Opening Up

Looking forward, looking up.

The future is finally looking much brighter than my last post at the beginnng of the year – Trump has gone forever, the NHS have had the huge financial pat on the back that they deserve, and the UK Government continue to inspire confidence and trust. Hmmm.

I’ve been doing occasional socially-distanced shoots for quite a few months now and jobs are thankfully trickling in at a gradually more frequent rate. Sadly, a few of my previous regular clients are no longer operating and so I’m going to be giving my advertising/marketing a push over the coming weeks.

There are a few areas of photography that I’d like to be doing more of in the future and I’ll be posting more about these soon.

As always, I welcome all enquiries about corporate, portraiture, event, studio, editorial and social media marketing photography.

In the meantime, here are a few recent images…

2021: I’ve Been Expecting You

Well 2020 didn’t quite pan out as we’d expected, did it?

But not to worry, 2021 is here – kinda like 2020 but with a slab of medicinal hope, a smattering of eco-apocalypse, a soupcon less Brexit, and a sprinkling of Trumpageddon.

A fortnight into this new year and here in England we’re up to our chins in lockdown, which means photographers are again watching each other, thinking “if they’re opening their studio, I’m opening mine” but with no clear information or guidance from the government (again), I’m interpreting the rules according to “the spirit” of the “Stay Home, Save Lives” message and my studio is closed until further notice.

What this means to me as a business – a business that has “fallen through the cracks” as regards governmental financial support – is that once again, I can’t make my studio available to my little group of “residents” and can only accept jobs that involve shooting outside and at a distance. And this is why I, like so many other photographers, am decidedly “unbusy” at the moment, with a depressingly empty calendar ahead. So, money is going out, but very little coming in.

But… I believe the industry and the economy will “rise again” later this year, possibly with a renewed energy.

For reasons that, with hindsight, even I am struggling to understand, in the middle of the pandemic, with several hungry mouths to feed (mine, 2 felines and an occasional daughter), I decided to splash out on new camera kit. Insane. I haven’t even had the mojo to go out and take photos for fun with my new camera. But an update was long overdue and the shoots that I’ve done with it so far (stilted unfamiliarity aside) have produced beautiful results. I’ll tell you more about my reckless purchase sometime soon but for now, here’s a few images from (comparitively) recent commercial shoots…

When A Flattened Curve Becomes A Downward Spiral

Like many other self-employed peeps, the enforced lockdown has had a humungous and devastating effect on my photography business. For one reason or another, I was one of the many who “fell between the cracks” of the various governmental aid packages for the self-employed and small businesses and so with nothing coming in and still home/studio rent to pay, it’s been a pretty stressful time.

I tell you this not because I am about to announce a link to my JustBegging page or would like you to send me toilet roll and tins of baked beans at your earliest opportunity, but because there have been some actual positives to the time spent here alone. Here are a few…

  • Professional Development: I have spent time reading a wide range of material and watching hours of tutorials (some good, many very bad) to consolidate – or learn for the first time – methods and techniques to improve the  standard and range of my photographic understanding.
  • Equipment: I have begun using my Holga (120) and Olympus Trip (35mm) to record some of my activities during lockdown on film, cameras that I haven’t taken out of my bag for a year or two. I’ve also had time to investigate potential new equipment purchases for when the work situation improves.
  •  Time Apart: Not HAVING to use my camera on a regular basis has meant that I’m now itching to get back to using it as soon as possible. The same could be said about my studio – I’m regularly buzzing with ideas about new shoots I’d like to realise.
  • Worth: Seeing more and more work by my contemporaries, going through old images, remembering difficult shoots/clients has (without wishing to beat around a bush while blowing my own trumpet) made me realise that I am good at what I do and that my experience and skills should come at an appropriate price. I have sometimes accepted difficult jobs and put up with rude, unrealistic, unappreciative, and goalpost-shifting clients, sometimes for lower rates than I should accept and then had to expend a lot of time and effort to chase even those payments. A year or so ago I started saying “no” to clients who had taken advantage of my good nature (yes, it is generally good) consistently, whether through brief-stretching, late/non-payment, unreliability, dropping me for a cheaper photographer only to return when they didn’t get what they needed etc, and it’s been very cathartic. Lockdown has made me even more determined to continue this ethos – if it feels like it’s going to be more trouble than it’s worth, it usually is.
  • Appreciation: This a lonely old trade sometimes, even moreso since I stopped teaching, but over the years I have made some true friends through photography. Whether other pro photographers, models, clients, former students, club members or studio residents, I am very fortunate to know some wonderful people. It’s worth mentioning here that several of my current studio residents offered to continue paying rent (or at least some of it) to help me continue to pay my landlord during lockdown. I declined but the offer meant a lot to me.
  • Futureproofing: The only thing that is certain as we start to emerge from these dark days of lockdown is that nothing is certain. I personally doubt the industry will ever be quite the same – it has changed so much in recent years and I suspect the post-virus recession will prompt some recently redundant enthusiasts to join the ranks of us shutter-monkeys-for-hire (I know people who are doing this) as we scramble for fewer scraps of work for lower reward. But this is a constantly evolving business and twas ever thus. As some areas of photography become obsolete, others spring up. Photographers have always been adaptable or they weren’t photographers for very long. Some aspects of my business will continue to provide revenue, I’m sure, while others will need to be replaced. As someone who accepted his first professional commission 35 years ago, I am not particularly concerned with having to adapt. However, I increasingy recognise the necessity to consider an additional form of income as many of my colleagues have done.

