Thursday, 1 November 2012

Mr Parr

My College was recently visited by renowned, and some may say eccentric, Martin Parr. Since starting on an academic route with my photography one of the things I have learnt to do is be observant, not only in the world around me, but what others are doing and have done. I think it's fair to say Mr Parr has had a love hate relationship with his contemporaries and the photography world in general.
Henri Cartier-Bresson even said he thought 'he comes from another planet!' But in his defence Parr said 'that doesn't mean to say he dislikes my work.

Parr began work as a professional photographer and has subsequently taught photography intermittently from the mid-1970s. He was first recognised for his black-and-white photography in the north of England, Bad Weather (1982) and A Fair Day (1984), but switched to colour photography in 1984. The resulting work, Last Resort: Photographs of New Brighton, was published in 1986. Since 1994, Parr has been a member of Magnum Photos. He has had almost 50 books published, and featured in around 80 exhibitions worldwide - including an exhibition at the Barbican Arts Centre, London. In 2007, his retrospective exhibition was selected to be the main show of Month of Photography Asia in Singapore. In 2008, he was made an Honorary Doctor of Arts at Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) in recognition for his ongoing contribution to photography and to MMU's School of Art. (Wikipedia 2012)

Personally, before meeting the man, I would say I found his work comforting to the point he can show people and objects for what, and who they really are. I know of one student who made it a point of not going to his lecture as they said 'I can't stand what he does with his photography, it's just not flattering...not one bit!' 

I asked Parr a question 'do you think people's perception of the camera has changed since you started out as a photographer?' I'm not sure I got the answer I wanted, as he focused on the ability to take pictures of naked children on a beach, and how that has changed. For me personally I take that as a 'given' in 2012. Is this justified, or just a sad reflection on society?

©2012Martin Parr Magnum Images

I googled, Martin, Parr, Children, Beach and couldn't find any of his 'controversial' children images from his Last Resort body of work, so I think that should be taken into consideration. 

Over the Summer I produced a body of work to be tuned into postcards. Although these were staged I wanted to try and capture the essence of Parr's work in a contemporary style. I was lucky enough to have won the Telegraph's Big Picture competition with one of them.

This is England ©2012Matt Elliott

After the lecture what I took away with me is Parr's honest approach to his art and no nonsense approach to answering questions! I'm sure he's heard it all before and has become very think skinned.

Paulina and Heather with Martin Parr ©2012 Matt Elliott

Monday, 1 October 2012

Summer work...

Summer shooting...

I think it's fair to say looking back over the long Summer 'break' I've been kept busy with a wide range of work, personal or otherwise. Although I'm becoming more selective in what I do I am attempting to narrow down my chosen career path in photography, which is proving to be very difficult...

Currently I am now working with Foto+, a Plymouth based collective run by two of my college tutors Matt and Jon. They were asked to cover the Plymouth Raiders Basketball team's season which is currently being run at Plymouth Pavillions (home games). As I haven't covered much in the way of sporting events in the past I jumped, no pun intended, at the chance to support Foto+ in their new venture. This also gave me the chance to work alongside to established photographers from whom I'm sure I can learn a lot. 

©2012 Matt Elliott

So far I have covered three games, two friendlies and one league. In the past my sport has always been football and I only played basketball at school a long tome ago, so for the first two games I made sure I understood the whole ethos of the game and rituals involved. The hardest part I have found so far is the technical limitations I faced. The light is not photographer friendly and I would say you have to shoot at around 1/500th to freeze the movement. Even using Carl Zeiss glass at a 1.8 aperture I am finding I have to resort to anything around 2000 I.S.O to get a decent exposure. This sort of photography I would recommend to any photographer as a training ground in 'thinking on your feet'.
The rewards come when you capture 'that' sharp and dramatic image...and it's all good fun!

©2012 Matt Elliott

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Been a while.

It's been a while sine my last update and to be honest I've been really bust with the practical side of life, rather than just writing about it, but what have I been up to since my last post...

