Your old work should be embarrassing!

How do you know whether you are progressing at photography? 

Well, There are many ways to look at this, it could be 

  • how successful you are with competitions in your local camera club
  • or whether you get more likes and praise on LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram or Flickr 
  • or more sales and new clients

But that’s all secondary really, and external factors like popularity and your own activity (marketing, “liking” others work) come into play. 

The Cringe Factor

Now the best way of telling whether you’ve progressed is whether when you look back a year or two, or even 10, and see the work you were producing then, you are slightly embarrassed by it – there’s a cringe factor! 

You know what you did wrong and how you would do it better now. 

I saw an interview with Pink Floyd’s guitarist, Dave Gilmour, where he said he wished he’d done a better job of the intro to “Wish You Were Here” – something millions of guitarists have laboured over to copy exactly. I guess he has very high standards 🙂

A cringe factor is a sure sign of progress. It shows growth in:- 

  • how you compose an image, 
  • how you light it, if you use lighting, 
  • or increased location knowledge, when you walked to the perfect position for the perfect light on a sunset landscape image. 
  • Or maybe it’s how you organize your food and light that for a restaurant shoot
  • how you process an image – did you use toning, or straight? High contrast or muted?
  • techniques you used and abandoned or maintained

All these factors come into play photography, it’s not about how you click the button, but all the little details you learn from experience and especially from working with other people. 

The Flaws are obvious to you

So when you take a look back 5 or 10 years, you should be able to point out lots of flaws in those photos, in 10 years you can go from a complete novice to professional. 

But what about a year ago when you look back at a year at some work you were doing? 

How do you feel when you go back just 12 months? 

With my work realised that I made the rear “rim” lights on my portraits a bit too bright, so they burnt out on the back and sides of people’s heads. There would be no detail left. So now I’m very conscious now of lowering the power and keep checking it’s not too bright. People move and a random step back can easily blow out that rim light. 

Oh, and I almost always use a grid on the backlight too – just to control flare and where the light falls. 

When you look on the camera during the shoot, you don’t really notice it – but when you get back to Lightroom Photoshop, all of a sudden you realize that there’s no detail in the rim-lit areas, and you can’t do much about it. 

So there are literally hundreds of little things which add up to your style today. Looking back is a great way of working out what you’ve changed, and why. 

It’s also a great reason to update your portfolio, keep it current with your best work – to get rid of all the old stuff as frequently as you can. It’s ok to keep some of the old classics of course – think of it like a gig, if you went to see, say, Paul McCartney in concert, it’s fine for him to play a few Beatles tunes after all 🙂

Lencarta Beauty Dish Test Shoot

I recently bought the “MOD048 | 60cm Folding Beauty Dish Silver Mk.2” as a small, portable light modifier. These are available (or will be when stock arrives) on their website ( or if you’re in West Yorkshire, you can order on line and pick it up in Bradford, which is what I did.

Folding Beauty Dish | Silver | Lencarta / Bowens Fitting | 100cm

Couple of things to note about this particular mod.

  • Silver – so potentially a bit more sparkly than the white version
  • 60cm – so in the middle, you can get tiny or huge, this is hopefully going to work outside without catching too much wind
  • Comes with velcro softbox/grid adaptors – so you can make it pretty directional.

Andy Taylor Boocock

The man in the photos is Andy – a top muse at McFade, always great fun to shoot with, a great look of course and always patient and excited to see the photos when we’re testing new bits of kit!

Scene 1 – Grey Wall

First up, this was a grey painted wall next to Clarence Dock, the Beauty Dish had no modifiers added – so the GODOX AD200 flash was hitting the beauty dish bounce disc, then into the silver reflector and straight out on to Andy.

I’ve included this shot to show the edge of the light on the wall – in this mode, there actually is quite a sharp edge so you can control what is by changing the angle of the flash. In this case the flash is around 4 o’clock and just above head height. If we put one of the diffusers onto the front of the dish, that edge would be diffused and softer.

For the next one, I’d added the grid, a fabric set of squares which reduces spread of the light width-ways, this one’s to show you the reflection in shades – it’s not quite as appealing as a lovely round disc or square reflection, so be aware of this. If your model is wearing shades, maybe it’s time to put the white diffuser on.

Here we have a back light on Andy’s hat/shoulders, GODOX AD200 through a gridded reflector.

Scene 2 – Round Tower Background

50m away we used these round mill things as a background, attempting to frame Andy between the lamp post and the building.

Same lights as above – this time, andy’s looking in the general direction of the beauty dish. Gone for a fairly dark, dramatic background (for a change!) and fairly flat light on Andy – because he was looking at the light.

He’s looking away from the Beauty Dish on this one, so you get a lot of hard rim light on the side of his head.

Scene 3 – Shooting into the Sun

I love a dark, moody sky as a background, so for these we just stayed in the same spot and shot with the sun in the background – upped the power of the flashes A LOT and moved the lights in pretty close.

So with this gridded beauty dish, you can see the reflections in the shades – the dish was pretty close. But you can also see the way the light falls on the face a bit more, the angle was a bit more contrasty than the previous shot. Under chin, by the nose and the near-side cheek are all in shadow, with the rim light adding a little sparkle on the shoulder and hat.

So you can get a nice shadow look from these dishes.

A closer look – soft-edged shadows under the shades/chin. The silver reflector looks quite vibrant too.

Scene 4 – Against the Corrugated Steel Wall

We were not adventurous – I think this involved picking the kit up and walking 10 paces.

The first shots were straight on to the wall with a 70-200mm lens – the beauty dish is at around 4-5 o’clock and just above head height. The grid is on.

One thing you can see is the 2 distinct lines to the right of the shot – that’s where the light edge occurs – you get 2 lines because of the grid I assume. Again, I assume if you wanted to get rid of this, you’d put the diffuser panel over the front and that’d soften things.

Other than that, pretty unremarkable lighting on this one. The dish did it’s job 🙂

Leaving everything in the same place, I moved 90 degrees (to 3 o’clock) and shot along the metal wall instead. Created a more dynamic image – you can see the shadow on the right of andy’s face, not a huge amount but enough. There’s also the rim light on this, which causes a hard shadow in the bottom right of the shot.

Scene 5 – The Gate

Just past the brick walls in the shot above, there’s a gate, that’s where these shots are from.

Swapping over from the 70-200, I put the 85mm F1.8 on – and set it to f1.8 for that milky background. I focussed on Andy and exposed the camera for the background – think it was around 1/5000th sec – then used High Speed Synch on the flashes.

Aware of the reflections on the shades, I had Andy look to my right which worked, nice black shades. The light was pretty close – maybe 1m – so the shadow was quite soft as you can see on his cheek

A slight head movement and you can see the grid reflected.

This one has a rim light added, I’d also darkened it down a little with a faster shutter speed.

Scene 6 – Black Brick Wall

The final scene was a black wall with light cement between the bricks, they looked like a potential source of lead lines, and they proved to be pretty useful in this final set up.

Again we have the 85mm F1.8 fully open, I’ve added the front panel over the grid so we get the directional beauty dish light, with a bit of diffusion. The reflection in his shades is a bit less messy!

The light is at around 4 o’clock in this one, you can see the edge of is mid-left.

We’ve got split lighting on this shot – Andy’s turned to face me, the light is still around 3-4 o’clock. Really dramatic look when you get contrast like this – maybe 3-4 stops difference between sides of his face.

This shows the rim light – we’d been shooting at high power for ages and the main AD200 needed a battery refresh – but thought this one showed what was happening quite well.

The very next shot – we got both flashing.


I do like the quality of light this produces, most of my kit has white reflectors so nice to have something silver, which just feels edgier.

The build quality seems superior to some pop up beauty dishes I’ve used in this price range – there are 16 springy rods rather than the usual 8, so it is rounder, rather than octagonal.

The reflections from the open or gridded beauty dish are not attractive – so be aware of that it you can see reflections and put the diffuser panel over it to get a nicer round disc.

I’ll be using this on commercial and fashion shoots to see how it performs, so watch this space!

More Photos

Social media content creation in Lockdown

How can you create new images and social media content, safely, whilst we are still operating under bizarre lockdown circumstances?

The good news…

Luckily, the government guidance states that people should work from home unless they “absolutely cannot do so” – which most photographers can’t.

So this means we can still travel to create images for businesses. That was a huge relief for content creators around the UK!

Business As Usual for photography? Well no, it isn’t quite…

Whilst we can work, our clients are experiencing huge disruption. Many teams are working from home, businesses are closed and people are on furlough, so are not allowed to do “work”, even if that is a photoshoot.

So what can we/you do to generate new social media content? Especially in these weeks before Lockdown starts to be lifted and we need to ramp up our output.

Here are a few ideas – and things we’ve been helping with.

All the photos were taken between November 2020 and February 2021

Shoot at Home

Sarah De Wit at home
Mark Westaby – Chef who delivers to your door!

So consider asking your photographer to come to your home if that’s appropriate,  maybe home office, or if you are a chef,  your home kitchen could work perfectly. We’ve done a few of these and they worked brilliantly – meeting the families and pets is a bonus and it’s really easy for you to get changed and relax in your own home.

Shoot Outdoors

Phil Storey from Glow

How about using the great outdoors, as this is the lowest risk and possibly the most creative way of doing a shoot. Outside we have so many options available. It’s a chance to put you in front of iconic buildings and associate your brand and to your city. Or we could find a variety of walls to vary the background,  big glass buildings give you that city look or red brick walls and more rustic feel. Maybe green fields and countryside fit your brand better, we can go there too.

Sarah De Wit – Founder of the Virtual Cheese Awards

All our lights and cameras are battery powered these days, so we can get that studio-lit look in the local park just as easily as anywhere else – so long as it’s not blowing a gale or poring down!

Gemma and Chris, from Loaded PR

Meet up with colleagues

Nick and Catherine from Rockwood met for the first time in months for this shoot in Pudsey

We have met in parks around Leeds and created team photos for businesses who haven’t met colleagues in person for months,  it becomes  quite an exciting event. It’s a great excuse to spend an hour or 2 catching up, safely in the open, whilst creating some new shots.

Shoot those products

Pro Balm- the active skin restorer that athletes love

 If you are moving your business online, then photograph your products ready for websites and print. This can be done by going online and buying “light-cube” and putting a few lamps around it –  that way you’ll get a lovely clean, white background to your products, shooting on your kitchen table. If you don’t have time, then we can help of course – we have a table for small products or can come to you for anything bigger.

Get your bar/restaurant ready for relaunch

If you are a bar it’s been a REALLY tough year. But we’ll be back eating and drinking in them before too long, so it’s really important to drip feed content on social to keep front of mind.

Now is the time so update your drink and food menu marketing photos – and you whilst the location is empty, we are not in the way of your customers. Fingers crossed, by the summer, things will be open and those who’ve kept their customers updated with great content will be top of everyone’s list.

Learn how to make your own images

Model Rachel Peru on location at Baildon Moor

If you do have time on your hands, it’s a great opportunity to practice photography with your phone or a camera. 

Social media thrives on photography and still images and they don’t be highly polished professional marketing photographs. Create more personalised “memes” and visuals using your own photographs as background, with some large text on top. 

Why share other people’s memes when you can make your own?

Do it quickly and easily with free software on your phone. Snapseed is a great free photo editor that allows you to add text which we recommend for both iPhone and Android.

We can help…

Firstly – if you want to learn more about photo editing with the SNAPSEED Phone App – we’ve created a powerful series of videos taking you through the process, explaining both HOW and WHY you do things – it’s available right now :-


We’ve also made our Personal Brand photoshoots simpler to book than ever, using a new shop on the website which you can find here

Go to Personal Branding Photoshoots

Some more Lockdown photos

Tilt shift lens for portraits of Andy Taylor Boocock

Who on earth uses a tilt shift lens for portraits?

A nurse by day, a fashion model by – well any time he’s not being a nurse really – on this winters day we had a go at using my tilt shift lens for a portrait/fashion shoot…

We met up for a walk this sunny winters day – I’d “really” come armed with the 24mm tilt shift lens as was going to do some architecture shooting, but decided to keep it on for the portrait session. Try something a bit different.

About Tilt Shift

If you want to know more about Tilt Shift, I’ve done this explainer blog – also this one shows some of the effects on depth of field using TILT – this one has lots of architecture using “SHIFT”.

If you want to see more about the lens, or by one, here it is on WEX.

Here’s what happened

Using TILT in portraits

The first 2 images in this blog use the “TILT” function, so you’ll see a different kind of blur to a normal lens. Shot 1 has a diagonal plane of sharpness, so the top left and bottom right are particularly blurry. The second and third ones are similar. It’s not an effect I’d use too often, but does give a pretty cool new look – and if you’ve got it…

Using SHIFT in portraits

Most of the other images use the “SHIFT” function. In a nutshell, this allows you to keep anything vertical in the shot, correctly vertical. You keep the camera perfectly level when framing a shot – with a normal lens, this would mean I’d probably be chopping off Andy’s feet. However with the shift function, you can move the whole lens up or down – shifting what’s in the frame up or down… so everything’s still perfectly level AND you get the stuff in the shot which you want!

Anyway, it’s harder to explain than use 🙂

The Light…

You may notice that these are NOT lit by flash… Very unusual for me, but we were on a walk (our lockdown walk) and kept kit to a minimum. Many of these shots are made of 2 bracketed photos – each 2 stops apart. The darker looked after the sky – an amazing blue with clouds – and the bright shot, which was 2 stops brighter, was an insurance as it got Andy exposed about right in most shots.

So to frame the vast majority, we had Andy in the shade with a really bright background.

We did get some sunlight on Andy too – for these I carefully angled him so the sun was a powerful rim light. You’ll see the last 4 shots are examples of this. I’d swapped to the 70-200 for this too.

Remember – use the direct sun as you would a flash – it’s like a small light source you can’t move… so you need to move your model and yourself instead.

Anyway – something totally different for me, hopefully a few useful tips in there for your next natural light shoot, with a tilt shift lens 🙂

Here are the photos

Are AI voiceovers a godsend, or hell?

I learn more through audio than text….

I don’t know about you but I definitely take more information in through my ears than through reading! Which is kind of ironic, because I’m writing this using words which you will be reading….

Anyway, having searched for the most realistic, affordable text to voice converter on the internet, I have started to add voiceovers to my info-promotional videos.

Saves LOADS of time

I tried using my own voice I realised that I say “umm”, “err” and “so” constantly and it takes ages to edit out… hours of cutting – it was painful.

The program I use is called Speechelo, the Secret is out! I can have various accents like an Irish, Welsh, Indian, English or American man or woman.

Just use text you’d already written…

I just write the info for the workshop as normal, paste it into the workshop webpage as normal, and then generate an audio version of it using the software.

Aussies Rule!?

My current favourite is the Australian lady, she seems to have a very natural sound as well as being very upbeat and modern.

So far I have made a few you for my workshops, have a look and see what you think.

Are you most likely to read the text or watch the video?

Example Videos

Ribblesdale workshop

This Ribblesdale video is the longest one, I have run this workshop a few times and have lots of photos of all the locations so I had more to say.

York workshop

This York workshop is a little trickier because I have only ever walked around the walls whilst visiting lots of hostelries… So you may appreciate that I don’t have so many photographs from the actual wall. I do however have lots of photos of the classic scenes to pad the video out.

Newcastle workshop

And finally another brand new workshop I’ve created from my trips to the northeast. Blend of seascape with the Lighthouse up near Whitley Bay and City shooting down of the Iconic Tyne Bridge. A classic case of not being able to find any photos of the middle section which is Tynemouth.

So what do you think?

These videos do take a couple of hours to put together because you have to make the photos move around and link with the soundtrack, is it worth doing to capture an audience who may not bother Reading?

Transforming Websites The Easy Way

Here’s a quick “video blog” on solving the problem of poor looking websites the easy way…

The text is below if you prefer to read or can’t have the sound on right now

Our Video Blog

I read a Pearl of Wisdom on LinkedIn yesterday which was

“Business is  all about finding a problem then providing a solution to it”

Thinking about the problems I solve as a photographer, one BIG one is making websites far more attractive, with very little effort.

A problem with websites is they go out of date pretty quickly,  or or your first website was done on a tight budget just doesn’t look that great. 

 We all know the nightmare of getting a new website –  both in terms of time, having to think about content, and the financial Investment.

The quickest way to improve and update a website, is to create stunning new images to replace the old ones. 

If you are tech-savvy, you could also change the web page layouts to make the images look bigger. Big images have a wow factor, show visitors who you are and what you do, and create a fantastic first impression when people land on your site. 

Not only that when you get new photos for your website you can of course use them in 1001 other places,  so they really are the gift that keeps giving. 

Now we are fast entering the final quarter of 2020,  how about getting some updated images  created to  bring your business to life.

Using the Godox AD600 on My First Post-Lockdown Model Photoshoot!

First Outing In Ages

After what seems like a year, I finally met up with my old friend and model, Andy Taylor Boocock, for a photo shoot.  As usual, we debated where to go. Having photographed at most locations in Leeds so it’s never an easy one trying to work out what to do – all I did was pack my trusty Canon camera kit and GODOX AD600‘s (and an AD200) and went with an open mind. 

The last we visited this bridge over the a58m road, there were many tents and homeless people living there. so we couldn’t really do a shoot, without invading their privacy.  I had parked here a couple of weeks before, and due to the coronavirus, I think many of these homeless people had been given temporary accommodation so we had the place to ourselves. 


The photos of this blog are in chronological order.

We started with a  fairly simple Set up, with a softbox attached to a GODOX AD600 flash head lighting and the front right. Behind there was a GODOX ad200 with a blue GEL on it.  You can just about see it lighting the concrete and a bit on his shoulders.  To add a bit of interest, I walked behind a lot of weeds and shot through the growth with the 70-200 lens. As you can see, Andy was nice and sharp and the foliage blurred, this creates texture, quite a cool thing and adds interest to anything.

This next shot is in the same position but instead, I’d moved in closer with the 70-200 lens, and got crouched very low. The angle works really well because of the lines of the building and Bridge giving us different textures and brightness, also you get a decent view of the tattoos on Andy’s neck and chest from this angle.

These next two photos are in essentially the same position. The first was pointing towards the sun so I had to dial down the exposure to stop the background overexposing. I increased the power of the three flashes to keep andy bright.  I had two GODOX AD600 heads, and an ad200

Leaving Andy in the same position I move the flashes clockwise to get this area of blue sky behind his head,  using the  16 to 35 mm lens I could get a lot of background and most of Andy into the image.

 Next we moved below the bridge. The following photos just used one GODOX AD600 with hard light reflector, lighting Andy in the foreground,  and ad200 behind him. We ditched the 3rd light –  mainly to reduce the amount of Kit we needed to move between photos, and also no not to obstruct people passing by.

