Authors Portraits – Stratford on Avon

It is a great privilege to work with the Stratford Literary Festival and continue with my Festival Faces project, Since 2015 I have set up a ‘pop-up’ studio and produced a series of portraits of the authors, celebrities and those involved with the festival . The idea was to create a body of work that celebrates a great cultural event and creates an archive that shall eventually be held with my archive at Birmingham Central Library and with an suitable location in Stratford on Avon, hopefully this shall be confirmed in the near future.

This recent festival of May 2024 almost did not happen as the main venue Crowne Plaza suffered a major fire just before the opening, the amazing team lead by Annie Ashworth managed to relocate the event and delivered another great festival, I am not sure how they did it but they did, the resulting events were spread across a number of locations, but mainly at the Stratford Playhouse & the Welcome Hotel.

Sadly this impacted what I could do as I need a set up studio to capture the images you see, so I elected to be based at the Playhouse, and only managed to set up a ‘small’ studio when schedule allowed at the Welcome Hotel.

Portrait photography has its challenges, often time is limited with subjects, but those I was able to photograph are to be seen on the dedicated project website – Stratford Festival Faces  

I am grateful to all the subjects and all involved with the festival, this and every year .


What is a Commercial Photographer?

A commercial photographer is someone who works for commercial enterprises.

Sounds obvious but what exactly do commercial enterprises do?


Commerce is business and anything that generates income could be a business and all businesses require marketing and communication to reach their potential clients and therefore most shall require images to use for that purpose.

In medieval times if someone wanted to sell something such as Ale, they would put a sign outside their house that would show that it sold ale, they probably started as wooden boards shaped as a

Jug or barrel and progressed to the signage that you see today.

Advertising and marketing have evolved and the way a commercial enterprise communicates its products or service has changed but it remains as basic as show the potential customer what you do and they know where to go for what that business does.

Commercial photography is simply that, working for commerce, but as businesses have become so complicated in the 21st century, commercial photographers have had to specialise and deliver to specialist sectors.

Architectural photographers will not necessarily have the right equipment or. Knowledge to photograph food for a restaurant in the building they are photographing. A photographer who works with clients that have an industrial manufacturing facility will not be equipped to photograph a family at home using the product that the manufacturer has produced.

However all these disciplines are commercial photographers, some shall have many skills and with experience a commercial photographer should be able to tackle most photography briefs.

It should be reasonable to expect a studio based photographer shall have the knowledge and appropriate lighting and camera equipment to photograph most things that are sold to the public, Amazon has thousands of items and all require photography, some commercial photographer will have photographed many and often the better quality of image the better the customers will understand what it is and does and shall purchase.

A simple  old fashioned picnic basket, will look pretty on a website catalogue as a cut out image on a page, but if it is photographed on a seaside beach with a happy group enjoying the picnic and sunshine, that shall be even more attractive and emotional so there is a need for both types of commercial photography.

A studio still life product photographer would produce the product shot, but as a commercial photographer they should have all the skills to also produce the lifestyle images.

I reality commercial photographers do tend to specialise, some as product photographers, some as people or lifestyle photographers, as their folios evolve the types of clients they attract tend to be the same as the ones they are already working for, so a specialisation evolves often without planning.

If you are interested in commissioning a photographer for your business first search for photographers that do state they are commercial photographers, otherwise you shall find wedding and social photographers that seem to be the most plentiful, but maybe search for the specialist skills you are after, a headshot photographer can be someone who is OK to produce a passport photograph but not necessarily a portrait that has substance and has the gravitas that you require as a serious professional for your marketing and communications.

A commercial photographer should have the skills to produce anything that their website has posted, check out the reviews, ensure that the work is consistent and it is commissioned, many can replicate an image with time and the use of Ai, but can they deliver on the day, on time, on budget and to the quality that you require?

A photography studio is often required for a commercial photography it may not be used for all jobs if the photographer is a still life specialist. The space that can be controlled and has the specialist equipment that helps deliver images to a high standard, the photographer uses the space that has neutral surfaces, it has backgrounds and tables that provide surfaces for the subjects, often having many types of materials from rustic wood, natural rock to high tech manufactured material.

Many photographers hire studios for projects, unless the studio is used often it can be an expensive overhead especially in high cost city centres, something that has to be charged on to a client making the fees very high.

This is why many photographers have moved from city central locations to cheaper industrial business parks or mixed use properties out in the sticks.

