31 January 2010

A change of look

Late last year I changed my look.  For the first time in my adult life I didn't have the same hairstyle.

I used to really hate having my photo taken but since becoming more confident with myself I really don't mind now.  I have a rough idea of what I want, and of course I came prepared with hat and camera.

Having good photos taken really can help with business - people often recognise me now because of the hat and as a result I've had more business.

The photos taken at my last shoot in the summer now look dated, I needed some new ones done to show how my hair has migrated south for the winter.  So when my good friend Jules Addison was in town this afternoon, I thrust my camera into his hands and he snapped away for 10 minutes.  These are a few of my favourites.

Golden Gate Bridge

You've seen pictures of San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge taken from roughly the same place as this hundreds of time.

Is mine any different?  Do I have an interesting story to tell?  Sadly no on both accounts.

It's still one of my favourite view points, no trip to San Francisco would be complete without it.

30 January 2010

A comedy night out

The comedy night was already planned, but it was my idea to suggest turning it into a little charity bash for my good friend Pash.  As I couldn't organise a piss up in a brewery I've asked someone who has taken on the challenge of organising me to help make the event a success and raise a a few quid for Pash.   Step into the spotlight, the one and only Nagging Sue Pell!

"It's time for another night out, so.....

The date is THURSDAY 18 FEBRUARY, and the occasion is JAN JACK'S LAUGHTER-HOUSE COMEDY CLUB, the Milford Hall Hotel, Castle Street, Salisbury, SP1 3TE.....where the very famous BOB MILLS is appearing!

(Don't ask "Who's he?" - just look at the photo - you've seen him on telly!)

Also appearing is Andi Osho (She's a girl, and winner of the Nivea Funny Women Award, and ...yes, she's been on telly too)....

.......and 4Ns own Jan Jack will be doing a brief turn too.......(no different from the usual 4N meeting then!)

BUT this is a special night, cos as well as giving us  all another chance to socialise and have fun we will be raising funds for Pash.

The normal ticket price is £15 and Jan will donate £5 from every 4Networking member ticket sold to the Pash Fund.

We need to arrange bookings and payments to secure seats so please if you would like the chance to have a fantastic night out AND help someone that really deserves it please let us know your ticket requirements.  If that's too complicated you can book online through www.laughter-house.co.uk but there's a ticket agency who will charge a fee...

I will contact everyone individually that would like to book to arrange payment and advise ticket collection procedures.

Lets make this a South Coast 4Networking night to remember.   I WILL see you all there!"

Sue Pell
07927 139047

I don't airbrush my work

I am often asked if I airbrush (ie Photoshop) my work.  My answer is always a simple no.

It's not quite so simple though, because I do do things with the photos I take.  What you see as the end result often looks quite different to the image you saw on the camera display.

I have a process through which I take the RAW image file from the camera and adjust things like exposure, colour balance, contrast, saturation, and sharpness.    I've also got another process that softens the skin just a little to make selected portraits more flattering.

I also love playing with the overall look of an image and I have another process that simulates the look from films of old, which is particularly fun and interesting to use for black and white images.

What else do I do?  I'll edit out the occasional speck of dust that creeps onto the sensor, and I'll crop.  I'm never afraid to crop images.

Basically though that's all I do.  I won't airbrush out your wrinkles to make you look younger, or elongate your body to make you look slimmer.  I don't do that stuff now, and frankly I never will.  What I will do is to capture the real you, your character, warts and lines and all.

Take a flick through my portfolio pages, and the photos here on the blog.  None of them have been airbrushed.

Occasionally a client does do a little more editing with my finished image.  I've known a few who've airbrushed out the background so it's all one colour and works better with the design the image is to be used with.

29 January 2010

My security blanket

Last night I was asked to do some photos at a comedy club in Basingstoke.  Now there was a time when comedy clubs scared me a little.  I was scared I was going to be the poor sap some mean comedian picked on for the evening.

Now though, I don't care.  At least I don't care when I have my camera in my hands.  I feel I have a proper reason to be there, to walk around, and stuff.  Also I feel part of the crew, I'm there doing a job, and the comedians seem to respect that and hence I'm not a target.

