Saturday, 28 February 2009

Colours and Caution Tape!!!

Colours and Caution Tape!!!

Today, I had a great photoshoot with two wonderful alternative models! One of them goes by the name of Merl. The two of us have been trying to set up a shoot for quite some time, two years to be precise, but something always seemed to get in the way. The other model, some may recognise. This was my 6th (!!!) shoot with Helena! So, here's a little preview of what we achieved today!

Merl's initial concept for the shoot was to use bright punchy colours. She mentioned a bright pink wig, so I checked my colour wheel and ordered a bright green roll of background paper. Thus, we have:

Helena's concept called for the gods of all things cliché. Fortunately, I don't, at all, mind cliché, even if it was the notorious caution tape. Well, quarantine tape! Hey it might be a cliche, but it actually turned out to be a fun set and that's all that really matters!

In the end, it was a definitely a fantastic shoot today and I've got loads of photos to get through!

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Friday, 27 February 2009

Flickr Friday: Tara Leigh

I've decided to start my first sort of regular post by featuring my favourite Flickr streams here. So, every Friday, I will be showcasing a Flickr stream of some of the greatest people in my contacts list.

You may have noticed that I have recently taken issue with some goings-on regarding Flickr. I am, as of yet, undecided about what to do, but in the meantime will carry on with this feature.

Of course I needed a title for this new feature and I had some thoughts. Possibly:

"Rampaging Ferrets Meandering Through The Cotswalds In Rickety Skodas?"


How about:

"Freshly Featuring Fantastical Flickr's Finest Fuzzy Flickrites Fleeting Frivolously For Fruitcake Flavoured Furballs"


We'll stick with "Flickr Friday"

On with it anyways.

Today, the spotlight goes to . . . *drumroll* . . . Tara Leigh!

Pilfered directly from her profile, this snippet of self-assesment says most of what anyone should need to know about this gem of a Flickr user:

"i'm silly. sometimes a goofball and full of energy. it's a personal problem really, i'm thinking about seeking treatment (via sugar)."

Tara's stream mostly contains portraits and what a collection of portraits it is. She always manages to get the best out of her subjects resulting in some beautiful, vibrant and personal images! Here's a taste of the wonderfulness in store should you choose to visit her stream!

last maddie shot for tonight... (by tara leigh (leigh photography))

last of alex before bedtime... (by tara leigh (leigh photography))

In the random and cataclysmic event that you should think that a collection of beautiful portraits of beautiful people isn't your cup of tea, than switch to coffee. Ha, no seriously, I promise you will find many other jewels of photographic juiciness in store! For example:

you light me up... (by tara leigh (leigh photography))

By now, you should be thoroughly convinced, CLICK HERE and give this wonderful woman all the credit she is due. I promise she doesn't bite; well, maybe a little, but don't let that deter you! :)

Also, be absolutely sure that you have a gander at her main portfolio as well! Oh and subscribe to her blog while your there! Oh and while your at it subscribe to this one as well at the top of the screen!

Images © 2009 Tara Leigh. All Rights Reserved. Published here with explicit written permission from the copyright holder.

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Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Are We In For a Wave Of Viral Copyright Theft?

Are We In For a Wave Of Viral Copyright Theft?

I know how much everyone who labours over creating their intellectual property loves hearing about the new ways the world is trying to rip us off, but I just couldn't leave this one to pasture.

I've always been aware and concerned about how, to many, many people, Flickr is nothing more but the internet's biggest "free" stock library. It's the first stop for many upstart and amateur graphic designers, photoshop artists, bloggers and the teeming masses (who seek "pretty pictures") looking for quality, quick and penniless imagery to use in their projects. It's been a persistent problem for years and one that really hasn't shown any sign of going away.

I have a sneaking suspicion that copyright theft on Flickr may have just gone viral.

I logged into Facebook this afternoon to find one of my acquantainces had posted a new note. It didn't appear to be one of those stupid "25 Random Things" so I had a look. This is what I was greeted with (without the infringed upon photo because that would be perpetuating the problem):

The infringed upon image is HERE .

