* Site Redesign

My photography work up until now has been spread across 3 websites, each specialised in the work that I used to do before my current status of being retired (or maybe semi-retired).  I had a website for weddings, a model photography website for my lifestyle portfolio and models/agency work, and a combined commercial/travel/street photography website.

Now going forward, I won’t be shooting weddings or commercial work, I might shoot the occasional model photography and street photography, and will certainly continue to shoot travel photos on my holidays (when we come out of “corona crisis”).  However, my main focus in photography in future I’ve already alluded to in my previous journal post and that’s why I’ve come to the decision of just having the one website.

I’ve noted that the websites of many documentary portrait photographers work that I’m admiring is very much based on a very simple styled website and I like that look.  I also saw that many of them are using squarespace as their website platform as well.  So I set up a trial squarespace account and mapped out quite a few dummy websites that appealed to me.  It was easy to manage, add to and I thought it had potential.  But when it came to “checkout”, I thought it was rather expensive and now with photography being just a hobby to me, I questioned whether I should invest in such a website.

I’ve had many years of designing WordPress websites for myself and for clients.  There’s no doubt it’s a great platform for producing flexible, accomplished (read that as professional-looking) websites.  Yes, it’s a bit harder to set up and manage than squarespace, but the basic free and paid-for wordpress themes didn’t really suit the look I was after with my new website.  However, with some perseverance I came across one theme, Touchfolio, that I thought matched what I was after.  Sure, it’s not wizzy, flashy, and glossy, but I’m a minimalist and so was perfect for me with some layout tweaks to match the documentary portrait photography style being used by others.

I’m sure some would say “Why copy what the others are doing?”.  Yes I get it, but I say “Why not?”.  I’m happy with it, I like the look and feel of the website, it costs very little on my existing hosting platform, and I’m already very familiar with WordPress.  I might move to squarespace at some stage if I think it’s worth it, but for now I want to minimise costs and importantly concentrate on my photography and my writing, and having a simple layout will not detract from those areas.

* Stretch and Challenge

I’m amazed at the number of photographers who do not stretch and challenge themselves or the model when they are shooting. Doing the same style time and time again may be in your comfort zone but really only makes for boring photos over time and certainly does not improve your skills.

I’d had plenty of experience of photography having started when I was 17 shooting general topics such as landscapes and architecture, with a little street photography thrown in too, particularly around the city of York where I lived.  I went on to do weddings and more commercial work for clients but really hadn’t touched on working with models until probably about 20 years ago.  I look back on my photos at that time and think to myself, what the devil was I thinking.  Poses were wrong, ideas were lacking, lighting was rubbish and personally I thought my model photos were just generally pretty poor and certainly not to be proud of.  I gradually got a little better but it wasn’t until I met a wonderful young lady who I took on as my muse and, whilst she might not have recognised it at the time, she helped me with my photography as much as I helped her with her modelling career.   So how did my work improve from that time.

I shot with my muse probably at least once a month, it was my mission to improve my photography as much as it was to improve her modelling portfolio and provide each of us with some photos for our portfolios.  Each shoot I planned that we should do something different every time.  So it might be commercial lifestyle one time, fashion the next, working on location another time, some glamour the next and so on.  So we just generally mixed it up every time.

Now in the preparation of every shoot I had to research new techniques and styles and then practice as much as I could with camera technique and lighting in advance of each shoot.  So by the time the muse and myself were working on that idea, whilst I was definitely nervous, I think I was quietly assured that we’d be able to pull off the look I’d planned for.   Over the years we kept working with one another in the same way …. stretching and challenging ….. and whilst both her and myself went on to have respective careers with her modelling and my photography, I always extended myself to try something different most times.  Many times I’d be learning new skills beforehand, but it paid dividends every time.

And still now, when I’m planning all my shoots with models I am researching new ideas and techniques.  Perhaps looking at photos and videos of past eras to give me ideas to include in the styling and photos.  Anything to try and make the most out of every shoot I undertake, to give me variety, to spark my interest and imagination, to extend my repertoire.

So my advice is to add some variety people … it’ll do you and your models the world of good in taking your work and abilities to the next level. Always be stretching your mind and imagination, challenging your skills and knowledge …… always be learning.

And remember, even with your failures …. and trust me there will be some …… you are still learning

* Giving back

Reading this article on RangeFinderOnline about photographers giving back resonated with me a great deal as I’ve been wanting to do something along these lines for a long, long time but work and being busy always seemed to get in the way.  It’s probably unlikely that I’ll ever stop being busy doing the things I love, and often for the people I love, but now being at least semi-retired there are no excuses to make good or better use of my time.
In my previous line of work in education and just generally in my life, it’s always been important to me to help, to guide, to give of my time to those who’d like to improve themselves or to help with their career aspirations.  So I was pleased to talk to some people at the NEC Photography Show yesterday about the possibilities and now looking forward to seeing what might come of some of the ideas I’ve been having.
Are you or can you find the time to be giving back?