Shooting for House of Coco Magazine

I'm delighted to share this exclusive editorial I shot for House of Coco Magazine - Blade Runner. I used gels for the first time in my career and loved it, I'll definitely be using them again. They can be tricky to get right but with a bit of trial and error we found the balance. I'm excited to say I'll be shooting again for House of Coco later in the year so watch this space! 

Such a pleasure to shoot with Sarah Obende from First Model Management, her look was absolutely perfect for this editorial. Huge thanks to Smashbox Studio for letting us use their amazing space and their very talented MUA Joanne Reyes for the stunning make up. Art direction by the wonderful Charlotte Lea and awesome, futuristic styling by Karine Jones.  

New video - 5 marketing tips for photographers

My latest YouTube video is all about my top 5 marketing tips for photographers. The video expands a bit on a blog post I wrote on this subject previously but I've included a couple of new items including some really cool business card drives from USB memory direct - watch the video below or click here to view. 

What's in my camera bag?

I've made a video all about what's in my camera bag. I have blogged on the subject before but this video goes into a lot more detail - perhaps too much! Check it out, I'd love to know what you think. If you have an idea for a video you'd really like to see from me, let me know in the comments below. 

'Damn cool bridesmaids' - new YouTube video with Rewritten

Late last year I shot with bridesmaid dress label Rewritten who make affordable, luxury dresses for 'damn cool bridesmaids'. You might remember in my first YouTube video - I promised interviews with designers, models, make-up artists and various fashion industry folk. Well, it's taken a while but I've finally delivered on this promise with an interview with Frances Hudson and Katie Arnott - co-founders of ReWritten. 

These ladies have a really inspiring story about how they started their brand so it's well worth a watch if you're thinking about starting your own business, are interested in fashion or are in the market for some beautiful bridesmaid dresses! 

rewritten montage 1.jpg

I love the images from our shoot last year and I especially love the fact that the red 'chianti' dress is red wine proof! If you like this video, do subscribe to my channel for my behind the scenes on fashion shoots and interviews coming soon! 

Dreamingless Magazine cover shoot

I have mentioned before that I started working with model and DJ, Zara Martin last year. Zara and I had said for months that we would like to shoot something more creative together so at the start of December, having put together a damn fine creative team, we arrived at Smashbox Studios for a day of shooting. We had decided to submit an editorial to Dreamingless Magazine, a favourite I've shot with before, which would be coming out towards the end of the month - near NYE. The working title was ‘Last night a DJ saved my life’ (geddit?!) so the outfits were sparkling and we had glitter canons at the ready. The glitter canons actually caused something of a stir in the studio, we had no idea how loud they were going to be. Despite almost bursting everyone’s eardrums/risking cardiac arrest, the canons created a beautiful effect which snagged us the front cover! Totally worth it.

Inevitably, some of my favourite shots didn’t make the cut. I’ve spoken before about the photographer and client having different priorities. So here are some of my favourites, because if I can’t sneak them into my own blog, where can I?! 

Shoot credits

Art Direction by Charlotte Lea

Styling by Daniela Suarez

Stylist assistant Rojan Said

Make up by Joanne Reyes using Smashbox

Hair by James Wilson 

 

Shooting: challenges and rewards

 

On a Saturday night towards the end of last year, I received a call from an unknown number while I was cooking dinner. I almost didn’t answer because we had guests over at the time, but I decided to abandon my hostessing duties for a moment. As it turns out, the call was from Debut Magazine, asking me if I was available to shoot the main fashion editorial for their December issue that coming Monday morning. Never one to shy away from a challenge, I said yes. I suppose someone dropped out, but I was only too happy to pick up the slack.

The theme of the issue was ‘Celebration’ and the editors wanted the editorial to depict a raucous Christmas party. Well, maybe I added raucous to the brief actually. We were shooting at Bodo’s Schloss in Kensington, which for those of you who don’t know, is an Alpine ski lodge themed bar. Kitsch doesn’t begin to cover it and I’d say they’ve seen a raucous party or two in their time. When myself and my assistant, Charlotte, arrived the first thing we saw was a life size plastic reindeer on wheels. I immediately thought of the iconic picture of Jade Jagger riding a horse in Studio 54 so we made reinterpreting that photo our top priority.

Shooting for clients is a privilege, of course, but I think most photographers would agree that there is often a chasm between what you want to get out of a shoot versus what your client wants to get out of the shoot. You have different priorities and it’s important for both sides to remain respectful of that. You need to appreciate that a client is paying you to shoot what they want but equally the client needs to appreciate that they have booked you for your particular style so there is little point in asking you to make a departure from that. If so, they may as well have booked a different photographer. 

