6 things you probably shouldn’t say to your photographer…

It’s finally happened. I’ve officially been in the photography business long enough now to hear many of the stereotypical comments and “chat” that I’d suggest are perhaps not the best placed choice of conversation topic… I’ve been amused, baffled and even slightly frustrated with some of these, so just for fun, I thought I’d share some with you…

1. Your camera takes really great photos!

I know, I know. I’m starting with the comment that seems so obvious that surely no-one actually says it? I mean, that’s what I thought. I’d heard of it, seen many a meme about it, but I had never experienced it.

Until last year.

Those wonderful words were uttered in a kind, genuine way where I fully believe the person wasn’t trying to be offensive but I was left stuck for a reply all the same. I mean, imagine someone said that about a baker and their oven, or an artist and their paintbrush?

A camera is merely an instrument. A vehicle which enables us to capture an image as we see it or imagine it. Having professional equipment makes a bit of a difference yes, but only if you know how to use it. You could put me in front of the best stove on the planet and I’d still burn something – Michelin Star I am not!

The camera doesn’t make the photograph anymore than a laptop makes a novel. It takes time, practice and a certain degree of skill to get to a professional level. Implying that it’s all in the gear is a little bit cheeky however unintentional. Best avoided if you want to keep your photographer on-side (and remember, we have access to Photoshop…ha!)

2. My camera is better than yours!

This happens at almost every event I shoot. Whether it’s a corporate get-together, a christening or a wedding, I inevitably find myself sought out by someone who wants to compare gear. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to have folk who are interested in photography and want to talk about it (provided I can still do my work for whoever has hired me!) – I could chat about certain types of photography all night but I keep finding myself in a situation with someone who takes that enthusiasm over the line in to competition.

Sometimes it’s the old Canon vs Nikon schtick and that’s fine for a bit of banter but let’s keep it in good humour. I’ve also had people feel the need to tell me that they own the more recent model of my camera and I’m never sure what to say other than a polite “that’s nice!” or “that’s a great piece of kit!”.

I rarely feel the need to compare gear with people. It’s just not in my nature to try to one-up someone over camera equipment and I find myself floundering for words when the subject comes up while I’m working.

3. Well, anyone can take a good photo on their smartphone these days.

Now this one I have to agree with – in a Disney’s Ratatouille style “Anyone can cook!” that is. Anyone can take a good photo on their smartphone but not everyone. As I mentioned above, a camera is merely an instrument and if you know how to use it properly you can take incredible images on smartphones. Many are doing it consistently and making a living and a name for themselves from it.

But not everyone.

And while professional photography went through a phase of struggling against the all accessible smartphone and even the entry-level DSLR, it seems to be picking back up again as people recognise the training and dedication it takes to acquire such a skill. Yes, there are natural born photographers who intuitively know how to compose and capture a jaw-dropping image with little practice but they are the exception, not the rule.

As Henri Cartier-Bresson says “Your first 10,000 photos are your worst.” Photography takes skill and practice regardless of the equipment.

4. I don’t get why people bother with photos… I never take any.

Yeah, this one left me stumbling.

It seems an odd way to endear yourself to someone, basically telling them you think their work is pointless. And it seems particularly strange when this is the first (and now the only!) conversation you’ll be having with them.

“Hey, nice to meet you. I think your work is a waste of time.” Not a great start, is it?

I know what you’re thinking – “Surely no-one has ever said that to you?”

Believe me they have. Right smack bang while I was in the middle of working an event. Someone came up to me to tell me all about how he doesn’t understand the point of taking photos. I didn’t know what to say other than reminding him that the people who had hired me obviously thought images to remember the event were important.

Photography isn’t for everyone and that’s absolutely fine. Of course it is. Art is subjective and photography is an art form.

I’ve long been a fan of documenting my life in photos and sharing them with people. It’s a way of life for me. I see the world in photographs and I find it difficult to switch off from that. But I understand that not everyone sees the world that way.

However, it’s an opinion probably best kept to yourself instead of using it as drunken small chat with the event ‘tog. I politely entertained the notion. Many wouldn’t!

5. Can you photoshop this so I’m slimmer/have different hair/look “better”?

Eeeek! I find this one of the most awkward things that is said to me. It’s usually done in jest but sometimes there’s a real request there.

I am a “less is more” kind of photoshopper. My photography style is about natural moments and doesn’t lend itself well to airbrushing and liquifying my subjects. In actual fact, I work hard to encourage people to see the real beauty in themselves and the moment instead of focusing purely on things that we’ve been taught to see as “flaws”.

I’d much rather empower people to see their beauty than to feel the need to be artificially slimmed or smoothed thanks to unrealistic beauty standards the media has ingrained in us.

