Thursday, 25 March 2010

Strike a pose, vogue, vogue, vogue...

Photos from today to come tomorrow (hopefully!)

For the first time ever today I did a fashion shoot for some 2nd and maybe 3rd year students with a few different models. It was arranged yesterday as one of the heads of department had seen I had posters up around college asking for people to ask me to photograph their work for them - it's what we do in my college. You scratch my back, I scratch yours :) Usually I think it's 2nd or 3rd year photographers who do that kind of thing but they knew I was keen to learn and build my portfolio so this gave me a much needed boost. Especially since I wasn't doing just one shoot, but 6, and assisting in one other (which was at the very start, probably to give me an idea of what to do). I was using John's D700 which I fell in love with - it's a fantastic solidly built camera. I love the noise it makes and it feels like it's been carved out of a single piece of metal and it looks, feels and sounds like it means business - whereas my camera is quite light and has a kind of a happy feel and noise when it takes a photo. Not that I'm complaining, I love my camera! ^^

I was quite nervous to start with, but had a lot of instruction and guidance from John, the photo technician. I gradually got more and more independent through the day until finally at the last shoot I was completely on my own spare the designer and the model.

My first shoot involved a cute pink dress that was focussed on detail, so we got some macros of that. I won't have any photos of that one to show however as I don't have a model release form and I can't remember which are my photos and which are Johns.

The second shoot I did was a sweets-themed shoot, since the dress took inspiration from quality streets, or as far as I'm aware. It was a purple ra-ra skirt, heels, a semi see-through crop top and a pink bra that shone through slightly. It was really fun to have the model throw the sweets in the air and strike a pose that showed happiness and excitement in a way that kind of said "It's raining chocolate!". I also had four people out of the frame with their hands full of sweets ready to throw into the shot and (unfortunately for her) straight at the model after my count of three. In the end we settled for the solution of a photo of the model and a photo of the sweets being thrown - saved her from getting battered by green and purple ones and allowed for the shot we wanted by tinkering in photoshop.

The third shoot involved a cute pink dress that was going for the theme of high society and something a little more sophisticated. I loved the feathers and beads detail across the waist. The designer didn't want to experiment much and wanted a very simple pose, so it was reasonably short as far as shoots go :)

The fourth shoot had a bit of a background malfunction - I thought the guy said he wanted a white background, but in fact had said he'd wanted black. I figured it was my fault and said sorry, but it was easily changed. No big deal :) It was a really interesting dress, all criss-crossed and quite revealing but covered her rather well at the same time - I'll have a photo of it tomorrow, I'll have photos of all of them tomorrow to put on my blog, Flickr, Model Mayhem and eventually my website when I get it built. It was rather long and the model had an interesting look. She seemed a natural at posing even though she'd never done it before.

The fifth shoot was something I've wanted to do for a while now - Alice in Wonderland. I don't know why it's a theme that appeals to me so much, but it was my favourite shoot of the lot today, I had so much fun! By now I was rather confident in myself and just had a lot of fun and got a buzz from taking such great shots. The model was relaxed in front of the camera and up for experimenting, almost falling over more than once in the process! The dress was really, really well made and looked fantastic. Light baby blue with small white polka dots and it poofed out around the legs, with an opaque white underskirt with a lacy bit at the bottom which poked out from under the dress. She had some cute ruffled shoulder detail going on and a big black ribbon around her waist, and she wore knee-high black socks with cute little black bows and black heels. It was amazingly fun and we all had a laugh doing it!

My last shoot was a world apart from what I'd been doing all day as it was more of a lingerie shoot. She was wearing a lovely sparkly green bustier and boyshorts knickers of the same material, cream peep-toe heels and a white silky hoodie with feathers. The green colour really suited the model's skin tone, which was an added plus. The designer wanted a Victoria's Secret theme and vibe going on, so we chose sexier poses and had a laugh in the process. I got some pretty nice shots from that too with the framing and the colours, not to mention the lighting which was great. I don't know how the models cope with it though, after a few minutes under the lights I felt pretty warm!

Overall, I had a fantastic time and I'm really grateful to Iain - one of the heads of department - and to John for letting me do this and add some fantastic subjects to my portfolio, to the models for letting me use the images, and I can't forget to congratulate the designers on their fantastic handy-work and skill in designing the outfits! I'll be getting the images tomorrow as there wasn't any time today. I think they'd only just started when I arrived at 10am and the last shoot was finished by 4.40pm. Recently I applied for Model Mayhem so I can hopefully work with some models on some of my own projects and maybe on some casting calls. My first application was denied due to me having very little material to show them that was suitable - I can reapply up to 2 times though. After today however I don't think that'll be a problem anymore!

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Getting back into the swing of things/Focus on Imaging

As soon as I thought I was getting back into the swing of posting, I fell pretty ill and hadn't the energy for anything. I'm well on my way to recovering now though so I should be able to catch up on posts. I wrote the following about a week ago but I was still having internet trouble. That's now been resolved (at last!).