After mine and Al's exhibition, which I would say was a big success, I am pleased to say I sold a fair few of my images which isn't what it was 'all' about. I get very tired of people talking about art in pounds and pence all the time, I think when you get to a decent standard and are only in it for the money where does your passion really lie? Yes we all need to make a living but I didn't start producing images because I wanted to chase the money, and trust me if I did I would be living on the street right now.
 After my appearance on Show me the Monet people said how I under-valued my work. I'm not a well established artist, I'm someone who's worked and is working very hard at trying to get there, this I'm glad to say came across on the show. Although I didn't make it through to the exhibition this was down to my choice of image not having enough emotional content, however well received. I was slightly disappointed with the edit as I got some really positive feedback which wasn't shown but all in all a positive experience and I would recommend anyone who is passionate about there art to go for it!
I have recently entered two images for the Taylor Wessing portrait prize and worked fairly hard to produce two contemporary images, Jon Eggins (farmer) and Mark Ormrod (ex-Marine). Looking back at past entrants this is an extremely tough competition and your have no room for error.

Mark Ormrod©2012MattElliott

Although I didn't get the light I wanted while working with Mark and wanted a different backdrop,  I used several symbolic markers and didn't want the viewer to concentrate on Marks disability but rather as inspiration and determination. Royal Marines spend a lot of their time on Dartmoor training and generally getting wet and cold, I should know, this, I hope, gives the image a great sense depth...but the rest I guess is down to the panel of judges.

Jon Eggins ©2012Matt Elliott

With Jon I used a ranger lighting kit, one key light with a soft box and one without at a ratio of 1:2. I also metered for the highlights as at the time the backdrop was lighter than I wanted. This is one of my favourite images and I guess if you're not into photography you would just say it's a picture of a farmer. I planed for Jon to fit in with his background and it was just a case of saying 'don't smile please'. If I don't get anywhere with these images I would just love some professional critique.

As per normal I've been carrying on with my portrait work and weddings, I still don't consider this to be 'work' as I'm enjoying it way too much! On Saturday I spent 14 hours pretty much shooting, apart from from stopping to have the odd pint or two and eating, I didn't ever question my passion for what I was doing. I have to give a mention to the people involved, who gave me so much praise for my hard work...thanks it meant a lot (you also have 555 images to see after your honeymoon).

Gaz and Paul ©2012MattElliott

Now for the Summer I have a lot of shoots planned, some work, some for Uni and more importantly some just because I love this art...

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Where I stand...

Watch this first...

''The most important thing you can do is a lot of work, a huge volume of work''

When I first picked up a DSLR I had no idea about how hooked I would get. Yes I've used cameras before; for snapshots, sometimes disposable ones when out on the drink and sometimes pocket cameras when I've been on holiday...but there was something about the possibilities of using a DSLR and the control it gives.


I think it's fair to say I'm obsessed with the art, I could never really paint or draw, so always found it hard to express myself artistically. I seem to remember an art teacher at my secondary school even ripping-up a piece of my work and throwing it out the window...maybe I should have done the same to him.
If I'm honest there isn't a day that goes by when I don't capture one thing or another which for me is a big part of the learning process! No-one else is going to truly teach you how to use a camera, yes they may help you with settings and talk about formal elements  but it's really up to you to get out there and shoot.
I'm happy to say I honestly know what all the functions are on my camera, and when is best to use them! I'm not saying I've mastered it, far from it, but it's second nature now and gives me a lot more scope in the field I want to work in.

©2012Matt Elliott

I seem to remember a friend of mine saying there are three types of photographer, ones who shoot from the head, the heart or the sleeve. For me I would say it's from the heart due to the pleasure I get from it, the day it bores me or I lose my passion for it I'll give-up, but I can't see that happening anytime soon.
I'm always flattered when people comment or give me positive feedback on my work, I don't mind constructive negative feedback too; it only aids in the long-term. I'm also happy to help others, which I do quite a lot!
Looking back at where I have come from, with regards to my early images, it sometimes makes me cringe! I won't delete them as I find it really helpful to see how far I have come and how far I have got to go...a long way. One thing I will say is if you truly love photography and are passionate about will show and you will learn fast! You should always stick to your guns with your work too, yes take advice, but if you've made something and are happy with it then say so! I've seen the work of some professionals and coughed user my breath ''what the hell is that!'' I won't go into the question of 'what is art?'' that's way too long of a debate, for me I know what I like and I will say so. I don't look at someones work now and 'rubbish' it unless I've at least tried to put it into context, you should at least try and understand what the person is trying to express, even if it is a bit confusing.

©2012Matt Elliott

Long-term I'm still not sure where all this is leading too. I have a family, two young children and commitments, sometimes I look around at some of the younger students I'm working with and have a touch of envy. For some, they have the world at their feet and should grab any opportunity they get with both hands. I spent my early working years travelling the world in a work capacity, looking back at the places I have seen and things I've done, I would have loved to have had a camera strapped around my neck alongside my rifle. All I can do is stay positive, tick boxes that need ticking and not lose sight of why I am doing this in the first place...

