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If you would like to see what I’m up to at the moment and all of my latest and favourite work, you can follow my instagram feed. I try to add new images daily!

 

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Why Have a Pre Wedding Shoot?

Pre Wedding Shoot

Pre Wedding Shoot

A Pre-Wedding Shoot a great way of getting to know your photographer, and for him or her to get to know you. (You also get some great pictures!)

‘I don’t like  having my picture taken’. This is the sentence that I hear more than any other when I meet clients. Personally, I think people are actually more concerned that they are ‘bad’ at having their picture taken. They feel awkward, they suddenly lose the ability to stand comfortably, they don’t know where to put their hands. A photographer is not just someone who owns a lot of flashy equipment or knows a lot about lighting and photoshop. The most important skill for any photographer who has wedding clients is people skills. Unless I can make you feel relaxed and happy, and bring out the best in you, no lens, no camera or piece of software is going to help. I have lots of different cameras, from brand new to forty years old. I would say that none of them is better or worse than the other in getting a great portrait – it’s the connection you make with the people you are photographing that counts.

Here is the catch though – there is often not enough time to build a relationship with your clients on their wedding day, or to coach and guide them through the dark arts of posing for photographs well. That’s why a pre-wedding shoot is so useful. I can gauge your personality in front of the camera, are you outgoing or quiet, thoughtful or mischievous. I can experiment with each couple and find out what works for them. I can direct you, shoot and show the pictures back to you. You get to see what works, and with that confidence and trust builds. You can be absolutely sure you are in safe hands. This makes your couple shots on your wedding day easier and quicker, and helps make the most of what will almost certainly be a busy schedule.

I usually book pre-wedding shoots on a Sunday, and try to make the session relaxed and unhurried. I have a great assortment of local locations to shoot at but often couples want to visit their wedding venue and use the engagement shoot to scout ideas for their wedding.

I offer free pre-wedding shoots with all of my packages because I strongly believe they help me do my job better. Every minute I spend with clients before the wedding improves the images they’ll receive on their wedding day. The key to great photography is building relationships with people, and to do that you have to meet with and talk to people. Good old fashioned customer service.

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Also posted in Advice for Clients

October Portrait Promotion

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Portrait Photography – October Promotion

Throughout the month of October I’m going to be offering 10% off all my portrait packages. This includes October half term which is the best time to get Family portraits done in time for Christmas. If you would like to arrange a sitting just email me or give me a call on 07552 990080 mentioning the October Promotion. You can see a full list of my Packages and Prices here

 

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Summer Portrait Offer 2015

_MG_8402beachi-(1)-Summer Portrait Photography Offer

Now that weather has (finally!) warmed up and the evenings are lighter it is a great time to book a family photo shoot.  I am offering a sale on all portrait packages to kick start the Summer. The offer is valid until 30th April 2015 but you can book your appointment on any available slot until 30th September 2015. The portrait session can be for yourself, or given as a gift to your loved ones. I have a range of gift certificates available,  please ask for details. To book your sitting just go to the contact page and mention the offer in your message.

The portrait sitting can take place anywhere withing 20 miles of Chichester and I am more than happy to give you advice on the best locations.

Places for weekend portrait sittings are limited during the wedding season, so don’t delay!

Essential Family- £199 £175

Includes a two hour photography session and a £100 credit to spend on prints or digital products.

All images are transferred to an online gallery so you can pick your favourites.

Photo editing and retouching included. Including removing blemishes, and making composite group photos from several exposures if to fix blinking eyes or wriggling toddlers if  necessary!

Artefact Family – £299 £250

Includes a two hour photography session and a 9×12 print mounted into a 11×14 classic black frame (£ 250 value).

Full Online Ordering with a 10% Early Bird discount for 14 days from going live.

Photo editing and retouching included as above.

Heirloom Family £799 £699

This is a no holds barred premium service for clients who want to produce large framed prints. (Print size 16×20″ and over).

Portrait sitting up to 4 hours.

Package Includes a 20×24″ Framed print mounted into a 24×28″ Classic Black Frame (£599 value).

Full Online Ordering with a £100 credit and 20% early bird discount for 14 days from going live.

A free hi-res digital copy of any framed product ordered.

