Did you know that I had an image of mine featured in Times Square, New York a couple of years ago?
I was 19, it was a photo I'd taken of one of my friends at university, and it was taken on a little old Nikon D80. I was super fresh to photography still, but I had a deep passion for it. A competition popped up called "Art Takes Times Square" and on a whim, I entered. Little did I know, I'd be one of the photographers selected to have her image featured in Time Square on the event day!
Was that really cool? You bet it was! I still get people asking me today how I did that, or bringing it up in meetings. If oten goes something along the lines of: "how did you get featured in Time Square?!" The answer is pretty simple: I entered a competition!
So this blog post is obviously directed at photographers, but if anyone reading this ISN'T a photographer, then I think the same still applies to you. If you're a blogger, designer maker, writer, whatever it is, there will be some kind of creative competition out there that you can enter, and I hope that in reading this post, it will help you to feel more confident in doing so!
So why should you even bother entering competitions?
1. To Get In Front Of Industry
Most competitions are judged by some big names in the industry. And we all know that we want to try and get our work in front of the right people, especially big influences in the industries we're in. So if you see a competition and one of the judges is a big player in your industry, then I believe it's 100% worth entering.
2. Press Coverage
If you get selected as a winner, or often even just a runner up of some kind, you're probably going to get some press coverage! Again, this is all about getting your name out there, and getting more eye balls on your work. I think this alone makes it worth a shot!
Pretty self explanatory, but most competitions come with prizes! Sometimes they're really small (like a shoutout). Sometimes they're really big, like £60,000 cash, or £10,000 worth of camera kit. This is often the biggest drive for people wanting to enter competitions, and I say why not!
4. Practice and Feedback
Some competitions will ask you to shoot something to a specific brief, which is always good practice when it comes to interpreting a brief, and delivering something of value. Whenever I enter anything like this, I try to treat it as a job: what would my client want out of this if they were paying me to do this for them?
Most of the time, you can also request feedback from judges. This is INCREDIBLY valuable, and if you enter a competition and don't get through to final rounds, or win, I'd recommend asking for feedback from the judges... heck, even if you do win, still ask for feedback. There is always something you can improve on. Use this as a chance to speak to some amazing judges about your work, and improve it!
5. If you never play the lottery, you'll never win
I have a friend who is always winning those giveaways on Facebook. I asked her how she did it, and she told me straight up: "I just enter a lot of giveaways!" and she was right. I never do those things, so obviously I never win. That stuck with me, and now whenever I see a giveaway I'd like to win, I take a second and enter. If you don't ever enter things, how can you ever expect to win?!
In light of all of the above, I wanted to share with you a competition that I am actually entering this week: the "Production Paradise Spotlight Awards." There are categories for almost every photography discipline (Fashion, Beauty, Advertising, Portrait, Food, etc) and the competition is open for entries right now. The best bit about this, I think, is the huge panel of judges who are going to be deliberating on the images; over 50 editors, marketing managers, art directors, etc from industry. It's pretty amazing opportunity to get in front of some amazing people (whether you win or not).
I'm entering 3 images, and if you're interesting in entering too, here's a 15% discount code on the entry fee: OLIVIA15SA
Let me know if you do decide to enter, and what you choose to enter with!
I'm going to be very honest with you - I hate editing.
As much as I adore my job, I do think that there are parts to everyones job (no matter how amazing it may be) that you won't enjoy. Some photographer prefer the editing part, but to me, it's honestly the part that I dislike the most. Now that doesn't mean I don't do any, but it has shaped a lot of the way that I shoot.
Due to my dislike of editing, I like to be very careful of how things are looking on the shoot, in camera, before I get home. Because the reality is that if you get it right at the time, less time needs to be spent editing afterwards!
I've had people ask me many times if they could watch my editing process, and I considered doing a "start to finish" screen capture of a shoot, and I could still do that if you would like me to, but if I'm totally honest, my editing process is so simple that there would probably be very little for you to see!
