How to Get Started as a Model – The Test Shoot

How do you get started in this industry?

I’m sure you’ve seen some of the amazing photos gracing magazine covers and advertisements. You might even have a few friends who’ve modelled for various modelling sites and agencies. But what do you really need to know about getting started?

The first step to getting started is to create a portfolio

This means taking those first steps, getting some great photos with great photographers. Have a look locally for creatives, use Instagram and social media to see who’s working near you. Politely approach them.

Once you have your portfolio, you need to be selective about who you shoot for

Think about the style of images you’d like – match that to the photographer’s portfolio. Mix it up, some photographers do great natural light shots – others, like me, prefer dramatic lighting. Shooting for a completely new photographer is great fun and usually free, but you may end up with shots you can’t use, so just be wary of wasting time.

You can’t just shoot anywhere. In fact, you should only shoot at the best photographic locations

Be aware of this – a studio is usually a safe bet, and using a great location like the tunnel we did Ngary’s test shot in was pretty epic. If you use your back garden, it may not work so well…


The most important part of this is to relax, have fun, and be natural. You can’t force creativity! Happy shooting!


Here’s a test shoot and rekke I did with Ngary in a tunnel beneath the M1 – such an exciting location, with the corrugated, curved walls creating all kinds of patterns.

Modern Property Photography

Like many people I have used HDR or purely ambient light for property photography for years, when time permitted I would use a a flash or 2 to add some light to the rooms but the results were always a little bit garish, bright and weird shadows would get in the way.

Flash and Ambient light combined

This relatively novel technique is where are you capture all the ambient shots you would normally get for an HDR and also so use some very powerful bounced flash light to 2 to create that flash image of the room as well.

I would recommend you do as many flashes as as you see fit whilst travelling around the room because the more you have to play with in Photoshop later the better the results can be

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

Nicola Paparazzo – Greek St. Shoot

You’ll never get an opportunity to photograph on Greek Street in Leeds like we did this January. The UK was in lockdown and this end of Leeds had virtually nobody there. We had the place to ourselves.

Greek Street is one of the busiest bar areas of the city centre, bustling with people eating and drinking, weekdays and weekends, with tables out on the street in the summer months.

Scroll to the end to see all the shots “large” – or read on for the story 🙂

1 Middle of the street

I wanted to try shooting using my 24mm tilt Shift lens to get the background looking all very architectural, whilst Nicola was conventionally lit with 2 to flashes in the foreground. This was the not most creative (or easiest) technique I’ve ever done, because you have a totally static camera on the tripod. No ability to focus automatically, or zoom, so you really are just watching Nicola do her thing, and clicking the button now and then!

I did try three or four different tripod positions getting lower and closer with each iteration.

2 – Manhatta Bar Windows

I put the tripod away and put the 70 to 200mm lens on, which is pretty much my Standard fashion and portrait lens, and we found a black marbled building with great windows, called Manhatta bar. Behind this we also had lots of black marble on the Dakota Deluxe hotel. Double Marble… if that’s a thing.

Setting up a small softbox as of the front light and a gridded reflector as the rear light, we created loads of photos in this space.

3 – Big City Background

Next we moved a little bit away from the wall so we can see more of the street and buildings.

4 – Dakota Deluxe Garden

Dakota deluxe has an outdoor bar area which we used as a backdrop, it looks like you are in a green leaved garden! The backlight is pointing at the greenery because it’s very dark in there and just look like a black background without illumination.

5 – The Alchemist Steps

The final space was the steps up to The Alchemist bar steps and entrance.

This was metallic, the wall looks bronze, and very dark compared to the other spaces found. The light setup is very simple for this, the same small softbox I’ve been using all along at the front and the gridded reflector at the back, creating a spotlight with very little spread, so the background remains pretty dark.

We got loads of great shots at this point…. here are a few

And that was a wrap.

We created over 80 keepers from the shoot – which I think it a record for a McFade-Paparrazo shoot 😉 Or is that McPaparazzo!

All the photos

GUEST POST – David Garthwaite – Fine Art Photography

I’m a fine art photographer from Yorkshire in the North of England, I started photography in January 2017 after being disappointed by the quality of images from my compact camera, from a once in a lifetime trip to Iceland (once in a lifetime because of the unpaid motor tickets I left behind). As soon as I returned, I purchased my first DSLR and I have not looked back since.

It took me a couple of years to really get on top of the editing technique, to understand the tools I was using not just technically but to achieve the results I wanted. It’s a constantly evolving process, at every point along the way I’m thinking I’m producing the best results I’ve ever done, but in 6-8 months I can look back and see things I was doing wrong. For me thats a big part of the enjoyment, the constant progress. It requires a lot of dedication and effort but the progress makes it worthwhile.

The process for producing images like these breaks down to 3 stages, each of which is key to getting the right result. Images can take a few hours to edit, so it’s best to tackle these on different days.

Preparing the image for editing

The is doing some tidying up on the image, removing distractions, levelling/straightening, fixing imperfections (such as dust spots), flattening out the dynamic range and cropping.

Making Selections

This process is based on making selections of different parts of the image, so they can be edited individually, accurate selections are very important to a good result so this process can take time (1-2 hours at least).#

Dodge & Burning

The contrasty look is achieved through dodging & burning, this is done using gradients & masks to achieve the very smooth transitions. It is by far the most satisfying part of the process as you start to see your vision for the image come together on screen.

When it comes to having the vision to create the images, that is something that (for me) has built up over time and with practice. In the past I’ve attempted to recreate images, to put myself in the thought process of the artists whose work I very much admire, a bit like someone wanting to be a guitarist would start by playing artists songs that they love.

Now I’m looking to other styles of artist to bring in inspiration, the inspiration can range from ideals to bring in to editing of an image or just a feeling that I get from their work that I want to somehow capture in my own images. Michael Kenna and Ansel Adams are the two obvious influences, but I also take inspiration from Goya, Casper David Friedrich, and Rembrandt. Also I’m drawn to the darker works of HR Giger and Beksinski. To name a few.

Lockdown has been a fantastic opportunity to reflect on my approach, revisit images I created nearer the beginning of my journey and reprocess with the greater knowledge and experience I have now and consider the direction I’m going in the future. 

Fine Art Image of Valencian City of Arts and Sciences

I have trips in mind and a new range of images I want to create, tutorials to write and lots of club presentations planned which I really enjoy, I’m really looking forward to where the next two years of creating these types of images will take me.

See more of David’s work

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

Leeds Pubs in Lockdown

Leeds always had a thriving hospitality sector packed with innovative bars, traditional boozers and amazing restaurants. I’ve been part of the scene by probably drinking a little bit too much in many of these places, and also photographing quite a lot of food and drinks for bars, restaurants and hotels over the years. I even made a brand called shoot the chef for the food photography side of my business.

So as well as as being gutted that we cannot go out socialising in my favourite pubs during lockdown, I’m also well aware of many amazing people I’ve worked with who are seeing their businesses going through hell at the moment. Several clients have already closed the doors permanently. But with a little luck, the funding from the government will save the vast majority and hospitality will bounce back stronger than ever before.

The New Saturday

Having nothing to do on a Saturday these days, other than go for a walk, I decided to to take the camera into the city centre and photograph pubs as I walk past, to record this strange moment where living through. These are taken in the late afternoon when when things are starting to warm up on a Saturday, so it’s really strange to see places like Greek Street and Call Lane totally empty.

So here you go. A lot of photographs of Leeds hospitality in hibernation.

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.

The Madness of Share the Shoot…

What’s it all about?

About a year ago I came up with an idea,  it was based on years of photographing companies and what had worked best. It offered individuals who may be just starting out (or ready for a new set of images) 5 photos of them for a bargain price… and other people to act in their shots.

I called it ​”​profile shoots​”​ to begin with​, this soon evolved into the catchier “share the shoot

The idea was that everybody needs a decent headshot, but there are many other Powerful images a small business owner could use, if only they had other people available to be in the photos.  Quite often in the past when shooting 121, I would get people to bring a friend along to act as a client so they could use them in a photo.

So in February 2019 I pulled together 6 friends from my network and got a room at Croft Myl Halifax and gave it a go. 

The first session

I produced some worksheets with questions ranging from “​what do you do​”​ to ​”are you in favour of Brexit​” – all designed to stimulate reactions and conversation, then essentially played musical chairs with the six people, giving them different seats and a turn at the head of the table. 
This turned out to be ​a​ natural networking environment, where everybody just chatted and we ended up​ not ​needing the worksheet​. They were all animated and relaxing without any input from me​ – I could just concentrate on the lights and photographing each person. ​
We let everybody stand in front of a flip chart to get some nice presentation photos, which I see popping up daily in LinkedIn, so they proved to be really useful photos. 

After that we found a space upstairs where people could do a one-to-one chat with one of the other delegates, these prove really useful because a photograph of you listening to a client conveys a very positive message. 

Finally, we arrived at the headshot section and everybody is laughing and joking with each other and totally relaxed, so the headshots are massively easier to do than usual. Most people when you first meet them for a headshot are nervous and it takes a while to get a decent photo. All that work has been done in the first half of the session.

