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.

Authors Photography

Festival Faces Project – Stratford Literary Festival Portraits

It has been a great privilege to be involved with Stratford Literary Festival since 2015, since then I have taken portraits of almost everyone who has appeared at the Spring and Winter Festivals.

The Festival was started in 2008 and has gone from strength to strength, providing two events per year as well as delivering wonderful work with children and exceptional work with a prisoners literacy programme, for many it is an opportunity to get a signed copy of a new book by their favourite author. For many it is the opportunity to see national and international stars and personalities and hear the anecdotes that gives them an insight into a world that few experience. Many Authors are at the start of their careers, hopefully the exposure at such festivals shall ensure they enjoy improved sales and an enhanced profile and enjoy a long fruitful career as authors.

I am lucky that I get to spend some time with all of the authors and guest speakers and I appreciate the time they give me so I can take their portrait.

A portrait is what I try and capture, but what is a portrait?

A portrait is an image that goes beyond just been a picture. It is subjective but a viewer should be aware of the difference between a picture and a portrait, at least I hope they do.

I want to capture something about the visual commuication of the subject, when as they are in-front of my camera they are truly engaged in the process.

The subject has an idea of what they want to look like in a  photograph and the photographer wants to capture an image that suits their own agenda, the result maybe a compromise, ideally both the subject and the photographer are happy with the result. However many of my most successful portraits are not the favourites of the subject.

The subjects either they want to produce an image that is well received and is celebrated, or as I hopefully try to do is capture a ‘truth’ an image that shows an insight to the subject.

So the series of portraits hopefully shall be a historic record of those who appeared at the festival and that most shall be happy with their portrait?

The Portrait project has now got a dedicated website and it is the long term goal to establish an archive of portraits to be held at a suitable Stratford location and also to join my existing archive at Birmingham Central Library where the second largest archive of UK photography is held ( The V&A been number one).

To find out more about the Stratford Literary Festival – Stratford Literary Festival

To see the whole Festival Faces Project  Festival Faces


Photography for Brands

Its like taking coals to Newcastle, I am always working on brand photography for clients, its what was called, Advertising photography, but as the conventions of Advertising have changed completely, marketing a Brand is what happened in the old days when a few major ads would appear across the country on poster sites for clients such as Esso or B&H (Remember when we smoked?) . Now its about awareness, on multi platforms, from Facebook, Tik Tok to a Poster site out of Home, ie on a location in public. Confused, so am I and I do advertising for a living.

The same goes for a simple sole trader like myself, I have to be on Brand and across many platforms, just to be seen in the market place?
Well last year I had a major technical problem with my website, it was sadly a little old and needed an update, as my website is my ‘shop window’ I thought I had better address the issue and so when about looking for a way forward, I was lucky that having loads of connections I could ask around , but I also had the concerns of an aging logo and concerns about SEO.

So as I would advise a client, I took the hard route and started a complete rebrand !

A strange thing to do especially as I was entering my 50th year as a professional photographer!
However, I have no plan to retire and in fact I only want to change to a more sustainable business, work within a more geographic area and concentrate on the types of commissions I like.

First, the website had to be started, I knew it would take a while (always work in progress) , but I needed a new logo. I have lots of great friends who could have done a great design, however I have had a few over the years and I would have had yet another element to build a recognition .

However, instinctively I though I should return to my 1980’s ‘classic’ ? I had left it behind as fashion changed, but my GULLACHSEN hand painted logo was a thing of beauty, originally designed by Stu Newman a friend and Art Director/ designer who got a caligrapher to paint my surname, it was a recognised graphic that was a bit marmite but mostly loved, it was very much of its time, but as the 80’s and other decades has recently become more celebrated.

Once that logo was decided, it was down to my fried, Simon Hume at Milkbar Studio to put a site together, but that is only the start, I shall use the logo for marketing and comms, but also do what I have avoided forever, market me!

My work is what matters, however it is obvious that all marketing, is now about ‘people’. My clients work with me, and new clients need to recognise and engage with the person behind the camera.