 So these first two, which I have toned blue in Lightroom, the front light was over my right shoulder as I photographed and the backlight was pointing directly at Andy. This gave the underside of the footpath a little splash of light which separates Andy from the background.

The next few photographs are at ground level inside the bridge, and very cinematic in style. I wanted to create some interesting light patterns by casting the Flash light through railings.  

As you can see, there is a pattern on the wall and across Andy’s body.  This was done by massively underexposing the ambient light and then upping the power on the GODOX AD600 to create shadow and bright lines

It was very hard to predict where the bright and the dark patches were going to occur because the light was at a strange angle, it was at around  2 o’clock, if you picture the scene as a clock face with Andy at the middle, and me at 6 p.m.

 On the last one, which I’ve turned slightly magenta, I zoomed out quite a bit to get some of the road in the background,  it was actually quite bright and sunny so you can see how low the ambient exposure was from this shot.

The next set has Andy at the first level of the bridge. He either sat or stood on the railings.  It’s always a bit scary as if anyone gets injured, you want a nurse with vast experience on hand to mend them if they fool,  not for the nurse with vast experience to be the one who falls!

With this setup I left the GODOX AD600 down below creating the same kind of ribbed light pattern. Then placed the 200 flash on the Walk way  to the left of Andy, just out of sight, so that was illuminating his head and body. 

From here we could quite easily get a lot of variety, just by me moving around. All the images in this section were taken with the 70-200 lens, you can see the variety you can achieve in this zoom range.

 The composition is all about Lines. That is why I enjoy photographing at this bizarre concrete monstrosity.  It is an over-engineered brutalist concrete structure, which is full of texture, lines, light and Shadow. 

You just need to put someone somewhere in the scene and light them, the structure takes care of everything else. A little bit brave of him to stand on top of the handrail but they did make for a good shot!

These 2 are on the Bridge over the motorway, I led flat on the bridge path, right in the middle,  so I could get the most interesting lead lines possible. We can use the railings, deck  and buildings for this. Also, getting low makes Andy’s head high in the frame, so it is in the clear Sky – free from obstruction.

With these next two,  we put the GODOX AD600 high up to camera left and the 200 behind Andy to the right. There is lots of room for me to move around with this setup, as I’m on a long foot path. That was great, but the sky just wasn’t the most exciting behind him from this position. Sure we got this dark brooding look, but there was better sky…

 So to make use of the sky, where the sun was creating patterns in the Cloud, I moved Andy about 5 paces, got the two flashes setup up positioned myself in a less-roomy spot, but one where I could get the amazing Sky.  

As you can probably tell, the first shot was with the 70 to 200,  but in this position, I had no real room to manoeuvre with such a long zoom so swapped over to the 16 to 35 for the final four shots. The first 3 had both lights on, the final photo had the backlight switched OFF, as it would have shown in the photo. 

So that was my first model photoshoot since lockdown. Working with a familiar model in a familiar place may seem a bit predictable. However, we created something totally different to when we’ve been there before. 

It’s often amazing too to revisit locations, because the light is never the same twice, you will have learnt something new since the last visit and the model will usually have some new outfits which work differently in that environment. 

So yes, find new locations, but do revisit old ones too… you never know!

Locked Down Leeds

9 weeks into lockdown and I finally decided to take my daily allocated exercise by walking around the city centre of Leeds. I had been putting it off because I didn’t really want to upset and overstretched police force or get a fine!

I expected in the early lock-down weeks, it’d be desolate, 9 weeks in getting back to normal…

Far from it

There were a few people on the streets, but not many, the crowds of shoppers and workers starting their weekend we’re not there – these photos were taken between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. on a Friday, the busiest weekday.

What I found were:-

  • random people sat on benches,
  • occasional couples walking past
  • very few people in bus-stops
  • construction workers everywhere
  • and an incredible amount of Red and White construction barriers.

The council have clearly seen the opportunity to do all the repair and improvement work they’ve had planned for years whilst Leeds is locked down.

Every shop and every bar I’ve ever been to was closed with my apology notice in the window.

Whilst I’m a bit sad that I missed the opportunity to photograph the city centre completely desolate in the early weeks, I’m glad I managed to get out to record, for my memories and yours, just how big an impact coronavirus had on one of the major cities of England

Briggate Empty

Victoria Gate – Desolate

The Markets Abandoned

The Full Gallery

Here is a slideshow of around 100 images from the city – quite amazing how quiet it is compared to normal

Photos only work when you use them

How many things in life do we buy & not use?

Most kitchen gadgets I use once or twice, and then stash away neatly in the cupboard never to see the light of day again,  All that money spent, all that good intent to make a change and no return.

 The same can be said for photography –  you can spend an absolute fortune hiring a photographer to create a library of amazing images for you, but if you’re not actively using them to promote your business, your return will be negligible. 

Photos for EVERYTHING!

 The massive bonus with photography is that there are so many uses you can put them to. The only equivalent thing would be your logo, in the diversity of use. 

In the discovery phase of a project, I like to understand your business processes, walk around your office/factory/site and meet people to come up with ideas for useful images for the company. It is all about creating a library of relevant “personal stock” images to future-proof your marketing for the next year or two. 

Saving you time

 Imagine not having to search for hours on stock library websites for an image to spice up a report or support a blog. And imagine how much more credible your blog or report would have if it contains real images of your team rather than a model from California smiling in a fake boardroom.

Infinite Uses (almost!)

 Our images have been used for so many things it’s hard to remember them all,  all but I have seen them on:-

  • billboards,  
  • websites,  
  • Twitter,  
  • Facebook,  
  • Instagram,  
  • LinkedIn,  
  • YouTube,  
  • magazines,  
  • newspapers,  
  • at the back of buses,  
  • hoardings on building sites,  
  • in meeting rooms,  
  • on business cards,  
  • decorating long corridors,  
  • in lifts,  
  • on keyrings,  
  • on menus,  
  • on,  
  • Airbnb,  
  • the Leeds list,  
  • and lots more….

How many are YOU using – and do they have personalised images?

How often do YOU refresh those images?

 You can certainly strengthen your marketing in all of the above areas by simply adding your photographs to them

Tripple J use this on frequently social media

Keep things interesting

Better still you can update these on a regular basis,  either monthly or quarterly or annually and these will always appear in people’s timelines and bring you the briefly to the front of their minds. 

If you are posting regular content to LinkedIn,  what better way to draw attention to it than to always include a relevant,  professional photograph of you or your team in Action to support the article?  This is especially useful for manufacturers, builders, the construction trade generally, maintenance companies and anything where people physically do things. 

 For office-based businesses, there are still lots of opportunities to capture images of people in business scenarios, people on phones smiling, Branded mugs and stationery, cool interiors, outside the building and anything else we can find.

Also, some fun images are really useful for blogs and memes…

Copright of McFade Photography

How we work

 We usually spend a day or half a day creating this kind of imagery for our clients,  giving them a library of images which works out to be far more cost-effective than buying stock images. It is usually hard to believe because the quote can look a lot, but when you work it out as an investment per image, it will usually be below the £20 mark. 

If you cleverly use these images in rotation on all your channels,  you will be amazed by the enhanced perception of your brand and extra visibility it affords you – resulting in more bookings, clients, covers… whatever it is you sell.

Ready to get started?

For these personal stock photography photoshoots, I always try why to visit and come up with a plan of images to create. 

So if you are ready to push your marketing materials to the next level, let’s meet for a brew and tell me all about your business.

Don't Forget About Photography!

Everything is video these days, we are all told to do Facebook lives or record things from the seats of our cars, in car parks, before meetings to engage with our audience.

I’ve spent the last year creating video content, be that behind the scenes footage of a photoshoot, close-ups of food or even photoshop editing videos. It’s been great fun and amazing learning curve. I really enjoy going through YouTube’s free music library to find the right tune for my videos and synching the cuts in the video to fit music…

Behind the scenes video of a food shoot in Leeds

I’m sure you’re the same, but having done all that are we forgetting the power of the humble photograph.

I like to think in terms of metaphors, so if marketing is going fishing, then the photograph is a lovely eye-catching fly you craft to attract the fish in the first place. 

I’m sure that the vast majority of videos that pop up on social media go unplayed, yet every single photograph that appears on social media is “seen” every time. The photo has done its job in under 1 second – hopefully, the right photo entices people to look further into your offering. (Bad photos lose you business by the way – give us a call if your images aren’t great!)

I found this with promoting my share the shoot events. I sometimes spend an afternoon editing behind-the-scenes video footage captured on my spare camera, making some cool movies. I’ll then plaster it over LinkedIn and Facebook and wait for all the bookings to roll in…

It doesn’t always work, why?

I often I have looked at my video metrics and many people will only watch the first two or 3 seconds of the video. Gutted!

A typical short video about SHARE THE SHOOT

But worse, all the messages I want them to see are totally missed. The call to action, the key benefits…

Video relies on people actually taking the time to watch it – and you can’t guarantee the right people WILL actually click play.

Conversely, when I have uploaded a still image from the shoots, usually with a little bit of text on top of it (a meme) I know that everybody, on whose wall the photos arrives, sees both the image and text – AND it works instantly. The above image was a success, with 12 previous clients smiling and a simple message – people “see” this and get what the deal is. They click on the link to find a web page full of videos, examples FAQ and booking links…

Still images work instantly and don’t rely on people taking the time to view them.

So whilst there are colossal benefits to doing videos, especially getting a lot of information out in the short period, let’s not forget that the humble photograph. Is the shiny bling which attracts people in the first place.

Think of the photograph as a way of getting your message headline out there like a fly attracts a fish – then when you’ve hooked a someone, you can use your video and copy to do the sale.

BusinesS Headshots – it ain't what you do…

It’s the way that you do it…

Franco Demori

“It ain’t WHAT you do, it’s the WAY that you do it” – As the Bananarama song goes.

That’s probably true in most businesses but it’s certainly the case with photography. It’s not just the end product which counts, but how you get to it.

I’ve been shooting business folks for almost a decade now and with the odd exception, no one really likes the idea of it. We are second only to dental root canal work to many!

It’s totally different from shooting models like Andy Taylor Boocock here.

Models are trained, they know what looks good, they can turn it on instantly and look like a Vogue front cover, then turn it off and start talking about their pet bulldog. They don’t have the usual hang-ups about a lazy eye or double chin like we mortals.

So what have I learned in all these years?

  • Talk a lot
  • Set lights up and keep chatting
  • Be friendly and patient
  • Show them the photos on the camera back (or laptop) regularly
  • Have fun
  • Give people stuff to do – or get them to use their imagination
  • Don’t get hung up on perfect poses
  • Take LOTS of photos to give LOTS of options

Talk a lot

I’ve always treated my shoots almost like a 1-2-1 chat with a new business connection. Grab a coffee, chat about their business, find out more about what they do and where they’re going. You’ll be amazed at who they know, where they’ve been and all sorts – just like any 1-2-1, so it’s a great way to start.

Set lights up and keep chatting

This helps take their mind off the camera and lights and you avoid all those long silences whilst you’re setting up. You should be able to set lights up on auto-pilot really.

Be friendly and patient

This is really important, keep things light and enjoyable. If things take a bit of getting going, let them take as much time as needed – it’s not their expert area, so lots of encouragement and positive messages helps build confidence. If something’s really not working, then move elsewhere, a change is far better than persevering with a bad idea.

Show them the photos on the camera back (or laptop) regularly

I do this all the time. It works brilliantly – your client can take a look and instantly see whether

  • the outfit is working,
  • they like the background,
  • they like their hair, makeup and anything else they want to check
  • they need to smile more, or look a bit more serious!

It also means that you’re getting feedback on whether the look, lighting and locations are right, so you can change things. The end result is that you should have got shots that the client likes and avoid any issues down the line with them hating all the shots!

Have fun

This is the #1 key to my shoots really.

I’ve been photographed and know what it’s like if you’re faced with a quiet photographer who just doesn’t say anything. It’s painful and you really want the ground to open up and eat you.

So on my shoots, it’s more about creating an air of levity and really interacting with people – especially if you’ve got groups of people.

If they’re all having fun, you’ll get far better photographs.

Give people stuff to do – or get them to use their imagination

This follows on from the “fun” comment – if you expect a business person to just pose amazingly first time in front of your camera, you’re probably going to have a hard time!

They need something to do, think about or look at to get them going. For me it could be anything from asking “what does a fairy do?” or “can you pull a face like Pob?”, to “how high can you jump?” or “look at that door…. imagine #appropriate celebrity# is winking at you”.

Sure they’re strange things to ask someone who runs an SME, but they’ll certainly stop thinking about the photo shoot and give you a new expression to capture!

If you’ve got a few people in the photo, then just think of things you can get them all doing – could be all looking at one of the group, looking at their watches and yawning, opening their eyes as wide as they can (a personal favourite that) or all jumping at the same time.

Giving people weird stuff to do lightens the atmosphere, makes them all forget about the camera and hopefully gets a lot of laughter!

From that, warm, friendly photos follow…

Don’t get hung up on perfect poses

I bought books on portraits when I set out.

They were usually American and had “senior” photos – people leaving their high school – and they all followed a really strict formula. Hand positions and head positions were discussed, sitting and standing debated… and they all looked very “cheesy”. Many of them make great twitter memes.

There is definitely a need for a little helpful guidance. The body angle is often worth sorting straight off, get their feet to point at 45 degrees to you and them looking slightly over a shoulder.

But if you venture into too many instructions, you lose the client. They get concerned about the hand and chin positions you’ve given them and start looking really confused. That smile goes and they start feeling self-conscious.

Think in terms of “micro prompts” – little easy things they can do, I often look around me for something they can look at – “look at the clock as if it’s the best thing you’ve ever seen” – they look the right direction and you may just get a “Wow” expression.

But a little “try lifting your chin a little” is easy for them to do – whereas the 50 things you need think about in my old posing books would really flummox them!

Take LOTS of photos to give LOTS of options

And finally…

I now take LOTS of photos when shooting clients, this is so you can let the best moments happen naturally. You have the lens to your eye and are talking away to them, expressions come and go fast – get them, get as many as you can and keep going.

I used to take a few shots and then move – take a few more – which was fine, but I found there was more energy and flow if you just kept going and encouraging them all the time.

It costs the virtually same to take 100 shots as it does 1000 – there’s more hard drive space needed and more time to filter the good ones out, but you don’t need to develop/edit all of them.

Zap the duff shots quickly, then you’ve got a raft of proofs for the client to choose from.

So that’s kinda how I do it

The best thing I can hear on my shoots is someone who started out saying “I hate having my photo taking” tell me they “really enjoyed it” at the end of it.

Fancy a Try….?

If you’re reading this thinking I’m mad, then you’re probably right!

But if you run a business and fancy this experience for a change, then get in touch with me at

If you’re brand new, a solopreneur and need photos of you with other people or just like networkfing and need some shots of yourself… I’ve got a new event called SHARE THE SHOOT which embodies everything in this blog at an amazing price… follow this link for more details

Summer Night Photography Workshops – 2018 Review

Another series of Photography Workshops drew to an end in Manchester on the 26th September. It seems like ages since we started on our beginners evening in Leeds, which turned out to be the only evening where it rained! 2018 was amazingly dry and hot – it made the whole 10 workshops a joy. 

So here’s a quick review of what we covered in our Photography Workshops – I’d designed them for absolute beginners to gradually learn technical and creative skills over the months. 

Photography Workshop 1 – Leeds

“Creative camera control”

Leeds was a wet night – we met around the corn exchange and used the arches as cover. The night was all about how F-stops and focal lengths can be used creatively – blurry backgrounds and crazy close up photos were the theme! We even went into a pub for shelter – Aire Bar. 

Here are a few shots from the evening. 

Photography Workshop 2 – Bradford

“Seeing like a photographer”

Session 2 was about looking – we walk around in our daily lives and pass by literally millions of potential photos each day. So in Little Germany, we took our time – we found things like bollards and thought about how they could be used in an image. Would you use a long lens and stand back, or a wide lens and get very close? 

Seeing images is something which comes with practice, time and patience – it’s not an easy one to teach, other than to find things myself, then show them the photo I’d just taken!

Low shots from the floor, wide shots with lots of stuff in, zoomed in shots with just 1 focal point… a real eye-opener of a workshop.


Photography Workshop 3 – Burley and Ilkley

“Landscape photography – Filters”

Landscape is popular and if you’re in a decent location, you can get some fantastic shots with basic skills. So on this workshop, we built on the first 2 workshops by showing the group how Filters work. 

I demonstrated the polariser effect on water – making the reflected sky appear and disappear as you rotate it. Also ND grad filters and how they darken the sky, leaving the land alone. I even got the 10-stop filter out and showed them a 30 second shot in daylight.

The wier at burley is great – you’ve got the curved steps for starters, plus the stepping stones to use. 

Half way through we went to the Cow and Calf on Ilkley moor – the sun was going down fast so we made silhouette photos of the famous rocks, with bold red skies behind. The ball of the sun became a great focal point.

To end we went on to the rocks to find carvings – they make great foregrounds for a landscape

Photography Workshop 4 – Almscliffe Crag

“More water and boulders”

The second landscape evening started near Harewood House in at a wier on the river wharf. Here we created long exposure photos of the bubbles as they spiralled around – these leave trails and spirals, so quite surreal. 

We concentrated more and more on metering and how to use manual exposure on this workshop – quite a baffling process at first, so best to introduce it slowly over the weeks! 

After the river we went to another famous Yorkshire Crag at Almscliffe – we were treated to the best sunset of the summer to that point, it was amazing how red the sky went – right past 10PM! 


Photography Workshop 5 – Location Portraits

“How to photograph people outside – and use the location creatively”

We’d not done any portrait workshops for a few years, so invited along 5 friends to model for us around the Royal Armouries area of Leeds. We had the best turnout of the summer for this one – so split the group in to 5 pairs, each with a model. 

The main thing I wanted to share was that the easiest way to get a decent portrait is to use a long lens, zoom right in and then walk back to get the framing right – this cuts out all the background distractions you don’t want and blurs things beautifully. 

Another beautiful summers evening meant we could shoot till 10PM – so we got hundreds of great shots between us


Photography Workshop 6 – Location Portraits 2

“2 very different locations…” 

For the second portrait session, we had Nicola and Chloe doing their thing – and a little later, Andy Blue Maclaren joined in. Location 1 was park square, a sea of flowers and green – so very soft and pastoral look. In here we used trees and benches to start with – then moved on to the old police station building which was a couple of minutes away. 

The building has lots of graffiti over it, so great for a grungey background to the portraits. We did narrow depth of field portraits, looking along a wall to Chloe peeking around a corner. 