*The images above I took recently while walking around the Hoe with a friend. To be honest I've 'done' Plymouth to the death now and find very little in the way of inspiration now, especially when I see the work of others from around the world. But the fact is, always have your camera to hand! I'm really happy with the images above, and it's quite rare for me to like my own work.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

A busy day....

With the advent of digital it's easier to shoot all day long without giving it a second thought, this may be the case in certain circumstances but that depends on what you are working on. When I shot my first wedding I came away with over 2000 images from an eleven hour shoot, looking back I would say this was down to over-excitment and not wanting to miss anything!
My most recent wedding was at the Livermead hotel in Torquay with Penny and James, who I am now very friendly with. Penny saw some of my work on Facebook and contacted me through there. I know there are some out there who believe Facebook is the work of the Devil, for me I have a personal page and a photography page, which I treat professionally!
Coming away from Penny's wedding I had shot 700 images from 11 am to 9 pm, looking through I have a fair amount of doubles which I always check through on full screen, you could have 'the' image only to find the subject has their eyes shut!

©2012Matt Elliott

Sadly the weather on the day was what I would call 'squint' conditions with very little contrast! I never like bright cloudless days with harsh light or overcast 'bleached-out' skies, but you can't control the weather and have to work with what you have! 
For this shoot I took a friend along who wanted to get an idea of what the wedding game was all about. As a second photographer wasn't added into the price plan Penny and James were more than happy to have a second pair of eyes. Looking through Paulina's work before the wedding I felt she had a good eye for the small details and told her to work to this. She was a bit nervous at first, but I told her to relax and have fun. I'm not sure after the day was out she had caught the wedding 'bug' but you never know.

©2012Matt Elliott
What I found enjoyable when working with Penny is she knew what she wanted from day one. I had already travelled to Torquay previously to plan for the shoot and study the location. Sadly on the day we couldn't use the small beached area for a backdrop so I made use of the steps leading to it for their posed shots, with a muted tone to give a classic look.
For some the traditional group shots are not wanted, which I'm sure will make some photographers smile (crowd control). However, personally I don't mind being asked to do large group shots, as long as you

  1. Ensure you can fit everyone in (wide angle lens)
  2. Compose your group well (can you see everyone)
  3. Ensure there's good light (flash probably won't be enough outside)
  4. Eyes, there's nothing worse than having four or five people with their eyes shut or looking the wrong way! I deal with this by telling everyone to shut their eyes and open on a count to three! 
  5. For the person who really would rather look at their feet be polite and ask them to look at you, it's their friend or family members images they are spoiling.
I'm still learning about wedding work, although I like to feel I have served my apprenticeship, there's always something you can improve! I never suffer from nerves anymore but what I enjoy is the fact no two weddings are the same...and if you get it right the couple will remember you forever!

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Take the stage....

Take the stage with David Beckham

I don't normally enter 'mass' internet photo competitions with a generic theme, however this one caught my eye! At present I am working with Mark Ormrod who, while serving with the Marines in Afghanistan, lost both legs and an arm after stepping on an I.E.D.
One of my ambitions as a professional photographer is to have an image exhibited in the National Portrait Gallery in London. This is probably the only gallery I always visit and where I have seen some of the most inspirational work!
Every year they run the Taylor Wessing portrait competition, which I intend to be a part of this year...with the right image of course!

Mark ©2012MattElliott

You see, share or like the image here... VOTE.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Time for...

Shoot with Amy and Katrina

Had the pleasure of working with Amy and Kat, two aspiring models the other afternoon and the chosen location being Plymbridge woods. I had spoken with Katrina on several occasions in the past about working together, but as with everything these days... time is always an issue.
My original intention was to do a submerged/semi-submergered shoot in the water to capture an abstract type image, however the water down there isn't the warmest at the best of times, I also need a new polariser filter for my 77mm lens to achieve what I want.

©2012 Matt Elliott
I didn't want this to be a 'fashion' shoot and there was no make-up or stylists on location, just a few dog walkers who were intrigued as to what we were doing.
So far, where lighting is concerned, I have normally used a two light system off camera, although I do have the resources to use three if I want to add a hair light for example. Generally though I have found in the past using one flash enough to fill in the subject against background light. Problem's I have found with using speed lights are the batteries don't last long, they can overheat and take time to re-charge, which means you can easily miss that 'one shot'.
When I first started shooting models I was always in a rush, not wanting to keep people waiting around, however there's no point setting-up a shoot to do make a mess of it!
Amy and Katrina were very professional and needed little or no direction, however if you're after a certain pose or look a good model is more than happy to oblige, it's not always about them wanting pretty pictures!

