Articles Tagged with: photography

Photography Resolutions 2017

 

So a new year. No doubt you’re thinking about what you want to develop and experience in 2017.

I’ve never been a stickler for the usual resolutions of diet and detox, but I do make a check list of things that are going to keep expanding my creativity and craft across the next 12 months.

Even so, I hold these things lightly. If they don’t all happen, that’s ok – the important ones will rise to the surface.

Maybe some of these will chime with you.

Keep A Lighting Notebook/Scrapbook.

The more I photograph, the more aware I become of the beauty and complexity of light. It is after all the basic ‘building block’ of photography. Thing is, there’s always room to learn more about it. Both natural light and the artificial variety. It’s an infinitely endless subject: how light changes through a given time and across different surfaces, how to manipulate it to best effect both indoors and out. This year it’s time to delve even deeper into light through natural observation, lighting diagrams and practical experiments. So I’m keeping a lighting notebook where I can collect my observations, and the observations of other photographers and artists, through notes, cuttings and ‘sketch’ photo’s. And translate that learning to my photography.

Exhibit.

There’s probably lots of you out there who have physically exhibited your work in some way. I’ve never done it. But it’s one way to get out of the comfort zone. For a start it will mean printing much more of my photo output than I normally do. I usually only see my work in print when it’s been shot for client use. Plus we all know how easy it is these days to only see photographs on a screen of some kind. And it has to be said that a physical print is so much more satisfying. Indeed, it will make me more conscious of the techniques I’m using to make and  develop images. There’s also the gift of meeting an audience/community face-to-face and having the opportunity to observe the response to your images: are they are speaking to people or not? Something that’s impossible to truly gauge via social media ‘likes’.

Give away more.

It’s not always about the bottom line. There’s always room to give something away. It’s important. I’ve always done it and 2017 will be the year I do more of it. Over deliver. Offer skills and learning to someone for free. Give away a shoot every so often. I’ve noticed that whenever I do give something away something else comes along that gives back to me – a new opportunity, a booking, whatever! Funny how that works. So, give it away in 2017 – your time, your skills, whatever you’re comfortable with . . .

Draw, paint and collage more.

This is about experimentation. Throwing out any notion of a ‘final’ product and instead going with the unexpected. Playing. Following what is suggested and being open to it. Especially by putting unrelated things together or combining differing types of media. In the long run I find it helps generate ideas, and develops my image-making in unexpected ways. Often I’m using prints of my own work to cut-up or alter in some way. Other sources are magazines and newspapers, things found on the street, and random bits of text or notes that come to mind.

Travel more.

I’ve just come back from a flying visit to Berlin in Germany. And it made me realise something: when you’re a sole trader/freelancer travel for travel’s sake often gets forgotten. Sure we get to do it for work from time to time, but that’s not the same. Deliberately heading out on a journey is good for the mind, body and emotions. Deliberately setting out with an eye to embrace the new and unknown is also part and parcel of photographic and creative learning. Exposure to diversity, difference and change. Paramount experiences for this photographer.

Develop personal projects.

In 2016, I started developing a number of projects in collaboration with other photographers and crafts-people. The process has been a wonderful thing: challenging, inspiring etc. It expands critical skills as we look at our own work in the context of working alongside fellow practitioners. It improves technical and organisational skills. When you drill down into a project theme it’s surprising what that process fulfils in terms of expanding the creative ideas you have, the subjects you’re interested in, and altering the approach to the way you work. It also reduces the sense of isolation we can often feel as photographers.

Get to know local people and  businesses.

Since moving to Brighton in early 2016, I’ve made an effort to devote time to getting to know local people and businesses. Their experiences, likes and dislikes. Seeking out where we chime together and where we differ. Not necessarily because they might become clients, but because relationship development is one of the key strengths of being a photographer. Especially in such divisive times. Maybe it’s part of the natural curiosity photographers have? Also, on a personal level, I’m an introvert so it’s a good way for me to challenge how that affects my relationships. Making a concerted effort to get out and meet people locally in 2017 will, I hope, make it a less divisive and more relational year. One that is likely to reap benefits that aren’t only about the bottom line.

Choose Yourself.

Authenticity. Being yourself. Not doing what other people are doing or following a ‘formula’. It’s the only way to keep us away from the distinct move toward homogeneity that we see in the world in various forms at the moment. I’m a huge fan of James Altucher’s book Choose Yourself. It got me through the early years of my calling as a photographer when I was floundering in the dark. It taught me to keep putting one foot in front of the other and listen to my instinct. Not that the need for that ever fully stops. I find myself going back to Altucher’s book regularly to keep me inspired and motivated about who I am and what I’m doing. If you’ve never heard of James Altucher, check him out here or better still read the book.

Replace a certain four-letter word.

What word is that? W-O-R-K. This resolution is one that I’m really conscious of and already practising. Partly because it’s a promise that both my wife and I made to each other on New Years Day. But mainly because we want to re-frame what we do in our businesses as forms of exploration or play. And as words are powerful things, especially the word ‘work’ with all it’s connotations of duty, routine and drudgery, it’s an empowering thing to challenge. So words like craft, calling, skill, practice, and activity are going to replace that four letter word.

So those are my little declarations to the self as the year begins. Be great to hear what yours are.

Happy New Year…


All images © James Bellorini 2016. All rights reserved.

I’m a commercial and editorial photographer. I started shooting full-time in 2013. Subsequently I have worked with advertising agencies, design agencies, entrepreneurs, performers, musicians, DJ’s, singers, models, and culture and entertainment organisations/brands. Recent clients include: The National Theatre, Innovision, UKTI, Siren Design, Glyndebourne Productions Ltd, Stone Nest, The Old Vic etc. In September 2015 I joined the Redeye Network’s Lightbox programme for emerging photographers and I’m a founding member of the photography collective RISE. 


2016 THROUGH THE LENS

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2016: One Year Through The Lens


 

The end of a year is always time to assess where we’ve come from.

And, of course, where we’re going.

And Wow! 2016. What a year it’s been for so many reasons. It will go down in history as having been one of the most polarising, hilarious, and shocking.