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How to Load a Large Format Film Holder.

The need to load film in complete darkness is something that puts many photographers off large format photography. But it doesn’t have to be difficult or daunting and you don’t need a darkroom. Like most things photography related, being methodical and having a well practiced routine will make sure that before long, loading film holders is second nature.

Toyo Film Holder

Get to know your film holder

Like most things in large format photography, a film holder is not complicated, and the basic design is well over 100 years old. It consists of a flat, light tight box with two dark slides, covering compartments for two sheets of film. The top of the dark slide is colour coded so you can tell whether the film inside is exposed or unexposed. Most people use the white or silver side to indicate the film is unexposed and the black side to indicate exposed film.

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Pull back the dark slide and look inside and you will see two slots running the length of the holder. The lower one holds the film in place, the top one is for the dark slide.

Next become familiar with a sheet of film. Unfortunately the easiest way to do this is to sacrifice a sheet from your first box, if you are lucky you might have a friend can lend you a wasted sheet, but you might find a local large format photographer a bit hard to come by! Take your film box into your changing bag or darkroom, and take out one sheet in complete darkness. Close the box and then open your bag up and take a look at a sheet of film. You will notice that the film is notched at one corner, when the film is held with long side pointing vertically, the emulsion will be facing up when the notches are in the top right hand corner. The photo below shows a sheet of film going into the holder the right way.

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First practice loading your sheet in daylight, making sure the film goes under the film guides. Some photographers load with the dark slide completely removed, but I prefer having the slide pulled halfway out. Try things different ways to see what you are comfortable with. Notice as well that the white side of the dark slide is usually textured at the top so you can tell which way it is facing in the dark. Once you have gone through the process of loading the film in daylight, try repeating the process with your eyes closed. Try to get used to the feel of a sheet of film going in correctly and where the top edge of the film should be in the holder. Most holders have little dips and other reference points to help the process of doing this by touch.

Once you feel relatively confident loading your practice sheet by touch you are ready to load a film holder for real. But before you begin there are a few things you need to do.

Clean Hands.

It is very important to make sure that you don’t transfer grease from your hands onto your sheets of film or film holders. Dust sticks to the grease and it makes it harder to blow the dust free. Some photographers use thin rubber gloves but I prefer to make sure I thoroughly wash and dry my hands before handling films, and I have never had any trouble with grease from my finger tips.

Get Rid of Dust

The odd spot of dust is almost unavoidable in large format photography, but you can do your best to minimise its effects. If you have a changing bag make sure you vacuum it out before every loading session. Also make sure you remove dust from all your dark slides. You can use a combination of a rocket blower and a clean brush on most holders If they are particularly dusty I use lens cleaning fluid and a lens cloth and allow them to dry thoroughly.

A note on Changing Bags

A pop-up film changing tent.

A pop-up film changing tent.

 

The are two types of changing bags. The normal ones are just a zip up bag with two armholes, but the best pop-up like small tents do. I have used both types and I’ve found that small non pop-up bags are too small and have a tendency to make your hands sweat. Sweat from your hands can get on the film emulsion, making the film sticky and difficult to load. If you fail to load the film the first time your hands get sweatier still, your film gets yet more sticky, and the trickier and trickier the film gets to load . This can be a real vicious cycle in hot weather, and film can seem impossible to load if you don’t get it right in the first couple of attempts.

Loading Film For Real.

Set up you changing bag on a table or other flat surface. Make sure you can sit comfortably to load the bag.

Put in your film, film holders and if you want to, a blower brush and a pair of scissors. Try to always put them in the same places so that you aren’t fumbling around for them when the bag is closed. You’ll be amazed how easy it is to lose a blower brush in a one metre square changing bag! If your film box is new, cut the seals on the box in daylight before placing it in the bag.

Close up your changing bag, remembering there are usually two zips to fasten. and insert your hands. Open up your film box and locate the film. If it is sealed use the scissors to open the bag, taking great care not to cut the film. Once the film is out, feel for any cardboard protection sheets and remove them from the pile. Now orient the film so that the notches are in the top right hand corner as above. You now have a pile of film with emulsion facing up. Now load the film into the holders as you practiced, giving each sheet a blast with the blower once loaded to ensure no dust is on it before you close the slide.