My visit to Jan Jack's Laughter House (www.laughter-house.co.uk) last night was my first visit to a comedy club in about 8 years.  Then I was sat in the back row, scared shitless I'd be one of the audience the comic picked on.

The show was great, with host Danny Dawes introducing Matt Reed, Spam Ayres, Joel Dommett and the main act Bob Mills.

It was one of the hardest things I've had to photograph.  Normally at concerts and live shows the hit rate of acceptable shots goes down, but the lighting was just awful for me (great for the audience and performers) but for me, urghh, bad bad bad!

I had my Canon 5D Mark II up at 5000 ISO, I was shooting at f2.8 and I was still only getting shutter speeds of around 1/20th.  Flash, not that I had one with me isn't an option at live shows like this.   My hit rate took a tumble, I must have deleted about 85% of the shots either on the night or in post editing.

Given the lighting, and it was the first time I've photographed comedy, I'm really pleased with the results.

28 January 2010

Shooting a toddler

It was towards the end of a long day of shooting in Winnipeg, Manitoba.  The day had started with 5 subjects, all doing fitness style photos.  It had been a great day, exhausting but great.

Winnipeg is a strange city, it's kind of the armpit of Canada, yet for some reason I like it.  I think it has something to do with the reception enjoyed on my 2 visits there.   Both times I've met some really good people, and been looked after extremely well.  Proof if proof were needed that it's not about where you are, but the people you've got around you.

We were photographing on the forecourt of a car dealership / garage (who says shooting pretty girls is glamorous?) and we were all getting bitten within an inch of our life's by Manitoba's provincial bird, otherwise known as sodding great big mosquito.

I was somewhere on the outskirts of the city with Amanda and Jayme finishing off the last few outfits they wanted to do.  Amanda's husband had arrived with a quad bike Amanda wanted to use for some shots, and their cute 3 year old daughter.

At first she was a bit scared of me.  I could understand why, a strange man with a stranger accent, and a silly hat.  Even though I say I don't really like kids, for some reason they quite often seem to like me.  I don't get it, really I don't.

Anyway, it wasn't long before she was sitting on the tarmac next to me, in the shade, while I continued to photograph her Mummy.

With Mum's permission I snapped a few shots of her baby, and my favourite is up top.

Below is a picture of Mum with her quad bike, and below that my good friend Jayme G!

We all went for dinner at a great steak restaurant in Winnipeg in my honour after, a slightly early 40th birthday celebration.

Gibraltar Ape

I found this attractive fellow just around the corner from the southern most point on Gibraltar.  There was a whole bunch of apes digging around a small rubbish tip looking for food scraps.  It was a far cry from the tourist tastic apes we saw at the top of the cable car ride an hour or so later.

I wasn't sure how close I could safely get to the apes but i edged as closely as I dared and this is my favourite photo.  It's not quite perfect with it being a little dark around the eyes, but I still like it.

I've only been to the rock once, but I quite liked it.  Sure it was surreal seeing all those little bits of back home in what is essentially Spanish soil, but it was cool.  I'd like to return someday and spend more than just a few hours there.

27 January 2010

Great roadtrips

Today's photo was taken midpoint along the Redwood Highway in California, somewhere between Crescent City and San Francisco.

I've driven all across North America but the Redwood Highway is one of my favourite drives of all.  You can just about do it in a day if you don't stop too often, but next time I'm in the area I want to have more time there.   I have driven it 3 times now and each time its magical.  There is something about the trees and the ocean that makes it all so special.  The smell of the forest is also amazing.

This photo, if I can remember correctly was taken at the long end of a 100-400mm lens with a 1.4x extender bolted on.  The car in the distance was probably a good mile away from me.

Whenever I look at my photos from any of my road trips, it gives me in itchy feet and I want to go off and hit the road.  This year I think I want to stay closer to home as I'd really like to make a return visit to the northern bits of the Scottish Highlands.

26 January 2010


If you hadn't already noticed I have a thing about mooses.  Is it mooses, meese, or moose?  Whatever...