This shoot was no different, there were frames we agreed on and frames we didn’t. Set-ups I loved and set-ups the client didn’t. You figure out a compromise as you go along. Sometimes a challenge can be that a client will want to see an entire look from head to toe. But I feel that an 8-10 page editorial of full looks, using the same focal length, has no cadence and no story. And I'm all about telling a story. 

This red dress was the last look we were shooting and I was finding it quite tricky. Especially as we had shot in every possible nook and cranny of the location already. Below is a shot I thought was really fun, but Debut didn’t like. The shot below that is the one we finally worked out and agreed on. And I love it! 

This shoot was unusual as I slotted in last minute. I normally have more time to prepare for my shoots, get to grips with the mood board and styling and help choose the models. I wasn’t involved in any of the preparation for the shoot and I felt the effects of that. I didn’t quite have the same ownership of and vision for this shoot as I would for others. But you’ve got to challenge yourself, put yourself into new situations, make some mistakes, and think on your feet if you want to improve. I’m delighted I did this shoot and it’s always such a thrill to see your work in print. Thanks for having me Debut!

If you'd like more chat about common challenges photographers face - let me know in the comments below! 

 

Favourite photos 2016

Following a bit of end of year self-reflection, I decided to share my favourite photos I took in 2016. It’s quite exciting to see your style and skills evolve. I didn’t do a round-up of my favourite photos in 2015, but I can see a marked difference in the work I produced that year, compared to this year. On that subject, I recently stumbled across the photos I put into my application for my MA in Goldsmith’s over 8 years ago. I wept with laughter at how appalling they were. But it felt great to see evidence of the huge difference practise, grind and putting in the hours make. I can’t wait to see where I am in another 8 years…hopefully at the start of 2025 I’ll look back at my 2016 work and laugh too.

So without further ado.

My favourite photo taken in January 2016 is from a personal project I’m working on where I photograph legs and shoes. This one was particularly memorable because the legs in question belong to my little sister and the photo could not have happened without the help of my other sister and my mum. The matching shoes, weights and gym shorts were provided by my family and my little sister could only balance on the Swedish ball because my mum and sister held her in position until I was ready to shoot. I would take a couple of frames and then she’d fall off the ball. It’s one of my favourite photos and it was just taken in my parents house with help from my family - I love that!

February’s favourite is from the editorial I shot for PAUSE Magazine - ‘Earn your stripes’. Our model, Freddie Fame from Established, was fabulous and his cheekbones were one of my favourite things about this shoot.

In March, I shot this beauty editorial of summer looks for 2016. The make up trends were interpreted and created by super star make up artist, Gemma Tyler, who I love working with. With looks called ‘Desert Rave Glossy Eye’ - who wouldn’t be intoxicated by that? 

An unseasonably hot April meant shooting against a brilliant blue sky on the roof of the Bussey Building was an option - huzzah! I get asked a lot if this editorial, for Sukeban Magazine, was shot against a painted background. Nope, it’s all real baby. Sukeban Magazine runs a section called ‘Girls by Girls’ which only publishes photos of girls taken by girls (or women, in my case). I like this idea. The majority of fashion photographers are male so it’s interesting to see more focus from a female perspective. Incidentally, if you haven’t already checked out Amanda de Cadenet’s initiative #girlgaze, which champions young female photographers and their perspectives, then get on it post haste. 

In May, I was thrilled to shoot the look book for incredibly cool, modern, Scandi jewellery brand Coco's Liberty. It was one of the best shoots of the year, we all got on so well, ate cinnamon buns, drank coffee, had lunch in the sunshine and sang ‘Formation’ approximately 1,000 times. It’s a wonder we got any work done. Happy days! (I made a BTS YouTube video about this shoot, check it our here)

June brought another opportunity to shoot some more personal work, so I sought out another pair of legs and another pair of shoes. This shot was my favourite.

I shot an editorial for Dreamingless Magazine in July and wrote a blog post about it at the time, here’s the link. In the post I talk about the paradox within fashion, shooting summer clothes in winter and vice versa. This shoot was no different. On the hottest day of the year, I think I did a fine job of making this shoot seem a bit darker and more autumnal than it was!

Speaking of the fashion paradox, another beauty editorial I shot in August was finally published in Xiox Magazine in November! I loved working with Jesse from M&P, she was great fun and has a wicked laugh. My wonderful assistant Charlotte developed biceps of steel (or perhaps she had them already) by fanning a reflector to get the right kind of movement in the hair. We had tried a fan and hairdryer and neither gave the desired effect. I didn’t inflict the pain without checking it was absolutely necessary first!