However, for myself as a freelancer, it has been about risk-taking. Pushing the boundaries of my comfort zones.

While our brains are great things, they often focus on the potential negatives of big decisions that have to be made whilst running a business. Even a business of just one person. Perhaps even more so. They often try to talk us out of making those decisions. After all they are always seeking out certainty and security. As a result, we become prone to fears which may or may not exist.

Therefore, the big question becomes: what’s the price of staying where I am?

I had come to a point in early 2016 when I had to answer that question myself. As a result I chose to shift my home and business. In  March I moved out of the London/M25 catchment area, where I’d lived and worked for more than a decade, and moved to Brighton on the UK’s South Coast.

I’m lucky enough to say that the move has paid off.

It’s opened up opportunities. And avenues of change. Plus, in addition to living by the sea (always a bonus), I’ve already met and worked with some incredible people. These include artists, entrepreneurs, DJs, press officers, and award-winning designers. And I’m giving some of them a ‘visual heads-up’ in the gallery above. They deserve it. They’re examples of risk-takers. Nearly all of them creating in some way.

I’ve spent 2016 deliberately maintaining a path of diversity.

Choosing not to pursue a specific single photographic niche. This goes against the received ‘wisdom’ of many business advisors. However, more important to me is my approach to my craft, my business, and to people in general. That’s what I’ve been concentrating on.

What does that look like?

Well, it includes the obvious things of being technically and creatively adept and versatile, and offering great service. Yet more than that it’s about being a problem solver, being responsive, focusing on engagement with people and clients. Aiming more and more to be myself.

Perhaps it’s my own A.D.D. but I like to keep things fresh and not stand still. Never resting on my laurels.

I’m happy to say that I’ve seen results from a slew of new clients, stronger working relationships with existing clients, and an upsurge in the range of what I shoot and offer. As a result, despite so many factors beyond my control, I’d say 2016 has been a truly exciting and challenging ride.

Ultimately, this is an opportunity to say a big thank you to my clients: the new ones, and those that I’ve been privileged to shoot for again and again.

Thanks for reading this and taking an interest in my work.

Whatever you do, wherever you are,  I wish you happy holidays, happy Christmas, and a prosperous and exciting New Year.
 


 

Gallery:

2016 through some of the images I shot during the past 12 months.

  1. ‘Of Riders & Running Horses’ performed by Still House at the National Theatre River Stage Festival.
  2. Actor Caroline O’Hara photographed in Brighton for her publicity portfolio.
  3. Handmade vegan apple crumble photographed for Brighton-based fitness and health expert Everfitt.
  4. Custom car photographed at the Furle Hill Climb 2016.
  5. Portrait of a Georgian re-enactor as part of my personal project ‘Artificial Bodies?’.
  6. Sola Akingbola performing at the National Theatre River Stage Festival.
  7. Burlesque performer Lady Marmaduke photographed for her publicity portfolio.
  8. A product lifestyle image for toys and games in the Glyndebourne Christmas catalogue.
  9. The Cunning Little Vixen in rehearsal, for Glyndebourne Productions Ltd.
  10. Connections at 21 performance at The National Theatre.
  11. Norman Cook (aka Fatboy Slim) DJ’ing at baby Loves Disco for Brighton Fringe.
  12. Actor and singer Olivia Crow photographed for her publicity portfolio.
  13. Handmade chocolate truffles photographed for artisanal chocolatier Ilze’s Chocolat.
  14. The Glory performing at the National Theatre’s River Stage Festival.
  15. Portrait from my ongoing personal project ‘The Reveries Of Kitty Pridden’. 

All images © James Bellorini 2016. All rights reserved.

I’m a commercial and editorial photographer. I started shooting full-time in 2013. Subsequently I have worked with advertising agencies, design agencies, entrepreneurs, performers, musicians, DJ’s, singers, models, and culture and entertainment organizations/brands. Recent clients include: The National Theatre, Innovision, UKTI, Siren Design, Glyndebourne Productions Ltd, Stone Nest, The Old Vic etc. In September 2015 I joined the Redeye Network’s Lightbox programme for emerging photographers and I’m a founding member of the photography collective RISE. 


EMPIRE BURLESQUE: JOYS OF COLLABORATION

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COLLABORATING ON A PHOTOSHOOT.


If you’re anything like me – a freelancer working for yourself – then you probably don’t get to collaborate that often. I mean I spend about 80% of my time working on my own. That’s the nature of the game I guess. Photography is, in the main, a solo pursuit.

Sure, when I’m on a shoot I’m with my clients and subjects (which are mini-collaborations in themselves), but even then I’m often working alone before the shoot and then behind the camera (unless the budget allows for an assistant).

When I’m editing it’s hours (days more often) in front of the computer with just Photoshop, Deezer and coffee to keep me company.

The plus sides of working this way are that you just get on and work. There’s rarely anyone to wait for or delegate to. Any decisions that need to be made on the whole can be made in the time it takes to brew another cup of coffee then go ahead and take action.

The flip side is that often we can get overly used to regular ways of thinking and routines which can get stale, safe and comfortable. And over time that can lead to reduced energy and creativity.

As we all know, the best ways to learn and grow are to get outside our comfort zones and challenge those feelings of safety and comfort.

That’s why I jump at the chance to collaborate with people as often as I can.

It’s why when talented make-up artist and stylist Lucille Dee (www.lucilledee.com) asked me to work on a shoot with burlesque performer Lady Marmaduke (check out her Facebook page here) in order to showcase how Lucille uses Urban Decay cosmetics (www.urbandecay.co.uk) and get some publicity shots for Lady M, I said yes straight away.

And it was, as I anticipated, a breath of fresh air for a number of reasons.

Firstly, I was working with people engaged in their passions, what’s hugely important to them and, above all, they do it with dedication and always to the best of their abilities.

Secondly, I was called upon to work with minimal preparation. Lucille was organizing all the styling and looks, the props and the location (Patterns bar/club on Brighton seafront). Plus my schedule wouldn’t allow for a recce of the location in advance, so I’d have to make decisions about kit from what info I could glean from Lucille in advance and a quick search of the venue’s website. Then trust the equipment I had with me on the day, rather than carting every item of kit with me ‘just in case’.