We finished off with a flash photo demonstration at the old swimming pool car park – a little taster of what you can do with speedlites




Photography Workshop 7 – Cars

“Wide shots, detail shots and flash shots… “

After 6 workshops, everyone was getting to grips with camera settings so it’s the perfect time to do the car workshop so they can try their new skills out on something totally different. 

Our friends at WY TVR Club had their meeting at the Manor Golf Club, so we met there at 7 and shot through till about 9:15 – then i got a pair of flashes out to show what you can do with 2 lights.


Photography Workshop 8 – Saltaire

“World Heritage Site – Landscape and Architecture in the same night!”

Saltaire is a real mix for the photographer. You have the river and canal for the landscape guys, the mill and chapel for the architecture people and the model village for the urban photographer. 

This workshop was a little wet at the start so we took shelter on the tow path under a bridge for a while. Here we had great refelctions of the mill in the water, so all wasn’t lost! 

After that we crossed the foot bridge over to the wier, this leads the eye to one of the mills, so its a great setup. Lots of trees have grown there recently, so the space to shoot is getting smaller each year. 

To finish off we went to the cobbled streets and captured reflections in the watery lanes. 



Photography Workshop 9 – York

“Old walls and a shambles”

By this stage, 8 workshops done, things are starting to click – exposure makes sense, composition seems easier and it’s an evening of putting it all toghether. We met near the train station this year and went to the walls for the classic view of the Minster. This gave us options to use the wall in our composition, and gradually as the sun went down, we could do longer and longer exposures to add in car light trails. 

The Minster area was closed, unfortunately, so we spent more time on the Shambles and just trying different techniques. When we got to the Shambles, we had Nicola Papperazzo on hand to do some great poses for us – we tried this both with ambient light, which was VERY low, and with a couple of bare SPEEDLITE flashes which we sat on door frames and steps! A lesson in improvisation and being flexible. 


Photography Workshop 10 – Media City

“Sunset, blue hour and night photography in the north’s canary wharf”

And the final one… the sunset and night shoot at Salford Quays. 

This was about coping with the changing light – we showed the delegates how to use LIVE VIEW and the live histogram to constantly check the exposure. 

It was also about composition. It’s an area full of features, lights and structures. So to make the most of it, you need to remember right back to lesson 2  in Bradford and use the Rule of Thirds and Lead Lines to piece together your images. 

Once it was dark, the sky became too dark for most images, so we included less and less of it as it really was wasted space. And as usual, we stayed an fair bit after 10PM – it really is that absorbing down there!


All Done

So that’s the summer in a nutshell – we’ve taken beginners and shown them the basics first, then introduced new subjects to try them on, week after week, until they leave with a firm platform from which to take their photography forward. 

We’ll be doing a similar series over the winter, maybe one per month, where we start in the cities and then take groups in to parks and maybe even moors and landscape locations to shoot at night with torches!

Watch this space

Hiring a Photographer : 7 things you’re REALLY buying

Most businesses need images for websites, brochures, press, adverts…. the list goes on.

So when you hire a photographer, what are you actually getting? Good ones will be expensive, they may quote £1000-£1500 per day even in West Yorkshire – how on earth can this be justified.

If you read most marketing copy, we would cover the benefits to your business, which include extra sales, great first impression and more website traffic – but in this mini blog series, lets look at what the photographer brings to the table and how they spend the time with you AND behind the scenes!

1 – Years of Experience (hopefully)

How many CV’s or LINKED IN profiles start with “Over 25 years experience of…. “, or something like that!

When you hire a professional, the first thing you’re buying into is MANY years of learning, courses, processing skills and people skills. They’ll have experienced all kinds of situations, subjects and personalities. They tend to have learned in their spare time and on the job, it’s usually a passion. They will also be expert and efficient at processing the photos to polish them – usually in Photoshop or something equivalent.

You can see their experience from a portfolio or website and can also tell whether their work is a fit for your brand. Maybe someone who does pin-up and emo-goth models brilliantly, isn’t the right person for your food photography? 

We wrote about 6 steps for getting the right photographer for the job here… 

6 Essential Steps to Hiring the Right Photographer




Is ON1 RAW 2018 the Best Solution For Cost-Conscious Photographers?

Fed up with paying £10/month for Lightroom?

Don’t get me wrong, I really like Lightroom – but I’m not a huge fan of paying a tenner each month to use it… I used to like buying something and then being able to use it as long as I liked.

The new subscription model Adobe use is fine for businesses, but for many enthusiasts, it’s prohibitive to expect them to pay year on year for something they may use infrequently.

What’s the alternative?

There are probably many out there – I used to use Capture One, but after release 7 I found it shaky and unreliable. The results are great, but if you need a fast and efficient workflow, then it was no good.

So having used On1’s Effects for a while now, I was interested to see their answer to Lightroom – it’s called RAW 2018 and is a decent bit of kit.

The software was $99 – with an Xmas discount, I ended up paying £63 for the software, tutorials, presets and an e-book. Great value and I won’t need to pay over and over again.

I’ve recorded my first impressions on this video – take a look and see what it can do.

My conclusions

  • I do really like it – it’s powerful and intuitive
  • I will keep using Lightroom because of the “way I work” professionally – bulk files, processes and presets are all entrenched in LIGHTROOM…. for now
  • I will use Effects from LIGHTROOM a lot – that’s fantastic
  • For “fun” and “personal” projects, I’ll probably be using ON1!
  • If you’re brand new to photography – get this NOW and play with the free demo
  • File handling can be a bit slow 
  • Masking and the filters are amazing – worth the money alone


How to fake an ND Grad filter with LIGHTROOM

Flash of inspiration

This technique came to me one night – just watching sunset on a road bridge and thought about it. It applies to Tilt Shif lenses mainly – but I’m sure you can do it with a normal lens, or telephoto. Maybe not an ultrawide 16mm though.

The Problem

So you invest £2000 on a 17mm TS lens and realise you can NEVER use an ND grad on it… the end of the lens is like a tennis ball, you just can’t fit the darn things on.

So you have to use HDR to get balanced shots, which can mean using 6 or 9 shots once you’ve done your shifting. The problems are, when shooting with a 5D4…

  • Masses of hard drive space – 6 or 9 40Meg RAW files, ouch
  • Need to use HDR – can introduce problems if you don’t know what you’re doing
  • Time… wow, even on a powerful computer you’re waiting around

But yeah – I’d been doing this ever since I got the 17mm TSe

The Idea….

It’s far from genius really.

But I found this whilst shooting light trails over the M62 – the camera levelled on a tripod.

  • I could get the whole scene in 2 shots – a low shot and a high shot
  • The low shot was dark mainly – had the road in it
  • The high shot was bright mainly – had the sky in it.
  • I WAS taking HDR brackets at the time then thought…

Would LIGHTROOM stitch 2 shifted shots at different exposures… and would there be a tide mark?

The source files

The first shot is the lower one – this is 30 seconds, so you get long light trails – and lots of them

LIGHTROOM Grad - how to fake it using 2 photos in lightroom

Next, I shifted the camera up to get mainly the sky – but leaving a bit of road for Lightroom to blend with. This was just 6 seconds long so we got a nice dramatic sky.

So here goes – highlighted them both and did a Panoramic Blend.

I’ve obviously done a few tweaks with lightroom to get it a bit brighter.

So here is the unedited blend

As you can see – lightroom just did its thing and got it right!

A video on how it’s done

Why Chefs are on TV and Photographers Aren’t

I can’t taste or smell the food I see on telly, yet I still watch cooking shows…


I’ve never really got why food is such a compelling viewing pleasure, despite the 2 main senses food excites (taste and smell) are not yet available.

We can’t feel the texture either… so that’s a third sense we’re deprived of.

The number formats I watch diminishes over time… here are 3 main ones.

Master Chef


Just can’t bare the fake tension, over the top commentary and Greg Greengrocer wants gagging.

They say “at this level” virtually every sentence and make it out to be harder than walking up Everest without oxygen and broken glass shards ripping your feet apart your boots…

It’s basically The X Factor with onions.

Kitchen Nightmares USA

Kitchen Nightmares was fantastic in the UK, who can forget the Silsden episode where Gordon tried some seafood and promptly ran outside to throw up! It was entertainment, but you felt he was in there to help – each episode would be different, according to the needs or the restauranteur.

Yet in the USA it’s become a formulaic pain-pleasure mix, where in every episode he:-

  • arrives in good spirits
  • is very pleasant to the waiting staff
  • has a moan about how big the menu is 
  • chooses about 5 dishes, each of which is soggy or not freshly cooked – they’re all terrible
  • he will then give feedback in a very over-the-top way, designed to cause maximum upset
  • all hell breaks loose and he leaves
  • returns for a dinner service which will go horribly wrong, causing arguments and upset
  • leaves in a cloud of smoke, whilst “his team” does a massive re-fit on the restaurant
  • in the morning everything has calmed down, he blindfolds everyone and takes them into the new look venue
  • the love it, he shows them a new menu, they love it, he is a god
  • they do a service with the new menu
  • it goes wrong – there is a breakdown – Gordon says “come on, you can do it” 
  • they finish heroically – motivational team talk time 
  • Gordon leaves to a badly rubbed comment as he walks away

I have watched a few… its entertainment is based on how people react to stress, not in problem solving and support.

The Great British Menu

I quite like The Great British Menu, despite the incidental music being painfully jolly, and the voice over woman whispering over 400 rhetorical questions per episode.

We see chefs:-

  • interpreting a brief,
  • coming up with locally sourced produce,
  • meeting suppliers,
  • using novel techniques and
  • working, dare I say it, at the highest level there is.

I guess we all eat and cook, so seeing it done at this high level is aspirational – though I can’t really see myself doing a lobster bisque or using a foam pump thing soon.

We can “see” the food and “see” the chefs creating it – yet we can’t taste, smell or feel the food, and those are the 3 things I like best about it!

TV is a visual medium…. hmmm

So how about a format which takes something we all do, reveals the processes masters follow and shows you the results in a visual form?

We did have a painting show in the 1970’s – Painting along With Nancy – but how many people actually paint? I did at school…. kinda let it slip since then.

No, it needs mass appeal – something we all do lots, something creative, something we can learn from and be inspired by…

A Photography Format…

Hang on – how about Photography?

  • It’s a visual format, which TV is perfect for,
  • we all have cameras on our phones now
  • it’s a mass participation activity.
  • there are creative and interpretive challenges
  • there are definitely big personalities in the business
  • you can get attractive models on to keep people interested 😉

Most people are taking “beans on toast” standard photos – if you compare it to food.

So how about showing people how to make a lovely portrait using window light, or how to make an emotive photo of a Lambo Aventador. The steak and baked alaska of the photography world, perhaps?

Making the format work…

I’m sure we can replicate the chef shows and :-

  • get a sweat on for the camera – I always do anyway
  • make things look incredibly hard, look frustrated
  • swear a lot
  • get angry with your assistants for minor cock ups
  • have lighting blow over in the wind to build the tension
  • take a few out-of-focus shots to give the narrator something to build the tension with
  • use the latest techniques – like HDR or some new-fangled lighting – so upset traditionalists

I wonder whether we’d end up with the “slebrity tog” instead of the “celebrity chef” then?

Photographers in the spotlight now

There aren’t that many big names – people still think of (David) Bailey as the only one, or Annie Lebowitz if you are slightly more aware.

They are more famous for their subjects than their own personality and technique, though. If Bailey had just photographed normal people for his whole career, would we have heard of him?

Annie is another photographer famous because of famous people she has photographed. Her grand productions often see others doing the actual photography – her being the conductor in an orchestra of technicians.

Rankin is probably the poster boy of the industry at the moment – a man doing a huge range of projects, mainly portraits of stars, but he’s done all kinds of work in deprived communities around the world.

Yet still he’s probably more famous for his rock star shots than those starving kids in Africa.

THE DIFFERENCE – Food isn’t famous… chefs are

Chefs don’t have this problem – the food they are cooking is never more famous than they are, so despite Marcus Wareing producing the perfect Custard Cream for the queen, we still remember him as a chef, rather than the desert.

This is probably the biggest difference between the 2 professions….

Realistic rather than high production

The odd occasion I’ve seen photography shoots on TV, it will be :-

  • in a massive professional studio – which 99% of people have not access to
  • thousands of pounds of lighting – usually 8 feet diameter softboxes and infinitely powerful flash heads, and reflectors the size of the Empire State Building, whereas most people will have a pop up flash on their 600D (other cameras are available)
  • everything will be set up already – no explanation given
  • professional models who need no/little direction – so you really don’t get any hints on posing “REAL PEOPLE”
  • Makeup artists creating impossibly beautiful results
  • Stylists creating outfit combinations you’d never dream of

Then the shoot takes about 30 seconds, you see 3 poses then pan to the art director who’s checking out the shots on a MAC as they pop up – the client looks delighted and you’re done.

The reality…

The reality is different and far more interesting – I’m not saying these shows should be a step-by-step guide to setting up lights and apertures, but maybe they should show things going wrong and how to put them right, like they do on cooking shows.

The early stages of (cringeworthy) singing shows like the X-Factor show people getting stuff wrong, then gradually going on the cliched journey to stardom, step by step.

The Format

I think this is where the industry could create a format. Get Peter Kaye to sort it out – but something like this

  • Obviously, it has to be a “judges scoring you” format as everything has to be. The critique has to be a mix of softly softly and overly harsh – think “Len Goodman” and “Craig Revel Horwood”. One needs to be very “high art” with a Brian Sewall like voice, maybe someone a bit camp and OTT like Bruno Tonioli.
  • Each week there will be different “topics” or “subjects” – so landscape, architecture, fashion, headshots, family portraits, food, cars…. a bit like all the dances in Strictly
  • Photography enthusiasts from many backgrounds and genres are needed for broad appeal – we need the emo girl who makes brooding self-portraits and the old chap who goes on safari with his £8000 lens and Nikon D4
  • Each week everyone gets a brief – everyone gets something different so it’s not boring, maybe rotating the topics, so you have a mix each week.
  • You see them go from concept, set up, shoot, post production and print
  • The judges do their stuff… marking out of 10.
  • We have to let the public vote of course.
  • Someone gets knocked out and we move on

I guess they’d win a job with Bailey…

Anyway – I can’t see the chefs ever being replaced by photographers, despite TV being completely inappropriate for a taste, smell and touch medium. If photographers did do get on telly – lets at least make something people can relate to and learn from.




The Pixelstick – The Verdict

Was the Pixel Stick Worth it?

Having watched this cool light painting tool evolve for a while it was only a matter of time before I got one. That came on Black Friday 2015 when the offer price was right.

It arrived from the states a few days later, and I was raring to go – were it not for the rain!

How does it work… ?

Watch this!

Why did I get it?

I shoot cars professionally – I thought it’d be a cool addition to the toolkit for that.

TVR sagaris ribble valley pendle-126

Also, I thought I could use it for client logos – adding those to scenes for some quirky viral click bait!

I also run night workshops, so it was an obvious addition to the “wire wool” and “gelled LED torches” I drag around Yorkshire each winter.

Ghostly Goings On-1

I like gadgets, and wondered what I could do with it – what works, what doesn’t work, could I do anything others were not doing ?

How is the Pixelstick to use?

Uploading new files etc. to the Pixelstick

The file format and interface on the device is old school:-

  • you need “bitmap” BMP files which are 200 pixels high,
  • then rotate them 90 degrees to the right,
  • the file names can only be 8 characters long.

SO that’s novel

Photos with black edges work best – anything on a white background look a bit pants, to be honest – you get white tide mark.


That’s why I ended up with lots of demonic heads to start with – they have black edges! I’m not a satanist or demon worshipper!

The interface itself is pretty good to use at night – just a simple controller and a fire button. A bit like an old Game Boy control really. Once you get used to the menus, you can change things very quickly

Some Photos

So you can see lots of examples there – I’ve certainly given it a good workout!

Using it in the field

Needs to be really dark!


I find it best if you’re somewhere dark enough to get a 30-second exposure at around F5.6 – so we’re talking dark places! Any brighter, you have to work faster or lower the aperture to F8 or F11… then the brightness starts to fade. i.e. you can’t see the effect very well… or at all .

Timing is interesting

I’ve always shot with someone at the cameras – so I have to shout when to start the camera, no use of remote shutters.


How do you get wings in the right place behind someone? It’s tricky – try it.

Also, you’re walking to trace out an image – often to fill a specific space – so how do you time that? It could end early so you have got a big black space, or you end up at the end of the scene with the stick still flashing!

Its fun

Yeah – it is good fun to use to be honest. You just run around looking like an idiot, or some star wars fan as it can look like a light sabre!

Has it any Commercial Value?

Limited – I think most clients think it’s badly photoshopped artwork, rather than something unique and creative. One, in a bout of truth-telling, explained in great depth how he thought posting it on Social Media had cheapened my work and damaged my brand!

I don’t think many would go that far, but it’s seen more as a novelty toy, than a real commercial tool help raise a company profile.

I’d definitely try an another car shoot – but as an addition at the end of the shoot, if we had time. I’d not be promoting it and don’t have any examples on the website.

Was it worth it?


It’s definitely got some interest in workshops so has paid for itself in extra attendees, so yes, it’s a cool tool which has actually covered its cost.

I think its best when used to create abstract things – rather than trying to create actual photos or things which are recognisable such as logos.

If you get too close to the camera, it looks like 200 lines, rather than a nice smooth image – that was a bit limiting, you do need to be far away to get the most from it.

What Next?

It’s getting light late in the UK now, so it’ll probably be packed away till the Autumn – but I think the thing I’ve not done is city work. Adding strange images to “already interesting” night scenes in a city, with models or cars, will be the next thing.

I think I’ve only really scratched the surface with it – mainly down to a horrendously wet and windy 4 months since I bought it. No one wants to be running around outside with a camera in the rain…

9 Ways Photography Can Transform Your 2016

Why does every marketing team love stunning, unique images?

It makes their job easy – photos are powerful – they make your business:-

  • stand out from the crowd

  • easy to understand

  • have INSTANT impact

  • communicate who you are

  • show how you do it

Well here are just 9 of the many ways photos help boost your business

1 More clicks on Facebook Ads

We used this to advertise a Yorkshire Coast photography workshop which wasn’t selling – once “live” it got 65 clicks to our website in the first day and sold out!

Facebook ads are a great source of leads if you get it right – and the “hook” which grabs attention is a great image.

In fact, Facebook limit the amount of text you can show on the “image” part of the ad, so it’s never been more important to have a compelling photograph.

Some of the most effective ads are “carousels”, where you can have multiple photos in one ad – this is a fantastic opportunity to show your offering, up that click rate and drive traffic to your site.