In September, I did something a little different. I was invited to take part in a TV pilot called ‘Glam Squad’, a competition based programme about the fashion industry. It reminded a bit of the Britain’s Next Top Model format, challenges are set and a winner is declared. Except instead of models, the contestants are stylists, hair stylists, and make up artists. I was asked to be involved to give opinions and to take photos of the challenges. (See one of my interviews here!) It was really exciting to do something so different. Styling the band ‘Running with Wolves’ was one of the challenges and this photo of the lead singer is my favourite (probably because it involves a leg and a shoe).

I shot the main fashion editorial for the December issue of Debut Magazine in October. The magazine’s theme was Celebration and we shot a Christmas party style editorial at the fabulously kitsch Bodo’s Schloss in Kensington. This was my favourite shot. It looks exactly like the kind of night out you should be having at Christmas.

In November, I was chuffed to be booked again to shoot the look book for Coco’s Liberty. We had just as much fun and just as many cinnamon buns as the last time. I can’t wait to work on the next one!

And finally, in December, it was my privilege to shoot for Dreamingless Magazine again, this time the cover! Myself and the team shot Zara Martin at Smashbox Studio. There were glitter cannons (that made a LOT of noise), a wind machine, metallic trousers and sequinned dresses. What could be a better cover for a December issue? And what could be a better way to end 2016?!

Fashion photography: Any person, any camera, anywhere

This year I have been giving a series of fashion photography workshops across the Soho House Group in London and New York as well as The Gallery of Photography, Dublin. Incidentally, the Gallery of Photography was where I did my first ever photography course about 9 years ago so it’s really nice to have come full circle.

The workshop is entitled 'Fashion photography: Any person, any camera, anywhere' and the premise of the workshop is that you don’t need expensive camera equipment and technical prowess to take a good fashion photo. What you need do need are good ideas and if you can communicate those ideas visually, then even a smart phone will take great fashion photos for you.

Image taken with Canon 7D and Canon Speedlite 600EX-RT

Photo taken with disposable camera from Boots

These images are the premise of the workshop in a nutshell. One was taken with a professional camera and flash unit and the other with a £6 disposable camera from Boots. Although the top image is more on brand for me as a photographer (bold and colourful), I actually prefer the image taken on the disposable camera. The cheap film of the disposable camera gives the image a grainy feel, which makes the image look a bit like CCTV footage. Because the flash of the disposable camera is so weak, it means I have to stand quite close to the model. This results in the model being overexposed (and losing any realistic skin tone) and the background underexposed. I quite like this though, I think it makes the model look like she’s been caught doing something she shouldn’t. In this slide, I'm showing that it doesn’t matter if you have expensive camera equipment or not, what does matter is how you execute your idea and exploit the essence of the camera you do have.

Throughout the rest of the workshop I show some examples of my work that were taken with a really simple set up and work of some of the greatest photographers in the world that use famously simple technical set ups. What these photos show are that the ideas and intimacy with subject are the most powerful tools in a photographer’s arsenal, not the latest camera equipment.   

We then break up into groups and spend some time shooting and experimenting with ideas, concepts, poses, locations, narratives, etc. Students have said the most difficult thing can be to come up with an idea on the spot. Creativity is like a muscle, you need to exercise it regularly to make it strong. Use it or lose it! But you have to start somewhere. One idea begets another and teamwork is essential to this, which is why I recommend students pair up or shoot in groups. 

The group in action! Photo courtesy of Gallery of Photography

Me looking at the settings of one of my student's camera...and holding a bunch of balloons, naturally.  

A quick photo I took on my iPhone during the session. 

After the practical session has ended, we review everyone’s photos and I go through some quick editing and retouching tips. I’ve been so impressed by the creativity and skill of each group I’ve worked with. I'm giving another of these workshops at Soho Works this Saturday 19th November (open to Soho House members) and at the Gallery of Photography in Dublin early next year so keep an eye out here to book your place. Alternatively, if you want me to come to your company to give the workshop, get in touch

 

Interview for Adorama TV

A few months ago I was approached by a Cutting Edge Productions who work on behalf of Adorama TV to produce the 'Out of the Darkroom' show with Ruth Medjber. In this show Ruth, a music and portrait photographer herself, interviews a selection of her favourite professional photographers in Ireland, the UK and the rest of Europe about the photographers’ practice methods, their equipment, their style and so on. 

Adorama is a behemoth, one of America’s biggest photography retailers with a huge following on YouTube. The interview sounded really fun and coincided with a work trip back to Dublin (for my fashion photography workshop at the Gallery of Photography) so of course I was game!

In part I of the interview we chat about my career, how I got started in photography, developed my style, what I think makes a successful photo, the realities of being a fashion photographer and give one or two tips along the way. 

In part II, we focus a bit more on the technical side of my practise, what equipment I use, and the retouching I undertake. 

I had a blast chatting with Ruth, she’s so warm and friendly, and I intend on making her my friend post-haste! Let me know what you think of the interviews in the comments below and if you have any burning questions that I didn’t chat to Ruth about here, let me know!

