Sometimes clients will say they want to shoot at a certain location or the perfect location will come to my mind when they tell me what they have in mind for shooting. Norwich is a picturesque city with several iconic buildings and streets, but there is a danger of overusing the same locations for photo shoots. Often a location I have previously shot at will be used again for a later shoot with different clients. I don’t want to give out photos that are clones of previous shots I have taken. Instead I try to use the location differently each time.
An example of this is when I shot with Beth, Lucy and Emelia (roughly just over a month between each shoot) in the Cathedral Cloisters. Both Beth and Lucy suggested this location for their shoots and I recommended it to Emelia as it was raining on the day we were shooting so we could be sheltered and the backdrop would look really pretty too. Coincidentally, Beth and Lucy had dresses by Caris Closet which they wanted pictures for their blogs, whilst Lucy and Emelia’s outfits were bright red.
Each person has their own style and personality which I wanted to capture in each photo. I wanted to avoid using the columns and corridors of the cloisters in the same way each time, so I made sure I took the photos using different angles and different sections of the cloisters. However the Cathedral’s architecture is very iconic, and I’m sure a good number of people would recognise it instantly, therefore it is easy for the photos to feel like they are all part of one set rather than three different shoots. I also love placing my subject at the centre of the image, so you can spot this trademark move in most of my photos! I love chatting away to the people I meet and photograph, it helps me to take more honest images of them. I hope that you can get a feel for each of their personalities by looking at their photos below.
I edit my photos in a similar way each time to reflect my own personal style and tastes. I will always add a bit more contrast to the photos, bring down the black tones and pop the red (warmer) tones and deepen the blue tones in each image.. and voila!
I’d love to hear your thoughts… which photos were your favourite, whether you feel stuck taking photos at the same locations, or any questions you may have for me about photography or about life in general!! Send your questions my way!
Sitting in the conservatory, watching Jeremy (our pet tortoise) slowly stroll across the garden eating all the dandelions in his path an image formed in my mind. Golden hills and a lonely figure standing in the sparse landscape. Inspiration hit me quickly and I knew this was going to be the concept for my upcoming self portrait for the Self Portrait Project. A week of sunshine but filled to the brim with other activities, I knew I was going to have to wait till next week to take the photographs.
I pictured the lighting for the images to be golden so I planned to take the photos on the upcoming Monday evening. A week of gorgeous sunshine I thought was going to last for a bit longer. Monday came and so did the rain. So I thought I’d leave it to the next day. Tuesday came and so did the rain. Maybe I’ll wait to Wednesday. More rain. Thursday? I have plans to go to a gig. Thursday won’t work. Friday, then? More rain. Saturday arrived and I was sick of the rain at this point. I turned to Aaron and said “Screw it! I’m going to take my self portraits today and I’ll just have to get soggy!”. Aaron came with me so that he could protect my camera from the rain. He also helped me with location hunting and posing. He’s such a gent!
The look itself was easy to come up with. I wanted to be the figure that came to me in my minds eye, dressed in black from head to toe. I adore western fashion, and already have a number of clothes I could put together to create my anti hero alter ego. I previously bought a cowboy style hat for my “A Close Watch” shoot with Arleya and Rebecca, so I used this with a long black skirt with side slit, one of Aaron’s black shirts, my leather jacket and a string choker with silver drop details. I also put on my Doc Martins with white knee length socks for extra coolness!!! The make up was my favourite part. I used Urban Decay eye shadow palettes, using their darkest shades to create a heavy smokey eye. I kept my lips nude so that the attention was on my eyes. I gave myself a middle parting, plaited sections of my hair to add texture. I was anticipating that the rain was going to mess up my hair, but I wanted this to make the photos seem raw and authentic. A cowgirl isn’t gonna care about her messy hair, am I right? The outfit made me feel really powerful and strong as soon as I put it on. I felt like a new person.