As lockdown restrictions are gradually relaxed, Strangetown Studio is now able to be used again and I’m happy to say my first couple of shoot enquiries have trickled in. Here’s to a rapid and continued return to normality, whatever that is.

Anyway, enough of that serious stuff, here’s a nice photo of the ever-wonderful Cally…

 

Light At The End Of The Tunnel?

There is, apparently, a nasty virus going around. It’s separating loved ones, frightening people of all ages, preventing and changing “normal” life, making people ill, ruining businesses, stalling education and careers, and even killing thousands.

Given that perspective, the cancellation of a few photography courses and workshops is pretty small beer really. Inevitably, under these extraordinary circumstances, I’ve postponed all of my training events until it’s safe and sensible to reschedule. Everyone affected has been contacted and have been wonderfully understanding (this is no surprise – my training clients are lovely folks). Whatever happens, and however long it takes, these bookings will be honoured.

I, like many other photographers, and many other freelance/self-employed people (including the models I work with), have a very uncertain future because of Covid-19. I noticed a fairly sudden drop-off in my usual PR and commercial work 4-6 weeks ago but hoped we’d escape the worst of it and could begin to recoup the lost earnings. It’s now apparent this is unlikely to happen any time soon and with studio and house rent to pay, I’m unsure how my business will weather this enforced period of inactivity. I went into self-isolation almost a week ago because I was showing symptoms of what I believe to be (but can’t be certain was) a cold and cough. I have no work whatseoever in the diary until September which is when the school photography contracts should begin – but of course, there’s a chance these may not materialise. Freelance photographers sadly cannot work from home.

But I’m one of the lucky ones. I am in generally good health, have food in my cupboards and freezer, have a little garden I can sit in for fresh air when needed – and most importantly, my family are safe, well and taking the necessary precautions to avoid infection. If my business doesn’t survive this, I’m sure I’ll adapt and eventually find alternative work.

My real sympathy is with those already infected or lost to this virus and their families.

And my eternal gratitude to the wonderful NHS and other keyworkers keeping this country battling through despite the best efforts of the moronic hordes of panic-buying, stockpiling, advice-ignoring, virus-spreading dimwits who see no reason to make any adjustment whatsoever to their own selfish routines in order to save the lives of innocent people. To those people, I wish a swift and painful death.

In an attempt to end on a lighter, photographic note (this is a photography page after all), I leave you with this image of lovely Laura (actually two shots, taken, edited, composited on an iphone) proving that there really is light at the end of the tunnel…

This Other England: Model Ellie At Strangetown Studio

Modelling for this week’s “Getting Started In The Studio: Flash“workshop was the lovely Kidderminster-based model Ellie England. It so happens that Ellie’s dad is one of my oldest and best friends so I’ve know Ellie since she was a baby – way before she was one of the country’s brightest new athletics hopefuls, much less an up-and-coming model. Sadly, a period of ill health meant that Ellie is no longer competing in athletics but thankfully, she is back to modelling.

Before Monday’s workshop began, we were able to get a few minutes to grab some studio shots, some of which Ellie needed for an agency application. Ellie is such a wonderfully bubbly personality with a very professional outlook. She is on Instagram and some of the modelling sites (click here for her Purpleport profile).

These were very hurried shots but I hope to bring Ellie back into the studio soon.

