Author: dougchinnery

New Exhibition of My Work

Dark Light

New Exhibition - "Dark Light"

 

I have been to Gainsborough today to hang my new solo exhibition entitled, “Dark Light”

It is being hosted at the Trinity Arts Centre in Gainsborough and is an exhibition of monochrome photographs. The Arts Centre is a council run location dedicated to the promotion of the arts in North Lincolnshire. The gallery space doubles as a mingling and bar area outside the main theatre and so is ideally placed for people visiting for performances to browse the images. If you happen to live in or near Gainsborough I would love you to pop in and take a look, but please don’t make a special journey.

The exhibition consists of 16 images (it was planned for 22, but the gallery didn’t have enough hanging clips to put all of the images up, requiring an on the spot rejigging of my hanging plan – the joys of exhibiting!). Here are a few iPhone images from the venue to give you a feel for what it is like.

Trinity Arts Centre Gallery

Main Wall

Side Wall

The Curved Wall

Here is a quick montage of some of the images on display

Montage 1

Montage 2

 

If you would like to go and see the exhibition, the gallery is free of charge. Opening times are;

Monday – Closed

Tuesday – Closed

Wednesday – 10.30 – 3.30

Thursday – 10.30 – 3.30

Friday 10.30 – 3.30

Saturday – 9.30 – 2.30

Sunday – Closed

The gallery is also open for performances – see the Trinity Arts Centre web site or Facebook page for details.

The address is

Trinity Arts Centre

Trinity Street

Gainsborough

DN21 2AL

(There is a car park (free) at the back of the centre but its a bit tricky to find. Drive past the centre on your right and go a few more yards to the roundabout where the big Tescos is and turn right. The road bends around to the right as you go around the corner you will see a row of terraced houses ahead on your right. Immediately after them is the entrance to the car park).

If you ever get the chance to hold your own exhibition, what do you need to know?

The first thing is, don’t expect to make a lot of money from sales. Its a sad fact in the UK that most people don’t value photography as art and as a result are very reluctant to put their hands in their pockets to buy images. If you have tried selling prints from your website you have perhaps realised this. True, some do make a good amount of money from print sales but this is usually because they are a big name and their images are of the very finest available or their name alone makes the images collectable. In fact, expect to make a loss if you hold an exhibition. The costs to hold one are high. For a start, many galleries charge you a fee to exhibit, whether you sell or not. They also take a commission on any sales and this can be from 25% to 60% of the sale price. Now factor in your printing costs (whether home printed or outsourced), framing costs and your time getting it all printed and framed. You also have to make labels for each image (mounted on foamex board) as well as writing an artists statement, designing a poster and producing a price list. You have to drive to the venue and spend a few hours hanging the exhibition on your own, the gallery rarely help in this. Then drive home, perhaps drive back for an open evening (for which you provide drinks and nibbles) and drive home again. Then at the end of the exhibition drive back and take it all down and drive home again! You can see why it is difficult to make a true profit if you factor in all of the costs.

Before you exhibit you need to be clear about what the gallery provides and what they expect you to provide. Some of the better ones will provide the drinks and nibbles, for example. Most won’t. Many expect you to provide all of the packaging for any items sold. if people buy prints or framed prints you will probably be responsible for posting them to the buyers unless the buyer is willing to return to collect them.

You need to be clear on insurance. Some galleries provide a certain amount of insurance cover if works are stolen or damaged. Will this cover your work. If they don’t provide cover, you lose if anything happens to a picture or pictures.

Be clear with the gallery too, on what advertising they do for you. Do they have a website and will they use it to promote your exhibition? Do they use Twitter, Facebook etc. Do they have an emailing list and will they use it to mail their clientele? In reality, many galleries are poor at advertising on your behalf. They leave it all to you, so what is your ‘reach’ as regards advertising? Are you on social networking sites and if so are you suing them to promote the exhibition? Do you blog, use Twitter and have a mailing list? If not, who is going to know about the exhibition apart from your close friends? Do you have the gumption to ring the local newspaper and see if they will run a piece for you? Are you up for contacting the photography magazines to see if they will list your exhibition? This is all additional time you need to spend to make the exhibition a success while remembering you are still unlikely to sell any or many prints!

In smaller local exhibitions you are more likely to make sales if your images are of local scenes. Also seasonal scenes sell better, so if the bluebells are out bluebell images sell better, for example. More ‘arty’ and creative work has a lower chance of selling because it will appeal to a smaller audience, however will, perhaps, command a higher price.

This leads us to the age old question of what to charge. You can approach this one of two ways. Most people add up the cost of the paper, ink, frame and so on and then add a bit on top. This is called ‘cost plus’ pricing. If your frame, print etc costs you £25 and you charge £50 it sounds like a good 100% profit. But remember, the gallery will take a huge slice and you are unlikely to have factored in the true costs I have listed above. In reality, if you are charging any less than £100 or more you are making a crushing loss IN REALITY, whatever you are fooling yourself into thinking. The second method of pricing, is to view your work as art. This takes courage and also lessens your chances of selling anything! Here, you think less of the costs involved and place a figure on your work based on the fact you feel it has, and will increase in, value. You are thinking more like a painter or sculptor. So you may value prints at £250 or whatever. This is a brave photographer who takes this approach as sales become even further apart. Ask yourself, would you spend £100, £200 or more on a framed print from a photographer you have never heard of who is relatively low profile? No? Neither will they. Why? Because they think they can go to Ikea and get a very nice framed print for £20 and then when they redecorate they take it to a charity shop or car boot sale and buy another that fits with the new decor. The English do not value photographs as art in the way the Americans do.

So this all sounds very pessimistic. Why on earth exhibit? Good question. If you are in it just to make money, don’t. However, if you want to invest in your profile or want the world to see what you create and are prepared to take criticism as well as plaudits, it is a lovely thing to do. It does bring kudos and respect from fellow photographers. It is also a starting point. I am sure Charlie Waite, Joe Cornish & Michael Kenna went through these early loss making exhibitions. But because they were prepared to put themselves out there and make the investment in time and money gradually, and because they have real talent, they became more successful. Now Joe has his own, amazing, gallery (one of the few UK photographers who make a success of this) and images by photographers such as Charlie and Joe command good prices and have become collectable in their own right – they have broken the glass ceiling so it can be done. One day someone who runs a ‘better’ gallery may walk in and be impressed with your work and offer to represent you long term (this is the route Michael Kenna has taken – working with galleries for years who display and sell his images all year around as well as holding solo exhibitions on top of these). A publisher may see your work and ask you to do a book. A print manufacturer might be scouting for talent. If we don’t promote ourselves, even at a loss, we will never know. If we really want to make something of our images then we should view an exhibition as an investment in ourselves and go in with our eyes open. This saves us from disappointment.

I hope this helps you if you are considering exhibiting. I am not trying to dissuade you at all. I just want you to know what it is really like. If you accept this it can be a very fulfilling and positive experience and if we make some money too, so much the better.

And to finish, heres another image you can see at the exhibition.

Thinking of Winter

 

 

 

 

Adventures in Polaroid

Polaroid

Avast, Me Hearties!

 

As many of you will know, I do like quirky photographs! Among the styles I love is the Polaroid. My dad had one when I was young. Being keen on holding on to his cash, he resented having to pay Boots or Bonusprint to develop his films and so thought Polaroid was the answer. He soon realised the costs were similar, you, in effect, paid up front for the instant development of Polaroids in higher film costs and so once the novelty had worn off the camera rarely came out to play.

Ever since, I have loved the washed out images the Polaroid film produces. There are digital tweaks you can make to imitate the look, but nothing really compares to true Polaroid for that sixties/seventies feel. Like many, I was so disappointed when, in 2008, Polaroid announced they would no longer be making the film – again economics took priority over art. However, a small group of dedicated European Polaroid lovers put their faith in the medium and with great foresight bought the old Polaroid film making machinery that was being sold off. They had no idea how to make the film. No idea of the chemicals involved. Oh, and they had no money.

Kippers by Post

Thus started the ‘Impossible Project”. The name came from the fact that whet they were trying to achieve was deemed ‘impossible’ by everyone they asked but this just seemed to make them all the more determined to succeed. To raise money they started a website along the crowd-funding principle. They asked Polaroid lovers world-wide to commit to buy a certain amount of film if they could make it. Once they had enough pledges they called the money in, bought a load of chemicals and put on the rubber gloves. I am sure it would make a great movie, because, against all the odds they succeeded in making  batch of film. (you can read the full story here). From there, the team have gone from strength to strength and employ 25 people, many of whom originally worked for Polaroid.

Fishing Boat - Whitby Harbour

A few words about the film itself. They make a colour and a mono film. Both are, shall we say, very unpredictable. VERY unpredictable. But it is this unpredictability which makes them so good in my eyes. The film has to be shielded from light in the first few seconds after shooting and can take half an hour to develop (best done in one of the film boxes). In fact, it can continue to develop for the next 24 hours. Sometimes the chemicals don’t mix correctly. The exposure can be all over the place. Flare and other aberrations abound. I am currently using some of the early close to prototype film which they sell at a reduced price and so am experiencing extreme quirkiness. The new generation films they have released this year apparently show greater consistency.

I bought an old Polaroid camera from eBay and adore it. The film packs are expensive (think, about £1.50 an image once postage is factored in) but the packs are well made, quite complex and contain a battery to power the camera and flash, so there is a lot going on. You get eight shots per pack and it is best kept in the fridge (DO NOT freeze the film). The camera is totally retro and I feel like a seventies Dad walking about with it. I used it in Whitby earlier this week sand people were stopping and staring 🙂 It got a great reaction. The Impossible Project have plans on the drawing board to make a new Polaroid camera, so exciting times lie ahead. The project has been such a success that they are opening Polaroid shops in capitals around the world to service customers. I got my film, from Germany, via UPS in a couple of days.

Camera meets Camera

Today I put a pack of the Silver Shade mono film in the camera and am blown away by the results. The tones are beautiful. I can’t wait to use the new generation of mono film they have released. I have one pack but am going to use up the old batch film first. new products in the pipeline will please large format film users as they are working on 10 x 8 and 4 x 5 versions of the film which was used by many large format camera users to test exposures and for quick client approval shots. The possibilities are endless.

On My Desk

 

I am keen to get out with the camera as soon as possible to continue experimenting. Ideas I have in mind are a trip on a train with just the Polaroid to see what it brings. Also, I would like to try some urban decay as well as ‘seaside’ photography. If you decide to give it a go, be warned, it is addictive and could be expensive but the results can be wonderful. Even the ‘spoiled’ frames can become happy accidents that in their own way are works of art. I enjoy the lack of precision and unpredictability of the Polaroid. I love the retro feel of the images and the tactile nature of holding a Polaroid in your hand to admire it. I already have some which I will frame for my walls. No doubt you will be seeing more of them from me in the near future.

If you fancy dabbling in film photography to see if it is for you, why not consider joining Jonathan Stead and myself on a film based workshop in September. We provide the camera (if you need one), a roll of film and show you how to develop the film cheaply and easily at home (without any need for a darkroom). You can get full details here — Go on, come and try some ‘real’ photography and enjoy the pleasures of analogue.

Me, myself and I

A new era at Doug Chinnery Photography

New Era

Things never seem to stay the same, do they? Look at Mars Bars – they are way smaller than they were when we were kids. Its no different in business. To succeed they need to change and adapt. So its time for change here with my photography business.

Since going full time as a professional photographer in 2011 my business has grown and developed much quicker than I anticipated. As many one person businesses find, the work load can become overwhelming and as a result customer service can suffer. My business background is in sales and marketing management and so I know how important it is to give excellent customer service. I have been having to spend increasing amounts of my time at my desk processing paperwork and answering customer questions which means less time doing what I love, which is being creative. I also have loads of ideas about projects that I want to launch, but time is making this impossible. There are also family issues with being a professional outdoor photographer and workshop leader. It is inevitable that you have to spend quite a bit of time away from home. I love being out in the beautiful places in the UK but I would enjoy it a whole lot more if my wife (and Stan, our dog) could be with me occasionally.

