Stepping Outside My Comfort Zone with Band Photography

Having chatted to other professional photographers, I don’t think I’m alone in suffering from Imposter Syndrome. In fact it seems fairly common when you’ve turned your hobby into your job, that you often worry about being uncovered as an imposter, an amateur working in a professional world.

Despite that feeling I do seem to have found my niche after shooting professionally for eight years. Most of the time I trundle along quite comfortably shooting marketing images and portraits without feeling like a fraud. I know my strengths and my limitations and, for now, I seem to be getting away with it!

However, occasionally a commission comes along that disrupts that equilibrium and brings the dreaded Imposter Syndrome bubbling to the surface. Like when I was recently asked to shoot my brother-in-law’s new two-piece band Shiivers.

As plans for the shoot developed I realized that expectations were high. There was talk of gels, barn doors, gobos, grids and snoots. There was a Creative Director, a stylist and a make up artist. This shoot was shaping up to be more like a high-end fashion shoot rather than my usual simple one- or two-light set up. Plenty of time and money were being invested in this shoot and there were a lot of people to let down if I made a hash of the photos.

I had a choice: I could either surrender to Imposter Syndrome and run away with my tail between my legs. Or I could be brave, take control of my insecurities and see this as a great opportunity to expand my portfolio.

My brother-in-law was adamant that he had faith in me to shoot the photos the band needed. So, with that boost in confidence, I took a deep breath and threw myself into the challenge.

In the end it transpired that I was not out of my depth. With careful planning, patience and a fair amount of experimentation, the shoot was a success. I wasn’t shown up to be a fraud and my insecurities were misplaced. In fact, by pushing my boundaries I have increased my confidence and expanded my skillset. I have learned and improved and raised myself to a new level. Thankfully, Imposter Syndrome has been banished to the back of my mind…for now.


Tips for approaching difficult shoots

·      Be honest about your strengths and weaknesses

·      Plan, plan and plan some more

·      Be open to advice


Band @shiivers ⠀
Creative & Art Direction @inkvalley
Photography @tomsoperphotography in collaboration with @_karlandrew_ ⠀
Special effects @_karlandrew_ ⠀
Styling @michaelcapaccio ⠀
Hair & MUA @queenbeemua_official

Ipswich Business Portraits

If truth be told I've struggled to find the value of LinkedIn. Until a couple of weeks ago that is. I connected to few local people through another contact on LinkedIn. One of them, a local businessman here in Suffolk, contacted me and asked me to shoot some business portraits of him as he had just started a new job. So, a good outcome all round.Thanks LinkedIn

To be honest I find it difficult to keep on top of all the social media platforms I am supposed to be using. Most people seem to have a favourite one they use so I guess there's an element of pot luck whether you connect with them or not. Anyway, I'll be using LinkedIn a little more from now on and hoping that it drives more business my way.

Inspiring Event Shoot for Virgin Unite

A couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to attend a really inspiring event organised Virgin Unite, part of the Virgin Group. I was there to take photos but it was sometimes difficult to keep my mind on the job as the speakers were covering some fascinating topics.

Having shot for Virgin Unite a few times I knew that Jean Oelwang, President of Virgin Unite, would help to get the day off to a positive start. She was joined by speakers from Unilever, EY Beacon Institute, Starbucks, Cook, Ella's Kitchen, Airbnb, Big Change, Virgin, and Next Jump UK. The discussed topics from 'Designing the Future of Leadership', 'Reimagining Education', 'Bringing Your Whole Self to Work', 'Little Wins in the Workplace' and ' Refugees & the Business Community'.

This last topic was presented by Cameron Sinclair, Humanitarian Lead at Airbnb. It was fascinating to hear how Airbnb has made a significant effort to reach out and house refugees. And how the general public and Airbnb hosts have given so much of their time and space in their homes for this cause. In these days of rather dark and depressing news it was a real beacon of light.

Favourite Portraits from 2015

Here are my personal favourite 25 portraits from 2015. It's been an amazing year, culminating in the publication of my first book of portraits. Happy New Year to you all and best wishes for 2016.

