50 Shades of Orange

Right! Here I go! I promise not to sound too “bah Humbug”, but after 10 days of photographing Christmas office parties I’m beginning to lose the Christmas Spirit!

Why do they do it? The Oompa Loompa look! Yes, you’ve seen it! Females sporting the most outrageous orange spray tan! The I’ve just climbed in side an orange and not bothered to have a wash look! Remember that little fat orange man from the 80’s Tango adverts? He was less orange than some of these girls!  It’s ridiculous and for photographers its a bleeding nightmare!

It usually goes something like this. Ask any event photographer about this and they will smile wryly knowing just what you are about to say next! A group of oompa loompas all drift in to the studio, (poured in to size 8 dresses when they are clearly at least a 16, the magic pants fighting heroically to suck it all in but failing valiantly, leaving that golf ball effect skin look, thus making them look even more like an orange). Oh and then there’s the fake eyelashes! You are a bleeding human not a sodding Camel!

“Tek owa pickcha! Gooo On tek it!”.

Screeching it as loud as possible with frequencies high enough to only communicate with the local dog population. Cue the duck face, you know the look, (apparently young males of the species are supposed to find that lips like a cats arse pose attractive!). Then the flash, it takes 1/200th of a second, yet the one highly annoying oompa loompa, cats arse faced bimbo already knows she doesn’t like it with out even seeing it!

“Tek it agen, ar war ready, I ate that one, i ay ‘avin that wun!” ” Tek it agen!”

Eventually they get to the screen to have a look! Its like a Dulux colour chart!

“Fooking ‘ell Chardonay i luk well orange doh eye?”,

“yow ay as orange as me Britney”.

“ar dough lyk it, Ar look fat!”

There it is done! 20 years of experience, £000’s of pounds worth of high-tech state of the art equipment coupled with years of learning, all undone by a dozen bottles of Superdrug Oompa Loompa orange fake tan!

When we get to the venue and we build our studio, whether it’s Green Screen or just a classic colour such as white we spend a good 20-25 minutes every night balancing our lights, making sure the white balance is set properly, making sure that your pictures will look as good as they possibly can! That all goes out the window when in walks 50 Shades of Orange. There is nothing we can do if you look orange stood next to you pastie white friend who’s had the common sense not to have a bath in vat of B&Q fence preserver which is then over laid with a liberal coating of Home base Value Plaster which clashes in tone with your tan! The vast majority of people we are lucky enough to photograph at these events look amazing, glamorous and sophisticated. But oh no not the Oompa Loompa! They are a different species all together! David Attenborough could write 2, 10 part series on these folk!

It’s not the camera that makes you look fat. Cameras can’t add 10LBs or what ever the myth of the self obsessed T.V Celeb says to hide the fact they’ve been to one to many Luuvie Lunches! If you look a bit lumpy, and you’ve got your dinner down your dress, no we can’t photoshop it! Well we can but you couldn’t afford that kind of money this close to Christmas! I don’t think many people could!

I absolutely detest this celeb culture we now live in. Young people have such a skewed and distorted vision of what they should look like and even how they should behave. The whole KarCrashian thing. Those cretins have done so much more to damage the of youngsters of today than anything I can think of! It’s wrong , SO wrong but accepted? It’s a form of abuse as I see it. You want to look like that reality idiot, fine we can do that. It will take 2-3 hours of make up, 2-3 hours of hairdressing, 2 hours shooting, 2-3 days editing, reshaping, recreating bits that aren’t even there! Even when these magazines claim to print the unedited, no make up pictures they don’t. The trained eye can see every brush stroke, layer and liquify filter that’s been used! Some of the photo-shopping is so good that you can’t even tell these days it’s not real. A couple of years ago one of the major super car manufacturers did a shoot in the desert somewhere in the states. The cars were never there! they never even existed it was all CGI.

And that dear reader is the issue and moral to the story. I’m a photographer not a magician! I can only work with whats in front of me and if your fake tan clashes with your mates, then that’s your fault not mine.

I do know an amazing magician though if you need one!!

 

 

 

 

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How to choose the right one for the job! An insiders view!