Until now, my long suffering and eternally supportive wife, Elizabeth, has worked part time every day as an administrator in the NHS meaning she has to stay home while I go off on various expeditions. However, this week, she handed her notice in at work in order to join me in the business. This 100% growth in staff has a lot of consequences. It will mean when you contact us, initially your enquiry will be handled by Elizabeth. She is an excellent administrator, well organised and efficient so hopefully you will see a faster response to emails. Any photography related questions she will route to me to handle. It also means I will be running more and diverse workshops as I will be freed from much of the mundane business management. You may get to meet Elizabeth (and Stan) on occasional workshops if she comes with me (and she is promising to make her world famous cup cakes and tea in the camper while we go off shooting too, so we will have refreshments on our return). I will also be free to write more blog posts and articles, to increase the amount of personal photography I do and I will have more openings in my diary for one to ones etc.

This is a big change for us. It is a leap of faith to give up a secure job and source of income, but we feel that to look after our customers in the way we want and to develop the business it is an essential progressive move. So, from mid-September onwards you will find Elizabeth on hand to help you in any way she can and I am here too, to help answer your technical and location questions. It also means that, a la David & Wendy Noton, she may well appear in more of my images as the ‘lone figure in the landscape’ (probably with a blurred dog running around her, too).

 

My wife, Elizabeth

Tips for photographing in the rain

Rain Tips

Wet Day in the Forest

I am sitting in my studio with rain lashing down. April showers is one thing, but this is ridiculous! I thought it might be an idea to post my top tips on photographing in the rain.

Many photographers simply dismiss making images in wet weather out of hand, but in doing so I think they are missing out on some wonderful and different images. Granted, if  the rain is really driving and especially if it is blowing directly onto the lens, it is pretty much impossible to work outside. It is then I look for an indoor location or head home, fire up the iMac and do some image processing with some good music on and a nice hot cup of tea to enjoy.

However, we often get gentler rain or it is blowing in from behind us so the lens stays clear. It could be the rain is coming down vertically or is intermittent. In those circumstances it can be ‘game on’.

The first thing is to protect our gear. Whether we shoot on film or digitally, water and cameras are not a good mix. If our body and lenses are from a pro range, like the Canon 1ds and ‘L’ lenses, they are heavily sealed against water and dust and can perform in extreme conditions, but mid range bodies and lenses down, while having some weather sealing can soon start to be affected (often terminally) by water and dust. I have tried all kinds of camera protectors and to be honest, most are just impractical. At one end there are over designed complex polythene systems with arm holes and gussets, seals, elastic and goodness knows what that take a couple of days and a lot of patience to fit and are then so bulky and restrictive in their desire to totally protect the kit that operating the camera with them fitted is like trying to thread a needle with our hands submerged in a bucket of jelly.

There are other simpler protectors which are so flimsy they are worse than useless.

I do carry a couple of the disposable Optech ‘Rainsleeves’. These are low cost, come in packs of two and are designed to be used a few times and then thrown away. With careful use they can last quite a while. They take up little space in the kit bag and the price is very reasonable. It has to be bad for me to put them on though because, like most rain covers, they restrict us in using the camera. Everything becomes fiddly and a bit of a chore. The worst problem is getting your eye to the eye piece to compose and focus (or, if you use Live View, seeing the monitor clearly as the polythene is not optically clear enough to focus critically). There is a hole in the protector which is designed to go around the eye piece but to fit it you need to take the eye pice rubber off and then re-fit it over the polythene and by this time I am losing the will to live.

A simpler and much cheaper option is to carry a thick polythene bag. I carry one which is big enough to simply pop over the whole of my set up on the tripod. It covers camera, lens and filters. Obviously, you can’t work with this in place but it saves packing up for every shower. As soon as the rain has passed over, just whip it off and got on with the business of making images.

I also carry a cover similar to this one. Bought on EBay for less than £15 it gives good access to the cameras controls and is quick to fit and remove. Focusing and zooming are a bit tight but the cameras body controls are very easy to use, as is the eye piece and screen. I have been using mine for a couple of years and it is stills waterproof. Made from proofed nylon you buy one to fit each lens and body combination (in theory) but I bought one for my longest lens, my 200mm f2.8, and use it on all my lenses – the shorter lenses just have the cover a bit bunched up but it is not an problem for me.

Then, yesterday, on one of my bluebell wood workshops, a client had a new ‘device’ which seems like a brilliant idea to me (Thanks for the tip, Maria!). She was given the idea by photographer, Jeremy Walker. It may sound a bit strange but in really wet conditions yesterday she was able to shoot with ease and keep her kit dry. It was a very large sheet of Chamois leather. Told you it sounds strange. However, it is is not your average Chamois from Halfords. She got this from Skye Skynes – here on this page . Now, when you see the price (£22 delivered in the UK) you will probably have a sharp intake of breath and think I have finally lost my marbles, but before you shake your head and leave this post let me just tell you, these are the most amazing Chamois you have ever seen or felt. Skye Skyns make them from sheep skins on the Isle of Skye and they are very thick – many times thicker than the Chamois I use when cleaning the car. It is also the softest Chamois I have ever felt. The sheet is really big and you just drape it over your camera and lens. In between exposures you can drape it over the front of the lens (and filters) to protect the glass from drops of rain. It absorbs the rain and is perfect for wiping kit dry too. Because it is a sheet rather than something fitted you can double or triple fold it and just drape it over the lens and position it as you wish. As I watched my client work I was impressed with how easy it was for her. The Chamois has another advantage, it makes a great thing to wrap kit in to protect it. So even in dry weather it iso earning its keep in the rucksack. They are washable so when they get grubby they can be spruced up easily. I have ordered mine and can’t wait for it to be delivered, although knowing me it will come the day a long drought starts and I won’t get to use it in anger for months!

A good style of hat to wear in the rain is a hat with a rigid peak, like a baseball cap (but waterproof). This keeps us a bit drier and warmer but also the peak goes over the top of the camera while we have our eye to the eyepiece and helps stop the rain fogging the viewfinder. Absorbent lens cloths (and often several of them are needed for a rain session) are essential for drying fog off of the viewfinder and lens.

I also keep all those little bags of silica gel which come in many products packaging when they are delivered to us, you know the little white sachets with beads in which have ‘do not eat’ written on the outside. Silica gel absorbs moisture. I keep them all and drop a few in my camera bag, to help dry the air in the bag. Every now and then I swap them out, dry the old ones out at home and let the new ones do their job in my rucksack. (I also keep them in my laptop bag, lens cases and so on. Every little helps.

What about drying kit off after the session? I use absorbent cloths to dab the camera and lens dry, getting the worst of the wet off. I then let the kit dry slowly and naturally in a warm spot in the house, but not by direct heat. Then, once dry it needs a clean and polish to get any residue off of the body and glass. For cleaning my lenses I have stopped buying the ridiculously expensive lens cleaning fluid the manufacturers would like us to use. I get a big bottle of lens cleaner from my opticians for £2.75 (and that amount lasts me a couple of years!!). I use it to clean my glasses and honestly can’t see any difference when using it on my lens compared to the stuff sold by camera suppliers. I have a small spray bottle I decant some into to take into the field from the large bottle which stays at home.

That’s enough on keeping the kit dry. What about technique?

Passing Shower - Isle of Harris

Firstly, I don’t tend to use lens hoods for protecting against flare but I do use them to keep rain off of the lens. The two lenses I have which have particularly effective lens hoods are the Canon 24-70 L and the 70-200mm. Both of these come with a lens hood which is a full tube, not ‘petals’ which is more usual on wider angle lenses. These completely shield the lens glass from all but rain which is driving towards the lens in strong winds. The downside is that you can’t use Lee filters. To overcome this limitation I take bracketed exposures and blend them later in Photoshop. Problem solved.

I sometimes carry a golf umbrella which is useful to work under as long as there isn’t much wind. (This is the umbrella I use – designed for use in high winds – CLICK HERE) If the rain is coming in horizontally or the wind is strong, forget the umbrella, it is just impractical. I have been toying with the idea of trying studio lighting clamps to see if I can find one which will lock on to my tripod leg and hold the umbrella over me and the camera so that my hands are free to work. I will let you know if I find one that is suitable.

It makes sense not to fight the rain, so if it is blowing in from a particular direction, see if there are images to be made that will enable you to turn the lens away from the direction it is coming from. I also often head to woodlands in the rain. Trees in leaf will provide good cover although when the leaves get very wet it will start to get through to you, but it is dripping vertically from the leaves and not blowing in to the lens so with some of the protection I describe above we can continue working.

Cromer Pier - Winter Rain

So, there we are, all set up with a protected camera and some techniques to help us keep dry while we shoot. Is there any way we can use the rain to enhance our images? Most certainly.

The first thing to say is that the light as ‘bad’ weather passes or just before it arrives, is often spectacular. Foregrounds can be lit with glorious golden light with a deep black sky (one of the rare occasions that the sky is darker than the foreground). Shafts of light can pour from the clouds and glide across the land or sea. Rainbows decorate the sky. It is the photographer who is prepared to be out in the rain that gets to capture this glory.

In rain I often focus on making detail images, intimate landscapes. In woodland or in amongst the shelter of rocks there are lots of fascinating details which look great when wet. The diffused soft light when it rains is perfect for detail images as there are no strong shadows to contend with and the colours are rendered beautifully. The woods or rocks provide some cover and working on the close landscape provides a nice change from shooting the wider world.

While it is raining keep an eye open for things being back-lit. As the sun emerges from the clouds, wet trees, plants and buildings can glow as the sun catches the wet surfaces. If you want the opposite effect and want to kill reflections and saturate colours, fir a polarising filter and rotate it while looking through the eyepiece and see the reflections disappear. Shooting in the rain is also an ideal time for more creative image making – try shooting through wet glass from inside a car or cafe. The rain blurs the world and creates an impressionistic feel to things. Or go the whole hog and have a go at ICM (intentional camera movement) utilising the low light to lengthen the shutter speed and create images with blur by moving the camera.

If you like long exposures, try shooting them in the rain. If you can keep the kit dry, the effect of the long exposures is to turn the rain into mist and you end up with an image which looks like it has been shot on a misty or foggy day.

A final idea is to shoot puddles and running water. The raindrops create radiating patterns and often the light and colours above the water is reflected in it and yields great creative possibilities.

It has taken me a few days to put this post together. Now, as I finish it, the day is warm and bright. the rain seems a million miles away, but it is forecast again for tomorrow. I find myself hoping it will rain, so I can go out and have a go at capturing something with my camera. I hope you feel inspired to, too.

A Break in the Cloud

 

 

What should I charge for my pictures?

What should I charge

I get asked this question on a regular basis, so I thought it was time to put up my answer for all to see, to save me typing it each time. This type of information is hard to find as most photographers shy away from revealing anything about current market prices for images. I don’t agree with keeping such information so secret. After all, if a buyer wants an image from a photographer they are not taking business from us. In most cases we won’t have an image which fills the brief. I take the same approach to this as I do to location information and techniques, I like to share information and be helpful, not put up the barriers and protect my own little kingdom. I think the world is a much nicer place when people help each other. In fact, if the market price was better known then companies who buy images would be less able to pull the wool over photographers eyes about the value of their images. The information I do keep confidential relates more to contracts, licensing agreements and so on. But helping keen photographers get a fair price for an image is something I am happy to do.