Once all your film is loaded close your film box and check by touch that all the dark slides are properly closed. Remove your hands and open the bag. In daylight make sure all the catches on the film holders are holding the dark slides in place, and then load the holders into zip-lock or plastic bags to keep the dust off them until it is time to shoot.

The Wrap Up.

If you follow these steps you should find it relatively easy to load sheet film. The trickiest thing is probably the fear of getting it wrong. Film holders are easier to load than a plastic developing reel, and requires less space to do it without hiccup.

Happy Shooting!

Toby

I have been making large format film photographs for about four years. You can see some examples of my personal work here:

http://portrait.tobiaskey.com/film-photography/

 

 

 

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Also posted in advice for new photographers, Analogue Photography, Film Photography, Hints and Tips, Large Format Photography Tagged , |

Stop Taking Selfies

What is a camera?

A camera is a window to the world.

An excuse to look at things more closely

To meet people you would never have met.

To go places you would never have gone.

A ticket to adventure.

A reason to get up before the sunrise or linger while the sun sets.

A tool to appreciate the world and all its beauty.

To find beauty in the youngest and the oldest face.

No matter the colour or creed.

A way to experience life in all its diversity.

So when you use your camera, use it to look out not to look in.

Stop taking selfies.

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Portrait Photography Tips – How to Prepare for Your Portrait Session

 

Portrait Photography Tips

Portrait Photography is a team effort. You might have searched long and hard for a portrait photographer, and might love his work, but there are still things you can do as a client that will make sure your photographs as good as they possibly can be. These simple portrait photography tips will help you get the most out of your photographer. When I take a booking from clients, I like to go through this simple check list with them that ensures they arrive looking great, feeling fresh and are ready to shoot!

Scheduling the Portrait Session.

One of the most critical things to ensuring a portrait session runs smoothly is making sure it is scheduled at a time where your children are well rested and fed and if we’re shooting outdoors, that the light is good. The best light for photographs is in the morning or afternoon, generally it is best to avoid the harsh light in the middle of the day. For small children morning is usually better. If you want to shoot outdoors I normally confirm everything a few days before, if the weather is not looking good I try to reschedule a date within two weeks of the original one. In cases of illness, it’s usually best to reschedule too unless it is a family get together that can’t easily be repeated.

How to Dress

I don’t like to have too many firm rules about how to dress for a portrait sitting, but these are some guidelines that can help. It’s a good idea to wear solid colours and to make sure everyone co-ordinates but doesn’t match too closely, if it is overdone it can look a bit false, like a cross between a catalogue and a religious cult!

Avoid patterned clothes like narrowly striped shirts or herringbone patterns as they can cause funny optical effects at certain print sizes. Logos have a tendency to date quickly so it’s wise to be cautious with them. If you are buying new outfits for your children check that they are comfortable in them beforehand, and that shoes don’t rub. This is particularly important with small children who won’t able to soldier through a shoot, they’ll be unhappy and they’ll let everyone know in no uncertain terms!

If possible keep some changes of clothes handy just in case, and remember to dress for the weather, don’t wear clothes that will make you sweat in the summer, or freeze half to death in the winter. Make sure that if you shooting in cooler weather you have enough clothes to keep warm while setting up or between shots. It can often be cooler than you think in exposed areas, and if you’re just waiting for the light to change or moving to a new location, the cold can quickly catch up with you.

Remember – if it looks a bit creased in the mirror, it will look very creased in a photograph, make sure your clothes are well ironed and sit well on your frame.

Grooming and Make up

If you want to get your hair cut for the shoot, it’s best to do it a week before the shoot date, the same for any beauty treatments liable to leave you looking blotchy. Natural make up is best, remember that photography tends to enhance colour and contrast so heavy make up is best avoided and spray tans need time to fade a little. Small blemishes, cuts or spots are easily removed in photoshop, so if a pimple appears on the morning of the shoot don’t panic! As a portrait photographer I prefer the more natural look. Family portraits could well be up on your wall for many years to come so it is best to be slightly conservative in how they are styled.