James: Headshots

I enjoy shooting “headshots”, especially when the subject is a performer or someone who understands the importance of image presentation. And it’s also more fun if it’s someone I’ve known for many years and have worked with before.

James is an actor and musician that I first photographed around 14 years ago when I was putting together my final project for my Photography degree. We originally met via a mutual interest in a band. James is definitely less affected by those years than I am.

I know I’ve said it before but the best thing about my studio (Strangetown Studio) is that apart from my cosy and well-equipped studio space, there’s the rest of this huge 1930s industrial building to use as backdrops for my portraiture and quite a few of the corridors and stairwells have rather nice natural light.

Britpop United: Second Shoot

Here’s my second shoot with the excellent “Britpop United” in and around my very own Strangetown Studio. Their first shoot included a fifth member who later left the band and so new images were needed to reflect the new line-up. I have to say there seemed to be a better “vibe” about  the band this time around, with lots of banter and wind-ups.

I do enjoy band/musician shoots although it’s hard to avoid the cliches so it helps when the band already have a few ideas of their own and are aware of how their images are going to be used.  It also helps when the band come fully prepared with instruments and have discussed outfits in advance. Being a lovely bunch of guys is a bonus too.

I’m fortunate to have seen Britpop United (with this line-up) performing at a local scooter rally not long after they became a four-piece and thoroughly enjoyed their set.

You might be interested to have a look at Britpop United’s website, where you’ll find more photos plus videos and gig information.

Back To School?

If you’ve known me for a while, or have been reading this here page for a year or two, you’ll probably know that until the beginning of 2018, a sizeable chunk of my business over the years was in teaching photography at a variety of locations including MAC (Midlands Arts Centre), Stratford College, my own studio (obviously) – and Birmingham Botanical Gardens (for around 14 years).

I stopped the teaching side of things, and even the successful photography club I ran, to concentrate on the practical side of photography at a time when it seemed everyone (including people who had little more experience than one of my own courses) were teaching courses of their own.

When I finished teaching at Birmingham Botanical Gardens, my courses were taken over by my friend and former student, David Tunney who has clearly been doing a great job for them. Sadly, David became ill in 2019 and I was asked to return to the BBG to cover his Autumn Term classes until he was well enough to return. I agreed to do this and quickly remembered how much I enjoyed delivering these courses. As David wasn’t quite well enough to return for the Spring Term, I agreed to stay on to cover those classes too.

And so I am now not only looking forward to what should be my “definitely final” term at the BBG, but I’ve also decided to continue to run a few one-off workshops at my studio (Strangetown Studio). Until now these have been available mainly to my former FOTO-CLUB members via our closed Facebook group but I will be posting some additional events on the Strangetown website and Facebook page by this weekend.

If you’d like to be added to my brand new mailing list, please get in touch! (Events so far have often sold out within a couple of days).

A recent group shoot at Strangetown Studio with the wonderful Rose Beaman.

Introducing: Shannon

One of the joys of this job is that occasionally I am able to “discover” potential new models. I met Shannon in December 2018 when we were working together at Birmingham’s NEC and it was apparent to me that Shannon had the looks, attitude and personality to be an excellent model if that that was something that interested her. We worked together again at the end of 2019 and, after other colleagues had also told her she should give modelling a try, Shannon and I discussed her coming in for a shoot at my (Strangetown) studio in the new year.

Although the eventual shoot lasted only around an hour, I was extremely pleased with the results – Shannon is a dream to work with. She has expressed an interest in doing more modelling and until she sets up profiles on the usual UK modelling sites, I would be happy for photographers to contact me and I’ll put you in touch.

Shannon is based in Wolverhampton but also has links to Kent.

New Blood: Old Concept

(l-r) Gia, Farrah & Porsha

I recently revived a workshop theme that I haven’t done for well over two years. In fact the problems with finding reliable models for the “New Blood” showcase events (essentially three very different models whose only similarity is that they haven’t worked on my events before) was one of the reasons I stopped doing workshops at all.

Porsha at Strangetown Studio

It’s “reassuring” to discover that nothing has changed and new models are still, on the whole, a fairly unreliable bunch. Of the three models originally booked for this event, only Porsha actually honoured her booking. The other two had to be replaced when they dropped out at quite short notice (one within the 36 hours before the shoot). Suddenly, I remembered why I stopped doing these particular workshops.

Luckily, two wonderful and very professionally-minded models, Gia and Farrah stepped in to save the day. In the end, this was a very successful workshop.  Here are just a few of the images I managed to capture in between running from group to group…