The first thing to say in answer to this question is that there is no answer. Sorry. There is no ‘price’ that is fixed for images, there are just too many variables and in the end you will have to weigh all of the variables up and quote a figure. Ideally you want to gets  price which is fair to you and is set at a level where the potential customer places the order with you feeling they have got a fair deal too. What you are trying to avoid is being paid a pittance for an image from which the buyer profits hugely at your expense or, conversely, quoting a price which is higher than the buyer is prepared to pay and so you end up with nothing. So, beware. In the vast majority of cases, your image is not worth as much as you think it is. Sorry, but thats a fact. If you lose the sale you end up with nothing. We have to have in mind that usually a buyer can get a similar image from someone else. Few images are unique and most image buyers have an idea of what is ideal for their purpose but won’t pay over the odds for that image if another which is almost right is available at a fairer price. They don’t want to have to shop around because time is money for these people, they have found yours and it fits the bill, but if you want too much for it they will move on to someone else.

It is also vital to say these people work to very tight deadlines and won’t wait three days for you to answer an email or send them a file. they expect you to respond and quote within hours in most cases and to be able to ftp a file to them without hassle in the format they need. When it arrives they expect it to be free of dust spots with no chromatic aberration or over sharpening/saturation. Their standards are very high. If you can’t deliver the image as they need it  it is better to say so straight away. Also, don’t expect payment before you send the file, it almost never works that way. In fact, be prepared to wait several months for payment (welcome to the world of the pro-photographer!). Rarely will you get paid in less than three months and it could be longer. You also have to be prepared to trust the buyer. Our whole industry has to work on trust and you may get let down. We have to send our precious full resolution files off to companies we have never heard of and there is little chance of us ever being completely sure how they are being used. You may have been told  the images was going in to a company newsletter when in fact it is off to China and being printed onto a 100,000 T-Shirts or posters for sale. Happily, though, the vast majority of buyers are honest and only use the image as described and pay in full. You probably won’t get a contract for a single image sale. The only evidence you have of the transaction is the email correspondence. You may get a purchase order, but this is rare. However, in reality, what are you going to do if you don’t get paid. Take legal action? I doubt it. We can’t afford to and often the firm you have sold the image to is on the other side of the world. It is just impractical. We have to work on trust and it usually works out well.

So, what about price then? Firstly, you will get approached from time to time to give images for free. They will tell you that they ‘don’t have a budget’ for buying images for ‘this project’. They will tell you they will give you a credit to your website. They will tell you it will lead to ‘great exposure’ for your images. They will tell you they have other projects coming up and will be in touch to buy images for real money soon. They are lying. I only give my images for free to genuine charities. Other wise I ask them if they are getting paid? If they are getting paid, so should I. The ‘credit link’ to your website is valueless. They have no incentive to remember to do it. If they do put a link in, it will be feint and tiny. No one will notice it. (Ask yourself, how often have you noticed and followed a link beside an image in the press? And if you have, how often have you bought an image from that persons site? Exactly). They will not come back with paid work. You have shown you give images away so they may come back for another freebie but in most cases you will never hear from them again. I urge you, never give your images away for free.

The next type of approach comes often as a result of seeing an image of yours on Flickr. Companies have learned they can trawl Flickr and find great images made by keen photographers who will accept a lower rate than a pro who depends on image sales to pay his mortgage. Thats fair enough in a commercial world. It is very flattering to be approached by someone offering real money for one of your images. The fact they are approaching via a site like Flickr means they are probably after a bargain. For most uses, and by this I mean firms who want to use your shot on their website or in a newsletter, a newspaper or magazine or a smaller firm wanting to use an image of yours for an advert or on packaging or perhaps a hotel wanting to make a print of an image local to them, you will rarely get an order if you quote more than £40 or £50 (that’s GB Pounds) in my experience. Some buyers will walk away if you quote that high. They are looking for a bargain. Bigger companies  and publishers might pay more (and I have made £650 for one image from a London marketing firm, but that was a rare deal). try asking them what their budget for the image is. Don’t be afraid to say you are an amateur and have no idea what to charge but make it clear you want them to feel they have got a good deal but at the same time want a fair price yourself. Most image buyers will give you a hint. If the image is to go on a book cover or on product packaging you can ask for more but in all these negotiations I urge you not to be greedy. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. The image sat on your hard drive is making no money and in my mind it is better to walk away with £50 than hold out for £200 and not get a reply to your email. If you really wan tho get the market price and the image is on Flickr then make sure you have Getty licensing switched on on your Flickr account. then you can forward them to Getty who will price the image for you based on the customers usage and they will handle the transaction, but you will just get 20% of the sale fee.

Sometimes firms will offer you a price. If it is fair, take it. It will never sound high enough to you and, indeed, they are after a bargain but if you try and negotiate up they are more likely not to even reply to your email. There is a strong chance they will just move on to the next photographer on their list. They don’t have the time or inclination to mess about. If the offer is obviously derisory then ask for what you think is fair (and again, by fair, I mean fair to them as well as you). They may not reply, but like the guys who want free images, it is better not to be taken for a mug. Just remember, offers over £100 for an image use is rare. Once buyers get to that level they will often prefer to deal with stock companies who have the files in high resolution and give a professional service with no hassle. the direct approaches based on your Flickr stream usually come from firms looking for lower value images and you need to accept a lower fee accordingly.

This is the same philosophy I have about stock photography. Many older pro’s knew a time when they could earn six figure sums from stock photography but have seen this plummet with the advent of micro-stock and other internet based stock sites. They complain vociferously that stock is no way to earn a living. However, if we adapt to the market and realise we can make thousands more images now for selling via stock that those guys working in film could never have done, stock is still a viable way to make a complete or partial living for photographers. The market is now a world wide one too. Access to buyers is so much easier and buyers are buying many more images than they used to, they are just paying a lot less for them. Those images on your hard drive aren’t making any money so I feel it is far better to be making small amounts from them that add up than nothing at all. I get emails from photographers complaining that selling via the Getty/Flickr deal only gives them 20% of the sale price – Getty taking 80% – but I feel that if Getty wasn’t selling those images for me I would be getting 0%. I can’t get in front of the image buyers that Getty can. Those images just wouldn’t sell. As a guide I think you can expect to make £1 per image per month that you have with a site like Getty. get 100 images with them and you could make £100 a month. get 1000 images with ten and you could make £1000 a month. Simple. 20% doesn’t sound so bad when you are getting £12,000 a year from images which are just filling your hard drive, does it? The very difficult part is shooting 1000 images that are so good Getty want them and buyers buy them 🙂

There will be photographers who feel you can ask for more than the figures I have mentioned. There will be some who think the figures are too high. As I said at the outset, there is no right answer to this question. Just remember, your image is probably not unique, these guys want a bargain and the image is usually not worth as much as you would like to think it is and there will always be someone who will do it cheaper. These buyers are not big on negotiation, you often have one email to pitch the price right. Don’t be greedy but be fair to them and you. respond very quickly and don’t give the buyer any hassle.

I hope you get the order because it is a nice feeling to get paid for doing what we love and knowing someone liked our image enough to hand over hard cash.

 

 

 

 

How do I create Panoramas?

Panoramas

Before getting in to answering this question I just wanted to mention I am running a “Capture-to-Computer” workshop in Skegness, Lincolnshire on Saturday 21st January 2012. One place is taken but there is one free place left. The basis of the workshop is creative and artistic photography – blur, ICM (Intentional Camera Movement) and textures. The morning will be spent with me showing you the techniques for shooting this style of image and then after a meal (included) I will spend the second half of the workshop showing you how to process these images in Lightroom and Photoshop. If you would like to book the second place the price is £149. Please drop me a message and I will organise it for you. Right, now on with the business of making panoramas!

I love panoramic images and with modern digital cameras and software they are easy to make. I find myself rejecting the use of super wide lenses in favour of making panoramas more and more in my photography. I am not keen on the heavy distortion that comes with the super wides and the converging verticals they create. With a panorama I can get in even more width and maintain a natural looking image with far less distortion.

You can by purpose made panoramic tripod heads, such as the Panosaurus, which are designed to rotate the camera on the ‘nodal point’. If the camera is rotated while held on this point and kept absolutely level will allow it to create almost perfect panoramas with little distortion and a very natural look. However the heads are expensive and you either have to have them fitted to a dedicated tripod or be prepared to switch heads in the field, and few of us are that dedicated or have the backpack space to carry two tripod heads.

There are two very acceptable alternatives which are ideal for most of us and I use both in my image making. I will cover both methods here. You can use a tilt and shift lens (the expensive but easier option) or you can use a standard prime or zoom lens. Both require stitching images together in software and both produce great images if done carefully.

So, if you want to make high quality panoramas, how should you go about it? The first step is to get your tripod as level as possible and make sure the camera is as level as possible on the head. This is far better than angling the camera slightly upwards or downwards. The more our of level the tripod and camera are, the more distorted the final image and the area you will need to crop away from the edges of the pano will be larger. I use the small round level bubble on the top of my tripod below the head to level the tripod itself. This can be fiddly as you need to tweak the leg lengths to get it right but it is worth doing. I then level the camera on the head using my hotshot spirit level.

Next is getting the settings in the camera right before you start shooting. It is critical that nothing changes between shots or you will not be able to seamlessly stitch the image. Turn off auto focusing on your lens so the focus point does not change between shots. Switch the white balance to daylight so it doesn’t alter between shots. Zoom out further than you want to to allow for cropping the stitched image which you will have to do to a greater or lesser extent. Don’t frame the image as you want it to finally appear as some of the edges will be lost. Start the panorama further to the left or right than you want to for the same reason. I use the camera in portrait orientation for panoramas to give a larger file size and more depth for cropping (unless I am using a tilt and shift lens, but I will come to that later).

Working in aperture priority or manual, choose one area of the pano to set your exposure and focus. The exposure is often the tricky part, especially around dawn and dusk or when the scene has high contrast. I tend to aim to set my exposure based on the area of the pano which is almost the brightest. I take a test shot to get the histogram across to the right. You have to accept then, that as the camera moves to wares the darker area of the pano it will begin to under expose but we can tweak this later in the software to balance the image. I set my neutral density graduated filters for the same frame as the one I use to set the exposure. You have to accept that as you take the other frames the positioning of the grad may not be quite perfect, especially if the land rises or falls across the width of the range of shots but it will look worse if you try and move the grad up and down for each image. (I prefer to use soft grads for panos to make the transition line less obvious).Do not use a polarising filter when doing panos as this will cause havoc with the look of each frame and you won’t be able to stitch the images acceptably. Focus hyper focally or on a point very close to the base of the frame. I usually use f16 for panoramas to give a bit more latitude on depth of field, whereas in my other landscape work I am usually trying to get the aperture to f13 or f11.

Once you are all set up rotate the camera to the left or right hand end of the pano sequence. Remember go further left, or right, than you want to include in the final image you have in mind. I then take a single shot with my hand in front of the lens with my thumb up. This tells me the next image is the start of a pano sequence. Once I have taken the final shot in the sequence I take another with my thumb down. This indicates the end of a sequence. Believe me, you will be pleased you did when you get home as it can be hard to tell which images are for panos.

Take the first shot and then rotate the camera for the next as quickly as possible. The absolutely critical thing to remember is to overlap each frame by at least 30%. It is better to overlap by 50% than to go lower than 30%. The more data and overlap Photoshop has to work with the better the quality of the panorama you will get. The reason for working quickly during the sequence shooting is to minimise movement of objects in the pano. Anything moving makes it harder for the software to do the stitch, so scudding clouds, branches of trees blowing in the wind and so on can cause issues.

Don’t forget, panoramas don’t have to be horizontal. For a really different type of image use the same system but shoot vertically. Vertical panoramas look great on the wall.

Back at home on the computer there is some very specific things you can do to make the panorama stitching go well. I use Lightroom to work on my raw files so the screenshots below will show that, along with Photoshop for the stitching but Elements works in just the same way although the menu items might be in slightly different places. You can also get specific panorama stitching software but I have never used this so can’t comment on it.