It is normal practice that a commercial studio photographer will charge a fee for the service he delivers and will include the studio as part of that fee, however if the studio is a drive-in facility  or offers specialist facilities the studio cost is then added to the photography fee as a production cost.

You want to become a commercial photographer?

This is a very competitive profession and if you are a skilled photographer it may not be quite what you imagine, as it is so competitive the rewards are not what they were, the market is full of photography graduates who want a foot in the door and see commercial photography as an attractive vocation, the more realistic option to becoming a fashion photographer, however photography is ‘easy’ with digital technology and the need to produce massive amounts of content for social media, but not requiring high resolution quality images. Images are required but also moving images and infographics. The future commercial photographers shall probably be using Ai technology and certainly providing moving and still images for clients. The skills required still will include the understanding of lighting and the mastering of many software apps. Studio space maybe required to capture some images, but the commercial photography world is evolving rapidly and a commercial photographer maybe referred to by another name, such as content producer or visual communicator?

It is a very exciting time and as changes happen job titles shall change, a business of any type will require some communication to reach its potential clients and images are possibly part of that communication, in the future they could be holograms or something we are unaware of, but someone like a commercial photographer shall be producing them, what they shall be called is yet to be decided.

Professional Photographer # Hacks

Over the years I have discovered a few things that have helped my photography practice, some I have ‘stolen’ from production crews or other professional photographers that I have seen  using  the object / thing / practice, but some I have just decided that they were worth trying. Photography requires a practical mind, solving problems in order to produce the images that you and your client want, hopefully those results are the  same, but that’s another issue!

One BIG issue is travel, with a camera and all the extras you need, as a travel photographer working with holiday companies such as Thompson’s  and Tourist Boards you would think it was easy, a couple of cameras and a few lens and maybe a tripod? Yes, but what about the lighting, reflectors and film? It was a nightmare, especially with film, that had to be protected from X-ray.

Now, it is easier, kit is still heavy, but nothing like the Hasselblad & Linhof I used in film days, but lens are not light, and as I always have two bodies and a mixture of lens so they all add up.

I have found that looking like a photographer attracts attention and is bad for security, so I use a variety of tactics to keep, low key.

Camera cases and bags are now very good, but many are too expensive and very visible as to their contents.

I was once shooting in Switzerland and returned via Milan ( A helicopter ride from our location at Zermatt) Shooting on a couple of Linhof’s, I could only get one secured in the aircraft cabin, and the spare which I had only had for a few weeks, went into a camera flight case and was checked in, at arrival back at Birmingham International, all was fine, except the camera case, it never showed up!

That was when I decided to disguise kit whenever possible.I try to keep kit in non photo cases and always keep someone with it. There are some camera bags, that are impossible to improve on, I have used many over the years, but now I use a backpack type and Peak Design seem to be the best, they don’t look too extraordinary, looking more like a hikers backpack than a pro camera case and that suits mme, I use three not at the same time, but for many projects, it’s a lightweight, small bag (20 litre) with a Nikon Z7 and three lens. The Main kit is a D850 and three or four lens, but access to a few cases of glass, and specialist stuff, like triggers, filters and remote controls is usually close by.

For lighting and Stands and especially when flying with kit I  used luggage suitcases and ‘Golf Bags’ – they are classed as sports bags and attract less excess charge, they are BIG, robust and imply a golf bag and clubs! Not expensive carbon fibre tripods and camera gear, I do not put cameras in but certainly put portable lights, reflectors, and pad with clothes.

I extend the same practice to my current basic lighting kit, rather than ‘this is expensive camera kit’ I use a travel case that  looks more like a  simple suit case, maybe with a few clothes and shoes?

I am aware that no bag or #Hack has made a great image, but using equipment that keeps my kit safe and me a little more relaxed about security, does improve the way I work, able to travel a lot lighter and not stick out makes my work a little bit easier.

More Hacks – please check out my BLOG again soon, there are more on the way!

Victorian Photographic Background

Ernst Dyche Studio Backgrounds, Birmingham

Victorian Photographic Backdrops

Ernest Dyche Studio backgrounds,Birmingham.

In the late 1970s I was lucky to have found the Ernest Dyche Studio at 354 Moseley Road, Sparkbrook. I had seen the studio many times as it was on a main road I often used,. I was informed that there were some interesting artefacts in what was looking like a run down property .