The fantastic thing about doing this at Croft Myl is the variety of backgrounds Vicky and the team have created around the building, we have a yellow, purple, grey, blue, brick and even a roof garden to use as your background.

By the end of it, I have usually taken between 500 and 1000 photos, totally knackered and rather red in the face. I have set up about 8 different lighting scenarios and entertained 6 people for 2-hours – I love it it’s a real buzz, a performance almost, and it’s great to see people making connections, exchanging contact details and hopefully doing a little bit of business in the future. 

Why do I only charge a fraction of normal headshot for this?

I keep seeing competitors in the local area doing headshot days where they charge £100 or £150 for just 1 headshot and wonder if I’ve gone mad doing this…  

Well, the main reason is that this is really a “taster session” or a “lead magnet”, where I’m giving true value to a wide range of people. Over a year this will hopefully raise awareness of McFade and introduce me to lots of people I’d possibly not meet

If each month 6 people update their LinkedIn profile and mention me, it’s 6 new LINKED IN networks who may click on my page and who knows where that will lead. 

I also like meeting and helping new businesses, many of whom could not afford a one-to-one session, so this is a way to to get them looking “the business” without breaking the bank. 

If I do get a full 6 people, the combined fee does add up to my usual rate anyway – so whilst everyone is getting great value, I’m still remunerated fairly. Sure, if all 6 did a 1-2-1 shoot it’d be better financially, but that’s not really the point.

It’s more about planting seeds for the future and awareness than out and out money making.

The pitfalls…

I guess one risk that people who were prepared to spend £££ on a bespoke photoshoot may opt for this and I miss out on that. The only other thing is people sometimes don’t understand what is included and what is extra, despite there being a big list of it on the website and a video. 

I have been asked to do all kinds of editing above and beyond what is included so have to have that awkward chat about it. 

Pro retouching of a photo can cost more than the shoot if they need a lot of work – this is definitely not included!

There’s more on this in the “Who it’s not for” section below.

What’s in it for people who come…

Why they booked…

I did a survey at the start of 2020,  and obviously the biggest reason for coming was the price –  I live in Yorkshire they are careful with money here! But with most headshots costing at least £100 each, and you get 5 for under £100, it should be a no brainer to book

A close second was having other scenarios than headshots in the photographs –  this means that people working on their own can have pretend clients or even pretend board meetings in their marketing images at no extra cost.

​Many thought it looked like fun from the marketing ​I had put out on the website and LinkedIn too.

Most Useful photos

The most useful photos are the headshots and many have found the “one-to-one chat” and a mix of other photos really useful too. We’ll keep going with the board room as that’s where people relax and get to know each other – plus we do get some great shots in there.

We are constantly evolving and trying to to get different photos for people, which weirdly means asking people not to talk when they are facing the camera… you are talking your face can look a little unusual in a photo. The more animated you are, the stranger it can look – so we’ve changed how that section works now after feedback.

Who is it “not” for?

​With 6 people and limited time available, and being in one building for the whole session, there are obviously limitations which we cannot avoid​. This is an entry-level taster product, not the fully-fledged McFade photoshoot you get in a 1-2-1 session.

You can only shoot a limited amount of scenarios and cannot spend too long creating specific shots for one person, at the expense of other people’s time. So if you do have a detailed and specific list of images you need, but they don’t really fit into the boardroom, one-to-one meeting or a headshot scene, then when we would recommend doing a one-to-one shoot. We can then dedicate the time you need and get the right location for you. 

If you accept that the photos you get are going to look pretty similar to the ones on the website and the videos we have created, then when you should be fine. If you need a different background or something unique – then a 1-2-1 is for you.

We aim to make the best possible photos for 6 people in 2 hours, which means that we can’t deviate too much from The Script. If you are in any doubt just drop us a note before booking and we will help go to you towards the correct shoot for you

The Future of Share the Shoot

Copright of McFade Photography

So profile shoots evolved into share the shoot, it was essentially a lead magnet, but it now seems to have become a popular product in its own right. Initially, there was a challenge each month to get enough people through the door to make it work, but hopefully, with enough word-of-mouth and a few Facebook Ads, we can keep this going throughout 2020 and help lots more people.

All but 1 in the survey thought the shoot was hugely underpriced for what you get, so I’d book soon as I’ll be acting on this feedback 😉

How to choose a photographer from the 1000's recommended on LINKED IN

Recommendations are King

The best way to source most products and services these days is to ask for recommendations based on people’s experience.

It can certainly filter out solutions, products and providers who have given a good experience. I’m pretty sure everybody who is buying a new pair of headphones will read the Amazon reviews or checkout What Hi-Fi reviews before buying them. 

Photography Recommendations

When hiring a photographer it can be a little bit different – what is a good result for one person may be entirely wrong for another person. This could be in terms of style of image, or the photoshoot experience. When you put a call out for photography recommendations everybody will recommend the photographer in their BNI/4N/Networking group, or someone they know, which is what you would expect. 

Do some digging…

The great thing about photography is that being an entirely visual medium, you can pretty quickly go to their websites to check out the style and standard of their work. You can do this with designers and musicians as well of course – so it’s a step you should always take

When you put your next call out for a photographer on LinkedIn and get the 1000 recommendations, you already know that they are “probably” decent people because they have been recommended. But do take that second step of checking their work. 


Photography can have three effects

  • firstly it can damage your brand if it is of a poor standard or gives the wrong impression
  • secondly it can be a good filler for a website, like magnolia paint in a house you are trying to sell – its safe but doesn’t really “wow” anyone. This is probably most common.
  • Thirdly it can look outstanding, imaginative, delicious, dramatic, beautiful, majestic – whatever your brand needs and creates a massive impact on your marketing and website. 

You can pretty quickly find this out when you go to their website and see previous projects. Are you looking at the images you’d want on your own website? Are you settling for something safe and predictable when you could get something disruptive and exciting?

Photography is all about getting noticed amongst the noise of modern life – it has to have an instant impact or your’ll be swiped past in under a second. People don’t have time or the attention span to look at bland things when a cool thing may be one scroll down in the browser

You may as well invest your money in something that is outstanding rather than just a magnolia filler for your website.

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.

How to organise your photos like a pro

Finding old photos can be a pain – if someone asks if you’ve got photos of Liverpool (or something like that) in future, how quickly could you locate them in your file system?

Or if you’re looking to create a print of Ingleborough, could you find all your photos of the hill and quickly make a decision on which to use?

Well if you’re ever in this situation, this video may help.

If not, it’s useful anyway to see how others work – and this is my workflow from getting photos off the memory card through to importing and giving the files meaningful, findable names.

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




Same Photo Cooked Many Ways

Sunset at Gross Glockner – Tirol – Austria

Do you ever take a shot and never manage to settle on a final edited look?

Well this happened with this shot – it’s one of 3 brackets taken at sunset with a 17mm TSe lens… so nice and sharp, oodles of data to play with…. but what to do?

Flat HDR

First off I did a HDR blend and flattened the image out a bit…

Way too much detail in this and it looks a bit bland. But a start point to throw it into NIK plugins

NIK Efex

So I ran them in this order:-

  1. DFine – noise reduction
  2. Pre Sharpener
  3. Viveza – contrast and colour

Managed to keep the shot from burning out or going black, but still not quite there yet.

Colour EFEX

I took the above and tried a mix of filters in Colour EFEX – I think there was

  1. Detail Extractor
  2. Pro Contrast
  3. Graduated Filter
  4. something else I can’t remember

So you can see we got to a darker place and reduced the colours a lot. The process introduced a fair bit of noise in the sky, so ran it through DFine again!

Analog EFex

Had a go at taking the Viveza output through Analog EFEX this time…

Not sure it worked as well as the colour efex version. Analog is better for quirky portraits and city shots than landscapes.

Rewind – HDR EFEX

So for this one, I flattened the original RAW files, selected all 2 and exported them to HDR EFEX.

I’m not a massive fan of this plugin, it tends towards the unbelievable end of the HDR spectrum, which is no good commercially.

But for landscape… well here’s where I got to, after a while meddling. It’s definitely a powerful tool.

MINIMAL with the dark HDR RAW

So after all the detail, how about making something dark and menacing.

The dark shot had the most potential – with fleeting light, deep reds and the snow just about poking out of the gloom.

So this is the darkest of the 3 HDR shots – the shadows lowered and colours upped a little. The highlights and white clip were meddled around with in LIGHTROOM ever so slightly to get texture – and we’re done!

Silver EFEX

No photo is complete till you’ve tried shoving it through Silver EFEX. This one looked pretty good with it’s bold textures in the foreground.

Well there you go – you can throw your files through any number of filters for many effects.

It’s down to taste which is best – I like the black and white, was a bit disappointed with what Viveza gave out for a rare change.

The power of Lightroom is that you can get lost, then just “create a virtual copy” and start afresh and see where it takes you



Tell us in the comments

9 Letters which define your business photos

Your business photos are your first impression

Get them wrong – you lose business

It’s as simple as that – people’s first impression is made instantly and will influence whether they bother to read your carefully honed copy and click “play” on that professionally produced video. Business photos are more important than you think

Visual Appeal…

Websites are visual things these days – design, video and business photos are essential components.

