Welcome to the Mediaphotos Blog. Words and pictures from owner / photographer Roger Donovan relating to the business and all things photography related.
I had it in mind to post just one image, the upright shot of the young man in a wheelchair, as part of my “From The Archive” series but when I went looking at the rest of the images from this set thought they were particularly appropriate to the current situation we all find ourselves in and decided that I should post a few more as a picture story.
The pictures come from a feature shoot way back in October 2005 for the Times Educational Supplement for whom I was a regular contributor at the time. I spent the morning with teachers and pupils from Ty Gwyn Special School in Cardiff as they took part in a regular “Outdoors Experience” session in nearby woods. Just physically getting to the campsite was hard work, getting everyone on the minibus and then off and then through the forest to the campsite was no easy matter.
The session gave the pupils chance to experience nature, everything from hugging trees to lighting camp fires. Everyone enjoyed it and I remember being so impressed with the dedication and patience of the staff.
In times such as we are now in, we all appreciate the hard work and selfless work that carers perform and I think these images demonstrate that. I have nothing but admiration for the work they do.
Seeing the pictures again I couldn’t help but wonder how youngsters requiring special need care and education are managing in this lockdown. I assume the schools are not open which leaves parents as 24/7 carers. My heart goes out to them as the task must be overwhelming.
A picture taken in June 2000 at Dalkeith Country Park just outside Edinburgh on commission for The Sunday Times. The brief was simply to find a pretty weather picture. The park is famous for it's bluebell display at that time of year and there was a teddy bears picnic event happening in the woodlands as well. A perfect opportunity to get a nice picture.
The bluebells were plentiful but to get the full effect, a low angle was needed to fill the frame with blue. Having found the right spot with a slight rise I just needed to find some willing subjects who thankfully appeared on queue.
Today's from From The Archive post is a shot of dance teacher Miranda who was looking for a new portrait for her social media pages.
The photographs were shot on location at her home and for me this was my best effort from the shoot.
Quite a lot of work has been done to get to the final result including desaturating the image so that it is nearly B/W, increasing the contrast and introducing more black into the shadows so that the image becomes very graphic. The final touch in Photoshop was to introduce some tilt/shift blur to suggest that it had been shot on a large format camera with bellows movement. Not something I have to say I have ever done. Indeed the largest format I have ever shot is 6x7. The tilt/shift blur gives the appearance of a shallow depth of field so the hair and jumper appear soft and out of focus which helps to accentuate the eyes.
Miranda's short hair already gave her a striking look but this treatment and the single light source which highlights her high cheek bones together with an almost Mona Lisa like enigmatic smile I think make for a strong portrait.
A PR image shot in December 2008 is the subject of this post from the archive. I’ve always found this shot pleasing and I regularly use it in my portfolio and marketing even now twelve years later. My main reason for liking it, is probably because it was a challenge to create a strong image from nothing.
I’d been commissioned to shoot a picture for a press release about a new development being built on land previously occupied by a giant oil refinery and storage depot just outside Swansea. When I get there I find the oil refinery was no more, having been flattened and removed totally from site. The only building left was a brick built bath house and a pile of bricks and debris left from the demolition and the new build hadn’t actually started. Luckily there was a digger still on site and a low winter sun together with some fill flash allowed me to make an image that saw a lot of use in the press.
A few tips for getting the most out of your pr, corporate or event photoshoot.
You might think that simply booking a professional photographer should be a guarantee that you will get the pictures you require from your photoshoot. But things can go wrong even with the most seasoned professional on the case and it’s important to do everything you can to ensure that the risk of things going belly up are mitigated.
Lack of communication is the single biggest reason for problems, followed closely by a lack of planning. If you are commissioning photography it will help if you have a clear idea of your expectations. What type of image you require and what use you will make of the pictures. Importantly these details must be communicated to the photographer.