Finally, I’d not worked with the subject/model Lady Marmaduke before – and that is always an immediate challenge: breaking the ice, making them feel confident and comfortable, and building trust and complicity between you.

There were a lot of potential pit-falls.

But one thing I find that when you dive in: things happen. You reinforce your skills and learn new ones.

And it’s one of the beauties of working with other creative people: there’s a freshness that comes from combined ideas and effort; working things out in real time with an idea or two in mind to kick start from, seeing where you are led along the way often influenced by unforeseen elements in the shoot.

Take for example the two wildly coloured images (above and right): these were shot in the ladies toilets and lit by three small overhead lights (a red, green and blue) that are part of the decor. It was actually very dark in there. However the light was so exciting to us that we had to try and find a way to make it work. To me they came out pretty good I think (with a bit of post-production work thrown in).

Or in the more ‘panoramic’ dressing room image below: actually a reflection photographed in a huge wall mounted mirror that gave a more of a wide-angle view than we could get if we’d tried shooting it in the normal, straight-on way.

And there’s other things to enjoy: other people’s ideas, their time-frames, what they propose in the moment all must be taken into account and worked with. So by remaining flexible and not ‘stuck’ to every one of your own ideas, then collaboration is ultimately challenging and fun.

That’s great.

And best of all it shows in the end results.

One of the additional benefits of collaboration of course is that you build your network and even start building potential teams that you could work with again and again. And who knows where that could lead?

So, if you’ve never collaborated on a project of any size, then have a go. It’s worth it.

And if like me you have, then do it again whenever you can. I know I will.

If you have experiences of collaborating I’d love to hear about them and what you’ve learnt.

The tech stuff:
All images shot on  Canon 5D MKIII with Canon 35mm, 50mm & 85mm lenses and a 110cm EXPRO hand held reflector. Edit & post-processing done in my usual mix (collaboration?) of Adobe Photoshop and Alien Skin Exposure 7.

All images © James Bellorini 2016. All rights reserved.

James is an editorial and documentary photographer working for the commercial and consumer markets. He started shooting professionally in 2013 and has since worked with advertising agencies, design agencies, entrepreneurs, performers, musicians, DJ’s, singers, models, and culture and entertainment organizations/brands. Recent clients include: Innovision, UKTI, Siren Design, Glyndebourne Productions Ltd, Stone Nest, The Old Vic etc. In September 2015 he joined the Redeye Network’s Lightbox programme for emerging photographers. 


AN IMAGE ALMANAC: 2015

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2015 IN PICTURES.


 

So, 2015 marked the beginning of my third year as a working photographer and this post is a simple look back at some of the images I’ve created for clients (and some just for myself) in the past 12 months.

Thank you if you’ve been reading my posts and thank you even more if you’ve been commenting sand sharing them. It’s great having you along for the ride. I wish you bagloads of prosperity, creativity and joy in 2016.

Images (click on each for full image):

Top: Carmen in rehearsals photographed for Glyndebourne Productions Ltd; Actress Caroline O’Hara for her publicity portfolio; Chocolate dipped oranges – commercial advertising photography for Ilze’s Chocolat.

Middle: Lookbook photoshoot for Siren Design/Charter Place (model: Nina Sever); UK Prime Minister David Cameron and President Xi of China photographed at London’s Mansion House for innovision/UKTI; Detail from ‘A Soho Day’ for Siren Design.

Bottom: Commercial advertising photography for Ilze’s Chocolat; Record Shop Day, Soho; Portrait from SCT at 50 reportage.


All images © James Bellorini. All rights reserved (apart from innovision/UKTI images which are held under Crown Copyright).

James is an editorial and documentary photographer working for the commercial and consumer markets. He started shooting professionally in 2013 and has since worked with advertising agencies, design agencies, entrepreneurs, performers, musicians, DJ’s, singers, models, and culture and entertainment organizations/brands. Recent clients include: Innovision, UKTI, Siren Design, Glyndebourne Productions Ltd, Stone Nest, The Old Vic etc. In September 2015 he joined the Redeye Network’s Lightbox programme for emerging photographers.


A CERTAIN UNCERTAINTY

A Certain Uncertainty - On Staying Curious

Leaving Lewiston – Maine, USA

ON STAYING CURIOUS.


I guess that most of us are curious about something. What makes you curious?

What gets into you enough that you want to know more about it until it’s almost obsessive?

Curiosity is one of my main motivators. Actually it’s the main one if I think about.

I’m curious about a ridiculous amount of things: London’s Oxford Street, Iceland (the country not the shop…although who knows!), smartphones, the comics of the Luna brothers, making the ultimate smoothie, visual composition (I get a bit obsessive about this one), videography, New Mexico, blogging, Caravaggio … the list goes on and on actually.

As a photographer curiosity is part of my everyday process. My internal dialogue when I’m shooting goes something like this: ‘Who’s that? What are they doing? What’s their story? What’s that place over there? What’s happening? How can I get under the skin of this? Have I understood as much as I can right now?’

Our lives are in many ways vehicles for finding ways to answer those kinds of questions. I happen to use a camera to do it; for you it might be something completely different. I don’t always succeed. But even being willing to be on the journey is part of being curious.

There are many demands on us these days, demands that often keep us locked into our habits. Habits that can be hard to break. As a result being curious is often quite a battle. Curiosity means remaining open to the unknown: the stranger, the new journey, experiencing a different culture, or a change to our routine.

So curiosity is something that is necessary to growth (witness the eternal children’s question: WHY?) and scary at the same time (isn’t that just always the way with growth?!!).

I’m not a ‘trained’ photographer in any academic sense of the word. I’ve developed any practice (such as it is) through simply shooting, making mistakes (a lot of those!), re-shooting, reading reading reading, and listening to the advice of those who’ve been there before me. As a consequence nearly everything I do is a form of learning driven by curiosity: to understand more of what I am seeing and how I see it. That never ceases.