The owner Malcolm Dyche had ‘retired’ and lived at the property which was obviously a grand house at sometime. Mr Dyche generously showed me his studio, that he still occasionally used, the studio space was a wonderland, which I wish I had photographed, a ‘plaster cast white umbrella that seemed to be used as a reflector although no light source could be seen apart from a couple of basic tungsten lights, at the rear of the studio was a contraption made of wood and iron holding a background of off white canvas, behind were more rolls of canvas, which I was told were painted.

After a while I asked if I could possibly buy the backgrounds as I thought they would work for a commission I had in the pipeline. Malcolm and his wife kindly agreed to sell them with the stand for £200 if I remember correctly, back in the 70’s that was what I thought was a fair and quite substantial figure.

I remember taking a good half day dismantling the unit and loading my VW Combi and taking them to my studio in Digbeth (164 High Street, Deritend). I was amazed what I had found, there were also some smaller backgrounds not as large but also beautifully painted. The collection of backgrounds were used for a few tests then for the calendar commission that was produced as a stock calendar for CBE Moments who at the time were a major client.

Space was always an issue in my studio, so as the Background stand was an interesting object and the painted backdrops looked so good, I took them all home and displayed them in my lounge and that is what happened to them till 2010, they were part of my home furnishings and followed my moves to Worcestershire, Warwickshire, London then back!

I used the backgrounds for the occasional shoot, but they were usually too dominant so the subject was undermined, I did take one to the Stratford Literary festival and used it for a few of the writers and celebrities such Rev Richard Cole who was one subject that did work as he has the face that could be seen as ‘Victorian’ or at least Edwardian.

In 2010 I put the background and much more into storage as my circumstances changed drastically (Property / Banking Crash)  and I ended up back between London and Spain.

In 2013  back in Warwickshire I started to think I should get rid of the backgrounds, and simplify my storage as they were OK but taking up room. I also had an archive of 40 years photography and kit that seemed to grow every time I had to get something for a shoot.

I approached a few auction houses and spread the word, but unless I was going to give the backgrounds away there were few options. I managed to resolve my storage issues so I just had to live with the backgrounds in my new space along with archives.

Fast Forward to 2018? When I was attending a  tutor meeting in Barnsley with the OCA, there I met  Arpita Shah a fellow photography tutor who said she was working on a project with GRAIN in Birmingham and was researching the Ernst Dyche collection at the Birmingham library, she said that she was looking for the backgrounds that the collection was shot against.

I have rarely seen someone so happily shocked  as when I told her that I owned them.

Nicola Shipley from Grain and Arpita came to see the backdrops at my studio near Stratford on Avon and then  all became a little complex, as the 2022 Commonwealth Games were looming and a major exhibition at the library was planned with the Ernest Dyche collection at the heart of it, the backgrounds were certainly considered for the exhibition as they featured in most of the images that were shot in the 50’s,60’s & 70’s at the Sparkhill studio. The exhibition “From City of Empire to City of Diversity” The Exhibition was I believe devised and put forward by SAMPAD based at MAC.

The exhibition featured one original background set up as it would have been in the day when a generation of  immigrants would get a portrait taken to send home to relatives or just treasure as a celebration of their new life in Birmingham. There were also two copies that were used by visitors to get selfies, the exhibition was a great success and the backdrops are now safely in the Birmingham Archive hopefully there shall be restoration work done on the machine that holds the backdrops as 1895 was a long time since it was made.

I still use ‘canvas’ backgrounds, often painted my myself or dyed, as a devise they are as old as photography and certainly with portraiture some background shall always be required, green screen technology and now Ai can place subjects anywhere, but there seems to be a need for us to have our images with a context that informs, a surreal landscape or a glade backgrounds are going to be around for a while longer, hopefully the Dyche backgrounds shall be seen as part of photographies rich heritage  especially for Birmingham and its wonderfully diverse people.

Links : Sanpad

          Birmingham Archive



            Aripa Shah

How to prepare for a Headshot

Headshot preparation

How to prepare for a headshot photography session

Ok, so you have finally decided to get a headshot, you may need it for your Linkedin Profile, a CV or to use it for marketing and communication for you or a business.

The first step has already been taken, so next you have to choose a photographer to take the headshot. You can google headshot photographers and find a few, you may find many so how do you decide who to commission?

Geography is important, if the photographer is near you can easily get to them, or they can come to you, but the most important thing to consider is how good is the photographer and what style does the photographer deliver?

