So, who the hell am I ?
Well I’ve been photographing models for nearly six years now with varied degrees of success. I’ve used various portfolio and social platforms and now mainly seem to have settled on Instagram as my home. I regularly hold tuition sessions on both natural light photography and Videography and have been published in numerous magazines globally.
What you’ll learn here
Well you’ll gain an insight into my approach to photography, I can’t promise to teach you exactly what I do as photography is, I feel, an intensely personal experience and you should never strive to copy but only to take influences and use them to your own ends. You’ll learn about the things I wish I’d known when I was starting out, I’ll take you through how to find models, safety and etiquette on a shoot and I’ll also delve into how to effectively promote yourself and move to the coveted collaboration shoots or indeed getting paid.
What you won’t learn here
I am not a techie when it comes to photography. If you’re looking to get an in depth understanding of Apertures and F Stops, or which memory card writes the fastest to your camera then this probably isn’t going to work out that well for you. I won’t dwell too much on rules, not that I don’t follow them I just believe they shouldn’t drive your photography journey, I more encourage freedom of expression.
So what’s this natural light stuff anyway?
I’m a natural light photographer or I guess to put it correctly an available light photographer. What the dickens does that mean Mr Photographer! Well it means I eschew the use of fancy schmancy lighting setups and just use what’s available to me. That’s really two things a) The Sun / Daylight or b) What may be in the room I’m in. That could be a lamp, a torch, a phone screen, literally anything that pushes out some constant light.
Why not lights then?
Probably the question I get asked the most. Honestly there are some amazing studio photographers with an encyclopaedic knowledge of lighting but early on I just found it restrictive and didn’t give me the more natural look I wanted. I like to shoot with a flow, I like to move around, I like the model to move too, I find this provides a natural image that just suits me. It’s not for everyone but it works for me. When I tried lighting (both studio lights and speedlights) I found it too restrictive and I spent more time worrying about the technical setup than just getting on and taking some images. So if you want to take the same kind of images that I do then you’re in the right place.
Scroll down to Part 1
Part 1 Equipment
Ok so the most obvious first step here is a camera of some sort. There is no point me telling you that brand X is better than brand Y because it’s a bit like McDonalds vs BK or Playstation vs Xbox, there are enough opinions out there on the topic far more knowledgeable than mine. There is an old saying that the best camera is the one you have with you.
I’m not a photography purist, there are some amazing photos being taken daily with camera phones, you do not have to spend £££’s or indeed $$$’s on the latest black behemoth of camera to get started, in fact if you are brand new to this I’d actively discourage it.
I started with a relatively small Canon camera – the 600D with just the lens that came in the kit and I used that pretty successfully for 2ish years. I’ll talk about why I moved away from that a little later.
Your choice of camera comes down to a few key choices.
a) Fixed or interchangeable lenses
b) Is it just stills or video too you are looking to do
c) Where are you planning on doing this
d) The Fizz
Ah damn I said I wasn’t going to get technical so just bear with me for a few minutes.
Fixed or Interchangeable lenses
An iPhone for example has a fixed lens, you can’t swap it out for another one. It’ll have a level of zoom control (in and out) and that’s pretty much it, same as with a Polaroid or a cheap end “point and shoot”. You are limited to what you have available to you but as mentioned above that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, search the web for challenges with top photographers using a childs throwaway camera and see the amazing results they come up with. Gear does not maketh the man.
The ability to switch your lens out around does, however, open up a new level of possibilities. If you buy into most of the mid range or higher Canon or Nikon cameras (a myriad of other brands are available) you’ll often just buy the body – that is the camera with no lens. Or as in my earliest camera I got mine as a kit with the bog standard “kit” lens. Often a cheap multi-purpose lens that the manufacturer bundles in to get you started.
So why would I want to switch out the lens I hear you say in frustration – you said this stuff wasn’t important! Ah well you see lenses are a little like cars – ultimately they all get you from A to B but some will do it faster and with a lot more style and fluffy dice.
Some lenses are made better than others, the glass is better, the end result is sharper, some lenses have different purposes than others Primes, Zooms the list goes on – I will cover lenses in a later chapter, but I promise not in too much detail. Suffice to say if you’re planning on photographing people (probably why you are reading this) then you’ll want something in the 50mm-100mm range – 85mm being the classic “focal length” for portraits. So look out for a camera than covers these ranges. This is assuming a Full Frame camera vs a Crop Sensor – but again we’ll get a little more techie later on as I know you want to get onto the good stuff.
Stills vs Video
Most cameras these days will have a stills mode and the ability to also record some video. They’ll drop into three categories.
1. A stills camera that takes video
2. A video camera that takes stills
3. A camera that’s a decent mix of both but probably both at a lower level than 1 or 2.
What’s your ultimate goal? I used my mid range Canon for years with video but found eventually I outgrew it and opted for a high end video only camera that has some stills ability. But typically now I either do a stills shoot or a video shoot and bring the equipment I need. If you want to travel light and be able to do everything then check out the Sony or Lumix ranges as they fit firmly into category 3.
Where are you planning on doing this?
Comes back to lights and studios and all that other stuff related to pesky light! Yes light, the original Camera Obscura literally means Dark Chamber – so yeah light. Some cameras are better with very low levels of light (or in dark places to the likes of me and you). So if you’re planning on shooting in caves or dingy derelict buildings you are going to want something that handles low light pretty well. This is the reason I moved from my Canon 600d to the 5D3. The D3 is pretty well known for its ability to handle very low light situations with a minimum of fuss and to still produce a clear and sharp image. As I don’t use studio lights or additional portable flashes (speedlights) I found particularly in the autumn and winter months when it got dark earlier my later afternoon shoots were just poor quality – the upgraded camera gave me more technical oomph to be able to shoot in darker situations. How does it do it? Something to do with sensors, I’m not a techie (remember I said that already – just search the internet and some giant brain will tell you)
I’ve stolen this term from a long running motoring show. It’s that feeling you get when you get into a new car, is it just “oh wow this is a nice car” or does your pulse race, your heart beat into your throat, your brow start to sweat a little and your voice go all squeeky with excitement. That’s The Fizz.
I picked up a very well-known brand of camera (I won’t name it) and I just hated it, it felt awful in my hands, the controls seemed in odd places, I flicked through the menus and was confused in seconds. I turned to the Canon next to me and it just felt right, it sat better in my hands, my fingers sat much more naturally for me on the buttons, the menus seemed sensibly laid out to my easily confuddled brain.
I’m not saying go buy Canon – what I’m saying is go to your local camera store and just handle some cameras, see what feels right for you, what’s more intuitive. Everyone is different. I know someone that swears by Sony and I literally cannot take a photo with his camera at all, equally my Canon in his hands just acts like a potato – so get out there and try!! Switch the thing on, mess around, you’re parting with your hard earned cast so be prepared to get handsy.
Go read reviews too, a simple web search will show your hours and hours of camera videos and articles but honestly nothing beats getting your hands metaphorically dirty.
Ok so go get a camera and come back for the next post when you’re ready to move on to the next stage – taking a photograph!! I know – exciting right!