As I started preparing this blog I had forgotten what a busy year 2017 was with commercial work and model test shoots. I invested in new camera equipment as well as concentrated on improving my photography skills in the studio and on location. 'A Decade in Review' is where I look back at my favourite photoshoots and images and in this blog I revisit 2017.
As a full-time photographer, it is obviously important to make money, I find I’m in a much better mood when I’m paying the mortgage and have food in the fridge but joking aside, apart from filling my diary with bookings for commercial work, it is also important to practise with new equipment and photography techniques in your own time. Although some clients are happy for you to experiment on set and be creative you really don’t want to turn up on a paid shoot and have no idea how your photography equipment works.
One of the first investments I made in photography was a set of Bowen’s Esprit 500 studio strobes which have proved to be an incredibly reliable studio flash and they still come in handy today, but after using them for many years I wanted to invest in a new bit of kit and in November 2016 I purchased a Profoto B2 Location Kit as my go-to lighting.
The majority of my work was now on location, away from my studio, and this kit was not only a lot lighter for me to carry around, but it also had collapsable light modifiers which were easier to transport and it used a rechargeable battery so the entire kit would not rely on mains power giving me the option to use it in any situation.
Although I used the B2 kit on a straight forward commercial project in the December, I hadn’t had the opportunity to test all the various light modifiers such as a softbox, beauty dish, umbrella, and grid, so when actor and social media influencer Lucy Scarfe got in touch to see if I would be interested in shooting with her, I jumped at the chance. Below are a few of my favourite retouched images from the shoot , I also have another blog and a full review of the B2 Location Kit and Light Modifiers, click here to read.
A couple of weeks later I met with Emma Frisk and this time I was keen to experiment with the lights in a home environment for my lifestyle and stock photography images and to also take the lights outdoors to see what results I would get.
Above: We also took the opportunity for me to experiment with creating business style images which are typical of the style of content I create for many businesses in Essex and London where I predominantly work.
If you have read my Decade in Review 2016 you would have seen my last shoot of the year was with actor Grace Parry where we had absolutely stunning light, we both hoped to shoot again in the new year and Grace was in need of a new headshot and images for social, so again it was another opportunity to try different things with my lights and create more content for Instagram for us both.
Above: Experimenting with lighting to create different moods for an actor's headshot.
Above: We created a lovely set of images for Grace in this style. Photoshop retouching on this set was by me. More about retouching later.
If you have seen my 2016 blog then you will know that I had pitched a concept to Andrea Vasiliou about a female assassin and I had already had been given permission to shoot on a private location and I was planning on visiting again soon to grab a few shots to help plan our big shoot. Sometimes, life can be kismet. The morning of our shoot I was visiting my client who owned that location and in conversation, I mentioned I was meeting that afternoon with an actor for a studio photoshoot. They knew I was keen to create some pre-vis material and gave permission for me Sian to shoot there that afternoon if we wanted to. Of course I wanted to! So that afternoon I collected Sian from the station and we discussed shoot ideas. The final plan was to spend a couple of hours shooting in my home studio and then go shoot on location. It soon becomes apparent to me that Sian would fit the role as an undercover agent, like the characters Dana Scully from X-Files or Emily Prentis of Criminal Minds. With this in mind, we first shot a set of character profile images in my studio, see below.
After then quickly shooting a small selection of lifestyle and other mages for social media, we made our way to a private car park to test a few ideas and the Profoto B2 lights. On a shoot of this genre, I would normally plan in advance and suggest ideas before the day, but it soon becomes apparent that Sian and I were getting on like a house on fire and as far as I was concerned the initial test images were looking awesome, so instead of rushing a handful of shots we decided to stay longer and create a variety of test images which I could go take away and develop another story idea I had whizzing around somewhere in my head! That idea soon became known as Protection Command and I can’t wait to take it to the next level soon.
I can’t think of a shoot where I didn’t actually get on with the model, obviously, you gel better with some than others. What I didn’t expect from working with Sian was to gain a friend who is so supportive, encouraging, and fabulous company.
As you can below we didn’t leave it too long before we met up again that year, to discuss and create a few more images for Protection Command as well as create more lifestyle images for our social media.
Above: Another set of images to reach out to the brand, New Look. It always helps when the model shops at the brand you are reaching out to!
Below: This is not the most technical image I've ever taken but is certainly amongst my all-time favourites. For me, it just captures Sian and Mummy Altman also approves, so that's always a good thing!