And yeah it’s a blessing and a curse. Staying curious is like developing an internal restlessness, it provides energy and forward motion certainly; but on the other hand it’s a case of learning to be comfortable in the centre of the unknown. Not always easy but perhaps creatively worthwhile.

That in turn takes time. And patience – something that our Western culture no longer seems to hold very highly. I mean to really achieve the full fruition of one’s curiosity takes a lifetime and, as we know, we are all becoming prone to the need for hyper-fast results that are often short-lived. And I’m just as prone to that as anyone so don’t let me give the impression of any superiority here. I’m just as fond of my social media feed fix as the next person!

But curiosity (married with patience) is a good thing. They manifest themselves as resisting the temptations to leave something too soon or to stop asking the important questions. Its another one of those small acts of rebellion I’ve talked about before (you can find another one here).

After all isn’t our natural curiosity a desire to journey deeper into our selves? To understand our motivations for living?

Woah! Got a bit philosophical there but I think it’s true. In my case it is anyway.

The more curious (and patient) I am the more I see that ALL of life is there to be engaged with. The ‘ugly’, the beautiful, all manner of ideas, truths, relationships, collaborations, the new and the decayed etc. So, by extension, photography becomes not just about taking pictures but about attempting to hear the dialogue the world is having with us. The unique conversation.

At the same time it is an opportunity to stretch the self technically and creatively. And always to ‘fail better’ as the great Samuel Beckett once wrote. Always, and with permission to do so.

There’s a few things that I think are fun to explore when it comes to remaining curious. In no particular order:

  • Make-believe/temporary re-invention. This comes from my background working in the theatre and performing arts, but viewing the world through different eyes, pretending to be someone or something else is a fun way to see and feel differently. For example, my favourite is to pretend to be a Martian visiting earth for the first time – what do I see that I find interesting? What am I drawn to today that yesterday I would not have noticed because it seemed so commonplace and yet today, well, it looks…..? 
  • Daily dispatch. This is something that I learnt from reading the wise and playful Austin Kleon whose books Show Your Work and Steal Like An Artist are invaluable mini credos for the creatively curious. Put simply a daily dispatch is exactly what it says on the tin: something about your work or process that you put out somewhere every day. 
  • Notebook. Digital or pen and paper. The Google Keep app is an absolute gem for digital thinking. But whatever you use, our thoughts and the process of writing about them remind us what we’re curious about or what we might become curious about without influence. And that limit of influence is important because it’s easy to get sucked into what others (media, fashion, peers etc) deem as important. If we get beyond that we find out what we are truly curious about i.e. what our hearts are curious about which leads to all sorts of good stuff.
  • Working imagery/videos (or recognising that everything is work-in-progress). So perfectionism is a creativity killer – we all know that right? You can be awash with curiosity and that will motivate the journey, the need for answers, but (take it from me, I’ve been there) perfectionism can quash that feeling dead. Re-framing everything as work-in-progress is a great way to free that up and keep it alive. I now do this by approaching my work in this way as much as I can (admittedly that’s harder with client work but it’s about finding some balance). This goes back to the Samuel Beckett quote above: permission to ‘fail better’ which I take as meaning that there is no such thing as failure where creativity is concerned.
  • Scrapbook. I wrote about this recently here. But scrapbooks to me are an essential part of the curiosity tool-kit. Similarly to the previous point, they maintain a sense of work-in-progress and flexibility – for example, putting unrelated cuttings next to each other without any particular agenda is an indelibly curiosity driven thing to do. Maybe curiosity is something akin to knowing there are rules but breaking them any way? Which leads me on to the next point:
  • Throwing out the normsThat’s the personal norms, and even the social ones too perhaps. Not in any way that damages others, but the ones that might hold you back. Our comfort zones again and again. And believe me there are times when I wish I could go back a decade or so and retake certain paths in my life so that I wasn’t quite so stuck in certain places. It doesn’t get easier as you get older but harder to break those comfort zones. So take the chances when they come. Or be prepared to fight harder to stay curious as you ‘mature’.
  • Knowing the self in connection to communityIsolation is a sure-fire way to dim curiosity. And it’s very easy to become isolated especially if, like me, you’re a freelancer working on your own. Being part of a community/communities, or seeking out ones that you might connect with is a great way to feed and inspire curiosity. They are places for questions to be asked, for ideas to be thrown around, and for new ones to arise. If you find you’re spending too much time alone in front of the computer or in your work-space then find a like-minded community and go talk. 
  • Listen to music. I don’t need to say much about this do I? Music feeds our brains in ways we are only just beginning to understand and for that reason alone it has to have some impact on our natural curiosity. Something about music for me feeds that curiosity energy.

Please tell me what you’re curious about – I bet there are some real curiosities out there.

Image © James Bellorini

James is a commercial, editorial and documentary photographer. He started shooting professionally in 2013 and has since worked with advertising agencies, design agencies, entrepreneurs, performers, musicians, DJ’s, singers, models, and culture and entertainment organizations/brands. Recent clients include: Siren Design, Glyndebourne Productions Ltd, Sonisphere UK, Stone Nest, The Old Vic etc. In September 2015 he joined the Redeye Network’s Lightbox programme for emerging photographers. 


A KIND OF HUSH

James Bellorini Photography Year 2 Best Of Images - James Bellorini Photography 2014-3 (2)

DEALING WITH THE HARDEST PART OF MY JOB.


The hardest part of my job is often August.

And a bit of July.

Oh and most of January too!

The dreaded quiet times when holiday season switches the business PAUSE button on. When clients and contacts pack their suitcases and jet off to beaches to sip cocktails and watch sunsets (lucky things). A kind of hush descends on my world and for a month or so I feel invisible. Things are on hold. It can be very frustrating.

If you freelance, this may be a familiar feeling.

So how do we deal with that?

In my case, truth be told, I don’t! Well not very well.

If you’re a creative like me, then you’re probably happiest when you have a healthy list of projects and commissions to sink your teeth into, occupy your heart/head, fire your imagination and keep your creative juices flowing. One of my core values also happens to be ‘relationship’, so being in contact with people inspires and motivates me. Consequently, when I hit the quiet times I go a bit nuts.