Shooting for Dreamingless Magazine

 

Last month, my editorial for Dreamingless Magazine came out. As is fashon’s fickle nature, spring/summer stories tend to be shot in the winter and autumn/winter stories in the summer. With the collections shown a few months previously, this is so the stories are ready to publish in the relevant season. However, catwalk-to-shop retail models are slowly emerging, with big players such as Burberry, Toyshop, and Ralph Lauren at the helm. What the implications of this will be for shooting timelines and the fashion industry as a whole, remains to be seen. We are in the midst of a frenetic change so we’ve got to ride the tide and see how it all pans out. But I digress. My point is, I shot this dark AW16 editorial at the height of summer, on a sweltering hot day in July. My challenge was to control the light in such a way that it looked nocturnal or wintry…or at the very least, not the heatwave we were experiencing. Using flash and shooting on a small aperture always helps…as does Photoshop. 

I was so excited to book Lexi from M+P for this shoot. Lexi got down to the final five in the most recent series of Britain’s Next Top Model and has a girl-next-door-gorge look. Lexi was energetic, versatile, full of creative ideas and possessed a steely determination to do anything to get the shot. Ideal! I'll definitely work with her again in the future.

Natasha Freeman styled up some amazing looks for this shoot and make-up artist Erica Schlegel created some smokey eyed deliciousness for us. Both Natasha and Erica have seriously impressive client lists so I was thrilled to have such a brilliant creative team on board. Here are some of the tear sheets plus a selection of some of my favourite shots that weren’t published. Hope you like them!

 

It Takes Two - shooting with Radley

 

A couple of months ago I was approached by luxury leather brand, Radley, about a collaboration. Being a huge fan of the company, I was delighted. I get a lot of emails about shooting for brands but I became a little confused about half way through the email when I realised that Radley didn’t want me to take the photos, they wanted me to be in the photos. Bit of a role reversal pour moi!

Radley were running a feature called ‘It Takes Two’ about how women seem to carry a crossbody bag for valuables and a tote for shopping and laptops to go about their day. They wanted to shoot some inspirational women (their words!) with a matching Radley tote and cross body and they wanted me to be one of those women! Being on the other side of the lens is not my comfort zone but it was such an honour to be asked by a brand I love so I jumped at the chance.

Radley wanted to build a story around the shoot (which I delighted about, I think is really important to have a narrative in a shoot) so we shot a story about a day in my life as a photographer. I’m often running from meetings to location reccies with my laptop and camera in my tote bag and a lens cloth and batteries in my cross body (for quick access).

I was keen to know who would be shooting and a bit nervous about being shot by another photographer.  I was also conscious that I wouldn’t be in control of how things would be shot because I was on another photographer’s 'set'. I don't relinquish control easily! But I needn’t have worried because Kylie Eyra is wonderful. She made me feel really relaxed and confident before we started shooting, was encouraging throughout, gave great direction, and took beautiful photos. I’m thrilled with the results and to be in the excellent company of author Laura-Jane Williams and founder of Quill, Lucy Edmonds. Thank you so much to Lauren and Sara from Radley for having me! 

All images by Kylie Eyra

 

Shooting for Sukeban Magazine

About a month ago I shot a metallics editorial for Sukeban Magazine. Sukeban means ‘boss girl’ or ‘delinquent girl’ in Japanese. Obviously I’m choosing to interpret the meaning as ‘boss girl’. What I really like about this magazine is that it only features photos of girls taken by girls (or women, in my case!) In an industry where only 2% of the photographers on agency books are female and only 5% of the photos published in magazines are taken by women - Sukeban is doing its bit to level the playing field. 

Metallics are a huge trend for SS16 seen at Victoria Beckham, Paco Rabanne, Lacoste, Maison Martin Margiela, Isabel Marant, the list goes on. I wanted to shoot an editorial about this trend and match the concept and location to the clothing. After brainstorming for a bit I thought the phrase ‘every cloud has a silver lining’ was an inspiring place to start. I booked Sunset Studio in Peckham because it has access to the roof, where there are power sockets, so you can bring the lighting from the studio to the roof. With fingers and toes crossed that it wouldn’t rain I headed down to the studio, but knew I had a back up that we could just shoot indoors if the heavens opened. 

Thankfully the day we shot was the nicest day of the year so far and the clouds were white, fluffy and perfectly formed set against a bright blue sky. I used a fairly simple lighting system, of a single Bowens light with a beauty dish and a shower cap plus my lovely assistant, Paris, held a large gold reflector. This created a gorgeous shimmer on our model, Maria from M+P, but did run the risk of hurting her eyes so we had to be careful it didn’t shine directly into her face.

