Why stepping back has taken me forward.

For the past 6 weeks I have been nowhere near as active photography wise as I had been in previous months. When I really focus on my craft, I get lost in it. Other important parts of life tend to be forgotten and I start to lose balance in my life. Social time does not seem important, exercising takes a back seat, I even forget to eat sometimes! Whilst this may result in getting lots of content, some good some absolutely awful, it can be destructive in relation to the overall process.

Why Step Back?

There came a point where all I could think of was photography. How I wanted my online image to be, what kind of photos I wanted to take, how I would edit, what goals I would have to meet. It was overwhelming and borderline addictive. In result of this I was burnt out. I could no longer function creatively and I had to make the decision to take a step back. I put my camera in the cupboard, deleted social media apps off of my phone and put everything photography related to the back of my mind. For the first time in a long time, I could breath.

Filling the void

Of course, this meant I had a lot of free space and time - which I wanted to fill. I was able to take more time for my relationships. I took trips and actually embraced my surroundings, rather than just seeing them through a lens. I got into the gym each day - even if it was just to get my body moving. Most importantly for me, I started to cook real food again. Taking the time to prepare a fresh meal and feed myself and those closest to me, is something I find extremely rewarding. I slowed the pace of life down, and slowed my mind down. I felt more centred, balanced and in time I became more focused.

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How to pick the camera back up.

You may ask “If putting the camera down gives you a more balanced life, why would you ever want to pick it back up?”. Fair question. The fact is, photography is my life. Once it cemented itself in my psychological make up, I knew then it was never going to leave. Naturally taking that step back gave me the opportunity to miss what I love. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, as the old saying goes - and whilst that is meant to be applied to humans, it can also work with our passions.

At the time of writing this, I am on a plane heading to the South of France. I have my camera dusted off, a fully charged battery and two SD cards loaded inside. I cannot wait to get creative. My mind is healthy and my thirst to be productive is on the verge of being quenched.

Stepping away enabled me to see again. It stopped me from being stagnated and gave me the excitement again. Going forward, as a rule I am going to work on a 3 on 4 off approach. 3 months of getting lost in what I do and 4 weeks to regroup and recharge. Of course any paid work that comes in that 4 weeks will be taken, but for personal projects and the clutch of social media - I will take a step back.

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I encourage you to do the same. Overworking yourself will lead to burnout, and at that point you are of no use to anybody and a risk to yourself. Work hard, yes. Reduce your quality of life, no.

I will ensure I keep you all updated on my French shenanigans.

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Event and Street Photography: A Day of Two Genres

As you all will have guessed by now; I love photography. I love it all, from travel to portrait, documentary to wildlife - you name it I will like it. However, when it gets down to the nitty gritty, the core of my photographic interest if you will, event and street photography are my bread and butter. I love capturing a live moment, whether it be on a large stage or in the back streets of my home town. For me, event and street, although different in many ways, also have many similarities. They project emotion, excitement, candid elements, surprise, shock and pleasure. These are all traits I look for when practising photography, and this is why I love the two so much. That said, the way you approach each genre is completely different and in this article I will explore those differences and analyse the pros and cons of each approach.

Event Photography

This weekend I did an event at a school in North London. It was for an organisation called Paiwand, a charity that that helps support Afghan refugee children in getting a strong education when they come to the UK. I love these kind of gigs. Children are full of energy and wonder, and being able to capture a celebration of their development was an absolute pleasure. The catch is that children have no concept of what it means to be a photographer, and why would they. Setting up your shots, both candid and staged, can be a massive challenge - have you ever tried to get a child to stay still longer than 3 seconds?

Another obstacle when shooting events, is time constraints. When it comes to events, there is no such thing as “keep shooting until you get the shot”. People have homes to go to and as the photographer, you are expected to deliver the content to a level that is required, during the time frame that is given to you. We all have off days, and the anxiety you get at an event, worrying if today is going to be that day, does heap on the pressure. You have to be sharp, use your strengths and remember your basics. This can be difficult when you have many distractions, but you must remain focused and stick to the task at hand.  

Personally, I like taking candid shots the most. However, there is often a need to make staged images also. This can become repetitive and you must keep your concentration to ensure each shot is right. To keep it fresh, I ensure I have a dialogue with each subject, that way the style of photography may be the same but the conversation brings the difference.

The positive aspect of event photography is that you know something is going to happen. You don’t have to worry about whether or not your lens will see a worthy frame. It may be music, a presentation, laughter or an argument - something is bound to happen and the skill is ensuring you are there to capture it. The cool thing about working with kids is that they love smiling and laughing and this is something I try and portray when shooting them at an event.

I had 90 minutes at this gig, it was not easy (and that is without the barrage of parents “take my kids picture and make them look great). That said I enjoyed the challenge. I work harder, and in my case better, when the pressure is on. The client got the images the following day and everyone was happy - thank God!