Import the raw files into Lightroom. Do not allow the import dialog box to apply any changes to the images on import such as adjusting white balance or applying some preset as this will make stitching difficult or impossible to do seamlessly. It is vital you don’t do any work on them whatsoever before they are stitched. Find the sequence of images and shift click to elect them (this is when the thumbs up and thumbs down shots are a big help, but obviously don’t include them in the stitch!). Right click the selected images and select Edit in >> Merge to panorama in Photoshop. (see screenshot below)

 

This will open Photoshop (or Elements) with the following dialog box open

 

On the left hand side select the Auto  radio button and in the centre area of the window you will see the list of raw files you are using. Click OK. Now just leave Photoshop to do its thing. It will take a while depending on how many raw files you are stitching and how fast your computer is. On slower machines you will have tome to go and make coffee :).

Once stitched the image will look something like this;

Now you can see why cropping is required. In the layers panel you can see how Photoshop has stacked the three images and then masked them to achieve the stitch. The next step is to flatten the layers and then crop the image to the panoramic shape, losing all of the irregular edges. I then save this image as a tiff (or psd, if you prefer) and take it back into Lightroom. Now you can start making adjustments to the exposure, contrast, clarity and so on because now it will be across the whole image and will look right.

Once you have made the adjustments you want in Lightroom, move the image back to Photoshop for any final tweaks and adjustments there, and you are done.

The process is identical with Tilt and Shift lenses, with a few differences. Firstly, when doing horizontal panos you keep the camera in Landscape orientation. You make the sequence of images by using the shift mechanism and make three images, one shifted all the way to the left, one in the centre position and the final one shifted all the way to the right. All the information above about levelling and camera settings still apply and the stitching process is identical, you just need the three shots. The advantage of this method is the overlap the TSE lens produces is way beyond 30% so the stitch works well and the amount that needs to be cropped away is usually less as the lens tends to give a clean stitch if the tripod and camera have been set level.

 

So, why not have a go next time you are out with your camera. They are great fun to make and can be quite addictive. Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

A Tip for Using the Photographers Ephemeris

ephemeris tip

There can be few landscape photographers who don’t use Stephen Trainors brilliant piece of software, The Photographers Ephemeris. You can download it for free from http://photoephemeris.com/ There are also versions for the iPad and iPhone available from the Apple app store (for a small and very reasonable fee). It is also available in the Android Marketplace.

The software basically uses Google Earth mapping to show us the exact point and time of sun and moon rise and set for every day at any point on the surface of the Earth. The concept is simple and it delivers it perfectly.

I have used it since it was first released and it has become an essential part of my location planning. However, I learnt a new feature this past weekend which I thought was really useful from Antony Spencer.

When you click on the map to identify your location in relation to the sunrise and sunset points you see four lines radiating from the pin. These represent the direction of the moon rise and set and the sun rise and set on the day of your choice. I have always viewed the map at quite a close zoom and so these radiating lines disappear out of the edges of the screen. However, Tony explained that if you zoom out on the map, eventually you see the lines terminate. This point is some 160 to 170 miles from the location where you dropped the pin.

Far from being a random point to terminate the line, where the line finishes is the point on the Earths surface where the sun appears at the time of sunrise relative to your chosen location. This is actually quite a useful bit of information for us. If we combine this knowledge with a cloud forecast we can anticipate the type of sunrise we will get.

For example, for Antony & I leading a workshop on Dorsets Jurassic Coast last weekend we could see the sun would be breaking past the curve of the Earth close to Paris in relation to our sunrise locations of Lyme Regis & Durdle Door. Looking at the cloud radar on those mornings we could see the cloud between Paris and our stretch of the coast was well broken which therefore hinted at the dramatic sunrise we experienced on Saturday.

It is just a small piece of intelligence but it adds to the thoroughness of our location planning and may well help us to plan which trips may be worthwhile and which might be best missed.

New Digital Photography Workshops for Winter/Spring 2012

digital workshop

Here is the new winter/spring 2012 workshop schedule for my digital photography workshops.

I am introducing a range of new workshops and locations for 2012. You will also see I have teamed up with two more very talented photographers as co-leaders on some special locations. I will be posting full details of these workshops on my website in a few days time and soon you will be able to book and pay online via PayPal. Direct booking via email will still be available.

As a special offer for the new season I am offering the first ten who book and pay their deposits a 10% discount off of the cost of a workshop in the schedule. This does not apply to Capture-to-Computer workshops but will apply to one-to-ones. (just four reduced places now remaining)

If your family or friends are struggling to buy the perfect gift for you, why not suggest they buy you one of my gift vouchers. They can select any value they wish from £10 upwards and it can be redeemed against any workshop, one-to-one or Capture-to-Computer workshop of your choice. If the value of the vooucher exceeds your chosen workshop I will refund the difference or it can be credited towards another workshop. If the workshop exceeds the value of the voucher you can use it in part payment. I even send you a blank greetings card with the voucher with one of my images on for you to present the gift to a loved one.

JANUARY

6th & 7th – ‘Coast & Castles’ Northumberland, with Antony Spencer (now a Light & Land tour leader). Two days photographing the spectacular coast of Northumberland so beloved of photographers like Joe Cornish, including three castle locations. £149 per day or £125 per day if booking both days. Includes breakfast. Does not include accomodation.

13th – Capture-to-Computer’, Yorkshire Coast, Yorkshire Limited to two people & includes breakfast. £149 per person

16th – Black & White Landscapes, Peak District. Includes processing in Silver EfEx Pro & Photoshop. Includes breakfast. £70 per person

22nd – Beginners introduction to your camera, Clumber Park, Nottinghamshire. Three hours approx. Any camera no matter how basic. £35 per person

23rd – Complex Compositions – Bole HIll Quarry, Peak District. Includes breakfast. £70 per person

30th – Peak District (New Locations) includes breakfast. £70 per person

FEBRUARY

11th – Lakeland Landscapes. A day spent photographing classic lakeland locations. Includes breakfast. £70 per person.

18th – Northumberland. A day photographing the finest coastal locations in Northumberland. Includes breakfast. £70 per person.

24th – Capture-to-Computer, Somerset coast. Limited to two people and includes breakfast. £149 per person

25th – Black & White Photography, including long exposures, with co-leader & mono specialist, Paul Wheeler. Weston-Super-Mare. Inlcudes breakfast & ‘how-to’ pdf’s. £99 per person.

29th – Peak District Landscapes, Half day, including refreshments. £45 per person.

MARCH

3rd – North East Coast – Nature & Industry – Saltburn & Paddys Hole. £70 per person including breakfast

5th – Peak Woodlands, Bole Hill Quarry. Includes breakfast. £70 per person

9th – Capture-to-Computer – Yorkshire Coast for Seascapes & Long Exposures. Includes breakfast. Limited to two people. £149 per person

10th – Long Exposures, Yorkshire Coast with long exposure specialist, Noel Clegg. Includes breakfast. £99 per person.

17th – Capture-to-Computer, Spurn Point, Yorkshire. Limited to two people, includes breakfast. £149 per person.

18th – Beginners introduction to your camera, Clumber Park, Nottinghamshire. Three hours approx. Any camera no matter how basic. £35 per person

APRIL

2nd – Peak District Landscapes, with Antony Spencer. £125 per person, includes breakfast.

3rd – Peak District Landscapes, with Antony Spencer. £125 per person, includes breakfast.

10th – Private macro workshop for members of the Nottingham Photographic Society.

13th – Bole Hill Quarry, Peak District woodland landscapes, half day, including refreshments. £45 per person

22nd – Peak Landscapes, half day to sunset, including refreshments. £45 per person

28th – Bluebells in Ashridge Forest, Buckinghamshire with co-leader Tim Smalley. Includes breakfast. £99 per person.

I look forward to seeing you on a workshop soon

Best wishes

Doug

Some recent testimonials from customers;

“Just wanted to say a huge thank you for a fantastic weekend!”

“I thought all the venues were spot on and enjoyed the fact that both of you brought so many different skills and knowledge to the event.”

“Since I started doing “serious” photography about 7 or 8 years ago I’ve been on at least half-a-dozen workshops or courses. I gained more from this one day than I have from all the others put together.”

How do I dodge and burn in Photoshop?

dodge burn

 

 

 

Dodging and burning is a technique which harks back to the days of film and darkroom developing. In the darkroom film users employ strange techniques to darken areas of their prints and lighten others to improve the look of the image. For those of us working digitally it falls to Photoshop to act as our digital darkroom to achieve the same effect.

‘Dodging’ refers to the lightening process while ‘Burning’ is the darkening of areas in the image. I remember which is which by thinking that burning an object blackens it, so burning = darkening. The goal is to introduce contrast into the image in such a way that the impression is of light falling on the subject in very controlled ways, highlighting the beauty or key aspects of the image. In my photograph above (and I have selected an extreme example rather than a subtle one) you will see I have burned the tractor tracks, areas of the clouds and areas of the surface of the wheat. To contrast with this I have dodged areas of cloud and highlighted the light falling on the barn with dodging. I was aiming for a dramatic image.

The biggest tip I can give you with this process is to do it very gradually, to be patient. Most people I see using this technique want to see dramatic effects too quickly and end up spoiling their image by creating a patchy look. The process is simple but it takes time and the vision to visualise the final result before you start. It is not good to approach it in a random way and hope the end result is going to be effective.

Now to the process. Firstly convert your image to black and white using your preferred method, either in Photoshop or a plugin such as Silver EfEx Pro 2. At the conversion stage, beware making the image too contrasty as you are going to tune the contrast carefully using the dodge and burn tools. Open the mono image in Photoshop.

Duplicate the background layer by selecting it in the layers panel and pressing cmd+J (windows = ctrl+J). Always do this and dodge and burn this new layer so that if you make a mistake you can always delete it an start again without spoiling the base layer. The layers panel should now look like the image below.

 

 

I decide whether to start with dodging or burning depending on the image but in reality it usually doesn’t matter which you start with as you will be alternating between the two. The image below shows the flyout toolbox from the main toolbox which shows the two tools.

 

I am going to select the burn tool first. The icon looks like a clenched fist. (don’t ask me why). The next step is to set the burn brush up correctly. This is done on the top toolbar as in the image below.

You will see I have selected a very soft brush and set the hardness to zero. This really feathers the effect and helps prevent hard edges to the burned areas. In the range drop down box you can see I have selected ‘shadows’. This is something important to understand when dodging and burning. The tones you select in this box tell the brush the only tones to affect. So if shadows is selected when you brush over pixels in the image the brush will only darken shadow, the darkest, pixels. It won’t touch mid-tones or highlights. Similarly, if you select mid-tones then only they will be darkened. Shadows and highlights will be unaffected. The same applies to the dodge brush. In most cases the other thing to remember is do not burn highlights and do not dodge shadows. If you do it usually gives the pixels a ‘damaged’ look because the change is too dramatic. Stick to burning shadows and mid-tones and dodging mid-tones and highlights.

The next vital thing to note in the above screenshot is the exposure level I have selected. In the shot above it is at 3%. This is where most people go wrong, they set the percentage too high. I work between 1 and 5%. I never go higher than 5% and rarely use that. I am usual working between 1 and 3%. When you use this setting the effect builds up very slowly and delicately giving you control. If you go higher you loose control and damage the image.

Now size the brush using the [ ] keys as usual and start brushing over the image. Use large flowing strokes. Avoid at all costs scrubbing away wit the brush at small areas as this soon creates a blotchy look. Keep switching between dodging and burning and build both together gradually. Keep changing between working on the shadows, mid-tones and highlights. Keep turning the layer on and off by clicking the ‘eye-con’ on the layers pane so you can see how far you are going and how far you have come. Work towards your pre-visualised goal. Take your time and don’t overdo it!