Check they have great reviews, see the comments and if possible check with someone who has used the service, or knows them.

Award winning photographer, may sound impressive, but what award have they won and did they pay for the trophy or certificate? Sadly there are many photographic organisations that are more interested in making money from photographers, than running professional accreditation.

The Association of Photographers and BIPP are both respected organisations, but no organisation accreditation is a guarantee, you need to check the work they produce and check it is theirs.

You have to have a purpose for the shot and also that will dictate the style that you should have, if you are a professional in a business such as accountancy, the image you may want could be far different from a portrait for a health professional, a tradesman, financial advisor or a beauty therapist?

If you are an entrepreneur you may require many images, for a variety of uses, social media, website communication and many variations for material you send out for PR.

The photographer you choose should have the ‘types’ of headshots on their website that you want to achieve, hopefully a good professional shall only use images that they have taken, not generic images from a photo stock library.

I suggest that you speak to the photographer and get to hear about what they do, but more important they listen to what you want!

They should then suggest a way to achieve what you want or give advice as to what you need for a particular purpose .

A professional should then be able to give you an accurate quote and tell you what you should have delivered and how that process works.

You should not have to pay a deposit or pay upfront, if you go to a restaurant, you should pay the bill when you have had a good experience and the meal. There maybe some who insist on a deposit, but it is not good practice and if you are unhappy with the images, are you going to be happy with having to be reshot or ask for a refund?

Once you have booked with the photographer, they should discuss what you need to do, I always want to have the discussion with the subject, or with the person who is organising the session on behalf of a company or group.

When the purpose of the photograph is established there are many things to consider.

First, Hair – if you are a bald man this is maybe less of an issue, but if you shave the head, ensure it is done 24 hours before the session, so it can recover from nicks.

Male or female, ensure you are happy with your styling, do you need a hair cut? Is your style best a day after a wash? Only you know what works best, so plan any visit to the hair stylist to be before the photo session.

What should I wear for a headshot?

There are no rights or wrongs with what you wear, but there are many ways that the clothes you are wearing can enhance the end result and many ways an item can dominate the image in a way that is detrimental so here are some guidelines.

If possible bring an extra set of clothes, a spilt coffee can create an issue or a colour can clash with the background, especially greens & blues, as some photographers may use a ‘green screen technique.

For a business style headshot, consider using a pale coloured shirt or blouse, pure white can create a ‘floating’ head especially if the background is white. If you do want the mono-tone look, with Black jacket, the photographer will hopefully use a grey or pale background but with a dark black background he should employ a certain amount of back light to separate the tones, or you may start floating in a dark sea?

Fashion styles can date an image quickly, so this years ‘hot’ colour will not be so hot in less than a year, stick to the safer classics.

Avoid sports clothes with logo’s, it seems logical, but if you are a fan of a team, that can cheer many but maybe upset others, and it can adversely influence the viewer who could be a potential employer or client?

Choose a neckline that compliments you, a T shirt top can work for some, but a V neck, blouse collar or shirt opened are usually better to ‘frame’ the face.

A jacket that is not too ‘busy’. Checks and Jacquard patterns can create strange effects (moire effect) when on a screen or printed, have a choice if you can , with a plain alternative.

Should I wear a Tie?

The day of the tie are possibly numbered, but like all fashions, they may return, they are not a requirement as they were, but certain professions prefer a formal look, so its your choice, what tribe do you want to belong too? Bring choice of patterns and colours, discuss with the photographer as certain colours and patterns register in strange ways, often chemicals in dyes will look different to what the eyes register.

Do I need smart trousers or skirt?

A headshot can include the jacket and show the waist, so it is recommended to have a suitable pair of trousers, jeans or skirt with appropriate belt if required.

What Make Up for Headshots ?

In an ideal world a makeup artist would be at the studio, as they are at most TV studios and most portrait sessions for magazines, however a headshot session will not have the time or budget to have a skilled MUA on set, so you have to be able to do the best you can, but in the style appropriate for the purpose, a business headshot should look as you would when you go to work, not out at a nightclub. Again this is guidance and many subjects shall take time to do a great job of their makeup.
However, shine can be an issue, when the photographers lights are employed, they can be more unforgiving so a reflective foundation or ‘oily’ skin can create a problem, a dab with tissue can sort it but consider a ‘matt’ powder/foundation, that can hide the shine.

Apply with care: a photograph is forever, so check lipstick, mascara for detail, when the final image is out you can’t reapply.