I know when to bust out a few moves on set

I know when to bust out a few moves on set

And I also know when to chill

And I also know when to chill

But mostly I know when to get the job done

But mostly I know when to get the job done

With my dream team Gem on make-up and Dani having pulled some fabulous metallic inspired pieces from brands such as Maison Scotch, Kitty Joseph, Renli Su, Gayeon Lee, and Miss Sixty, PLUS a smoking hot model with a kick ass attitude - no wonder the photos turned out so fabulous. Remember it's the team that makes a great shot and we were a veritable band of Sukeban.  You can check out the rest of the shoot here.

How to light a beauty shoot

A couple of months ago I shot this beauty editorial with MUA Gem Tyler and the gorgeous Ishika from M&P. We focussed on 6 hot beauty trends for SS16, perfectly executed by Gem and beautifully modelled by Ishika. 

In my apartment I have big white walls and lots of natural light so I often use it as a studio as well, especially for something like a beauty shoot where the frames are quite focussed and tight. 

After feeding the team homemade soup (What can I say? I’m a feeder, just like my mama) Gem started prepping the make up looks while I set up the lighting kit. For this shoot I used the Elinchrom Quadra Pack or ELB 400 super kit from The Flash Centre, which I’ve told you all before, is my favourite place to rent equipment in London. The Quadra Pack is a battery powered, 400w lightweight pack made by Elinchrom. It’s really portable and perfect for location lighting due to the light lithium battery. The recycling speed is fast, you can attach any size light shaper such as a snoot, beauty dish, or soft box, to the head using their small adapters. It has an inbuilt sky port so you just have to attach the partner to your camera and you’re away! It’s one of my all time favourite kits.

Desert rave glossy orange eye

Beach party yellow liner

Squeaky clean spa skin

Custom colour lip

The pack is asymmetric (meaning the output of power is not equal) when two heads are plugged into one pack but you can shoot symmetrically by plugging one head into each pack. With the super pack you get 3 individual packs so for this set up I used 3 heads and plugged them into each individual pack; thus ensuring the light from each head was symmetric. I started with my key light and attached a deep octa box to create an even flattering light and a nice catch light in the eye (the devil is in the details!) Then I placed 2 fill lights either side of Ishika, attaching rectangular, Rotalux soft boxes. There was some natural light coming in as well, which I had to consider when setting the output for each pack. As you can see, I’ve also cut up some tennis balls and put them on the feet of each light stand so I don’t scratch my, or anyone else’s, floors. This is a great tip if you’re shooting on location somewhere swanky.

As any photographer will know, there is lots of trial and error in shoots, especially with posing. This shoot was no different. With each new make up look we had to try lots of different poses, expressions and hair styles to differentiate between the looks. Ishika was a brilliant model with lots of creative input and suggestions for how we could change things up. I love a good wind machine but in the absence of that on this occasion, Gemma wielded her trusty hair dryer to great effect. And Ishika proved herself to be a consummate professional despite the fact she was surrounded by crazy women - see the video below!

Surf school skin

Hyper glow

I’m thrilled with these photos and the work we did as a team - hope you like them too. If you have any questions or would like to see more how-to’s let me know in the comments below. 

    

On being a feminist fashion photographer

 

I love my industry. Fashion is an exciting, dynamic, billion pound industry that employs thousands and gives millions the choice each morning to make a statement about who they are, through their clothes. But as a card-carrying feminist there are facets to the biz I would like to change. 

I read an interesting quote in an interview with model, Abbey Lee, in the Sunday Times Style this weekend (8/5/16). She says ‘I think there is a lot that is wrong with the way that fashion is run. It’s young girls working with, for the most part, grown men. The treatment, protection and care taking of models could be better’. So firstly, there’s the imbalance. A lot of the models on runways and in editorials are very young, sometimes only 15. Girls too young are often cast inappropriately. So then, there's the sexualisation of girls. The beauty ideals we see time and time again in magazines and on billboards are pedestrian: young, slim, white.  And then, lest we forget, there’s the lack of diversity. 

Bo Gilbert, British Vogue's first 100 year old model

Bo Gilbert, British Vogue's first 100 year old model

These are troubling issues and only begin the scratch the surface. However, there is an upside. The industry is changing and undergoing an exciting time at the moment. Winnie Harlow, America’s Next Top Model contestant, brand ambassador for Desigual, runway model for Ashish, cover model for I.D. and Dazed has vitiligo. Ashley Graham, ‘plus-size’ model and body activist, has appeared in campaigns for major brands such as Levi’s and was recently the first 'plus-size' model to appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. (Incidentally, plus-size is a term I hope to see eradicated before the end of my career). Linda Rodin, business woman and model approaching 70, recently appeared in a campaign for The Kooples. Last year, & Other Stories used transgender models for their campaign. And just last week Harvey Nichols created a special campaign in celebration of Vogue's centenary issue, which featured 100-year-old model, Bo Gilbert.