Personally, I am far more worried about this than the "Facebook TOS Scandal". I know Facebook aren't actually trying to use my images. I know that they're only trying to protect themselves from sue-happy cretins.

What makes this so terrifying, is that the vast majority of Facebook users, many of whom will jump at this new "craze" have little understanding of copyright law nor do many of them care. A million blog posts and bulletins and tweets and what not can be sent out about this, but the people who will perpetuate the "note" are the exact ones who will not be reading any of those. It does not apply to them insofar as they know, so why should they? Much in the same fashion that the daily politics of Mozambique don't apply to me, so I don't read about them.

What can be done?

I, personally, don't have the slightest clue.

I do honestly believe that the "mimic everything" culture of Facebook might just spiral this out of control and I do honestly believe that us creators of photographic imagery, particularly those of us who use Flickr, will very soon witness a case of VIRAL copyright theft.



So the "anything on the internet is free for the taking" culture is alive and well on Flickr. That was well proven today. Yes, of course someone will always try and argue non-truths and utter fallacies if they think it saves them face. But the real shocker of the day came from Flickr itself. When I reported a group specifically made for collecting these illegal images, I got a fairly concise response.

In short, the Flickr team told me "We don't care unless we're being threatened."

The question that will be at the forefront of my mind the next few days will ultimately be "Am I paying Yahoo my money for a substandard service?"

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Monday, 23 February 2009

I Love Dyed Hair

I Love Dyed Hair

After reading a blog post by a good friend of mine, Jennifer Brindley, where she outlined her thoughts on dying her hair orange (she's also quite the talented portrait photographer herself), I instantly remembered how much I love hair dye of the extreme variety. I always have; from my long-haired teenage years to these days as an aspiring fashion photographer. I love it.

It's true. I absolutely love vivid colours. A weird thought coming from a guy who's entire wardrobe is almost exclusively made of black, blue, dark red and dark green. When it comes to photos; however, the brighter, the punchier, the more vibrant the better. When it comes to fashion, there isn't much better.

Here's a selection from my portfolio:


Rudigo (by macjw2)

Black, Pink and Platinum:

Miss Cobweb (by macjw2)


Nick (by macjw2)

Very Red:

Venusian Queen (by macjw2)

Very Very Red:

Cake (by macjw2)

Blue (Okay, this one's a wig!):

Gothic Lolita (by macjw2)


Miss Trixie Rose (by macjw2)


Jilly (by macjw2)

Yes Sir, I do love some brightly coloured hair!

Oh and Jenn, I have a suspicion that Milla Jovovich might be solely responsible for all of this!

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Sunday, 22 February 2009

8 Reasons Why It's Good To Be An Amateur

8 Reasons Why It's Good To Be An Amateur

We should all know that the quality of photographic imagery has absolutely nothing to do with someone's professional status. Easily, some of the best photographers in the world are full blown amateurs and the fact that they're not making their living off of their craft has no effect on the quality of their images. In fact, I think most everyone should agree, that being a successful professional photographer has absolutely nothing to do with how good a photographer one is. It's all about the business skills. Need proof? Google professional photography studios in your area, you should find the number of sub-par portrait studios to be mind-blowing. But these guys and girls make their money. Not because of their artistic merit, but because they know how to flog themselves.

Let's get back to the amateurs though. Yes, there are a lot of people for whom photography is a passing hobby. They make a few pictures when the whim strikes and never really care for technical excellence. More power to them. Then we have the guys (and girls) who obsessively pore over every technical and artistic detail. They eat, sleep and breathe their passion, never allowing the slightest flaw or discrepancy. They constantly and consistently churn out quality work at a standard many professionals still strive for.

This may sound a bit counteractive to the purpose of this blog (my struggle to become a professional photographer); however, it always serves one well to keep your feet firmly planted in the present whilst looking ahead to the future. It's about balance.

So here are 8 reasons why it's great to be an amateur photographer:

1) You can shoot what you want.