Lately I’ve been bombarded with phone calls from Brides to be insisting on being given a price to shoot their big day! Some are quite lovely and engage you in a conversation, ask you a question and listen to the answer. The majority these days are waiting for one thing and the inevitable reply I get is “OW MAAAACH!”, “Bloody Hell Yowm dear!”. At this point I thank the universe for small mercies and go back to what I was doing.

There seems to be this real belief these days that it can be done for £125 quid, and even less. It bemuses me no end that when you sit and talk with a BTB that she will happily spend £400 on a disco, £300 on a bouncy castle, £15k on feeding and housing guests for a night that they don’t really like, Hundreds on pretty little chair covers and bows, £700 on a string quartet to play Boyzone songs as she walks down the aisle. Yet the one thing she will still be able to hold in her hand in 20 years time is rated at no more than a couple of hundred quid or less, if Uncle Derek (and his new camera from Argos,( “he spent a lot in Argos buying that you know”))gets his way.

There is a reason every good Wedding TOG out there charges what they do. On average for me, a wedding is a 3 or 4 day thing, not just a Saturday afternoon. Phone calls, planning, insurances, bits of new gear, mileage etc, etc, all adds up.

When it comes to Wedding Photographers there are literally thousands out there. From the very best to the very worst. It’s increasingly difficult to spot the difference. In the run up to your big day nearly everyone you meet with a camera will claim to be a “Professional Wedding Photographer”! So how do you go about finding the right person for you?

 

  1. Ask Other People. People will be only too happy to tell you all about their day and Photographer good or bad. Use recommendations, Google those recommendations and even ask at the venue for someone that they would recommend. Many wedding venues will have a few favourite Photographers that they like to work with. Not only because they are easy for the venue to work with but they are good too! The wedding planner at a venue will have a pretty good idea of who is hot and who is not. Under no circumstances trust Facebook and other social media sites. Likes can be bought and pictures stolen! It’s becoming a regular occurrence these days! Have a look at some of the semi-professionals too. These guys may have 9-5 jobs but are equally as talented if not more in some cases. They are the next intake of the professionals!
  2. Cheaper is usually NEVER better. If you want stylish, arty and captivating photographs doing you aren’t likely to get this from someone who charges a pittance. Don’t forget that a professional photographer won’t just be working for you for that day. Many will do several day’s work that you just don’t see, both before and after. Those pictures don’t just edit themselves. Likewise, the Albums and C. D’s don’t design and order themselves either. A good Photographer will cost you money! They are after all small businesses with all of the overheads you would expect a small business to have. Also don’t expect your Photographer to do a 13 hour shooting day for a couple of hundred quid. These are professional people who have trained often for years, invested thousands in equipment, websites and will invest in too in your day. Think of it this way, if you had pay for your next medical operation you wouldn’t want someone who offered to do it for £75 when everyone else wanted more like £600 to £800 minimum.
  3. Don’t leave it too late to book. Many Brides get quite stroppy when they phone you 5 weeks before a Wedding Day and you are already booked. We have already got brides booked in for 2017 & 2018! The longer you leave it the less chance you’ve got of getting your first choice photographer and quite possibly even 2nd and 3Rd choice Photographer.
  4. Be realistic. If you are getting married in a City Centre Registry Office don’t expect the photographer to make it look like you are getting married in a beautiful Welsh Castle or on the banks of a Scottish Loch. 9 Times out of 10 we can’t airbrush it out. Airbrushing isn’t a quick fix, it takes hours to do properly. Be open to the ideas of your photographer though. It might sound mad cap at the time but they know what they are doing! They’ve done this countless times. They understand what is needed to get the best out of you and the environment. The reason you pay them so much money is because they know what to do!
  1. Treat yourself. In the run up to the Wedding treat your skin to some luxury products like you get from Heaven Skincare. It’s your big day, really go to town on it! Don’t bother spending the money on an extra 20 guests who you don’t like anyway when you could be spoiling yourself to indulgent facials and skin products. It will make the job of both the Make-up Artist and your photographer that little bit easier and you will look amazing naturally too!
  2. Don’t be afraid to ask the Photographer awkward questions. A good Photographer will have the answers ready prepared and more importantly if they don’t know they will be honest with you. Ask about things like insurance, payment protection like paying through PayPal, (so you don’t lose your money). What happens if they are ill on your big day? Ask for proper contact details not just a mobile number and email address. Ask for a written contract. Never pay Cash! Not a single Professional will be phased by that. No photographer will mind you phoning and just having a chat about your day either. Even if it’s the 3rd call on the same question. It’s ok and part of the service you are buying into!
  3. Go with a Photographer you like! Someone who makes you feel at ease and gives you that confidence. Trust your gut! You will spend an awful lot of time with them on your big day. If you don’t like them, it will really show in your pictures! If you are relaxed it will make for beautiful pictures, even if the weather is horrible. Don’t be surprised if the Photographer is dancing with joy if its slightly overcast on your Wedding Day. It’s a light thing and those that know will be praying for just a little cloud at the right time!