Here is my image. The first screen shot shows the basic mono conversion. The second it the dodged and burned final image. I have created a vignette to draw the eye to the water flow. I have brightened the water to give sparkle and punch and added a bit more drama to the sky.

Most mono film photographers would not consider printing an image without some dodging and burning to enhance it. Read what Ansel Adams wrote about this process as part of his print making to see how important he felt it was. He was a master of the technique. I hope you enjoy practising the effect and feel sure your mono images will improve dramatically as a result.

To learn much more about dodging and burning and all the other aspects of mono image making, why not consider coming on one of my specialist mono workshops where we work on thinking in mono, composing for mono and then processing to make mono images full of drama, light and character. You will find full details on the workshops pages of my website.

 

 

Fotoviva Art Prints – The First Five Years

This month Fotoviva Art Prints are celebrating 5 years in business as one of the UK’s leading online wall art retailers. Seeing as I offer a selection of my photographic work on their website I thought it was a great opportunity to sit down with the owner, Jason Wickens, and see how business has been going…

5 years as an online business is quite impressive, how have you found it?

Hi Doug, yes we are very happy at how things have worked out, considering interior wall art is such a competitive market, especially the canvas print side of things. Despite the current economic downturn we continue to see a steady flow of orders and we’re expecting a solid growth over the next few years as we add new features to the gallery and more images.

How has Fotoviva evolved over the years?

The online gallery has been improved many times, and right now we are working on a funky new design which will give the site a classier look with a modern feel. When you are selling online you have to keep up to date with new technologies and styles to ensure you look the best and can offer a good online service. We constantly tweak elements here and there to improve the customer experience. Of course the image collection is always growing too, with over 600 art prints now available – from an initial 20 images on launch! That’s thanks to our great team of photographers who provide us with such inspirational imagery.

What style of images sell the most?

As you can see, the artwork we offer leans towards the creative side of photography. These kind of images are what home owners want on their walls. We hand pick the pictures from our team of photographers to ensure the right ones are offered to our customers. There are many technically brilliant photographs but that doesn’t mean they will sell. We believe people look for wall art that has an artistic touch that touches their emotions. This is especially true with landscape and seascape prints. It’s a way to bring nature into your home.

What is the most popular type of wall art?
Interesting question! When we launched Fotoviva we only sold poster art and canvas prints, but now we also offer the images as acrylic prints. Customers tend to choose the print finish based on their own interior designs – acrylic art is more suited to homes with a modern decor, whereas canvases work anywhere. I think canvas art is probably still the biggest seller but acrylic prints are becoming quite popular and I think one day it may overtake canvas prints.

I see you also offer a print service now – how is that going?
It’s going very well. The acrylic photo blocks are big movers right now – very popular with wedding and portrait photographers as well as the general public. They are freestanding blocks and look very modern and glossy. Customers can upload their photos and choose their print style on the site. We see a lot of wedding pictures and family shots, such as newborn babies and holiday photos. We also offer a photo on canvas and photo to acrylic service in the same vein. We’re pleased with how it is turning out. There are quite a few companies doing this on the internet but I think many customers use us because of our association with high quality photography and prints – it helps to reassure them they will be getting a very good quality print for their money.

Do you get much time to take photographs yourself?
Not as much as I would like! Fotoviva keeps me busy, as does family life, especially with a toddler! There is a selection of my photography on Fotoviva but I tend to spend any spare time improving the site or adding images from the contributors. I have a Nikon D7000 and try to get out in the countryside whenever I can. Next year I’m planning to book a couple of days off and finally go on one of your workshop days. I really like your style of photography and I’m looking forward to learning a great deal.

What are your plans for the next 5 years?
Looking ahead we will continue to add new pictures to our image collections to increase the selection available. Currently we are not adding any new photographic contributors but we hope to change that in the future so we can expand the style of art prints. Our marketing will also continue online to reach out to new customers whilst retaining the current ones. As for the site itself, we have some ideas for improving this and we’ll add things here and there, including the new visual update we will be launching shortly.

Speaking for myself as a photographer who supplies Fotoviva with images, I recommend their canvas and acrylic printing service which I use myself. The quality is very good,and the prices are competitive. All products come well packaged and Jason & Carly are very easy to deal with. Obviously it is a great place to buy my images too! http://www.fotoviva.co.uk/

Landscape Photographer of the Year 2011

LPOTY 2011

I am pleased to announce that this image of mine entitled ‘Scintilla IX’ which forms part of my ‘Lone Cloud’ project has been commended by the judging panel in this years Landscape Photographer of the Year competition. As such it will be featured in the AA Publications book of the winning entries which is to be published in November. It will also form part of the exhibition of the winning images in an exhibition at Londons National Theatre on the South Bank.

The Best Photographer in the World

It seems that most photographers are men. I have never really understood why, because, on the whole, those women who do make images seem to be very good at it. I think I am on safe ground to say that men tend to be more competitive than women too. So we have large group of male photographers bursting with testosterone all with an eye on the competition. So the question arises, can there be a photographer, male or female, who could rightly claim to be ‘the best photographer in the world’?

No, I don’t think so. How could you possibly go about measuring such a thing? Even if you were to try and become the best landscape photographer in the world, or the best fashion photographer, wildlife photographer it would be impossible to make a decision. Would you base it on income? Or output? Number of books published or exhibitions held? Would you measure it by Twitter followers or number of Facebook friends? I can’t think of any measure that would work. I can’t see why anyone would try to establish themselves as ‘the best’.

Photography, like all art forms, is subjective. I know who I feel are the best photographers in the world, but they only get that accolade from me – it is my view, dependant on my taste. Others may agree with me, many would vehemently disagree. None of us would be right. In some ways, trying to improve as a photographer is like playing golf. Golfers while out on the course in a tournament can do nothing to affect what the other players do. They just have to play the course to the best of their ability. If they get round in the fewest number of shots they win. (this is where the illustration breaks down! Because if they win more tournaments than any other golfer that year, they do become ‘number 1’). As photographers, all we can do is our best. We need to strive to hone our skills with the camera and develop our abilities in composition (and, today, in the digital age, increase our skills with software too). We can build a reputation as a good photographer. We might make some great images. Our sales might increase. We might exhibit or be published. Others may view us as an authority or as an inspiration. From a personal standpoint, we can measure our growth as a photographer and have a gauge we apply to ourselves as to how we are doing. But, like a golfer, it is pointless comparing ourselves to the competition, because there is no competition.

Some photographers seem to see our ‘game’ as competitive. Photographic societies and clubs foster a competitive spirit. Some photographers jealously protect location knowledge or technique skills. I can never understand this. I have much greater admiration for those photographers who freely pass on knowledge and encourage others to develop. I believe if we do this we, ourselves, benefit as others will likely help us too. I see little joy and satisfaction coming from being a ‘Scrooge’ amongst photographers. I once emailed a photographer in the Lake District to ask him if he would mind giving me some help on the best place to park at a location. His reply left me stunned as he basically told me to ‘bog off’ – why should he help me to get an image that might be better than his? What drives a person like this?

You sometimes experience it on location. There you are on some beach or hillside in the pre-dawn light and another photographer turns up. You wave, smile or try to initiate a conversation and they just ignore you and give you the cold shoulder. Been there? I have, many times. What is their problem? Wy do they seem to resent our presence? What is wrong with being polite and friendly? On the there side of the coin, I have heard stories of other photographers who have met men most of us admire and look up to as being at the top of our game – men like Charlie Waite and Joe Cornish. They have met them in the field and these leading lights have been friendly, helpful and complimentary. Not aloof and distant. What a much better way to be.

I have experienced so much help on social networking sites from other photographers. Twitter is a great place to help and advice from respected leaders in our field. I have asked for advice on kit and within a minute had several replies which have been so useful and saved me so much mine and hassle. I have had location advice and help with technique. Nothing seems to be too much trouble for these guys. Hopefully I am able to the same for others because social networking is not a paces for leeches who just use it to promote themselves and suck stuff out of others. It should be a medium to be used primarily to give rather than take and then occasionally we can use it to promote ourselves. I soon stop following individuals who only want to blow their own trumpet and expect me to follow and fawn over them. Whereas those who try to offer something, even if it is just links to useful websites or to photographers sites worth looking at, I follow avidly and try to help them in return.

So, what is the point of this rant?  Forget trying to compete. none of us can be the best in the World. Be happy when others sell a picture, have an exhibition, get something published. Help them do it. Share information. Give advice when needed. Promote what others do. Hit that retweet button. What goes around, comes around. Help others and we will be helped. Be friendly and contribute something. Don’t be a misery only looking to feather your own nest. What’s the point?

New Farm Harvest Workshop

Those who subscribe to my newsletter know that I have been trying to organise an unusual workshop on a farm, of the potato harvest. Well, I am pleased to announce it is now on.

The farmer and his wife have been really helpful and we have been able to put a plan together for a small group to photograph the potato harvest – hopefully with stunning evening light. Apparently gulls follow the tractor as the potatoes are lifted and so the whole scene should be very photogenic. There may also be opportunities for unusual incidental images of things like potato boxes in the barns and farm buildings and so on. It sounds like there will be two tractors working, one is driven by the farmer actually lifting the crop, the other driven by his wife will be transporting the potatoes from the fields to the farm buildings. I have all sorts of images in mind we can try and get.
They are kindly arranging parking as close to the harvest fields as possible to reduce walking but please note the ground will be muddy and uneven so wellies or boots are required and anyone with mobility issues needs to take this into consideration when booking.
It is vital we do not encroach on the harvest, get in the way of farm machinery or impede the work in any way. I imagine we will be working from the field margins most of the time. I will give advice later on lens choice and more information on how things will work to those who book. You are, as with all of my workshops, responsible to organise your own insurance if you feel it is necessary. Our individual health and safety is our own responsibility and booking is an acceptance of this fact.
I have offered to pay a fee to contribute to the farm for each person joining us on this unique workshop and this is included in your fee. No meals or refreshments are included in this workshop but apparently there is a pub just a mile away which does serve food and snacks so it may be feasible to adjourn at some point to go and refresh ourselves -or to enjoy something there before or after the workshop.
The date will be Monday 19th September. We will meet at the farm to start at 2.30pm. Sunset is at 19:09 so I assume we will be finished by 19:30. This should give plenty of time and the best light on the day to get some memorable and unusual images. The farm is located near Lincoln. I can’t guarantee the weather, of course, but September is often lovely for landscapes.
I haven’t visited the farm myself and don’t know how ‘photogenic’ it is so will be approaching this as I do a commercial shoot where I often have to arrive without seeing the location advance and work ‘on the hoof’. It might be useful for you to see how I approach working out the best shooting positions and so on without prior knowledge of the place – a skill all commercial photographers need. There are pylons on the farm (as there is in much of Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshires farmland) so some work in PS might be needed, unless you like pylons – I will be showing how to frame images and use lenses to reduce their inclusion in shots.
Please also note I will be using my camera on this workshop to make my own images so I will not be quite as focused as I am on most of my other workshops on giving instruction. I will, of course, be happy to help you with your image making and will give as much time as I can to helping you, especially early on in the session so that yo are ready for later on, but as the light gets to its best or if the photo opportunities are good I will be shooting myself too and I just want you to be aware of this. Those who are closest to me in the fields will have the best chance of getting lots of help. I am reflecting this in the price of the workshop which is lower than my usual fee.
Oh, and one other thing. The farm is just half a mile from where the Red Arrows are based and they do practise over the farm. So, while they probably won’t put in an appearance, there is always a chance the will – so you never know the photographic opportunites might be amazing!
This is a rare chance to shoot a harvest at close range and get some great images of real farm life. I am really looking forward to it. Places are limited to 10 and I was deluged with interest so it may be wise to book early to avoid disappointment. Half the places have now gone. The fee, including a contribution to the farm will be £39 per person. This will be payable in full on booking.
I would like to thank in advance Mr & Mrs Marris for their kindness, cooperation and help in making this workshop possible.
if you would like to book please use the ‘CONTACT ME’ form on the right and I will organise it for you and remember your booking will not be secured until your fee is received.