Don’t take anything for granted, plan the shoot or event thoroughly and allow time in the schedule for any set up photography. Be sensible about how long the photography will take. The photographer needs time to find the right location, set up lights and pose the group. Don’t create undue pressure by not allocating a reasonable time slot in the schedule. It might be helpful to seek the photographers input on this during the planning process. If props or other specifics are needed for the photography don’t just assume they will all be available on the day. Plan and arrange in advance.
The more information that can be given to the photographer prior to the event, the better will be their understanding on the day of what is required of them. From a photographers point of view, arriving at an event cold with no understanding of the situation can be a recipe for disaster. Many times I’ve arrived at a shoot with little knowledge of the event or who the participants are and the first question I’m asked is “Where do you want us and what do you want to do?” It’s so tempting to say “I don’t know” but instead I have to dig tentatively to find out who is who and what is what. Not very professional and you’re on the back foot from the start.
I’ve been commissioned many times in the past where the commissioner’s idea of a brief is no more than time and date. Whilst vitally important, a brief should include a lot more. Background to the event, details of participants, contact names, mobile numbers, itinerary, specific requirements, expectations, what use will be made of the images, time scale for delivery, delivery method, rights required.
I think it important to remember that whilst you work for your organisation day in day out and understand how it works and who people are, a photographer commissioned for a single shoot won’t have this depth of knowledge and understanding. The more the photographer understands, the more on board they will be with company thinking, the more they feel part of what is going on, the better the outcome of the shoot. This is a good reason for building a relationship with a photographer and using the same photographer on a regular basis so they feel part of your team and understands your business structure and brand.
A few points to consider when booking photography:
1: Date, time and itinerary. Absolutely necessary it goes without saying but be honest with your photographer, ensure you give a true start time, don’t assume they’ll cut things fine and arrive on the dot and therefore give an earlier start time to ensure they arrive by the actual start time. I’ve had this happen to me on numerous occasions and because I always arrive early have ended up arriving an hour or so before needed.
2: Planning. Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance. Include the photographer in this process as they will understand and allow for the photographic requirements of the shoot.
3: Provide an exhaustive brief. Knowledge is king. The more information the photographer has to hand the better their decision making and the better the resulting images will be.
4: Communicate with the photographer at all points in the process. Make them feel involved to mitigate the chances of things going wrong.
5: Build a relationship with the photographer, use the same one regularly, not necessarily to the exclusion of others as it is also good practice to have a couple of strings to your bow, but if the photographer feels part of your team it will show in the service you get.
6: What use is likely to be made of the images? Knowing where the images will be published can assist the photographers decisions on style and composition so that the images can be tailored to the target market.
7: Allow time in the schedule for any set up photography. All too often time for photography is not actually set aside in the itinerary, resulting in trying to squeeze in the photography when no time remains or as everyone is leaving the door. Far better to put time in the schedule so that everyone concerned is aware of when and where the photography will be shot and it’s not just a rushed afterthought.
8: Don’t spring unexpected requests on the photographer last minute. Most photographers don’t carry all their kit in the boot of the car. There’s simply too much so there is a need to know in advance what will be required or risk disappointment. Plan well and communicate with the photographer in advance.
9: Work closely with the photographer on the day of the shoot, assist where you can and observe what is being shot. If you have any specific requirements i.e. personnel, branding, products to be included in shot check that these have been covered. It’s too late when the event is over.
10: Be prepared to change plans, sometimes expectations just can’t be met. Work with the photographer to get the best from a situation.
11: Give the photographer time to work their magic. Even if you think you have the shot in the can sometimes the photographer can see something more in the shot. The photographer is the one with the technical knowledge and creativity, the one who understands the potential in changing lens or viewpoint. Give them chance to do their best and your expectations might be surpassed.
This isn’t an exhaustive list of do's and don'ts as I’m sure individual shoots will have their own issues and requirements that need to be addressed but I will just repeat my mantra of “Plan and Communicate”. If you stick to this advice then the shoot will stand every chance of being successful.
