Saturday, 30 July 2011

Website News Update!

Erk, my blog has been a bit neglected as of late! A few things have changed since I last wrote. I've been working hard in college (I got a 1st in my last essay!), thinking up article ideas for Light Stalking, arranging test shoots and recently I've been pouring over my website and getting that done.

I've come to realise that I really, really need my little bit of the web, and with my fairly basic knowledge of html and css, trial and error, lots of googling for tutorials and code snippets and picking the brains of my web dev friends, I'm finally nearing the end of this project. I have a few finishing touches to apply, and then I can give the entire site the new template I've designed. I'm also going to change the name I use from 'Emma Brabrook Photography' to 'Emma Grace Photography'. I think it sounds a lot nicer and rolls off the tongue much easier! It's also easier to spell. So, with very little else left to do to it, I will have the site up at the earliest this Sunday (tomorrow!) or towards the start of next week (more likely). It's all very exciting and I can't wait to have it done! Here's a preview of the website at present:

As previously mentioned, it'll change a bit in the next couple of days.

In other news, here's some recent photos I've taken of two gorgeous models, Rachel and Jordann:

You can find more images of Rachel and Jordann over at my Flickr page.

As a side note, some of you may be interested to hear that I've joined Google+, and so far my experiences of it are very positive! You can find me here. Add me to one of your circles!

Finally, to end this post, I'll leave you all with a photo of our adorable new puppy, Hudson. He's a chocolate lab/malamute cross, and he's loved to bits and pieces.

Sunday, 3 April 2011


Originally uploaded by Emma Brabrook

I decided I'd do a little something today, just to take a photo. As I said on twitter last night, I felt like I was spending too much time waiting to be inspired and not enough time taking photos.

I wanted to do something with a sheet, a window and the little spare room we have. So I cleared the room out, grabbed a sheet, caught the golden hour and I ended up with this. I quite like it :)

Sunday, 27 March 2011


This was an idea that came to mind one evening, just for a bit of fun and something different. It morphed a bit from the original idea, which was to have the eye with the pattern peeping out between some hair. I messed my hair up to give the image more texture, and decided I liked it better this way :) View it larger over at Flickr!

Planning page is here -

Behold, my rushed handwriting.
So, as you can see, quite different! Natural lighting also morphed into studio lighting using just one light. I used my favourite modifier - the huge beauty dish. It gives a wonderful quality of light. It was positioned about 30 - 45ยบ from me, almost right next to the camera. I played around with the settings until I got a brightness I liked (I forgot the exact settings, sorry!).

The pattern that I used in the eye can be found here and is by Patrick Hoesly.

Monday, 21 March 2011

The Jabberwocky

The Jabberwocky
Originally uploaded by Emma Brabrook

Stylist: Matthew Walker
Model: Lauren Elizabeth
Photography and Post Production: Me

Here's Matt's final piece for his project, which he said took inspiration from alice in wonderland. I'd love to shoot an even crazier version of this on location at some point :D

Behind the scenes from this post is coming soon, stay tuned :)

Focus on Imaging 2011

It's been a couple of weeks since I went to this year's Focus on Imaging, and I had such a great time there. It was absolutely exhausting, but I learnt a decent amount of stuff, met people I'd met the year before and got some great new equipment! It was non-stop laughter, and we had lovely weather too as an added bonus.
Taken at the Bowens stand at Focus on Imaging
I was shocked when I heard that Canon had pulled out at the last minute, their only reason being "reconsidering marketing strategy", but thankfully Nikon were still there and I was able to play with two of their lenses. The first one I took a few snaps with was the 70-200mm f2.8. I've been considering getting it in future to compliment my 24-70mm f2.8. It was a really fun lens to play with and very quick, sharp and zoomed a fair distance!

Taken with Nikkor 70-200mm f2.8
I was quite happy with it until I got to the second lens on my list - the 85mm f1.4.

Oh. My. Word.