Drinks and Snacks

It’s a good idea to have a supply of drinks and snacks for younger children, it keeps them happy and can be used as bribes if need be! Remember not to bring anything too messy that could bring the session a sudden halt.

Have Fun!

If small children are involved make sure you tell them how much fun you’re going to have and what a treat it will be. Children pick up on things quickly and if you issue dire warnings about bad behaviour or offer them bribes for being good beforehand, they will think of a photo shoot the same way they think of a trip to the dentist. Emphasise that the shoot will a fun experience, that they can play and run around, and that there is no pressure to pose and stay stock still. I try not to shoot children’s portraits under time pressure, so there is plenty of time for young ones to warm up during a portrait session. I’ve shot enough portraits to know not to panic if I don’t get a great shot straight away, sometimes everyone has to work your their way into the shoot. It’s important that children don’t feel pressured into performing, as it can really knock their confidence and makes them uncomfortable. Better to just be patient. The great shots will come with time.

Follow these simple tips and you will get photos that you’ll really love and your family will enjoy the experience too!

I have a dedicated portrait photography site with lots of great examples of portrait photography I’ve shot around Chichester and West Sussex.

 

 

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Also posted in Brighon portrait photographer, Chichester photographer, Chichester portrait photographer, child portrait, Customer information Tagged , , , |

Wedding Photography Styles Explained

Wedding Photography in Bosham

You’ve chosen your date, booked your venue and started shopping for dresses. Now you’re looking for a wedding photographer. There are a lot of styles of wedding photography out there, and while people in the industry might know these styles inside out they be confusing for couples.  Remember as well that not only are you picking a style of photography, but different types of wedding photography can make different demands on your time on your wedding day.

When picking the style of photography you want at your wedding your choice boils down to three things. What style of images you want, how long you want to spend with a photographer on your wedding day, and most importantly of all your own personality and comfort in front of the camera.

There are plenty of different photography buzzwords out there. Vintage, editorial, artistic or contemporary are just a few. Perhaps more confusingly they are used by different photographers in different ways. Ultimately it is up to couples to ask plenty of questions and do plenty of research before picking a photographer, and to rely on seeing full set of photos from completed weddings Do  not  rely on the  best five or six shots from several weddings to make a choice.

Wedding photography styles are a compromise between producing fantastic work and keeping to a timetable. A photographer might produce brilliant photos, but if he takes too long to produce them you probably won’t enjoy the experience.

Traditional (or Posed) Wedding Photography

Upwaltham Barns 2

A lot of people think of traditional wedding photography as endless stuffy group photos where everyone looks stiff as a board. Worse still, the different collections of people seem to go on forever. I think there is a fashion to be down on traditional wedding photography, but the actual working framework is still the same for most wedding photographers. The photographs may be more stylish but the actual experience on the day for the bride and groom is very similar.

There is always a trade off between the type of work a photographer does and the time it takes to shoot it. More formal posed photographs will take longer to set up and achieve. Any photographer who produces artistic posed work will need a certain amount of time to produce his best work. It is important that you find out how much time he will need, and work out how it will fit into your day. There are photographers who spend a couple of hours on formal shots. Make sure you are happy with giving over that amount of time on your wedding day. If you are not that comfortable in front of the camera you may find this type of photography more difficult. A good photographer should be able to help you and put you at your ease but for many individuals it can still seem a bit daunting.

Reportage Wedding Photography (Wedding Photojournalism)

Wedding Photography

If traditional is all about posed photographs, then reportage wedding photography is the opposite. It relies on capturing moments as they happen, and is more like a fly on the wall documentary. This form of wedding photography means that the photographer spends most of his time in the background, and so has become increasingly popular with couples. Weddings are also increasingly less formal than they used to be. Documentary wedding photography demands a different skill set from traditional wedding photography so you have to make sure that your photographer has the correct photographic background and can show you full weddings to back this up. Wedding photojournalism is more about a complete set of pictures from the whole day than a set of a dozen highlights. There are photographers out there who will jump on the latest bandwagon to gain business, but still use the same old style they always have. Wedding photojournalism is all about anticipation and being in the right place at the right time. It is not about closely directing people, so it puts many traditional wedding photographers outside of their skill set. There are some less ethical photographers who will use the latest buzzwords to improve their search engine presence, but still shoot the same tired old pictures.