So many times I shot a wedding and a guest says to me, ” I wish i’d booked you, it’s so relaxed!”. Its a big decision for a big day! If you like them, you will relax. If you relax then you will get naturally beautiful pictures!

You Bastards!

I suddenly realised that I hadn’t blogged in ages, and, was paying for the privilege of not doing so! So what’s been happening. Hell, to be honest loads, but as a small business and often working on your own there is always lots to do. Don’t forget I have to answer my own phone calls & make the tea myself!

Something that has cropped up recently is something that really pisses me off! Over the past few months several cretins, (apparently I cant call them c**ts),  have helped themselves to my images from the shop on my website. Now, It might read “View your pictures” but it is in every sense my shop. Just like a Tesco & Asda (or if you are posh Waitrose). My website is constantly changing as more and more work goes live. For some clients it never makes it to the website as they have to protect their products right up until the last minute so their competitors cant get the upper hand.

Now my website shop galleries are right click disabled. And, all the images are watermarked and meta-dated. I also have a piece of software that hunts out my images on the interweb. The reason for this is I want people to buy the pictures. The pictures are for me what loaves of bread are to Bakers, T.V’s are to Curry’s, what mobile phones are to Apple. They are my products. Each time I sell a copy of the picture I earn money. Yes in many cases I may have already been paid for that picture, but still, just because Next sell one t shirt they then don’t pull every other identical t-shirt off the shelf, (or floor if you visit Primark). Those pictures are my salary. They are what enables me to pay my bills, feed the kids and buy beer! So when someone uses what ever nefarious means to screen cap one and post it on a site or tweet it somewhere you are stealing from me. You are stealing the food from my kids mouths! You wouldn’t walk in to Maplins and help yourself to a bunch of stuff without paying. But, because it’s a photograph, people just steal away thinking there will be no comeback.

“It’s only a photo!” as a response really winds me up. If I tried “It’s only a TV”  in Curry’s  after walking out with a TV under my arm I’m not sure the Police would take that as an excuse. When you steal a photograph from my website you are committing several CRIMINAL  offences. Firstly there is Theft, then there is Copyright infringement, then there is fraud if you try to remove the watermark and pass it off as your own. I’m quite serious too when I say I will happily sue you , because you know what. I will win and the damages are going to be pretty horrific. Last time for the theft of a photo a court awarded me nearly £1000 in damages against the perpetrator. If they had paid it would have cost them £10.

So if I do see you tweeting or facebooking a picture of mine that hasn’t been paid for expect a seriously shitty letter attached to a rather large bill. Failing that if you own a shop or work somewhere  I’m going to wander in help myself to your products. Its only fair! Isn’t it???

 

 

2013 Tour Diary Part 1 – Timothy’s & Tamaras

Well as most of you know, this is the time of year when things start to get a little bit manic! It starts Mid April & ends sometime in August. Occasionally you will see the odd tweet from me, but this year I have decided to write the “2013 Flashing at Strangers Tour” Diary. My thoughts, Rambling and mostly drunken rants from hotel rooms across the UK.

This year has been busier than ever. I’ve had to rely and trust Sean & Phil so much more, and, as always they just keep getting better & better and we keep breaking new records for us as a team and setting new goals.

So here is part one. Hopefully it will give you an insight into what work is like as photographer. Its not all tits and teeth you know.