However, I completely understand that people are rarely 100% happy with how they look and are concerned that the images might amplify parts of themselves that they wish were different. The majority of us look at an image and instantly search for the part we’re insecure about.

If you’re in that situation, please feel free to have a quiet word and let me know. It’s my job to make you feel comfortable during your shoot and not left wishing that the images were altered afterwards.

6. Don’t worry, I’ll just Photoshop it when you send me the image…

Whether it’s adding a person (as was the suggestion in the case I’m referring to), removing a person, adding filters or even cropping – you’re unlikely to have permission to do this and will have signed (and of course read…) a contract that informs you that this is the case. It seems pernickety but it’s for good reason. Photographers rely on people seeing our work, loving it, and wanting us to work for them. If our work no longer looks like our own then we lose the ability to make a living. Like anyone else, we’re just trying to pay our bills.

So please don’t edit our work and talk about it like it’s no big deal. It matters!

So there you have it! A list of some of the odd things people have said to me since I started out as a photographer. I’m super lucky to have only had the occasional guest at an event who has said something strange or a misplaced, but well meaning, comment from an interested party. I know photographers who have heard much worse.

I’d love to hear the sorts of things people say to you at your work…

Keeping it Low-Key

 Well, you might have figured out that low-key photography is pretty much the opposite of high-key photography. Instead of bright and cheerful, it’s dark and moody.

Low-Key Portrait: Ross

 The good news is, it’s relatively easy to achieve with just one light source. By controlling the source and angle light you can add drama to your image very quickly. The light can come from a small opening in the curtains, a lamp, a studio light or even a candle. Anything really! As long as it lights up your subject and is controlled so it doesn’t brighten the scene so much so that the background is lit up. Your low-key image should be full of dark tones and shadow. It doesn’t have to be in black and white but this does help highlight the contrast between the dark and the light.

One way to think about low-key photography is that it’s about trying to capture darkness in your shot to tell your story. But to capture darkness effectively, you’ll also need a bit of light.

Low-Key Ewan

Moody Musician

To take a low-key shot, the best thing to remember is to experiment… play with the direction and angle of your light source.  Try different shutter speeds and aperture settings. Remember if the shutter speed is low then you’ll need a tripod to get the best from your camera. Keep your ISO low to avoid noise as this can end up being a bit distracting. Underexpose your shot as much as you can without losing detail.

Medusa: A well directed flashlight can be enough add more drama to the shot.

 

Leading the Way with Leading Lines

(c) Jo Foo 2017

Leading lines.

One of my favourite ways to compose a shot to give it a little ooomph. And, from my experience, one of the composition techniques my students find most satisfying during my classes.

Many of them naturally compose shots with strong leading lines because the end result is very pleasing. Any lines in an image can act as “leading lines” and they pretty much do as described, they lead the viewer into the shot. Combine this with other composition rules like the Rule of Thirds, patterns, colours or symmetry (plus many others!) and you’ll have a pretty strong image.

(c) Jo Foo 2016

The lines work best if they grab your attention at the bottom corner of the image and take you on a journey through it. This is a useful technique to remember if you can’t quite find the angle you want for your shot. The lines should add depth by guiding the viewer into the image.

(c) Jo Foo 2016

The lines can be straight or curved, symmetrical or one-sided…

(c) Jo Foo 2013

As long as they are a strong feature, they should work as an impressive way to capture your viewer’s attention. They can even make a seemingly “plain” sign tell a story…

(c) Jo Foo 2016

Mei Photo Challenge: Week 2 Favourites

Well, as expected, week 2 of the #MeiPhotoChallenge has been significantly quieter! Well done to everyone who has managed to hang in there and a big welcome to a couple of new faces.  You’re doing better than me as I’ve still not edited and uploaded my shots since Monday.

Here are my favourite images from this week:

Day 8: Books

 

Day 9: Happy

 

Day 10: High-Key

 

Day 11: Rainbow

 

Day 12: New

 

Day 13: Sky

 

Day 14: Shadow

How to High Key

High Key photography is a technique or style of photography where light is used to remove most of the harsh shadows from an image.  It sends a cheerful, bright message and is great for beautiful portraits and high quality product photography. High Key photographs usually have a bright background and make the viewer feel happy and positive.

a photo of a woman in black and white on a bright white background. she is wearing red lipstick - this is the only part in colour

High Key Me

To create a High Key image, you need a bright environment, either indoors with three or four studio lights on a white background or outdoors with bright sunshine. It’s great fun to experiment with and see how eliminating some dark tones from your image can instantly make your image feel more upbeat.

