All posts by Steve

Six Days : Three Stage Plays

I recently had a high concentration of stage plays to photograph in a single week. I typically photograph around 15-20 productions a year, plus promotional work, but recently had to shoot three productions for three companies in the space of six days, at theatres in Hertford and Potters Bar.

Nell Gwynn, performed by Hertford Dramatic & Operatic Society at Hertford Theatre
Our Man In Havana, presented by The Company Of Players at The Little Theatre, Bengeo
Chess, performed by Potters Bar Theatre Company at Wyllyotts Theatre

It’s Not All Photography

Taking photos is only a small part of running a photography business. I mention this because I occasionally get asked for advice by people considering photography as a career or small business.

  • Photo editing
  • Travelling
  • Sales & marketing
  • Accounts
  • Planning & scheduling

You’ll see from this list that much of running a photography business is not about photography but being a business-person.

Photo editing can often take longer than actually taking photos. Most of my editing work involves adjustments to lighting, cropping, clarity and removing the odd unwanted distraction.

Sales and marketing involve everything from keeping a website updated (including a blog!), maintaining social media, taking customer enquiries, consultations, site visits, pricing, business cards and other marketing materials, photo printing, burning DVDs, packaging, postage and order tracking.

You’ll also need to be organised – checklists and procedures are a necessary part of running an efficient business and keeping customers happy

Photography isn’t a 9-5 Monday to Friday occupation either.  You’ll frequently find yourself working evenings and weekends. I do a lot of private events and stage photography – typically out-of-hours work.

When I was first starting out I did a lot of research in to being self employed and running a photography business.  Of all the material I read this article by Ken Rockwell stood out.  Anyone considering starting their own photography business (or any business come to that) needs to do their research and have a good idea of what you need to do to succeed and what investments are required – financially and functionally.

 

Working With Off Camera Flash

I’ve never been a great one for flash photography, partly because of the nature of work I do and partly because of the flat and lifeless images flash photography can produce. I’ve always been aware of the creativity that flashguns afford but it’s only over the last couple of years that I’ve started using flash seriously and creatively.

Naturally I have a flashgun – a Nikon SB-700 that I use occasionally for fill-in flash.  Much of my work is stage photography, where creative lighting is already part of what I’m shooting, so flash is unnecessary. For parties, events and functions, where ambient lighting is also an important part of the scene, I use slow-sync flash to light the subject whilst still capturing the lighting from disco lights or other effects.

I’m now being tempted in to the world off off-camera flash, thanks in part to my recent discovery of the AmazonBasics Flash, an insanely cheap flashgun available from Amazon for just £26.

This unit is, as you’d expect from both the name and price, basic. It has no TTL metering or any other wizardly. It’s just a flash, powered by 4x AA sized batteries that can be manually set to one of 8 intensity settings. It also has a wide angle diffuser and a bounce card. It also comes with a hot-shoe stand and a waterproof bag. Build quality I would describe as adequate.

The flashgun has three settings – Manual, S1 and S2 – the latter of which provide a slave mode that allows the unit to be remotely triggered. It is compatible with a range of cameras, including Nikon, Canon, Ricoh, Olympus, Panasonic, Fuji, Pentax and Samsung.

I found the unit worked right out of the box with my Nikon D600, using it together with my SB-600.

In the image above I held the Nikon speedlight in my left hand whilst the AmazonBasics flash was mounted on a tripod behind me and to my right. I remotely triggered the shutter using an infrared remote.

Off camera flash is a relatively new practice for me and I hope to be experimenting with it a lot more now that I have two strobes to play with.

To find out more about the AmazonBasics Flash, go to https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B01I09WHLW

Spring Townscapes

Spring is a great time of year for taking photos of town and country. I was recently asked to to take a large number of photos of Hertford and Ware in the sunshine, for a brochure promoting social housing in the towns. This was a short notice job, with the client requesting the photos be taken in the sunshine that was forecast in the coming days.  Here are some of the images that I produced:

The River Lee at Ware
Gazebos on the River Lee at Ware
Ermine Court, Baldock Street, Ware
The White Hart, Salsibury Square, Hertford

Continue reading Spring Townscapes

Band Profile Photography

As well as live music photography, I also work with musicians to provide promotional material.

I was recently asked to provide a shot for a new local band named The Greyhound Factory. During a break in rehearsals at River City Studios in Hertford, we shot a simple group photo using a single flash with a black background.  The shot was then edited to reduce the saturation and add some filtering added. The end result is shown below.

Studio shot of local music act The Greyhound Factory
The Greyhound Factory

Other acts I’ve produced promotional material for include Indigo Star, The Trees and  Frankie The Gambler.

Frankie The Gambler

Testimonial

A very nice testimonial from a recent client following a birthday party shoot:

“Steve prepares thoroughly for events. He always takes time to understand his customer’s needs and you can set your watch by his timekeeping. He has all the right equipment, but isn’t a slave to technology. He has the stuff that he knows will deliver at the big moment. And, he never over-complicates things. The special touches like prints on display during the evening and the website gallery enable easy sharing whilst the energy is still flowing. Photos? – he’s my ‘go to guy’!”

Testimonial

Some great feedback after an informal wedding shoot:

“Firstly just to say how delighted we are at the photos looking through the gallery. You have done an amazing job and I think V&S will be bowled over when they see them. They really are of the style V specifically wanted and show so many happy faces.

Thanks also for your support on the day, you really added to the sense of the occasion despite being almost undetectable but then popping up wherever the action seemed to be happening. People commented on the sense of fun you contributed.

We did appreciate your staying on as proceedings stretched out more than we thought.”

Group Photography

Photographing people in groups presents some interesting challenges, not all of them photographic.

Photo of Amici Cantate
This shot of choral group Amici Cantate was taken from a gallery at the church where they were performing

The photographer can be faced with a variety of different groups – large groups, small groups, children, sports teams, compliant, unruly, and so-on. The type of group you’re working with influences your approach, but in all cases you’re dealing with people that you have to organise and exercise control over. This is the non-photographic challenge. Some people in a group are happy to be photographed whilst other may be reluctant. Whatever the group, they have to look like a group, rather than disassociated individuals sharing the same frame. This is where being a photographer becomes a “people job”. It’s about having an idea in your head about the best way to photograph the group and to organise your subjects into that group by communicating with them and directing them. And it doesn’t help if you don’t know all their names, which is often the case. If I’m addressing individuals in a group I usually refer to them as “young man” or “young lady”, regardless of their age. I usually try to pick people out by what they’re wearing, rather than personal attributes, although this can be a problem if you’re dealing with people dressed uniformly. You have to be assertive without being bullying. You have to be charming yet determined. And you have to do all of this within a time frame. If you take too long people will lose concentration and boredom will set in, making them harder to communicate with. They’ll also not look their best when you get to start shooting. Which brings be to the photographic challenges.

Continue reading Group Photography