So my logo shall become more visible, but also so shall I, sorry!

Branding photography from a photographer who does not have a presence and ‘Brand’ is sadly what I need to do, I hope that all the work I take for clients shall reflect their brand and market them, but in order to be commissioned, I need to show I can do it for my brand, so be aware. Brand photography should be seen to work or why would you commission the creator if he didn’t walk the walk?

Product Photography

Ember Home – new website photography for Leamington Spa retail and e commerce outlet

Some commissions start of with a simple on line enquiry and I was lucky to have responded to Ember Home and popped in to meet the owner, Rav, it was obvious they had great home products, a mix of antiques, vintage and new furniture with wonderful fabrics and decorative items the shop looks like a wonderland of decoration that is hard to define but is certainly very desirable. They already had a great website and were producing their own shots of products, however they required high resolution major images of the ranges that they could use as heading images. This is where it got interesting, because a large studio was required to shoot that large a group of products, would be expensive to higher and a logistical nightmare. So it was the shop itself that would be the venue, however to get the Brand colour backgrounds and to light such a space was challenging. The challenge of wanting the brand colours as a background for each collection require a big paint job, the use of coloured paper (which I hate) or green screen/ retouching? But I had a cunning plan and using fabric in the colour of the brand for each collection made sense and just needed finding and  rigging. The colours Orange and Teal were impossible to find in the width of fabric that was required so, useing plain material I dyed the fabrics and the result worked.

With a lot of flash lighting and a lot of grip ( Kit that holds the lighting and background), I turned the space into a large studio. The execution of the shoot was totally a collaborative venture, Rav seemed to have a superpower when getting the appropriate items together, moving items that weighed more than me and onto the set, I can claim the years of experience in studios was very useful when lighting items such as giant mirrors and textured wood were concerned, the resulting 8k images worked as the main image for the intro sections.

I suggest you check out Ember Home website and certainly take a trip down The Parade in Royal Leamington Spa to Ember Home shop, for me it is a great retail experience and I don’t like shopping.

Photography Studio North Cotswolds GL55

I have enjoyed access to a studio for many years, I was lucky to have had one in the grounds of my old house in Wimpstone till I moved in 2007, then it was somewhat ‘interesting’ with moves to Worcestershire, Gloucestershire, London and Spain. Then back to Stratford on Avon! In 2013 I helped set up a studio near Stratford and until the owner sold and moved away in 2019 it was a great base and I was able to shoot most studio portraits and product shots there.

As change happens, I managed to work from a home base with a great production facility and use hire studios, however I did miss a studio, a place I can easily set up, have kit on site and feel it is my creative space. I still shoot most of my work on location, however when a suitable location recently became available I jumped at the opportunity to have a dedicated studio.

So now May 2023, I have a studio base in the North Cotswolds, its only 5 miles from home so a bike ride away, and it is already making life easier, shooting still life products and naturally sculpture!

I shall be able to shoot portraits and am planning more experimental work that I would be unable to afford at a hire studio at £500 a day!

Like everything that sounds to good to be true, here is a catch.

As it is in such an idyllic location not far from the world famous National Trust Hitcote Gardens , I shall not publish the address as it is strictly visit by appointment.

I have already had a few clients and friends visit and google does not give great directions, it sends everyone past the studio entrance, however, three words works and when anyone gets near I can talk them down as a seasoned air traffic controller.

I look forward to working in this space and hope to welcome many old clients and hopefully many new ones to this small but wonderfully located Cotswold photography studio.

The Post Code start is GL55 .

How To Photograph A Glamping Site In The Cotswolds

Big Skies Glamping – Cheltenham – Cotswolds

The summer seems to have flown by, it literary did with new Drone work on some projects.

The super heat may have impacted a few days, but I for one was very happy about lack of rain as days were only cancelled for too much heat (In kitchen) and some clients just changing plans.

One delightful commission was for Big Skies Glamping, a new Glamping campsite near Cheltenham, a family business run by Vicki Pettigrew.

