Photojournalist, Kent – Portraits under pressure

Portraits like them or not, but as a press photographer and photojournalist, Kent they are my bread and butter.

I’m not talking about your nice and leisurely studio based affair where you get as long as you want to get some stunning images. No I’m talking about turning up somewhere where you have never been and have to get something that’s printable in a very short space of time.

This month I have taken around 10 – 15 and the total time for all of them is probably no more than 40 – 50 minutes tops. That’s about 4 minutes or so each including getting the exposure and lighting right!

That, by the way, is not a boast. Its just a statement of fact and an illustration of the timescales and pressure that even a provincial press photographer in Kent,  such as me,  face on a daily basis. The reason for this is that a picture desk will load you up to fill your day out so you might have a job at 9:00 in one town and another at 9:45 in another which is a 20 minute drive away. Which is fine as its part of the job and its something you learn to to. You just learn to read whats around you and develop a kind of spooky third ‘lightometer’ sense.

So how do I combat this? Honestly its a case of making quick decisions on the spur of the moment or make it up as you go along. Don’t get me wrong I don’t make up the image I want at the end. But how I get that can sometimes vary greatly. Normally a CB flash bracket lives on my camera. 8 out of 10 times this is all you need for on the hoof work.

I’ll also have a light stand and extra flash at the ready. I live and die by my Canon 600 RT flashes as it means I can, without any bother or hassle have an off camera flash without hassle and faff! I also have a ST-E3-RT Speedlite Transmitter. So I can get two flashes hidden away and still not have to walk over to them to make exposure changes. It sounds lazy but it all adds up and takes my already dwindling time even less.

In the pouring rain where speed is of the essence as those nice smiles your clients have wont last indefinitely. It will normally diminish the wetter they get!

Photojournalist, Kent- Portraits under pressure

Don’t be scared of using direct bare flash
Photojournalist, Kent - Portraits under pressure

Learn how to bounce your flash. In houses most ceilings are white and are the biggest light diffusers you will have to hand.

Photojournalist, Kent - Portraits under pressure

Sometimes all you need is the tiniest bit of pop to banish shadows.Photojournalist, Kent - Portraits under pressure


Photographic Equipment, How Do You Use Yours?

So just how do you use your photographic equipment? More importantly do you actually know what you use and when?

Not totally sure where I’m going with this one, but bear with me there is a point!

My thinking all came about after I had some comments from one of the picture editors I work for. Basically his comment was along the lines of ‘are you having problems?’

Regrettably I instantly knew exactly what he was referring to and it was something that I had been ignoring for quite some time. For quite a while I had been making compensations in camera sometimes by as much as a stop!  I had to face up to the cold truth that I simply had to get my kit serviced!

To cut a long story short when I got my first body back from Miles ‘the Man that does’ his diagnoses was that the sensor was out of line, possibly due to a knock or two! no shit sherlock. not really a surprise I suppose! The difference was simply staggering. I could trust readings the camera was giving me for, ahem the first time in months!

This got me thinking about how I use the rest of my photographic equipment.

Way back in the dark ages of film. When I as a bright eyed and freshly qualified as a photographer. My photographic equipment consisted of only primes. which consisted of 35mm, 50mm, 80mm and 135mm and that was it! (I didn’t shoot any motorsport or sport then)

I now cover those lengths and more with just two zoom lenses. But I got thinking what focal lengths out of that range do I use the most?  Professionals and amateurs alike are always planning new photographic equipment purchases, normally new lenses. And they aren’t cheap and as a full time photographer any money invested comes directly off my bottom line and in turn the money I take home to pay the bills! So I need to invest in any new photographic equipment carefully.

So I decided to analyse what I use and when. To help me I found a great little app called Exposure Plot. I simply ran it on only the frames I shot this year up to the end of August only. A total of around 43,000 images so a pretty fair cross section.

This is what I got for the most used focal lengths:

Photographic Equipment - Focal Length Analysis

And this for apertures used:

Photographic Equipment - Aperture Analysis

So what does this actually mean? Well to date rather than fork out a massive wad of cash I have opted to hire in specialist lenses against jobs when I have needed them. The downside of this is that my hire bill from this year currently stands at around £2,500! money I’d sooner hang onto in the long run. This is mostly for large primes, which considering the amount of Sport and Motorsport I shoot isn’t really too much of a surprise. I had been thinking about an 85mm prime but looking at the graphs what would the point be other than a gigantic waste of money? The trusty work horse 70-200mm f2.8 never misses a beat.What is does suggest is that its time to invest in a large prime again.

What is more interesting is the usage at the other end of the focal length scale. I am very tempted to retire my 24-70mm f2.8 and invest in 2 or 3 fast primes instead.

Go and give it a go I think you’ll be surprised I know that I was! If nothing else it will help you spend your hard earned wisely!