is one thing we have lost with the widespread use of Photoshop, the ability to convince someone of the reality of something by using photography. Something that photography had earned a reputation for before it was so easy to jiggle things around.  It’s the first time it mattered to me and I almost started to sympathise with the anti Photoshop brigade for a split second. I realised that it was like being accused of cheating, that’s why I didn’t like it, I don’t usually mind because I cheat all the time! (in photography).

Prior to Photoshop and digitisation, however, people didn’t get all fired up because a photographer used velvia and their colours were all souped up.

richard-Avedon-printers-instructions

Richard Avedon Printers Instructions

Was Richard Avedon cheating when he sent this to the printer?

This could be done with fewer hours in Photoshop than darkroom time, the results would have been similar. Avedon was legendary for the amount of resources used in the quest for one perfect print often shooting 100 frames for one final photograph before having his printer change the most minuscule details of a print.

Even post digitisation photographers change the white balance in the camera to make sunsets look more vibrant, they use long lenses to make stuff seem closer to the camera, they use shutter speed to create blur or freeze action. In fact everything the photographer does is about creating an illusion.

All those who can’t use a computer or get their heads around Photoshop will be crying by now: “Those decisions are made in the camera, not the computer!”

The digital camera is a computer! The only difference is that the changes you can make are limited.

They will cry: “It takes skill to get it right in the camera.” True and sometimes getting it right means more time out in the field or in the studio getting lots more lovely images. Getting it right in camera can mean more time feeling the sunshine and the breeze, getting all excited about that shot – witch is much more fun in my opinion than fiddling in photoshop. However it also takes several years for anyone to really master Photoshop and technically there is much more to learn.

Photography is art, no one accuses Leonardo da Vinci for making the Mona Lisa more beautiful than his model.   Why then is it such a big deal for a photographer to do the same?

Arguably there are instances when photography should not include image editing,  photojournalism for example. In this case if a news image is manipulated; the news organization is responsible for reporting the manipulation to viewers. Historical instances of just how much this really matters to people include:

Robert Capa falling soldier spanish cival war

Robert Capa’s “falling soldier” – Spanish civil war

Robert Capa’s photo of a soldier taken during the Spanish Civil War taken September 5, 1936, which appeared in LIFE Magazine, July 1937.

The falling soldier photograph is captioned:  “ROBERT CAPA’S CAMERA CATCHES A SPANISH SOLDIER THE INSTANT HE IS DROPPED BY A BULLET THROUGH THE HEAD IN FRONT OF CORDOBA.”

In 1975 Phillip Knightley alleged that the photo had been staged. He claimed Capa’s fellow journalist O.D. Gallagher shared a hotel room in 1936, and that Capa had confessed staging the photo,  it mattered, it mattered because people felt cheated because they had been emotionally moved by what they thought was reality. This is an extreme example to make the point that if a photography claims to represent reality then that’s what it should do.

In my opinion though, anything else is fair game.

My conclusion, well I will certainly continue to enjoy using Photoshop to create my own reality, to take two or three images in camera with an idea of how I am going to put them together in Photoshop later. I will stretch, squash and completely rearrange to my heart’s content. Will I confess? Only to tell you how I do it in the odd tutorial otherwise I’ll keep you guessing, you will accuse me of fiddling with everything anyway even when I don’t! I have just got to learn not to give a ****!

Jökulsárlón Lagoon iceland

Jökulsárlón Lagoon Iceland – click image to buy