I’d argue that of those, business photos are massively important because:-

  1. Everyone “sees” the photos. The copy may go unread, and video unwatched, but photos are always seen – they always work. They are hugely important. 
  2. The impact is instant – impressions are made in under a second – photos have done their job before people blink
  3. People buy emotionally – a good photo bypasses our logical brain and makes people “want” something – and they don’t know why…. they just WANT it NOW!!!! 
  4. A photo can manipulate how your product/service is perceived – budget or luxury, fun or serious, modern or traditional.


The 3 Reactions to Business Photos in 9 Letters

1 – Eww

What is the impact?

You definitely don’t want this reaction. This loses business, it makes you look unprofessional, cheap, dodgy and maybe even a scammer.

If you can’t be bothered to look the business, why should we expect you to do the business

What to look for in your business

  • Your photo on LINKED IN are from a wedding, pub crawl, night out or with your newborn kid. Obvious selfies are bad, especially with duck-face-pouts.
  • Your photos are tiny and not sharp
  • Your photos are obviously out of date
  • Your team page has no images – why are you hiding? (Ok – on product websites, this is ok – but for services…. I’d expect to see you)
  • No consistency in the people photos – different looks, backgrounds, styles…. just cobbled together

What can you do NOW?

First off – any offending photos should be removed ASAP. They’re damaging your business.

Book a day to get new photos of everyone who needs to be on the site and linked in – either with a professional, or someone who can get consistent results. Even with a phone!

Update Linked IN first – it’s easy and a quick win.

Get a commercial photographer to visit and understand your business – they can help develop ideas with you. The “what” you do, “how” you do it and even the “why” you do it can be captured.


2 – Meh

What is the impact?

This is the usual reaction – meh means “whatever”, or “I have no opinion”.

This isn’t the end of the world, they are probably filling your website and not offending anyone. Like those graphs which no one looks at, they’re not going to motivate people to buy but probably won’t lose you business.

They will not win you any new business – you are going to have to rely on your video/copy/sales guys winning you business. It’s a missed opportunity.

You are “forgettable”

Don’t stand out from the crowd

What to look for in your business

  • Competent photos created by someone years ago, they’ve gathered cobwebs and look dated
  • Not that inspiring – they are “matter of fact” – wallpaper…
  • People and product photos against white backgrounds – very traditional, boring, expected
  • Don’t really reflect your business ethos – if you’re young vibrant accountants, why have photos from the 1950’s?

What can you do NOW?

A new photo creates a stir – getting new headshots and team photos out on social media will get hundreds of “likes” or comments on linked in.

Have a think about the “why, how and what” of your business first – then get in touch with us. We can help put these ideas into images.

Add some magic to your product shots – maybe show them in use, lifestyle photos always plant an aspirational idea. It’s just more exciting than traditional “product” shots.

Show your people “doing” stuff – standing awkwardly in front of a white wall look, well, awkward. It’s also a bit 1995. We’ve found photos of people at their workstation far more engaging, and less painful for them on shoot day!


3 – Wow

What is the impact?

You attract the right clients – people looking for suppliers will be attracted to like-minded businesses. If your photos match your values, then the right clients will come your way.

You can charge more – if you look, expert, it sets the scene and expectations.

Your Google analytics go through the roof – more visits, lower bounce rates, longer time spent on the site – because people want to SEE MORE

More connections on LINKED IN – do you find yourself clicking on people with decent photos ahead of those without photos, or with duff photos? Well, other people do the same! We all “search” linked in for business – “wow” photos get people asking to link more often.

What to look for in your business

  • Big images with the “wow factor” – you capture attention on the landing page
  • Images which fit your values – if you’re a cool, young team with a modern working environment, your photos make this obvious
  • Creative innovative photography – great lighting, editing and ideas
  • Outside the norm – they just don’t look like normal business images – they make you stand out
  • People share and comment on you more
  • Create a stir – be different, bold and remembered

What can you do NOW?

You just have a maintenance job to do – so more of the same.

Be careful not to stagnate – when new people arrive, make it part of their arrival package to get the photos done – and an updated team shot if you get one.

You will probably be great on social media, keep current with regular photos updates – maybe away days, new product launches or just create something to shout about


So where are you ?

Have a review of your images and if you’re “Meh” or “Eww”, drop us a line at – we can help create a whole library of new “Wow” images.

If you’ve got no budget

We have hundreds of free images for you to use at our Stock Library – fill your boots!

How to buy your first camera when you’ve not got a clue

So you want to buy a camera?

I get asked a lot about buying cameras. The main questions I ask are:-

  • what do you want to do
  • what is your budget

The first one is almost impossible to answer for most people – they have an idea what they’d like to do, but until you have a camera in your hands and you’re pointing at stuff, you can’t really know what you enjoy.

  • Maybe you want to be a wildlife photographer – but do you have the patience to sit in a hide for hours on end waiting for animals?
  • Maybe you want to be a street photographer – but do you have the confidence to photograph people who maybe don’t want photographing?
  • Maybe you want to be a landscape photographer – but have you got the patience to wait for great light, get up early for sunrises and stay up late for sunsets?

Until you’ve done these things for yourself, you can’t know. Sorry about that.

So what camera should I buy?

Image result for confused

I usually recommend getting a SECOND-HAND DSLR and a couple of “affordable” lenses – maybe from around 18mm to 200mm in total, so you have wide angles (small numbers – e.g. 20) for landscape and buildings, and can zoom in (bigger numbers – e.g. 200) for sport, nature and portraits.

There are “super zoom” lenses which range from 18-200mm these days – so that could be a good option.

This enables you to try many things without buying expensive, specialist equipment. Once you’ve spent time trying things, you can then invest in equipment to help improve the areas you enjoy.

Next steps… once you know what you enjoy

  • if you LOVE landscape, you can get a wider lens and some filters.
  • If you love shooting portraits, you could get a nice 85mm F1.8 lens.
  • If wildlife is your thing – maybe go for a super zoom, 200-400 (nikon) or 100-400 (canon).

I’ve not answered the question of which camera body yet…. that comes down to budget.

Budget…. ££££££££££

Image result for money

So to budgets – money dictates:-

  • how modern your second hand camera body will be, and
  • the quality of the lenses will be.

Camera Generations

Every year or 2, each camera does a “Doctor Who” and regenerates – a new version comes out, with new features and more megapixels.

For example – the canon 10 series started with the 6 Megapixel 10D in the early 2000’s, followed by the 20D, then the 30D…. it’s now at the 24 Megapixel 80D at time of writing. You will pay around £100 for a 10D and £1000 for an 80D – each model between will go up in steps. So a 20D may be around £150, a 60D would be around £400-£500.

Your budget dictates which generation you can buy. Older cameras tended to be simple, a bit like film cameras with a digital sensor instead of film. Modern cameras have more “stuff” and can work like your phone – where what the camera sees comes up on the back screen – this is called Live View.


  • Canon 5D – Canon 5D Mark 2 – Canon 5D Mark 3 – Canon 5D Mark 4 – Canon 5Ds
  • Canon 10D – Canon 20D – Canon 30D – Canon 40D – Canon 50D – Canon 60D – Canon 70D – Canon 80D
  • Canon 1D – Canon 1D mark 2 – Canon 1D mark 3 – Canon 1D mark 4 – Canon 1Dx  – Canon 1Dx Mark 2

Camera Ranges

Canon EOS range

It will be the same with each brand – you will have to do a bit of googling to understand what the model numbers mean – but in canon’s world you have:-

  • 1000’s – entry level, cheap and cheerful, plastic, limited functions for advanced photographers
  • 100’s – enthusiast level, small, plastic, but fully featured cameras – things like auto exposure bracketing are included
  • 10’s – semi-pro level – metal bodies, better controls like a wheel on the back for changing settings, full feature set
  • 5/6/7 – pro level – serious cameras with a serious price tag – they are fully featured, the 5/6 have a bigger sensor, the 7D is for action
  • 1D – top level – now the 1DX has united the 1D and 1Ds series into one mega camera which is weatherproof, shoots 10 shots a second, has oodles of buttons and is built to take knocks and still work.

So there are a lot of cameras out there – it IS going to be confusing if you start to compare Canon with Nikon or Olympus. I’d just choose a brand and then look at their ranges. Be mindful of your budget and then hit EBAY and get specific with your searches.

I usually recommend a canon 10-series, as these will have been bought by serious enthusiasts when new as they’re not cheap. They’ll probably have been cared for, they have professional controls so are easy to use and with them being metal, will be robust. Plus with a range which is 14 years old – you have everything from £100-£1000 to fit your budget. 

Camera Sizes

Image result for canon camera sizes

The idea of a camera is that you have it with you as much as possible so you actually use it. If it’s MASSIVE and HEAVY will you leave it at home all the time?

DSLR’s are pretty big – even the small Canon 700D is massive compared to your phone or most compact cameras.