Mother & Son

Real Women, Real Beauty

This is a simplified version of High Key photography (for more tips check out Digital Photography School). It can take patience and practice to get the lighting right but for the #MeiPhotoChallenge, just think white background, bright and cheerful to get your photo of the day! x

 

Mei Photo Challenge: Week 1 Favourites

Week One of the #MeiPhotoChallenge has gone by and your photos have been making me smile! Here are some of my favourites…

Day 1: Something Blue

 

Day 2: Leaves

 

Day 3: A Face

 

Day 4 : Love

 

Day 5: Upside Down

 

Day 6: Bokeh

 

Day 7: Black & White

Some cracking shots from week 1 everyone! Nice work!

Looking forward to week two! x

April – 30 Day Photo Challenge

I had a lot of fun last weekend with my “Develop Your Photography” class for intermediate photography students. I really enjoy teaching and informal education and Saturday was no different. I always learn more about myself with every class I teach.

The class participants are keeping in touch and I’ve set them a Photo-A-Day Challenge for April.  I thought it might be fun to see who else wants to get involved. Check it out! Post your photos on my Mei Photography page or share them on Instagram using #MeiPhotoChallenge. Can’t wait to see what you come up with! x

Five Things You Didn’t Know About Me

In the interest of doing something a little bit different, I thought I’d take some advice from the internet and do an “about me” post. For me this is a bit awkward. I’m much better at diverting and deflecting attention back on to other people so it’s certainly a challenge to sit and write a few things about myself. But here goes… Five things you (probably) didn’t know about me…

Me getting kisses from a Sea Lion (Photo Credit: Jennifer Derwojed)

1 – I’ve kissed a sea lion. More than once. It was fishy. I’ve had one hug me too. It was heavy and wet.

This is thanks to my wonderful friends Jen & Brandon who were both living in Vancouver at the time. Brandon worked for Open Water, a university research unit and was studying their behaviour. The most amazing thing about this was, like the name said, the research was conducted in the open water, the sea lions could leave at any time but they had a relationship with the people, a safe place to rest and food, so they always came home. That is, with the exception of a few afternoons off where they went for a wee jaunt instead of helping with the dive study. Haha!

 

My other half cycling in Spain

2 –  I can’t do two wheels. Nope, bikes, segways and any other two-wheeled mode of transport  that you can think of (are there any more?), are definitely not for me. I have a tendency to fall off of them. That’s right, I’ve even fallen off a segway. Twice.

During my first bike ride in almost 10 years I tipped myself over the handlebars after 15km of cautious cycling around Vancouver.

On my stint around the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome, having both my feet clipped in and being on a fixie was just too much for me. I was honestly singing “Just keep pedaling, just keep pedaling, pedaling, pedaling…” in my head. I was not having fun! I quickly gave up my turn to an eager gent waiting in the wings and happily picked up my camera instead. Much more comfortable. 

It doesn’t stop me trying though. Probably because my other half could cycle all day every day. In fact, I’m attempting mountain biking for the first time in a couple of weeks… wish me luck! Eeek!

2014-05-03-006-Jo-Foo-Wildlife-Photography WR

Heights. They’re not my favourite!

3 – I have developed a fear of heights in the last few years. I used to love heights when I was younger and spent quite a lot of my childhood climbing trees and running along walls. I’m not sure when the fear set in but I now get wobbly legs and dizziness when I’m looking down from a great height.

In fact, the only time I can cope with heights is when I have a camera in my hand and something (usually an animal or something with a time-limit like a sunset) to photograph! Interesting how distraction can help you cope with a visceral fear-response to being up high.

 

 

Me at Buckingham Palace

4 – I’ve met the Queen at Buckingham Palace and Prince Philip too. I’m not a Royal-fan-girl or anything, I just had the opportunity to visit thanks to my Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowship and I was curious.

It was as grand as you’d expect and very surreal. We had fizz and canapes, formed an orderly queue to say “How do you do?”, did a little (awkward) curtsy, met Prince Philip and then mingled in the palace with the Royals. Prince Philip even came over and had one of his usual “moments-where-he-couldn’t-care-less” with one of the girls I was talking to. Yep. Surreal!

 

 

 

Black and white photo of a small dog - a jack russell cross

Mishka, our first foster

5 – My other half and I have fostered 16 animals since the start of 2016. Yep. Sixteen. This is mostly thanks to a group on Facebook called Madrid Pet Lovers which is run by a slightly crazy lady who somehow manages to get loads of people to join her in rescuing as many animals as we physically can. She has a certain knack for convincing us all and seems to attract wayward strays.  Sixteen might sound a lot but I’m no where near close to the number who have been in her care over the past couple of years.

We’ve had seven dogs (six of them puppies), seven kittens (four of them were bottle fed for two weeks) and two chinchillas. Granted a few of them only stayed a week or so but still, four puppies can be a handful! And, rather handily, this brings me nicely on to my next blog…

Thanks for stopping by! x