But because of the curiosity that I know people have, today I'm sharing with you a few "before and afters" of my images!
So as you can see here, the before image might actually seem quite under exposed. I do this on purpose, and make sure that I expose for the highlights in an image. This means that when I come to edit in Adobe Lightroom CC (my preferred editing software), I can play around with the exposure, removing some of the shadows, and the contrast.
Its pretty obvious that there is quite a big difference between the before and after image. I use presets to help speed up my editing process. I purchased the VSCO packs a few years ago (Pack 1 and 4) which were well worth the investment. That being said, they're always just a starting point; I tend to go for the Portra 400 preset and I will tweak the image depending on how it's looking. As wonderful as presets are, they're not a one click solution, and I will spend some time getting my colours just right. The colour I always find hardest to master: green. The colour I love work with? Blue! *You probably already guessed that!*
Apart from colour correction, the only other thing I'll do with my editing is remove distractions and straighten horizons. As you can see, the horizon on the image on the left is totally at a diagonal, and that really bugs me, so I make sure all horizons are straight. I'll also remove and distractions, like the people walking on the beach, or any obvious rubbish in the foreground.
As for skin retouching, well it's a similar story - I don't do much, if any. I will always remove any obvious blemishes or spots, because so far everyone I've met has always asked me to. However, if someone asked me to leave their skin totally alone, I'd do that too. I have never altered a body shape for an image, as I truly don't believe that is moral or necessary.
So there you have it, a pretty decent insight into how my images go from camera to end product! As simple as it may be, and as much as I may dislike doing it, it's a very important process and each image gets given the time it needs. I would never publish any imagery without taking the time to edit it, because it is very much part of the final work.
I hope you've enjoyed seeing my process, and if you have any questions about it, please don't hestitate to ask in the comment section below!
This was the first personal shoot I had done in three months.
That is far too long.
When I first picked up a camera, I didn't have any clients. I didn't even have a real need to find clients (I was still young, and living at home), so every single image I took was simply for the pleasure of it. Then, I went to uni, and all the inspiration I had disappeared. I put the camera down for two years, thinking that the love and inspiration I had once had would never come back.
Thankfully I was wrong. One day, after spending a few hours looking at the work of a photographer I love, I felt flooded with ideas. So what did I do? I began to shoot again.
Of course, this time, there was more ambition behind what I was doing: I wanted to make a real go at making photography my career.
A year and a half on, I'm so proud to say that that is really happening. It's hard, and exhausting, some times feels like it's impossible to be an artist for a living, but then you look back at how far you've come, and something incredible hits you: it's working!
The only thing is, clients come into play, and suddenly all those personal projects you had floating around in your head get put aside so that you can shoot for those clients.
Now I'm quite lucky in that pretty much everyone I shoot for lets me get very creative, and I love all of the shoots I do. However it is SO important not to think that just because work is fun and creative, that you don't need to create work just for you, as an artist.
It's taken me a very long time to realise that I am, actually, an artist. It feels almost arrogant a word to use, but since I was able to hold a pencil, I've been a creative person. So why not just embrace the word, and go with it?
These creative shoots that I do, the ones that I do just for me, they're the ones that keep the fire alive. They keep the ambition there. They attract the clients that I want to work with. They are what keeps my business afloat.
So if you're a creative business owner, and you haven't created something just for you in a while, i urge you to stop and think about what it is you might want to create for yourself. There doesn't need to be an end goal, you don't even need to show it to anyone! But I bet you that whatever it is you create makes you feel something really good inside. And it'll make you want to do it again and again and again.