So, on Wednesday March 10th I went to an event called Focus On Imaging. It was being held in the NEC in Birmingham and it took us around 4 hours to get there. It was well worth it though. There were hundreds of stalls to go to, and it took me over an hour to go around the perimeter. I don't think I saw every single stand. Next time it may be better to go over a period of a couple of days, especially how poorly the trip was organised. Anyway, less of the negative. It was well worth the trip and resulting exhaustion at the end of the day because I managed to get my hands on some bargains. The first thing I bought was £5 worth of magazines with lovely pictures in which I figured I could look at for times when I'm feeling uninspired. They were going for £2 each but he was saying he had a deal on for students that he didn't want others to know about and asked us to keep quiet about it. They usually cost around £8 each so I managed to make a massive saving there. Walking around the stalls I saw some unusual stands, there were some massively oversized things to highlight different product features, like the zoom and face recognition. I took a snapshot with my phone of a huge camera. If you walked behind it you'd see a massive screen pointing at another stand, so if you stood in front of the lens long enough it'd show facial recognition. I tried to get a snapshot of the back but my phone ran out of memory.

               Not quite as compact as you might think!

My favourite stall there was probably the Jacob's stall, as they had so many great deals spanning 3 or 4 stalls each selling different kinds of products. I'd had my eye on a Lowepro Computrekker rucksack for quite a few months now but hadn't taken the plunge and bought one just yet. I found it there for £90 with the help of somebody working there called Rachel who was very helpful and friendly, and I managed to get the guy behind the till down to £85 (not a massive saving but as Tescos says, every little helps!) and in my opinion it's well worth the money I paid for it, even though it's still probably quite expensive for a bag. It's built to last and endure, and it holds everything I need it to. 

It has space for 2 SLRs, and around 5-6 lenses OR a compact medium format system, along with space for a large notepad computer (most 15.4" screen laptops fit, my 15" unibody macbook pro fits perfectly) and lots of room for accessories. There's loads of room in the front pocket for my lunch and some pens, paperwork, keys, phone, purse, whatever, and there's a pouch that unfolds at the front along with some bungee cord to hold a tripod snuggly in place. I found a clip inside the front pouch and after wondering what it was for, I figured it'd be perfect for keeping things I often lose in the depth of my bags in place for easy finding later, like keys, my phone and possibly my purse. There's lots of other little pockets to put things in and the ones inside the camera section are laminated mesh, so they'll be weather proof. 

The sections inside the camera compartment are fully adjustable as they attach very securely with velcro. So securely in fact, it's sometimes hard to un-attach them! On the outside at the bottom of the bag there's a compartment held closed with velcro which contains the all-weathers proof cover which stretches over the bag and can be tightened with a bungee cord. This will probably also double as an anti-theft cover as thieves would have a hard time getting into the front-most compartments without my knowing about it. All of the zippered compartments are secured even further from the outside with lips that cover the zipper and a clip that fastens over the zipper to prevent it from opening. The bag also has adjustable straps on the front attached to the bag and very padded shoulder straps which go over the sternum and across the abdomen, further aiding the comfort of wearing the bag. It has lumbar support and a padded mesh back, and a carry handle at the top. All sections inside are very padded, and I have no fears about carrying my laptop around inside of it. It's probably safer in there than in my other laptop bags! 

As you can see, I'm very very happy with it, and it has more than enough room to keep all my future lenses and bits and bobs, including my laptop, lunch, and whatever else I decide to take with me like chargers and batteries. This is great because it now means I won't have to use my college rucksack anymore (which is literally falling apart at the seams) and I'll be able to take even more around with me in complete comfort, including my lunch :)

I'm going to be lazy and link you all to the Lowepro website for an image of this, there's loads of images of it everywhere and I'm still not feeling up to faffing around with my camera much unfortunately :(

The last thing I bought was something I had looked at previously but had decided to hold out on for a while. It wasn't on my list of priorities at the moment, but as I passed the stand I couldn't help but have a look and a demonstration. It was another Jacob's stand and the item in particular that had caught my eye was the Spyder 3 Elite. The interface looked great and very easy to use, the results were good and the price was the cheapest I'd ever seen it. He was pretty unbiased from what I could see and based on him telling me that (he came across as very trustworthy, genuine and friendly, he also worked for a company that sold the other products and he had used all of them), and he made sure I understood that the Spyder series was his personal preference. A guy passed me during the demonstration and said "It's amazing, get it! Seriously, it's really really good!" and then walked back into the stall. He stopped me on my way trying to find the Calumet stall to find the Huey and Colormunki calibrators too (which was mostly unsuccessful, the place was huge and Calumet had run out. The guy telling me about the Spyder suggested I have a look at the others first) telling me that he wasn't just saying it, he was entirely serious. We had a quick chat and then I said I had to go since I was running out of time and didn't want to leave without a calibrator. 