2 Great looking website

Setting the scene for the Chicago Blues Brothers tribute band

Setting the scene for the Chicago Blues Brothers tribute band

Every website needs great images to tell your story, it gives visitors reassurance, confidence and a good idea of who you are. Where should you use photos? Here are a few examples:-

  • team page – pictures of you and the team – so people know who they are talking to BEFORE they pick up the phone
  • what we do page – you “in action” doing your job – reassurance that you are THE expert and shows HOW you working
  • about us page – your building and environment – shows people where to go when visiting and also the “vibe” of the place
  • our products/services page – your products – if you have them, you need to show them off!
  • your blog page – you winning awards – huge credibility builder, and reassurance

And there are many more – great images help clients understand what you do and how you do it INSTANTLY.

3 Great first impression on LINKED IN


Guess what kind of experience you get when you call Alex at ABL Business… The photo says it all

Your LINKED IN photo is the first impression you give many clients – they’ll either get a referral or do a google search, then check you out on LINKED IN.

This photo has 3 main purposes

  1. To show “who” you are, a bit like a passport photo
  2. To instantly convey the right first impression and show some personality and professionalism
  3. To encourage people to call YOU rather than the other business owners in their search

If you’re showing your logo, your children, your pets, your holiday, your wedding photo…. it’s not really working for you.

Also, it you’ve changed your hair, grown a beard or started wearing glasses more often, then it’s probably time to refresh it too.

4 Everyone looks at photos

Everyone loves photos these days!

Everyone loves photos these days!

Your marketing includes great copy and design, you’ll also have videos and testimonials, all of which are hugely important.

However, people have to “read” copy and “open” videos – neither of which you can guarantee.

Everybody sees the photography – as soon as they open your collateral, the images pop up. The purpose of them is to then encourage people to read that copy and open that video – it’s a team effort.

You can check (in Google analytics) how long page visits are before and after installing your new photography and see the impact.

5 More engaging newsletters

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How’s your email marketing going?
Are people opening them or junking them before opening?

The email subject line is probably has the biggest influence on opening rates, photography is used in the email body to both engage and “guide” the reader…

“Decide what you want to draw to the user’s attention. If you have one stand-out offer, put it side-by-side with an image of someone looking right at it, or their body gesturing towards it. If you have multiple offers, utilise an individual looking down or around the area these offers are located.

Test this by monitoring your marketing click-rates before and after your new photography

6 “Instantly” Show what you do


Would you guess that she’s boot-camp fitness trainer who uses ropes outside in her training?

The speed of communication via photography is amazing – a quick glance of an image can leave a lasting impression.

We’re told attention spans are dwindling so this fast communication method is essential.

7 Introduce & value your team

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Julie and her fellow directors at Austin Hayes – one of many sub-team shots we created for their website

So many teams miss out on this – many don’t even have a team page!

Contact with your business will be more personal and also shows clients your value your colleagues. Your colleagues will feel more valued too!

As well as a team page with photos, how about a friendly photo of your receptionist on your website’s Contact Us page?

8 Something new to post on Twitter


A bit cheeky really, but this got dozens of facebook likes and re-tweeted 15 times.

Tweets with images, stand out from those without – its as simple as that!

Memes are also all over twitter, you can use your photos as backgrounds for these. The Morley one above is very tongue in cheek, but it got a surprisingly amusing reaction – and I traced 8 new follows back to this post!

Basically, you need a LOT of content to fuel a twitter campaign, and if you re-hash the same things over and over, people will notice and get bored!

A regularly refreshed supply of great new images supercharges your output for months

9 Get noticed in Print

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I’d love to know what’s on that piece of paper

Everything above has been about digital media – but don’t forget print!

  • The press are more likely to print your story with a great image
  • People are more likely to pick up a flyer with great design and images on
  • Brochures are more engaging with a great cover shot – and images to support the content
  • Images create the “feel” and evoke “emotion” – which sell products in magazines and catalogues


Many more uses….

We’re sure there are many more – and we’d love to hear what marketing needs your photos fulfil – comment below!

Creating Vintage Photos Made Easy in LIGHTROOM

How to Create That Vintage Look in LIGHTROOM

In this short tutorial video, we look at editing a beach shot at Alnwick, Northumberland. It was a bright day with strong clouds, so lots of mid tones and some crisp shadows to play with. There are many ways to process such a shot, in this session we’ll take you through the whole process of using Split Toning to add that lovely vintage feel, a process that is surprisingly easy in Lightroom.

The Vintage look can be added to any kind of photo, not just landscapes. Many fashion images will have cool or even green tones added to create a light, pastel feel.

Here we add yellows to the highlights and blues into the shadows – this makes a beautiful effect which you can add to any image.

Vintage Effects in LIGHTROOM…

How to get from this RAW file:-

before the vintage lightroom effect

To this classic “vintage” look in under 5 minutes

vintage lightroom effect


Here is how to apply a Vintage look in LIGHTROOM

Snow Photography in the Yorkshire Dales

Snow Photography at Settle and Malham

It’s not been the snowiest of winters, but on a trip out with Richard Spurdens, we were treated to some great Snow Photography opportunities.

Add to that fast moving clouds and ever changing light, you get infinite variety of snow photography without having to move far at all.

The trip started near settle where we got the bush and tree shots – lots of walls creating strong shadows on the white snow. Views across to Pen Y Gent were Impressive, using Richard’s 400mm prime you can see the walls and cliffs in detail.

From there we headed to Scalebar Force, which was snow free… we still got lots of photos, but that’s for another blog!

Finally we went to the inevitable Malham Rakes Tree for a sunset which never really got going.

It was cold – really cold – but we had a great day and got some great shots.

5 Essential Questions for Aspiring Pro Photographers

5 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Going Pro

I’m sure many pro photographers get asked “How do I become a professional photographer?“.

I have and it’s never a straight forward answer – in fact, the answer would be unique for each person. Every photographer is different (personality, experience, confidence, business savvy,  camera skills etc.),  so there’s no “on size fits all” formula for success, or even getting out of the starting blocks.

But I do often ask a few questions, so thought I’d share them in this blog…


1- Have I enough cash to live?

If you have a steady income from photography already, congratulations – you are in the minority! Keep going and building your business.

If, like most, you are leaving employment to start a business, you need money – not just to run the business, but to LIVE. Your bills don’t stop, you still need to eat and once in a while, you may even want to socialise! The only thing that stops is your salary payment.

Enough Money
Money buys you “time” – work out how long you can live on the money you have stowed away. I’d suggest at least 1 year, maybe 2.

2 – What do  I enjoy photographing?

There’s no point in starting a business doing something you don’t enjoy.

Make sure you start to offer services photographing things you actually like doing – it may be a niche like car photography, commercial “widget” photography, or you could join the army of wedding photographers out there.

Enjoy it!

Ask your self whether you truly enjoy shooting your chosen subject, because when things kick off you’ll be doing a LOT of it!


3 – Have I got a portfolio to “sell” my services?

So you really enjoy shooting fashion, but are you any good at it?

It’s one important thing to enjoy what you do, but also you absolutely have to be able to “do” the job, and prove it with a strong portfolio of images, ready to show clients.

This is usually your website, facebook, instagram , twitter etc. – not some glossy book which costs thousands to make. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that if you’re uploading thousands of shots and there is even 1% which are “not great”, these will be noticed straight away – so be careful, only show your best stuff.

Assume everything you upload is going to be seen by the next couple/family/client and you’ll not go far wrong.

Impress customers
Do whatever it takes to get a great portfolio and try to avoid showing poor images – it’s not a volume game, better to show 1 or 2 fantastic shots, than a set of 20 with duff shots 



4 – Who is going to hire me?


It may be as simple as “couples getting married” – but which couples?

  • Are you after the ones with £5000 budgets or £500?
  • Are you offering classically posed group shots, reportage or fun filled shoots – and how are you going to find people who want these?
  • Are you working locally or internationally?

Things like this have a huge impact on how you present things – from the language you use, to the style of the website. Many couples just want simple, cheap photos – would you be interested in that, or are you into the more creative, epic  bridal shoots in stunning locations?


Commercial photography is harder still as it’s a far broader genre. There is everything from food to oil rigs, architecture to director-filled board rooms… then there’s editorial work for magazines and papers… oh and events and conferences…

So much to choose from – and you need to work out who it is that will want the shots you’ve chosen to take.

It needs to be broad enough to actually exist (i.e. not Unicorn Portraits) and narrow enough that people can actually “say” what you photograph (e.g. “Johnny does headshots for Linked IN and PR” or “Jane shoots products, specialising in shiny things like jewelry” )

Who are your customers
This is definitely a hard one… get thinking. Work out who will use your photos – and why they need them. If you can’t think of anyone, have you found the right niche?



5 – How am I going to find them?

And finally – you’re not doing this for fun any more, so you need paying clients NOW!

Most companies use trusted photographers already, they don’t need anyone new, right?

True to some extent, so you need to be different to them – offer something they’ve not given.

It may be :-

  • the way you light things,
  • your cool HDR look,
  • your cheeky chappy way of coaxing smiles out of people,
  • a blinding portfolio
  • a new angle on things they are already doing
  • and lots more…

So many angles to choose from, it’s incredible fun choosing them.

Also, you need to work out who you should be meeting – the decision makers. This is the tricky part as you need to get “known” somehow. Only then will people see you.

It’s a chicken and egg situation, so you can’t get known till you’ve worked – but you can’t work till you’re known!

It’s very hard to find work from people who’ve no connection with you, but if someone recommends you the process becomes easier – for both sides.

Where are your customers
There’s a whole industry on business mentoring, marketing and PR to help you – so seriously think about getting help on this – and get out there an NETWORK! 




Apologies if you were hoping for top tips like:-

  • “start shooting beef burgers as they’re booming” or
  • “approach this newspaper with photos of cows”

The chances are you’ll start down one track, realise that doesn’t quite work as plan and have to adapt.

The steps are to:-

  1. get enough money,
  2. get good at your “craft”,
  3. find your niche AND show it relentlessly,
  4. work out who will buy your niche and
  5. then do whatever you can to meet those people.

Which is exactly the same as ANY OTHER BUSINESS!

Fake Blurry Skies… in 2 minutes

10 Stop Filters – All the Rage!

I’ve got one, have you?

Well no landscape or architecture photographer worth their salt goes out without one these days do they ? 😉

It is the current fad – that surreal sky, those misty sea shores… you simply have to use them…

They are genuinely interesting to use, and I have on occasion used one commercially to make “people disappear” from photos.

So looking back at this photo of Clarence Dock, which it was called then, I wondered what it would have looked like with a 10-stopper.

Photoshop Stuff…

So here’s a very quick, purposely quick and dirty, way you can do the blurred sky thing.

It just uses…

  • Selections
  • Layers
  • Filters
  • Masks

Simple stuff really – as you’ll see when you watch it 🙂


But what about the water?

Ten out of ten to Eva Pitt, who mentioned that the water should look different if it was a long exposure.

  • Well the main reason for it not being smooth in this instance is time – the video was supposed to be 2 minutes, it went on to 4… didn’t have time
  • having a smooth sky and choppy water is confusing – and confusion is a good thing, ask any NLP master
  • If you’ve understood the theory of how to do the sky, you could apply it to the water – so that part would be superfluous.


Why you should “Shoot to the Right”

Shoot to the right… what’s that then?

It’s a technique to get better image quality… simple as that really.

Why does the “shoot to the right” technique give you better image quality?

Well the science is pretty complicated and all to do with how a sensor captures light. Digital cameras sensors are more efficient at capturing the light in the “highlights”, and less efficient at capturing “shadows”, so by getting the exposure more to the highlight end, we are getting the best out of the sensor.

Obviously you need to shoot RAW files for this to work, as you will need to correct (usually lower) the exposure later in a RAW convertor. Shooting jpeg means you thrown the baby out with the bathwater and lost all that great exposure info.

How do you do it?

The main thing is to get the exposure “to the right” not “totally blown out.

You need to get good with histograms – which are really simple, honest. It’s just a graph which shows you how your photo is made up – in terms the brightness of your photos. The left end is the shadows and black, middle is mid tones, right is highlights and white.

Here is one way to do it:-

  1. First, as normal you need to compose your image and meter the exposure.
  2. Take the shot at the metered exposure and check the histogram – what you are aiming for is to most of the exposure on the right side of the histogram, but none of it clipping off the right side – blowing the highlights.
  3. If most of your histogram is to the middle or left of the graph, then you just increase the exposure – doubling your shutter speed will move the graph along to the right a fair way.
  4. If the histogram is already off the right side, clipping the highlights and need to reduce the exposure to bring it back. You are aiming to have the highlights just inside the right side of the histogram.

Just keep taking photos and tweaking till you get it right – on a day with pretty consistent light, you probably only have to change the exposure when the sun goes behind a cloud.

A modern way…

If you have a camera with “live view” there is a good chance that it has a “live histogram” too. On a canon 5D mark 2, this is accessed by switching live view on – then pressing the “INFO” button over and over to cycle through the display settings. Eventually, you get to the little live graph.

All you need to do now is :-

  1. set your shot up as usual –
  2. maybe ISO100, F16 for a landscape –
  3. get the filters in place –
  4. Now just look at the graph and adjust the shutter speed till the right side of the graph touches the right end of the histogram.

It really is that simple

Why Bother?

Here’s a little video of 2 shots of the Humber Bridge – one is “over exposed”, the other “under exposed”

Both are not “correctly exposed” – but when you recover them  – the results are quite different… as you will see!

Leeds is RUBBISH For Photography!

Who’d Want to do Photography in Leeds ?

I’ve heard this said many times – along with classics such as…

  • you’ve not got many great buildings,
  • you’ve not got any sky scrapers
  • costs a fortune to park and they charge you at night
  • its really rough and you’ll get mugged.

Ok… Parking is Terrible…

Well the one I agree with is the parking issue. It’s a pain to park in the city – it has to be said. Hugely over priced car parks, and hour of on-street parking costs more than a Bugatti Veyron…

To add insult to injury, the council, in their infinite wisdom, decided to charge for parking in the evenings too – which has certainly put me and lots of other photographers off “popping into town” for a few shots at sunset. A shame…

Here’s Why Leeds is Great for Photography…

Quirky hipsters and locals

The people are usually pretty interesting for starters – it’s a reasonably big city and everyone’s racing around doing their own thing, so capturing them is as good as anywhere!

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Carvings on buildings

Look up and you’ll find thousands of heads and faces looking back – no its not a horror movie, but the carvings on the banks and municipal buildings. The Financial and legal area are full of them – go take a look!

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Cool Architecture

Ok, it may not be as big as you get in London, Birmingham and Manchester, but there’s some really cool facades if you look. This is near the station and when the sun hits it right… looks great

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Trinity’s HUGE Glass Roof

It’s a lot of glass – it’s all around you – it doesn’t rain in there and the security are pretty cool about you taking photos! There’s also some bizare horse statue with a wool sack on its back

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The Victoria Quarter

Most places have arcades, but few as grand as County Arcade and Cross Arcade in the Vic Quarter… then there’s the HUGE ceiling with a massive stained glass roof! There’s loads in here, and again you’re cool to take photos if you don’t use a tripod… if you do, they burn you as witches!

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Leeds Market

Europe’s biggest covered market apparently – it goes on forever and ever. Its the top bit, on Vicar Lane, which is worth seeing though. The fish and butcher alleys too.

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The Corn Exchange

Big round buildings are ace – Manchester Library, Albert Hall in London… and Leeds has its Corn Exchange. An amazing building inside and out. It’s not really “round” but a slight egg shape really. But both from the outside and inside, this is amazing to photograph!

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Is it really RUBBISH for Photographers?

I don’t think so – it’s definitely no London or New York, but there’s so much out there if you only LOOK and be AWARE of what’s going on…

  • Look for stuff which isn’t obvious, look reflections in puddles or up at buildings and you’ll find a whole new world you’ve walked past thousands of times
  • Be Aware of things going on – find a cool scene and wait for people to walk into it, then capture those. Or wait for a red to come into your scene to add a splash of colour

All the photos….

AND FINALLY, All the photos....
….in this blog here were taken whilst teaching a workshop, to show everyone how you can find photos on a horribly cold, dull and windy January afternoon! Do not wait for perfect conditions, go out and do it NOW… then you’ll work out that Leeds isn’t RUBBISH for photography

The “X-Factor” Problem

“False Praise” on Social Media

I joined my first online community in 2004 – it’s called EPhotozine – and since then I’ve learned an incredible amount from the site, lots of useful tips from more advanced photographers guided me away from common mistakes.

However, what has been a perpetual gripe on the site, from me as much as anyone, is:-

The number of “votes” (or likes) an image gets, has little to do with the image. It has everything to do with “who you are”. 

It used to drive me, and everyone else, mad, seeing people with poor photos getting 5 or 10 times more votes than your “better” photos.

The same is now true on Facebook, Google + and all the other social media sites. You number of “likes” will be dictated by:-

  • when you post the photo – is it a busy time?
  • how many friends you have
  • how many “likes” you give out
  • how many “nice comments” you leave on people’s sites
  • how many people are in a particular “group”
  • and occasionally, how good your photo is

The Impact of False Praise

Getting 200 “likes” on any photo is a wonderful feeling to anyone – we all love praise.

Getting huge numbers of votes gives the recipient the impression that they are doing great work, when in reality people are “reciprocating kindness” 

This means that if you’ve “liked” 500 photos last week, you will probably get 250 or more “likes” in return.

The true impact of this, for the serious photographer wanting to improve, is they believe the work they produce is excellent, whether this is true or not.

The X-Factor

It’s like the tone deaf kids you hear each week on the The X Factor.

The X Factor Problem....
People are told by family and friends that they have an amazing voice – even through they may not

They then believe they have an amazing voice.

They believe they can “compete” with this amazing voice. No one has the heart to tell them “don’t do it!!”

They then get a HUGE shock when Simon Cowell tells them that they are terrible. 

This often happens with photographers showing work online, their friends and family telling them how amazing their “obviously flawed” photos are.

You Can’t Handle The Truth!

The truth is that we all like to make people happy, and most are uncomfortable giving people constructive feedback – especially in a public space like Facebook.

If 30 people have said “wow, great shot” and you say “this looks over processed and the horizon’s out on the sea”, you are not going to look good – no matter how right you are. I’ve done this a few times and been unfriended!

Also you’ve got to appreciate that most people don’t want their work critiqued either – they are perfectly happy with what they’re doing and don’t need their confidence knocking with all the flaws being pointed out.

But if you want to get better….

If you are serious about creating great images, for competitions, print sales, stock, commercial clients or just for your own satisfaction, then what are the ways to develop?