It was love at first click, basically. I fell in love with it and never wanted to take it off my camera. The way it separated the subject from the background was mind-blowing and the quality, colours and sharpness left me speechless. I liked it so much in fact, I started to almost wish I'd gotten this one instead of my 24-70mm, and I love that lens. My dilemma now however is wondering which to get - a D700, or the 85mm!
Taken with Nikkor 85mm f1.4
Sadly I can't afford either right now, but I did get two things while I was at FOI. I'd been considering a graphics tablet for a few months, and was debating which kind to get. Everything seemed to be pointing towards an Intuos4, and I eventually bit the bullet and bought one. So far, everything is great! I really enjoy using it and I think I even prefer using that to my multi-touch trackpad on the MacBook Pro. I kinda miss the gestures, but ease of use compensates for that. The nibs seem to wear down quickly though, which is a problem I'm trying to resolve. I knew it when I bought it, but after I'd heard friends say they had no trouble, I figured I wouldn't either. Thankfully, the nibs are cheap enough to replace.

The second thing I got was some software called Perfect Photo Suite by OnOne Software. I watched a demonstration of its abilities by chance as I was leaving on the first day, and was blown away at what it could do. I also found out I could get an education discount - more than half price! So after sleeping on it, I decided to get it. I'm incredibly glad I did, as it's so useful, works brilliantly alongside Photoshop and makes everything a lot easier. It makes the bridge between your creative vision and using technology to show it a lot smaller, and just speeds up your entire workflow. It's very powerful (you can remove the background behind things such as veils for example, and then put a new one in) and just a joy to use. I recommend it to anybody who's considering getting it.

PhotoTools v2.6, part of Perfect Photo Suite

As some of you may be aware, I'm now also writing for a great website called Light Stalking. I'll still write posts like this in this blog every now and then until I get my website up (where I'll have a different blog carrying on from this one) but check them out, they have a load of inspiring posts and useful hints and tips for beginners, all the way to professionals!

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Something new to fill the gap :)

If you've been following me on Twitter, you'll know I've had an eventful couple of days in the studio. So eventful in fact, I managed to really strain my legs, abs and pretty much everything else and spent most of Thursday walking around like an extremely ungraceful extra from Thriller. It's all because of my jumping around the studio (almost) tirelessly in a floaty white dress, all while potential students were herded around the college being told how awesome it is (to my ignorance).

They were being shown the sights, till they get to the studios, and then there's me in the nearly-but-not-quite-opaque dress, jumping around in the studio, alone, with music blaring. I heard a knock on the door at first (as I'd locked both) and after cautiously opening the door and peering out into the darkness of the second studio I see not only the tutor, but a gaggle of people I don't recognise wanting to come in and join me. This happened again ten minutes later, from the other door, but this time I was poking my head around the door frame and telling them all they can't come in, the tutor asking me "Why, are you a bit naked?"

Of course I wasn't, so I ended up letting them in and explaining that I didn't always look like this.

Slightly embarrassing at the time, but funny now!

Anyway, this is one of the photos I took on Wednesday. I quite liked all the white space. I find it interesting how so little can say so much.

Curled Up

As I've also mentioned before, I'm heading up to Focus on Imaging on Sunday! I'm really looking forwards to it and can't wait to go. I'm heading up there with a friend, and I'll take some pictures and tell you all about it after I get back on the following Monday. It should be a blast :D

Monday, 21 February 2011

New ideas, and what to expect when arranging a photo shoot

It's a bit of a long one this time, so grab a cup of tea and snuggle up and get comfy. Also, this is just how I do things. I've no doubt that other photographers work differently! Enjoy!


Coming up with ideas for fashion and fantasy themes is always fun. It's even better when one jumps out at you and gives you a dose of inspiration so large you end up grinning like an idiot. The most recent idea I've had that I'd like to carry out came to me out of nowhere after seeing a recent photo of one of the models I'm in contact with. I realised in some roundabout way that she'd make a fantastic Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland. It actually turns out that she has some stuff we can use for it too, and she's more than up for it. It's great because I've wanted to do another, bigger Alice in Wonderland shoot for a while! Next in line is finding a location and getting down to taking photos. Before I can do that however, it requires some other preparations too.

Fortunately, I love the entire process from start to finish. To begin with, you have your idea. You might want to start sketching your ideas at this point or writing them down, but don't consider them set in stone. More than once I've had ideas for a shoot and come out with something entirely different, whether it be a mood, pose, styling idea or location - you will come up with ideas as you go along, it's all part of working as a team - something I'll get to later. I keep a journal for ideas I get so even if I don't do them straight away, when I'm lacking in inspiration I can go back and look through it to see if anything new strikes me or if there's an idea I could carry out that hasn't been done yet.