I eventually found a stall selling something called the Xrite. It turned out that he was working for a company that owned both the other companies that sold and manufactured the Huey and the ColorMunki. I found out that the Huey was geared towards gamers and the ColorMunki was going to cost around £300, so they were both out of the window. I decided that the Xrite looked a bit cheap and it also crashed on the mac he was using, which wasn't a great selling point. The interface looked clunky and overly complicated, and I heard words like complex and tricky. It was going for £115, which was more than the Spyder 3 Pro, going for £89. It also didn't have an ambient light sensor which the Spyder Pro does, and while that isn't really necessary for my mac, it will be for future monitors I'm going to buy. He also told me that the other two calibrators were more of an entry level calibrator and his was a pro model. He didn't mention the Spyder, and after I asked him what his stance on it was, he reluctantly told me that that was his competition. The guy in the Spyder stall with his confidence in the product and generally trustworthy attitude won the sale, and in the end, as you can guess, I went for the Spyder 3 Pro for £89. By the time I'd got back to him around 10 or 15 mins later, about 3 of them had been sold - they were flying off the shelves. I can upgrade it to the Spyder 3 Elite for around £40 in the future if I really want as the hardware is the same. I'll be saving money there too as the Spyder Elite was going for £125 ish on the day, and usually sells for around £175. I was very happy with what I'd just gotten and now the next thing on my list is a tripod!

I'll be going to Focus next year too, probably over the space of a couple of days to take away the stress and exhausting nature of a day trip. It's so worthwhile going and I'd recommend it to anybody looking for a bargain. I got demo disks, there were talks and demonstrations, I entered competition draws and you get lots of helpful advice and save a lot of money. Go next year!

UPDATE: Since I wrote this my Spyder 3 Pro has stopped working. I'm going to try and get it replaced under guarantee. It was fine one day, and then all of a sudden stopped working. I have no idea what's caused it but I'm not too happy about it.

Friday, 5 March 2010


It's been a bit quiet here recently, sorry about that. It's just I have no internet at home at the moment. I should have it back sometime next week, all going to plan. As I write this I'm sitting in college listening to tunes on Spotify.

So, what's new? Well as usual I've been taking photos of the firemen on mondays, which has now come to an end. Or has it? I've decided to carry on with the project a little beyond my college brief as I enjoy it so much, so it has life beyond this. I won't be going there this week due to them being away somewhere doing an exercise in some building, and due to health and safety reasons I'm not allowed to be there. However, the week after they're cutting up cars outside, so I'll see if I can go along and have a nosy with my camera. It sounds pretty interesting! I've also started having a go at learning how to make my website. I found a program that comes with iLife that I haven't used yet called iWeb. I'm not going to use it to make the site, but after fiddling around with it and posting the website I made in around 30 mins to a local folder, I could get more of an idea on how things worked. I'm going to have to stock up on sugary things though so I can get tech support from a friend of mine. Sweets are the agreed payment in return for help :D

Also, I had my first driving lesson yesterday! It was awesome. I took things in pretty quickly and he could see I was eager to get the car moving. I went a bit fast around corners to which he told me he could see I wasn't afraid of the accelerator. We went over and over checking the blindspots, starting the car, changing gear, slowing down, turning and stopping. I stalled a couple of times, but I soon learnt how to avoid it. It was a lot to take in in an hour and a half but he's a really good teacher and he's going to take me on a quiet road next week.

I'm going to Birmingham next week to an event called Focus. I have to be in college uber early so I'm gonna have to plan ahead for that. It's only a day trip, but I'll be trying to get some photos for the blog. It's basically a huge gathering of photographic companies trying to sell me stuff. But you do get some good deals and it may be an opportunity to network. I found some good stuff at Vision last November in London. That reminds me, I need to buy the ticket...

On to another topic, I've been using a printing company online for my Friday lecture photographs. They're called Photobox and they're really quick and have good quality 6x4 prints. To give you an idea how quick they are, I ordered my prints on a Tuesday, and they arrived on the Thursday. Very well packaged, and I'm very happy with them overall. You get the option of gloss or matt, with a border or without a border. There are other sizes available but I've only been using 6x4. When you first join you get 40 free prints. The price goes down the more you order. I think you have to reach 500 before it goes down to 5p a print, so if it's value you're after, try Asda. They have 40 free prints available online too, but the price goes down to 5p after you order 200+. I uploaded 240 6x4 photos to Asda (after a bit of hassle) and got 40 free, and since I'd reached 200, it went down to 5p per print, which meant I only paid £10. The postage was around £1.50. Have a look at and you'll find hundreds of free prints available to you. I can't vouch for every company, but I've had no trouble with Photobox and Asda. Have a look at the star rating for a rough idea of how good each company is. I found the page when I was in college one day convinced there was another way around paying loads of money for prints that would be used once.

In more recent news I'm going to something interesting today - since it's Fairtrade fortnight, church are making their annual huge banana split down an arcade. I'll try and get some photos and some banana split goodness. I couldn't go last time but it looks like I can this year!