DON’T Piggyback Your Photography and Expect Great Results

Which of these people will get the better profile photo:-

  1. a relaxed, stress-free person, who has set time aside to enjoy a photo shoot
  2. someone with the phone going every 5 minutes, about to do a speech at an event and has a whole crowd of people waiting for them.

It’s night and day – chalk and cheese – choose your own metaphor! Person 1 will look open, friendly, relaxed, warm… 2 will look pre-occupied, elsewhere, stressed and maybe a bit on edge. Even the most seasoned performer has some kind of adrenaline before they start – and this shows.

Great people-photos don’t “just happen” with a good camera – which is great or I’d be out of business!

It’s my job to get all the technical “lighting and camera stuff” done seamlessly without anyone really noticing, and then take someone from the unusual (and maybe uncomfortable) position of posing in front of the camera to being relaxed and natural.

What should happen

To get the best shots of a client, they ideally want to have set time aside for the shoot – to have nothing too major on their mind (i.e. good diary management for that day), phone switched off and able to just spend an hour actually enjoying the whole photography thing.

Towards the end of the shoot, they’ll probably be a natural – a bit of practice, fun, experimentation and talking through ideas makes all the difference.

The photos will be far more natural, genuine smiles and expressions and hopefully be ones which just stand out where ever they are used.

What really happens…..

I often get asked to shoot an event or conference, and “can you get some headshots of x, y and z before hand”.

So these people are probably organising the thing or public speaking. Both are stressful to do, or if you are super-cool, you’ll still be thinking about what to say or about things which could go wrong.

Both of these show on your face, like it or not. You look distant or tense.

Also, they have no real time to stop – but they give you 2 minutes to get a shot before dashing off again. I can shoot off 100 photos in 2 minutes – cameras are good like that – but they’ll all look like someone who doesn’t want to be there.

Worst Still…

On a few occasions, I’ve done photos at the end of a long day – usually events, usually frantic. Everyone looks incredibly tired, ready for a pint or sleep.

I’ve probably been dashing around all day, so not at my chatty best – so it’s all a bit of a walking disaster.

I’ve never seen any of those last shots chosen or used – people can look 10 years older when they’re tired, and after an event, everyone is tired.

So what is piggybacking?

It’s adding one job on to another.

It often probably makes business sense to do this, and I’ve got no problem attempting it most of the time. But from a professional portrait photography perspective, is a real challenge.

These “event headshot photos” are good for press releases, social media and blogs.

For profile shots you really want them to work FOR you – so if possible, don’t piggyback your head shot session on the back of an event, but take the time to do the job right.


Tilt Shift Lens in Hunslet, South leeds

What is Tilt Shift?

If you don’t know what a Tilt Shift lens is, this chap explains it well. So take a look at this first if you’re interested.

South Leeds Architecture

There are some interesting new buildings in the south of Leeds these days – this first one is the Leeds College of buildings, created by Fuse Architects. For this shot I went to the middle of the road island ans use the 17mm tillt shift lens. I took 3 photos – one with the lens shifted up, one in the middle and one down. So the view here is actually incredibly wide – and notice that all the vertical lines are – well…. vertical!

This next building is Indigo – taken just meters away from the college shot. It’s a HDR of 3 images, each 2-stops apart.

This building is incredibly angular and the 17mm TS lens makes the most of this. I’ve left  part of the image pretty empty as I’m sure in the future this area will fill with new buildings, so this will become a unique shot over time

Indigo again – from the same place as the previous shot, just rotated the camera through 20-30 degrees to the left to get both lanes of traffic and the traffic island in shot. The processing on this is very cool to compliment the “indigo” name 🙂

New Dock, formerly Clarence Dock, has lots of linear architecture – here we have the armouries to the left, flats to the right and tower at the end. To get this view I took 2 HDR shots, one low down to get the boat and water, the other high up for the sky and buildings.

They were blended in Photomatix with the exact same settings and then a pano created in LIGHTROOM – as that does the job and is INCREDIBLY easy to use. 

A different view of the college of building, I really like those green frames around the windows

A straight shot from the middle of the road – shadows lifted in LIGHTROOM, but other than that very little processing

Indigo again – from the safety of the pavement this time! I saw this fella walking across the road – as the lights turned green, he started to run, so had to get him mid-sprint! 

Outside New Dock – this is where I was parked actually, just loved the light reflecting off the top window.

It’s 6 shots HDR – 2 sets of 3 – made by shifting the 17mm lens up to get the building tops.

Indigo from the other side – this is the view most will see of it, it’s at the crossing which goes to Crown Point Retail Park. The road to the left heads into town, so most traffic heads down there. You can see more of the building from this side, the overhang and the glass lower floors. 

Indigo Closeup portrait shot – you can do portrait shots with the tilt shift, just :-

  • put the camera into a portrait position,
  • roughly compose the image
  • get the camera level
  • shift till you get the whole building in there
  • shoot!

Another New Dock shot – again with a shift to get both the foreground water in, and the tops of the buildings in. 

Loved the light on this one – taken from the pelican crossing with a mother and baby looking on behind me

And finally, a panoramic using the tripod head’s ability to rotate. It’s just a case of start at the left, take a shot – rotate the camera a bit, then take another, then repeat till you get to the end. 

Food Photography For Fire Lake, Radisson Blu Leeds

New Season – New Food Photography

With summer arriving, the menus at Radisson in Leeds change – so they needed new Food Photography to promote it. I was invited down to work with the new chef and Tom, the mixologist, to create a whole set.

The Food

The Fire Lake vibe is on the rustic edge, so we use some old wood and an old table for the Food Photography presentation. It gives that darker look too – so the bright, summer colours stand out.

The light setup is pretty intense – 4 flashes all around the table, makes for interesting viewing for the hotel guests as they walk past! It’s quite a performance!

I loved this blue/green plate – really made the fish dish appear delicious.

This tomato and cheese dish showcases several different tomatoes – using that black plate really makes them sing from the photo

Another angle on the first dish – to make the asparagus really stand out I got down to table level.

A delicious pork dish

On to a cocktail – we carried on using the wood background for a few. Love these little glasses of ice – you pick up the “cone” to sip the rum, the ice keeps it cold for you.

The brownies were amazing by the way

The colours were so intense on this desert.

It’s not a cigar, but a piece of cinnamon stick smouldering after Tom had set it alight. The top light catches it perfectly to make the plume stand out.

I always make these ultra close-up shots if the drink has decoration – like the lemon skin here.

For this we removed the back panel of wood – the background is now the open hotel bar. You can see that the ambient light doesn’t affect the photos – it’s all created with flash.

Tom uses patterned ice cubes – that’s attention to detail!

They really do present this cocktail on that piece of wood, with the glass closh on top of it! And it’s full of smoke too…. The lights in the background are above the bar

Ultra close up detail of a rum cocktail – I loved the detail on the orange slice.

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Leeds Food Photographer