After you have your idea, you need your model(s). If you're just starting out, you might be wondering where on earth you're going to find people you can get to model for you. Don't worry about it. Ask your friends if they'd like to model for you, or consider using yourself! If you're in a school, university or college, put up posters for a casting call. People will probably turn up. How do you hold a casting call though? 

It seems daunting, but it's not so bad. First, you make a poster or announce it to the world somehow. Keep it as short as possible without leaving any details out, and let it grab their attention. Type it out in a nice, simple font if you're making a poster to stick up - it's easier to read. I'd recommend doing this at least a week or two before you plan to hold your casting call. It gives just enough time to garner some interest. You don't want to leave it up for too long though, or people will get used to seeing it and might get bored of waiting.

So it's the day of the casting call. What now? First, arrive there long before you've told your potential models to arrive. Set everything up if anything needs setting up. At least make sure everything is working. When your models arrive, get them to fill in a piece of paper with their name, contact details and anything else of use to you. Make sure the entries are numbered. Then give them a sheet of paper with the number on it, photograph them, and then you won't get confused as to who is who when it comes to deciding who to use. Take a full body shot face on, full body shot side on, and a head and shoulders shot from the front and the side to see their features better. Then move on to the next model. Keep an eye on how they react in front of the camera - are they awkward? Shy? Stiff as a board? Or do they act like they were born to be photographed? How do they take instruction from you? How do they look photographed? These are all things you're trying to find out, and is the purpose of the casting call. Keep doing this until you work your way through them all. Review the images in your own time and let the models know if they're needed or not via the contact methods you collected, thank them for their time too. You might come across one or two people who aren't any good for your current idea, but are good models and could be used in future. Let them know this if that's what you think. And that's a casting call. It really is that simple!

As you progress and build a body of work, you'll be able to use sites such as Model Mayhem if you want, which simplifies this process. You'll still probably have to do a casting call every now and then though, so it's worth knowing how to do it. Test shoots are also recommended if you use the Model Mayhem method, so you can see how you get along with different models.

Right, so, by now via some method or other you've found the perfect model(s) for your idea. This next bit is a really fun part. Many models like having a say in what they're participating in, and may have ideas that previously you hadn't thought about. Talk to them either over coffee, via email or the phone, and just discuss various ideas for poses, costumes/outfits, locations, anything! It should be an inspiring and exciting part of the process, so enjoy it and make the most of it. On the plus side, you also get to know your model a little which is something I consider important if you're going to work well as a team.

Now, what about outfits, makeup and hair? Well, you could try and find a makeup artist (often abbreviated to MUA) and a hairstylist, but in the beginning it's often best to keep it simple try and do things yourself until you're used to organising shoots. The model may be able to do a lot of things themselves or be able to recommend somebody they know who can do what you're after, so discuss this with them. Make sure you can get to and from whatever location you choose to use safely.

It's the day of the shoot. Problems will arise in some shape or form, I can almost guarantee it. I've yet to have a shoot where a piece of equipment doesn't have a funny five minutes either down to user error or plain murphy's law. Don't worry about it though. Have confidence in yourself in being able to solve it. Treat it like a puzzle and try and enjoy sorting it out. Most importantly, prepare for it. Take extra batteries if you need them. Take sticky tape, scissors, a torch, pliers, rubber bands - anything you think you might need. Chances are you won't, but if you have them you'll be a lot better off than you would be without them and they don't take up too much space. I can't stress this enough. Also, make sure your phone is charged and you have enough money if you need it (this is all assuming you'll be away from home, but it still doesn't hurt to have these things to hand to save you time hunting for them.) You might want to take a friend who's willing to help with you too, to help you out and to look out for you. Make sure people know where you are and don't put yourself in any danger.

Aside from all this, enjoy yourself! You're doing what you love. Make the most of it, and make sure you take breaks for a cup of tea/coffee and some biscuits every now and then. Your model(s) will thank you! Take care of your models, and they'll be more inclined to work with you again. Not only that, but they'll probably tell other people about you and how great you are to work with. Networking is something you'll want to encourage - as time moves on, you'll find it easier and easier to find people work with because of building contacts, keeping in touch with people you've worked with before and a strong portfolio. You might even have an address book just for people like that! 