If you are reticent about having your photo taken, wedding photojournalism is probably your best choice. The photography happens without you really realizing and you’ll look your natural best.

Although these two approaches might appear polar opposites, in reality most wedding photographers will offer a blend of these two styles. There are not many wedding photojournalists who don’t shoot at least some formal photographs and traditional wedding photographers will shoot informal pictures as well.  Find out what proportion of each a photographer likes to shoot, and better still ask them what they like to shoot the most – chances are this is what they are best at.

Vintage Wedding Photography

Vintage wedding photography is a style that has been coming into vogue recently, but in lots of ways its a hard one one to quantify. Vintage can mean anything from using old film cameras during some of the wedding to just a different approach to post production to produce ‘vintage’ looking digital files. There are some great photographers out there, but bear in mind that if you are receiving files that are heavily edited in a certain style, you run the risk of your photos looking rather dated a few years later. If I was hiring a vintage style photographer, I personally would want at least some of the wedding shot on film, I’m not a huge fan of faking things. As always ask questions, see examples and make an informed decision.

Editorial Wedding Photography

This wedding genre is inspired by the fashion editorials of glossy magazines, at it’s best it can produce fantastic high-end images. To produce this successfully on a wedding day the photographer needs to be highly organised, and would probably need an assistant to help set up some of the shots in advance, although that would depend on his or her style. Do your research to make sure that the time requirements for this type of shoot fit in with your plans. If you really like this type of photography but don’t want to devote too much time to it on your wedding day, consider booking a separate photo session after the wedding. Often describes as a trash or cherish the dress shoot, a separate photo session might be the best way to get the wedding day you want and the photographs you’ll love without losing a huge chunk of your wedding day. It also means that you and your photographer can pick the ideal time of day for the right light and you have scope for rescheduling if it’s pouring with rain. In many countries, particularly the US, high end wedding photography is evolving towards three shoots: the engagement shoot, the wedding day, and an editorial session. Don’t necessarily think that it all has to be done in one day.

Artistic or Fine Art Wedding Photography

Essentially an evolution of traditional wedding photography, this type of photography offers a contemporary take on the traditional set of posed photographs, although these are both terms that have been somewhat over used by the photographic community, so again do your research. At its best this genre can produce moving romantic images, but some photographers can over use the same poses, so it can feel a bit impersonal. Ask to see lots of shoots and don’t be afraid to input your own ideas at your pre-wedding meeting.

 

Conclusions

There are lot of styles of photographer out there, but the main thing is to look beyond the catchy buzzwords and look long and hard at portfolios. Ultimately it is the competence of the photographer you are hiring that really matters. Experience, personal service and professionalism are what ensure a consistent standard of photography from wedding to wedding, and the consistency and ability to deal with the different shooting conditions that present themselves throughout a wedding day. Their portfolio should show a good balance of shots from bridal preparations to the first dance. Ask questions about how much time they will need to complete those all important formal and couples shots, and work out how much time you are happy to give. Even with more observational styles, planning and communication before the wedding is vital to get the best results and to get them efficiently. Keep to the guidelines and you are sure to have a memorable wedding day with photos to match.

 

About my Wedding Photography Style

I work as a Wedding Photographer in Sussex, Hampshire and Surrey.

I predominantly work in the reportage style, but pride myself on being able to produce great formal pictures as well. I talk to couples and try to work with them so they get the right balance of photos they need, so sometimes I shoot hardly any formals while other times I’ll shoot an extra session of couples shots after the wedding breakfast. I’ve always found this to be a good way of breaking up the more formal pictures into manageable chunks of time, and the light is a lot better then anyway. I have had a lot of experience in both weddings and editorial/commercial work which has helped me gain a more flexible style, and to get the perfect balance between great results and the time taken to get them.

You can read more about my wedding packages or check out my portfolio.

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Also posted in Advice for Clients, Brighton wedding photographer, Chichester photographer, Chichester wedding photographer, Customer information, Sussex wedding photographer, Wedding Photographer Chichester

I need a wedding photographer – but I don’t like having my picture taken!