  1. Learning skills in workshops is the starting point – get to know your camera, how to expose shots, how flash works, how to compose scenes, how to talk to models… whatever it is you want to do, learn the “how” first
  2. Practice – once you have the skills, hone them, do them as often as you can, if you leave it you will forget.
  3. Show your work – if it’s sat on your hard drive and going no further, then fair enough. If you want a general opinion, put it on Facebook. Maybe use Ephotozine, 500px etc. if you want photographers to see it.
  4. Get critique – this is a little like putting your soul on the line, you’ve worked hard at a photo and think it’s perfect… give the photo to someone and ask them to point out the good, bad and ugly.

That 4th step is hard. I don’t like doing it – but I do.

If you don’t, you may end up like that 16 year old crying in front of Simon Cowell – having spent £1500 on prints for an exhibition and sold none. 

How “blind” critique works

Many McFade trainees have been on Lightroom feedback nights and hopefully learned loads.

They bring along 5-10 photos each and, in turn, I edit as many as I can in the night. It’s a great form to give tips on lightroom, composition and cropping – even mono conversions and funky split toning effects.

However, it never seemed the right environment in which to give honest critique, for a few reasons:-

  • all at different levels of ability, where do you “pitch” the feedback?
  • no one is competing so don’t need to justify placings
  • praise in public, give feedback in private… you don’t want to be giving anyone’s images a hard time in public… well I don’t
  • you can give feedback in a “softer, roundabout way” by editing it whilst they watch
  • if you know who the photographer is, you may “sugar coat” the feedback a little – which doesn’t help them

What actually happens…

So to get around this, we started doing Blind Critiques – here’s how it works…

  • anyone wanting help got an invite to a DROPBOX folder
  • they added 1 photo for each week – high res, no watermarks or identifying features
  • I do a “screen and sound capture” session where I share my honest thoughts on each shot… all aspects of it
  • I upload to youtube and put it on the BLOG

I’d have no idea who’s photos they were, and neither would any of the viewers, except the uploader. It means that through you may be giving (sometimes) harsh critique in public, no one knows who’s photo it is. Hopefully all egos are left intact, everyone learns, people improve and they achieve their personal goals.

X-Factor versus The Voice!

Critiquing blindly this way detaches the image from the photographer – all the “X-Factor” issues are gone!

It’s now like the “blind audition” phase of the BBC show “The Voice”. (I’m sure many poor singers apply to the The Voice, but they rarely get to the TV stage – it’s aimed at showcasing good singers, not humiliating poor singers)

Sir Tom only hears the voice and makes his judgement on that – likewise we only see the photo.

If he likes the voice – he presses his button, and only then does he know anything else about them. Likewise with the photos – though we do comment on them all of course!

The aims are:-

  • First impressions – give an overview of your thoughts
  • What’s good – say what you like about the shot, maybe detail, composition, expression…
  • Look for things which don’t work – usually crops and processing issues, so we can suggest how to remedy these
  • Concluding thoughts – general advice to the photographer

It’s not an ego trip or a chance to be Mr Nasty, but the best way I’ve found (so far) of helping many people learn in a short time.


If your photography is just a hobby you enjoy and you’ve no real desire to move “to the next level”, then this critique thing is probably not for you.

If you are losing competitions at your club, getting prints which don’t look right, or especially, selling your services to paying customers (weddings, portraits etc.), then it definitely is worth getting honest feedback from your tutor, or peers.


Picture this….

You may end up at your first “wedding job” and, like that tone deaf kid from Sunderland  (who’s mammy told him what a great voice he has), end up stood in front of Simon Cowell in tears (or in your case, a furious bride and groom, angrily demanding a refund for their terrible photos) . 


HDR Photography isn’t Bad – People Are!

The Perennial HDR Photography Debate

As someone who’s used HDR Photography to make a living and been a fan since 2006, I often get involved HDR debates. Sigh…

The usual comments would be around

[notice]I don’t like HDR, it looks a bit weird[/notice]

or maybe

[notice]I like HDR when it’s done properly[/notice]

and sometimes you get the odd concession…

[notice]Well your HDR is ok because it looks natural[/notice]

I know why people say they don’t like HDR – you can very quickly find thousands of images which make my mental pictures of Grimm Brothers fairy tails look bland… Google image search “bad HDR” or “overcooked HDR” and you’ll see endless examples.

Here’s one of my wheat shots, given the Grunge treatment… horrific


Overcooked in Photomatix

What is HDR?

In a nutshell – High Dynamic Range

Stated simply, the “Dynamic Range” of a camera is gap, in stops, between the and darkest pixel your camera can capture in one shot. There will be a WIKI on it somewhere – go look there for a true definition.

HDR is a technique were we “extend” the range by taking images at different exposures, going from “single dynamic range” to “high dynamic range”.

3 shots

So if you took, say, 3 photos.

  • a “normal” exposure
  • a shot 4 times darker (-2EV)
  • a shot 4 times brighter (+2EV)

You’d extend your “dynamic range” by collecting more information in the “bright bits” and “dark bits” which you can throw into the mix.


Why HDR?

Why would we use it?

Here are several real world examples where :-

  • a nice sky, but dark subject (e.g. a car, or building)
  • a nice subject, but a white sky
  • if you use ND Grads – you get a nice sky AND foreground, but a building goes all dark where the dark bit of the grad goes over it
  • if you use flash – the subject is way to big for your flashes to light OR the ambient light is too bright for your flashes
  • a room photo with blown out windows or really dark corners
  • Waterfalls which are blown out, and nice green surroundings, or nice detailed waterfalls with black surroundings

A geekier way to think of it…

[message type=”info”]Look at your histogram – if you can’t get a shot without either black clipping, or white clipping, you may benefit from HDR.[/message]

So that’s why you’d use it – it’s a way around the limitations of current camera sensors. 


Where it all goes wrong


Noisy, over sharpened clouds – halos…

When I teach HDR, the “capture for HDR” talk takes 5 minutes, then I help people set up their cameras and out we go. It’s actually a LOT easier to capture than traditional photography – but that’s another blog.

[message type=”info”]It’s the software which confuses people – somehow they abandon all taste when seeing these alien sliders.[/message]

They don’t have the same names as “Levels” or “Curves” in Photoshop, but “Tone Compression” and “Local Contrast ”


With all this extra information to hand, we can:-

  • make previously black areas, bright and colourful
  • make clouds hugely dark
  • make light areas darker than bright areas
  • add way too much contrast and create unsightly halos around the edges of things
  • make flat and insipid photos
  • create toothpaste-green grass and indigo blue skies

The list of things you can do goes on… and these may be actual creative decisions by people, they my actually “like” them.

Here’s a typical example of “going to far” – halos, weird noise artefact… just a mess.

Halos... nasty

Halos… nasty

Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should!

So if you “can” do all those things – should you?

NO – definitely not!

If you use a knife to chop food in the kitchen, you can also use it to chop off your child’s fingers, or stab passers by in the street… but do you ?

NO – definitely not! 

If you got a new knife you weren’t quite used to, would you change your entire way of cooking?

NO – Probably not! 

You’d probably have a recipe in mind, and hope that the new knife somehow makes it easier to create – chopping onions faster, cubing your meat with ease…

SO why do (usually) very sane photographers, when getting a new tool, like HDR, totally change their approach to image making? 

Why would someone with a “lovely landscapes” portfolio suddenly start producing “eye bleeding” images?

They “could” create these in Lightroom or Photoshop, but didn’t. Now they open up Photomatix/HDR EFEX etc. and all of a sudden are delighted with something that resembles a small childs “new paint set” daubings.

A RAW file edited in lightroom... it's not a HDR, but you can make the same "look" easily, and quickly

A RAW file edited in lightroom… it’s not a HDR, but you can make the same “look” easily, and quickly


Exercise Taste – THINK!!!

I say this in every workshop…

  • Sliders to the middle or left = natural
  • Sliders to the right = surreal

Which is the same with most imaging software, not just HDR.

If you are starting to see things like Halos, cyber-colours and demonic clouds, THINK!!!

Does that look good? Does it look real? Will I like this in 6 months, or even 6 minutes.

Here’s the same shot as above, in Photomatix… a more “muted” approach… nice detail on the wheat too.

HDR normal

Or how about lowering the saturation a little…

normal 2

Looking a little more realistic ?

It’s not hard – it just takes a little practice and exercise of taste.

This last shot would probably have the dark areas lifted a little more in Photomatix (the processing was just for this blog, not a “proper” image), then finished off in Photoshop or Lightroom – usually to sharpen the key details, maybe clone out some flair – the usual things.


What to do if you get stuck…

Ok – so you’ve been moving sliders for 10 minutes and it’s going very wrong…

This is the biggest source of BAD HDR… people don’t accept that they’ve painted themselves into a corner… they keep going, till the death of the image!

Photomatix has 3 methods of Tone Mapping, and 5 or 6 of Exposure Fusion

If you are going nowhere fast, do this..

  • Change your “method” – maybe from an Exposure Fusion to Tone Mapping method
  • Move all the sliders to default position,
  • Slowly move sliders – to the left, to the right, see which “enhances” and which “makes surreal”
  • Gradually change till it looks nice.
  • Look at something else for a few minutes – facebook, twitter, the kettle
  • Come back – look again, does it still look good?


  • Take a look at the “presets” most HDR packages come with
  • Choose one which looks natural or realistic
  • Click on that – this is your new start point


Church Example

Quick overview of a different subject – a church.. one side in shadow, one in bright light. Probably a good candidate for a HDR…

church 1


So how many would go for this as a start point?

church 2

Well that would be one way… but how about the Photographic Preset instead?

church 3


Then have a quick play with the sliders…

church 4

Then you can pop it back into Lightroom and tweak away to your heart’s content.

Here’s a 1 minute tweak…

church 5

HDR Is a Tool…

So to conclude then…

HDR will end when sensor technology next advances – maybe the camera will capture the entire range of tones in a scene, then render what it decides to be the best representation… or give mega-raw-files for you to tone map… who knows.

Till then, this is the best option available in many situations. It works well – far better than my first experience in 2006.

[message type=”info”]When people criticise HDR, they are bemoaning the wrong thing – the technology and tools are fine – it’s the people who use them which make bad images[/message]

A hammer can blacken your thumbnail, bludgeon your brains out, break your teeth and shatter your knee caps – it can also build a buid box, help fit a gate or even keep old ladies warm by fitting an insulating strip around a door.

HDR can make horrendous monstrosities, or beautiful images, which would be otherwise impossible… it’s all in the control of the HUMAN OPERATOR!

CAMRA Bradford Real Ale Festival – 2014

Real Ale on the UP!

Real ale is on the up – micro breweries are springing up all over the UK, nowhere more so than in Yorkshire. Every small town seems to have it’s own brewery producing everything from pale ales to dark porters.

Ossett, Salamander, Daleside, Rooster’s, Leeds Brewery, Wharfbank, Saltaire, Wendworth, Copper Dragon, York Brewery, Acorn, Goose Eye, Bradfield, Kelham Island and Ilkley… just a few to look out for if you’re after a great pint.

Celebrate in Style

We went to celebrate the UK’s finest ales at the Bradford Beer festival – again taking place in the magnificent Victoria Hall in Saltaire, just a few miles outside Bradford.

The goal of these photos was to capture the enjoyment of the event. People who attend are no a varied bunch, from the very young to the very old.

All the beer pourer’s are unpaid volunteers – the “games makers” in 2012 Olympics parlance!

Here they are… in reverse chronological order!


_MG_9957 _MG_9955 _MG_9948 _MG_9938 _MG_9929 _MG_9927 _MG_9922 _MG_9919 _MG_9915 _MG_9914 _MG_9908 _MG_9902 _MG_9891 _MG_9890 _MG_9889 _MG_9884 _MG_9883 _MG_9872 _MG_9867 _MG_9865 _MG_9864 _MG_9862 _MG_9855 _MG_9850 _MG_9849 _MG_9846 _MG_9845 _MG_9844 _MG_9840 _MG_9839 _MG_9836 _MG_9834 _MG_9833 _MG_9831 _MG_9828 _MG_9822 _MG_9819 _MG_9818 _MG_9813 _MG_9809 _MG_9806 _MG_9805 _MG_9803 _MG_9792 _MG_9786 _MG_9785 _MG_9783_MG_9955

It’s All About YOU


Your business is all about you

Not in an egotistical way, but any SME business owner knows that they are the “face” of their company. It’s unavoidable really – we create:-

  • the business idea,
  • the hard graft to get it going,
  • the risks you take,
  • the people you meet

These things are all down to you

So on their websites and print and social media, why do so many hide their “true” face away – when they could say so much with a great photo that shows them as they really are?

Hiding… ?

When I say “hiding”, it could be that they do have a photo, maybe even a professionally taken photo, but it’s not really doing them any favours.

Many are stuffy, awkward, uncomfortable, slightly scary and have the same appeal as a pass-port photo, whereas the “real person” may be warm, welcoming and great fun to be around. 


This portrait of me is an award winning selfie I took in 2007 – I won a canvas print of it, have it on my wall to scare off burglars!


So when we’re looking at their “About us” or “Our Team” page, we see these scary photos and think seriously about whether we want to talk to them… maybe check the next company on your Google Search and see if they are any friendlier!

Would you call me if you thought this is how I really was?

That’s what happens – that’s the damage a bad photo can have on potential new clients.


The Real You…

Well I use this shot instead – I obviously prefer the dark, moody shot above, but this one’s more like the guy who turns up with camera and lights. I love the lighting on it, the brick texture in the background (on Dock St. in Leeds) is pretty cool but I hope it tells potential clients that there’s an element of fun working with me – which is very important, as that’s exactly how I work.


You may actually be that stern, slightly scary person in your photo – and it may well work for you, it depends on your business and personality.

The chances are, in my experience of photographing many business owners, that you are nothing like this “old-fashioned-business-man” personality, but for whatever reason your photo just doesn’t do it justice.

It could be any of these reasons… 

  • not enough time on the shoot – you just weren’t comfortable
  • constantly distracted – happens if you shoot at your desk, people call, barge in… you never get settled
  • didn’t really like the photographer – perish the thought, but they may not have been the best “people person” and wound you up
  • no story or context – shooting on location can add a lot to your shots, tells the viewer more about what you do
  • poor photography skills – could be one of a thousand things, but it just doesn’t work as an image…
  • the most popular – you hate having your photo taken, and it shows!!! 


BiY Members We’ve Helped…

So how to get around these obstacles… ?

Well here are a few of the BiY Associates we’ve helped in 2013 – have a look at the video, it’s 3 minutes long and has music played by the Chicago Blues Brothers, so check your volume first!



Prep for the shoot…

Each of these shoots were different – but have the same roots where we’d chat about:-

  • what business they were in – what made them different to everyone else, their niche if you like.
  • what their strap line or USP was – Paul’s the “ideas man”, Claire “keeps you out of jail” etc.
  • where to do the shoot – Gayle does “secret shopping”, so why not use a shopping area like Leeds’ Victoria Quarter
  • anything business-specific photos they are after – e.g. shots of them presenting, or meeting clients
  • the “look” they are after – usually suggesting something formal to wear, something less formal… maybe just a few different scarves or ties to add variety.


How effective shoots work…

So after we’ve come up with the location, look and general theme – it’s shoot time… and no one is a natural at this straight way… well except Claire Turner… and Louise Turner… must be the surname!

So here’s how to prepare…

  • Book enough time – we’re only talking a couple of hours, or maybe 1 if you’re really busy.
  • Don’t have a hugely busy day ahead occupying your mind – if your mind is elsewhere, it shows in the photos
  • Turn the phone off… if you can… great photography is all about “raport” and a call can break that in an instant.
  • Get a photographer who’s work you like – ask for recommendations, then check out their portfolios. Recommendations will filter out any “duds”, and portfolios will show you their skills
  • Ideas – if you’ve seen a shot you like, send a link to the photograph! We’re a creative breed, and love to share and develop your ideas!
  • Use a variety of locations – be prepared to move and change, it totally transforms the dynamics of the shoot and you get lots to choose from. A walk of 10 feet may be all that’s needed…
  • Chat a lot – about anything… preferably things what evoke nice thoughts, as that will reflect in your expression.

All that said, the “look” is down to how the photographer lights, shoots and processes the photo – and the “feel” is down to what he/she says to you!

End Result…

Firstly, hopefully you’ll enjoy the experience, despite your initial misgivings.

Then you’ll go away with :-

  • your own personal library of great photos
  • new shots to update Linked In, Facebook and Twitter with
  • pride of place on your website – remember, it’s all about you after all so show your face and make people WANT TO PHONE you
  • more people clicking on your linked in profile – great shots get more clicks
  • great shots to send to the press when they write articles on you
  • increased “perception” online – poor shots damage, great shots enhance.
  • your personality captured and seen by everyone
  • a visual story – if you’ve use locations and props cleverly, you can say so much in a photo


To finish – here’s a collection of photos of people just like you, business owners and directors, who all said “I hate having my photo taken” and felt unconfortable at first, but by the end of the shoot actually said they enjoyed it – and now use the photos to promote their business.


So you want to be a pro photographer… what they don’t tell you

After running a workshop on Anglesey in the late Noughties, I got chatting to a professional photographer from Somerset. Great guy, had a few beers and his main comments on his 20 years in the photo business were

  • stock photography wasn’t worth doing any more and
  • assignment pay rates had dropped and
  • not to even consider going into photography as a career – it’s “dead on its arse”

At that time I was a reasonably well paid software engineer and was pondering what to do when we inevitably got made redundant by Lloyds TSB, who’d just bought HBOS.

Well with absolutely no experience in business and 7 years of shooting everything from cars to kebabs, October 1st 2010 hailed the end of my IT career  – and then nothing…



The 10 things they don’t tell you

1  – The Nothing

There’s a lot of “nothing” after you leave your job. No bosses gives you work, no one except call centres offering free insulation, your mum or mates ring, no deadlines and generally nothing happens.

That is unless you make “something” happen.

If you’ve been employed, you’d always lie about being a self starter, working well alone or in a team – no CV is complete without such twaddle. But on day 1 of the business you really do have to be a self starter. No one will ever know you exist otherwise.

And if you stop for a moment – everything stops till you start again.

It’s wierd


2 – You have no clients

You may think you have, you have probably done a few canvases, shot a dog or 2 – maybe your cousin’s kids and a few weddings have bought you that new camera.

But you quickly realise that those client’s walls are full, those weddings only happen once and those kids don’t need another photo for a year or 2.

These income streams are fantastic for amateurs wanting some more kit – but for all the bills, food, petrol and insurance costs, it just isn’t enough to survive on.

You have to find LOTS of weddings, or LOTS of families, or LOTS of people needing prints of you work – or if you go commercial, lots of business needing your particular skills. That’s a whole new kettle of fish….