Picture this: Here you are, you just spent a weekend on the coast passionately photographing sunsets and what not. You went on the trip for no other reason to please yourself. You got some great photos and you're diligently working through the editing and retouching process. After a while, you take a short break and have a browse of Flickr. There you see a wonderful flower macro that just suddenly lights a previously unknown fire in your gut. You've never shot flowers before, but this one is just phenomenal and you have to give it a go. You stop what you're doing and head to a florist.

You're free to do that, because you have no responsibility to anyone but yourself. One week you shoot landscapes, the next portraits, the next insects. Your not bound to promoting a single speciality. You're free to embrace all aspects of the craft without having to tailor yourself to meet a client's needs.

2) The only deadlines are those you set for yourself.

The contact sheets need to be on the Art Director's desk by close of business tomorrow. The client wants to see the proof's the moment they come out of the camera. The test shots need to be on the agency's website ASAP.

Let's face it. A photo can never be perfect. There's always something else that can be or could be done to make it better. As photographers, we're always the most critical of our work and we strive to do everything we can to present our images the very best we can. However, when someone is beating down your door asking for the images "now," it's virtually impossible to get things to your standard. As an amateur or enthusiast, you're not bound to these time lines. It's done when you say it's done, whether it takes five minutes or two weeks.

3) You're free to experiment until you turn blue in face.

"What happens if I just move the light a bit this way and throw the lens out of focus a little bit? Oh, that's nice!" Before you know it, you've lost several hours tweaking and fine tuning, on a whim, something that nobody will probably like. But who cares, you've not used anyone's time or money but your own and you've had a blast doing it and you've probably learned a lot along the way.

4) When someone asks you to shoot their wedding, you can say "No"!

Okay, this goes for some professionals too, but in this economic client, someone trying to pay the bills with their camera would struggle to actually turn down work. I know several people who don't shoot weddings that have actually had to reconsider their stance when asked if they shoot weddings. Of course, it doesn't just apply to weddings, it goes for anything you don't want to shoot. As an enthusiast; if you don't like it, then you don't have to do it. No second thoughts.

5) You're free from the expectation's of others.

This ties into experimenting and shooting what you want, but it has it's own intricacies as well. It's only human to imagine something far greater than is actually possible. Flights of fancy spring wild with our imaginations as we wonder what something can or will be like in the end. Often times, the result is disappointment. So, when a client starts seeing visions of Vogue quality portraits at a school portrait session, they will ultimately be let down. This is through no fault of your own, but to them, it reflects on you. They didn't get what they expected, so it must be the photographer's fault. Guess what: when you're shooting for only yourself, the only delusions of grandeur that you have to deal with are your own!

6) You can freely offend people with your work.

I can see the confuzzled faces now. "Why on Earth would I want to offend someone?" The purpose of art is to make a statement. Whether it's a statement of joy, or peace, or politics or what not, art is designed to invoke a response. A wholly valid intention is to shock people into seeing the intended message. Think Robert Mapplethorpe or Joel Peter Witkin. Or maybe none of that. Maybe you're just a huge fan of B horror films and that whole subculture and you just want to create images that reflect your interests. It's hard to do that kind of thing, as a portrait photographer for example, when you're supposed to be marketing your work to the masses. No mother wants to take her newborn baby to a photographer who's portfolio is full of bullet-ridden zombies, or blood drenched vampires, no matter how stunning your normal portraiture is. Fortuantely, you lovely amateur you, have none of those concerns. You can break out all the chainsaws and severed limbs you want and still know the mortgage payment is being paid next week.

7) When you're in a slump, the bills still get paid.

Demotivated? Nothing to shoot? Tired of your style? Need a change? The rest of life too stressful? No worries. Put the camera down for a bit. the urge will come back. It always does and you don't run the risk of ruining your passion, your obsession for yourself. Take a week. Take two. Take six months. Rest yourself. You can. You can take all the time you need to revitalise yourself because your not forced to plough through hundreds of mundane portraits and product shots that you detest simply because you want to have electricity next week.

8) You're actually relieving stress!