Make Up and Hair: Ione Kutz www.makeupbyione.com
Model: Sophie Parsons
Boots: Oak and Hyde* www.oakandhyde.com
Orange and Red Lace Dress: Joanne Fleming Designs www.joanneflemingdesign.com
Blue Dress: La Galeria Elefante www.lagaleriaelefante.com
Denim Embellished Coat: Needle and Thread www.needleandthread.com
Plaid Scarf: Joules www.joules.com
* indicates I have been gifted these items to work with
Starting up a business is hard work (I know, I've started two!). You put hours of time into it, but more than that, a heck of a lot of love. Starting a business can also be expensive, and come with many hidden costs. Costs of setting up a limited company (if you've gone down that route), paying for a web designer (if you want to), paying an accountant, taxes. It all adds up.
Professional photography is another one of those costs, and when you've got so much else to have to deal with, it's easy to understand why so many businesses choose to spend little, or nothing at all on photography. After all, the options are endless: you can do it yourself, or purchase some stock.
I know what you're thinking; "You're biased, Olivia, you're a photographer!" And while it may be true that I am a lover of all things photographic, I'm also a consumer, and I like to think that I know a thing or two about marketing!
The truth is that every single business, no matter how big or small, or who the customer is, should consider investing in professional photography. Here's why:
1) A Picture Is Worth 1000 Words:
You know that feeling when you click a page and there's no pictures, just lots and lots of text, and you get bored and click away? You want to avoid that. Images convey messages, emotions, and feelings to your customers far quicker than words ever could.
2) We Live In A Visual World:
Curation is everything now a days. People are so used to seeing beautiful, perfect, polished images on Instagram, Facebook, etc that if they see anything less, they tend to click off.
3) Word Of Mouth Starts Online:
Word of mouth is still the number one form of marketing, but a lot of word of mouth marketing now starts with the online world! Friends go places, take pretty pictures, share that on Instagram, and that leads to others heading that way.
4) Your Website Is Your Second Shop Window:
And if you're an online business, it's your only shop window! We all know that if we walk down a street and see a beautiful window display, it grabs our attention. Beautiful photographs on a beautiful website/Instagram/Facebook page have the very same effect.
5) You Need To Look Professional:
By investing in good quality, beautiful, professional photographs, you immediately look more professional to your customers. They'll take you 100x more seriously!
6) Consistency is Key:
You want your branding and imagery to remain consistent. Professional photographers know how to achieve that, and will work with you to ensure a flow with your business.
7) You'll Save Time:
This is a classic business saying, but if you don't know how to do something, hire someone who can. In my case, I'm useless with numbers, so I've hired an accountant. This saves me time, allows me to put my focus where it's needed, and ultimately, makes me more money in the long run.
8) You'll Make More Money:
All of the above reasons for investing in professional photography aren't for nothing; they're for you to make more money, and run a successful business. Investing in professional photography may initially be a big investment, but it will be an investment with big reward.
Would you like to work with me on capturing photos for your business? If so, I'd love to hear from you! Please get in touch via the contact form below.
For the past couple of weeks, I've been experiencing what I can only describe as a horrendous creative block. To an artist, it does feel like a disease, and if you come across someone with it, the symptoms most likely manifest as frustration, sadness, depression, and desperation.
Sounds dramatic? Yes, we can get a bit dramatic when it feels like our creativity has been sucked out of us! I'll admit that I experienced all of those things, and completely let it get the better of me for a while. All the evil voices in my head began to arise, and for a good few days, I felt like a complete and utter failure!
I'd like to reassure you that my creative block is in remission, and I'm slowly getting my creativity back again *cheers of joy!!*
But what if you're in a creative block RIGHT NOW? What can you do?
Everyone has different ways of coping, but here is what worked for me.
1. Take some time off
I find this incredibly hard, because I feel such guilt when I'm not at my desk working, or out shooting, but I had to physically force myself to take a step back for a couple of days. I spent a lot of time reading, getting outside (I even went for a run in the pooring rain), talking to friends and family, and writing in my journals. Taking time away from your usual routine will give your brain a rest, and hopefully give you a new perspective on things!