Something else worth noting is don't be afraid to tell the models what to do. They rely on you for instructions. Even if it's something as small as moving their left thumb up a little, ask them to do it! Be polite though. Nobody likes an impolite, bossy photographer. Talk to your model(s) and let them know how things are going. Got a good shot? Tell them! Like a particular pose? Let them know, they might come up with more of the same. You're giving them feedback and keeping them in the loop, plus you're making them feel even more involved. Communication is very important, don't underestimate it :)

After you have the images, then comes the editing. Chose the best ones - don't put every single one online! There's a good reason for this. Every photographer takes dud photos every now and then, even the most famous ones. I know, it's hard to believe! But they're human and it happens, you just don't see them. Look at your work with a critical eye. Ask yourself what makes you go wow, and what doesn't seem quite right. If you're not sure, get somebody to look over it with you who's opinion you trust. If on the off chance there aren't many photos you like at all (I hope not!) then learn from it. Don't get put off. It might happen from time to time. It's certainly happened to me, especially when I was starting out. Ask yourself what you could have done to improve. Write it down, make a note of it. This way when it comes to doing another shoot, you'll know exactly what to avoid and how to make things work out even better. Consequently, write about what really worked. As before, this could be anything so don't limit yourself. It could be poses, it could be a model you worked really well with, it could be a location, certain lighting, camera settings. Jot it down, keep it safe.

How you edit your photos is up to you, there's no right or wrong way to do it. There's plenty of tutorials on how to achieve certain looks in photoshop/gimp/etc, so don't be put off by frustration or a lack of technical understanding. A good site to use is Lynda, but you might have to pay for a membership to see some of the tutorials. Personally, I think it's worth the money if you're just learning for the first time or even if you just want to learn a more effective way of doing something. The tutorials there are of a high quality. If you'd rather not pay for tutorials though, good news! There's absolutely loads on the internet available to you for free, you just have to look for them. They're easy to find :) There's even magazines with tutorials and the like - one of the ones I get is Advanced Photoshop.

Anyway, process those photos you thought had the wow factor and give them a little boost if need be. Of course you don't have to do any of this, it's entirely optional. From here though, you should know what to do :) Make sure you let your model(s) and anybody else involved have a finished copy for their portfolio - not only does it mean double the exposure but it's a nice way to say "Thanks!" (It's often good to work on a TFCD/TFP basis to begin with to build up a strong body of work. TFCD = Time for CD, TFP = Time for Prints. It basically means "I'll give you my time and work with you on this in return for a copy of the final outcome") 

So, there you have it. A photoshoot from start to finish. As you can see, taking the photos is only a small part of it, but no less important. 

Now get out there and take some amazing photos!

Thursday, 10 February 2011


I'm a bit spoilt for choice as to what I can write about today, as so much is going on in my life right now it's starting to wear me down a little! Thankfully most things will be out of the way by the end of this week, but the tiny light at the end of the tunnel are the new ideas and projects that I can't wait to get started.

Firstly, today myself and a few other second, third and first years went to Narberth in Pembrokeshire to see an exhibition in the Queens Hall Gallery. There were some lovely photos by rather exotically named photographer Dragos Lumpan. It was all about Transhumance and documenting this ancient tradition that's slowly dying out in many parts of Europe and beyond. One of the main reasons we went there however was as part of our professional practice brief, to get us to learn how to get our work into galleries if we so wish. As it turns out, a few of the second years photos from the cinematography brief are going up in the gallery soon, including one of my own, which I'm rather excited about!

The image in question that's going to the gallery
I started to wonder what else I could do to submit to galleries, what I'd enjoy. My mind wandered back to the days when I was absolutely obsessed with pinhole photography. I couldn't get enough. I'd make my own cameras and experiment with various methods and materials. I even made a matchbox pinhole camera, which turned out pretty well. I'd spend hours developing things in the darkroom with the trays and the enlargers, seeing what worked and what didn't. It got a little lonely at times but I was addicted.