If you are in doubt, go to a Currys or a Jessops and hold the cameras – find which fits your hand and one you can imagine carrying around. If the 80D is too big and heavy, then the 50D will be too. Maybe, in that case, look at other options:-

  • Lighter ranges like the 100D’s
  • A Mirrorless camera system – these are like DSLRs because you can change lenses, but smaller because they don’t have a mirror. Examples are the Olympus PEN, Canon EOS M, Olympus OMD, Sony A 5000, Sony A 6000
  • An advanced compact – like the Canon G series – they have all the right settings, in a small box. Usually can’t change lenses though.

I’d always recommend a DSLR first, but if you really can’t see yourself using it, it’s pointless getting one.

What people sell on EBAY

Image result for ebay canon camera kit

You will find people selling either:-

  • just the camera body
  • a whole kit – with 3 or 4 lenses, tripod, 10 batteries and memory cards.

If you get just a body, remember you will also need to buy a lens separately – could be good because you get the lens you want.

A kit does get you going faster and if it fits your budget, I’d just have a quick Google to check reviews of each lens (there are some amazing and some rubbish lenses out there) before making my decision.

Essential extras to buy

Image result for camera bags

When you get your camera and lenses, make sure you have:-

  • a bag – camera bags are padded and full of pockets – they range from dinky little things up to 2-meter tall mega trolly bags!
  • extra batteries – I’d recommend everyone has 2, better to have 4 or 5 – especially if your camera has “live view” where it works a bit like a phone, showing what it’s looking at on the back screen. That eats your batteries!
  • memory cards – again, make sure you have 2 in case one breaks or fails on a shoot. They’re getting bigger and bigger – 128GIG is now affordable. I’d get 16GIG as a minimum – they don’t have to be expensive and fast unless you’re shooting sport

Nice to have items

Image result for camera tripods

  • Tripods become essential if you’re shooting in low light, buildings or landscape – but hold back till you know what you’re going to shoot. A good tripod will be over £100 – maybe £200 – avoid cheap ones, they will hold you back.
  • ND filters, to increase shutter speed – so you can blur water and moving things.
    ND Grad Filters – to darken skies so you get nice clouds
    Polariser – these control reflections and make skies look amazing
    UV Filters – clear glass really, but protect the lens – if a pebble hits the front of your lens, the filter dies, but saves your expensive lens glass.

After you’ve been going a while and settling into a few niches, you can then invest in other bits of equipment to help – but I’d hold off in the early days.


My advice here assumes you have a budget – if you are wealthy and want the best new kit, then I’d recommend:-

  • Canon 5D mark 4
  • Canon 16-35 F4L
  • Canon 24-27 F2.8L Mark 2
  • Canon 70-200 F2.8L Mark 2

That should get you going nicely – and cost you many thousands of pounds.

In the real world, if you’re new and want work out whether Photography is for you then the above thought process is one which works.

I can’t tell you which make and model to get – you need to work that out based on your budget. If you’ve got £300, that’ll make the decision for you.

I can’t tell you which lens to get – you need to understand what you want to photograph most first, so get a general lens for starters – shoot everything you can, then decide. Then I can help.

I can’t tell you which other bits of kit you need – that comes when you know what you’ll be photographing.

But if you come on a workshop I can show you all my kit, you can see it in action and decide whether you need one 🙂



Mind Blowing Depth of Field – Tilt Shift Lenses

Tilt Shift Effect…

Most people have heard of Tilt Shift because of the miniature filters you get on camera apps. Ones taken from high up to make the world seem like a toy town – or like this where just a bit is sharp.
It’s a cool effect and very handy for creative souls – though for landscape and architecture people, getting MORE depth of field is usually the goal.

What Tilt Does

There are dozens of youtube on the subject if you google it, I did and ended up buying 2 lenses so be careful.
It’s actually a lot harder to explain than demonstrate, here’s an attempt…

  • Normal lenses have a “plane of focus” (the sharp bit of a photo) which is parallel to the camera sensor – so when you take a shot, everything at the same distance away will be sharp.
  • Tilted lenses have a plane of focus which is not parallel to the sensor. This creates a “line of focus” across the image, with anything either side of the line being blurred. The line can be any angle and the effect can be increased by more tilt or wide apertures

See – really hard to explain.

This video is long but he does explain what happens


My experiments in a field

Here are a couple of examples from a trip last night:-

  1. Close up wheat field using the Canon 16-35 and the Canon 17mm-TS – compare the depth of field
  2. Opposite tilt using the Canon 90mm TS e – lots of foreground blur and infinite DOF

If you want lots of depth of field then you can tilt the plane of focus to get the front to back sharpness.

If you want the exact opposite, less DOF, then just tilt it the other way and use the focus ring to move the line of focus around.


Would I recommend you buy one?

  • Well the elephant in the room is price – they start at around £1000 and go up from there. They are not really for the enthusiast – you need to be pretty serious to buy one, or better, HIRE one for a day and make the most of it.
  • Once past that – watch lots of YOUTUBE tutorials before you get it and be prepared for it when you get one. I’ve used one in the past without doing this and just got frustrated with the knobs and got nothing.
  • The creatives will love the blurring capability – food photography will be a different experience now I’ve got one of these
  • The purist techy photographer will love the infinite DOF you can get with tilt

The No. 1 Reason To Update Business Photos NOW!

New Business Photos Get You Noticed INSTANTLY!

Business portrait for Personal Trainer Oxsana

It really is that simple – investing in new business photos is like having a mini re-brand.

If you and your team all got new business photos tomorrow and updated LINKED IN, your engagement would go through the roof.

So what are you waiting for?

Try it – if you change your LINKED IN photo it tells everyone in your network, and they will all see you and (hopefully) say how great you look – but more importantly, you’ll be at the front of their minds for a short time.

Get everyone to do it, you can multiply its impact many times over


Ok – a few other reasons for new business photos….

1 Business Photos: Keep things current

Singer Arthur Geldard

A client who I photographed in Feb 2016 has halved in size – fantastic for her and she looks great for it. She has updated her Linked IN headshot so

She has updated her Linked IN headshot so all is well, but I stumbled upon her old photo and I bet one would recognise her!

It’s just one example of things which change over a year. If your photos are not refreshed annually, then they can be a bit embarrassing and not reflect who you are and what you do.

Conversely, new photos are something to make a noise about on social media.

  • Be honest, we all struggle with content sometimes, so a set of new images gives you a few months worth of tweets and blogs.


2 Updating team photos


People retire or move on, new people start – teams are always changing.

So as part of your new starter induction plan, why not have an item to update your photography collateral?

  • As soon as a new person starts, get a photographer booked and prepare everyone for a new team shot – as well as a headshot for the new starter.


3 Promote new products or services

If you’re doing a new line of products, or have a new service, are your old photos appropriate to advertise it?

Old photos are familiar to your clients. It’s not obvious it’s a new offering from the image.

Each time you’re launching something new, think how you could best represent it visually.

  • Remember, many busy people just look at photos and headlines, they don’t always read the copy… the photos have to work.


4 Make the website “better” without a “rebuild”

Websites which use Content Management Systems, like WORDPRESS, are relatively easy to update these days.

If your site is looking a little “tired” you can distract the viewer (from the mildly embarrassing 2001 look and feel) with lots of new photos.

Obviously, you can “re-theme” sites pretty easily to bring them up to date. You definitely need new photos to create maximum impact.

  • The quickest and most cost effective way to transform your site is to update the images.


5 Ensure you’re giving the right FIRST IMPRESSION on every platform

I say this a lot….

Your first impression is online these days.

Not always – but every referral I’ve ever had, I’ve looked up on Linked IN and their website. You can rest assured that the vast majority of people do it too.

  • Your photo tells people more about you, the person, than any other thing on that page; make sure you look “right”.

Professional, friendly, serious, funny, mysterious, arty, geeky…. whatever “right” is for you and the people you want to attract.

Oxy – Personal Trainer Photography Session

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…

The Great Photo Watermark Debate

Why do people get so angry about photo watermarks?

You’d be amazed how polarised opinion is on photo watermarking is.

  • Many think it pointless, and will fight to the death to convince everyone so.
  • Others think it idiotic to post anything without the protection of a watermark

What is a photo watermark?

It’s a logo, text or some other “mark” you apply to a photo – in this example, the McFade watermark in the bottom right is a watermark.

leeds river 2015_12 HDR 105_6_7

In  this image, the watermark is very discrete – it has an opacity of 8% and fills the full width of the image.


Purpose of watermarks


In the photo above, the watermark identifies the image as a “mcfade photography” image. People seeing this will then know who the photo was by and if they wish to use it legally, they can google “mcfade photography” and contact us.

We can then work out a price for usage, invoice them and deliver the images.

The first image above, with the small bottom right logo, would be ideal for this.


Watermarks discourage malicious usage of an image – people may pass the image as their own, or use the image without permission on websites. This robs the photographer of potential earnings for commercial usage, or credit for amateur usage.


This isn’t something I’d really thought of till reading a thread on Facebook – but some would argue that putting your name across a photo is a form of “ego boost”.

Arguments against watermarks

They ruin an image

Indeed, they can, and often do, spoil the viewer’s pleasure.

This is an example of a watermark which ruins the image – it’s a full-screen logo at 76% opacity, and the colour tone (white) contrasts hugely against the darker background.