The wonderful venue already had a website but needed an update and more images for social media, so after few visits I was able to deliver an image bank that would refresh the site and provide much more material for next seasons launch.

My drone investment and training certainly came in use although just to provide overview and site visual to show facilites.

Glamping has become so poplular over the last few years and I am looking forward to 2023 to shooting a few more sites that have already booked me and I certainly hope to deliver more images and footage for this sector.

The website shall be updated soon, but if anyone is interested in this fabulous site in the Cotswolds here it is.


Big Skies Glamping

Headshot Photography Kit

What Professional Photographers kit do they use for Headshots?

A simple headshot can be taken with a smart phone, and in the right hands a decent result can be delivered, however if you want a professional headshot that is suitable for all uses, such as your Linkedin profile and printed in a brochure for an annual report, you require an image that is taken on something more serious.

For all the headshots I take for professional use, I shall use a full frame or medium format digital camera. I shall always have a back up body and lens, just in case.

The glass I use is dependant on what the location is, but usually I shall have a prime 85mm or 105mm lens on my FX ( Full Frame) Nikon or at least a 120mm on my Medium format Fujifilm GFX.

I am aware that there are many camera systems that are of a professional standard, Canon, Sony, Lieca & Hasselblad, I have used them all over the years and all shall deliver professional quality results, I am sure that others shall work, but as a professional I stick to a system that I am happy with, I have a collection of all sorts of Nikon glass that I use for specialist jobs, so I try not to swop and change systems unless there is a massive change in spec.

The second body is less critical as its only there as insurance.

I am currently using a Nikon D850 & a Nikon Z7 as back up.

The lens are usually fast but for resolution I prefer the 85mm f1.8 rather than f1.4.

The 105mm f2.8 has macro capability so it doubles up for other specialist needs, but as I also have a Zoom 70mm – 200mm f2.8 – so I am seriously ‘safe’.

All this happily goes into a backpack ( I favour the Peak design 30 litre for ease of access & lightness). I often decant my kit as travel may require airport spec, I use a Rimowa case with an insert, not as easy to access, but secure and approved as carry on with all airlines.

The Lighting is another matter,

I try to keep it ‘light’ (forgive the poor pun).

I use a minimum of three mono-lights, either mains Elinchrom or battery powered Godox or Profoto.

I have experimented with combinations and have also added continuous light to the mix.

The modifiers are a mixture of old and new, my old Chimera soft-boxes are the core of my lighting, from a 9 ft Octabox to lanterns. I usually just take a bagful for headshots, but each shoot has different needs. My go to light is an 4ft Octabox , two strips and two small soft boxes and the ubiquitous lastolite reflectors, silver, black & white.

If the shoot has to be fast and lightweight I also have speed lights ( A mix of Nikon & Godox) with modifiers.

Add to that I require a background, easy Pop up Lastolites, Black, White & Grey are standard, but I have some painted canvas background and custom printed fabric backdrops that I have in the boot, for special projects.

Colerama is something I seldom use unless it’s in a hire studio, but backgrounds for Headshots are part of the visual communication and are important part of some Headshot image – but most just require a neutral mono tone.

I did work on headshot projects back in the 00’s across London, just using just Tube & Taxis, I manage to get all the kit into a backpack, a roller case with speed lights and a stand bag. The background I would improvise, usually a white office wall could be found. The shot I took of Amal Clooney was done with two speed lights and a reflecting Umbrella as well as many of her Barrister colleagues

Headshot photography seems to have entered a new age, many people are requiring portraits for business, maybe this kit list will indicate what someone should expect when they are having a headshot, but it’s the person behind the lens that is the most important bit of Kit, you have to get on with them, and be happy to be in front of all the camera & lighting they have.

How long does a Headshot take? – That is for another day!

Headshots ideally should have time and a controlled environment ,but as we know the world is never perfect, so it the way you adapt to each location that is often the most challenging.

A great liaison from the company and a good schedule