Blown out
One of the matchbox photos

Just a shadow
Shoebox photo

More of my old pinhole images can be found here :)

Anyway, back to the present day. I wondered if I should try it again, only instead of using light sensitive paper, maybe I should use film? I'd used 35mm film before for pinhole photography, but cutting it up into little squares proved difficult to develop (I resorted to putting a load of double sided tape in the tank, sticking the film to it emulsion side facing the centre of the tank and giving it a good shake. Seemed to work, but it was very fiddly!). I was recently re-introduced to 5"x4" cameras and I have to say, I love it.

I was a bit reluctant to try it out at first. I was feeling lazy that day when the tutor said we should give it a go. I didn't fancy spending forever focusing it, least of all on a bunch of bottles as a still life, but when the tutor suggested I do some portraits instead "Since that's what you're into",  my interested was piqued. I loved seeing the image upside down at the back, and having to hide under a black sheet is pretty funny, and the tilt shift effects you can do with it are pretty neat too. Not only that though, the image quality is second to none. Here you have a huge sheet of film, ready to be exposed. The worst part is making sure your subject doesn't move - it's difficult getting the eyes right on the focus plane, because once you've focused you have to close the shutter, put the film in the back, and then release the shutter. In that time the subject may have moved a little. But I think I did ok, all things considered!

Photographed and then inverted, not sure why it's blue but I like it! :D The black dots are my ceiling light.
My idea for this new project was simple. Paper was too limiting - you can't enlarge it unless you scan it in. 35mm film is too fiddly. But what about 5"x4" film? I could easily make a camera big enough to take that size film, and it wouldn't be much bigger (width wise at least) than a regular point and shoot. It being on film means I could enlarge the image to whatever size I like, plus I could scan it in at a high dpi if I really wanted to. Perfect! Why hadn't I thought of it before? I now had this excellent method of capturing an image, but what should I capture?

The beauty of film pinhole photography means you can create very long exposures without worrying about whether the sensor will get too hot, or if the batteries will last. You just open the cardboard shutter and let it go. If the hole is small enough and the film is a low enough ISO, you can get incredibly long exposure times, which is something I plan on taking full advantage of.

This project will cover several different places, usually busy areas, but I'll be using a long exposure. This creates a very eerie image, where nothing but the streets and buildings can be seen. Atta Kim did this too, somebody I discovered as part of my research into the subject as a foundation student, and his photo of 57th street has a strange, almost uncomfortable atmosphere to it. To me, it points out how we're all so busy in our lives that we don't pause for breath - only ghostly colours and figures appear, shadows of life. We're all so busy we hardly see life happen. It whizzes by so quickly we can scarcely take it in - even the camera only captures traces left behind.

This carries on from the project I started on my foundation course that I called (if I recall correctly, I'm going back a couple of years!) Transience. It'll be like falling in love with it all over again.

Tomorrow I'll be telling you about another project I'm working towards, this time more fashion and fantasy orientated!

Friday, 21 January 2011

Wedding Bells

I'm really happy as I write this as I've received my first two jobs to shoot weddings! The first is a wedding evening-do that takes place next week and the other is a ceremony in September. I'm so excited! I'm also a little nervous, but I know I'll be ok. They're all very lovely people and I can't wait to meet them.

I'm really looking forwards to building a big portfolio of beautiful wedding photographs and visiting wedding fares and the like, I've reached an exciting time in my life. I really love weddings and relish the idea of being given the opportunity to take beautiful photographs of a couple's big day. It's an honour to be asked to capture something that they'll cherish forever.

My website will be worked on some more once I have a bit more free time (my workload has exploded since I started my second year in uni) and I'll have to include a new section for weddings - I'll be adding a separate gallery exclusively for wedding orientated photographs I've taken along with package descriptions and prices.

I've not turned my back on fashion photography and self portraits though! As much as I adore weddings, portraits and fashion are my first love. I was skimming through my ideas book recently for inspiration and happened across an old idea I had for the "Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil" proverb. I couldn't help but laugh as it's such a silly one and I can't wait to do it once I've completed my cinematic brief. It involves a forest clearing, a map and a tree - and that's all I'm saying about that!

Friday, 14 January 2011

My new lens! A mini review.