©Matt Elliott 2012

One thing I did try during this shoot was a multi-image blend which is something I am experimenting with at the moment. I asked the girl's to stand motionless while I shot 5 high speed images or varied exposure. I asked them to cover their faces as I knew the end result wouldn't be 'pretty', although after seeing the final result Amy wants to know what it would have looked time.
One personal concern I always have during editing at the moment is 'will they like the final result, or hate them?'. I am not a fashion photographer, and in no way consider myself to be good enough to be one, but I do get asked a lot by, it has to be said, girls to have a shoot with me which I take as a compliment.

©Matt Elliott 2012

I have found the more I shoot these days, the less I shoot. Digital is a wonderful invention, however it's not so wonderful when you have to trawl though thousands of images for little or no return...get it right in camera. I tend to crop very little too and when I do I normally keep to a 3:2 ratio for ease of access. Looking back at when I started the crop tool was never constrained, a bit like my eye, now I have made vast improvements in this area, so I must be improving and will keep doing so.
Even if this area of work doesn't interest you the best advice I can give is to do it anyway, what have you got to lose. It's all photography and you'll learn loads! As you are working with people lighting is key, and that, at the end of the day is what photography is all about!
Thanks again Kat and Amy, no doubt we'll work together again and I'm looking forward to the water time!

All images © to MRE-Photography 2012

Monday, 16 April 2012

Planning for the Pipe.

I recently went to the Pipe Gallery, New Street Plymouth, to watch a couple of local bands. I had only heard about the place from a friend, who said it was available for public hire; and as soon as I walked into the place I thought it would be constructive to hold a small exhibition there.
It's not one of the easiest places to find, I've walked past it on several occasions and not even noticed it was there. I have also used New Street as a location for several shoots, being a part of what is left of 'old' Plymouth. The lighting at the right time of day is ideal for control and furthermore the texture of the brickwork and cobble stones can really add texture to your backdrop...well worth investigating!

©2012 Pin Lane Matt Elliott

Although only in the early stages of planning I have decided to hold the exhibition there with a friend of mine, Al Smith, who is a keen photographer with a good eye for the art. Al has recently returned to his home city after spending several years teaching in Japan, but will probably be returning there to further develop his own unique style of photography.

With regards to the planning so far, we thought it best if we held an open night with drink, nibbles and music (we already have a playlist thanks to a few bottles of red the other evening). As the Pipe is such a unique space and there are two of us, we will each exhibit our work using one side each, there will also be projected images throughout the night followed by a short stills film which I am working on now.
The lighting may cause concern so this may be supplied by us to make sure the images are done justice.
When we took a look on Saturday to get a feel for the place local artist Katie Shaw was holding a week long exhibition of her paintings. Katie has just recently finished her degree at Plymouth University, but will be shortly moving to London to find fame and fortune. I also asked her, while viewing her work, if she wanted a picture of her for future reference, good luck Katie, nice to have met you.

Katie Shaw at the Pipe ©2012 Matt Elliott

What I haven't decided so far is what exactly I will exhibit. A body of work with a theme or an example of my previous images. One idea which has already come to mind is to use only New Street as a backdrop! Although images will all be available for purchase, that's not what it's about for Al and I; however putting a contemporary twist on a street local people may take for granted, may evoke some emotional response! I have already had this in the past several times with my work and it's a great sense of achievement! 

Missing ©2012 Matt Elliott

Al and I are not expecting a huge crowd to attend our first open night, but we will be doing our best to let close friends and the art community know to make it an enjoyable evening. Obviously the work is important to both of us, but this is being staged as a social event too...

Watch this space, however at present it is more than likely to be Early June '12!

Monday, 9 April 2012

An interview with Kenneth Lehtinen

Recently I was lucky enough to interview Kenneth Lehtinen, a photographer who I was introduced to by a friend some time ago...

Firstly thanks very much for agreeing to answering a few of my questions Kenneth. As you already know I'm a big fan of your work and I would also like to say how approachable I have found you no matter how busy you've been...It's a quality I admire in people!

©Kenneth Lehtinen 2012

Can you start of by telling me a bit about yourself and your background...

