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Practical Photography April 2015 – Adventures of a lifestyle photographer

All adventures begin somewhere and for many lifestyle photographers that place is home. That is certainly where it started for me and it all began with a desire to take better pictures of my kids – to be able to capture some essence of their character in a defining moment.

During that wonderfully obsessive phase of my early love affair with imagery I took a lot of pictures. I always had my camera with me and I would spend hours following children at play only to end up with a mixed bag of results. At this stage I didn’t see light or understand metering so great images were more about luck than skill. Still, those rare nuggets kept me going and I still love the images shown here as much today as I did back then. When I look at them now they hold the key to the direction that my work would take – the bones of a style that was still to evolve and mature.

Finding your ‘style’ is a big thing – the Holy Grail in many ways – and it can be a very frustrating path to discovery. You have to try and work out what kind of photographer you are inside because how you see is the result of who you are. You won’t do this by spending hours looking at other people’s work but by getting out there, pressing the shutter and making mistakes. After all Henri Cartier-Bresson said “your first 10,000 photographs are your worst”…

So what did I learn during this period of excessive image taking? Probably that there isn’t a single formula that results in a portrait with impact – sometimes an image works just because of the light, sometimes it will be the expression or the composition and sometimes everything will come together to make real magic but in every case the end result will be strong enough to elicit a response of some kind from a viewer. And in truth to create just a single wonderful image from a shoot should be enough and when photography was just my hobby it was an outcome I was delighted with. Because after all, at this stage, the only person who needed to be satisfied with the result was me.

Of course things change when you turn professional and start to charge your subjects for your time and skill. With this change in status you considerably up the ante and with it, understandably, the expectations. Now I shoot to commission nearly all of the time and am always walking the line between what the client wants and what I need to remain creatively fresh. I still love shooting but I don’t have the same desire to pick up the camera at every opportunity because there are always 10 things I need to do for the business. Now I find myself envying amateurs – their time, their lack of pressure and their lack of a client brief.

BUT having said that my job takes me to all kinds of places and I get to meet incredible people. No two months are the same and I split my time across portraits, weddings, boudoir and training. I am by choice a location photographer – it is the challenge of working in different locations, light and weather conditions that keep me on my toes and aesthetically stimulated. That is what this column is going to be about – me sharing the latest adventures, the ups and the downs, the successes and the failures.

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