I’ve recently had the pleasure of working with mental health organisation Retune, providing promotional material including live music photography, branding-in-use and headshots .
Retune was founded by musician and journalist Tom Ryder, who faced mental health difficulties in his early twenties, and music has always been his greatest respite.
Retune harnesses the power of live music to promote wellbeing and mindfulness. Exploring the strong link between creativity and mental health, Retune provides a safe space with no judgement to increase confidence and resilience for our community.
Director & chair of Retune, Greg Camburn, says on the website: “I have always been acutely aware of the connection between mental wellbeing, creativity and music. I am incredibly proud of Tom and the team for creating a fabulous, non-profit organisation that I am certain will go on to assist a great many people”
Greg and Tom are also assisted by Fionnuala Shakespeare, the organisation’s director of funding, and sound engineer Tom Rowntree.
Retune put on regular shows at The Half Moon in Bishop’s Stortford and have featured a range of artists including Didi, Sabrina Francis, The Kazans, Vertaal, Wardnparker and Alex Bayly.
The next event is an all-dayer on Sunday 2nd June 2019 featuring an open mic, comedy and a very special headliner.
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.
Other acts I’ve produced promotional material for include Indigo Star, The Trees and Frankie The Gambler.
Photographing people in groups presents some interesting challenges, not all of them photographic.
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.
I frequently work with Hertford Dramatic & Operatic Society, covering both production photos and promotional work.
Later this year The Society will be staging a production of When We Are Married by J.B.Priestley, for which I was asked to produce a period photograph of the main characters. This was to be a family photo similar in style to those used by other production companies to promote the play – a shot of the six main characters posing for the camera.
We did the shoot at The Society’s headquarters where we found a suitable backdrop to pose the actors in costume. We shot a number of poses but chose the final shot after experimenting with various expressions and positionings.
As this was a period photo we chose not to have the subjects smiling. This was the style of the day because exposures were long and holding a smile for that period of time was not feasible – which is why everyone in the 19 century looks unhappy!
As a final touch I then added a sepia effect to the image along with a vignette.
The photo appears on promotional materials such as posters, social media and in the printed programme for the production.
As part of their promotion for The Witches Of Eastwick, I was asked by Ware Operatic Society to take some shots to accompany a press release about the production. The idea was to have the character Darryl Van Horne pictured on a bed surrounded by the three witches.
Luckily, I have a contact who owns a furniture shop and he was happy to allow us to use the bed department for the shot. One of the beds was particularly well lit with ceiling spotbulbs, saving the effort of lugging the lighting gear up the rather narrow stairs to the showroom at the top of the building. The shoot was quite brief, as the performers were quite good at arranging themselves on the bed!
The only post-production work was some adjustments to the lighting levels and the addition of the vignette. Oh, and blurring of the hideous woodchip wallpaper behind the bed!
I’ve photographed plenty of live music over the years but only recently have I been asked to do promotional shoots for bands. Whilst I was covering last year’s Wilkestock I was asked to take some candid shots for Frankie The Gambler. Then a couple of months later I was approached by The Trees to produce a selection of shots for promotional use. The band already had a clear idea of what the wanted, having found a group of four trees in the middle of a field (there are four members of the band). Costume wasn’t an issue either as they knew exactly the look they wanted. It probably also helped that it was Autumn, a season often associated with trees!
Thankfully the weather was good for the day of the shoot – cloudy with sunny spells. I had already visited the site beforehand to get an idea of the lay of the land, the angle of the sun and most promising compositions.
I wanted to get shots of the band both close up and featuring each member against a tree (although that may have been their idea come to think of it!). Two of my favourite shots shown below illustrate both of these ideas.
I particularly like this shot of the band as it shows them all together but somehow all doing their own thing, with Sam staring off into the distance and David’s glance towards Rick. For me it has echoes of my Frankie The Gambler shot, both images showing the band as a group but also as individuals.
This shot shows each member of the band standing against one of the four trees. In reality the trees were actually much further apart when viewed from this angle so I had to move them closer together using Photoshop.
All of the finished shots feature a little cross-processing. I generally don’t touch the blue channel when adjusting the colours, concentrating on just the the red and green channels. I also tweaked the vibrance to bring out the orange leaves against the green grass.
I’m now looking forward to further commissions, maybe with more scope for art direction. If you’re interested in some promotional images why not get in touch.
Headshots are much in demand at the moment judging by the number of enquiries I’ve been getting recently. Most of these are from performers or business people wanting to update their profiles, either in print material or on websites.
My usual practice for such assignments is to visit the client’s home and set up my mobile studio, which takes around 20 minutes. We then spend around 10-30 minutes taking shots, depending on the client’s requirements. I usually recommend a plain shirt or top, often a neutral colour such as white, grey or black.
There’s typically little post-production work other than tweaking exposures and adding optional vignettes (some clients like them, others don’t). Some clients ask for slight blemishes to be removed whilst others are happy with the natural look. If the work is straightforward and a two minute tweak then I’m happy to do this without any extra charge.
A few weeks ago I took some promotional shots for a local theatre company who were promoting their latest production Agatha Christie’s The Hollow.
The brief included a series of posed shots from the play featuring the performers in costume with props. The photos were then used in promotional materials including posters and the programme for the production.
The shots were taken in a rehearsal room at the company’s headquarters using my mobile studio.
Interestingly, the crab shown in the last image was actually a flat printed cardboard cutout, but through the magic of photography appears very real and three dimensional.
In addition to the posed shots I was also asked to provide some informal black and white images of the play in rehearsal. Other theatre companies have also asked for these in the past and I’m more than happy to provide these. The rehearsal shots were taken handheld using ambient lighting.
Along with the posed shots these images also appeared in the programme.
If you’d like to know more about the photographic services I offer to theatres and drama companies please click the link below.