I´m Freelance photographer based in Helsinki, and I have degrees in Psychology and Photography. Capturing emotions and reflections of human personality is something I want so see in my photos.

When was it you first picked-up a camera and knew this was for you?

I acquired a small compact camera in 2004. The start wasn´t very promising but the freedom and the peace of mind photography gave me was something special. In 2006 I really started to work on my photography skills and read magazines and books. The pictures started to transform from snapshots to photographs. That was the moment that I knew this was for me.

It´s a everyday struggle to get better and to be more and more diverse photographer. It´s also a challenge not to be caught up in the routines and to challenge yourself and step out of the box. It´s all about the journey, not about the final destination.

Digital or film and why?

Coming from a purely digital background, film and its strengths are interesting and something I want to explore as a hobbyist, but not as a professional. I like to use all sorts of platforms of photography starting from mobile phone cameras. Day to day professional work is 100% digital, the world doesn´t want to wait and to be honest neither do I. Shoot, edit, deliver and bill the client.

Who inspires you?

That´s a challenging question to answer. Arno Rafael Minkkinen, Pentti Sammallahti, Richard Avedon and Joe Mcnally, to name a few. Joe is an everyday hero of mine, he has the skills to turn even the most modest environment in to an interesting and a well lit place. This is partially a reflection to Finnish photographers who complain a lot about the lack of light here up North. Finland is a though place to take photos that is for sure, but it´s also about skills to “make the shot”.

Minkkinen, Sammallahti and Avedon are true artist as photographers are concerned. I don´t see much of their work in mine but their skills and mastery what they do (and did) is something that leaves me breathless and makes me want to do better.

It´s also inspiring to see fellow photographers getting better and advancing their photographic skills. 

What changes have you seen since you first started working is this field and what would you like to see more or less of?

First of all, photography seems to get more and more about the tech and gear, not about vision and creativity. Sure gear matters, but its just circuit boards and plastics that are needed to capture photos. I want so see more emphasis in books and camera magazines about creativity, not news about the latest “Expeed Processor that makes your pictures stand out”.

Secondly, it’s the working field in photography. Commissions are getting smaller and the working terms are becoming to be unacceptable. Big newspapers are demanding full rights of your photos with minimal fee. At the same time photographers have to take full responsibility where their photos are used, even if the newspaper fully decide where they sell the photos without consulting the photographer.

Also the quality of the photos doesn´t seem to matter anymore, readers take photos for newspaper with mobile phones for a change to win movie tickets. This is the case with tabloid magazines and yellow papers, real photographers aren´t really needed there.

What advice would you give to anyone wanting to work within the field of gig photography?

Patience is the key. Know your gear and have a deep understanding of light and post processing.
When you get those sorted you have to know the artist what they do and how they act.

Gig photography is pretty popular these days. So be polite to other photographers and make sure you give them space to work, too. In a small country like Finland people tend to remember if your manners aren´t as they should be.

Last but not least. Fans and bands go first. Don´t ruin the fans night with your photography, so try to be out of the way as much as you can, so people can enjoy the show. They paid for their tickets.

©Kenneth Lehtinen 2012

Where do you see yourself in five years time?

I hope to see myself doing more and more educational work teaching and mentoring other photographers along the work I do today. I want to continue writing books and photograph only what really inspires me.  Those gigs I do only to support my family will have to go. This means getting an additional career to photography. Getting those pieces to fit will be a puzzle that I hope I´ve solved in five years time.

Working professionally do you ever wish you only did this as a hobby, or just for the love of it

Yes I do, but luckily I can do it as a hobby aswell when I´m of work. At the moment, most of my leisure time photos seem to end up as professional work later. For example, most photos of my photography books and articles in camera magazines are taken in my leisure time, not when I was working for a client.

If any, what advice would you give to anyone trying to make it as a photographer in 2012.

Build a strong network, be diverse and make sure that every client’s work is your dream account, even when it´s not. Getting things right with your first commission usually means you get another gig too. Be a working man with your clients and a artist at your own time.

I hear a lot of photographers saying that they are looking for that 'one image'. If there was an image that could define you what would it be?

There is that one photograph I want to capture so badly, but hopefully I will never get it. I seem to capture a reflection, piece or part of it, but never that “one perfect shot “ that defines me as a photographer. Getting that shot would mean the end of photography for me.

© Kenneth Lehtinen 2012

What are you working on at the moment?

I´m working on my fourth and fitfh educational photography book. The fourth is a book for the hobbyist out there who want to capture those special everyday moments in their family life. Everything from birth to death and between will covered. I hope to include some basic developmental psychology there as well.