But why?  Because I've driven most of the way across Canada twice, seen dozens of road signs warning about moose but never once at any point had I ever seen a moose.

So during my visit to Grand Teton National Park in October 2009 I made it my mission to find and photograph a moose.

My day started with a walk around the small tourist town of Jackson Hole.  A photographic gallery caught my eye.  I got chatting with the owner and photographer David Brookover (www.brookovergallery.com).  His work is simply stunning, a true inspiration to me.  I told David my moose story, at which point he shouted across the street to a local reporter friend who happened to be passing.  He gave me some inside information about where some mooses had been spotted that morning.

So off I trot, a few miles up the road, turned right, spent an hour drive around in the now heavily falling snow, and no mooses.


Time was getting on, the snow was still falling and I had 3 hours till sunset.

Deciding I had nothing to loose I took a bit of a punt and drove 45 minutes to the northern end of the park to the area around Oxbow Bend.  It was then more by luck than judgement my moose adventure began.  I spotted across the river a couple of people out of their car, they were looking at something in the bushes.  I drove over.


At first all we saw was a mother with baby but then as more people joined us (at least 20 cars pulled up) someone said they'd see a male hiding in the rushes.  True enough, a few moments later out popped the beast pictured above.

I got the photo I wanted by taking another gamble and leaving the crowd to head back to the main road.  My luck was in when a few minutes later he crossed the road in front of me.  I was a tad nervous, what with me being the closest to him, and him being so damn big, but I was so happy to get my shot.

Now I can partly understand the rush that hunters must get when shooting these magnificent beasts, but at least with my way of shooting he'll still be there tomorrow for others to have their shot.

25 January 2010

Wedding Photography in Southampton | Winslow House

Today I'm digging back into my archives to May 2008 and the first wedding I ever shot solo.

Although I was confident with my photography skills I was nervous.  This was something new.  Normally I'm photographing one person at a time, or maybe a small group.  I'd never been in front of a room full of people before while trying to capture the shot.

I couldn't have asked for a better first wedding though, the couple Sue and Tony were two of the nicest people you could hope to meet, and they were both real characters so I knew the day was going to be fun.

After the service and reception at Winslow House in Southampton the reception party moved to "The Fisherman's Rest" pub in Titchfield a few miles along the M27.

The customary group photographs were taken in the grounds of Titchfield Abbey before we all retreated back into the pub where guests and photographer were all treated to generous portions of hog-roast.

It may have been my first wedding, but it still ranks as one of my favourites.

You name the price

So you've seen my work, hopefully you like my work, but you've not commissioned me to do any work?  Well, now is your chance.

February is a quiet month for me so I've decided to try something new from now until the end of the February.

You get to name the price you want to pay for my photography work.

It can be for any of the subjects I photograph, from weddings, business portraits, products, properties, models etc...

Just give me the job specification, what you want, when you want it, the amount you're willing to pay and I'll come back to you within 24 hours and let you know what I can do for that price.

This offer is open to anyone, so whether you're a new or an existing client, make me an offer peoples!

The photo above has nothing to do with the offer, I just like it so you're getting it.

Credit where it's due. I always like to give appropriate credit, and this idea is not mine. The idea comes from the guys over at Phoenix Marketing UK.  They're a young team, but have some great ideas. If you need some marketing done I can highly recommend them. Contact them via their website - www.phoenixmarketinguk.com.

Portfolio books

At the 4Networking meeting in Lincoln last week I had my new portfolio books (fresh from being printed by Blurb) on display.  I'm really pleased with how both look, and I'm sure I'll be getting some work because of them.

Why you need professional business photos

I'd photographed Emily in Lincoln recently.  I asked her to write a few words about the shoot and more importantly why she needed professional photographs of herself.

This is what she had to say.

"As part of my work, I sometimes have bylined articles placed in various publications online and in print. In many cases, the editor will ask for a picture to accompany the piece. It's also kind of expected that I have a decent(ish) pic on my website and social media profiles, so a small stock of professional photographs of myself is a must.