A good photographer shall check for the details that can be cleaned, a few dust particles on a jacket, a hair that has stuck across a face and blemishes that are not concealed, all can be sorted by a skilled retoucher but it is always best to start with little to rectify.

With good lighting and technique a headshot becomes a portrait.

There are lots of filters and effects that can be employed, creating an image that is more of an illustration or cartoon than a portrait of a real person, it is not recommended that you get a photographer to use these,


The Photo shoot

If the session has beed arranged at an office with many others, you should have a time slot, when the photographer is ready for you, however the previous subject may have over run or there are delays, ideally the photographer should have a dedicated room or space that just allows you to be directed to the space where you shall be photographed, most photography for headshots is done with the subject standing, it is harder to sit and move around on a chair or stool, but it can be that a seated session can work. If you find yourself seated, be aware that shoulders tend to relax and posture becomes an issue, sit upright to look good.

The photographer should direct you to the best spot to stand and how to face the camera, there are many ways to do this and a photographer who is skilled shall help you relax and present yourself in the best way to the camera.

Do I have a Best side?

This is where you can help the process and get the best from the session, you will have a ‘best’ side, and you may already know what it is, so that is how to start, but the photographer may have lighting that works for a different view, so you have to trust the direction, but don’t be afraid to voice your opinion, a headshot is a collaboration and you want the best from the session, a good photographer should listen and take on board your opinion, they should take shots that you want and what they feel is right, the choice can be made after, but try to alter the pose, position and expression, have variety, a photographer should capture the variety but should also direct, suggest and guide you.

A session should be quick if all is going well, but if there is time or if many alternatives are required, then a shoot could go on for hours. There are no rules or one way to do this.

It maybe possible to see the results as the photographer progress, either on a monitor or on the camera viewer, this can reassure yo and also allow you to check you are happy with the results,

Should I Smile for a headshot?

Our natural reaction when faced with a camera is to smile, but a forced smile is not attractive, ideally the photographer should direct you well and a natural smile will happen, but a resting face with ‘engagement’ with the camera is what great models and experienced celebrities can deliver, a natural smile happens and fades, but holding a smile will become painful and not look genuine.

A serious face is fine especially for business use, but the look should not be that of a ‘Rabbit in the headlights.’ Practice- before you go to the session, get in front of a mirror and try and find your ‘best side’ get to see what expression suits you and see if you can smile naturally.
Try also to ‘connect’ with the camera – smile with your eyes!

What is the best Body Position for your portrait?

Straight onto the camera is what you do when you have your passport taken. but especially for a female, a side on position can be more complimentary, it ‘narrows’ the shoulders and accentuates the breasts, a straight on pose can be seen as aggressive or powerful a more masculine pose? But in todays fluid society the choice is yours, but be aware, everything you do in front of a camera has significance, even nothing, can communicate to those who see the image.

Posing in front of a camera is what we now do in this instagram world, but been natural and relaxed is possible with practice and good direction from an experienced photographer.

Good posture is something that is difficult to define, but if you are reasonably healthy and do not have a disability, you should be able to look good, keep a straight back and not drop your shoulders, just a good intake of breath can make a difference to the way you look.

Selecting final headshot?

A session for a single headshot can result in tens of images, at least 10 images, but depending on the session and requirements the photographer should supply the client with a good choice of expressions, if the session has gone well it may only be 20 images but if the clients requirements are complex, using for serious professional use and more relaxed personal use, there can be a hundred images to choose from. The images are not ‘finished’ but to be seen and selected so that the final images can be further enhanced and delivered as final jpeg files, it is important to be aware that these proof images are an indication of what the images can be, it is to select the best expressions and maybe the way the clothes look and the lighting. A photographer may select a few suggestions, but ideally the client shall choose the final images.

Final Selection of Headshot

Once the image or images are selected, the photographer should work on the final image and edit, retouch and clean the images. To ensure that small defects, such as blemishes and stray hairs are removed, dust from clothes and possible enhancement of the lighting, if the subject is a male, it may require a more dramatic look, or with a female, the contrast is reduced to create a ‘softer’ look.

The final image then should be saved as a tiff or PSD file, for archive requirements . The final image should be large (8K ) and a web friendly version (4K or smaller) be delivered so the image can be used for most web uses, but if a print is required a stable TIFF file should be used, with correct colour profile. A pro photographer should advise all that is required once the end uses are know.