I’m also working with an exhibition of rock photos with the fabulous Mikko Pylkkö, Aku-Axel Muukka, Henri Käck, Petri Vilén, Jussi Eerola and Markus Lehto. We’re going on tour with our work in several major cities in Finland under the name of Live N´ Loud.

Future emphasis in my photography will be in potrait, street photography and abstract works.

© Kenneth Lehtinen 2012

Well thank you so much for agreeing to take time out of your busy work and family life Kenneth! I also hope you don't get that final image as you know already how much I admire your work, as for working in education your students will be very lucky indeed!

You can find details about Kenneth and his work here:-

© Kenneth Lihtinen 2012

Friday, 6 April 2012

Models, mayhem and misfits...

Do you do TF?

When I was first asked about TF I didn't have a clue what the person was talking about but after doing a few TF's I consider it a really valuable resource for any photographer wanting to learn about...

  • lighting
  • working with people
  • directing
  • fashion
  • camera control
  • creativity
  • and building their portfolio
The concept of 'time for' is an easy one and works for both the aspiring subject and the photographer. I know a lot of photographers who at some point wanted to try their hand at model shoots just to see what it was all about and if they were any good at it. Personally I get a great deal of enjoyment from it, and although at present it may not be the area I want to end up working in, I've already learnt a great deal!

Jenny ©2102 MattElliott

Sky©2012Matt Elliott
After having shot both in the studio and on location, my personal preference is location work, for me it gives more scope to be creative and use your surroundings, even if you don't have total control of your lighting. In the past I have used speed lights on stands triggered wirelessly from my camera, and you can get some great results. 


In all honesty as yet I've been under no client 'pressure' and all the models I have worked with have just wanted images to add to their portfolio. One girl who I did several shoots with used my work to show to a London based modelling agency, and now is on the footing of making a successful career. It's good to feel I was a part of that, and although I gained no financial reward I did gain experience and was also lot of fun!
Since my first few shoots I get asked a lot by models if I wouldn't mind 'working' with them. At present this isn't always easy due to time and being busy. I think it's only fair to say once you have experience under your belt and know what you're doing, the minimum you should ask for is travel costs and a minimum payment for your time. I would say I am no where near as good as I'd like to be within this field, but know I'm improving and hopefully will continue to do so.


The only advice I would offer to anyone wanting to work as a fashion photographer is to get out there and do it! It's not always going to work but if you're passionate will show. Remember the work you are doing isn't just about the subject! It's a two way deal where you can plan a shoot and ask the model to perform for you. If you get the image you were after and they don't like it that may make you feel as if you haven't done your job right, that's not always the case. You have to remember they are looking at themselves, you are looking at an image and there is a difference.

One final point, don't forget your MODEL RELEASE Form.

Jen©2012Matt Elliott

Looking for inspiration, check out the work of Duffy...

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

McCullin v Norfolk

Looking to the future and where I want to be...

Life can get very boring very quickly especially if you're like me and don't settle very well. Having served in the Marines I've found it quite hard to settle into civilian life, it's not all fun and games while serving but when you get a chance to do your job, what you're actually trained for, there's no bigger buzz.
Looking to the future I intend to bring together all I have learnt from the two jobs I am most passionate about, soldiering and photography. Since starting my degree I have often struggled with the concept of war imagery being shown as art in it's purest form. I have huge respect for the likes of McCullin and Capa, who both served with and alongside frontline troops, without them I don't think the real impact of war would have been shown, people when reading papers/magazines generally tend to read the images in-front of them first rather than the text, which is why I feel it's so important to document the plight of others in any conflict, wherever it may be.

Recently I was shown the work of Simon Norfolk who I would say is more concerned with 'aftermath' rather than frontline action, this for me is more about photography as an art form rather than photojournalism. It doesn't immediately become apparent what you are viewing with Norfolk's work and needs explicit narrative. Don't get me wrong, I admire his work and understand his concept but the work of McCullin and Norfolk are worlds apart.

Recently when I expressed my intentions to get to Afghanistan to an an art critic, when they viewed a piece of my work (see toast on previous blog) they asked me what the two had to do with each other, 'photography' I replied. For me the camera is a tool, nothing more, nothing less, and you should be able to use it for whatever reason you see fit.