Amateurs do this because they like it. It brings them joy. It's how they unwind after a long day. It clears your head of the drudgery of everday life in today's broken societies. It relieves stress. Now picture this: You have to shoot a new line of lingerie for a the website of a boutique. The client is tight with their cash and refuses to pay for more than a single full day rate for the shoot itself. Ten models, four outfit changes each, three photos of each outfit, two make-up-artists, one overbearing art director and eight hours. Stress free?

Of course, this is certainly not any sort of dig at the people who have successfully turned photography into a career, rather an introspection, of sorts, for all the amateurs who dream of changing their careers as quickly as possible. Slow down. If you really want it and work for it, it will come. Yes, life can be great as a Professional Photographer but it can be just as great as an amateur as well!

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Saturday, 21 February 2009

Photo: Classic Headshot

From one of my most recent shoots and easily my strangest shoot to date, though I won't go into that here.

Ewelina (by macjw2)

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Wednesday, 18 February 2009

It Looks Like I Have To Start Over

Just yesterday, I was sat down on one of my breaks at work and I was contemplating what kind of content to write for this here weblog thingamajig. {Wait, spellcheck says thingamajig is a word! Awesome!} One of my ideas for a post was to write about how, as an aspiring photographer, I've fairly successfully used Myspace to passively market myself and actively network with like-minded individuals.

Then I got home and checked my e-mail.

A photographer friend of mine, kindly pointed out to me that all of the links I had posted to this here blog, we're automatically being disabled as spam.

Wait, what? I'm not selling anything here. I'm talking and posting photos. I mean, I'm sure noone really wants to read what I have to say, but spam, that's ludicrous and isn't talking and posting photos most of Myspace's purpose in life?

Gutted, I started thinking about it.

Though, over the past few months, I haven't been nearly as active on Myspace as I have in the past, I have still noticed that their "anti-spam" measures have increased dramatically. I hadn't realised that they have actually completely and effectively cut the site off from the rest of the internet.

For example, when I went to reply to that friend and give him the link that Myspace had denied him, I was promptly informed that my account had been phished and it was shut down. I had to reactivate my account twice. Just because I tried to send my friend a link to something personal, this blog. Wait, isn't that the point of Myspace? To network?

Now, it seems, you can network on Myspace, so long as you stay within the confines of Myspace. It's like they've turned themselves into the isolationist internet equivalent of North Korea.

Or rather, as I tweeted last night: Myspace = Stalin.

So, now, I have to think. Will I stop using Myspace altogether. No. I have built up a good network of like-minded individuals and made some good friendships over the past four or so years and I'm not prepared to let that go yet.

It seems, thanks to this Draconian idiocy on Mypspace's part, I will just have to be careful and limit Myspace to Myspace and then find a new, friendlier hub for my social networking activities. Which means I will probably have to start strengthening my Facebook presence, the thought of which sends shivers down my spine.

I abhor Facebook and I will never ever upload my photos there, other than a few self-portraits. This has absolutely nothing to do with the recent idiotic furore over their terms of service. I have my own reasons and they're good reasons I promise, but that's an issue for a different post!

In the meantime:

Dear Myspace FAO: Rupert Murdoch,

Please consider a revision of the official Myspace logo in order for it to more accurately convey the execution of your company's business. I whole-heartedly recommend the implementation of an Iron Cross or the SS insignia. Another possibility would be to layer the current layer overtop some fancy lettering of the words Hitler, Franco, Mussolini, Stalin, and Pol Pot. This will give your consumer base a concise message of where you garner the inspiration for your business models.

Thank you for you transparency.


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Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Why Fashion?

Why do I shoot fashion?

Magic (by macjw2)

Several years ago, after several more years of passing interest in taking up photography, I got a camera. With that camera, I took photographs. Amazing how that works eh? I took photographs of just about everything I could see through a viewfinder. Plants, street lights, toys, windscreens, landscapes etc, etc.

One thing I never pointed that camera at was another person. I couldn't bear the thought of what someone else might think of me as I pointed a hulking piece of plastic and metal, firing away, frame by frame of film.

As I said in another post: I am socially inept.. I avoid interaction with people at all costs.