The final images should be valid for a while, but remember , people change and using an old out of date headshot however good you look is not always a good idea, update every few years so the headshot of you, actually looks like you!


Property Photography in the Cotswolds

project case study

Photography commissions are usually for one style or genre of work, but some require delivery of a variety of images, and that is a brief I love to have.

‘Do you photograph property and food? Oh and people?’

Music to my ears, the answer is always yes, but in this case it was a big yes! Property especially in the landscape is certainly a subject I love, certainly when it is for the hospitality industry, hotels and rental properties have always been a favorite subject, add to that Food and people I am delighted and if the location is in the Cotswolds (AONB) then I certainly get excited.

The property owners kindly allowed me to share some of the images, however its location is only revealed to those lucky enough to use it, but it’s near enough to Daylesford so you know you shall be able to get some great food and retail therapy when staying there.

An Historic farmhouse, additional cottages, a Barn or two and an outdoor heated pool are not found at your average weekend airbnb.

With stunning but understated decor and attention to detail, this property is to my mind about as good as it gets, it is wonderful to see that a rural location feels timeless and yet so contemporary.

The development is to be marketed for exclusive use in 2024 but till then please check out a few images I delivered for the marketing and comms.

Sustainable photography practice

Green Advantage

In May – July 2023, I was lucky to have completed the Green Advantage couse at Aston University, I have always had my concerns about environmental issues not least because of early experiences as a Sub Aqua diver and surfer, I saw first hand pollution and growing up in industrial West Midlands it was easy to see the effect on the environment that industry has.

I am a sole trader but like any business what we do and how we do it affects the world. I am not perfect, but I am trying to do the right thing every day, source locally, work locally and have as little impact on the world as I can. Certainly living in the rural Warwickshire countryside does impact with my travel requirements,  however I do use public transport as often as I can, I do not use a carbon of-set ‘company’ but choose to donate calculated amounts to the Heart of England Forest, rather than into a ‘green ‘washing company. Cynical? Moi? – yes, It is often plain common sense what to do, so I tread lightly on the planet. I do have a sustainability plan, but I am also aware that the digital image world is changing rapidly. I shall post more next year, when research and a few changes settle, who knows, there are hopefully many technologies and new options , till March 2024, I shall just try my best to impact this planet as little as possible.

Why is a headshot so important?

A headshot says so much about you and in just a few seconds.

7 seconds is all it takes to read a headshot picture, when I say read, I use the word in the manner that paintings are read, the way that we observe the world, we don’t have often have notes on a photograph. Maybe a caption as to who it is?

A headshot is a very simple image but with very complex and multi layered communication.

The second the photo is taken is only a small part of its creation, the subject has chosen to have a photograph taken, or someone has made that decision, the process then becomes a collaboration with the photographer and the subject. The choice of clothes, of backgrounds and lighting are all considered choices.

If the process is undertaken by informed subject and photographer the outcome can become a great asset to the subject. The image can inform  thousands of people, many things about the subject, at its basic level, it shows what the person, looks like and hopefully in a positive manner.

The face can communicate many thousands of expressions that can be read and interpreted by the reader, based on the knowledge they have, however, the more knowledgeable the reader the more information can be understood.

Does that sound too academic, too complicated, too pretentious?

Maybe, but please  bear with me.

Here is a simple headshot, the subject required a new image for his Linkedin profile it could have taken under 5 minutes to have taken it and a few minutes more of processing and delivery via email, then posted onto the platform.

Simple, there is an image of a man, but without reading what he does, and why you should connect to him, consider these factors.

1 The image quality, does the image look like it is a ‘professional’ shot or a iPhone pic shot on holiday ?

The photographic quality tells you that this was a considered portrait and implies an investment on behalf of the subject.

2 Gender, it is a primary response to view a picture and put the subject into a ‘box’.  It is basic instinct, we maybe  liberal and open minded about humanity, but we react to each gender in different ways, and those who are  ambiguous maybe confuse our reaction, but we take note.

3 Ethnicity – without prejudice we cannot help but observe and take on board the ethnicity of the person, we take on board the type of face, hair, colour and conclude a type possibly from a location or heritage and it is certainly a major part of the initial observation .

4 Eyes, thousands of years we have learned to look into a person’s eyes, we observe the colour shape and state, the eyes can also communicate, if the subject is instructed or has knowledge, they have ‘engaged’ with the camera, and not just stared past the camera. We view the eyes as they inform possible action and reaction, fight or flight?