Free downloadable long exposure calculator chart

I have just put on the downloads page of my website a free pdf long exposure calculator chart

Just download it, print and laminate it for use in the field.

I hope you find it helpful.

I plan to add some other free downloads so please sign up for my email newsletter for advanced notice of these – just use the form on the right hand side of this page.

if you have any ideas for useful downloads, please drop me a message using the ‘Contact Me’ form on the right.

How do I make a business in photography?

I have just read a superb piece by photographer David Noton in his dispatches column. Davids writings are always worthwhile reading. He is a seasoned pro with a ton and a half of experience and enthusiasm. In this article he tells it like it is and I agree with every word. For those thinking about making a living from photography it should become required reading. My experience as a pro is exactly the same as his.

Well, I say ‘exactly’, but that is not strictly true. My career path has a slight difference, but one I think more should consider.

David came out of the Merchant Navy and decided to go to college to study photography before going on to make his career taking pictures. I have never been to college (except to teach photography, ironically). I came at it from a totally different angle and one I imagine many of you will be approaching it.

My background is in sales and marketing management. My college and university studies are in business management. Photography was, and is, a passion. Then came the inevitable plea from a friend to photograph their wedding and this led to more and more job offers. Five years later I earn the bulk of my income from photography. I consider myself a professional. But I am still not a pure professional. I still work for my old firm. I am extremely fortunate to have a boss who allows me time to pursue my photography business. Five years down the line from that first wedding I am at a crunch point. Do I cut my final ties with the business world and take the plunge and become 100% a photography pro?

Read Davids article and consider the risks and challenges. Photography is a precarious profession. The competition from others far more skilled than most of us is fierce. Those paying for our services are paying less and less each year. As a result I have decided to continue as I am for a while longer. It is so tempting to have a romantic view of being a photographer but the whole subject has to be approached with the view of a hard nosed business man, not a romantic. I have a wife who depends on my and a bank who expects me to pay the mortgage on time. My bank manager is not a romantic!

The income from my company gives a measure of stability. I can depend on it and with it comes a car and other benefits (like holiday pay, a phone, sick pay etc The self employed will tell you how much you should value these things if you have them). The economy is unstable at present and as much of my income comes through my workshops I have to be realistic and realise taking workshops is a luxury for my clients, it is something they can quite easily cut back on if things get tight for them. I have managed to wean myself off of weddings and portrait photography. I don’t enjoy it and while it brings in the cash I am pleased to say goodbye to it (my last wedding is next week!… unless people want to pay me a lot more than I have been charging, weddings are the most stressful thing I do and the hourly rate  all things factored in is the lowest I make).

I think  any of you thinking about a career in photography should consider this approach. Maintain a core part time job, whatever that might be, and build a business in photography to run alongside it. At first the money will help you buy kit and get set up. Then it will help pay the mortgage. Maybe one day you will feel secure enough to take the plunge and cut loose altogether and that will be great, but if not, you can do what you love without much of the stress and worry being a full time pro brings. Sure, you can’t say you are a true ‘pro’. Real pro’s will always view you as ‘not quite the ticket’. But they will envy you. You will sleep a little better at night.

Remember, most photographers fail in their businesses. They fail, not because they are poor photographers. Rather they fail because they can’t run a business. As David forcefully writes in his article, you need to be able to sell yourself. Few people are able to cold call. Few can take the rejection. People putting phones down on them. Buyers telling them to get lost or that their work is rubbish. Few are able to cope with boring assignments making ugly things look wonderful. I have had to photograph gas valves. Palletts. Sewers. The romance of photography kind of evaporates when you are stood up to your knees in raw sewerage and then have to plunge your beloved carbon fibre tripod down in to it too… and then try and take images which make it look interesting. Those mornings you imagine standing on some stunning beach photographing the sunrise for money are very rare. More often than not, especially in the early days, you will be on an industrial estate somewhere trying to show enthusiasm to your client whose life is absorbed by magnetic hinge design.

There are few photographers who make it to David Notons position in life. He must earn a considerable amount each year and he gets to go places we can only dream of, but he openly admits he doesn’t feel secure and he now has nine people on his team being at least partly dependant for their financial lives on his shoulders.

I have no doubt I will be taking the big step in the near future, but I won’t do it until I am sure the time is right. I want to do it now. I am a romantic at heart, but I have to be hard-nosed right now. For now having the support of a second income is the best solution. I am patient. I can wait. If you are thinking of building a photography business in whatever field of photography you are keen on, I encourage you to take a similar approach. Have a second source of income until you know the photography business is right for you and that you can survive on what it brings.

How do I put a simple border around my images?

I get asked a lot how to put a simple frame border around images, like this one. It is very simple.

These instructions apply to Photoshop, but also work in Elements and no doubt you can work out a similar way if you use some other software. For Elements and others the menu locations may be different but the commands similar.

1. Prepare your photo as usual – the border is the last thing to add.

2. Click the Image Menu and select Canvas Size

3. Make sure the ‘Relative’ box is ticked

4. In the Height and Width box enter a figure – I work in metric so I usually first put in, say 0.2 cm in each box

5. Make sure the centre box in the icon below this is selected (the one with arrows all round it – you will see what I mean when you are there!)

6. In the Canvas Extension drop down box select a colour – in this example above, I chose White – usually, depending on the colours in the image, white or black work best for this inner pin stripe.

7. Click Okay

Now you will see the fine border around your image.

Repeat the process above to add the thicker, outer frame but increase the dimensions to suit what you want – I often use 7, 9, 11 or even 13cm – I find odd numbers work best.

You can experiment with several borders of varying thicknesses – it sometimes looks good to put a 0.2cm white, then a 0.2cm black followed by a 11cm White and finish the outer edge with another 0.2cm black border.

If you are uploading to Flickr and want a white outer border it is always best to put a fine black border around as the page background on Flickr is white and this fine outer pinstripe defines your white border – otherwise it is lost on the page.

Combine a border with a signature – the instructions for which I blogged here a few days ago, and you are developing your own signed piece of artwork

How do I re-size images for Alamy?

Many people how to get their images prepared for Alamy, especially their request for 48mb images. It is a bit confusing, so here is my method using Photoshop – but if you use Elements or some other software it may help you too.

The file you upload doesn’t have to be 48MB in itself – but has to be able to be converted by their customer to a 48mb TIFF.

This means you have to upscale the size of the file yourself before sending it as a jpeg.

To do this – Make sure you shoot in RAW (although jpeg, may work – it’s just I always shoot in RAW) and work on the image in Photoshop in 16 bit colour (which you will be automatically if you have opened the RAW file in Photoshop via Lightroom or Canon Camera RAW software) , cloning out dust, tweaking the levels etc (For stock libraries, don’t saturate the colours or do any sharpening – they want their customers to be able to do this to their own tastes/needs).

Then, when all is done, click the Image menu and select Image Size

In that dialog box make sure all three tick boxes are ticked and that ‘Bicubic Smoother’ is selected in the drop down box. Set the resolution to 300 pixels per inch (240 pixels minimum)

In the top width and height windows make the longest edge (depending on if the image is portrait or landscape orientation) around 5000 pixels – you will need to play with this figure to get the right length for your camera – the aim is to get the pixels dimensions figure at the top of the box to 96mb or above – but get as close to 96mb – as the higher you go the more chance there is of the quality deteriorating. Click okay.

Now click the Image menu again – select mode and select 8 bits

This will halve the file size (from 96mb to the magic 48mb). Now save in the normal way as the highest quality jpeg. The jpeg will vary in size depending on the type of image, how many colours in it etc and could be 8mb up to 16mb or more – but probably never above 20mb. The important thing is Alamy can now convert it back to a 96mb TIFF or PSD file for their customer.

I hope this demistifies the process for you?

And I haven’t forgotten I said I would do a tutorial on adding titles to your borders in Photoshop – it’s just this question came up from one of my students and as I had written it all down for him, I thought you could use it too.

Happy shooting!

How do I put a watermark on my photos?

I get asked this a lot by students so here is a post to provide the answer – it works in Photoshop or Elements (and the print and export modules of Lightroom have a custom function to add one also).

Watermarking your images is not a foolproof way to stop people using them without your permission. Some will ignore it and use it anyway. Others will spend a few minutes in Photoshop and remove it – with basic cloning skills it is usually not hard to do.

What watermarking your pictures does do is put off some who would steal your images and just emphasizes that it is against your wishes.

More effective is converting the image to 72ppi and reducing the size to say 1000 pixels on the longest side before uploading them. This makes the image unusable in any printed form. It will still display perfectly on a screen as these work at 72ppi – but printing will be useless. If you are using Flickr to display your images you can also switch off the ‘all sizes’ option in your account preferences which will make it much harder for people to steal your photos.

Anyway, on with the tutorial. There are two ways of doing this – by creating an Action or by making a Copyright brush. I tend to use the brush method.

1. In Photoshop create a new blank document. (click file, new). This should put a blank white page in front of you.

2. Next create a new blank layer

3. Select the Type tool to type your text – in my case I would then select a font and font size and type – Copyright 2010 © Doug Chinnery – (you can hold down the Alt key and type 0169 on the number keypad and this will inset the copyright symbol automatically)

4. When you are happy with it select the Rectangular Marquee tool by pressing the M key and drag a rectangle around your line of text.

5. Then go into the Edit menu and select ‘define brush preset’. When the dialog box opens give your brush a name (not a name like ‘Dave’ or ‘Debbie’ but call it Copyright Brush for example.) Then click OK.

6. Now in your brush presets drop down box you will find your copyright brush at the bottom of the grid. It will looked all squashed up but don’t worry, it will display correctly when you use it.

7. To use it, open a photo you want to copyright and add a new blank layer to it.

8. Select either white or black as your foreground colour – press D to set black and white as the foreground and background colours then press the X key to swap them if necessary. I use white mostly unless the image is very bright so white won’t stand out, then I use black.

9. Press B to get the brush tool selected and up on the options bar drop down the brush toolbox and click on your copyright tool brush at the very end of the set.

10. Use the [ or ] keys to make the brush bigger or smaller

11. Click on your image where you want the copyright info to be.

12. The in the layers palette on the blank layer with your copyright brush info use the opacity slider to adjust how the strong the brush is – you can really fade it out so it isn’t distracting or have it more prominent if you prefer.

13. When you are happy, flatten the image.

14. Remember to save the file with a different name so it doesn’t overwrite your master file – otherwise your original file will have your copyright info plastered across it – not good if you want to print it and hand it on your wall!!

I hope this info is helpful?

If you prefer to use Actions then record the above being done but instead of creating a new document just put a blank layer on a photo, type your copyright info, and set the opacity, flatten the image and then stop the action recording. Then it is just a case of running the action on future images – the only problem with this is that it will put the copyright info in the same place and at the same opacity on every image and sometimes this doesn’t look right., but the choice is yours.

High Pass Sharpening

I was so impressed with the quality of sharpening that Chris Upton had used on his images in his exhibition (Masters of Vision, now finished) I decided I needed to re-evaluate my sharpening workflow.

I do not sharpen the psd file I create from my RAW file. I hold that psd file as an unsharpened master. You need to sharpen images to different extents depending on how it will be used. You would sharpen an image differently to be printed on canvas than you would if it was going to be printed on gloss paper. If you were then going to show it on a website it would need a different amount of sharpening also. So I hold my psd as a master and create jpegs from it, sharpen them according to use and then once the jpeg has been used I delete it – there is no need to keep it taking up disk space as I can recreate another from the master psd at any time.