April 2013

End of the month and the tour kicks of for real. Lots of great event stuff. All within 80 or so miles so the need for a room in a travel hell is avoided. Nothing worse than a pissed off middle aged dragon at the end of a 150 mile drive who really couldn’t care less whether you checked in or shit on the desk in front of her!

Biggest gig for April was undoubtedly Cllr @Kevinguy ‘s Mayorall Charity Ball. Really wasn’t sure what to expect when you get a bunch of pissed politicians and carefully selected guests and other dignitaries in one room. Well I couldn’t have been more wrong. It was an amazing night with some top billy. Friendly, photogenic, and, a right proper giggle. We didnt stop laughing and the knuckle dragger, ( because of his bad back, especially when it comes to lifting anything more than a pint) really rocked it! It was so great to be part of something that raised so much money for such a worthy cause! Thank you Kevin for the opportunity!

Into May and a couple of usual tour dates missing as the recession kicked in and places no longer existed! Shame that! It’s so difficult getting that news. The idiots at the job centre have no idea! Oh well time to fill the diary with even more new dates including 3 weddings in one weekend. Not quite sure how we did it other than Big Boss Rich supplying us with chocolate cake for my birthday, cheers dude. During one of the weddings we even got chance to fit in a quick portrait session for another customer!. Once again the billy were amazing and seemed to really get what we were doing.

One of the best moments was watching “the Fiddler”, wheezing his way up the Wrekin for a charity shoot at 1335ft ASL and not being able to walk for 3 days afterwards! Have to admit my concern on the way up turned to hilarity on the way down as we tried to stop each other having heart attacks!

Then June, the Timothy’s & Tamaras. I’m very lucky in that I get to be able to shoot the “May Balls” (Yes I know they are in June), at several of the Colleges within Cambridge University. For a commoner like me to be able to set foot in to Cambridge without being arrested is quite an achievement. It never fails to amaze me however how these incredibly intellectual and stunning clever young people can be so brilliantly stupid. The may Balls can be quite long, extremely busy affairs as a photographer. They are quite incredible events. So, to keep my brain occupied we play games with the Billy to see quite how daft we can get them to be whilst taking their pictures. I am so pleased to be able to announce that this year I destroyed my previous record of 3 in the “don’t look at the camera game”. I managed an amazing 9 in a row!!! Nine times i manged to fool a customer into facing the wall or background rather than the camera so I could shoot their pictures! Quite how they think I’m going to be able to shoot their pictures whilst they aren’t even facing me is quite beyond me! I also managed 4 in a row of “are you the photographer?” whilst stood there with lighting, staging and cameras hanging round my neck. My reply to one of “no I’m the college Astronaut” ended with the most sincere, deeply felt apology I have ever seen from a posh person for wasting my time, and that he should have realised I was an Astronaut! I felt so guilty for at least 15 seconds. Poor Chap.

We then rocked out way through a whole host of charity nights where we donate up to 40% of our takings for your charity. You really should check them out if you need to make some money for your charity. Another great night at the Park House Hotel with their “Buble” Tribute Night. Musically not my cup of tea, more my cup of vomit, but Tom (Bubble)(yes, I know I spelt it Bubble) really can sing. I mean really can sing, puts on a great show and really does take the place to bits. If you get the chance to see him you really should check it out whether you like Bubble or not. Then on to the Tettenhall Rotary Ascot ladies day, organised by the fabulous Kenneth Clive. WOW! What a day. The Billy were just off the planet, by the first time we looked at the clock it was nearly 8pm.  The Knuckle Dragger getting swamped by ladies in skimpy dresses, not to mention the “Fingers” comment. We had every conceivable bit of gear fail, but didn’t miss a single shot and managed to hot swap printers and laptops without it even being noticed by the punters. We really did rock that day! It was just bloody fabulous.