5- Expression-

    We have 600 muscles in and around our face, the combinations of expressions are massive, if you are Rowan Atkinson, maybe you have even more capacity to create an expression that communicates a welcome, a scowl or just boredom, we react to that expression, a smile maybe helps us feel at ease?

6 Clothes, even with a headshot, there are clothes seen, if not the absence of clothes  becomes a powerful communication as it implies the image is taken in less conventional circumstances, or it is saying something that we try to interpret.

A man with a jacket, shirt and tie, will inform the reader about the person, is he a ‘professional’ solicitor, accountant or at a certain level in a company?

A man with jacket, shirt but no tie, has as much to communicate, is he more relaxed, self employed or he is just more contemporary in his attitude to business dress.

Even if the jacket is seen a little, its cloth can be informative, is it a plain fabric, or a material that has qualities you may consider expensive or high fashion, both imply another layer of information about the wearer.

A man with an open shirt, or knitwear, could be IT, creative or wanting to communicate his ‘rebellious’ trait? A check shirt, can imply a ‘country’ gentleman, a a sports t shirt can imply a fitness enthusiast, or a sports fan.

7 Background,

A plain white background may inform many readers that this could be an image shot for Identity ID purposes, a light grey background maybe more neutral, but a dark or black background, may help increase or decrease the impact of the face tone.

Coloured backgrounds are seen as an additional complex layer to the image, what is the colour, does it represent a brand, is the colour significant? Is the colour appropriate for the skin tone ?

8 Colour or Black & White photography- A mono tone image, can be seen to simplify the communication, however as Black & White photographs are in the minority, the image can communicate a sense of history, gravitas or a just the communication of deliberate design, and therefore image  is more considered and then becomes more complex to read.

All of these signs inform the reader and in a few seconds a strong opinion of the subject is created.

Is the person in my Tribe? Do I trust him, do I like or am I neutral towards that person.

All these observations and possible conclusions are done in under those 7 seconds.

Already a great deal is understood, or at least, received by the reader.

So when you post a headshot on a social media platform, consider what the image is saying.

The headshot is the first impression and we only have one chance to make that !

Thanks to Murray Scholefield who was the subject of this complex headshot, for his patience and humour.

Marketing for Artists

Commercial Photography for Artists and SME’s

Marketing for Artists & Craft workers.

Like many small business a website and a business plan are essential for those starting up, there are many who want to follow their passion and become an artist, or craftsman. Great but unless you have a private income, a private trust fund, or a great pension, you need to treat whatever your passion is as a business.

Your passion and a few friends support can be a great start, but your art has value and its very important to get advise and guidance , stating the obvious but it seems that especially creative types are the worst, they often just want to produce great art.

A gallery may take you on but that is often the most difficult thing to achieve.

Sadly you are the artist and you need to market You! And your work, preferably both as people buy from people and love to know the story behind the art.

Facebook, Instagram and Tick Tock are platforms that you can use to create a following, sites like Etsy and many others are designed to help you make money, but before everything, they are making money for themselves, with $Millions involved why not.

Making money from art has always been difficult, just think of Van Gogh,with  one sale in his lifetime, he would maybe also struggle today if he started ?

There are many experts in this field, some great marketing people who can help you, but it all costs.

However it is possible to do it all yourself but it should include some great photography.

(I would say that wouldn’t I). Whatever you produce, it is never going to make money unless the work can be seen, marketing you and your work is an essential part of artistic practice, look at the ones who are doing well, what have they done?

Producing great art is only part of the process.

You have to be visible!!!

A good website that is ‘off the shelf such as Wix or SquareSpace is a great way to start, but if you are not great with tech, get a web designer to help. It doesn’t need to have whistle’s and bels, but it has to be functional and work on all devices especially smartphones

Images of your art, should ideally be produced by a competent person, a professional ideally but someone with a decent camera and some knowledge, as website are so technically able, quality of image is essential, an iPhone is not quite there yet, especially with such things as paintings and illustrations, ideally the work should be copied with professional lighting, and with a colour fidelity check shot on a lens that doesn’t distort.

If you are selling original one off’s it may require a batch shoot to ensure consistent quality and to make it a cost effective process.

Then there is the portrait of the artist, it is certainly something that has to be strong, it is after all your brand image?

A great portrait and ideally an environmental portrait in your studio is a great opening image for the home page, again a smart phone image is not ideal.

