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

WET WEATHER SHOOT

Quite often, as an editorial portrait photographer I can't pick and choose my location or the weather conditions. One of the fun challenges is making the most of the conditions in front of me.

Yesterday I had a shoot booked in with the lovely Katie Bedford who represents England at over 50s hockey. Fortunately, the all-day rain stopped for the 30 minutes when we had the shoot booked. But conditions were very dark due to the heavy cloud and overcast sky. Therefore, I decided to go for a more dramatic portrait look.

Most of the time when I use lighting, I want it to be subtle and almost unnoticeable as in the three examples below.

However, when I'm looking for a dramatic feel to the portrait I aim for the lighting to be obvious. It makes the subject stand out from the background, as with these photos...

The photos of Katie, who heads off to Holland tomorrow for the Masters European Championships, certainly fit into the latter category.

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.

Profile Photos

 

A strong profile photo can make a huge difference to your online presence.

People notice good quality photography and they're more likely to look at your profile if you have a decent photo. Out of focus holiday snaps are for Facebook!

Unfortunately it's pretty common to visit a company website and find a terrible mixture of inconsistent staff photos. This can really detract from a company's overall profile.

If you find the right photographer, profile portraits can be shot quickly and easily at your office. And they are generally not too expensive.

So, if you need a good quality profile photo, or the staff photos on your company website need updating, then why not contact a local photographer today. A photoshoot is quick, simple and can be quite fun!

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 www.closetfulofbooks.com is growing really quickly. Good luck Kelvin and Denise!

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.

Info:

- 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