Recently found my NUJ press card from 1978 (when I was just six years old, ha ha). In all the years I had a photographers’ press card I don’t think I ever had to show it to anyone – disappointing, but they were more trusting times where authority believed you if you said you were from the press.
Queen Elizabeth had officiated at a launch at “Vickers” shipyard in the 70s – it was either Sheffield or Invincible, I can’t remember which. Anyway after the launch ceremony there was a reception at Barrow Town Hall. As part of this part of the ceremony H.M. was to sign the visitors’ book in the Mayor’s parlour.
I was a young and keen (now older but still keen) photographer working for the Evening Mail. Now the Mayor’s parlour isn’t all that big. There were umpteen photographers from local and national newspapers attending the actual launch but it was decided that because of lack of space only two photographers were to be allowed in the Mayor’s parlour for this “photo opportunity”, one from the local newspaper and one from the national newspapers.
Came the moment to take the signing picture we two were ushered into the room and told where to stand. In came HM for a brief chat with the mayor and to sign the book. After taking a few pictures I decided I had the wrong lens on the camera for the actual signing part so I unscrewed the lens I had on the camera and fumbled for the replacement in my bag. I was using a Pentax camera which in those days had its lenses attached by a screw thread unlike more modern cameras that have a more positive bayonet fitting.
As I was struggling to to attach the lens it suddenly slipped from my nervous fingers, fell to the floor, hit my foot and rolled onto the carpet, then under the table and stopped inches away from the royal shoes of her majesty who was now sat at the desk in preparation to sign the book.
I nearly passed out. I had visions of HM rising from her chair, standing on my lens and slipping on to the floor, breaking an ankle or something like that. I’ve never been to the Tower of London but I didn’t want to visit as an inmate!
Fortunately no such catastrophe occurred. I managed to get lens number one back on the camera and got some photographs of the signing ceremony. HM arose and departed without incident and I was able to retrieve my lens from under the table. One of the naval officers at the event who hadn’t seen all this later said to me “you look a bit stressed lad” – no wonder!
Now how many times have I heard with variants over the years. Would you say to J.K. Rowling “Those Harry Potter books – brilliant! You must have a really good pen (or typewriter, or whatever).
Professional photography was never about the camera. I’ve always said (even in the days of film) that any idiot can press a shutter button. It’s how you visualize, construct and arrange what’s in front of the lens that counts. That can take years and years of practice and experience and you can’t buy that with a new camera.
Also professional photography is almost unique in one important way. Unlike many professions, perhaps with the exception of medicine, if the practitioner makes a mess-up, someone else can usually fix it. If the cowboy builder builds you a crooked wall, then another builder can re-build it, for a price of course. If you can’t get a refund from builder one then you have paid twice, but at least it can be done.
Try doing that with photography. Once the moment has gone, it’s gone forever.
Quote No 2: It’s unwise to pay too much, but it’s worse to pay too little. When
you pay too much, you lose a little money – that’s all. When you pay
too little, you sometimes lose everything, because the thing you
bought was incapable of doing the thing it was bought to do. The
common law of business balance prohibits paying a little and getting a
lot – it can’t be done. If you deal with the lowest bidder, it is well
to add something for the risk you run, and if you do that you will
have enough to pay for something better.” John Ruskin.
Being a professional photographer (or a professional anything) often has little to do with actual photography or whatever. It’s often about old fashioned customer service, dressing appropriately, being prompt and courteous actually caring that the job is well done and the customer is satisfied, not just satisfied – DELIGHTED.
Another quote: “If you think it’s expensive hiring a professional, try hiring an amateur” – Red Adair.
And finally a photograph which makes me smile…
Usually I’m not a fan of over-photoshopping weddings but the lamp posts in this picture really did bug me so they just had to go.
When photoshop became sophisticated in the early years photographers were transplanting bride and grooms into exotic locations such as Caribbean beaches, by swapping out backgrounds only to find that their clients mostly hated it, why? Because it just wasn’t true, it never existed – clever? Perhaps but that’s all.
