Saturday, September 29, 2012


The experts say that part of becoming professional in photography is to find your niche. You need to narrow down your field so that you don't become a jack of all trades, but a master of none. I have always found this difficult to do, but I have found it particularly difficult when it comes to portraiture. 

There are different kinds of portraits that a person can take of course, and these range from different lighting situations (flash vs. natural, etc), to different locations (studio vs. outdoors), to different subjects and different themes. What it boils down to is the question or "What are these photos being taken for?" The biggest difficulty that I find is in the difference between "regular" portraiture and fashion portraiture. In my mind, the two are incredibly intertwined. When taking a person's portrait, I am always trying to focus not only on the person, but trying to bring out their clothing and what their choice of clothing says about them. I understand that fashion portraiture will tend to emphasise the clothing more than the person themselves, but I like to think of it as a combination of the two.

Take the shoot that I did last weekend as an example. A friend asked me to take some photographs of one of some of the scarves that she had knitted in an effort to promote an ebook that she is working on and to sell patterns for those items. Of course, taking photos of a scarf lying on a table is not nearly as interesting as taking photos of them "live" so to speak. So she called in a favour from a friend, and voila! There was a model to pose for some photos. When it came to deciding where the photos would be taken, it was a fairly easy decision. We wanted somewhere natural, somewhere a scarf-wearing person might be found frollicking. And so we walked down the street to a field and started the session.

The emphasis for the photos was clearly supposed to be on the scarves, that much had been made clear, but taking a photo of just the scarf was not going to draw attention. And the photos that were taken ended up being less about the scarf itself and more about the sophistication of the design, the fashion mixed with the feeling. I wanted the photos to have warmth, to have emotion. I wanted feeling to come across in them and I think that it did.

In the end, and I may be rambling to get to this point, but I feel that it is a point worth making, I find that you cannot put what you do into a little box. You need to bring parts of your photographic experience in to whatever it is that you do. You cannot have fashion photography without a sense of the people involved, you cannot have portraiture without bringing an aspect of fashion photography into it as well. It is not as easy to separate the two as you may think.

 What do you think of the photos from the weekend session?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

My Space

There is nothing quite like it. Standing in your own space, a space that you have created (with the help of a housemate or two) and that is completely at your disposal. Standing in a space where you cannot be touched, where nothing can affect you and knowing that you are in your element.

There isn't much demand for a studio photographer in Grahamstown. I have only once heard someone say that they specifically wanted to have studio photos done, and even then it was managed without the use of a studio. But, nonetheless, I wanted to have one. I wanted to have this space to myself where I could bring people to create a little world of my own imaginings. For the moment, it is small. For the moment it is nothing more than a backdrop, a black stool, two lights and a tripod. But I can see it in a month, a year, a few years time. I can picture myself slowly gathering props, am already gathering them, and building a space not just for myself but for my clients as well.
I can see myself learning, gradually at first but ever faster with the experience that I gain, how to control the light, how to manipulate the background, how to direct people and make myself the master of the space. For now I am still shy, still coming to terms with what needs to be done. For now, I am still capturing the moments as I see them instead of creating them with my directions. For now, I am watching, learning and slowly becoming comfortable with what needs to be done. I am slowly learning how to tell people what to do, what will look best. It is a slow process, but it is happening.

I am making mistakes, I am realising what looks good and what doesn't, what light to use for which complexions, what poses to ask for and which to avoid. I am learning behind the camera and in front of it. I am gaining experience and confidence slowly but surely and am reaping the rewards in the forms of Thank-You's and Wow's. There are still moments when I look at the photos that I have taken and see what could have been done better, but that in itself  is a learning step and one that I am happy to take. I am coming into my own, adapting, shaping both myself and those around me to the point where I can have things as I want them to be, and this is the one area where that is achievable. In this area of my life, I can make sure that everything goes according to plan, where in most other areas I don't have control.

This is my place of control. This is where I get to show off myself, my skill. This is where I feel most comfortable. So... SAY CHEESE!