This August I decided to develop a few strategies to help me get through these seasonal wastelands and stop me partnering with tumbleweed (maybe they’ll help you a bit too):

  1. Actually, the first of these is that we can allow ourselves to go nuts. Not for long. Maybe a day a week. I’m a great believer in not running away from ‘my stuff’. Often I think that when we let the ego take control, start stamping our inner foot and say to ourselves over and over: ‘This isn’t the way I want it to be! Why is this happening? No. No!’ then we stay in the problem. So I find it’s helpful to accept I don’t feel great at the time and let myself go a bit funky in the membrane. And that’s ok. It takes less energy to accept things don’t always (if ever) look the way we hoped they would than to keep fighting. Often something shifts and the next day I find I’m re-energized and can focus again.
  2. Turn off Facebook, limit the social media exposure and stop looking at other photographers websites. I guess this is kind of a holiday too – certainly a sabbatical of sorts. It’s too easy these days to be sucked into ‘comparison mode’. Over-exposure to social media can easily dupe us into that kind of negative headspace. We all know that happy highlights on timelines aren’t the whole truth and yet despite that knowledge we can get sucked into thinking that we might be doing life/business/craft/art/relationships wrong. At this time of year I’m particularly vulnerable to that so switching it all off is very healthy.
  3. Listen to (and play) music. A lot. I couldn’t live without music. Never have. It has the power to liberate, inspire, and soothe. I’m fortunate enough to be able to play the guitar. So listen and play (if you can) music lots during the quiet times. It helps get us out of ourselves, brings new ideas and generally cheers us up. My particular favourites: Bob Marley, Kate Bush, anything by Anjunadeep, Parov Stelar.
  4. Look at where you’ve come from. This one is really important. Especially when the frustration rises. It’s so easy to forget the developments that you’ve made. Taking a look at your history helps you see how far you’ve come, and often it’s further than you had fully acknowledged. This is one of the best motivators I know. It reinforces development and achievements. It also helps with the next point.
  5. Look at where you want to go. Yep! Planning planning planning (which I’m usually really bad at when I’m busy). Doing a SWOT analysis. Refining your priorities and nailing where you need to improve skills or some elements of the way you work.
  6. Learn a new skill or develop one you already have. Kind of obvious, but with all that time on your hands it’s a perfect opportunity to do this. In my case this is usually connected to learning new lighting skills, Photoshop skills or developing new personal projects.
  7. Keep your difficulties to yourself. OK, big one this and some will disagree. I strongly believe in an approach to life as  ‘everyone is in this together, so let’s help each other out’ – especially in the creative industries, which are tougher than they’ve ever been. But it’s true that you have to pick who you talk to very carefully during frustrating periods. Why? Most people only want to associate with success or those perceived to be successful. It’s human nature, I guess. People who are at the top of their game, or industry pundits usually help only when there’s something in it for them. Genuine helpers are few and far between. There are some amazing communities out there who will offer support but in reality that only extends so far. Much better to stay quiet and deal with your stuff in other ways – such as by looking to the next point:
  8. Get some coaching (or therapy! They’re not the same by the way). Often the quiet times, as I’ve said, are the times when our ‘stuff’ comes up. After all, when we’re busy we don’t really have time or energy to think about that or deal with it. Busy-ness is often the sticking plaster for underlying issues. Finding a coach or even a mentor, or booking yourself in for therapeutic treatment in some way  is often a great investment. It doesn’t have to be expensive (there are plenty of good workbooks on the market or an online courses of CBT for example – which is great by the way, I’ve been there). meditation and mindfulness are really useful here as well. But even if you can pay for a session a week for 4 to 6 weeks it will pay huge dividends as a result. Especially coaching.
  9. Blog. I’ve come late to the blogosphere but I’ve recently learnt how important (and enjoyable) it is. That’s thanks to the WordPress inspired Blogging 101 in the main. Try it. It’s worth the effort. Again all those quiet times are perfect for writing draft blog posts, exploring new themes and lining up material to publish in advance of the weeks/months to come.
  10. Archive editing. This is a sibling activity to point number 4. Looking at work I’ve created in the past and perhaps completing or adding to work or projects. Certainly it’s a great opportunity to reassess work with the benefit of the distance of time. A fresh eye. Controversially, in photography, I believe one of the skills we are losing is that of editing. Not post-processing but editing our work i.e. what are we putting in the public domain and above all WHY? That’s the most important question in my opinion for creating good work and any related output. There’s a lot of amazing photography online but there’s even more mediocre work that once upon a time would never have seen the light of day because it (rightly) had personal growth connected to it not communication. Learning to discern what actually ‘speaks’ and communicates is part of the craft. The digital world has altered that fundamentally. As we know everything and anything can go online and does. That democracy of that is great, but the quality is often undermined. Going back through an archive of work is a great way to develop an editors eye. There’s a lot of work I have that the world will never see. I wouldn’t want to subject people to it. There’s also some that I thought it wouldn’t see but with the benefit of hindsight actually might have a purpose to being seen somewhere. I regularly stop myself from posting an image that I might like but doesn’t have the best answer to the question WHY?
  11. Plan your advertising and marketing. This is a big one for me. One of the things I’ve discovered in my brief two and a half years in business is that it’s very easy to forget to market and advertise during the busy times. Especially if, like me, you work alone and have to wear all the hats of your business. So again this year I’ve taken the opportunity to build stronger advertising and marketing strategies (which I hope will help to reduce the quiet times moving into 2016). And also to learn more about how those elements of business work.
  12. Walk. A lot.
  13. Tidy up your work-space. Clear out the clutter. Dust. Refreshing the work-space is another great motivating activity. It’s like you’re preparing the way to start again in some way.

There’s no rocket science here and nothing particularly original in this list, but I hope some of these points resonate with you and help if you do find those quiet times frustrating and confusing. I hope they provide some practical steps. Maybe you have more of your own? If so I’d love to hear about them.

Roll on September!!