2. Look at inspiration in unlikely places
As a photographer, there is a strong inclination to want to look at OTHER photographers for inspiration. This can help sometimes, but most of the time I actually find it to be quite detrimental. It just leads to comparison for me, most of the time, and further self doubt, which buries me deeper in creative block. So look for inspiration in anything OTHER than your creative medium. If you're a graphic designer, look away from the design blogs. If you're a painter, look away from paintings. You get the idea. Instead, look at other forms of art. I have recently found to be really inspired by paintings (you can see my "Art" Pinterest board here to get an idea).
3. Focus on other areas of your business
The crazy reality of being a creative business owner is that not ALL of your work life is creative. A lot of it can be admin, financial, or marketing related. So if you're creativity has gone on it's holibobs for a few days, leave it be and focus on other areas of your business that need attention. Update your books (boring I know, but necessary!), work on your marketing plan, or write those emails to the people you've been meaning to write to for weeks.
4. Talk About It
There's nothing worse than suffering in silence, so grab your closest friends, and tell them how you're feeling. Friends are there for these reasons, and if you can't talk to them about hard times you're experiencing, what's the point in having them? Head out for a walk, tell them what's worrying you, ask for advice, and I guarantee you'll go home feeling less frustrated, and much calmer about your situation.
5. Produce something with no strings attached
This is probably the hardest solution to creative block, because it does involve forcing it out of you in some way, but it's worked for me plenty of times. The key though, is to produce your art with NO PRESSURE. Literally, just create something you love, that feels good to you, with no strings attached. If it sucks, it doesn't matter. If it's amazing, you'll be thrilled.
That's exactly what these images of Ione were; I was knew that if I headed out at sunset, with my beautiful friend, to a beautiful location, with pretty dresses... it would happen naturally. Make it easy for yourself, and you'll realise that your creativity hasn't really gone at all!
You’ll have heard it before: “An image is worth a thousand words.” In the super fast paced world that we live in today, that phrase couldn’t be more true. Photography is more important than ever before in helping brands to tell their story, and connect with their customers.
Want to know why? Here are 5 reasons!
Photographs convey emotion: One of the most incredible aspects of photography is it’s ability to convey an emotion. Use darker, more contrasty light: you’ll get something moody. Use a really light, bright room: happiness. Lots of blues: tranquility. Your images have the ability to quickly and easily convey the emotion that you want your customers to feel when you’re surrounded by your business. It’s important that you look at the visuals of your brand (on your website, social media, email, etc) and asses: does this convey the emotion that I want?
Photography is the first impression that your potential customers get of your brand. Think about it; the last time you heard of a new business, I bet you grabbed your iPhone, hopped onto Instagram, had a scroll, maybe looked on their website, and within a matter of a minute, you had an idea of what kind of brand they were. First impressions matter!
Photography has the ability to add perceived value… but photography can also create the opposite effect. Bad quality imagery = a harder time earning loyalty and trust. Sounds really superficial, but it’s reality.
Photography is a much quicker way of getting a message across to your customers. Text is great, but it takes quite a long time for people to read a caption, an about page, or a pretty Instagram quote. Images take milliseconds.
Consistently beautiful photography creates brand trust and recognition. If you’re imagery is similar and of high quality over all of your platforms (website, social media, email, logo, print outs, etc), you’re helping your customers recognise you.
Can you think of any other ways that photography helps to elevate your brand? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic!
Well, this is exciting! The first of many posts dedicated to helping fellow photographers learn and grow their businesses! This is something I've considered doing for a couple of months now, and after asking a few of you over on social media, I decided that it was definitely the right thing to do. I'll be covering anything and everything that I can, but most of all, whatever you would all like to know. So if you have any topics you'd like to me cover, anything you'd like to me share, please let me know. These will also vary between blog post form and video, and sometimes a combination of the two... and I'm excited about it! So enough of me rambling, let's get to it.
Posing! This has to be one of the hardest parts of being a photographer. I don't think I've ever come across a single photographer who says: "Posing, I love it! I find it so easy to get my models to understand what I want them to do!" It's certainly an area that I find difficult, but after quite a few years of practice, I've picked up a few tricks which I think will help you to direct and get those poses that you're after.