I would certainly suggest a portait shot in your workspace, ideally with the art in evidence, would be a great start, Headshots for ‘artist’ statement or just more material for social media, a small image of you can feature on marketing material such a postcards, or mini posters.

You as the artist are much more involved with the art, but a portrait of you helps connect your audience and potential clients with the art.

Videos and still images of you making your art are also part of the story, the communication that shows potential clients, you put in the hours, you are the artist producing the artwork and showing your skills.

If you expect to sell your work for hundreds, if not thousands of pounds, you have to communicate why it is worth that amount, because you put in the hours and you have the concept and skills to deliver a unique work of art!


Featured artist : Andy Gill – Potter and educator,  – Instagram

What background should a headshot have?

Black,white,grey or coloured backgrounds for headshots?

A large part of my commercial photography work is taking headshots for clients.

But what background should they choose?

It seems like a simple question, as indeed it is, however the answer is far more complex.

Black, white or grey?

Even these simple choices should be considered carefully as I shall explain.

The reason behind someone having a headshot is an important consideration. Is it for their LinkedIn Profile, a job application, promotional material, or perhaps even an official document?

Probably the most simple headshot is a passport or drivers licence image. The restrictions for an official portrait for  a passport or visa are often very specific and the details are available from the body requiring the images.

A plain white background is normal, but I suggest you download the specifications and check.

Visa applications with job applications can be complex and in my experience have to be carefully followed. The size of the print often varies and the photographer has to sign the image to confirm the subject is who they say they are and the photographer has to verify his or her own website and identity.

Often there is a time sensitivity, requiring a fast turnaround, and the quality of the print has to be stable and photographic rather than just inkjet produced.

The clothes selected and expression are limited as not to distract from the subjects face, the choice of camera and the appropriate lens are also a consideration, as well as the choice of background. Whilst 90% plus require a plain white background, I have seen pale blue or grey as allowed options in rare cases.   

Headshots for LinkedIn – Website – Personal Brand.

This is an area that does not have specific requirements, however the subject themselves often wish to have a ‘look’ that has a background that is more adventurous or fashionable?

Plain colours of all hues and gradations are possible, but remember the main subject is the person, so the more complex the background the image may say something far more confusing that a simple plain background and a well lit face with a great expression.

Choose your background with care!

White :

White shall be the ‘cleanest’, most clinical and the most official. It can also be the one that ensures your face is the most important element in the picture. Light coloured clothes can create a ‘washed’ out look, another consideration that has an effect on the final outcome.


Always dramatic in the nature of its ‘mystery’, a black background can ensure that the face is well framed and with diverse skin colour there can be a great subtly in the image, dark hair can blend into the background, as can dark clothes. The final image can also be effected by the way it is printed or delivered. Black can ‘spill’ onto a subject,  especially with poor printing, and it may impact images on the reverse of a page, especially if the background occupies a large part of the image and becomes ‘Low Key’.


Increasingly I am shooting headshots on a grey background, more so than on any other. Maybe this is a fashion trend, in which case I have been well ahead of the game as I have advocated grey as the background of choice for over 10 years.

The problem with using a grey background for a headshot is that there is no ‘standard grey’. Black and white do have variants but most people see them as simple binary choices. Grey is something that has so many variations.

Even a grey background that is made out as a neutral is never, neutral. The colour temperature of the light, its direction, and quality can produce subtle colours. Many people see green when they see a grey background, whilst others see a magenta tint.

The great thing about grey is that it unifies a set of images, and works with people across ethnicity. The lighting can change but the uniform grey helps harmonise a series of portraits as well as individual images working well.

Colour can easily be added to a grey background, with gel coloured lights as well as tone changes from dark to light.

Other Backgrounds:

In the context of headshots, I have suggested that the background is not a large proportion of the images, the headshot itself is what is the main subject, but there are reasons to choose different backgrounds, brand colours, design consideration all can be an argument for alternative backgrounds, but remember, if you are after a headshot, it should be about the head and expression, the background should be just that! Or should it?

The background of a photograph is an element that has to be there, it should be considered like every element but it is the sum of all the elements that makes up the final image.

So, when deciding who is going to be the photographer of your companies headshots, be sure to have the conversation about the background.

LG Nov 2023

There are two rules in photography.
Rule One – Look Cool
Rule two- there are no rules!                  

 – Lorentz Gullachsen 1988.