 
Ashley Graham, first plus-size model on the cover of Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue

Ashley Graham, first plus-size model on the cover of Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue

When I’m involved in casting for shoots, I try to encourage diversity, work with models that sit outside the stereotype, and cast age appropriate.  

What makes me especially angry is how the media, particularly women’s magazines, bombard us with articles on subjects such as ‘toe contouring (yes, really)’, ‘knee contouring’ (yes, REALLY), ‘bum contouring’ (YES, REALLY) ‘strobing’, ‘clumpy lashes’ and a whole host of other things that make women wonder if their appearance is good enough. I follow a lot of magazines on social media because I need to know their visual identity for my work, but when I see tweets about the topics mentioned above, it makes my blood boil because it feels like an assault. Let me explain my position. 

My issue isn’t with articles like this existing. I’m incredibly proud to be a part of the fashion and beauty industries. I like to look my best. I wear make-up most days. I take time to consider what I’m wearing. I always make an effort to leave the house feeling good.

My issue is the urgency and insistence with which these articles are communicated. These are verbatim tweets from media sources I otherwise, enjoy: 

  • Here's why you need to try this *green* blusher
  • Time to start wearing lipstick on your eyelids? The internet says yes... 
  • The summer wardrobe staple you NEED to know about
  • If you wear glasses, you NEED this genius makeup trick
  • Everything you *need* to know about Dyson's supersonic hairdryer
  • Want an instant healthy glow? You *need* to try this product
  • You've been washing your hair wrong your whole life

What’s with the 'need'?

I’m not so naive I don’t realise these tweets are click bait.

I’m not saying other women don't realise this.

I'm not saying you shouldn't enjoy articles about vagina steaming if that's what floats your boat.

I know magazines can say they’re simply reporting on a beauty trend and it’s one article among hundreds of others that may be more interesting to its audience.

But, if you hear a message enough times, you’ll start to absorb it.

When I was growing up, I remember being instructed by the media that as a woman, I needed to worry about cellulite. Fast forward to 2016 though and I’ve lost count of the amount of things the media tells women they 'need' to worry about. Cellulite feels positively antiquated in the archives of ‘areas of physical appearance women should worry about’. Nowadays we’ve got to worry about thigh gaps, HD brows, teeth whitening, lip injections, chin implants, waist trainers (though this has definitely been revived from the archives) THE LIST GOES ON. My Spotify ads are all about pregnancy tests and cool sculpting, ‘a non-invasive treatment for fat removal’. So what message does this send? I should be thinking about getting pregnant and making damn sure I lose the weight afterwards.

It just feels like we’re being manipulated to have our money, our time, and our self esteem sapped from us. Because here’s the rub: pick up a men’s magazine and there is nothing in there suggesting a dozen ways men can improve their appearance. No suggestion they could be spending their time preening and perfecting their bodies. This is all time men gain to continue ruling the world. I recently read an issue of The Gentleman’s Journal and was struck by the volume of articles on politics, success, investment, and finance. Yes, there were articles about fashion but there wasn’t any tone that men needed to know about a new product that would transform their appearance.  

Another term I have an issue with is ‘investment piece’. A Céline hand bag is not an investment. Do you know what is an investment? A house. An ISA account. I love Céline and their handbags are beautiful. Buy one if you want - buy 10! But don’t be duped into thinking it's an investment. As Sophia Amoruso says in #Girlboss ‘Money looks better in your bank account than on your feet.’   

It may not bother or affect you, and that’s great. But I find this communication aggressive and obscene. It makes me grind-my-teeth angry when tweet after tweet on these topics appear in my timeline. I feel stifled, upset and frustrated. I should just curate my timeline and mute the accounts I find distressing, but this is a status quo I wanted to challenge and start a conversation about. So if you have any comments, please let me know, I’d love to hear from you. I’ll conclude with some wisdom of jaw-dropping clarity from Caitlin Moran in her book How to be a woman: “You can tell whether some misogynistic societal pressure is being exerted on women by calmly enquiring, ‘And are the men doing this, as well?’ If they aren’t, chances are you’re dealing with what we strident feminists refer to as ‘some total fucking bullshit’.” 

My YouTube channel

I'm thrilled to tell you I have launched my YouTube channel.  As I say in my introductory video, I’m going to use the channel to give an insider’s look into life as a fashion photographer. So I’ll be giving you behind the scenes access on photo shoots, photography how-tos, interviews with models and designers, the works! If there’s anything in particular you’d like to see on the channel let me know in the comments below. And if you subscribe to the channel that would make my day! 