There's no point hiding behind that flower. At some point I'm going to have to take your photo

There’s no point hiding behind that flower. At some point I’m going to have to take your photo

It may seem surprising, but for many of  the couples I work with, at least one of them will be nervous about having their picture taken. One of my main jobs as a wedding photographer is putting people at their ease, or at least making them a bit less nervous! You can have all the photography skills in the world, but when you’re working with people, especially people who may not of worked with a professional photographer before, interpersonal skills are even more important. Building a good relationship with my clients is essential to building trust, and if the people I working with trust me to do a good job, it will help them to relax.

If you are getting married soon these are my top tips if you are nervous  about being photographed.

Enjoy your Day

The simplest and best tip of all. You’ll love your wedding day and that joy will be written all over your face. Every couple I’ve photographed has had this particular glow about them, a combination of happiness and excitement that photographs really well. Your wedding is not just another day and the photos you receive will reflect that.

Most of the Time you Won’t even Know you’re being Photographed.

Most of the pictures I shoot at a wedding are not posed pictures. Most of the time while I’m taking pictures while you’re doing something else, little things like declaring you wedding vows or walking down the aisle!  A lot of the time you are not even aware of being photographed, so the photos are natural . These photos are also more ‘real’. nervous grooms look nervous, emotional mums cry and children try to take it all in. The fact that I’m telling a story rather than trying to create too many posed images means there’s less onus on the bride and groom to pull a happy face and pose for the camera. It’s a win-win. You get to enjoy your wedding day and get great pictures in the process.

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You are Going to Look your Absolute Best.

Remember that this isn’t just another day. Everyone is going to be dressed to the nines, hairdressers and make make up artists are going to polish you to perfection. You are going to look fantastic. On a day when you are going to look so great it isn’t it important to have a record of it? That’s what your photographer is there for.

Your Photographer is there to Help you.

As a wedding photographer, people tell me that they are nervous about being photographed all the time. Many couples will have never hired a professional photographer before, so don’t realise that being photographed by a professional photographer is very different to being photographed by friends or family. A professional photographer will know how to help you look your best and will offer advice and help where needed. Professional photographers tend to use telephoto lenses for portraits too so they’ll be further away which will help you feel more comfortable. I have photographed people of all shapes, ages and sizes, so very little throws me and I have plenty of experience of making all sorts of different people look their best. Unlike an amateur, I’ll be familiar with my local venues and where the best photo opportunities are. I have literally hundreds of weddings under my belt. I am here to help. If you have a side you prefer being photographed from or a feature you’d like minimised just tell me and I’ll oblige. Woken up with a spot or blemish on the big day? That’s what Photoshop is for.

Make sure you get a shoot before your wedding day

Preparation is key. That is why I always like to shoot with my couples before their wedding day. It can be an engagement shoot or a pre-wedding meeting at your venue, but I always like to photograph couples before their wedding day. That’s where I get a sense of how they are in front of the camera, and what I have to do to make you look you best. There is a time for coaching couples how to be photographed and that time is not your wedding day. By arranging a separate date with no time pressure, I can show couples how to stand, what to do with their hands and all the other things that turn an awkward photo into a great one. It also helps couples because by working with me beforehand they can see what I can do to make them look great, so they’ll trust me to do a good job on the day. They’ll relax a little bit more and worry a little less. That in itself makes the pictures better.

 

With a little planning and a bit of practice there is no reason why even the most photo-phobic bride or groom can’t have brilliant photos of their wedding day. The main thing is to communicate those fears to your photographer so he can help you. There are lots of things he can do to make your experience less stressful, and help you look your best. Remember photographers need great photos for their portfolios as much as you want them for your wedding album, so they’ll always be happy to help.

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Also posted in bride portraits, Chichester photographer, Sussex wedding photographer Tagged , , , |

How to Think in Black and White.

https://flic.kr/p/ra6oK

If you are of a certain age, then like me your first forays into ‘serious’ photography would have been shooting and developing black and white film. Our introduction to the magic of photography was developing our first film, or seeing an image form on a seemingly blank piece of photographic paper in the developing tray. Fast forward to the digital age and black and white is something of a poor relation to colour photography, an effect you add to a colour photo in photoshop or lightroom. For every great digital photo in monochrome, there are many others that were colour photos that didn’t work or couldn’t be colour balanced easily. This is a shame because black and white has a power and an impact that is all its own.