3 – Dead Man’s Shoes

Believe it or not, there are other photographers out there working.

The chances the very people who you want to get work off are the people who use these photographers. Why would they risk changing a tried and tested photographer to use you?

It’s really hard to get into these places, people will say “why don’t you try schools”, without knowing that every school already has a photographer who does the job for them. Why would the school change?


4 – You will make no money

Possibly the most shocking thing they don’t tell you is that you will make very little or no money in year 1, possibly a little more in year 2 and if you are still in the game – year 3 may look rosier.

Do not consider starting photography if you like eating out, expensive drinks, holidays, prestige cars or regularly seeing your mates in the pub – unless you have a fortune stashed away or a partner with lots of cash.


5 – You really have no idea what to do

Write that business plan – everyone should go through that torture – read it every day.

Until you actually start doing something, you don’t know whether it will work, or more important, is something you’d enjoy.

You may start doing family portraits and going to people’s homes with a projector to do the “hard sell” on prints – invest on a Mac, projector and screen, only to find you detest kids or hate the sales part. Hands up, I did that, wasn’t for me… expensive experiment, though quite like the projector still!

You can plan all you like – but only when you “do something”, do you know whether it’ll work.


6 – Scary Networking

I now know it’s the most effective way of getting known and winning business – but at first, root canal work or watching TOWIE was preferably to “networking”.

You get your suit on, you get up a stupid-o-clock and go stand in a room of strangers who all look tired, and are already talking with their backs to you.

So you stand there, pouring coffee as the nerves kick in – what do you say? You are bound to make a dick of yourself? It’s hot in your suit – you feel your brow getting wet… GET ME OUT OF HERE!

Then someone comes over and saves you – only to launch into their sales pitch. Usually something where there’s no common ground too – it’d be ace were it a creative agency who need photos all the time.

(I’ll just add that after a few years you realise that everybody “knows people” – so you may not have a direct overlap with them, but you will with their network – so don’t avoid anyone, engage them for a while, they may be the link to your big break! )


7 – Everyone has 1000 ideas and knows better than you

It’s all well meant – people like to help. But you will hear the words “have you tried…..” at least 10 times a day for your first 2 years.

If you have any Bi polar friends, this can get amusing – I think on one manic night my mate came up with over 50 new business ideas – just wish we’d written them down as some were good.


8 – One person – 50 roles

So you know how to take photos, you can answer emails – but who

  • does the Twitter campaign,
  • manages the BLOG,
  • updates the FACEBOOK page,
  • designs the flyers,
  • prints and distributes the flyers,
  • keeps the website content up-to-date,
  • takes all the calls,
  • packs the kit into the car,
  • cleans the camera sensors,
  • charges the batteries,
  • liases with the clients,
  • does the shoot on time, in budget and to breif,
  • Goes networking,
  • Does the networking followups,
  • sets up the lights on the shoot,
  • fetches and carries,
  • spends hours in lightoom and photoshop
  • etc….

Well…. it’s actually you. You do all of that – get used to being a polymath!


9 – How much do I charge!!!

Possibly the biggest thing they don’t tell you is how much you should charge.

How much do you feel your work is worth? Possibly an impossible question to answer – and even professionals of 20-30 years standing will tell you it’s still a struggle!

The truth is it can be a total nightmare to work out – you clearly need to know how much you need to survive and keep the business running, so you do all those sums and come up with your monthly or weekly amount, then price accordingly.

All well and good – then you get out there and your market aren’t biting… why?

It could be one of a million reasons – are you too expensive, too cheap (that happens… ), have the wrong shots on your website… you don’t know.

Do you have “priced packages” on your website – risking competition nicking them, or do you keep it “price on application”.

Do you go for a day/time rate?

Do you include editing?

How many shots do they get for their money…


If you’re thinking of going pro – start thinking about this NOW… do your homework, it’s not easy…. is your work as good as that bloke down the road who charges £750/day or are you only worth £300/day…..?

There is no definitive answer by the way…. I do a mix of packages and time deals, depending on what a client needs… preferring the simplicity and transparency of packages.


10 – Are you any good at photography?

Oh yeah – can you “really” take a good shot?

You can get so much positive feedback from your friends on Facebook that the actual quality of your work is lost in the drifts of electronic love.

How many terrible singers populate the early stages of X-Factor? They’ve all been told that they are amazing by friends.

Do you want to be that photographer – the one who’s been told by their 1500 friends that the un-level, blurred, poorly composed photo of that ugly boat was “lovely” or a “stunning capture” ?

I saw several of these in my first couple of years of networking – proudly clutching their blurb books of weirdly dressed children against white walls, or cringe-worthy and uncomfortable boudoir shots with white vignettes and spot colouring on the lips. You could see people across the room looking at them in shock – tactfully saying they were nice and trying to get away!

Now to make money, you don’t have start at day 1 matching the quality of £10,000/day photographers with £1000000 studios and teams behind them – but you need to be able to demonstrate, via your portfolio, that you can create a body of work with consistent quality and style.

If your work is “all over the place” style-wise, like we all are at the start, then you’ll confuse everyone. It is, after all, the style they are interested in – they want new photos to look like the ones you did for “Fred Bloggs” in your portfolio – so you should be able to recreate that style for them. it’s your visual CV.

What you will eventually learn is that “niche” is everything – a CEO I saw speaking said “get big, get niche or get out” – he ran the Co-Op and was called Peter Marks. Now finding that niche may take a while – so be prepared to deviate and change your plans till you find it. Be brave and stop doing the things which take ages yet bring in no money. Ask for help when networking – meet people for coffee… find out what’s hot and what’s not… or sound out your ideas…

You need to be able to use your camera like it’s an extension to your body – things like F-stops and shutter speeds are not instinctive and second nature, are you sure you’re really ready to stand in front of a CEO of a huge company and his team – especially if you’re not entirely sure how to set up lighting for their team shot?

Sure things go wrong, have you go the knowledge to recover most situations? If a flash smashes and you’ve only got 1 left, do you know where to put it to get the job done?


Phew – we got there…..

So there you go – 10 slightly tongue in cheek things to expect when you quit your job and start your new photography business. I’ll leave it to you to decide which bits are true and which imagined 😉

The truth is that you need:-

  • to be a good or great photographer first, then you can concentrate 100% on the hard job of building the business. If you’re struggling to get consistent results in the simplest of situations, get practising and maybe go pro next year instead?
  • need to be different or special – niche, niche, niche….
  • money to fund the first few years – or live on a friend’s floor rent free.
  • to be a people person to both win work and then to get the best from the people you photograph
  • to love photography – really love photography – you will be doing it a lot, any doubts, stop now!

But most of all – and I hate to say this as it’s such a hideous chiche – you need that positive attitude keep you going when the “nothing” hits your or that client cancels….

Can I Drill Your Teeth?

The answer is of course, yes. Give me a dentist’s drill and I’ll have a good go at it! Never done it before, but I used drills in Woodwork at school, and many times on the farm I worked as a kid.



Would you let me do it – based on that experience?

I’m guessing not…. and really, you’d be wise to go elsewhere.

Who would you trust?

So who would you trust to take a spinning piece of metal to your most sensitive bits?

  • A joiner – they use drills?
  • Maybe an oil rigger – they use drills?

How about someone who knows what they’re doing and have years of experience doing it – maybe a dentist?

They know what to look for, what needs fixing, how to numb your tooth, how much to “drill” away and then how to fix it. They’ve got some cool stuff these days too – no more syringes…. I digress though!

Choosing someone to drill your teeth comes down to expertise, track record and experience, backed up by testimonials and examples of their work. Dentists just have a lot more tooth drilling experience than the rest of us.


So why do so many people trust friends or contacts who own cameras with their photography?

Ok – there is no risk in the of extreme pain of drilling too far into your mouth, but the same concept applies to creating images as to dentistry.

We can all use cameras, we do every day when we upload our Facebook lunch photo – or that shot of the dog balancing a Toblerone on its head. It doesn’t mean we’re any good at it – and if you closely inspect most photos your phone takes, they will be soft, lack contrast and desperately need that crazy vintage instagram effect.

Camera is an instrument….

Using a camera compares to being a musician – everyone can probably play a ditty on the piano or strum an E Minor chord on a guitar, but get them to play something more complex and they fall down.



You need the technical ability to play an instrument – that is learned over years, not the instant you pick one up. So learning how the thing works is essential – and with photography, it’s much more than just hitting that shutter button.

It starts by assessing the ambient light, is it good or do you need to change it… what colour should the added light be…. err… and about 1000 decisions later you hit the shutter.


That’s the technical knowledge.

But there’s more to it….

Sure you can “learn” piano to grade 8 and reproduce any notes that appear on a score, in the right order (unlike Eric Morcambe) – but unless you can express feeling and emotion through your playing, you may as well use a sequencer (they’re the things that play midi files – think “robot”).

That’s the differentiator between photographers – the ideas they have, the angles they choose, the position they choose to put their flash(es) in, the arrangement of the location, the “banter” they have with the sitter, the way they interpret the brief, the interaction with the designer or art director.

All this is the creative side of image making – which is totally useless unless you understand the technical side!

Double Whammey Required…

To get the best possible images, you need a technical and creative mind.

  • Just Technical photographers produce perfect soulless photos.
  • Just Creative photographers rely on chance to get their image, and “when” it works, it looks amazing.
  • If you have both, you can visualise AND create that image.

Back to Teeth….

Like drilling too deep into tooth pulp, the pain poor photography can inflict on your business will have repercussions.

  • Poor shots on your website say more about your business than the “content” of the photos – people see them and either they don’t “get” what your message is, or just think they look bad and that’s their first impression formed.
  • Do you want your team sat twiddling their thumbs waiting for an inexperienced photographer to get their act together? Time is money – the experienced photographer will quickly know how to react to a huge array of situations.
  • The inexperienced may have to experiment with the lights and camera in an unfamiliar situation, just to see what happens – wasting not only your time, but also producing unpredictable results – relying more on luck than judgement.
  • Everyone is on Linked IN and Twitter now – if your photo is dull and boring, what impression do you think potential clients will have of you? Experienced people know how to light you and make you look great.
  • Poor product shots never enhance….

Dentists are expensive aren’t they?


Well they can be – but if the alternative is a Bob the Builder with his Makita drill and 1/8th inch bit – you’d probably agree you’re better off paying to get the job done properly…

And remember – photo may only last 1/200th of a second – but the knowledge to create it may have taken 20 years. Isn’t that experience worth paying for too.


Austria Workshop – The Lake at Kufstein

The lakes in Austria tend to be green – a bluey, greeny Jade kine of colour.

But on an overcast day, they weren’t really shouting “colour” at us – so I decided to create a series of black and white images from our morning walk around the lake on the German border.

The passers by reassured us that the wind would clear the are of mist, but alas it never came.

So we had to re-think our approach, doing a more “nature” based shoot than the stunning landscape we had in mind.


First off – shooting with wider apertures across misty lakes made for a decent shot – here focussing on the tree in the foreground left, the background fades with mist and lens blur.


Another shot on the same theme – this time the subject is a lot further away so the lens blurr is less pronounced.


Ferns always look good – these were tired and brown, I knew a mono with the reds/oranges increased would make them stand out.


Square crop of a bench… again with very wide aperture of F1.8


Long shutter speed on a tiny stream which fed the lake – this was 30 seconds with a 10-stop ND filter on


Still scenes and blurry people


Not entirely sure why I like this bin, but I do!


Lots and lots of fungi around at this time or year


Strange little fern like plants – with Matt Netherwood in the background

_MG_0055Red berries became black with this mono conversion

So there you go – when the light’s not playing ball, it’s often time to change tack and get creative with nature. Also, try shooting RAW but change your camera style to Black and White – that way you’ll concentrate more on the shape, light and dark areas than the lack of colour… which is the most important thing in most photos really.


Photographic Therapy

Snow Blind?

I’ve used the term “snow blind” a lot recently – it’s refers to that moment when you’ve been shooting the same thing over and over again, to try to get that “perfect” shot – usually for an art director or designer who’s looking on.

You’ve tried all sorts, move the lights, changed the background, stood on a ladder, led on your stomach, added in all kinds of things…. and it’s still not quite working.

That’s snow blind….

Doesn’t happen often – just now and then, usually after a sleepless night or something!

Clear the cobwebs

So you take a break, grab a coffee and chill out for 5… then get back to it.

All good.

But how do you get back to being your creative self after a long day on a job….?


Well a great way to “reboot” is to head out somewhere and do something totally different.

So on Monday I got everything done in the office headed out east to see if there were any nice crops or round bales to shoot.

Totally changed everything – no flash, no people, no cars, no goal… just me and my camera bag.

Fields and Bales….

It was the most changeable of days – clouds hiding then revealing the sun constantly. Great fun to capture as your canvas was never the same for long.

Tradition dictates that you’d use tripod, ND grad filters and polariser on an ultra wide lens for big bale shots… which I did for a short white… but then decided to use a 70-200 F2.8 lens, wide open, to line the bales up with trees in the background in different way.


It got to the stage where I was just making shapes out of the elements in the shot – rather than shooting “the bale” I was shooting “a triangle of things”.

Its more an excercise in composition when you boil things down to this level – like going back to basics. Really good fun, we should all do it occaionally.


I called in at Fairburn Ings, a place where they do everything possible to ruin the photographer’s enjoy mkent of the area, filling in 2 lay byes I used to frequent, and building fences which block great views…

Whilst there a fantastic double rainbow arrived – and I had no foreground.

Long Exposures

I admit to owning a 10-stop filter… there, it’s out…

These are black discs which attach to your lens and make your exposures about 1000 times longer. Popular with landscape people as they make clouds go surreal, people disappear and water milky in the extreme – yet stationary things remain totally unaffected.

So I tried it on some wheat, which stopped still as the clouds moved. That was nice.

Also tried it on Ferrybridge Power Station – where it smoothed out the steam plumes and clouds to give something rather odd.


Ok – there’s a swan shot too… it was at Fairburn Ings car park


Oddly enough, I hear of amateur photographers losing inspiration far more than professionals getting jaded… we don’t get time to get bored!

But if you’ve been on a project or theme for a long time and are starting to get snow blind, I’d strongly recommend going somewhere and getting back to basics – experimentation is the gift “digital” gave us, so get out there and just try stuff you’ve not done for years.

It’s amazingly theraputic


_MG_6473 _MG_6467 _MG_6464 _MG_6460 _MG_6454 _MG_6449 _MG_6442 _MG_6425 _MG_6402 _MG_6387 _MG_6383 _MG_6381 _MG_6374 _MG_6373 _MG_6366

Top Tip to Keep Your Portrait Sitters Happy….

This may seem a bit obvious, but having taught many people flash/portraits, it’s the number one reason why you get bored looks on your photos….

Don’t look at the back of your camera all the time

You need get the lights right and checking this on camera is fine.

But once you’ve got the lights right, try to take, say, 20 shots before you look at the camera again.

The reason for this is “rapport”. It’s a term used in NLP which basically means you are both “in the zone”, communicating on higher level.

This happens in Photography when you start to shoot – talking, saying “wow that looks amazing”, moving around, looking through the lens… building their confidence, making them laugh, get them saying “prunes…. whatever you do….


You look at the back of the camera, and the rapport balloon bursts…

Only do it when a natural end comes to that phase of the shoot. You hit rate will sky-rocket

For 4 more great top tips – CLICK HERE NOW


5 Portrait Tips…

I teach and demonstrate flash and portraiture so see a lot of different approaches, good and bad, from the delegates.

The main thing to remember about portraits is that the thing you are photographing is alive and can be “manipulated” by your actions.

So these 5 tips are not technical – but are about how to interact with the sitter. You can apply them to all people you photograph, though if you’re paying a model, it may be less important – but you will definitely get better results and have a great time if you follow these.


Talk to them – a lot!

Ever had an uncomfortable silence on a date?

Imagine how bad that silence is if you’re nervous and being photographed…

If you talk, talk about anything, you are taking their mind of the situation – you’re helping them relax.


Don’t look at the back of your camera all the time

You need get the lights right and checking this on camera is fine.

But once you’ve got the lights right, try to take, say, 20 shots before you look at the camera again.

The reason for this is “rapport”. It’s a term used in NLP which basically means you are both “in the zone”, communicating on different level.

This happens in Photography when you start to shoot – talking, saying “wow that looks amazing”, moving around, looking through the lens… building their confidence, making them laugh, get them saying “prunes…. whatever you do….


You look at the back of the camera, and the rapport baloon bursts…

Only do it when a natural end comes to that phase of the shoot. You hit rate will sky-rocket


Give/Get feedback constantly

You can plan outfits, locations, lights and everything else meticulously, I recommend you do, but if it’s not working you need to give feedback on how to change things. It maybe their seating position, stance etc.

That’s all part of “posing” and is on page 1 of  “how to take portraits”

You can get a great 2-way feedback going if you show the sitter shots on camera – usually at the start of each “set up”, it’s good to follow this

  1. Set the lights up and test
  2. Take 2-3 test shots
  3. Show the sitter – get feedback and change
  4. Show sitter – thumbs up
  5. Shoot and don’t look at the camera back for a while

I’ve struggled to explain what’s wrong many times.

If you “show” them on camera what’s wrong, the message is 1000 times clearer.

So go over, say how amazing they are, then point out what’s wrong – maybe those shades look wrong, or their hair is out of place… showing them helps explain.


Even better, they can see themselves and tell you what they don’t like.

The answer is “Ah yeah, great point, what would you change?”

It takes the guess work out of it – get them to tell you, then you can get it right for them.


Ask open questions

Another soft skill to get people talking is the “open question”

Put simply, it’s any question without and “yes” or “no” answer.

Few examples

  • “What do you do?”
  • What’s your role in the company?
  • What’s your favourite shade of grey? – bit left field, but see the reaction 😉
  • What’s your dream holiday location?

It’s a little like the things barbers ask you…

But asking questions can cause different facial expressions… and that’s what we’re capturing in a portrait session. If you want a serious face, then as something serious… sad, ask something sad… (not often you want that really).

When you ask the question, have the camera in position and focussed – you may only have 1/4 second to capture the reaction…


Read their body language

You get used to this after a while, looking for signs of what they are enjoying and what they are uncomfortable with is a make or break skill.

For example, I shoot on location a lot so get passers by looking in. With performers, dancers & musicians, you’ll see that they usually don’t really react negatively to this – but with a more shy person, you’ll see them tense up or even walk away.

Be mindful of this

You only get great shots when they relax… so move on if this happens.

Another thing with location is watching for when they’re getting bored. They’ll look down, not be so engaged and generally have a disconnected feel. What they’re telling you is that they’ve run out of ideas in that location, or are genuinely bored.