We ventured out in the cold rain and took the photos in a field close to my house. A location which has been one my favourites for self portraits for about 10 years! As this field is intended for new houses, they have moved a lot of the earth into tall mounds and pits to do whatever tests are necessary. This was perfect for what I initially intended. The area where I live is very flat, so these man made mounds were great for creating the illusion of a hilly location. We took the photos from an array of different heights to suggest that this is a hilly location. The rain made it difficult to be outside for a long time, we were probably outside for about 45 minutes. It was so cold that our hands were turning pink and seizing up (something I had to retouch in Photoshop), our noses were running and we were becoming a little bit grouchy (we went to McDonalds afterwards so that cheered us up!). The rain made it difficult for me to open my eyes, as it was clingy and getting in my face. Luckily squinting my eyes helped to make me look more menacing. So I guess we have to be grateful for the rain for that! I think the rain also helped to make the setting look more dreary and miserable, perhaps helping to make my character look more like an outcast.
Editing these photos was lots of fun! I had to completely transform the bright green location into something that resembles a valley/desert/wild wild west! I used both Lightroom and Photoshop to get the desired golden, reddish tones. In Lightroom I made the location warmer and golden. In Photoshop I increased the red, magenta and yellow to get it to the colour I wanted using Selective Colour and Gradient Maps. I tried to keep myself looking as pale as possible to make me stand out and contrast the location. I want people to be drawn in by the character first and then scout the location for more information. Below are some before and after images of my edits.
These photos are my favourite from the Self Portrait Project so far. We are only four months in, so I’m really excited about what’s going to inspire me over the upcoming months. Keep your eyes peeled!
I met up with the gorgeous Laura Stafford Smith last Saturday to take photos for her blog and Instagram. We met on Rose Lane and wandered to one of Norwich’s secret gardens. I was introduced to this garden many years ago when my boyfriend and I were first dating. He took me there and we sat on a bench eating ice cream. Pretty cute, huh?! It is a quirky community garden where the local residents can grow all sorts of plants. It is filled with really interesting garden furniture including a row of painted bath tubs filled with plants.
For a small location there is a lot crammed in! This willow tree arch (I think it’s a willow tree.. I helped to make one of these at my primary school and remember them calling it a willow tree. Whatever it is called, it sure is pretty!) caught Laura’s eye so we set up there first. We both agreed her blue dress and blonde hair made her look like Alice In Wonderland leaving the rabbit hole, or in this case the willow tree arch. I tried to get three key shots in this area; the establishing shot, a mid shot and a close up. These three shot types help to tell the story. The establishing shot shows the location and Laura’s full outfit. The mid shots bring the focus more on Laura. The close up shows the details of Laura’s outfit and make-up. Depending on the location, I try to use these three type of shots as much as I can.
This location was filled to the brim with character, so choosing a spot for each shot was pretty easy. We were spoilt for choice! I keep certain things in mind when looking for an area to shoot. I look for..
- Good lighting (ideally so that it looks even and natural, or lighting that adds interest and shape).
- Interesting textures and colours.
- Leading lines to frame the subject and direct the eye towards them.
A lot of photographers consider these things important to composing images well. Some photographers have their own way of using and manipulating them to suit their own style.
You may have noticed, I have a thing for placing people in the centre of the frame. I am really inspired by symmetry, particularly in Wes Anderson films. However, in saying that, I like it when the background tries to conflict my ideas! The person I’m taking photos of may be in the centre of the image, but there is always something in the foreground or background giving the photos a sense of unbalance. I aim to give my photos a feeling of realness that comes from leaving the location as it is to show off the natural character.
As the location was quite small, we were careful and cautious to not repeat the same areas. To avoid this, take photos from a multiple angles to make each area looks new and interesting. We started at one end by the willow tree arch, then worked our way down to the far end with the potting area. There were two main pathways through the garden so we went up the right hand side then back down the left. Although some of the various areas appear in the background of other images, it helps to make sure the photos flow as a set. I find that if you wander around too much looking for locations, the photos can seem a bit disjointed. If you do choose to wander round, select areas with similar colours or in a similar style to help make the photos work better as a set. For instance, try not to take photos in an old location then go to a modern location because this may clash too much.
To finish up we took some portraits by a long red and black brick wall just next to the garden. Laura really likes brick walls as backdrops and uses them often in her photos. I really liked the contrast of the two toned bricks against her outfit. Laura really reminds me of Julie Christie in the film Darling, effortlessly cool and effortlessly elegant at the same time. Do you see it to?? I love it! <3
Please take a look at Laura’s awesome spaces on the internet linked below:
If you have a blog or website and would like some photos that capture you and your fab style. Drop me a message here to find out more :)