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.