New Dock Leeds WY-8-2If you are posting images like this, then I think anyone would agree that you are looking firstly at the logo, and secondly, struggling to see the actual photo

A 5% opacity version of the exact same image/logo reverses the effect.

Here you see the image first, then the logo. New Dock Leeds WY-8

Logos can be easily removed

This is true for small identity logos, like in this street scene.

Anyone could easily crop the right side and get rid of the logo, or “clone” out the logo, by copying a section of pavement over it.

leeds city dec 2015 HDR 199_200_201-Edit

However, if we return to this image…

New Dock Leeds WY-8

  • The logo covers a huge proportion of the image so cannot be cropped out
  • The logo overlaps many things – like the railings and bridge tower, so is challenging and time-consuming to remove.

Whilst you can photoshop this logo out, it will take time – would the malicious photo thief want to take time doing this, or just move on to a different image?

Make it hard for people to steal, and they are less likely to do so.

If you upload at low res, they are no use to anyone anyway

It is true that a low-quality, low-resolution jpg file will look terrible in print. It’ll be pixellated and look horrible.

So this argument holds for things like weddings, where people want prints, but don’t want to pay you for them.

It also holds for flyers, magazines and anything else in print – where the low resolution will not look good.

However, most businesses use images online – for any number of uses. Any image you upload can potentially be used – no matter what resolution you use. If you upload anything, you want it to look good (otherwise, what’s the point?), so it will look just as good on an image thief’s site as it does on yours.

So should you add photo watermarks?

If the photo has any “potential future value“, then I would always watermark it.

If it’s a photo of my family around the dinner table at Xmas, then I’d not really be bothered – but the images above may all have some commercial use.

For example, the ironmongers shop may want a photo for a flyer. If they see that image and like it, but there is no watermark, then they don’t know who to contact for a high-resolution print version.

  • They lose – they can’t use that image as it’s too low res
  • You lose – you could have negotiated (say) a £100 fee

Which watermarks should you use?

Logos are better than text – they sell your brand and build familiarity.

If you don’t have a logo, then text will do – but make it interesting, use a nice font, place it cleverly.

How to I apply watermarks?



Lightroom’s “export” process has a “watermarks” section at the bottom. This allows you to choose:-

  • the logo file (use png if you can)
  • size
  • placement
  • opacity

Then you can save those settings for future use. Very powerful.

So why do people get so upset?

Who knows – photography appeals to an unusually wide range of people, from teenage girls making beautiful floral images of their friends to pensioners photographing puffins on the north sea islands.

More than any hobby, you’ll find hugely polarised opinions on just about every subject!


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

010 india agra taj mahal street beauty

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

120 austin hayes team shoot 3 small 013

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

mcfade top 5 tips for business photos66

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!

3 Easy Steps to Photography Mastery

3 Easy Steps to Photography Mastery

You want to make friends say “wow” when they see your photography?
You want to know how to do it…. well read on!

Unfortunately there is no guaranteed path to mastering photography, but there are 3 steps you can take to help get you from boring “point and shoot” shots, to “wow” shots.

1 – Find something interesting to shoot

267 ribblesdale yorkshire landscape

Mastering photography is easier in interesting places!

This is so blatantly obvious that I’m surprised I’ve mentioned it, but so many images are dull, dull, dull.

You definitely CAN get great images from dull things, once you’ve mastered composition (see item 2) and camera control (see item 3). But to hedge your bets, find things which are actually interesting.

What is interesting?

It is subjective – but generally, unusual stuff, things out of the norm, are more interesting. Shadows are fleeting, they can be interesting. Spirals in stair cases can be interesting. Getting down low (on your belly) can make things look interesting.

Anything taken at normal head height is likely to be less interesting than taken from high up, or low down.

Also, timing is important – that’s why landscape photographers do sunsets and sun rises, the light changes with the time of day. Red skies and soft sunset light is more interesting than bright, harsh mid day sun, if you’re shooting hills and fields.

Commercial Photography Should Be Fun

God, I hate having my photo taken….

That’s the most common thing photographs hear, pretty much everyone, on every job, says it – you’d think it was root canal treatment we were administering.

Photography should be fun – especially commercial work

That’s definitely the case with our friends over at ABL Business, we’ve updated their photo stock a few times and each time, it’s always a fun session with Alex, Andy and the team – getting them to pretend to work, whilst making them laugh. It’s also a great chance to catch up and share ideas.

Portraits can be daunting for people, so I see it as my job to put them at ease, from the second I meet them to the very last shot.

It’s the most important thing – the lighting, the location and the lens choices are all important, but if you wait silently expecting them to smile, the images will be – well, unflattering, dull, forced, un-natural…. the list could go on and on.

So in this blog I thought I’d share some of the final results – and some of the “behind the scenes” shots of the ABL team.

I hope it shows that it’s not a dry, corporate experience – its quickly dispelling nerves and coaxing laughs, smiles to create “genuine” images of people – people being themselves.

Here are some of the out takes…

Totally Unposed

You’ll also notice that they are not “posed” – I just set up some lights around a table, and a desk for the individual ones, and let them get comfortable in their own way. On this shoot, the rest of the team were watching and helping by making the subject laugh – it’s then just a case of shooting till you’re happy you’ve got a decent selection for them to chose from.

I found if I started to “pose” people, they’d feel really self conscious and you’d loose the vital rapport you’ve built, leaving you with a slightly concerned sitter and the natural, friendly expressions gone.

A Few Final Shots

Here are some of the final shots I picked out – all looking professional yet warm and friendly, which is exactly what ABL is all about.

It’s all about creating a fun experience, drinking lots of coffee and taking people’s mind off their “cameraphobia” (which is a real thing!).

Read More… 


Retouching in Photoshop

Retouching in Photoshop – Skin and Eyes

Lightroom has so many great tools that Photoshop is fast becoming redundant for most tasks.

Retouching is one area where Lightroom still needs development. There are tools for skin softening and bumping eyes, but they don’t really have the same accuracy or fine results.

For most commercial work I do, Lightroom is fine – the shots are usually small and on websites, a little negative clarity does the trick.

But if you’re competing in club competitions, or doing fashion and beauty images, then there’s a couple of things worth looking up

1 – Frequency Separation Skin Softening

The choice of the pros and serious competition photographer. I’ll not explain how it works, just type it into GOOGLE and watch a video – you can even get Photoshop Actions to help too.

On this before/after of Alina Jansone, we’ve got a shot from LIGHTROOM, and a version where Frequency Separation was applied.

You can see how much difference it makes – you could argue that such smooth skin is a little unreal, but its the way we see people on every magazine and advert.



2 – Eyes

Again, these are always enhanced to some extent.

The method I’ve used is here:-


It’s really effective – you can add extra colour and all sorts. In the Alina shots, I added in reds from her flowers, greens a blues. Then did the “dodge and burn” to give a more 3D effect on the pupil. Seems so simple when you watch the video, just never really thought of doing it that way.



On both of these examples, the eyes and skin completely change the feel of the shot. So why don’t we do it to all our portraits?


It takes a long time to do both of these things properly – it took about :-

  • 20-30 minutes to do the Frequency Separation
  • 15 minutes to do the eyes

You can probably speed this up with experience – automating common steps will help.

But if I did this on every job, editing 50 photos would take 25 hours – or 3 long days. Not everyone has the budget for that – so “-20 clarity” is the usual solution. Either that or outsource the processing to one of the hundreds of Indian companies who offer their retouching services!

Sunday Best

So yes, these results look great, and yes, I’d recommend investing a few hours getting used to them because the results can be pretty amazing.

But I’d probably not recommend doing it every shot from a wedding, just save it for the very best shots – the ones your your portfolio.

If you do offer this, add it as an “extra cost” to cover the increased time it takes.

Travel Photography – Literally!

Ever travel long distances as a passenger?

I do – as a member of a touring band, we sometimes cover hundreds of miles – and a few weeks ago, that involved going from Leeds to Inverness… and back!

Naturally I took the camera – for photos of the lovely Scottish city, but also to capture the band in action…

Then it occurred to me that the highlands were beautiful from the main roads, no need to actually go on country roads to see amazing vistas. But we had a schedule, so stopping was not an option.

So what about shooting whilst you’re moving?

What To Use

On the way up I used the canon 5D with the 70-200 lens – which gets you into the action, avoiding the road edges, hedges and fences. Try these settings:-

  • ISO 800 – 3200 – depending on the brightness of the day you may get away with 400
  • Aperture priority
  • F4-F11 – any smaller gave blurry shots due to long shutter speed and motion blur
  • Auto white balance
  • RAW mode

Take a few shots and check the sharpness – if you are getting motion blur, then up the ISO and open the aperture a little

OR try using Shutter Priority – Tv in canon speak

Set the shutter to at least 1/500th if you’re using a longer lens.

On the return journey I swapped to the 24-70mm, and a 2 stop ND grad filter. Mainly to get broody skies and a wider landscape view. The settings were the same.