Image © James Bellorini

James is a commercial, editorial and documentary photographer. He started shooting professionally in 2013 and now works with design agencies, entrepreneurs, performers, musicians, DJ’s, singers, models and big brand culture and entertainment organizations. Recent clients include: Siren Design, Glyndebourne Productions Ltd, Sonisphere UK, Stone Nest, The Old Vic etc. His portrait and headshot clients include actors, musicians, writers, artists, international singers, entrepreneurs and corporates. In September 2015 he joined the Redeye Network’s Lightbox programme. 


LOOKS OF LOVE: ARTIST HEADSHOTS PART 3

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GETTING THE MOST FROM YOUR HEADSHOT.

Part 3 – Delivery.


The third and last post in a short series about getting the most from your headshot photo shoot. With a special offer for readers of this blog – read on Macduff…

In the first post we looked at The Objective: what you want to achieve with your new headshot. And in the second it was the turn of Preparation: what you need to consider in the run up to the shoot.

So, we come to the last part of this process:

Delivery

Delivery is not just how you receive your images (although I will touch on that below), but what I believe you should expect from your photographer and how they make you feel before, during and after shooting has begun.

You must feel as comfortable and confident in front of the camera as possible. That’s the basic springboard for everything that will happen in the shoot and how you will get what you want from it.

For some sitters that confidence will come easier than others. But it’s why I suggested the importance of meeting your photographer beforehand. It helps break the ice: you aren’t walking into a photo shoot with a total stranger behind the camera.

Two of my core values as a photographer are relationship and collaboration. The best headshots are created together: it’s a collaboration between the sitter and the photographer, and that’s a great approach.

The best headshot photographers will be working to maintain that positive atmosphere in which you can respond confidently. So, if you’re feeling rushed, ignored or ‘a bit like a piece of meat’ (and I’ve heard that before) then something is wrong.

And it isn’t you.

Remember you are your brand. Nearly every actor, artist, musician etc I know and have photographed works exceptionally hard to do what they do. So, don’t expect your brand to receive anything less than the focus, respect and sensitivity it deserves.

Any headshot/portrait photographer worth parting with your hard-earned cash for knows it’s all about YOU not them. They steer the experience to that end. Making you feel comfortable and confident so that you feel good, look good and increase the chances of getting exactly the photos you’re after.

How might this manifest itself during the shoot?

Well, I believe some good indicators are:

  1. Technical competence and excellence – If the photographer is confident in what they are doing that helps you to be confident in what you are doing (in some ways it’s a bit like the performer/audience relationship). A photographer who is stopping every few seconds to twiddle with a setting on the camera because they haven’t prepared (or don’t know their stuff) is not good for the flow of the shoot and will probably make you nervous.
  2. Showing you some of the results as they come. That way the photographer can explain if anything is or isn’t working and you can both see whether the shoot is moving in tune with your goals. It’s a great opportunity for you to add suggestions too. On location you will be looking at the small screen on the rear of the camera, so really take a moment to look. In the studio it might well be that the photographer has the camera ‘tethered’ to a laptop which means you can both view the results much more clearly.
  3. The photographer regularly checks in with how you are feeling. Might seem a bit over-the-top but think about it this way: a photo shoot is a fun process (or at least it should be) but it is possible that feelings of self-consciousness or vanity will come up. And that’s ok. A good photographer must be sensitive to that stuff. Checking in with you helps to gauge how you are doing and helps support the energy of the shoot.

I also like to give a bit of room for ‘play’. Maybe it’s the last 10 minutes of the shoot, once we’re happy the main shots are captured, and we just loosen the reins of the brief. That’s often when great additional portfolio shots will come. This will be ‘to taste’ but I try never to rule it out and it’s not something you should expect from every photographer.

What should you expect after the shoot?

  1. A selection gallery. It’s usually the case that the photographer will provide some form of private, password protected online gallery. The gallery is there for you and your agent/manager to make the best selection from. Let’s say there are on average between 200-400 shots taken at a two hour headshot shoot. The photographer will get rid of the obvious rejects, e.g. the shots where you blinked as the shutter fired, as well as any duplicates.
  2. To help with this the photographer may flag up the file numbers of the images that fit the objectives the best. They may also make suggestions as to which of the other images are strong. Either way, at the end of the day the choice is yours and you may or may not disagree with the suggestions. That’s ok. You’re the customer. However, it can be daunting to view so many images of yourself and a second or third opinion will help. I like to give the option as part of my service.
  3. Agreed edits and retouching. Photographers will have different packages and rates depending on their experience and reputation. You and your photographer will agree your package and how many of the images you select for final edit will obviously be finalised in your discussions and any written agreement/contract (NB I can’t emphasise enough the importance of a signed written agreement/contract to protect you and the photographer – without one there are no guarantees, remember Matt Damon in the first post?). However many final edits your package covers, I firmly believe you should expect a professional edit and retouch. This can include spot removal, skin tone retouching etc. I offer this as part of my packages from the get go but some photographers may see this as an additional.
  4. Finally, image delivery in both high  and low resolutions. This means you can use your images for printing and for websites/social media etc. as soon as they are delivered. I offer colour and monochrome versions just to make life easier but again that might not be every photographers method. How those images are delivered may vary but nearly every photographer these days ought to provide another online gallery from which you can download everything in one go. There will occasionally be a need for a disc or USB stick of images as well, but chances are these will cost extra.

And what about printing? Well I no longer offer printing in my packages because it means additional mark up to my sitters which I don’t want to pass on. Especially as the printed headshot is becoming less and less of a necessity in the quantities they used to be. Of course if necessary I can deliver prints but I prefer to leave the option open to my clients to source the best value printing for themselves from companies such as VISUALEYES. Yet again this may vary from photographer to photographer.

So that’s it. I hope you’ve enjoyed my short but concentrated take on the headshot process. Some of it might seem obvious but it’s surprising what we can forget. More often than not good photography comes from common sense and simple problem solving.

I hope you’ve also got a taste for what a positive experience a headshot photo shoot can be. One that has the potential to help get you closer to where you want to be and how ‘Brand You’ can best be represented photographically.