"But wait," I hear you say, "Don't you primarily shoot fashion and beauty now? I'm totally confuzzled!"

Alexandra (by macjw2)

Well, something happened in those early days with my trusty film SLR. I would hungrily eat up the information in every magazine, book, or internet article I could get my hands on. I would scrounge everywhere just to look at photographs that might inspire me. Of course, National Geographic was an obvious choice to look for sensational photography. But then I found something else.


Four different editions to be precise. Vogue: UK, Vogue: Paris, Vogue: Italia and to a lesser extent Vogue: USA.

The imagery in these magazines is enough to make anyone stop in their tracks. Just like any good n00b photographer, I started looking at these images to see how they were made. Imade accounts on websites related to the this particular industry. I gorged myself on the various magazines. I started talking to individuals who made that type of photograph.

Through all of that, I learned something.

With the exception of some high-end commercial still-life, the amount of creative energy that goes into a fashion shoot is virtually unrivalled. Not only do you have the photographer and usually the assitants, but then you have the Make-up Artists, the hair stylists, the Wardrobe Stylists, possibly some set builders, an Art Director, the model and in some cases the list can go on.

Your standard commercial or editorial fashion shoot relies on the hard work and creative ingenuity of a whole team of people and a lot of the time, it is really hard work and a whole lot of ingenuity.

Kloë (by macjw2)

I decided very early on, that I wanted to be a part of that process. I wanted to be a part of something bigger than myself. To create something as a team that could not be created on my own.

These images inspired me early on and still do. It is that inspiration and my desire to create that forces me to break through my social limitations.

That is the reason why, at least for me, that such an introverted individual would drop all of fears and social concerns in order to work in photographic niches that heavily rely on social competence: fashion and beauty.

Sola Ravine (by macjw2)

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What you looking at?

Natalie (by macjw2)

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Social Networking For the Socially Inept

I hereby proclaim to the whole of the interverse:

I am socially inept.

I cannot cope in social environments. I get anxious and I completely shut down. Put me in a large group of people and I'll pretty much panic. Put me at a table at a restaurant with even a small group and I will only speak when directly spoken to and even then all you will get is one word answers.

It used to be, about 14 years or so ago, that I thrived on the internet. Good old chat rooms and forums and mIRC were somewhere that I could get involved socially without worrying about all the shortcomings of my social incompetence.

The internet has changed. Of course, I'm sure everyone and their dog is aware of this, but it has changed a lot. Everyone is on the internet. The internet is now wholly a mainstream social platform and a legitimate one at that. Find me someone who is regularly online and doesn't have or hasn't had a profile on a site such as Myspace, Facebook, Twitter, etc, etc. Being social on the internet is identical to be social in the real life with the exception of the different rules of etiquette.

Well, you ask, what does any of this have to do with photography or social networking?

I'll tell you.

As a person, none of this means anything to me. I could just ignore the social aspects and go on, invisible, behind the scenes a merry little outcast.

As a photographer, whom operates mostly on the internet, this is a very different story. I need social networking. I need to participate in the photographic communities and I need to be able to connect with potential customers. Therefore, I have to have and do have profiles on all the main social media sites as well as my main website and this here blog.

But do I use them effectively? Hardly.

I feel awkward randomly commenting on people's photos, statuses, blog posts, etc, etc. Even though, usually, they want me to. Or maybe that's the issue. They want "people" to, but I then ask myself why would they want "me" to. I know very well, or at least I suspect so, that I'm just being paranoid and that I'm very likely cutting myself out of great networking opportunities and denying other people a comment because my own wiring is a bit loose.

So here's the deal: I know what the problem is. I think I know what I should do to fix it. I need to get over this trepidation of mine and jump whole-heartedly into the social bandwagon. So from now on, I will try and make it a point, everyday, to comment and reply to people on Myspace, Facebook, Flickr, DeviantArt, Twitter and make sure that I comment on the blogs that I read.

I don't really care if I get any response or if I fall on my face at this point. I just need to get over this ridiculous fear I have of interacting with other people, especially those individuals that are like-minded.