200mm Shots

24-70mm Shots

9 Affordable Gadgets To Transform Your Photography

Photography Kit Which Doesn’t Cost The Earth

1 – Angle Finder – £20 – £200

If you shoot low down, maybe for landscapes or createive atchitecture shots, so see through your camera, you’ll either have to lie fly on the floor or guess your compoisition. This is where your “angle finder” comes into play. It allows you to look “down” through your camera – so you don’t have to get quite so low. It saves your back, knees and I find it makes me more creative.

2 – Cable Release – £10 – £170

Really useful for people doing exposures on tripods – the act of pressing the shutter will cause a little wobble on your camera, blurry shots result. So using a cable is one solution – allowing you to press a button on a lead rather than touching the camera. Ideal for landscape and architecture in the day, and pretty much anything at night. There are affordable “intervalometers” now available which let you do many timed “things”, e.g. wait 1 minute then take 5 photos, each one second apart, each being 5 seconds…. that’s is now do-able for about £20!

3 – Polarising Filter – £20- £200

One of the only filters you can’t “fake” in photoshop, the polariser changes the light before it hits the camera – the physics of how it changes isn’t really that important, but it affects reflections. Cars become a richer and less reflective, you can see straight through water to the river bed, reflections on food can be changed and blue skies go REALLY dark!

Get a “circular” polariser if you are shooting digital – they work with the Auto Focus systems better apparently.

4 – ND Grad Filters

Do you like photos with dramatic skies?

Pretty much every landscape photographer uses ND Grad Filters – the ND stands for “neutral density”. That just means they don’t change the colours in your photo – it doesn’t make it warmer, cooler or purple!

The “Grad” bit means that they change from “clear” to “dark” gradually – so the top bit is dark, you put that over the sky. The bottom bit is clear, you put that over the land.

To use these you will need to buy:-

  • Filter Holder – Cokin P/ZPRO/XPRO or Lee are popular
  • Adaptor rings – screw this into your lens, then the filter slips on to it. One for each lens size you have, so a 77mm one would do for most canon L lenses, maybe a 58mm for the USM range etc.

5 – Tripod – £50 – £1000

Tripods are used to reduce motion blur on your photos – soft, blurry shots happen when the shutter speeds get longer – typically in lower light or indoors.

SO we use tripods to keep the camera perfectly still whilst taking the shot.

But not only that – tripods also force you to take time, to compose the shot more carefully, think more about the photo, take shots lower down, use smaller apertures…. it’s far more than “just reducing blur”.

6 – Ball Head – £70 – £1000

There are a few different head types for your tripod – the “tripod” are the “legs”, the head is the thing you put your camera on and move around.

Many use 3-way heads, which have 3 distinct levers to tweak and move around to compose your work.

I’ve always found these time consuming and restrictive – especially when the sun is setting and you have seconds to shoot before the sun goes down.

Ball heads have one “lock” knob/switch which you slacken off – the camera then becomes loose and you can move it to any angle you like. Portrait, landscape, pointing up or down, tilted…. you name it, you can do it. All this time you look through your camera and compose the shot.

Once you’re happy you just need to tighten that one switch and you’re done. It’s very very quick and easy compared to the alternative.

7 – Yongnuo Flashes and Triggers – £10 – £100

If you are curious about adding flash to photos but are on a budget, these are idea.

There are 2 choices of flash:-

  • Manual – ideal for those using them “off camera” as they are really cheap, powerful and really simple to use
  • ETTL – Lots of clever technology inside which works with your camera to calculate how much power the flash fires. More for “on camera flash”

If you are using manual off camera flashes, then got just £10 get a 603 trigger – these “talk” to the flash and tell it to “flash” when you take a photo. The flash can be 100m away and it still flashes!

8 – Flash Bender – £12 – £30

Pointing your flash straight at a person is a sin – it makes them look terrible! So there are hundreds of “modifiers” available, from humble “stofen diffusers”, gary fong light spheres and little “snoots”.

Flash Benders are a square of vinyl with wire inside – and velcro to strap it to your flash head.

These can be used in so many ways – on camera you can use them as spot lights, diffusers, flags etc. Really handy. Off camera, get one on each flash to stop unwanted light entering the camera, creating spots of light on backgrounds etc. etc.

9 – Flash Gels – £5-£20

Imagine a scene where the background would look amazing in red….

Well that’s where flash gels come in – these are transparent plastic oblongs which you fit over the end of your flash to colour the light which comes out.

They come in many many colours, the simplest are fixed with velcro. You stick little “spots” of velcro on to the gel, and put a little belt of velcro over the flash head. They stick together and that’s it.

There are also colour correction gels – where you can make the flash the same colour as street lights (orange) or maybe fluorescent tubes.


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!

A Souvenir of Sunderland

So we set off early for a gig at Sunderland Empire – with the intention of enjoying the beach, maybe popping to the Angel of the North or Penshaw Monument.

The weather had different ideas – it was grim, cold and grey. So we did a pub lunch instead – then went to Roker Beach in Sunderland to see if there was anything worth looking at.

Here is what we found…

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Some lovely colours in litter – goes well with beach pebbles and sand

6 Essential Steps to Hiring the Right Photographer

Choosing the right Photographer For Your Project

Let’s help you with a few simple steps:-

1 – Think about what you NEED


It’s worth having a think about the purpose of the photos before you start.

Go online and check out your competition’s websites, see what they are doing – or people in California doing the same thing. Ideas can come from anywhere.

So you just need headshots of everyone, or how about some action shots of them working – or each doing a presentation, or all standing around a table looking at some designs or…. 

Get the idea… have a little brainstorm to get the creative juices flowing, and collect photos in a folder if you can. Get a mental picture BEFORE you start, this will guide the process

2 – Check Photographers You Know First  


See if they’ve done the kind of thing you need, and the quality and “style” is what you want. You’ll know the style if you’ve done step 1!

If they have, meet for a coffee – have a catch-up – chat about the project, that’s probably all you need to do. 

3 – Ask for Recommendations_MG_9050

Asking on Linked IN  is the usual route but be specific on what you need or you will be flooded with hundreds of photographers, many of whom are not what you need!

Some things to clarify when you ask for a recommendation… 

  • Is it a people shoot or products?
  • Is it an event?  
  • Is it for press or marketing?
  • Do you need some property shots?
  • Are you photographing food or drinks?

The more specific, the better the recommendations will be – no point getting a specialist studio photographer to shoot a building site! 

You can go the GOOGLE route too – just remember that the page rank is based on their SEO, not the quality of their work… dig deep AND get specific on your keyword search. For example – “Leeds Photographer” will get you hundreds of wedding photographers. 


4 – Check Portfolios

We make it easy for you with our website – it’s a shop window which usually tells you what you need to know about what they shoot and how they make things look – their style. 

So pick through the LINKED IN recommendations and check out their portfolios to make a shortlist.

Don’t just go on recommendation alone. That obviously counts – a lot – but if their style is wrong for your needs, you’re not going to get the right images. 


5 – Ask for More Examples of Their Work

Once you’ve found photographers with a “style” you like, and they’ve been recommended to you – you’re nearly there. 

To choose between a few, maybe ask for some more examples of their work, things related to your project – a quick intro email asking if they’ve any similar examples is fine.

This does 2 things:-

  1. Shows how keen they are – if they reply with a few shots, they’ve “bothered” to help you out.
  2. Shows depth in their work – this may be obvious from their website, but reassurance is gained from seeing that they’ve done many projects, rather than just that one-off on the website!

The exception to this is when they’ve got a large portfolio to show – sometimes they’ve got everything on their site you need to know. 

The Trainee Issue…

Many people go on courses and workshops to learn about photography, especially wedding photography (or portraits, or whatever really). Here’s what happens….

  • They get to photograph beautiful models who know how to pose perfectly.
  • They use lighting set up by the course trainer – so everything is balanced and looks perfect.
  • They then edit the photo under the guidance of the tutor
  • The resultant photos are usually pretty amazing – and they should be in those circumstances. 
  • They then create a website and fill it full of photos from that day.… 

The Issue….

The “issue” is that these are shot in perfect conditions with expert guidance. 

There was no time pressure, annoying guests, crying brides or  vicars who don’t like photographers. The true test is to see their photos from real weddings… where there is no one to hold hands, set up lighting, organise the guests, photoshop the files etc. 

So be aware of these types of photographer – everyone has to start somewhere of course, but maybe you don’t want them starting with your wedding!

How to spot sites like this…

It’s easy really – just go through all the pages and see how many different brides and grooms you can see. Also, these courses will not usually have “families” to photograph – so if all the photos are just the couple, it’s probably from a course. 

Asking to see “more of their work” is, therefore, a great thing to do – you can then see how they perform in reality… 

It may be that they’ve not had time to update their website, so it looks like they’ve never shot a real wedding, when in reality they’ve done dozens and are fantastic! 


6 – Meet Up for a Coffee


Finally, ask to meet for a coffee if possible. A face-to-face or ZOOM meeting is the best way to find out if you “hit it off” – rapport is hugely important in people photography.

After an hour or so you can see how things develop and usually check out more photos with them. 



After all that, you’ve probably found a photographer who can do the job you want!





3 Things You Never Think of When Hiring Photographers

I need some photos…. fast!

You need some photos, something which is going to make you look great for a press release, or your web developer needs something to fill that website..