This video is all about my stint on Hoxton Radio. Every Wednesday they have a fashion show, Hoxton Fashion, and I was kindly invited on as a guest to talk about the work I’ve done, the projects I’m shooting at the moment and of course, my new YouTube channel! I had such a laugh with the team,  huge thanks to Sarah, David, Olivia and Rowena for having me. And of course, the biggest thanks of all go to Rebecca McVeigh, tv producer extraordinaire and a dear friend, for her patience and expertise in helping me make this video.

5 marketing tips for photographers

 

Clearly I love a little blog title with 5 tips in it. See the 5 career lessons I’ve learned, or 5 tips for breaking into fashion photography. Well, now I’ve got 5 marketing tips for you. I might start calling this series ‘I got 5 on it’. (Choon). As always, these tips are from a fashion photographer’s perspective so will be most relevant to photographers, but some of them are applicable to other careers.

1. Start a newsletter

At the end of 2013 I was accepted onto the New Creative Markets programme with Photofusion. This was an EU initiative which provided incredible professional development opportunities for photographers such as workshops, talks, courses, mentoring, as well as spending time with photography peers. The programme ended last summer (culminating in an exhibition and my photo was selected for the catalogue cover) and I will be eternally grateful for those 18 months of development. They made me realise the importance of all the other things, besides taking photos, that make a successful photographer. One particular workshop was about online marketing. I had already put into place many of the items covered, but I became very interested when they started talking about a newsletter. It seemed like a really useful addition to a marketing plan.

I did that workshop in February 2014 and it took me until July 2015 to send my first newsletter, a culmination of being busy and procrastinating an unknown entity. Mostly, it was procrastination. I’m busier now than I was then, but I never miss sending out my newsletter every month, it’s one of my favourite business tasks. My subscriptions are growing every month and if you’re a nerd like me you’ll get great satisfaction from reading the analysis reports and figuring out what you can do to increase opens and clicks. If you’d like to subscribe to my newsletter, just fill out your details here.

Preview of my April newsletter 

Preview of my April newsletter 

2. Print your portfolio

I printed my ‘book’ (jargon for a hard-copy portfolio) last year. It took time, effort, and quite a lot of money but it’s been one of the best investments of my career so far. The response from editors and art buyers has been overwhelmingly positive. They all say how refreshing it is to see a printed book and what respite it is from looking at portfolios on iPads. Besides, when you have a printed book you have an excuse to meet with someone. Otherwise, they can just look at your website and of course, it’s far better to meet with someone face to face. 

These were the steps I took when getting my book printed:

  1. I was brutal when deciding which photos to put in my book. Or rather my mentor, Zoe, was. It’s almost impossible to be objective about your own work so enlist help. I see Zoe every time I need to update my portfolio - I’ve written about this before. Zoe helps me choose which photos are good enough to be printed and which ones to scrap. You might find yourself emotionally attached to images and reluctant to part with them, but ruthlessness is essential. The further along in my career I get, the easier I find it to reject an image that isn’t good enough.
  2. I printed the best quality I could afford. I printed on fine art matte paper from MPrint. I can’t recommend these guys highly enough. Their service is personal and bespoke, using their calibrated screen, they give you a preview how your images will look once printed and if they need to be adjusted (brightened, saturated etc.) they can do this for you as an additional service. 
  3. I bought the best folio I could afford. I used Cathy Robert, her folios are beautiful and she has so many sizes, colour swatches and materials to choose from, so you can make your book suit your style. I went for a grey, leather bound book with my name embossed on the front. It was expensive but it will last for years to come. The best thing about Cathy’s portfolios are the way they are bound. If you want to refresh your book by taking old photos out and new ones in (which you should), just leave it with Cathy and she can update your book in a couple of days. Once your book is ready, start making some appointments to show it to people!

3. Keep shooting

This is the most important piece of advice in general for a photographer, not just for your marketing plan. You need to keep shooting to develop your voice, your style, your brand, and of course, your skills. I’ve written before about creating opportunities for yourself but in addition to that, if an art buyer/fashion editor (whoever your target customer is) sees that your book or website hasn’t been update for ages, it’s very off-putting. It gives the impression the photographer isn’t busy.

4. Enter competitions

This one is a real 2 birds, 1 stone tip. Not only does entering competitions get your work seen by a panel of experts, but if you have success in the competition you get some fantastic press coverage. Plus everyone wants to work with an ‘award winning photographer’. Make that 3 birds, 1 stone. There are loads of competitions out there so scour the trade magazines for them and get yourself on some mailing lists to find out when they open. I won a competition last year and was delighted with myself!