Study: First up, like with anything, comes the study. You can't really expect to walk into a photoshoot and have never studied a single image in your life. It's natural, and you need to spend time looking at what other photographers have done to get an idea of a) what kind of poses you like, and b) what are they actually doing? Take a couple of hours to really look through the work of your favourite photographers and study what they've got their models/subjects doing. Are they looking really natural? Do they even look like they're posing? Or are they quirky and looking really different? Are they moving? Take the elements that you like, take note, and try to add a bit of that into your next shoot.
Bring Examples With You: Have you ever tried to explain to a model/subject what you want them to do with words? Most of the time it results in "Can you please put your left hand, on your right leg, with your right foot, over your left ankle, and your head tilted to the back." Sounds confusing, right?... That's because it is. So what I've started to do is bring visual queues to my shoots. This is generally a mood board dedicated to poses that I like, and think fit the mood of a shoot. I'll show the images to my model, couple, or bride and it gives them a really good idea of what I'm looking before because they can ACTUALLY SEE IT. Once they've got that visual queue, they'll be able to take it from there, and alter and change the pose slightly each time, thanks to your direction. My favourite place to find inspiration and examples? Pinterest (check mine out for more examples)!
Play Music: Seems like a weird one, but music makes SUCH an impact on the mood of a room. I learnt this off Ben Sasso (If you're looking for more photography education, check him out, he's amazing!) If you're looking for high energy, play fast paced music. If you're looking for a softer, more mellow mood to your image, play slow, mellow music. Your subject will naturally reflect what they're hearing in their body language. This works so well for me, that I'm actually going to invest in a tiny portable speaker that I can carry around with me and play on location!
Tell Them About Little Movements: Have you ever come home from a shoot, and realised that you have about 20 images of the same pose over and over? That's most likely because you forgot to tell your model/subject the simplest thing: That each time the shutter get's pressed, if they move even an inch, it will create a different image. This is probably the biggest, and easiest tip out there, but your subject barely needs to move, and they'll look different in the images. So make sure to tell them not to sit perfectly still, and that they should try to stay fluid and move with each shot. Not every shot will work, and not every pose will look good, but that's the beauty of digital photography, you can just delete the images which haven't worked out. (Side note - I'm assuming you're shooting digital here. If you're shooting on film, you'll want to take your time with poses. Ask your model to move, look through the viewfinder, and ask them to pause when you see the pose you want!)
Capture the In-between Moments: Some of my favourite images are when the model and subject forget I'm there, or aren't focused on me. Maybe she's in the middle of looking at something, or maybe she's chatting to our make up artist, or maybe someone made her laugh, but those in between moments can be absolute gold, so don't be afraid to keep shooting!
Watch the Hands: Hands! Oh how pesky you can be. Hands can be either incredibly graceful, or incredibly claw like. Lara Jade, a wonderful fashion photographer, likes to tell her models to think of themselves as having ballet hands. This is a trick I used ever since I heard her talk about it, and it's worked so well. Essentially, you want your model to always have beautiful, soft, delicate hands. No grabbing of clothes, and no holding onto flesh tightly. If they've got their hand up to their face, it should simply be places there gently and effortlessly. On the other hand (pun intended!) let's say you're doing a couple shoot and they naturally cling onto one another; let that go. The aim for each shoot and how you direct them will vary. For fashion and editorial work: think soft. For couples and brides: let them do their thing, with a bit of direction here and there, if they look for it.
Smile and Encourage: This sounds so obvious, but smile and be encouraging. Tell your model/subject that they're doing an amazing job. Tell them when they look great, and when you love a pose that they're doing. Encouragement will only make them feel better about what they're doing, and keep them going in that direction. If you don't like something, don't tell them, take a few shots (remember, it's the benefits of digital - you can just delete them later!) and after that simply say something like: "Hey, ok, why don't we try this now!" and move them into a new pose. Easy!