Where do you start?

Be honest – do you get a few photographer’s “day rates” and plump for the lowest?

Or do you just ask a few friends and go with what they say?

Well the second one of those is actually a good step – but just because they did a good job for your friend, will get the right shots for you?

The bad news…

Photographers are very distinct, creative types – given the same brief they are likely to create vastly different images than other photographers. 

Not what you want to hear!

It’s like hiring a band….


If you’re into 70’s rock and a friend recommends his “son’s mate’s band“, because they are “brilliant“.

They turn out to be a Brit Pop act, play really well, but leave you and your fellow “70’s rock lover” mates a little bit disappointed.

It’s the same with photographers.

You may throw a shout out on LINKED IN asking for a photographer to shoot some photographs for your new website.

How do you know that the ones recommended are right for you?


3 Vital Things to Consider


1 – Have they the “Ability”?


So you really need to know whether they can do the job

  • have they got the technical know – can they actually take a photo
  • do they have the right equipment for the job, or will they turn up with an iPhone?
  • can they deliver when they say they will, or will you be waiting for weeks?
  • will they interpret the brief correctly, or go off at a tangent?


A photographer with experience and ability can usually adapt to most situations, dipping into that pool of knowledge when things “develop” differently to plan. They will know how to set up lights if they’re needed. They’ll know what they need to get “in the can” before they leave.


Less experience will (almost inevitably) take longer, you’ll be waiting for them to set up. Then waiting again for them to diagnose the usual issues by trial and error – rather than instinct. They may need to re-shoot if they get stuck. Everyone has to start somewhere – it’s how you learn. But can you afford the extra time it may take? You will probably save a few quid though!


You can find much of this out from their website testimonials page, asking people who’ve used them and just looking at their portfolio…


2 – Are they the “Right Person”



The biggest one is probably the one most people miss – are they the right person to photograph you?

  • Will they chat, engage, encourage you and create the right environment for you (and your team) to relax and enjoy the shoot?
  • Are they the quiet type who are great at shooting products and things which don’t move?

Think of it this way…


The best “widget photographer” in the world will be fantastic at setting up widgets and studio lights – their photos may be in every magazine in the world. They get recommended to you on this basis, you hire them to photograph you and your team…. 

They turn up and are quiet, shy, never talk to anyone, are constantly tweaking their lights and looking at the camera back – leaving everyone in your team feeling left out and bored.

A week later you’ll receive perfectly lit, beautifully sharp photos of you and the team looking bored and ready to kill someone! 


Photographers are all different…

Remember that photographers are all very different – you will get the:-

  • detail obsessed people who will make your latest phone look amazing, or
  • the fun and outgoing, who will have you laughing and enjoying the shoot
  • the diligent type who will sit for days waiting for the perfect light to photograph your buildings
  • the arty type who will take photo then totally transform them in Photoshop
  • and many others…

All are fantastic at what they do, you just need to get the right one for your needs.


Meet them before you shoot – you’ll understand their personality better, and see if you get on with them.


3 – Do they have “Style”?


The quintessence of photography is “style”.

Style is a consistent, recognisable feel to their portfolio. When you work through their website (or “book”), each photo belongs there – it will have a look honed by years of work.

Simply put –when you see a new photo and say “that looks like Fred’s work”, that’s style. 


Style Reassures….

When a photographer has a style, you know what you are buying – they will bring their style to your job, so you don’t have to worry about the results, they will have the same “style” as those in their portfolio.

A Gamble…

Conversely, if their portfolio is seemingly random, with no consistency in lighting, processing, posing, feel or form, then how can you predict what you will receive? Which “photographer” is going to turn up – does it depend on the moon phase or how much coffee they’ve consumed? It is unpredictable – a gamble. You may get the best photos ever, or you may get something totally inappropriate.


Glamour poses may not be ideal on your team page, so if all a photographer’s portraits seem slightly risqué, they may well do the same with YOU!


It’s not “All About The Money, Money, Money…”

So yes – there is a big difference between pricing, from the new person who will work for days for £100, to the £10K a day studio in London.

You photos are hugely important investment – they tell the world so much about your business.


Do all you can to stack the shoot in your favour,  find a photographer who you get on with and has the right style – the impact on how your business is perceived could be massive! 


Check out our Photography…

Go to McFade Photography Site…


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) . 


How (not) To Clean Your Camera Sensor…?

Do NOT Try This at Home!

I’ve got huge dust problems with my 5D2, so was excited to find a Youtube clip which shows you how to get rid properly…

I really don’t think this is the right way… see what you think!

I actually use a little device called an Arctic Butterfly, which uses a little brush and the gift of Static Electricity to remove dust from your sensor. The first time you do it is scary – but it gets easier… and saves you £50 on a professional clean.

Does your “editing” change over the years?

Just having a look for some shots and came upon a sunset at Semerwater – which I photographed in January 2008…. 6.5 years ago. 

2008 Workflow

Back then my workflow was a little different :-

  • Shoot RAW files
  • Copy files onto hard drive after a shoot
  • Import RAW files into Capture One – Version 3 I think
  • Make minor and “global” tweaks there
  • Export as TIFF
  • Edit and sharpen etc. in Photoshop CS (2/3/4)
  • Use action to resize and water mark if going to use it online

All in Lightroom in 2014

These days a huge amount, if not all, is done in Lightroom 5 – it’s more for speed and convenience than anything. The newer versions of Capture One produce fantastic results, but the interface isn’t so great, the workflow is slower and the program is full of bugs.

So I thought I’d import the CR2 files from 2008 into Lightroom and edit them as I do now, then compare to what I did in 2008.

Here we go…

The Gate in the Water

This was my favourite from the water’s edge – the RAW file is pretty blue, I was using Cokin P ND grads back then and they did give you a slight blue cast sometimes.

The first shot is a 2014 edit.

Looks like I preferred the blue hues today, though i did make the orange slither in the backgroud more pronounced. Also, the magical clarity slider helped with the cloud shapes, making them more textured,

_MG_2542 _MG_2542


Silhouetted Sign and Gate

So with this, I edited the wrong shot – though it’s pretty much the same scene shot from different sides of the gate.

Pretty much the same edits in both eras.


_MG_2548 _MG_2549


The Mobile Jetty

So this is a platform they put in the water in the summer for boaters to use. Loved the worn textures and bolted washers, so got up close with the wide lens and made that a huge foreground.

So in 2014, I’ve warmed the scene up and hugely increased the impact of the wood. Using mainly the brush tool in Lighroom I added clarity, highlights and sharpness. Looking back at the more restrained 2008 version… did I overcook the new one? Does the ease of adding clarity etc. risk pushing byond the boundary of realism? Borderline here….



_MG_2537 _MG_2537


The Farewell Shot

And finally, the parting shot, taken from the car, looking back over the wider scene of Semerwater

I’ve definitely gone for a different crop here, and also using teh Shadows slider, the foreground grass has a bit more texture than 2008. There seems to be a lot more going on in the new edit.

_MG_2554 _MG_2553


So if you’ve stuck with this very self indulgent blog, you’ll see that despite 6 years passing and a load of new tools in the photographer’s virtual tool case, I’ve been reasonably consistant.

Lightroom has made things easier and quicker,though not always better. Clarity looks great when zoomed out to full screen, but at 100% it can look a mess. It creates halos, adds noise and ruins fine details.

In Capture One 5 there was a Structure slider which did a better job.

I’d certainly recommend editing a couple of shots you edited a few years ago – see how different the results are. Especially if you’re relatively new – you should see some big leaps forward!


“Britain’s got Photographers” – A new TV Format

If TV Did “Popular” Photography

In the wake of the deluge of “talent” shows, which has seen “talented” people battle, week in week out, to survive to the next round – including riveting subjects as:-

  • Baking Cakes
  • Cooking Food
  • Modelling
  • Being a Drag Queen
  • Growing Vegetables
  • oh – and singing…


Here’s an idea for a Photography Format… based on the tried and tested formats above.



  • So we start with a new format, which we will of course send to the americans, with the word “American” tagged on the front of the chosen name. The name will be hooked to “David Bailey” in some way, because he is the only photographer in the UK
  • We will need 3-4 judges – a couple who are touchy feely and cry a lot, a camp man (doesn’t have to be gay, but helps) and a harsh, evil truth teller…. maybe the Legend that is Bailey
  • Of course, we’ll only have to do “popular” photography, which will be portraits of SLEBS and fashion, using SELBS as models… as programming without SLEBS is not alllowed – popular entertainment show producers have no interest in SLEBLESS programming
  • In the later stages, we will of course use send the Togs to high pressured commercial studios to push them “to their limits” and see if they can work “at this level”

The Shoot

  • Most shoots will be in a fake “glitzy photo studio”, made in a TV studio, to avoid the reality of the industry as far as possible and allow TV camera access
  • Photoshoots will form no more than 3% of the show – and there will be no explanation of “what they are doing”, just the odd “sound bite” when “things go wrong”
  • Introducing technical terms like “F-Stop” or “Softbox” will educate and inform, so must be avoided.
  • Competitor Photographers will be able to “jeer” and “question” every move their fellow make – planting seeds of doubt and causing angst, and in an ideal world, heated arguments and fisticuffs
  • The director will make the camera man run around a lot, getting in the way, zooming in on the Tog’s lens a lot as the shoot progresses.
  • Fast paced “Euro-dance” style music will accompany the “shoot”
  • A full day of shooting must be condensed to 3 minutes of “highlights”

The Judging

  • There will be no reasoned critique – just over the top hyperbole or denigration of the resultant images
  • There will be very little explanation of how they achieve the photos – rather a focus on their inspiration, preferably a recently deceased relative or mentor.
  • Personal adversity will be a bonus and encouraged. Contestants without a “sob story” should be given one and coached in the art of crying.
  • Parents – or better still, grand parents – are to be “cut to” at every available opportunity, and encouraged to cry with chopped onions.
  • When the votes are cast – there will be a “fake dramatic delay” of no less than 20 seconds after the compère says “And the tog leaving us to days is……”
  • Exit Music for the leaving Tog will be “You lift me up” or “wind beneath my wings” – and tunes from the same stable – with a summary of their “best bits” playing over it.