A lot is spoken at the moment by photojournalists keen to document the sharp end of this Covid crisis, about the lack of access to the front lines where the story is really happening. There is a wish and a genuine need to document what is happening in our hospitals and care homes but access is being denied, some might claim legitimately so, as press access would cause unnecessary difficulties for authorities to cope with, in what are already difficult situations.
As an industry I believe we need to look to ourselves for the reasons behind this unco-operation. This attitude to the press is fuelled by the public perception of the business brought about by the actions of the red tops who thought they were above the law and used subterfuge and illegal means to create stories to entertain the nation. Had these stories been investigations into wrong doing in public or political life then maybe the end would have justified the means. But this wasn’t the case, it was done purely in the search for an entertaining read.
The result has been that whilst we are supposed to be an open and transparent society we have in fact become more closed than ever, more closed than many other countries, as has been demonstrated by the access given to photographers in Italy and Spain and elsewhere to document this crisis.
When I first started as a newspaper photographer back in 1975 access was rarely an issue. Indeed you could make a quick telephone call or sometimes simply turn up to be given access to pretty much anything. Journalists were respected by most and not viewed as the scavengers of society.
Here are a couple of pictures from 1977, when I was just two years into my career, that I think demonstrate a far more respectful attitude to the press. The fire, police and ambulance services had no issue with me arriving on the scene of a nasty road traffic accident and as long as I didn’t hinder their activities I was allowed to get in close to get my pictures. Things didn’t look good at the scene but they respected my journalistic judgement and gave me the access and time to document the story as it unfolded. Only when it had been ascertained that the young man had survived relatively unscathed were the pictures published in the following weeks paper with a story about a miracle escape. The young lad himself requested a set of pictures as a momento of his brush with death. I believe that at this time the professionalism of the press wasn’t in question and the emergency services on the scene knew that a journalistic judgement would made on whether to publish any images from the incident.
Admittedly the whole thing wasn’t being confused by the presence of hoards of camera phone wielding members of the public eager to instantly splash someone else’s misery over social media. Unfortunately these days I think the authorities confuse the professional media with the social media amateurs who answer to no-one and publish without a thought to the consequences.
Yes there is a need to record what is happening on the front line but as a professional and responsible industry we must demonstrate to society that we have changed before we can earn their respect again. Maybe it won’t happen in time to document this crisis but for the future we must somehow regain the trust of the nation.
For the record I shoot little press these days having made the move to PR and corporate work but I have worked most of my life as a newspaper photographer and picture editor.
Social or networking events such as dinners, conferences, awards ceremonies as we knew them up to only a month or so ago are a thing of the past at the moment and will probably remain so for a little while to come. But they will be back, we are after all sociable people who like nothing better than a natter, chat, catchup, gossip, exchange of views and knowledge, call it what you may with friends and colleagues alike. Yes, online virtual conferencing has plugged the gap during this crisis both in the work and family environment and has many positives, not least of which is the ability to conduct your meeting from the comfort of your own home. There is no travel, expense or greenhouse gas emissions involved in having to get to the event and for these reasons alone I'm sure that virtual conferencing is here to stay. But it doesn't cater to all our needs of socialising and can be a little difficult for some to engage and become involved in the conversation.
When lockdown is eventually relaxed the social networking events that we have come to know over the years, in hotels, conference centres, sports complexes, community centres and a host of other venues will be back, maybe alongside online virtual conferencing. Hopefully the many businesses that support these events and rely on them for income will still be here after this crisis to pick up the challenge of returning to some sort of normality, whatever that may be as I'm sure there will be many changes to what "normal" will become in the future.
The businesses and jobs that have developed around this event culture are many and include venues, caterers, audio visual companies, staging and events companies, printers, videographers and not least photographers. Which is where I come in as a photographer who's work very much includes event photography.