So there you go, I hope those tips help. I'm always learning new ways to help direct my models as well, so if you have any special tips, please feel free to share them in the comment section below. The more we all help each other out, the better.
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I've been actively taking photographs since I was 15 years old. I was young, and desperate for a way to creatively express myself. I'd always loved art class, but struggled with painting and drawing, feeling like I was never quite able to transfer the images in my head onto paper. It wasn't until I discovered Flickr.com that I realised photography could become my creative avenue.
Discovering that website, stealing my parent's camera, and teaching myself how to use it is hands down one of the best things which has ever happened to me. Here's why:
Photography Allows Me To Be Creative
This seems pretty obvious, but as I mentioned above, I've always loved being creative. For as long as I can remember, I was drawn to art, wanting to make things. I desperately wanted to take the ideas and stories in my head and make them a reality, but I was really not that good at drawing. Sure, with a lot of practice I got better, and by the time I was in my final two years at school, my drawing/painting skills had vastly improved. But I just didn't enjoy it. When photography came into my life, for the first time ever I could take the ideas I had in my head, and make them a reality. They were there, real, not weirdly shaped, or oddly coloured. Photography was the creative avenue I'd been searching for all along.
Photography Gets Me Outside
Before I picked up a camera, the only thing which really drew me outside was horse riding. Horses are the other big passion in my life (which currently has been put on hold, due to lack of time/finances - but I'll get back to it one day), and horses come hand in hand with the outdoors. Other than that though, I didn't feel particularly interested in the outdoors. It wasn't until I had a camera in my hand, and a will to create that I began to explore. Now, not a day goes by where I'm not looking up new places to visit, new countries I want to explore; and not just because I want to take a photo of those places, but also because I now absolutely adore being outdoors.
Photography Forces Me To Push Myself
People close to me know that I have dyscalculia, which is essentially dyslexia for numbers. Maths was always impossible for me to understand, and numbers confuse me. However, photography revolves around numbers; you simply can't be a photographer and not understand the numbers behind it all. So what did I do? Taught myself. I studies. I made systems up for myself. It took a very long time, probably longer than most people take to learn how to use a camera manually; but I did it. I pushed myself.
Creatively speaking, I also have to constantly be thinking outside the box. What can I do next which will push me forward? What can I try that's different? What images might people not expect? It's easy to get comfortable in what you do, but I know that I can't do that. If I want to be successful, I've got to keep pushing myself, so I do.
Photography Has Made Me New Friends
If it wasn't for photography, I never would have met Megan, which would mean that I would never have started working on Atlas, and I would not be where I am today. I also would still probably not know half of my friends in Cornwall, because so many of them I have met thanks to our common ground: love for photography.
Photography Allows Me To Work From Home and Run My Own Schedule
For as long as I can remember, the idea of working in an office repulsed me. I have always had a fear of working at a desk all day, surrounded by people, performing the same tasks all day. I've done a bit of that, and working in an office has never been as bad as I had imagined (in fact, I have quite enjoyed it at times) but ultimately, I'm at my happiest when I can base myself from home. I get incredibly distracted when there are people around me, so working from home means that I can sit down, concentrate, and not get distracted. I can run my own schedule, and because I work best early in the morning till the early afternoon, regular office hours just don't sit well with me.
Photography Has Given Me Confidence In Myself
Everyone struggles with confidence issues, thats completely normal. You wouldn't be human if you didn't doubt yourself. But if you can find something which helps you gain in confidence, then you should embrace that! Photography gave me that. For the first time in my life, I felt good at something. When I've got a camera in my hand, I know how to use it. I know how to make it work for me, and create something that my clients and me will love. Moments of doubt? Sure, some days I think I'm useless! But as a whole, photography has given me the confidence to believe in myself, and believe that I can do what I set my mind to.
Photography has done all of this and so much more for me. Do you have anything in your life that you're incredibly grateful for? What is it? I'd really love to know!
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