This last week has been complete chaos too! Triple booked on one day, Jobs 200 miles apart, on the same day. 2 Charity nights, 3 graduations, a school prom and the “Geekiest” wedding, (their words, not mine) ever. An impromptu Ukulele Jam session in a Cambridge hotel. Traffic like you have never seen in a Cambridge to Telford to Cambridge 24hr marathon shooting day with nearly 3000 shots in one day being taken (8000 in one week) and only 4 hours sleep.  Waking up on a garage forecourt just outside Kettering with absolutely no recollection of how I got there and how I had parked. The most brilliantly arranged School Prom I have ever had the pleasure of Photographing, (Alex, quite seriously you really did an amazing job), along with lenses and camera bodies deciding it was much more fun being  broken.

And that takes us up to now. I’m tired but happy. got home to discover another published image. I’m  the Supreme fixer of all things camera with my trusty kitchen knife. Gear all sorted, cleaned and back in its proper homes and a fridge full of lager chasers to the Southern Comforts I’m professionally testing for quality purposes.

Next week is just as chaotic. Weddings, Graduations, 2 countries, new hotels, 4 venues in 5 days and a pile of editing to do!

I bloody love my job and I don’t care who knows it!

See you all soon.

P.s. Tour T-shirts coming soon 😛

Best laid plans and all that!

A few posts back I said I was going to get around to writing that book as soon as it went quiet in January and February? Yeah! Well, it hasn’t gone quiet. In fact its been bloody brilliant. I haven’t stopped most weeks, and as I look at the diary its Mid April  before I get a proper chance to slow down.

So whats caused this? To be very honest I don’t have the faintest idea. Perhaps its the hard work I have put in over the last few years finally beginning to pay off. Maybe it’s all those new customers I picked up at the Park House Hotel over Christmas. As many of you know, at this time of year I’m usually kicking around the house, trying to avoid the decorating or gardening that needs doing and annoying the kids with seemingly every move I make.

Sometimes I sit and wonder what it takes to be successful  I’m just beginning to get there I hope. I have huge amounts of work still to do, and even more still to learn about my trade and myself. Between jobs I stopped on the services Tuesday lunchtime to get something to eat. Whilst I was devouring my 890 calories of cardboard, floor sweepings and other vile things you find in motorway food, I took the opportunity to do some people watching. Funny things people. Always busying themselves with one thing or another. The amount of people I observed with someone else, sat silently as they looked in wonder into the little electronic box of delights in their hands, accompanied by the odd smile or even occasionally a grunt of laughter as their electronic best friend in their hand charmed them with the latest joke, gossip or news from the world the habit. It made me wonder do people actually talk anymore?

Remember the old days when a mobile that was something attached over a cot to entertain a baby? Seems these days the mobile has entranced us all and turns us all into the baby we once were as we gaze longingly at it waiting for that chirp or beep of approval as another message comes in or that all important email comes in! Whilst I was sat there I noticed two people sat about 4 tables apart. Sat alone, but strangely connected in someway. Every time his phone beeped she would look over with a smile as he giggled and vice versa. It took me a minute to cotton on but these folks were sat no more than 10 feet from each other and texting! I have no idea about what. In my sick and twisted mind it was about all sorts of weird and wonderful things, but it showed how the world has changed!

It also made me think that the telephone whether a mobile or landline, ( for the younger readers, that’s the phone that’s attached to your house), is an incredibly rude thing. It demands attention, demands you stop talking to who ever you are and worship it at its altar. It screams at you to “PICK ME UP”, “Ignore the world around you, do what I say”. Strange how it can do that. It isn’t even that many times it’s that important. ” did you hear about Ethel? ooh yes, its scandalous”. Then it got me to thinking about the most annoying thing a phone does. The one thing that literally makes me want to scream. That annoying little answer machine symbol it displays in a “Ha you might have escaped the first time but I summon you to worship me” type way. And then, to add the insult to injury it’s like it’s almost saying ” I’m going to penalize you for not worshipping me earlier! You WILL pay for this call! It would have been free muu hahahaha”.

In today’s world it’s almost impossible to be without a phone. That sickening, stomach churning feeling when you realise you have left the phone at home or even worse you have committed an act of religious blasphemy by losing it! I’m as bad as everyone else, checking, re checking, making sure I put the alarm on. It even gets us out of bloody bed in a morning! Surely a point will come when they are able to insert a chip into your head and it whispers in your ear constantly. Ooh got to go the phone’s ringing…….

DSC_4939

Time to relax???