So how do you lift your black and white photos out of the ordinary?

In the film days, learning to shoot in black and white was pretty much the first thing you did.  My early photo education at college was based on a standard lens, 400iso black and white film, and developing and printing in the darkroom.  This was in the time that monochrome shooting was the cheapest way to make images. I used to roll my own film from a bulk roll of 100ft of film (about £2 for 36 exposures as I recall) and then develop it and make a contact sheet for pennies. In contrast shooting colour would be a total cost of at least double if not triple this. So if you wanted to shoot as much as you possibly could to practise and get better, black and white was the only choice.

Because of this most photographers in the pre-film era had a good grounding in seeing and shooting black and white photographs. I immersed myself in shooting black and white and nothing else for extended periods when I first took up photography as a hobby.

I strongly believe that if you want to progress as a photographer you need to spend periods of time working hard on specific things and getting creative within that framework. Digital cameras are so powerful and flexible that it’s easy to forget this.

If you are serious about creating great black and white photographs the first thing you need to do is set up your DSLR so that your LCD shows you your images in mono. Instant feedback will help you improve your images in the field, and speed up the learning process. The best way to do this is to shoot RAW, but use a black and white picture style. That way you get instant feedback in mono, but you can still process the photo as colour later if you want to. It also gives you the freedom to perform a more sophisticated black and white conversion with your favourite RAW processing software later on.

When you are out shooting you have to learn to disregard colour. You also have to be aware that strongly contrasting colours can produce identical shades of grey. Try to think in terms of luminance, and visualise the shades of grey. Remember as well that the tone individual colours can be lightened or darkened during a black and white conversion. The file, like a negative is just the starting point to an expressive image.

The most important thing though is to keep doing it.

Shoot, shoot and shoot some more. As Henri Cartier-Bresson said:

“Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst.”

In the digital age when everyone shoots a lot more images we should probably put that up to 100,000! But in reality 10,000 shots would probably equate to about a year shooting one roll of film a day.  Remember, any blog post can point you in the right direction, or give you a few pointers. It’s up to you to do the hard yards.

No one expects to master the guitar in a weekend, or become a great surfer in an afternoon. If you want to get good at black and white photography you really have to train your brain to see black and white photographs well. To become a good black and white photographer is a fair degree of work so don’t be discouraged if you don’t produce great images in a weekend.

 

But Why Shoot Black and White?

Pattern and Form

morning light

Black and white photography is a great visual organiser. Where colour can create distractions in a photograph, black and white simplifies images and makes them easier to read. Because this make an image more graphic, everyday scenes take on an almost abstract quality.

Texture

fishing-boat-emsworth-2

Texture is another visual element that really stands out  in black and white, old weathered wood being a real favourite of mine.

Form and Composition

On the Beach...

I shot this on a sand spit near me. As a colour photograph, the green of the reeds in the background really fights for attention. Shot as a black and white, the eye is drawn to the simple lines and form of Jess in her black dress. Disregarding colour makes it a lot easier to concentrate on strong composition when your are a beginner, or to sharpen up your skills if you’ve been shooting for a while.

Portraits

Steffi Rox

People look great in black and white. For some reason, a black and white portrait seems more revealing than a colour one, a really seems to bring out people’s character. The black and white portrait on a white background is a trusted staple, and is an almost forensic way of portraying someone. There really is nowhere for your subject to hide!

You can be bolder.

from the darkness

In analogue photography, you can’t really manipulate colour that much. So black and white was the format in which you could really be adventurous when you shot it and work on it again in the darkroom. Harder lighting, adding contrast, printing darker, you could afford to be much bolder in monochrome. Even in digital you can darken skin tone or add contrast much more than you can in colour. Black and white can absorb a lot more manipulation before the picture starts to look artificial.

Black and White photography when done well, is a beautifully expressive but yet simple medium. Images made this way have a timeless quality that links back to the birth of photography, yet can look amazingly modern at the same time. Learning to shoot well in black and white is the foundation on which everything else in your photographic education is built.

 

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