Closetful of Books - Portraits

Denise and Kelvin are young entrepreneurs with a passion for books. Being in their mid 20s they are too young to secure a loan from the Singapore Government but they decided to start their own business anyway and now provide books to many schools across Singapore. The way they talk about literature with such knowledge and passion it's not surprising to see that their business is growing really quickly. Good luck Kelvin and Denise!

Crawley Edge Boatshed

During the City to Surf Marathon on Sunday in Perth we passed this lovely old boat shed. I decided, rather ambitiously, to head back there the next morning to take some photos as the morning light looked lovely at 6.30am as we ran past.

So I creaked out of bed at 6am and then hobbled for an hour before I reached the boat shed. I hadn't realised it was going to be quite so far and I missed the sunrise. Anyway I set up my tripod on the rocks and soon realised that a) the shot didn't work there and b) I was in danger of falling and breaking an ankle I was so unsteady on my feet after the previous day's 42km.

So I shifted to the end of the walkway and tried a few high and low angles. The wind was blowing a lot and it was pretty chilly sitting there timing the long exposures on my iPhone. I was using a Lee Big Stopper filter to try and ensure the sea was as smooth as possible despite the wind. This filter pushed the exposures out to between 40 to 120 seconds, which did the trick.

Anyway, here are my best two shots with shooting info. I especially like the cloud movement in the B&W shot. 

48 seconds at f22 ISO100    16-35mm lens at 16mm     Nikon D800     Lee Filters Big Stopper filter

120 seconds at f22 ISO50    16-35mm lens at 16mm     Nikon D800       Lee Filters Big Stopper filter

I still need to master the Lee Filter system as I seem to get a magenta haze across parts of the image on some exposures. I also really struggled to use the Big Stopper with the graduated filter. If I had managed to use the graduated filter I would have got a lot more detail in the sky which would have been nice. Always more to learn....

Anyway, it was great to get out there and take some post-marathon shots.

Comedy Writer Portraits

I wanted to take a portrait of my brother-in-law who is a comedy writer. The set up is copied unashamedly from the great Joe McNally. I saw him use this technique at a recent Gulf Photo talk in Singapore.

Firstly I took a test shot with my sister-in-law (we were all having dinner together that evening) which looked pretty good. I had to turn the power of the flash down a little as in the first few shots she was really blown out. But I think the balance is quite good here.

The set up is pretty simple. The laptop is turned off and there is a sheet of white A4 paper on the screen. An SB700 Nikon flash (connected to a Pocket Wizard) rests on the keyboard and fires directly into the A4 paper. The light then bounces back onto the subject. It’s very simple and surprisingly effective.

Next I did the shots with my brother-in-law Tom Williams. He’s a freelance writer who tends to work late into the night, hence the night time feel to the photo. I wanted to shoot him in his garden as I can imagine him hammering away on the keyboard into the wee small hours losing track of time in his lovely recently redesigned garden.

I wasn’t sure that this set up really worked as his very long legs were too prominent. So I tried to use his legs to make the photo look more ‘comic’ to fit his occupation…

The closer crop and the legs tucked up make this look a little better but I’m still not happy with the pose. Also, you can see the flash gun which isn’t great!

So I moved the camera closer and turned Tom round in his chair to get this result, which I really like. But I wish I had asked him to put his hands on the keyboard.

Finally we did a couple of photos with Tom’s two sisters pretending to be shocked by his very rude comedy writing. I think these last two photos work really well and I’m pleased with the results.


- Nikon D800 on a tripod with Nikon 105mm 2.8 lens

- SB700 being fired with Pocket Wizard. Flash power was dropped down by -1 to -2 EV

- Aperture Priority Mode - which I don’t often use so this was a good test for me. (I usually shoot Manual)

- ISO 250

- f4

- Shutter speeds varied from 1/40s to 1/3s, hence there is some movement in the parts of the photo not lit by the flash