Right – off to buy my yacht, this one is going GLOBAL! 

4 – Die Hard Landscaper

Sleep Deprivation

Up well before the lark, usually 2 hours before the sun rises, so they can drive an hour and walk 40 minutes to be in “that” position for the sunrise they’ve planned for the last 4 years.

They say a prayer before bed – “Please god, let the light be good this year” – then in a leap of faith, they gamble a night’s sleep for an unlikely lovely nuclear sunrise.

There better had be a great sunset – the last 50 times they’ve been there it’s never been right… they are persistent, they never give up till they get THAT shot.


reflection in road_MG_7194 _MG_7210 pool reflection ovenden_01 _MG_9289 _MG_9376

They have been to the every UK location 10 times before, so have set their own “high bar” to beat.

They go in summer, they go in winter – they know the location intimately and know where they best vantage points are.

They know the composition which works best.

They just have to go back over and over again on the off chance that they light will be a little different…

Meticulous planning…

At one with sunrise charts and tide times – meticulous planning goes into each of their trips. The best die hards love walking up hills and mountains, getting to places others never see; it gives them a unique advantage.

“A Wainwright’s” pictorial guides to the Lake District are commonly used – though most will have memorised these in advance.

Good Light or Nowt

20 minutes after sunrise the camera goes away – “bad light… can’t do anything till sunset now”.

In fact – if the sunset ir rubbish, they won’t trouble their camera – only pressing the shutter if the light is perfect.

Big Stoppa Lovers

Progressives may get out their Big Stoppa filter in the daytime… entering a brave new world of daylight long exposures, with their whooshing clouds and infinitely soft water.

Yes – the brave few will let full daylight hit their cameras, usually in the presence of a waterfall or burbelling stream in a gorge – where the light will be dappled by overhead trees

Tree Lovers

And finally – they LOVE trees… trees are gods focal points.

They’ll go back to the same tree over and over again. The high up hills you go, the smaller they get – but you can still use them, in fact, you MUST use them at an cost.

If you have gone past the tree line, where no trees grow, you then have to find a suitable rock instead. These ideally need to have good light and shadows – warm amber colours on one side, and dark, rich shadows on the other.

The dream scenario is a wonderful rock formation AND a tree – and this is where Malham comes in. A tiny Yorkshire Dales village with a tree about 3 miles above – this tree has perfect rocks which not only get “good light” at sunset AND sunrise, but their long cracks actually point at the tree….

Here is a little game to end on…

In the comment box below – please name the location of the following trees… if you get more than 2, you are a Die Hard God!








6the leaning tree





11buttermere velvia




Photographer Type 2 – Floral and Lace

Or digital artists – these are very popular on all the photo sharing websites, their natural home is Deviant Art.

Often young and female, with attractive friends who resemble extras from “Skins” – they take moodily posed photos, often with a bag, teddy bear or some other large prop, in woodlands or derelict buildings.

Furry Texture


I’ve not got any of these shots in my portfolio, but here is some fur which could be used on the photo…. read on… 

Then in Photoshop, they lavishly apply filter after filter to introduce “lens flare”, layers of lace textures, maybe some words or musical score to one side of the model, faded colours and sepia tints always add to the final effect.



Flaking paint – perfect to add that pained, misunderstood, angst ridden feel to any beautiful model’s face… 

Their hard drive is awash with photos of hessian sacks, lace, crumpled brown paper bags and flaking paint, which reveals rust below.

The end result is like a Victorian book illustration.

1 – Geek and Tech Addicts


You’ll know these as they’ll ask you what camera you have before anything else. Then move on to whether you’ve heard about the new camera they’ve heard speculated about on the forums, and how it’s ISO performance “blows out of the water” your camera…

He is in a state of “always craving more kit”, and longing for a Canon 1DX or a Nikon D4 camera body, and a 500mm F4 L lens, that’s what keeps him interested.

Conversation always get around to what he could do if only he had a #insert new bit of kit here#. Then they’ll quote between 2 and 8 different reviews on the thing they are interested in and debate which of the 14 sellers they’ve checked out on EBAY to go with.

The Geek will be full of numbers, stats and reasons to do things – but probably doesn’t do that much actual photography.

The enjoyment is the research and acquisition of kit rather than making images. Sure, they will create some technical masterpieces on the few occasions they go out, but they’re not as motivated to “use” the camera as they are to “talk about it” .

They rarely, if ever, photograph people.


Photography appeals to EVERYONE!

It’s unique isn’t it – this photography thing.


  • It appeals to retired men and teenage girls
  • It’s used by bohemian artists and geeky computer programmers.
  • It’s as slow and contemplative as fishing, or as fast and furious as grand prix racing.
  • It’s a fun pastime, or a serious competitive sport.
  • It can take hours of planning or be completely impromptu
  • To do it, you can have zero knowledge or understand every concept

After many years I’ve met many types, and it’s truly amazing how diverse people are, and how differently they enjoy their hobby.

Over the next week, I’ll introduce to you some of the main types…

Watch this space!


60 second interview….

Just been asked to do one of these things… so thought I’d share!


Q. What do you do for a living?

I help add personality to businesses by replacing tired, generic “stock library images” with stunning photos of their people, place, products, suppliers… to make their website tell their story.


Q. What makes you good at it?

Infectious enthusiasm, lighting mastery, fun approach and my right eye…. it sees the photos for me


Q. If you could start over what would you be doing?

I did start over and I’m doing what I want to do right now 🙂


Q. What are the best and/or worst pieces of advice you’ve had?

Worse – you have to shoot weddings to make a living as a photographer…

Best – “you can do it” – maybe not in those exact words, but occaionally people say something as simple as that and it gives you that boost.


Q. What can your organisation do that your competitors can not?

Create an environment to get the best out of people and create warm, engaging images which people love – all “on location” to minimise disruption to a business. My goal that people who hate being photographed enjoy the experience, and most do!

Also have possibly the widest portfolio of any photographer in Yorks, covering everything from supercars to curries!


Q. What are your top business/work priorities for 2014

Each week, to help 2-4 SME’s transform their marketing images from “generic stock” to “personalised stock” – putting Yorkshire people at the heart of Yorkshire businesses.

Q. If you could improve anything in Yorkshire, what would it be?

I’ll leave that one 😉


Q. Tell us something about you that most people don’t know…

I love making dams on streams….


Q. How do you relax?

Usually go out taking photos with friends – dales, coast.. that kind of thing. So, yes, I take photos for living and for fun…

Q. What is your guilty TV pleasure?

Celebrity Juice… the stuff Mr Lemon gets away with is amazing, but it’s Holly and Fearne’s faces when he says it that I love!


Q. What’s your favourite quote?

“Only fools are satisfied” – from Vienna, a song by Billy Joel



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.


Its all about the lighting….


After a shoot with personal trainer, Victoria Wood, she made the comment:-

“who knew that lighting was such a big thing!”

And it go me thinking about this blog…

All we do as photographers is use a device which records light – it’s called a camera.

We use things called “lenses” to focus and manipulate the light – bringing things nearer, or making them look further away, getting everything sharp or blurring out things… it’s our main tool

See where the light is... creating a highlight on Victoria's hair

See where the light is…

However “lighting” is most important.

For landscapes we rely on sun light – or the lack of it – to create the mood. A dull day is infinitely harder to work with than a red skied sunset.

For portraits we can use sunlight, light from windows or ambient light in a building to good effect.

But we are still not in control of that – all we can do is move the person around to best effect.


The true creativity is in adding light to a scene for the camera to record. This takes vision, technical knowledge, skill and vast amounts of practice – hundreds of hours if not more.

Then we get our little box and its lens and record the lighting we have created.

My friend and fellow photography trainer, Jayce Clarke, tells his delegates:-

“Lighting first, lens second, camera body last”

Without good light, even the best camera and lens will create an uninteresting photograph.

Lighting is a constant creative challenge which can be added into any scene – landscapes, architecture, portraits, cars…. whatever genre you enjoy (except maybe wildlife) can include lighting.

So if you’re not getting the shots you want, maybe its time to invest in learning how to add light to your work!



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


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