Like most photographers involved in corporate, PR or commercial work my diary has been empty since the start of this crisis and as I write, this remains the case. I won't be on my own in champing at the bit to get back to work. When we do eventually get the green light to move about more freely and recommence work I'll be there ready and waiting for the email to drop or the phone to ring.
Your business too will need a jump start and all the help it can get to promote itself to the wider business community and the public through press release, blogs, web sites and media articles. Photography is the visual medium that will help draw in your customers and clients so please when the economy starts up again think photography and PR. It's so easy to think of photography and PR as an unnecessary expense and not something that is part of the production process. Nothing could be further from the truth, when times are hard then that really is the time to utilise PR and photography to promote your brand, product and service.
I wish you all the best as a glimmer of light appears on the horizon and look forward to working with you again to rebuild the economy of this Great Country.
About The Author Roger Donovan.
I'm a hugely experienced photographer and media professional having worked in Newspapers around the UK for over twenty four years and operated my own business, Mediaphotos, for twenty three years. Mediaphotos provides a friendly and bespoke service to business clients throughout the UK and can help with all your Event, PR, Communication, Product and Corporate photography.
Welsh National Opera Hansel and Gretel Witch Transformation.
Three pictures which are from a 2008 Welsh National Opera commission to photograph the transformation of the witch in Hansel and Gretel as make up and a little padding are applied to create the frightening larger than life stage character. The pictures were used for pre publicity in newspapers around the country to promote the forthcoming production as the theatre company toured the UK. The transformation is quite remarkable and just how the actor sings in all that latex is a mystery.
These pictures were all shot in a cramped dressing room backstage at The Millennium Centre in Cardiff prior to a dress rehearsal. If memory serves me right I used two Nikon SB800 flashguns to light the shots and what with my lighting stands, two makeup artists, the performer and a PR guy things were a little cramped.
I was very happy with the result and I guess the WNO were too as seven years later in 2015 I was asked to shoot the same series again with a different performer when they next toured with the same production. Here's a link to these pictures as they were used in the pre publicity feature in the Daily Post in Liverpool.
We have the potential for several more weeks of lockdown ahead of us and if like me you're working from home virtual conferencing to stay in touch with colleagues and family then maybe you'd like to have a little fun by ringing the changes with your virtual backgrounds.
I've created a small online gallery of free pictures from my archives for you to use to change your location or mood during your online conference call.
All the pictures have been optimised for Zoom so all you need to do is log in to the gallery: https://www.mediaphotos.co.uk/zoombackgrounds to download your pictures. Then just select the picture in the Zoom software and you can be transported from your home office to a location on the other side of the world or closer to home if you prefer. The pictures also make great computer desktop backgrounds too.
Some tips to help you present your best image whilst virtual conferencing.
A screen grab of yours truly during a recent video conference with colleagues around the globe against a backdrop of glorious Tenby.
We've all seen some of the virtual conference disasters on TV over the past weeks, faces in shadow, blown out highlights, grubby backgrounds etc but some basic photography advice can quickly help eliminate these embarrasing faux pas so you present that perfect image to your conference colleagues and friends. All these tips apply equally for any photography in general so next time you're shooting using your camera phone keep these tips in mind to help you get the best possible results.
For many years I worked on a freelance basis for The Times Educational Supplement providing photographic coverage from South Wales for the highly regarded weekly educational newspaper until like so many publications cutbacks forced a change in design emphasis and it moved from being a paper that covered human interest picture stories to reporting national trends and issues with illustrations and graphics bought in from agencies.
I enjoyed the creative challenges that the commissions brought and for me it was a particularly fruitful time which I believe saw me produce some of my best work up to that point.
I'll feature a few pictures from this time over the coming months but here to start is a case study picture to illustrate a story about the extracurricular talents of students. In this case circus skills talents are being shown off against the spectacular backdrop of The Millennium Centre in Cardiff Bay. A low setting sun with some off camera fill flash help create some dramatic lighting.