Street Photography

After a very strict brief at the charity event earlier that day, I needed to swap my Nikon for my Fuji, so I could get out and shoot some street. Oh how I love the freedom. Walking where I want, shooting what I want, and doing it for however ever long I want. Bliss!

On this particular day I had a good run in. I came home with a least 3 shots I was excited about - which for me is great!

Of course the downside of street is that nothing is ever guaranteed. An off day can mean no photos what so ever. This may be because you don’t come across anything worth capturing or because your eye is too tired to see the things around you. Either way, it is very frustrating and this is certainly where event photography has the upper hand.

However, when I get “the shot”, there really is no other feeling like it. For me no genre gives me that same rush when I get an image of worth, as street photography. I want to get it out of camera, load it up in Lightroom, edit and share it with the world. There is just something about the pay off, especially after walking for miles, that just keeps me hooked to this genre of photography.

Street vs Event

As you can see both genres have their pluses and minuses. In event you have to deal with a client, in street you have to deal with the general public - which can be both a good and bad thing. If I had to choose which one I like the most - it would have to be street. Again, whilst both provide an enjoyable process, nothing compares to that feeling of getting a great street shot!

What is your favourite genre of photography? I would love to know! You can contact me here - Say hello to Dan.

New Print

After another great street session last week, I am pleased to say I have a new print available for you to purchase. It is called Faceless London and you can get your copy here - Buy Faceless London.

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Street Photography: 5 ways to manage confrontation.

It was like any other normal day in my world, I was out roaming the streets trying to make compelling photos. I was in the heart of London, immersing myself within the people, whilst trying to avoid any confrontation at the same time. I wasn’t really getting anything of any worth, but my determination enabled me to continue. Then I saw a wonderful shot. A man,over 6ft in height, beard and tattoos, with a look and presence that suggested he knew how to handle himself. And this very same man, as angry as I perceived him to be, was gently kissing his girlfriend on the forehead whilst caressing her hair. It made for a wonderful juxtaposition shot. So, as Street Photographers do, I got in close. I made the frame nice and tight. And then, just as I took the shot, the man made eye contact with me, quickly proceeding to fit his stereotype…

“What the hell do you think you are doing?” he blasted at me. I explained that I am a Street Photographer and my motive was to make an artistic image. “Give me your camera, now!”. I took a step back and spoke calmly, offering to delete the image. I showed him that image had been deleted and advised the man I would be leaving. “F*ck off then”. Which I did.

Confrontation,at many levels, is always a possibility when you are shooting street. It can happen to any of us, and it has happened to me on more than one occasion.

How to manage confrontation in Street Photography

Below are 5 strategies that you can use to help manage any form of confrontation that you may encounter when shooting your street work.

1. Always offer to delete the image.

My way of thinking is that if someone would like you to delete the photo you have taken of them, you should just go ahead and delete it. I get it, no law has been broken and you are well within your rights to photograph anything you please in a public setting. However, my opinion is that if someone has gone out of their way to confront you and stop you your tracks, they really do not want you to have an image of them on your SD card. Plus, the likelihood of it being the image that sends you to the top of your craft is slim, so if it is just going get lost in your Insta feed or just sit on your hard drive, you may as well just delete and keep them happy.

2. Never try out anger somebody.

If you encounter an extremely angry bunny, the worst thing you can do is try be more angry than them, in the hope that they will just back down. Remain calm, speak to them rationally and honestly, allowing them to hear that you had no bad intentions. Let them feed of your vibe, rather than you off theirs. They will see you are not wanting to be of any threat to them and soon realise they do not need to use anger as a form of protection for themselves. Remember, all they know is that you are the person putting a camera into their life without any prior explanation, so it is natural some people will turn to anger to protect themselves. Being calm will show who you are and what you do, resulting in them settling and you being able to resolve the altercation in a healthy manner.

3. Sell the picture to them.

That’s right, use your charm and sell the image to them. To be clear, I don’t mean in the exchange of money, but rather, in exchange of their acceptance. Show them what you see, explain that they are part of creating a wonderful piece of art. Flatter them, make them feel like a million dollars. Once you have them on board, politely ask them if they are happy for you to keep the image. If you have done your job correctly, lending from your charm, they should say yes. It is also useful to share your social media handles with them, so they can see it for themselves - amongst all the other great work you do.

4. Bend the truth.

Unless you have put the camera directly into someone’s face, this is a technique that can be very effective. If someone does approach you on the basis that they are unhappy with you taking their picture, tell them you were taking a photo of the building or street behind them. I have often said I am an architectural photographer out on a professional assignment. I joke that people are always thinking I am taking their picture, when really I am just trying to do my job. More often than not they apologise and I quickly move on with a cheeky grin on my face.

5) Run!