With this venture it's another case of 'if you don't shake the tree you don't get any apples' what I mean by this is I will have to bang on a lot of doors, cut a lot of red tape and ask a lot of questions to get where I want to be. My intensions are to capture troops pulling out of Afghanistan in 2014 and involve this with my last years B.A work. This I know is generic at the moment I will take a fair amount of planning...but it's what I do well!
Kabul Simon Norfolk

Shellshocked Soldier Don McCullin 1968

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Do you do weddings?

''I have a friend who is after a cheap wedding package...''

As a photographer how many times have you heard this, especially when you already have a few decent weddings under your belt. When I first found I had a desire to work in documentary style photography I was keen to see what it was like to work as a wedding photographer. In the early stages I would ask anyone I knew who was getting married if I could work in the background keeping out of the professionals way and doing my own thing, I would also offer my assistance, for free, to the paid photographer just so I could get a feel for the day and improve my skills. This, for me, is the best way to start, there's no pressure and you have no-one on your back, I also found it really enjoyable!
My first paid wedding I got off the back of doing a family shoot for a friend. Someone saw my work and asked me to capture their special day. I think it's only fair to say you have to be honest with a couple about to get married and explain fully where you're at in your photography career. It's no good just saying yes, turning up and making a mess of things! Weddings take planning, planning and more planning!

My first wedding ©2012MattElliott

For my first shoot I was lucky enough to work with Lee and Stacey who were fully aware of my situation, but also knew how dedicated I am. I met them several weeks before their big day, talked everything over...
  • location
  • guests
  • style
  • timings
  • special requirements
  • theme
  • style of images
  • ect...

I made sure I visited the location a week before to check for light and surroundings then met with the couple again to make sure all was set.
Couples want, on the whole, documentary coverage of their day, that's the joy of digital! You are able to get creative and make your own mark, and that's what should set you part from the crowd, this isn't to say you should go beyond what the couple are looking for! My first shoot I shot in jpeg, I wasn't knowledgeable enough about RAW at the time, however I was happy with the results and so were the couple! The bride had a few tears when I presented them with the images, of joy I may add. That for me was enough to let me know I had done a good job!
Since this wedding I have worked on a lot more and each and even time I evaluate the day, what I liked/didn't like and what I could do better. I am glad to say I haven't had any problems so far, and I think that's mainly down to my work ethic and planning.

I have a fair amount of weddings planned for the Summer already and am looking forward to working with all the couples involved. I NEVER shoot for free anymore, I think it's fair to say I've severed my apprenticeship and now offer a service which takes a large amount of time, and time is money!
  • Consultation 2 hours
  • Planning 4 hours
  • Pre-dress shoot 2 hours
  • Wedding day 10-12 hours
  • Editing (depending) 24 hours 
  • TOTAL= 44 Hours
So if someone asks you to shoot a full days work for £150 think about the amount of work you are going to put in and explain this to them in a diplomatic way.
Someone once said to me ''you don't need to be qualified to be a wedding photographer'' this is true to a point, however if the couple want Joe next door, who shoots only for fun, that's fine. If you're going to put yourself out there as a 'professional' then in my opinion you need to have met certain standards and have all the right boxes tick, but I'll blog about that later.

All images are copyright to MRE-Photography ©2012

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Killing pistols, guns, shooters,sex and ghosts...

Killing Joke 2012Matt Elliott

One area of photography which I've been told suits me is gig photography, and it's something I get a real buzz from! I have worked with and along side several bands already, some because I was asked to and some just for pleasure and experience! Recently I was lucky enough to capture Killing Joke on the opening night at the Lemon Grove in Exeter. As the venue was small (student based) I managed to take my full-frame camera in with some fast glass, I needed it! If you're interested in this style of work the best advice I can give is; use a wide aperture, get as close as you can without getting crushed, use manual, there's way too much going on to focus and your lens may be hunting way too much!
A local band, Guns Under the Table have already used some of my work for their recent E.P which I was more than happy to let them do so, it's a case of getting your work/name out there on public view...
Guns Under The Table ©2012 Matt Elliott

However, once you're on your way to learning your trade what you have to offer is experience and a skill, I don't know of many (if any) professionals who work for free!
SixShooter©2012Matt Elliott
One of the first bands I approached was Ghost Brigade, a Finish Death Metal band who were doing the circuit last year. I mailed their manager and the venue and asked if it would be okay to document their Plymouth gig, and they were more than happy for me to do so...if you don't ask you don't get, and what's the worst than can happen? Generally when I e-mail bands they are always keen, it's good to send a few samples of your work too, which is why it's SO important to have a strong portfolio. You can sell yourself, but it's for work that should sell!
Ghost Brigade ©2012Matt Elliott

I have found the small venues a great starting place, generally the crowd are more than happy for you to be there and let you get to the front when you want to take some close-up shots, as Capa said 'if your pictures are not good enough, you're not close enough'. 