Chris Upton reminded me about ‘High Pass Sharpening’. I had used this in the past but had somehow drifted back to the usual Unsharp Mask (USM) sharpening that most people use. The difficulty with USM is it increases any noise in the image as it works on adding contrast to edges in the image.

High Pass sharpening has the advantage that it is performed on a separate layer so it can be masked out of some areas and it can be strengthened or reduced in effect by using the opacity slider. If you don’t like it, it can be deleted and you can turn the layer on and off to check the effect.

So how do you do it. It is very easy

1. Duplicate your image (press ctrl-J)

2. Select Filter>>Other>>High Pass

3. Set the radius to 10

4. Click OK

5. Change the blending mode of the layer to Hard Light

6. Zoom in to 100% to be able to judge the next step

7. Experiment with setting the opacity slider on the layer anywhere from about 20% to 70% to get the amount of sharpening you are after.

8. If some areas do not need sharpening or need to be softer then use a mask and set the opacity of the brush to remove the level of sharpening to the extent you want.

This sharpening process could improve your images a great deal.

Top ten tips for photographing seascapes

Landscape photographers love the chance to photograph the sea. We love the wide horizons, big skies and the magnification of the glorious light at dawn and dusk reflected in the water. To make the most of your trips to the coast here are some tips for making great seascape images.

1. Go prepared. Welly boots, while not glamorous, are the best footwear on the shore. They allow you to work in soft mud, lapping waves and rock pools without worrying about getting wet, cold feet. Neoprene lined wellies are more expensive but much more comfortable and warmer than cheaper brands. I have also found seawater rots the adhesives and stitching in modern walking boots. I had a pair of new boots fall apart after a trip to Skye due to me wading about in seawater for two weeks.

2. Check the tides in advance. Often the best time to make seascapes is with a falling tide at sunrise or sunset. The exposed rocks and sand will be wet from the receding tide which reflects the light in the sky and adds much more interest than a drier foreshore with an advancing high tide. To find the tide time for your location enter the name of the nearest harbour or port into Google along with the words ‘tide table BBC’. this will bring up a link for the generally reliable tide tables on the BBC website. If you don’t live in the UK just enter the nearest harbour name and the words’ tide table’ and you should get a link for your country. Being aware of the tide times also helps you be aware of not being cut off from the mainland by a fast rising high tide. Very easy, believe me, when you are engrossed in making images.

3. Check where and when in relation to the location the sun will rise and set to find the best time to visit that location. The best way to do this is to download ‘The Photographers Ephemeris’. This free software uses Google Earth and shows on the map exactly where the sun and moon rise and set in any location on the planet on any day. One of the best bits of software a landscape photographer can have on the computer. You will find it here. There is even a version for the iPhone.

4. Take a towel, lens cloth and lens cleaning fluid. You will find, even in quite calm conditions that your lens and filters start to get coated in salt while making images at the sea. This soon ruins images. Keep an eye on this and clean your glass regularly. I also have a golf towel clipped to my tripod for quickly drying off salt spray from the camera and for draping over the camera if the waves start to get high.

5. Wash you tripod legs in fresh water after a seascapes session. Tripods often get stood in seawater to get the perfect shot, and get coated in abrasive sand from beaches. To preserve your kit, wash it off well with fresh water after the shoot.

6. Get there early. I usually get my best seascapes 30, 45 minutes or more before the sun is due to rise. Trust me, that extra 20 minutes in bed is not worth missing the best light for.

7. Stay late. As with the preceding point, at the end of the day i often get my best images up to an hour after the sun has set. Don’t pack up and go home when the sun dips below the horizon – keep shooting.

8. Get the tripod down low. So often photographers fully extend the tripod legs so the camera is at head height for comfort or out of habit. Get down low for more interesting images with a different perspective.

9. Use ND filters. ND filters from 2 to 10 stops help lengthen exposures and create wonderful effects on moving water and clouds. The 10 stop filters, such as the Lee Filters ‘Big Stopper’ enable me to shoot great seascapes long after the best light has gone thus lengthening the shooting time on location. they also enable great images to be had in poor light and cloudy conditions.

10. Shoot details. it is easy to just shoot the wide seascape before you and to miss some of the beautiful ‘intimate landscapes’ of the shore. Rock patterns, seaweeds, shells and pebbles, patterns in the sand, beach furniture and buildings and so on.

I hope you have found these tips helpful. I would be interested in hearing from you if you have tips to add.

If you would like more help with improving your seascape photography, please use the form on the right to add your email address to my mailing list. You will get advanced notice of all of my future seascape and other workshops before they are announced elsewhere.

What should I charge for my photography?

This is a big question for all photographers, pro’s and enthusiasts alike.

The answer is not simple. No one can tell us what the answer is. we have to decide for ourselves. However, there are some things to consider before deciding.

To simplify things, lets take the example of selling prints via our website. this is something many photographers want to do and setting up a website is relatively simple.

First, a sobering fact. few photographers sell more than a few odd prints A YEAR through their personal website. Fact. In fact, for those who pay Clikpic or a similar company for hosting their website and providing the website template, few will even recoup the websites costs. Some will, certainly. (I do), but most won’t. There are tens of thousands of fine photographers out there doing the same thing and the chances of someone finding your site, let alone browsing it long enough to find an image the like so much that they are prepared to send you money for it are slim. Sorry, but that’s a fact.

But lets say you want to give it a go. (And I encourage you to do so. I sell through my website and make a small part of my income through direct print sales but the website has far greater value to me in becoming my online brochure to advertise my style and abilities to other potential customers. For me, that is where the value is – in the work it generates).

So, you spend some time building your website and launch it. But the big question is, ‘what should I charge for prints’?’.

There are several ways of looking at this. If you are to look just at what a print actually costs – say a pound or two for something A4 size, three or four pounds for something a bit bigger and add on a couple of pounds for postage, your direct costs are very low. Lets say, ten pounds all in. So do you double it. 100% is a good mark up, surely?. However, sadly many potential customers are already dropping out at the £20 price point. They can get a landscape or flower photograph from Tesco for less than that, framed and ready to hang. Is yours any better in their eyes? And they still have to buy a frame. Of course, yours is unique, not mass produced, but most buyers don’t see it that way. In reality, £20 is hardly worth all the hassle to you of sending the jpeg to a lab for printing, then making up an receipt, keeping accounts, packing the image up and going to the post office to post off and so on and yet already many buyers just won’t pay it. Start charging £30 or £40 a print and buyers laugh and click off to a site which charges £10 for a similar print (trust me, there are thousands of photographers selling good, not great, images at £10 or less)

You also need to factor in that this price model doesn’t take any account of the thousands of pounds you have paid out for gear and computers as well as software plus the travel expenses in getting to the location perhaps several times to get that wonderful light. It may be nice to get the recognition of selling a print and it may be okay to make a few quid but be under no illusions, you are making a MASSIVE loss selling using this model.

If you do factor in your real costs for gear and travel etc then there is no way to price prints sensibly. You would be charging many hundreds of pounds per print.

This is the model I have been using for the last three years. I am having to re-evaluate my approach at the moment because of the points I have just made.

The alternative is to go exclusive. This is the brave step. If your imagery is VERY good and you have absolute belief in its value as art then you can forget the actual raw material cost of a print and go down the art pricing model.

This takes account, not of cost, but of value. This is where what your images are ‘worth’ comes in. if someone truly loves an image or images of yours, how much do they love them? Do they love them enough to INVEST  in them. To stake some of their hard earned money in something they feel they will treasure for years, pass on to their loved ones, in something which has true value.

Buyers willing to do this are few and far between. If you think getting the £20 a print customers onto your website is hard. Getting buyers who will pay £100, £200 or more for a print is far more difficult.

This is where you need to build a name for yourself, a reputation, and you need to develop your own style. It is no good going to Durdle Door and Bamburgh Castle and making a superb image in great light but which is essentially no different to thousands of other equally technically good images of the same places in great light which are on sale on thousands of other photographers websites using the £20 a print model. There is no reason to buy yours.

If you can build a reputation like Charlie Waite, David Noton or Joe Cornish you can charge hundreds of pounds per print on your name alone. Check out their websites and see what they charge! Those who get such a reputation are as rare as, well, as rare as Charlie Waite. Almost none of us will make it.

However, it is possible with masses of hard work, loads of networking, hundreds of fruitless dawns and withstanding loads of rejection to gradually carve out a lesser reputation than the ‘greats’ but a reputation nonetheless. With this kudos comes value. Your prints will acquire a value and you can then learn what that value is and price to it. If you can charge £100 or more a print then things are becoming more realistic from a business point of view.

Some will add perceived value by releasing limited editions and short print runs. I have doubts about this model in many cases, but that is another blog topic.

You can add value by framing the print, but you have to be prepared to organise this and handle all the variety of demands buyers will start to place on you for certain coloured wood frames of different thicknesses and different mount colours and can you do non-reflective glass and can you send it to my sister in Canada, oh and can you do it in two days because we forgot her anniversary and can you…. Customers at this level are paying much more and so demand much more. Are you prepared to deliver this kind of service? What does delivering this level of service mean to you in terms of cost. Cost in both cash terms and in terms of your time?

I am sorry there are no clear answers here, just facts. Cold, hard, facts. If you do decide to go for premium pricing because you feel your images are truly worthy then you need to back this up with premium service, superb quality prints on archival materials delivered with premium packaging. It is no good sullying the image you are building with shoddy communications and packaging. Everything has to reflect the fine art photographer image you aspire to.

A lot will depend on your needs. Are you just looking for the warm glow of knowing someone likes your image enough to pay you a few bob for it and perhaps earning a few quid each month to keep you in memory cards? Or Are you looking to go semi-pro? Not giving up the day job, but wanting to run a small business alongside your day job to bring in a serious contribution to kit or mortgage? Or is your plan to go pro? become a full time photographer? The answer to this question will help you decide on the pricing route you take.

I wish you well in your decision. Whatever that is, why not consider joining me for my ‘making Money From Your Photography’ workshop where I will help you do just that, whatever model you decide to follow? Get in touch with me for details via the ‘contact us’ page on my website.

Review of Epson R2880 & ColourMunki Calibration System

I am often asked what printer I use. Until a few months ago the answer was, ‘I don’t use a printer’. ( I do have a HP desk top printer but it is only suitable for document printing ). I have always shied away from the complex matter of profiles, calibrating, papers and inks. It just seemed too much hassle. So much easier to upload the files to Loxley Colour in Glasgow and receive the prints a few days later.

I then did a workshop with Scott Kelby and he covered printing, calibrating, colour managed workflow etc in some detail. Scott mentioned that he used the R2880 and R3880 Epson printers and the ColorMunki calibrator. So all fired up, and feeling for the first time that I knew what I should be doing, I took the plunge and invested in the R2880 and ColorMunki.

The set up for both was quick and painless. The ColorMunki set up involves loading the drivers and software and then running the simple calibration program. While it is one of the more expensive calibrators it is superb. it allows you to calibrate your monitor and if you wish to create your own paper profiles. You simply print a test chart and then swipe each strip of colours on the paper with the calibrator and this builds a bespoke profile for your printer, ink and that particular paper combination. So far I have only used it to calibrate the monitor (and the first time you do it, it makes a huge difference) and the software prompts you to recalibrate regularly (I have it set to prompt me to recalibrate every two weeks, although this is probably overkill – it only takes a couple of minutes so it is no burden).

The drivers for the R2880 load quickly and the printer runs a set up routine when you install the ink cartridges for the first time. One cartridge has to be swapped out depending if you are printing on gloss or matte paper. I don’t understand why both can’t be fitted permanently – something for the Epson engineers to sort out.