Sometimes people are just too aggressive and confrontational, so you have to decide to get yourself out of there! Even in times where you think you could “take them” should it come to blows, physical altercation is never a good thing, especially when all you want to do is practise your art. So, in those times when you think it may kick off, just turn away from the situation and run as if you were running home from school to eat your mum’s favourite dinner (and just hope they are not quick enough to catch you!).

I hope you are able to implement the above suggestions, should you be in the unfortunate predicament where you face confrontation. Honestly, they have worked for me, and have kept me un-bruised! What works for you? I would love to know. Contact me here - Say Hi to Dan.

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Taking photos with my Smartphone

When people ask me “what camera do you have?”, I say two; a Fuji X-T10 and a Nikon D600. I use my Fuji for 99% of my Street Photography and my Nikon for Event Photography (although I recently used by Fuji for the first time at an event and loved it!). The truth is I have three cameras, the two I have just mentioned and the camera on my Moto 4G. However, in reference to the latter, I never use it. Never. So, last week I decided that I would spend some time only taking photos with my smart phone.

Smartphone Photography

The reason this came to mind is because I am of the the mindset that you don’t need an expensive camera to make great photos. People are so quick to run out to the store, spending hundreds, if not thousands, on kit and come home thinking they have found a solution to the poor photos they are making. What is even more frustrating is that people are letting their Uncle Jim take photos at an event because he has just bought a Canon 5d Mark IV, then they get upset when the collection of images don’t capture the atmosphere of the event - Yes but the image quality is great!. The Uncle Jim reference is most likely sour grapes on my part, mainly because he is taking a spot away from me. That said I am confident I can take better photos on my Moto than he can on his Canon. And so can you.

Now of course, I am not suggesting that if you are a paid photographer, you should sell your kit and use your Smartphone. For those that know the craft - of course a professional system is the way to go. But for those who just enjoy taking images, for themselves and their friends - there really is no reason to go and break the bank. Also, pro photographers like to shoot on their down time - and just having your smartphone is enough to get a great photo.

Sunshine in London

We have been very fortunate in recent weeks, in the fact that London has had some glorious sunshine. In every aspect of photography, lighting is crucial, and it is even more so when using a camera that would struggle in poor light situations. With the sun out and my shorts on, I went to my local park to see what wonderful opportunities I would have when taking images on my smartphone. The first thing I noticed is that when using my smartphone, it made me think more. I did not rush to take a shot but spent more time on focusing on finding the right moment. I must have spent an hour walking around and was still out as the sun was starting to drop. Walking through the grass, I noticed a couple holding each other whilst looking out towards the sun. Jackpot. I approached them in a manner that Bear Grylls would approach a dangerous animal, and slowly dropped behind them to get the angle for the shot. Like always when taking a candid shot, I had that “they might move anxiety” so I had to be quick. Thankfully they were deep into their embrace and I was able to come out with this...

Shot on Moto 4G.

Shot on Moto 4G.

As social media is the only way to tell if you are good photographer or not (sarcastic tone - just in case), I posted the image on my social pages and as anticipated, it was received extremely well, including by those with more in depth knowledge of photography. As soon as my image was accepted by the social masses, and I had got my validation - I started to become a little obsessed with Smartphone photography. I wanted to take portraits, architectural images, event photos - all with the motive of making eye catching photos.

 

Shot on Moto 4G.

Shot on Moto 4G.

Not content on just taking Smartphone images, I started to hunt down other photographers who had made compelling smartphone photography.  I found a wonderful image by Fadi BouKaram, a Beirut based Street Photographer. What struck me first about the image was the balance, it was composed in a way that made me instantly settle and feel content when viewing it. It also provides wonderful colour in the night sky, and has a raw and dirty vibe to give it that extra punch.

 

© Fadi BouKaram

© Fadi BouKaram

Fadi is a wonderful Street Photographer, and someone I am very much looking forward to hearing speak at the up and coming Street London event in August. You can see more of Fadi's work here -  

Another photographers work I found was by Travis Jensen. He did a project of Street Photography, only taking images on his iPhone. It was documented in an article here - Meet Travis Jensen: The Pro Photographer who shoots with an iPhone. You can see more of Travis's work here - travisjensenphoto.com

Get out your Smartphone now!

So the challenge is set. Put your pro camera down and go out and use your smartphone. It will keep you refreshed and challenged and also give you another perspective on photography. You will soon see that your phone camera does not need to be only for snaps of your dinner and memorable moments with loved ones. You can, and will, make images that make people think "wow, that is a great shot".  So please, get make your shots and send them to me, I would love to see them. You get them to me by contact me here - Contact Dan

Free Print

As some of you may have seen already, I am running a month long offer for you to get the chance to win a free photographic print. Giving you the opportunity to select from either my Print section of my site or my Instagram, I will select one person to be able to hang a print of their choice on their wall. All you have to do is enter your email into the form below, and you will be in with a chance! The winner will be announced on Tuesday 1st August.

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