If you’re ready to dive in and create some great headshots with me then check out my headshot and portfolio packages here to make a booking (and if you quote the code: LooksLove15 you’ll be in for a 10% discount) or if you just want to ask any questions rising from these posts then feel free to drop me a line.

Above all, I hope the three posts in this headshots series help you move towards the images you are looking for and that help you to shine.

Image credits (from left to right): Actress Caroline O’Hara; Actor Daniel Crow; Soprano Joelle Harvey (photographed with kind permission in The Old Green Room, Glyndebourne).

All images © James Bellorini.

James is a commercial, editorial and documentary photographer. He has over ten years experience in the arts and entertainment industries and has worked for internationally recognised brands including Glyndebourne, The Royal Shakespeare Company, and The Old Vic. His portrait and headshot clients include actors, musicians, writers, artists, international singers, entrepreneurs and corporates. He is a member of the Redeye Network and a participant in their Lightbox program for emerging photographers.


WORLD PHOTOGRAPHY DAY PLEDGES

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A TONGUE-IN-CHEEK LIST OF PHOTOGRAPHIC PLEDGES.


I pledge my allegiance to the camera – though don’t try to make me a single-system patriot. May I be free to be a photographic Don Juan and use Canon, Leica, Fuji and Mamiya and/or whatever else comes to hand depending on the requirements of my work or my creative promptings.

I pledge my allegiance to both digital photography and old-school analogue photography – may they both remind me that light is my master and guide.

I pledge to always be reminded that a camera is an object of great wonder and joy to me – that it is an incredible tool that has the power to change our perception of the world, the way we look at it, and the people we meet.

I pledge my allegiance to photography as a medium – that it makes me who I am; and that as an introvert when I have a camera in my hand I have a reason to meet, talk, and engage.

I pledge my allegiance to ‘the moment’.

I pledge my allegiance to the power of photography to freeze time and literally make history.

I pledge my allegiance to photography being the most democratic of mediums  – that anyone can take pictures and enjoy it.

I pledge to honor that democracy by being as open to the world as possible. That I greet it and the people I meet without prejudice or preconception.

I pledge my allegiance to knowing that light is my teacher; and that form and matter my subject.

I pledge to abide by the formula: open mind + open heart + open eyes = photographer.

I pledge to learn the inverse square law by heart and to actually understand it practically (apologies for the photo jargon – an explanation for the layperson here).

I pledge my allegiance to people and diversity: all that richness of life, culture and visual information.

I pledge to continue working harder than I ever thought possible before I started working as a full-time photographer.

I pledge to daily ignore my G.A.S. or Gear Acquisition Syndrome (sorry more jargon – more explanation here).

I pledge to never stop learning about this wondrous, frustrating, inspirational and obsessive craft.

I pledge to always have a camera of some kind on me wherever and whenever I am.

I pledge to honor the clients who have seen fit to believe enough in me to keep coming back. And I pledge to honor those I haven’t even met yet.

I pledge to say thank you to all those close enough to me that they have to put up with all the tears of joy and sorrow that being a professional photographer makes me shed.

And finally, I’m proud to say I’m a photographer and a world citizen. I can’t help it, they’re in my blood.

All images © James Bellorini 2015. All rights reserved.

James is an editorial and documentary photographer working for the commercial and consumer markets. He started shooting professionally in 2013 and has since worked with advertising agencies, design agencies, entrepreneurs, performers, musicians, DJ’s, singers, models, and culture and entertainment organizations/brands. Recent clients include: Innovision, UKTI, Siren Design, Glyndebourne Productions Ltd, Stone Nest, The Old Vic etc. 

 


LOOKS OF LOVE: ARTIST HEADSHOTS PART 2

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Getting The Most From Your Headshot Session.

Part 2: Preparation.


In the first post of this short series about getting the most from your headshot photo shoot, we looked at The Objective: what you want to achieve with your new headshot. If you didn’t see it then please have a read here.

In this post we’re going to take a little look at the second element in the process:

Preparation.

So, first things first: book your photographer early i.e. in plenty of time for the deadline by which you need the headshot photos.

Next: once you’ve booked them, if it’s possible, try to meet the photographer well before the shoot.

You might think it unnecessary to do this, but in my experience the best results always come when the sitter and I meet beforehand.

It doesn’t need to be long: an hour over a coffee is enough. Ideally this might be around a month before the shoot or in plenty of time to sort out any further needs, locations, questions etc.

It also gives me the opportunity to get a sense of you in space: how your face works (yep!) and what light does to it. Plus I get to learn about your goals and ambitions, and discuss what you want to achieve with the photos. All that thought you’ve put into your objectives now gets the chance to be aired.

I always factor this level of contact into any headshot or portrait booking I get, but don’t expect all photographers to be the same. A phone/Skype conversation might well be enough, and sometimes has to be due to schedule issues.

Finally, it’s worth noting that this contact serves to break the ice before there’s a camera in the room. The more relaxed you are with your photographer, when it comes to shooting, the better. Of course, good photographers will always be working to make you feel comfortable and confident in front of the camera, but let’s leave that to the final post in this series.

The next thing to think about and discuss is whether you want studio or location-based shots? Or both perhaps?

Outdoor location headshots are fine and they work really well. But they bring with them some potential photographic hazards: weather conditions (don’t forget these have the potential to mess up your hair etc) and, depending on the location, other people/passers-by who can easily make you feel self-conscious or interrupt the shoot.

Remember the shoot is time-limited, so maximizing it is important.

I often recommend interior shots – whether that’s for natural light set-ups on location (see the image top right) or a studio set-up (top left).

Studio shots are always going to be a bit more expensive, but they guarantee great light, more control and in many ways a more relaxed space to shoot in.

Clothing – it’s really worth nailing what you’re going to wear in light of the objectives you’ve considered.

Know what colours and styles look best on you. Plain clothing is always going to be better than patterned for a headshot. And remember images are always shot in colour these days and only converted to black and white if necessary, so really think about what works with your skin tone.

If you don’t know what works, go and try stuff on in front of the mirror. Take some selfies. Be your own stylist (unless you can afford to pay for one, in which case even better).

Always be ready to bring at least two clothing options. Don’t just turn up to the shoot saying “I just brought a black T-shirt is that ok?” (believe me I’ve been there).