Wow, what a couple of months since my last blog! Christmas parties, New Years Parties all shot and uploaded. New work coming on-stream all the time and business looking really good for 2013. It’s been a long hard slog the last few years. At times I have doubted it but I think now I am finally starting to reap the rewards of all that hard work. Don’t get me wrong I have an awfully long way to go, I’m still discovering things and learning all the time. But isn’t that how it should be?

©Steve Elliott Imaging 2013
©Steve Elliott Imaging 2013

Over Christmas I was very lucky to get to shoot all of the 32 or so Christmas Parties at the fabulous Park House Hotel in Shifnal. Not only did I get 2 Christmas parties a day to attend but it gave me the chance to put my business in front of over 6000 guests, all of which we photographed. The new business this created has been amazing! I would never have guessed or even attempted to guess as to how it would impact the way I work and how much I will work in 2013.

In all of the 11,428 pictures we took and the load in load out that was done every day, I only had one bit of equipment failure (that was because I dropped it). I think only once did I have to restart the laptop to get things working again and in all honesty I’m amazed at that!

So for 2013 it’s looking bright. Still lots of meetings to have. Still lots of contracts to be quibbled about. But, considering the majority of photographers find February a quiet time, it looks like I will have at least something to do.  Already this year I’ve shot 4 corporate events days, 2 more Christmas parties, 3 sets of interiors for different hotels and more to come.  I’ve got competitions, Gala Balls, Charity Nights to shoot, weddings booked in as far as 2015 and it shows no sign of stopping. I’m already fully booked for the last half of June,  all of July, November & December!

I know it sounds like i have been bragging, i possibly am but I’m proud of whats been achieved but none of it would have been possible without the help of those great folks at the Park House and those close friends around me! The staff, the management and more importantly the guests. It’s also down to support of those close friends and family members who will turn up at short notice when we get over run at an event to help out.

SO, all I really want to say is THANK YOU! With out you all I’d have nothing to sit here and chirp on about.  If  I get chance, i might sit and relax. I might also get that book finished!!!

The Book & The Beginnings

Just over 5 years ago, I was made redundant for the 4th time in as many years. Having been a photographer for everyone from Insurance Companies, Bands, Music websites & Metal Foundries I decided that I would go it alone. Simple, so I thought.

Well the honest truth is it has been the most brilliant up and down rollercoaster ride I have ever taken. If you are thinking of leaving your 9 to 5 drudgery and going solo, all I can say is go for it! My God it’s very hard at times, but then the freedom it allows is something most people dream of. I’m very lucky!

Back in those first few tentative weeks I was handed a small lifeline by a group of pensioners whose photography tutor had done a runner! The deal was that they would pay a set amount for 10 week blocks of tuition. Well having never taught, or really explained to anyone how to do anything with a camera, the first few weeks were shall we say enlightening. That group has grown and grown, not only in talent but in numbers too. Based just between Walsall  and Wolverhampton the group has now split in to two. The pensioners (don’t underestimate these folk) and the night creatures.

We have now had two very successful exhibitions, they have a twitter account @colthamgallery and a blog. The learners are getting better and more comfortable with their cameras and two of my lady pensioners have made the big jump from compact cameras to DSLR’s. Some of them are now very accomplished photographers in their own rights.

Teaching these classes has taken me on quite a journey with my own photography. It has forced me to relearn areas that I had forgotten about, push myself harder to be able to provide the examples of the stuff they are learning, and, more importantly put my thoughts down on paper.

Through January and February it’s always quiet and I needed a personal project to occupy my time and stop the wife from throttling me. Whilst browsing the other day for photography books, I realised that many beginner books are still aimed at people who have a basic knowledge of a camera and how it works. I couldn’t find one that was a complete beginners guide. Even the magazines on the shelf I found were using terms and phrases that if I were a newcomer would terrify me and put me off. So there the challenge began!

Over the next few months, in any spare time I have between moving house & my fully booked Christmas run I’m going to write the simplest book I can for beginners. I’ve been asked before to do it, but never took it seriously until now. With the ease of publishing now to Kindle and iBooks there’s no better time to write away and try to help the next big thing to photography!

So watch this space…..