Below: I seem to remember it had been a long and blustery day but as the sun started to drop it didn't stop Sian! As well as doing photography professionally, it's also nice if like-minded people can enjoy spending time together, doing what they both love, creating images and supporting each other. I'd highly recommend it if you are fortunate enough to make that friendship as I have been.
Let's jump back to February and the day after shooting with Sian, my other very good friend Grace Gray and I had planned to shoot Beauty in my home studio which is something I was also keen to improve my skills on. As well as working as a model, Grace is also very well known in the industry as a makeup artist too and recruited the help of a couple of her friends to model for us. A big thanks to Natasha Eatsdale and Shupikai for all their help. It’s always nice when there’s no rush and you can spend the day getting to know each other and testing new ideas.
Below: Macro photography of Natasha Estdale using Illamaqua products.
As I said earlier, it is so important to test with models and makeup artists to develop new ideas and experiment with camera and lighting settings and techniques. This shoot was a turning point for my confidence in shooting beauty and I've since worked on paid commercial beauty shoots.
Above: Behind the scenes image with Natasha Estdale showing the lighting set-up. Camera settings for the close-up eye shot are:
Canon 5D Mark III, Sigma 150mm Lens, ISO 100, Shutter Speed 1/160 at f18
Although I do a lot of my own retouching we were also keen to get the help of a high-end professional retoucher and commissioned the help of Anna Rovkina. Below are my favourite final retouched images.
Below: Behind The Scenes Video
This was looking to be an amazing year for developing my style of photography, and as well organising more tests than I usually would, my commercial and corporate photography was also going very well so I decided to update my camera and purchase the Canon 5D MK IV. I had used the 5D Mk III since 2014 and still had the 5D Mark I classic in my kit. I put a request out on social media that I was looking for a model to test and Lucy Allen kindly offered to help out over a couple of evenings.
Below are a small selection of finished images from the shoot.
Here’s my video of Canon 5D Mark IV - First Model Shoot with Lucy
A week later I met up with model Beth Smith at sunny Southend-on-Sea. We had recently worked together on another client project and I was as keen as always to reach out to a Brand. These days it’s so much easier to reach out to Brands through platforms such as Instagram, and because of my style of photography and signature look (Click Here), I’ve been trying my hardest to get my images in front of New Look especially concentrating on clothing and watches and accessories and wanted to create as many images as possible with a variety of models throughout the year.
Beth is such an awesome person too and I just wanted to add a little shout out for her too. You may have seen her working with Gavin Hoey at Photography Live or one of Gavin's Photography videos, if you haven't make sure you go check them out.
Models often ask me to help fill a hole in their portfolio by producing commercial images and it’s easy to use clothing and non branded watches to create a timeless look, excuse the pun. It appears that model agencies also love the look too and you'll often see my test shoot images on a model agency profile.
Following my test shoot with Sian in February, I spent the next few months planning and developing my female assassin concept ANDIE with actor and model Andrea Vasiliou. This included securing access to the site where we were filming and shooting, informing the Police of our shoot, organising and renting props which also included a Ford Mustang, a Ford 150 Pickup truck and Suzuki GSR 750 and In Sept 2017 the shoot went ahead.
We had such an awesome time, as always it was a packed day but I was so pleased with the results. Again it wouldn't have been possible if it wasn't for the help of Grace Gray, Anouska Watts, Phil Walker, Andrea Vasiliou, and everyone else who was involved.
To find out a lot more about this awesome shoot, see behind the scenes images, and to save me repeating myself please visit this blog
Above: Thanks to Phil Walker for the use of his F150 Ford Pickup Truck and driving skills. This is a great link to my next shoot which features Phil's daughters.
Early in October, I worked with my good friends Ella and Evie Walker on a fashion shoot (images above) for a client and we decided to meet again for a shoot in my home studio to help update their portfolio, experiment with a lighting idea, and create more images for social media. I’m actually very good friends with the girl's mum and dad and keep reminding Ella that I discovered her before anyone else and had the pleasure of working with her on her first-ever shoot. Since then Ella has gone on to work on Commercials, Film and with the world’s biggest brand names and celebrities such as Lewis Hamilton, Tommy Hilfiger, Adobe and many more. I’m sure it won’t be much longer before her younger sister Evie follows in her footsteps.
Below: In this shoot, I created a hand-painted background and mixed the Profoto B2 lights with Christmas lights in the background.
Below: Screengrab from W Model Management showcasing my images of Ella. In my experience model agencies love this style of commercial image.
Below: Unedited Raw file of Evie.