5) Business cards

Some of my business cards from moo.com 

Some of my business cards from moo.com 

My best friend laughed her ass off when I told her I was getting business cards. She had this idea of me as a cheesy 80’s business woman in a bad suit mouthing ‘call me’ as I passed my card to someone in a bar. 

She was only half right.

Once my cards arrived though, she insisted on taking a few and now hands them out on my behalf if she ever meets anyone relevant to my career. I give my cards out all the time, it’s so useful for networking. Plus, I can have one of my photos on the back of the card so it’s also a quick way to show my portfolio. I really recommend Moo for beautifully made, unique business cards (that are also eco-friendly). 

Of course, there are dozens of other marketing tips, each one more obvious than the next (blogging, SEO, website, mailshots, social media etc), but I think it’s useful to be reminded about them now and then. As always, I love hearing from you so if there’s any marketing tips you really recommend, leave them in the comments below.

 

What’s in my camera bag - part 1

 

If you ever notice a tall Irish woman standing extremely close to a bus shelter ad, staring intently into the eyes of the model, then come say hi. That’s me! I’ll be trying to figure out what lighting was used by keenly examining the catchlight in the model’s eyes.

I love to demystify photography. I’m always fascinated to know what kind of kit other photographers shoot with. I love trying to figure out what, say, Mario Testino used to shoot a certain campaign or editorial. Which is why I loved the Guess The Lighting blog so much. Sadly, Ted Sabarese hasn’t posted since 2014 but there is still a wealth of back catalogue to drool over if you’re a lighting nerd like me. I also love Shot Kit for an exploration and explanation of what’s in a pro photographer’s bag and why.

You’ll have seen last week that I launched my YouTube channel (WHAT? You DIDN’T hear? Well don’t delay another moment, check it out here) and I’m going to use that as a platform to interview models, designers, and other key people a fashion photographer engages with in their work. I’ll also be giving you behind the scenes access to my photoshoots as well as photography ‘how to’ tutorials and a look at what’s inside my kit bag!

However, I couldn’t wait to shoot a kit bag video before writing a blog post about, not only what’s in my kit bag, but also what my kit bag is. Oh, how I have struggled to find a bag that is big enough to fit everything in, comfortable to carry and STYLISH. It is very difficult to find a stylish camera bag. They are an elusive object. Nothing annoys me more than having an outfit ruined by a big, bulky, black, padded camera bag. I’m a fashion photographer, I care about fashion, and my camera bag should be fashionable. In a sea of photographers dressed in North Face jackets and Lowepro bags, I am on a crusade to find a stylish solution to carrying all my equipment around. 

Enter the Cara Delevingne backpack by Mulberry. It's big enough to carry the essentials, including laptop, for a low key shoot that doesn’t require a lot of lighting. Made from luxurious leather with a beautiful finish in oxblood, it can be carried as a backpack or a tote. This is a dream camera bag for a small shoot. 

Here, I’ve packed for a shoot with a Primark. We were shooting a denim fashion feature but with a lifestyle feel. The photos needed to feel really natural so I packed my Canon 7D (this camera has served me well) with a prime lens - of course. I mostly shoot with the Canon 24-70 f 2.8 MK II USM because it’s really versatile and gives a nice wide aperture, perfect for this shoot. I packed a collapsible reflector for bouncing in sunlight as well as my Canon Speedlite 600-ex. This is a really powerful light and came in useful this day. I decided to shoot into the sun to create that really nice lens flare and lifestyle feel Primark wanted to achieve. Obviously, this casts the subject in shadow (subject today was the gorgeous Alex Stedman from The Frugality), so the Speedlite is a great fill light for the subject . A flash gun is a much more versatile piece of equipment if you can get it off the axis of the camera so I used this off-camera sync cord from Calumet. Of course, it’s great to put the Speedlite on a stand if you can, but as I said, I was packing light for this shoot so the sync cord worked fine. 

I also really like to have quick access to things like my lens cloth, a spare battery and a spare memory card so I carry these in a…bum bag. YES a fanny pack. #noshameinmygame Well, this little beauty, the Floral Street bag from Radley, is a sleek, modern and elegant bum bag. Simply detach the lime green strap (a gorgeous contrast to the monochrome of the bag and means you can also wear it as a cross body), thread your belt through the loop at the back and you have got yourself a fanny pack! Honestly, if you’re a photographer and you haven’t yet discovered the ease and convenience of the bum bag I urge you to put all the grim connotations of neon cycling shorts and Mr. Motivator out of your head. I mean, if Chanel is doing it (and Chanel is doing it for SS16), then what more consideration do you need to give the matter?

So there you have it. My essentials for a small kit and the very stylish bags I pack them in. If there are any essentials you would recommend that aren't in my bag here, let me know in the comments below - I'd love to hear from you. Stay tuned for posts on my kit for larger shoots, as well as some YouTube videos coming soon!