As such, I'd been meaning to sort out a shoot for some time but for one small problem: I hate having my picture taken. I really do freeze, then skew my mouth into a crazy shape and manage to roll my eyes back, exorcist-style just as the shutter clicks. But needs must, so despite my dread, I'd been keeping an eye out for a good photographer.

Michael's name kept cropping up so I had a look at his portfolio. What convinced me to book with him was the natural expression on the faces on a number of his subjects. They seemed relaxed and genuine, so I figured maybe he could get me to look less like a frightened rabbit.

By the day of the shoot, we'd already had a few chats, so he was forewarned about my severe lack of modelling skills. We headed to uphill Lincoln and retreated from the icy fog for a coffee. When we went back outside, the situation hadn't improved. In fact, it was foggier and colder, so we decided to go to my village in the hope that the conditions would be better - they were.

As we trundled about finding interesting backgrounds to shoot against, I had almost forgotten I was about to have my most unflattering facial expressions immortalized on film. Except, it didn't happen that way - Mike put me entirely at ease. He got me smiling and laughing in a natural way and, to my surprise, was soon showing me shots that actually looked like me. Even more surprising, I was enjoying myself.

Mikey has a great eye for locations and the final pictures all have a little of the character of the village I grew up in. The stone walls, greenery, Victorian doorways and church arches all make for something a bit different. I don't think I look awkward in my pics (you may disagree!) and I don't think I look like I'm trying to be a 'model'. I think I just look like me, and anyone who's tried to photograph me before will know that's not an easy thing to achieve."

Emily Cagle
Director of Emily Cagle Communications

24 January 2010

Only the best

Sometimes I get asked by my clients, "but you've taken xxx photos, why are you only letting me choose xx"?

No, it's not because I'm being mean or lazy.  It actually goes back a couple of years to the first time I photographed a wedding.  I was working as a second shooter with a local photographer so I could get a feel as to how weddings worked (I had not been to one for years).

After the wedding he told me that I could use 30 for my portfolio.  Baring in mind that I'd shot over 500 images at the wedding, 30 seemed an impossibly small number to get down to.

It took me some hours, but get down to 30 I did.  It was a very useful exercise because I found myself using only the very best images from the wedding.

Ever since then I've limited the number of images my clients can select and use.   The upshot is they only use the very best images from out shoot, and in turn this makes both them and me look better as a result.  Sure it might take them a little longer to select down to the number, but trust me its a positive exercise.

The photo up top is one of my 30 from my first wedding.

Serenity in Leicester

Last time I was in the Leicester area I had the misfortune of having a hotel and shoot in the city centre.  Neither the hotel nor the city centre were a place anyone would willingly choose to spend time.

However when I was there last week it was an entirely different story, my client had booked me into the Rothley Court Hotel, which is on the outskirts of Leicester and is totally wonderful.

According to the Rothley Court website it "has a long history dating back to the Doomsday Book of 1086".

As well as being a fine hotel, it would also make for a lovely place to get married.  It has its own chapel built into the hotel, stunning gardens.  I'd love to photograph a wedding here someday.

I was able to get an early check in thanks to my relaxed schedule that day, and by the time the posh breakfast with teapots and smoked salmon came in the morning I was completely chilled and ready for my headshot photoshoot 10 minutes down the road.  Happy days.

The Serenity sign was on a door opposite my room, I took a picture because it summed up my state of mind after just a night there (and also because it reminded me of one of my favourite films / tv series).

23 January 2010

Don't let people tell you...

... what you can't do.

That was the message that Gary Johannes was getting across during his 4sight at a 4Networking meeting in Grantham last week.

Although Gary was talking in general terms that none of us should let anyone tell us what we cannot do, his story was more personal.  Several years ago his son, Christopher was in an accident where he broke his back in several places, paralysed from the mid-chest down and had the top surgeon in the land was telling him he wouldn't walk again.

You can read more about their story on their blog, but to sum up briefly, Christopher can now walk, the surgeons still don't understand fully how, and in October 2010 they are both doing a 450 mile bike ride across Vietnam for charity.