Depending on what genre of music you are covering make sure your equipment is well insured, it can get rough out there. Covering the Sex Pistols tribute band there was a fair amount of drink/bodies being thrown around, which is the way it should be for this type of gig, but having your lens or camera smashed isn't so good.

So far I have never seen this as work, I've had way too much fun building up my portfolio for this genre of photography and am already mailing as many bands and promoters to get myself and my work seen.

Friday, 30 March 2012


When it comes to having my work shown to the public I have only done this a couple of times and it's an area I'd like to expand on. After my first year at College a friend and I exhibited some of our work from the year, and we were supported in the area by the Devon Artists Network. For a relatively small fee we were given gallery space for a week in Teignmouth South Devon, I chose to exhibit 5 images mainly about formalism and perspective and I made sure they were printed/mounted correctly to exhibition standard.
The only downside to holding the exhibition was the time of year, it pretty much rained for the whole week and it was at the wrong end of the Summer! Teignmouth is the sort of town to draw in tourists and we could have taken advantage of this, we could have made a better effort to promote the event, or even had an opening evening with wine and time.
More recently I have joined a local online gallery CYMK Digital Art and Photography run by Chris, a man who is very determined to make a success of his new venture by promoting and selling affordable art created by local talent.
Yesterday Chis hosted an open evening at Thirst in Plymouth, where the public were invited to view and buy any of the art on offer, I'm glad to say I got a few sales and was pleased with the feedback I received.
An image of the Mayflower steps on the Barbican which I produced on Monday was well received and I had a local man say 'you've made Plymouth look interesting!' This I took as a real compliment.
Chris intends to hold more events in the future, and the next will be at The Royal William Yard, TBA.
He also intends to open a shop at some point when his company is more grounded, and I hope to support him with this, it's just something I'm glad I got involved with. Although Chris has had submissions offered by a lot of artists, he is keen to keep the imagery in keeping with his site, however it's well worth contacting him and showing your work.
The only downside from the evening was the lighting; as the space wasn't a dedicated gallery with spotlighting, this didn't spoil the evening but if I'm honest it was the the only thing I could criticise.
Mayflower ©2012Matt Elliott
I look forward to taking part in more exhibitions in the future, and may even end up having one dedicated to my work...not just yet though.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Be The Boss

As an Ex-Royal Marine I was entitled to business support from a branch of the British Legion known as Be The Boss. For this I had to attend a business course, run by Business Link, which allowed me to develop my business plan, cash-flow forecasts and concentrate on my strengths and weaknesses. In the early stages of planning I focused upon my brand name MRE-Photography with regards to what I had been doing photography which I will talk about at a later date.
After I had been assessed by a panel consisting of ex-bankers and members of Be The Boss I was given a small business loan which was spent on equipment for ongoing and future use. It's all well and good knowing how to do the job, but you do need the right tools!
As a result of my meetings with the Be the Boss team I was asked to cover an event in London where I was paid expenses and £250 to provide images in a documentary style, it was also a chance to meet other ex-servicemen who were in the same situation as me. At the time I would have been more than happy to cover the event for free, but as a professional photographer you have to charge and it's only right to do so. I did some research on freelance photographers in London, and their daily rates which on average was around £500. At the event I was only there for less than an hour, I don't think I've ever been paid £250 an hour before...great work if you can get it!
Attending the event was the business MP Mark Prisk who was keen to question me on the help I had received.
Mark Smith talking to Mark Prisk MP ©2012Matt Elliott
What I took from the day is how to work in these sorts of situations. One of my strong points is the ability to plan, and it's something I personally don't have to put a lot of thought into. Get your basics right.

  • Timings
  • Equipment
  • Batteries charged
  • Memory cards
  • The right lens 
  • Will I need flash?
  • Look smart
  • Remain professional 
Anyone who knows me will tell you I'm not a big fan of the Conservative party at the best of times, but telling a conservative MP this while I was there in a professional role would not have gone down well!

As a result of doing a professional job, and providing the Be the Boss team with the images requested, I have been asked to work for them again. I wouldn't have a problem with that.

Meeting with Mark Prisk MP and Be The Boss ©2012Matt Elliott