What I do spend time retouching are minor skin blemish imperfections on close-ups of the ladies and achieving a correct overall colour balance. Colour balance is a tricky subject. At a basic level it’s a subjective overall “look” of a photograph often described as warm, neutral or cold, but can also have a colour” tint”: yellow, magenta ,cyan, blue, green, red. The colour balance being a mix of parts of these components.
In reality a colour balance slightly the warm side of neutral looks the nicest. How is it achieved? Well not by any digital camera. All cameras provide an auto white balance setting where the camera makes a judgment as to an acceptable colour balance which is then applied to a jpeg image. However this auto balance can vary wildly from image to image.
Professional photographers shoot (or should shoot) , not jpegs, but something called Camera Raw format which allows for post-process colour balancing on a computer monitor. My computer monitor probably cost more than your camera and computer put together. It has a facility for self colour calibration which is adjusted every few weeks to an industry standard colour balance. This way I know that what I see on screen is what your photograph will look like. Exact colour balance matching may not be possible to achieve throughout a whole wedding but it can be darn close.
When I ran a professional colour darkroom in the days of film I spent hours colour balance matching prints – too red? Add some cyan, too yellow? Add some blue etc etc, all done with filters on the printer.
Just occasionally a compromise was called for where a “correct” colour balance was seemingly impossible to achieve because of something called “anomalous reflectance”. This was usually a fabric which reflected more blue light that extended into the ultra violet spectrum which is invisible to the human eye, but not, unfortunately to film. In one case we had some shiny satin-type bridesmaid dresses which photographed entirely the wrong colour. I reprinted the whole wedding altering the colour balance until they were right but then the grooms grey suit wasn’t quite correct. In the days of film there was nothing much else one could do so I gave the bride the choice as to which set of photographs ending up in her album.
Thankfully with digital I can now individually select the colour which isn’t correct and digitally alter that colour ALONE until things look correct. It doesn’t often need doing but, with digital, it can be done.
Which brings me to the blue snow. Snow is white, right? Well not this stuff. This was in a Bride’s album shown to me – I WAS NOT THE PHOTOGRAPHER.
A winter wedding with blue sky and snow on the ground except the snow was various shades of blue varying from pale blue to REALLY quite blue indeed. Why had this happened? Well, like the bridesmaids dress fabric mentioned earlier, the snow was reflecting the ultra violet light from the blue winter sky. The human eye/brain filters out this blue in life but not the photographer’s digital camera and the human eye/brain cannot filter out this colour in a photograph.
Unfortunately the photographer, a) did not know how to or b) could not be bothered to selectively adjusting this glaring anomaly on the affected images which, frankly, made me cringe. Oh and the bride had paid £1700 for this “professional photography”.
Here’s some examples of (too) warm, just about right neutral and (too) cold colour balance of the same image.
Finally my photography business is awarded the Cumbria County Council BUY WITH CONFIDENCE approved supplier certification after 6 months of in depth investigations, interviews, application of thumbscrews (lol) etc!!!!
Just looking back in the archives and found these pics from the gold old days. Ken Dodd was playing at Barrow’s Forum 28. He was almost 70 then and kept the show going til nearly midnight. He was playing in another theatre on the east coast the next day – a truly remarkable entertainer. Astronomer Patrick Moore was giving one of his famous traveling lectures at Ulverston and kindly agreed to have his portrait taken. I’d watched Sky at Night since I was eleven years old and I was thrilled to meet him. After taking the portrait (which hangs in my Studio) I asked the Coro staff to take a quick snap of the two of use together.
Grace and Fred Hollister came to the Studio for Passport photographs, some of their family live in France and Australia. I took the opportunity to make a quick portrait of them together. They mentioned they had been married for 64 years, what a marvellous achievement (is that the right word?). “Never a cross word?” I quipped, only to get a rather knowing smile!!!!
What a way to spend one’s birthday. Just looking through my portfolio from last year when I spent 8 hours of my birthday perched on top of Barrow Town Hall’s clock tower taking pictures of submarine “Artful” exiting the Devonshire Dock Hall at what seemed about one mile an hour. I made friends with several pigeons during the gaps in the action!