It signals that you either need to move to a new location to refuel their ideas tank, or it’s a wrap, and you pack up there and then – before they get really bored!



So there are a few tips to help you help your sitters relax and enjoy the experience

Photography is fun – and if your sitters are not enjoying it, then remember the 5 points above and get talking to them !

Which lens should I Buy?

Want some new kit?

If you’re a “kit monkey” and have unlimited funds, you may as well stop reading this now.

However, have financial limits, here are a few things to ask yourself when looking to buy a new gizmo for your collection.

small canon 500

1 – What “extra” will it enable me to do?

This is the big one for me – what could I do with this kit that I can’t currently do?

Let’s take a “fast prime lens” as an example. This will allow:-

  • blurry backgrounds
  • shoot in darker conditions
  • shallow DOF creativity
  • pin sharp shots
  • small, discrete for street photography
  • lightweight for travel


So they can open up quite a few opportunities.

Conversely, there are things like “sound triggers” – devices which shoot when something makes a sound – like a bursting balloon or water droplet.

Now these things are cool – put some flour in a balloon, burst it and capture the shot of the flour cloud. Then set up your water droplet experiment – wow, you can get cool effects.

So they do enable you to capture a very specific thing – but is that enough to justify their cost?

Make a list of stuff your new kit will enable you to do, then sit on it for a while – make sure it’s worth it.


2 – How often am I likely to use it?

We all buy kit on a whim then months later find it gathering dust.

Take a “tilt-shift” lens – these are specialist items, used for architectural, archival and some landscape work. They’re really expensive too – around £2000 for a new one.

Being honest with yourself, how often would you use it?

For architectural photographers, it may be in constant use – others, it may never leave the kit bag.

The “sound triggers” mentioned above – you’ll probably use them once when you get them. Then never see them again till a mate comes round. Show them how cool they are…. before returning them to their bag, never to be seen again!

If it’s going to get used once or twice a year – why not just hire one when you need it?


3 – Do I need this “level” of kit?

We all aspire to top-level lenses and kit – but do we really “need” it?

This will vary depending on how passionate you are about a subject – if you are a bird photographer, dedicating hours in hides to get the perfect shot, then spending £1000 on the best tripod and head system, £5000 on a fast super-telephoto lens and a body with excellent autofocus may be worth it.

If you’re a general snapper who occasionally shoots birds eating peanuts you’ve put out for them, you’re probably better with something a little cheaper. A general “long zoom” lens maybe all you “need”. Or perhaps get a 1.4 times converter for £200ish to get you a bit closer to the action.

However, if you shoot sports and action and are always in the wet, you may “need” a waterproof body, like the Canon 1D series – the 5D image quality is on par, but get them wet and they stop working… in this instance, buying the expensive kit is needed.

Put your money where you spend most of your time – and invest more in lenses than bodies if money is tight.


4 – What am I going to use the resultant images for?

Investing thousands of pounds in professional bodies and lenses may be overkill if you never print or sell your shots. There’s nothing wrong with taking photos for pleasure and to share online – but do you really need 36 megapixels if they only ever get shown on Flickr at 1000 pixels wide?

Think about what your ultimate goal is.

If you’re shooting for bill-boards, then you may need a Hassleblad with a 60 megapixel back.

If you may occasionally print something out at A4, then my old Canon 10D (6 megapixels) did a fine job.

Again, shooting with better lenses reaps more benefits (in many instances) than spending lots on bodies.


5 – If I slept on it would I feel the same in the morning?

And finally – are you bored? Been looking on EBAY all day and just fancy a bit of kit for the sake of it?

Or has that new lens been playing on your mind for weeks?

Use the “sleep on it” test before hitting the “buy” button. I’ve saved thousands of pounds over the years.

Photographic retail therapy is a very expensive and ineffective way of inspiring you to go take photos – they best way is to get your shoes on, pack your bag and go out to take photos. Force yourself… don’t blow the credit card and expect the new kit to make the difference.

However, if it’s been niggling away for weeks, or years even, then maybe it is worth the investment.



The only person who can decide this is YOU – hopefully these questions will make you think before buying something you’ll never really use.

A sizeable group of photographers are motivated by the technology, numbers and reviews, rather than creativity, human interaction and the joys of “taking” photos. So if you are in the former group – then go for it, feed your lust for “new toys”.

How I did This…. 5 Photoshop Steps


So you can do most things in Lightroom these days.

I thought I’d meddle with this shot of the Royal Armouries to show a few things you can’t do in Lightroom…. yet!

Start point

canal and armouries


So to get to this point, you could probably have used Lightroom. Its been through these steps…

  • Capture – 1 minute exposure
  • RAW Conversion using ACR in Photoshop
  • Vertical correction using Lens Correction Filter
  • Conversion to black and white using Silver EFEX 2
  • Selective sharpen – High Pass Filter method, using masks
  • Selective Contrast – curves adjustment layers (6 of) using masks

So you can get this far with Lightroom, but here are 5 things I then did in Photoshop…

1 Add writing

I don’t often do this, but it seems popular, so I did a Google for “handwriting brush” and found some free brush presets which had writing.

Created a new blank layer – set the foreground to white and flow/opacity to 100% and just clicked on the scene a few times with different brushes. One’s full of maths…

2 Cracked Texture

I added a photo of some old paint which was falling off a wall – its a great texture I captured in an abandoned bank. This went on top of the writing and photo, with the blend mode set to Soft Light to give a softer effect. I faded it in and out with Opacity Slider and came up with about 80% opacity

3 Coloured Texture 1

I thought a bit of colour may add an extra dimension, so found a texture layer with a flare like set of colours. This added a too much colour and darkened the image a lot. So I used a Hide All mask to get rid of it, then painted in lightly to get a minor effect.

4 Coloured Texture 2

So the right had a slight hint of colour and extra texture, but the left was looking a little bare. So I duplicated the layer in step 3, flipped it horizontally and then painted in the effect on the left side too. Obviously a lot more colour on the left, due to the main focal point being on the right.

5 Frame Action

The little frame you see on there – I just play an “action” and up it pops… I clearly forgot to change the “title” in my enthusiasm to write this blog! But that’s the only manual part of the process. With Photoshop you can record complex or simple actions to play back at any time.


And here it is… you may well prefer the clean original shot, but it’s always interesting to see where you can take an image with a bit of meddling in Photoshop.



HDR Photography in Leeds… Armley


Famous for it’s monumental prison and a gyratory, Armley isn’t the first Leeds suburb you’d go shooting alone in – let alone on an incredibly dull February day.

I took to the canal first first, to see how the graffiti artists are doing – these walls change regularly.


Then down to the river Aire and over the footbridge for some more shots.

All these are HDR shots – which means “High Dynamic Range”, where we take a few photos at different exposures (brightnesses) the blend them into one. We run workshops on this – check out the next one here…

Oloneo and Lightroom 4

The shots were processed using Oloneo and Lightroom – Oloneo is a specialist HDR program, and Lightroom is a version of Photoshop aimed at photographers.

The rest of the shots here are not “edited” as such – but “synched” in Lightroom to show you that editing photos got a whole lot easier.

Basically they all have the same settings – same colour, brightness, contrast, vignette…

The only thing that’s wrong are the dust spots – so you’ll see blobs on the shots below. Dust tends to be the biggest pain these days – even on self-cleaning sensors like the 5D2.


_MG_0746-HDR _MG_0749-HDR _MG_0752-HDR _MG_0755-HDR _MG_0758-HDR _MG_0761-HDR _MG_0764-HDR _MG_0767-HDR _MG_0770-HDR _MG_0773-HDR _MG_0776-HDR _MG_0779-HDR _MG_0782-HDR _MG_0734-HDR _MG_0737-HDR _MG_0740-HDR


The Photography “Kit Obsessive”

Photographers fall into many camps, but one that really stands out is the “kit obsessive”.


These tend to:-

  • Talk incessantly about kit – above anything else
  • Buy novelty items they rarely use
  • Are never happy with their current kit
  • Motivated by numbers and specifications
  • Can compare and quote reviews of competing kit items
  • More interested in the tools than the photographic results
  • Are first to hear “new kit speculation”  blogs and forums
  • Always think “if only I had a….” rather than “what can I do with my….”

I’m sure every photographer enjoys using great kit – handling pro kit is like a pianist playing a Steinway, it’s a buzz you get from using the best there is.

The love of music, as with photography, is the creative process – the performance. The tool, be it a beaten old school piano or the £75,000 Steinway grand, is just a vehicle for you to express yourself. A great pianist will sound great on either… and vice versa.


The “kit obsessive” is, to me, missing out on the many beauties of photography – a few of which are:-

  • Finding a perfect, hidden location,
  • Telling a story in one image
  • Capturing the beautiful mountains,
  • Using light falling through a window,
  • Clouds creating amazing shapes,
  • Fleeting smiles from a beautiful model,
  • Waiting for a sunset, only for it to create the reddest sky you’ve ever seen
  • the moment a wild animal looks in your lens,
  • meeting  new and interesting people,
  • conveying awe inspiring power and beauty of a super car,
  • the reaction of the couple seeing their wedding photos for the first time
  • show the magnitude of a sky scraper…..

The list can go on and on and on…. But for me, not one of the true “motivations” is kit.


Example – What do you think about on a commercial shoot?

Imagine a PR shoot with a business person.  Here’s what you tend to focus on….

On these shoots you’ve first and most importantly to talk to the person – shake hands, smile, say hello…. Then keep talking as you set up the lights… Find out things you can talk about later in the shoot… find out what the pics are for, how they’d like to look, see if they’ve any example images…

Then you’ve to suss out the location… where looks good, how to light it, look for windows/mirrors and dodgy reflections – all the time talking to the client of course…


Then you’ve to shoot of course – probably using the same body/lens/flashes you’ve used dozens of times before…. That’s all on auto-pilot… leaving you to guide your client… get them talking about themselves, or something to guide their “mood”…

And that is the wonderful thing about photography – for that time, you have got someone in the palm of your hands, be it some aspiring model or (as I’ve had) a group of senior directors of a multi-billion pound company – no pressure there.

My point is about motivation and enjoyment. Just as a builder has the best power tools for his job, I have the equivalent in camera and lenses – fit for purpose. That’s not in question. It’s what drives you to take photographs that is.


If you are a “kit obsessive”, I implore you to take a step back; start enjoying photography for what it is – recording the light coming into a box.

If your “enjoyment” of photography is the gadgetry, you’re missing the true enjoyment; “seeing” the world around you.


Night Photography Workshops in Leeds

The most complete night photography workshop series in Leeds today?

Does your camera go into hibernation over winter? Join our Night Photography Workshops in Leeds. Embrace the dark to create amazing images!

We’ve listened to your feedback from the recent survey. People wanted….

  • a “collaborative” approach, one where we learn from each other
  • to know more about “processing”.
  • an end-to-end process – from capturing the RAW file to final edit

What you’ll learn in our Night Photography Workshops in Leeds

We’ve developed a 5-month course which has fun evening shoots AND review evenings

For the 5 practical nights:-

  • Learn about long exposures
  • Learn about movement – of camera or subject
  • Light trails
  • Light Graffiti
  • Painting with Light
  • Creative use of XMAS lights
  • Fun fairs at night

For the 5 feedback nights:-

  • bring photos from practical session to be discussed
  • work together to constructively discuss the good and improvement points on each photo
  • learn about cropping creatively
  • learn the basics of composition
  • learn how to do basic edits – Lightroom or Photoshop
  • learn about cloning and removing junk
  • Noise reduction
  • Sharpening creatively
  • and much more

It’s your opportunity to see both how to shoot at night, but also how to transform the shots in the computer. Even if you’ve been on last year’s night-workshops, you will learn a vast amount of new information.

The information we’ll be sharing over the next 5 months may completely transform how you work.

Full details on the dates and course content – CLICK here NOW! 

Chefs and Photographers – 10 Things They All Do

10 Similarities Between Chefs and Photographers

Everyone cooks, and everyone takes photos – so there must be some similarities between Professional Chefs and Professional Photographers… here are a few:-

1 – Everyone can use the tools

I’m not a professional chef, but I can use a hob, oven, knife and many other things you see in a professional kitchen….
I can cook a decent curry most days, lots of different thing with mince beef taste lovely….
Most people will have cooked – just as most people will have taken a photograph with a camera, be it the film cameras years ago, digital cameras of today or the little camera on their phone.
So the tools of both our trades are relatively accessible to everyone – leading many people to assume that getting better tools will make you a better chef/photographer.
Sure, a great knife with hard, sharp edge may slice through onions faster and with precision, but do your cooking skills increase because of that?
Just as someone going from an i-phone to £5000 professional DSLR will result in people getting sharper, better exposed pictures – but will they have any more interest, soul, compositional skill or message? Will they be able to handle awkward situations any better because of the better tools?

2 – Raw ingredients are relatively cheap

If you worked out how much the raw ingredients were in a soup, then compared it to the price you pay in a restaurant, you’ll probably think you’re getting ripped off…
Some things, like lovely steak or exotic ingredients may well cost a fortune, but in general, and onion and a potato is relatively cheap
A standard 10 by 8 inch print from many photographers starts at £20, maybe some doing them at £100 framed. The physical cost of the paper and ink is minimal, even high streets probably only charge £2 or £3 for a print.
Also, film costs have gone – digital cards can be filled, emptied, and re-used over and over….
So in both cases, the actual cost of the ingredients is minimal compared to what you “need” to charge

3 – Hours behind the scenes

Every day, well before the restaurant opens, the chefs will be planning menus, trying new things out, experimenting, prepping and honing their food to be the best it can be.
Photographers spend hours and hours after a shoot, firstly reviewing all the photos to choose the best ones, then going through each one, diligently editing them to either their taste or to fit the breif. A typical wedding with 1000 photos will take a good few days to edit and prepare the images ready to present to the couple.
What you, the customer, sees is the tip of the ice-berg

4 – You (should) pay every time you eat or use a photo

When you eat, and pay for a meal, that doesn’t mean next time you go in and order it you get to eat the same thing again for free. You pay every time you eat it. Simple common sense.
It’s the same with professional photography – you pay for the use of a photograph every time you use it. So if you get a nice photo of your building created and you want to use it for your brochure, you pay the photographer for that use. Then a week later, you fancy the same photo again, only this time on a flyer, you don’t get to use it again for free – you pay again, just the same as you would with a steak or pizza.
This is commonly misunderstood – when you “liscence” the use of a photo, you use it only for what you agreed. Any other use would be like going into a restaurant and eating a steak, then leaving without paying.

5 – You need to know what you want before you order

When you go to the restaurant, you choose the type of food you like first – italian, indian, chinese, tapas… the restaurant usually specialises in one or another type of food.
Then you look through the menu and choose what you would like – the price is on the menu and you can see what the ingredients are. With this information, you can give  your order to the waiter and they will bring the food in due course.
With a photography, you should be doing the same – planning what you need in advance of commissioning the photographer is a massive help as it focusses what the photographer will create for you. Also, you need to know how many photos you need as most professional photographers will price on number of images delivered.
So when you ring up, asking a photographer to come round and take some photos and giving you the results on a disc for £100 is a little like going to a restaurant and asking for “some food” for £10, then proceeding to order and eat everything on the menu.
You need to think of ordering photographs a little like ordering food – what style will dictate your photographer, just as your choice or restaurant dictates the food style. Then you need know how many you need AND what of, just as you need to know how many people are at the table and what they want to eat.
The difference with Photography is that we need to know the usage too – if the photos is going on the wall or if it’s going to be used on every bill board in Europe, we need to charge accordingly.

6 – Years of training to hone skills

This goes without saying – no one starts out getting consistently amazing results with their camera or pans. It’s hours of passionate practice that gets you there.

7 – Individual taste and flair

We all learn basic setups in photography just as all chefs will learn the basic techniques – classic sauces, how to cook different meats, how to set up a Rembrandt light and use a light meter to get the exposure…..
That’s like an author learning to write.
It’s what you do with these skills that sets you apart – the individual taste and approach is what separates us.

8 – No 2 chefs are the same

Follows on from 7
Heston and Gordon, both 3 michelin stars – one does classic, the other uses dry ice…. both amazing, top of their game, so different.
Same with photographers… we can all stand in front of the same model and get totally different results, based on ever move we make, every thing we say to the model, the light positions, the aperture….
You’re buying a creative person’s time and skill….

9 – Signature Dishes

Every chef has one of these apparently – the dish they’re proud of and have work towards all their life. The dish people drive across the country, or fly across the world to taste.
Photographers are the same – it maybe the way they work with models, their lighting, their photoshopping or something which gives them a distinct look which clients buy into. Bread And Shutter is an example – dark, broody processing, amazing lighting, textured and complex.

10 – Pioneers

There will be pioneers in every field of life – people who either work towards a goal or stumble upon something new – the result is the same, they break new ground.
Think of Bailey’s black and white fashion in the 60’s, a completely different approach to what went before. Ansel Adams transforming landscape photography with his Zone System approach. Chefs like the bloke from Noma in Denmark who are serving up whatever they find in the seas and woods that day or Heston’s snail porridge.
Pioneers in Photography can drive a whole “look” in the online community, Dragen portraits went around the world, Strobist has taken everyone’s flash off camera, Keith Henson took Ephotozine’s cameras down low for landscapes and put steam engines on the map once again – but in a black, gritty, human way.

So there you go – 10 things chef and photographers have in common – there’s probably more, but I need to go shoot…. a Chef now!

Landscape Interview….

Just been asked to do a piece for Ephotozine, on Landscape Photography. Thought it worth sharing on here with you all.

It’s just 3 questions, with my ramblings on each.

How did you get into landscape photography?

I’m from the countryside originally, rural Lancashire by Pendle Hill, so was always at home there.

When affordable digital came along around 10 years, and petrol was cheap, I used to spend most weekends in the car pottering around the dales and north York moors, places I’d been through but never really seen. Spending time on my own meant I could stop where ever I wanted, for however long I needed.

I started to work out what I enjoyed most, mainly waterfalls and rivers back then.

Also, city shooting all seemed a bit daunting back then – I didn’t really know what I was doing and people would be annoying, so getting away from it all in a field or on a hill was far more relaxing.

We’re lucky up here in yorks/lancs, lots of variety in landscape and coast line within one hour – from rolling dales to barren limestone pavements/


Talk us through how you set up and take a shot?

Around 2006 I found a formula which produced repeatable results – using a polariser, ND grad filters, cable release, tripod and anglefinder to get low down and create images with ultra-wide angled lenses (typically 17mm on full frame).

Most of the landscapes I’ve sold and have appeared in magazines follow the formula – and I’m sure many landscape photographers on Ephotozine do too.