It has quite a large footprint so you need some desk space to cope with it. But the output tray and the top paper input support fold away into the printer and seal it up to protect against dust. This also means they don’t intrude into your desk space while you are not using it.

It comes with a roll feed mechanism, so you can buy your favourite papers on the roll and print panoramas. It takes all sizes from small envelopes up to Super A3 which is bigger than A3 and is better suited to the 3:2 aspect ratio of full frame DSLR sensors. Super A3 paper is about 13 x 19 inches in size and the printer prints close to the edge. Prints at this size look stunning and are perfect for framing to hang in most homes. I bought some Hanemhule A4 paper but have hardly used any, when you have seen your prints at Super A3 you won’t want to print A4 or 10 x 8!!!

I have been trialing Epsons Archival Matte paper for my colour prints (and next want to try Hannemhule (or however you spell it) 305gm PhotoRag paper. For my mono prints I have been using the stunning Ilford Gold Silk paper.

It was with trepidation that I set about printing my first image. I sharpened it with Nik softwares excellent output sharpened plugin for Lightroom. The monitor was calibrated with the ColorMunki. I had downloaded my paper profiles from the manufacturers for the R2880. I had set up Lightroom and Photoshop correctly for a colour managed workflow. It was time to press the print button.

Breath held, I waited for the paper to emerge. Grinning, I held the print up by my studio window because I could already see the reproduction of what I had on my screen was close to perfect. I had never seen prints of such quality outside of a high end gallery. Colours were faithful, prints were not too dark as they so often are when getting them back from a lab and mono prints are quite frankly, astounding. The R2880 has three black/grey cartridges and they deliver deep rich black and mono tones, especially on the Ilford paper.

I now have loads of my prints on the walls of my home and studio, gradually replacing the substandard prints from various labs that have been up for a while. I have also been printing for customers, their own images, as it is virtually impossible to get labs to print on anything but standard papers.

The K3 inks are as good as everyone says. They are expensive, although my local supplier delivers for free next day and charges around £7.80 per colour. With nine colours, it is not cheap, but the results are worth it. The printer monitors levels and warns you when a cartridge needs replacing, which is just a one minute job. I have always sent my empty HP cartridges off to charities for recycling but they won’t accept the Epson cartridges, although a student on one of my workshops tells me you can order envelopes from Epson themselves to send empty cartridges back to them for recycling (but no charities benefit from this which is unacceptable in my mind).

At £449.99 from Amazon (which is the best price I could find from a reputable supplier and I get free next day delivery) it is not cheap, but it is well engineered and produces results worth the cost. I am already lusting after the R3880. So I am now able to wholeheartedly recommend the R2880 and the ColourMunki.

Should photographers use Twitter?

Twitter is certainly a phenomenon. It has appeared as if from nowhere and people seem to love it or scorn it. 140 characters per message only. Is it a gimmick that will fade as quickly as it emerged? Or has it filled a niche and become an indispensable feature of our online lives? In particular, for us as photographers, is it a useful tool? Or a waste of time? If we are running a business does it provide tangible benefits or is it a distraction that consumes time we could spend making our living more effectively elsewhere?

I was a sceptic but am now committed to Twitter. It has its drawbacks but I believe it has quickly become a vital tool in my social networking system.

For those of you who haven’t been on Twitter and wonder what it is all about, here is a brief description. You create a free account and sign in. You are presented with a text input box in which you can type anything you want – the question beside it asks ‘Whats Happening?’. So you type something, within the constraint of 140 characters (and spaces count as a character – you soon learn to be very concise). Press’Tweet’ and your message is launched.

But who is going to read it? At this stage, no one. You have no friends, no ‘followers’. I guess some brave souls tweet away and hope someone will stumble on their tweets and decide to follow them. However, the best way to get followers is to follow others. Twitter will analyse what you tweet and suggest like minded people who you may wish to follow. You can read what they tweet and decide if it is of benefit for you to follow them. From the people you follow, Twitter will suggest more people you may be interested in. You can also see who people you follow are following and some of these you may decide it is beneficial for you to follow.

What happens when you follow someone. Simply put, their tweets will appear on your home page in chronological order. The most recent will always be at the top. Your list of tweets will be a unique combination of all the tweets of everyone you follow. It is unlikely anyone else on the planet will have an identical list to you – they would have to be following exactly the same people as you.

If one of your contacts says something you feel your contacts would be interested in you can ’retweet’ it with a click of the mouse and their tweet will be sent to all of your contacts. In the same way you can reply to a tweet if you feel you have something to say in response to it.

Tweets can contain links to useful or interesting web pages or images. Or, they can be just text. Its up to you. Long URL’s you want to tweet can be shortened by websites which convert them into ‘tiny URL’s’ to save characters.

You do have to be aware that every tweet you make is visible to the World and all of your contacts will see it and be able to read it. The exception is if you send a private message to one of your contacts.

Your followers can send you private messages and you are informed of these in your email inbox. You also get an email each time a new person follows you, giving you the chance to check what they are saying on Twitter to see if you wish to follow them back. Here I add a note of caution. You will soon get bizarre people following you… who obviously have no intention of ever reading what you write because they are following thousands of people. They couldn’t possibly be interested in what you are saying. What they want is for you to follow them and read what THEY are saying. Most are online marketeers or people promoting their own businesses and products. I do not follow anyone who has an unmanageable amount of contacts. I believe Twitter should be a two way thing. The only exceptions I make are one or two ‘celebrities’ who do say interesting or funny things and will obviously have thousands of followers but what they say is of value to me in one way or another, so I make an exception. I follow about a quarter of the people who follow me. If you want me to follow you, then you have to be saying things that are interesting, useful, humorous and so on (and I don’t follow anyone who uses foul language or tells off-colour jokes).

Now we come to its benefits for us as photographers. As with many forms of Social Networking, Twitter has given us the ability to be put in direct contact with many like minded people. Ordinary photographers, many of whom have a vast knowledge of equipment, techniques and contacts. I have tweeted brief questions and within seconds got back the answer from contacts. I also try and respond to the questions of others (I get mad with people in Social Networking who are only on the take – it should be a two way thing – photographers I follow who only post stuff about what they are doing and images they are uploading and so on soon get deleted from my list of contacts. I don’t want to hear just what a great guy you are – -I want to interact with you.)

I do get business from my contacts. I may post about a space on a workshop and get a booking as a result which is a real benefit to my business, but it also means my customers can contact me for advice or just to tell me what they have been doing since we met and because of the 140 character limit it has to be brief and to the point. It is often so much quicker than email.

I have linked my Facebook account to my Twitter feed so when I upload something on Facebook a tweet with a link to it appears in Twitter. Now Twitter is becoming a dynamic part of my social networking system. If a follower clicks that link they go to my Facebook stream and now they don’t see other peoples tweets, they are focused on my stream alone and this may lead them to clicking a link to my website and now they are purely focused on my work and from here they may link to my blog and start reading stuff I have put up. Twitter, in this way, has become an essential tool in social networking.

As with all social networking it can become a time waster. If you have too many contacts you can spend hours every day following everyones tweets, checking all the Facebook friends streams, commenting on all your contacts Flickr uploads, processing emails, reading and writing blogs, recording podcasts and listening to those of others and so on. It can become all consuming and thats before you have searched for bargains on EBay! Very soon you will get no work done. YOu have to be disciplined and apportion a sensible amount of time to social networking – enough to give real benefit to your customers and friends and enough to derive benefit yourself, but not so much that your business or life suffers. It is just a matter of self control.

I quickly came to see Twitter as indispensable.  I love how quick it is and how it puts you in direct contact with great photographers who soon form a part of your network. Most of the guys and girl photographers on Twitter are genuinely friendly and keen to help. It enables us to interact with people we would never have had chance to contact 15 years ago. Imagine being a budding landscape photographer in the 1960’s, 70’s or 80’s. We would have had no chance to talk to Charlie Waite, Joe Cornish or other greats. Their equivalents today are on Twitter, Flickr and Facebook and we can. We can ask them questions, get their feedback and perhaps even help them (they are human too). This has enormous and real value.

So, I don’t think Twitter is a waste of time (but it could be – thats down to you) and I do see real benefit to my business in Twitter. I also have learned a huge amount from the help of my contacts on Twitter and hopefully have been able to help others too. I recommend you check it out and make up your own mind.

New website launched

As you will have noticed my website has had a complete makeover.

I was quite happy with the look and feel of the old design, in fact, I feel the look of this one is not as good but there is a reason for the change.

While the design was fine to my eyes, in Googles eyes it was repulsive. The old site was created in Apples iWeb program which is great if you need a very simple web design program. Everything is drag and drop, click and re-size, WYSIWYG etc. However to make it so slick and simple the program is creating horrendous code in the background which Google takes one look at and walks away from in disgust. Sadly in this age, if we are running a business and need traffic to our site then we need to feed Google what it wants. hence I have taken the plunge and created this site from scratch using WordPress.

WordPress is free, open source software originally created for blogging but it soon became apparent that it was ideal for creating websites too. If you just want a blog you can sign up on the WordPress website http://wordpress.org/ and they will host a lovely free blog for you but if you want a website using the software it becomes a whole lot more complicated. You need to download WordPress from them (which they are fine about) and then sign up with an Internet hosting company that supports WordPress websites. They need to be able to run MySQL databases (which runs under the WordPress bonnet (hood, for my American readers!)  and organises all the data and be able to run php (whatever that is?). I opted for a UK based company, www.1and1.co.uk, which many people complain about and yet I have had no issues with at all.

You use an ftp program (I used the free and excellent Filezilla) to transfer the WordPress files to your bit of webspace hosted by 1and1 in my case. Then you start the installation and configuration of your website which is all done through your web browser. This is where for the first two weeks I had a nightmarish time. Every help file I looked at for hand-holding and guidance seemed to make assumptions that I knew stuff. This is stuff I now know, but at the time with no experience whatsoever it was very frustrating. You will get detailled instructions on a stage in the process which is ideal and then they will drop in a sweeping statement with no explanation of how to perform that step. Stage 5, reconfigure the widget module for multi-spronged upwiggliing. WHAT! Then followed endless trawling of help forums reading the posts of exasperated newbie WordPress users like myself who had come up against the same wall and after much searching I would find a kindly soul who had taken the trouble when they had discovered the answer to go back and write a short detailled description. With this, it became simple again until the next sweeping statement was reached.

But, by sticking to my task like Frodo and Sam on their quest, I eventually came out of Mordor and to the point where I could start actually building web pages. Here things got simpler ad I was soon steaming through the laborious process of moving the old website to the new.

What I do like about WordPress is all the widgets which you can integrate into the site to do things I could never do with iWeb. Things like have a subscription form that works for people to sign up to my free newsletter (its over on the right of this page, by the way – fill it in for me to test it, thanks!). I am also able to have the ‘Contact Me’ form instead of having to put my email address on the website. I love the Twitter, Flickr and RSS buttons which are so easy to add so people can follow me trough other channels easily. But most of all, I love the way Google loves WordPress sites. I am hoping I begin to turn up higher in searches for photography workshops in the UK, for instance.

I am not happy with the look of the site. It is okay but I now need to get my head down and learn how to modify the code you can’t see to get the look and feel I am after. There are some glorious websites made in WordPress out there and I want mine to be as good looking and as easy to use as those.

Plans I do have which will be implemented in the next week or so include a downloads page where I have some ideas for free downloadable pdf’s that you can grab and print out for use in the field – sign up for my free newsletter for an announcement of when they are up and available.

I am also going to go back through my old blog posts and upload all the most popular ones, the ‘to-do’s’ and ‘how-to’ articles so that there is a base resource here to start the new site off. This is useful to my readers and also gives more food for Goggle because that hungry content monster needs feeding. If the food is good, it keeps coming back for more.

I would welcome your comments on the site, good, bad and indifferent as well as any thoughts you have on how I can improve it.