So, as some of you may know already, I recently got myself a new lens! I saved up and got the lens I've wanted for a while - the Nikkor 24-70mm f2.8. So far, it's worth every penny I paid for it, and it keeps getting better and better. I decided to give you my thoughts on it so far, a mini first impressions review I suppose :)

So what prompted me to get it? Well, aside from the obvious, recently my kit lens broke a little (well...maybe a bit more than a little). I was doing something for my 365 project at the time when I tripped on a wire near my tripod (which also stopped me from being able to work tethered, I need to get a new one) and the tripod, complete with camera and lens went crashing forwards and landed lens-first. What a nightmare! Thankfully, it landed on my shaggy rug, so the damage was minimal.

I didn't actually notice any damage until a few days later when I felt that the zoom was acting up and getting stuck. It wasn't until I was having to force the zoom to go where it was meant to and I heard a loud SNAP that I realised there was a screw or something loose and the front element was wiggling around rather happily to itself. The good news was it still auto-focused, but it wasn't quite as accurate anymore since the element was droopy and looking at completely the wrong angle (i.e., down). So on the upside, I'd accidentally created a tilt shift. On the downside, it wasn't good for much anymore. It wasn't worth replacing (kit lenses rarely are) so I figured a lens I'd had my eye on for a few months would do well as a replacement.

Enter the Nikkor 24-70mm f2.8. I did a lot of research before getting this, but everything seemed to point towards me getting it. It was perfect for what I need it for, and after saving up I was finally able to buy it on Wednesday! The guy in the shop smirked as I put my card into the machine and said "I love the smell of burning plastic!" I couldn't help but laugh. It's true what they say - you forget how much you paid for it as soon as you have it. 

So far I've been in awe of what it can do. For the first time on my own camera I can actually count the stitches in a piece of fabric when not even my eyes can manage it from that distance. It's incredible at picking up detail. It's smooth, quick to focus and very well built. It looks pretty funny on my little D5000 though, it makes it look even smaller! However even with a DX sensor, the focal range is fantastic and very useable.

It's pretty heavy, though not in your hand. When it's mounted on my camera the leverage it provides makes my wrist ache after a while if I don't support the lens too, but I think that's because it's so much heavier than the body. Once I upgrade to the D700 I think it'll be pretty well balanced. I'm used to using the Phase One for hours on end in the studio without sore arms or wrists so I'm fairly sure it's just a balance issue. It's a solid lens worth every penny, and I highly recommend it.

Once I've had a chance to take some proper photos with it I'll post them here for all to see. I can't wait to put it through its paces!

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Bag Lady Part 3, and other recent stuff!

This blog is well overdue for an update. I was so busy with my AoP project "Bag Lady" and getting it finished in time that most other things got pushed to the wayside. I had another project going on at the same time (group cinematics) which didn't help matters at all, as I had to juggle my time and be in two places at once. But, it got done in the end!

I was also really, really ill when I was editing the final photographs. I think I was rundown from too many late nights which didn't help things, as I'd caught the bug that was going around. All I wanted to do was curl up and sleep, but the deadline was fast approaching and merciless.

After a few days of ruthless editing getting 663 images down to the final six and then editing those six, I had the final images at long last. I was so pleased with how they turned out! I would liked to have included more, but the brief only allowed six, so six it was. I'll be working on a couple of others that I liked and uploading them soon too.

So here they are, the final six! (Click for larger version)

Bag Lady


Belle of the Ball


In the Rain

After the Rain

Isn't she gorgeous? :D

My entry has been submitted so I'm hoping for some good news soon. Even if I don't get through though, I'm very happy with what I've achieved. I learnt a lot about organising a fashion shoot from the ground up, what to expect, what can easily go wrong and how to prevent it, and working with others was a lot of fun. From start to finish, the project was intensely satisfying to see becoming a reality.

I recorded myself working on one of the images too using a screen capture program, as I've had requests from readers who enjoy seeing the behind the scenes type things, so I decided to include this as an insight to how I work in Photoshop. I was using a trackpad at the time, not the best thing to use I know, but I couldn't use a mouse as I was curled up in bed coughing and spluttering and had nowhere to put it. Eventually I'll try using a tablet, but I'm still looking into which one to get. Does anybody have any recommendations? I'd be interested to hear about them in the comments if you do!

Tomorrow I'll give my thoughts so far on my new lens - the Nikkor 24-70mm f2.8. Stay tuned!