So, if you have accounts with any of those sites, get in touch, you may well just be part of the catalyst I need to fix this issue of mine!

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Sunday, 15 February 2009

Game: Guess the catchlights!

Here's a shot from a couple weeks ago. Nothing special, just another macro image of an eyeball, but:

Can you guess what the source of those wonderful catchlights is??

Guess the Catchlights (by macjw2)

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This Blog Is About Photography

Yes, this is a blog about photography. So where is the photography?

Let's start with an image from my most recent shoot:

Nick (by macjw2)

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Modestly Operating

We all see the PR announcements and subsequently read the reviews of all the latest equipment with all the shiny, new, show stopping features. This is all fine and dandy. It's healthy to lust after new gear, is it not? Well, sometimes no.

I have a tendency to decide that I "need" something in order to carry on and then obsess about it, getting nothing done in the process, until I have it. A short burst of productivity ensues and then I find that I "need" something else. Thus, the vicious cycle repeats itself.

Of course, it would be easy enough to say: "I don't need anything else; just keep on keeping on." But that isn't true either.

That's the catch 22.

I do need the new gear. I do need new lenses. I do need a new camera. I do need more strobes and modifiers. I do, absolutely and desperately, need a new computer.

What I need to learn and beat into my skull, is that whilst I need all of these things, I also do need to carry on with what I have, because if I don't, then there will be no productivity whatsoever.

Fact: I have no disposable income worth mentioning. Thus, it is quite literally impossible for me to make any significant investment in gear or equipment. So the conclusion must and can only be that I have to either make do or give up.

I'm not giving up. I'm not.

So here's what I have to work with to carry on in this journey. Hopefully I will be able to add to it in the future, but for now, this is what I'm taking with me on my quest to become a full-time professional photographer:

Photographic Equipment:

1 x Canon EOS 30D
1 x Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6
1 x Canon 50mm f/2.5 Macro
1 x Canon 80-200mm f/4.5-5.6
1 x Canon 430EX
2 x Tripods
1 x Bowens Espirit Gemini 500
1 x Bowens Beauty Dish
1 x 40" Translucent Umbrella
2 x Portaflash 336VM
1 x Portaflash Softbox
1 x Portaflash Silver/White Umbrella
1 x Portaflash Silver/Gold Umbrella
1 x Portaflash 5-In-1 Reflector
1 x Background Stand
3 x Background Paper Rolls (Grey, Black, White)
1 x Dedicated Studio Space in my Loft
1 x PC with broadband access
1 x eeePC with mobile broadband access

This may seem a lot to some people, but please trust me, when your taking your inspiration from the likes of Vogue and you have to regularly produce varying images for model portfolios and what not, the limitations of this set-up are quite abhorrent.

But I will not let a lack of what I think I need to hinder me any further. This is what I have now and will likely be what I have for a while, so we shall see how I carry on in the near future!

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Getting it Together

For too long now have I stated to myself that I would take this photographic obsession-cum-passion to the next level. For several years now, I have continually told myself that this is what I want to do for the rest of my life. I have talked and ranted, incessantly, to those around me to the point that they refuse to listen any more. I have dutifully and miserably drudged my way through several years of soul destroying manufacturing work only to deprive myself of energy and motivation. This has long been my main excuse for not taking myself to the places I want to be in life. No longer.

This is it. It is time for action.

No more excuses, no more procrastination, no more.

This blog is here purely for me to chronicle this journey I am about to set myself on. It is a place for me to, centrally, collect my thoughts, display new work and, most importantly, detail all of my successes and all of my failures and all of my strengths and shortcomings in order to better myself along the way. Ultimately, it will also serve as information to others who would walk the same path. After all, if someone can learn from my many, many mistakes, all the better!

There will be a myriad of content in the various posts here. I will talk about burning issues that I have my own opinions on. Obviously I will regularly post photos. I will discuss my favourite Photoshop techniques and I will also try to feature links to people's work which inspires me. So, hopefully, there will be a great deal of value for time for anyone who decides to stop by!

Let's roll!

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