And don’t be afraid to throw something unusual into the mix – some of the shots my clients rave about as being most successful are those where they are wearing something that is not their every day wear. Often that’s something that moves them closer to the goals they’ve set for their headshots.

The next thing to discuss is make-up. And hair (that’s you too boys!).

In my opinion, where make-up is concerned, less is more in a headshot unless you have a very specific stylised look/brand that you need to portray. It’s worth having a natural foundation to minimise shine and to bring some with you for the shoot. And ladies, minimal eye make-up is good too. Heavy mascara for example just doesn’t work in this context unless, as I say, it’s for a stylised look.

Hair – this can actually make or break a shoot. If you need to get it cut or styled then do it. Either way always take a brush and/or comb and a mirror if you’re shooting on location. Guys if you need gel, then use gel but keep it real looking. Guys and gals remember if you’re shooting outside, the wind, no matter how weak, is going to move everything around so you have to factor that in. It might not always be possible to find a completely sheltered outdoor location.

Finally, remember to clean your teeth and to leave plenty of travel time so that you’re not stressed or antsy when you arrive.

Preparation is everything and it shows. Not only does it maximise your time in front of the camera but it also makes the most of the money you’re investing in the photos.

Often you might have two hours max to get everything in the can. It might seem like a lot but it passes very fast. Sure you can book for longer or more than one session (and I would always encourage that) but it’s not always financially feasible. So, in the main we are looking to get as many quality images as possible in 120 minutes.

If that means starting the process toward a photo session a good couple of months before your deadline then do it.

I hope this has helped to give you at least an overview of what to consider in the run up to a shoot.

In the final post we’ll look at the shoot itself: what you should expect from your photographer during the shoot and after.

Of course if you want to dive in and create some headshots together then check out my headshot and portfolio packages here to make a booking or if you just want to ask any questions rising from these posts then feel free to drop me a line.

All images © James Bellorini

James is a commercial, editorial and documentary photographer. He has over ten years experience in the arts and entertainment industries and has worked for internationally recognised brands including Glyndebourne, The Royal Shakespeare Company, and The Old Vic. His portrait and headshot clients include actors, musicians, writers, artists, international singers, entrepreneurs and corporates. He is a member of the Redeye Network and a participant in their Lightbox program for emerging photographers.


LOOKS OF LOVE: ARTIST HEADSHOTS PART 1

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Getting the most from your headshot session.

Part 1: The Objective.


Recently the actor Matt Damon had a bad experience with a headshot photographer. The results were, well, frightening actually! Great if he wants to play some bizarre alien psycho fiend, but not much else. Take a look here.

Actually, the article is from The Onion so it could well be a joke.

But (genuine or not) it does flag up an important question when it comes to artist headshots (or any portrait photography you might use for publicity or marketing purposes). That is, how can you get the best results from the photoshoot?

Some people have a bit of a misguided notion that a headshot is easy to achieve and doesn’t need as much work or thought than a ‘proper portrait’.

But a headshot is a portrait, albeit with a predefined content requirement and style. In many ways this makes it that bit tougher to get something that really stands out. Good headshot photographers know this. Whether it’s for casting purposes or as part of a broader set of publicity shots the photo session has to be approached with clear ideas and attention to detail.

As someone who worked in the entertainment industry for a good number of years I would never approach a headshot session by putting it out to a formula. I’ve seen what the results are like and been on the receiving end of that approach as well. And it often misses the mark.

If you’re an artist of any kind (or even someone looking for corporate headshots) it’s not as simple as finding someone who fits your budget, turning up at the studio or location, click click and you’re done.

That’s winging it too much.

In my experience, a successful headshot or publicity portrait session is based on three things:

  1. The Objective
  2. Preparation
  3. Delivery

Let’s take a look at the first of those and I’ll follow up with the others in subsequent posts.

1 The Objective

You are your brand and (unless you’re a body double) your face is the most important part of that brand when it comes to photography. So what’s your strategy behind having your photos taken?

Okay your current headshots might be out of date. That’s a reason for new shots of course. But perhaps there’s more to it than that? Have you ever asked yourself how you want your audience to see you?

Strong? Funny? Brooding? Quirky? Sexy?

If you’re an actor or stage performer are you more a comedian than a tragedian? Or both?

If you’re a singer or songwriter, what’s the genre you’re associated with and what elements of lighting or location might need to be used in the shot to suggest that?

If you’re already well known (i.e. your ‘brand’ is established) then what do you want to reinforce and what do you want to change or surprise people with?

Where do you want to have these photos seen? And by whom specifically? Discuss with your agent or your manager what will work in terms of how the images will be used in promoting you. The better you know yourself and the clearer your intentions the more that will come across in the final images.

All artists and performers are working in oversubscribed markets. But nowadays you have a great tool at your disposal to help you stand out: content. We live in a content rich age so be content rich yourself. For example, in the UK you can exploit the Spotlight portfolio gallery: fill it with images that show off more than one aspect of who you are and what you’re best at. Gone are the days of the single casting headshot being your only calling card. You need a whole library of content that’s supporting you.

You have a website right? Turn it into the ultimate ‘you machine’ with photos from a variety of shoots and sources (and don’t forget video – but that’s another post).

As a very wise friend reminded me the other day: ‘there’s always more than one road to market’.

So be clear about the objectives of your content and the outcomes will be that much better.

In the next post in this series we’ll take a look at preparing for the shoot including: what to wear and why it’s worth meeting the photographer beforehand.

Of course if you want to dive in and create some headshots together then check out my headshot and portfolio packages here to make a booking or if you just want to ask any questions rising from these posts then feel free to drop me a line.

All images © James Bellorini

James is a commercial, editorial and documentary photographer. He has over ten years experience in the arts and entertainment industries and has worked for internationally recognised brands including Glyndebourne, The Royal Shakespeare Company, and The Old Vic. His portrait and headshot clients include actors, musicians, writers, artists, international singers, entrepreneurs and corporates. He is a member of the Redeye Network and a participant in their Lightbox program for emerging photographers.