I tend to look for something in the near ground as foreground interest, preferably with some kind of lead into the shot – a line in the sand, a rocky crevice, a road marking or just a rock and stick. Water does the trick too of course.

Then in the background, I’m after something as the focal point. Too often it’s a tree…. though in the lakes, the mountains themselves are interesting enough.

you’d shoot that at f16, focussing 1/3 way into the shot, so you’d get everything sharp and a longish shutter to blur motion.

Of course, only shooting at sunset to get the magic, warm toned light.

Now, a few years on, I’m less formulaic really – I’ve shot many landscapes with a 500mm F4.5 L lens, even had an EC with one! It’s more about reading the conditons and choosing the right kind of shot. If it’s a poor sky, then I’d use a long lens to find something interesting without the sky. I like long shadows, so look for those in photos – sometimes driving up a hill and looking down below gets you some really cool long shadows of trees.

What draws you to the photos you take?

Landscape is fun rather than work – so it tends to be done when I get spare time, or feel the urge to get out there. It’s often stop-offs on the way to places these days, maybe taking a longer route and setting off earlier to call into old haunts.

I still love water, wiers always look great, though when the light gets really low, you can end up with a silhouette and white water if you’re not careful… enter HDR!

What looks good to the eye often doesn’t look great on camera – I’ve had mates take me to these really wide exposed areas, bigging them up, only to find that there’s no photo there. It’s got the “wow that’s a huge open vista” appeal, but there’s nothing really discernible to shoot… Joe Cornish has his Roseberry Topping in every shot so he has that point of interest.

I’ve often used Drax/Eggborough/Ferrybridge power stations on the M62 for this. They’re huge, the biggest in Europe, so can be seen for miles around.

I think you need something to interest the eye, certainly intitally anyway, then they can have a wander around the shot.

So something with presence draws me, though not always the obvious tree or boulder!

5 Tips – To Pose, or not To Pose?

A few people mentioned to me that they’d like to know more about “posing” people, and in on of the McFade Training Taster workshops last year, I covered some ideas – maybe ones which surprised people.

The “by the book” posing techniques will produce just that – by the book, traditional shots of people. They remind me of those Victorian family portraits, everyone looking stiff and uncomfortable.

With creative photography, the McFade approach, we’re after something a bit more interesting – wanting to reveal something about the person rather than duplicating tried and tested formulae.  So these tips will hopefully help reveal a few of our techniques….

1 – Be friendly, fun and open

When taking photographs of people, you need to bear in mind that they are sentient objects, ones which move, talk – yet more importantly, have feelings and react to how you behave around them probably more than anything else you do.

So Tip One is to be friendly, interested and try to establish some kind of “rapport” with your sitter.

2 – Give Positive Feedback

If someone does something which looks great, tell them; tell them they look amazing – this positive reinforcement will enourage them to do “more”.

If they are doing everything wrong and look terrible, don’t tell them – but make suggestions, point out something you “like” – usually hair, shoes, clothes… it should be obvious. One example was a girl who totally hated the camera, to the point she nearly ran away… she had amazing auburn hair. I said I liked it, and did she ever play with it – you see girls chewing the “twiddling” with it… she said yes, I told her to “twiddle away”… 5 great, fun shots straight away.

3 – Show them the pics

Add to the feedback by showing them the pic on the back of your camera – if you’re getting results they don’t like, you need to know ASAP – if they don’t like them, ask them “what specifically” they don’t like, or what they would change. It gets them away from just being negative, to making them think about what it is they don’t like – you can then change it!

The positive result is for them to love the shot, and this happens more often than the negative result. You get them on side – they start to trust you – you can start to tell them to do “stuff” and they do it!

4 – Get them acting

If you’re running out of ideas, then ask them what their favourite film is – or if they watch Corrie – or anything that gets a reaction. Get them to tell you which characters they like… then get them to pretend to be them!

I love Goodfellas and Taxi Driver for guys – everyone loved their “You lookin’ at Me” impersonation, or Joe Pesci’s “How am I Funny” monologue…

You’ll get people who react badly, that is a shot in itself – screwed up faces are fantastic! Then you’ll get those who just love it, get acting and make all kinds of gestures!

5 – Move regularly or change props

If you’re on location then you’ve got the beauty and challenge of infinitely varying backgrounds. When you exhaust the potential of one background, and it always happens, don’t soldier on pointlessly – move on to somewhere new. Even 10 paces can create something totally refreshing.

You can’t really do this in some studios, so the equivalent is to throw in new props – this is why you want to be getting them to bring a change of clothes – shades, cigars for props, hats etc.

A quick change is magical!


So it’s not a list of “stand with your body at 45 degrees and look over your shoulder, hand on hip and chin up slightly tilt head to left…..” kind of instructions.

People are people – so it’s up to you to treat them as humans rather than maneqins. Given the right encouragement, you can develop a shoot pretty fast and get great results.

Standing in one position, in silence, twiddling with lights and your camera is going to leave your sitter cold and uninterested, so get stuck in with your worst jokes and best flattery…. it’ll transform how you shoot!

Learn more in August

If you want to know more, we’re running a Flash Portraiture session in August where we’ll offer more advice and tips – you can book here now!

What does McFade do anyway????

What this Leeds Photographer does…

Medding with smart phones takes you to some strange places….

ON this occasion I found an app which did little “mind map” type diagrams, which I thought would be fun for the website… I was white flag waving after 5 minutes of meddling on a little phone screen, so hit google and found “XMind”, a full blown program which does all this kind of thing. It’s free – give it a go… and quick to use.

So started off by plotting out Mcfade Photography – see what I actually do, as people do ask from time to time. Which is nice of course.

Here are the results for our Leeds Photography business… it’s not really finished yet, but these things never are – with every new idea, a new map update’s needed

Click to see full size in a new window

Ok – so next I thought about the training side of things – maybe these things would help focus what is taught on our workshops….

Here’s what happened…

Not sure whether they’re any use to anyone other than McFade Photography, but if you were ever in doubt as to what’s on offer, it’s all here!

5 ESSENTIALS every photographer MUST know before using Off Camera Flash

Off Camera Flash Essentials


Off camera flash is a popular technique at the moment, taking speedlite flashes off the camera, onto light stands and using radio transmitters to trigger them. It’s getting easier and cheaper – with budget brands bringing flash to the masses

Technically, there and awful lot to understand to get fantastic results – so here are 5 things you absolutely have to understand


1 – Understand manual exposure

285 austin hayes shoot 2

You need to understand how your camera works and “manual exposure”.

A challenge in itself if you’re not used to metering. To control the brightness of the background and the flash-lit areas, Manual Exposure is the most effective way to work.

2 – Understand where to put the light stands


How near should they be, what angle should they point, should they be high or low… you can put them pretty much anywhere in the 3-dimensional space around your model… and they all have different effects!

3 – Understand flash power


You’ll need to put your flashes in Manual power output and give work out how much power they need – the power output is in fractions of “full power”, so you get 1/1, 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, 1/16 etc. usually down to 1/128

4 – Understand light colour


The white balance question – if you’re shooting in sunlight, it’s a different “ambient light” to that of moon light, or street lights, or fluorescent tubes…. It’s a question of “white balance”, and we have ways to change the colour of flash light to whatever we need. Or use a mix of white balances to creative effect.

5 – Understand Light “Quality”


The “shape” or “Quality” of light from your flash can be manipulated using accessories such as umbrellas, snoots, barn doors, beauty dishes, grids…. there’s a lot out there. Basically these help control the direction of light, how much it spreads, whether it’s a “soft” light (creating smooth edged shadows) or “hard” light (harsh “mid day” like shadows) – the use of these can become your signature look.

So those are the 5 areas we cover in our 1-2-1 Strobist Training – it is a lot to take in if you’re new to it, so 1-2-1 time is the most effective way to boost your skills and transform your photography.



Here’s an example set-up from a recent 1-2-1 training session in Leeds.

  1. Exposure set for a dark space – low ambient light – so higher ISO, wide aperture etc.
  2. One light was “high to the left”, the other was “low to the right”
  3. Power was low as the scene was dark and didn’t need much power output
  4. Mixed light colour – Warm (CTO) to the left, cool to the right (CTB)
  5. Hard light all around – adds drama, the hard shadow under her nose shows this

Example 2

  1. Used a very wide aperture, F1.8, so needed ND filter to lessen the light flowing into the camera – need to keep the shutter speed to 1/200th to synch with the camera
  2. Simple single light at head height
  3. Power was extremely low as using F1.8 – 1/64th power.
  4. No colour added
  5. Soft light from a shoot-through umbrella

Yorkshire Landscape Photographers…. is Gordale Scar Impossible to Capture?

Gordale Scar…. Can you do it justice?

Going around “that corner” for the first time and seeing inside Gordale Scar is breathtaking. It’s as near as we get to Yosemite Valley in Yorkshire!

The pleasant, flat walk along side the burbling stream doesn’t really prepare you for cavernous geological marvel that awaits you.

It’s a huge gouge in the landscape, some think it’s a collapsed cave, though that theory has been generally abandoned in favour of the land being carved open by millennia of water erosion.

So as a photographer, you walk around the corner and there it is… can you capture that feeling in a shot? Can you convey the size of the thing?

Well I’ve tried many times, in many conditions, and its not an easy location to convey, so a great challenge for your imagination and technical skills.

First off, there’s not a lot of “variety” in the rock – it’s the same “stuff” and looks the same where ever you point your camera. Unless you add points of interest, like waterfalls and people, it can look rather “samey” and 2 dimensional.

Second – scale. People are a great benchmark for a viewer – if you’ve got someone climbing up the waterfall, it instantly tells us the size of the fall. Most landscapers wait for people to get out of the scene… here, I’d do exactly the opposite.

Point of view… I’d encourage you to wander around the cavern and find different views. When you get to see the “upper waterfall“, it’s a magical experience.. I’ll leave it at that.

Anyway – here’s a set of shots from 2007, the day England got beat by South Africa in the Rugby World Cup. Should give you an idea of what it looks like… but do any of them do it justice?

You’ll have to go take a look for yourself 🙂

Where Should Photographers Invest Time Online?

What’s Most Effective….

So many different websites for photographers these days…

There are many varieties :-

  • “Fun” social media – casual chat on facebook, twitter, foursquare etc.
  • “Serious” social media – Facebook Business Pages and Linked IN
  • Blogging – share your wisdom
  • Website galleries – show those shots off!
  • Photo community sites – 500px, ephotozine, flickr
  • Youtube and video sites – moving piccies!
Or maybe it’s better to go out there doing SEO for your website, forget all about your photos and get people to your site ?

Social Media

Well “Social Media” will probably get the biggest audience…
  • Twitter – you are “visible” to the whole world. Add on hash tags you may be seen by a specific audience too. You can even directly name people you want to see the photos! Now that’s powerful.
  • Facebook for fun – you can get very active and fill your wall with lots of photos. This can lose you followers if you go too far! Also, try to choose your photos wisely – ones which evoke a reaction. Either exceptional quality, funny or caption it with an amusing/emotional remark.
  • Facebook Pages – these need promoting more and more now – i.e. you need paid adverts. I have 2500 followers on my page, posts usually reach just 25-50 of those unless they are promoted
  • LINKED IN – I’d use this to promote “useful blogs” than to just post photos. Linked in can be a very dry experience, so the odd photo will brighten up the experience for people!
  • Google + – the best thing ever for SEO, though no one will ever read it… apparently.
  • The rest – Tumbr, Pinterest, Instagram… these all have their place, and tools like IFTTT can “share” your photos to these automatically, saving you time… worth a look.


We should all do this – you can get free blog accounts on Blogger or get yourself a WordPress site.
SEO is, apparently, all about “great content” these days – so creating genuinely useful lists and tips, or even reviews and discussion, is what we are all supposed to do now.
So next time you are about to broadcast lots of photos, how about writing a short blog with a gallery of images, instead of just posting the images. You then use social media to advertise it – with one of those “click bait” titles of course.
Here’s why:-
  • you control image quality – facebook compresses your photos and makes them look terrible!
  • you drive traffic to your site – more hits, more SEO
  • more links to your site – every link and share to your piece generates SEO
  • get a readership – if you’re pretty regular, people look out for your content!
  • become an “expert” – as you build your library of articles, your credibility grows….
  • appear “busy” to the world – a busy blog gives the impression you are busy and successful, a business to hire!

Making money!

So if you want to “make money” online, where should you spend your their “online time”?

Not an easy one with stock photography being saturated – but there are opportunities:-

  • on-line galleries – Photobox, red bubble etc. do tee shirts, cups, prints etc.
  • affiliate marketing – get commission be recommending and linking to other people’s products
  • stock libraries – its time consuming, so pick one which has a LIGHTROOM upload plugin to speed the process
  • sell guides or training – if you’ve got something to show, maybe get a course together and sell it on-line
  • books – Blurb hooks up with LIGHTROOM so you can quickly create books and upload them to their library, and there are many others out there.

It’s a challenge – the main one is being found in the first place and taken seriously

Over to you…

What do you think – have you had any especially outstanding results from a particular channel online?

Lets see if a WordPress BLOG post can actually stimulate a discussion…!

9 Profile Photo Types – Which Are You?

LINKED IN – TWITTER – FACEBOOK – all need a great profile photo

We all social media – we’re all on Linked IN, Facebook and Twitter, they all use profile photograph to identify us.

In most cases, this photo is the first impression people have of you!

So what impression is your profile photo giving?

profile photo

Recognise Yourself – The 10 Profile Photo Types?

1 Egghead – No Picture

Some have no profile picture, this leaves the picture holder empty or with a default grey silhouette. What does this say about you?

Having no avatar can give messages like:-

  • “You’re hiding something” or
  • “You’ve not bought into this yet” or maybe even
  • “You’re a spammer”

So if its not a good idea to leave your profile empty, you could still hide by putting up a stock images, perhaps a cartoon figure or something on those lines. This gives a more powerful message than the empty avatar, but you have to beware of the message its giving.

2 Cartoon Hero

Maybe taking on the persona of Captain Caveman is amusing for a few days, but perhaps a potential client seeing that on LinkedIn would get the wrong impression.

An exception would be to use your company logo, but only do this on company accounts, not personal ones. It promotes brand consistency across your social media platform.

3 Pet-Tastic

Other common avatars are peoples pets, which are usually very endearing and often invoke an “ahhhhhh” reaction, but it’s not really appropriate for business (unless you’re a vet or run a cattery/kennel)!

Maybe use these on Facebook – but not your LINKED IN profile.

4 Little Jonny

People with new children often use their baby’s smiling face as an avatar, which again gets the “ahhhhhhhh” reaction, and can act as an ice breaker if other new parents are looking at your profile, but its not really “business”. For some non-parents, the prospect of “baby talk” can be quite off putting.

profile photo

5 Be Brave – Show your Face

So we come to the portrait – are you big enough to let people see you?

With digital cameras, phones, webcams and probably the next generation of toasters, we can now all capture images digitally and get them online very easily. Just about every website has made it so incredibly easy to do so, its second nature.

6 DIY Photographer

Most portraits are “self portraits” that follow this formula:-

  • taken at arms length
  • the camera high above the sitters head,
  • often with a bit of arm on one side of the shot,
  • certainly an un-natural shoulder position and
  • usually with a facial expression they only ever have when taking a self portrait!

They are fine for the social side of the Facebook, they are friendly, engaging, easy to relate to and you can change them every day, keep people guessing what look you will have on the next day. But for business they’re not giving that “slightly serious” look which “means business”. All a bit heath-robinson.

7 Group Shot

Another favourite is the group shot (or just your face cut out of a group shot). These are usually taken in the pub after Tequilla Slammers, arms around your mates, bleary eyed, rosey face and generally looking very very merry. Fantastic for social use, conveys that fun loving persona and the fact that you’re still able to party hard… but is it business?

8 The Wedding Shot

How about the “wedding shot” – not just the bride and groom, often the guests and especially the bridesmaids. These are photos of you looking at your very best, its a wedding after all. But what does it say about you…. maybe you only look good at weddings, the rest of the time… ?

profile photo

9 Get a Professional in

So we come to the professional photograph, this certainly gets across a feeling of credibility. The fact that you “value” your profile sufficiently to invest in great photos says a lot.

But not all “professional photographers” are the same. Its a bit like assuming that all authors write the same book or all artists paint the same pictures. They are a diverse breed, with ideas bubbling away in their brain like a cauldron full of magic potions. Some may be amazing at shooting woodpeckers or the Dales at sunset, but would have no idea how to work with a “human”.

It’s definitely worth researching the local pool of photographers rather than plumping for the first one you see.

You can do this easily on their websites, Flickr, Facebook and even Twitter. Google is an option, but the photographers who are on the top pages are there because of great SEO, not necessarily great photography.

Also ask for recommendations from your network. Take care to look at their portfolio, because the “look” they achieved for the guy who recommended them may not be what you are after.

Another approach is to go through your friend lists on social media, look at their avatars and find ones you like the look of, then message that friend to find out who did their shots, they’ll be more than happy to pass on their details.

profile photo

Get the Right Shot by Talking

Many business profile shots are quick affairs, shot in the office or in front of a blue background, shirt and tie (or equivalent for women), lighting which you got in your school photos and an expression that’s “old school” or solemn.

That’s fine and what many people want, especially corporates – it gives a strong impression and means business, but it doesn’t make you stand out from the crowd. Standing out for the entrepreneur differentiates them from the competition.

Ideally you should have in mind the kind of look you are after so you can talk it over with your photographer. You don’t have to get technical, maybe just mention a TV program or bring a magazine with photos in, or just try your best to say what you want to look like, that’ll give the photographer a great head start in his thinking process.

profile photo

Its also important to mention the use of the photos, as you can use them for things other than just your avatar. If you want to use the shot as a header image for a page on your website, then tell the photographer and they can leave space to the side of you. If it’s going to be a vertical panel down the side of your web page, the photographer can do that too.

If you want a “sense of location”, then organise the shoot at that location, so that you can have iconic buildings as your backdrop – there’s no rule stating that you need to be in the office or studio, we can go anywhere and make a studio quality image these days.

profile photo

If you need to convey a selection of moods, expressions or looks, discuss this with the photographer – they will make sure they cover all those as the shoot progresses.

If you need some business-wear and some casual-wear shots, bring along a change of clothes – maybe just a different top or coat will do for location shoots, a full change is possible in the studio. You can always nip into the a hotel and change a top in their toilet if need be.

Think about where you are most comfortable or where people will associate with you – maybe its in the city, maybe a class room, maybe in the board room, maybe on the fells and moors, maybe in the bar…. you know best.

The more information and ideas you have to start with, the more you can aim for and the more likely you are to achieve the desired image…

…..and a strong image WILL give a fantastic first impression to anyone viewing your profile on social media