I had always wanted to add a Canon’s 85mm f1.2 L Lens to my kit and at the end of October after years of waiting, I was the proud owner of a new lens. Of course, I couldn't wait to put this lens through its paces and organised a shoot and the help of Makeup artist Clare Bradshaw, Hairstylist Tara Johnston, models Rebecca White and Lucy Allen and assistant Anouska Watts.
For many years I have wanted to create creative Geisha inspired images. I was also building a reputation for creating Damsel in Distress images and wanted to develop the rope inspired theme and learn more about the art Shibari. In May 2017 I was asked to give photo tuition to a Shibari artist and asked Grace Gray to apply the makeup and give me some assistance.
Below: Grace Gray on set with Anna putting the creative touches to the Shibari rope tie.
Below: Shot on location in a home environment
As well as offering photography tuition, I also shot behind the scenes video which you can see here.
The Art of Shibari Part One
The Art of Shibari Part Two
Back to my shoot with Lucy and Rebecca, as well as agreeing to partake in the creative shoot, I also created a set of headshot, hair and advertising style images. A shoot like this is definitely teamwork, I wouldn't get the same results if it wasn't for the help of everyone involved.
Below: Model Rebecca White
Below: Model Rebecca White, Hair by Wedding hair by Tara. I've worked with Tara for many years now. Tara is an award-winning Bridal hairstlist and Finalist of the Essex Wedding Awards.
To start, hairstylist Tara creates infinity braids and a low set bun to create a stylish classic look as model Lucy Allen has a makeover for her shoot. We then created a series of images showcasing Lucy's hairstyle using Profoto lighting, reflectors and shields.
Above: Tara Johnston with model Lucy Allen.
While Tara and MUA Clare start work on creating the Geisha look on Rebecca, I shoot a series of stylish portraits of Lucy using Japanese Shibari rope ties, this also gives me to practise the takate kote which is a shibari rope tie which I had been learning to tie with the help of Anatomie Studio in London.
I also got creative by using a lampshade to create an unusual effect without having to do any retouching in Photoshop. You can see how this was done by watching the videos at the end of this section.
Once Tara and Clare have finished their stunning transformation turning model Rebecca White into a Japanese Geisha, I get to work testing my camera and 85mm lens.
Above: Using an 85mm F1.2 lens and shooting through a lampshade to create this on-camera effect. Check out my BTS video below to see how it's done.
Again, here are a couple more videos which were mainly filmed by Anna and tell the full story of our shoot.
The final test shoot of the year was with model Jamila Wardknott and MUA Michelle Lacey. Jamila contacted me after seeing my work on a Facebook group and was very successful on Instagram with over 100,000 followers. Quite often you hear from photographers, models and makeup artists that they get very nervous before a shoot. Quite often 'creatives' worry about their style of art and feel they aren't good enough. I've also been guilty of this and sometimes those thoughts still pop into my mind. My advice to you would be to ignore those thoughts and like me, keep practising and reaching out to new people. The more people you meet and work with, the more comfortable you become in your art. I guess it's experience. If things don't go according to plan on a shoot, don't panic and try not to stress. Cameras and lighting equipment are complicated bits of kit and because they're mechanical and technical, they can go wrong. None of this happened during our shoot, but my advice is to learn from your mistakes and get to know your kit, which is exactly what I did in 2017.
Above: The hairdryer technique! As well as a Makeup artist, Michelle is also a very competent hairstylist.
Retouching skin is not my strength. If you're like me then don't panic, there are plenty of retouchers around the world who can help. In this case, I sought the help of Andrey Shchepkin who I have used on a number of my shoots. Prices can vary between a retoucher. Send them your Raw file and they will let you know how much the image retouching will be before they start.
I’m sure you would agree I certainly kept myself busy in 2017 and thoroughly enjoyed every shoot. I’m so grateful for the people I have met and for all the support so many have given me. They all know how passionate I am about my work and having the friendship and support of others is so important especially when working alone.
And thank you for taking the time to visit, you can find me on social media at all the usual places so please let me know if any of my chat has helped you in any way.
I don't want you to miss out on the full A Decade in Review blog:
Part One 2010 Click Here
Lucy Scarfe Instagram
Emma Frisk Instagram
Grace Parry Instagram
Sian Altman Instagram
Natasha Estdale Instagram
Grace Gray Instagram
Lucy Allen Instagram
Beth Smith Instagram
Andrea Vasiliou Instagram
Ella Walker Instagram
Evie Walker Instagram
Anna Noctuelle Instagram
Rebecca White Instagram
Clare Bradshaw Twitter
Tara Johnston Instagram
Anouska Watts Instagram
Jamila Wardknott Instagram
Michelle Lacey Instagram