Learning and Research through Practice 1

Procrastination is the word of the day!

I’m still slowly working towards assignment 2 and I have some good solid ideas for the images that I’m going to create. One of the reasons that I’ve been so slow in getting around to it is because I’ve been exploring photography outside of the course. I stated right at the beginning of my OCA studies that some of my motivations were professional and financial i.e. I want to make a living from photography in the future.  The course is Art orientated with little actual practical photography. As much as I enjoy learning to express myself through the medium of photography, that expression will not pay the bills. How many photographers make a living from gallery sales? The general public do not commission photographers to create Art. Instead they pay photographers to create records that are aesthetically pleasing, which they can display proudly, share online with family and friends, or which they can look back on in years to come. I’m talking predominantly about wedding or portrait photography. In the commercial sector, businesses may commission images for advertising or marketing. And so, over the past few weeks I’ve been researching and practicing some of the skills required to create images that people are willing to pay for.

The first thing I wanted to do was look at how Photographers market themselves. Needless to say, the web is the number one tool. Portfolio’s are instantly accessible on individual websites with contact information, pricing and the photographers location are all easily accessible. A search on Google will provide a list of photographers in your area. Reviews can also be left for potential customers to read. Social media is also a prominent marketing tool. It allows users to “share” images and profiles which gives the photographer a wider audience and referrals through what would once have been “word of mouth”.  So my first port of call was to create a website. Rather than pay for a unique domain name, I opted for a free site hosted by Wix. Wix is far easier to use than WordPress, but is not as customisable. There is an option to pay for greater bandwidth and a unique domain name, which will also remove advertisements from the website. My website can be found at: www.adamnewsome3.wix.com/adamnewsomephoto

Out of this task to build a website fell some second order tasks, such as the creation of a logo. I opted to create a logo in Photoshop, which I can then save as a .psd and manipulate as required or which I can add to images as a layer. A good website requires links to social media, and so the next task was to create a Facebook page. Creating the page was quite easy. Sharing it and getting it “out there” is a little more difficult. Registering on Google allows your business to be found on Google Maps and allows you to set up a Google+ page which customers can leave a review on. My Facebook page can be found at: www.facebook.com/adamnewsomephotography and my Google+ page can be found at: https://plus.google.com/107655123532440357533/about

The next thing I wanted to look at was the legalities of using images for the purposes of marketing or portfolio use on a website or social media. This resulted in me creating a model release form which clients sign, allowing me to use their images publicly, with restrictions that protect both myself and the models.  If and when I start charging for my services, I will also look to create contracts for each type of commission. Registering as a business with Government House and HMRC are also requirements, as is Indemnity and Public Liability insurance.

I dare say that the most important part of this process is the gaining of experience. And in so doing, generating images that can be used in a portfolio/website/social media page.  This is where I’ve been directing the majority of my time whilst I delay assignment 2. A close friend, who is a very competent photographer, was the first to recommend me to friends of his who are due to get married. Together we will cover their wedding at the end of Nov 15 which will be my first wedding shoot. In preparation I have reconnoitred the venue and spoken at length with the couple. We will re-visit the venue in early Nov to do some test shots. I am also reading books on the subject of wedding photography and researching it online to ensure that every eventuality is covered and to provide technical and artistic inspiration for the images. A second wedding shoot is booked for July 2016, which is for family friends.

The same friend that put together Nov’s wedding shoot also organised a family portrait session for some of his friends which he invited me to shoot. Again, I did some research into shooting families/babies, lighting setups etc.  The shoot went really well, and I was very pleased at the result which got me my first reviews and portfolio images. There were areas for improvement however. Firstly, the white background was under exposed and it took a lot of time in post to correct. This was because the power on the backlights was not high enough. The WB was also difficult to get just right because I did not use a Gray Card. The baby was not very mobile and so proved quite easy to photograph.

A couple of weeks later I spent a day shooting 4 separate portrait sessions for the clients of my childminder. A session that she put together on my behalf and for which I’m very grateful. Again, I did some research, and planned to rectify the points I’d learnt from  the first session (above). The studio space was very tight and the models were all toddlers. What I learnt that day is that toddlers do not stay still! I chose to shoot with a narrower aperture in order to maintain focus despite slight variations in movement towards and away from the camera. This worked well with a single subject. With multiple subjects (such as a brother and sister), where they would move onto different focal planes, it did not work so well. In some instances it did result in an artistic look with one subject in focus, and the other out of focus. On reviewing the images later that day I noticed that the brightness of the background varied from one side to another in the later images. This was due to batteries failing in one of my flash units which had gone unnoticed. The use of toys and props came in very handy to maintain the children’s attention, and utilising an assistant to get them looking in the right direction didn’t always work, but when it did, it worked well.

So, I have a website, a social media page, a google page and 2 shoots under my belt. I think that the quality of of the second set of images is better than the first for a couple of reasons. firstly, I’d learnt lessons from the first shoot. Secondly, having done one shoot and gotten good results, I was more relaxed and comfortable. this allowed me to concentrate more on composition and actual shooting. All of the clients seem genuinely happy with the images that I’ve supplied which is a bonus.

They may not be works of Art, but they are borne of my subjectivity. I’ve gotten a genuine sense of accomplishment and satisfaction out of these shoots. Not just because of happy clients, but because I feel that I’ve captured and conveyed the personalities of the models, and the connection between the parents and children. It’s time now to reflect on these achievements and what I’ve learnt from dabbling in portrait photography, and to stop procrastinating and get on with assignment 2!

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