Never work with Children & Animals

The Wonder of Science

Never work with Children or Animals

This well known expression was attributed to an early Hollywood star ,W.C.Fields that knew he would be upstaged by children or cute animals , it also a good maxim for that for photographers ,directors and producers as the use of children and animals in film and stills has its own set of issues or should I say nightmares .

There are some great animal photographers around ,a specialization all of its own , the worlds greatest is possibly Tim Flack ,a fellow AoP member and multi award winning fine art photographer who I greatly admire . If you want to see stunning images of animals in a controlled environment he is one to check out ,although there are many who have been inspired by Flacks work and are following in the tradition of Animal specialists .

I am not a children photographer ,there are many specialist ,whom I admire greatly -working with the late Fiona Pragoff ,I saw how she could communicate with the ‘little ones’ and get the very best from them, others do specialize in children's fashion or lifestyle photography and earn a good income as the market requires new material all the time and there is a massive market that keeps growing ! Working with children day in day out is something I am not cut out for ,so becoming a ‘children’ specialist was never an option.

However as a photographer who ‘solves visual communication problems ,I have often found myself photographing both children and animals ,and it usually worked out OK ?

My earliest nightmare brief was to photograph a room set for Ronseal - to include a young family ,including a baby and puppy .

In my first studio ,I had a set constructed to include a large expanse of pine floorboards treated with Ronseal . The ‘happy family ‘ also had to be looking happy and natural .It was a shoot that took my patience to the limits ,to get a child to crawl on the floor with mum and dad looking on ,while a puppy labrador ,played with the child ,was let us say ‘interesting’ .Oh and this was shot on 5x4 so it had to be done in one shot . Pre photoshop and (cheap) retouching.

Sadly this image is lost ,but it engraved in my mind and happily the client and agency loved it !

It was after this ‘successful’ shot that I deceived that I should not actively pursue this area of photography . So cute puppy’s and baby pics were never seen in my portfolio .

However , lifestyle photography was an area I thoroughly enjoyed and wished to pursue ,so often ,I would shoot families (real and cast as a group) and have enjoyed many shoots often for travel related clients , tourist destinations, airlines,hotels and many commercial products and services ,required image banks of families ,children and individuals , something I enjoy and as long as the briefs come in ,I am always happy to photograph children even with an occasional pet .

Over my career ,I have enjoyed many lifestyle shoots ,usually ‘constructed’ as is most advertising . That perfect family with perfect kids are usually not related but are in-fact a casting alchemy that brings totally unrelated models together to create the perfect combination .

It is with a background of producing ‘lifestyle ‘ advertising that a creative remembered me when she had a brief for a school prospectus .

This was how I started photographing school brochures and supporting material for marketing and communication .

I have now a few under my belt , and applying a reportage approach with ‘natural’ light (often large amounts of flash or continuous lighting to look ‘natural) is how I achieve the look , it is essential to reqqe (reconnoiter ) the school first and plan a shoot schedule , ensure that all subjects are OK with been photographed , so the school has to ensure that if any pupil is not too be included in any images -they are not .

The schedule is important as the light in parts of any premisses changes with the suns position, it is not a good idea to have sun streaming into a classroom, and making everyone squint ,it can be wonderful ,if you ensure that the light is illuminating just a space . Building maybe required to be lit from within and from outside , so the appropriate equipment is available . Gardens may require attention and those wonderful creative spaces in some schools ,require a little management to make them look right .

Reportage photography was my first love, just observing and capturing images seems the most natural approach but it can be applied to constructed images, and now-days there is a need for images that look - natural . The technology of the digital age and the impact of social media has changed the way commercial photography looks in many areas. The past formal set up shots of pupils in class or enjoying sports have now become less acceptable ,and so ‘relaxed’ grabbed reportage images are seen a s more authentic and communicate a real situation . The reasons behind this change is the proliferation of images and the ability of capturing the decisive moment by anyone who has an iPhone ,or should I say Smart phone ?

As a purist ,I am still a great admirer of crafted constructed images,but as a commercial photographer I know that the communication is key and the appropriate technique is what is required ,especially when producing images for a ‘Brand’ .

If that ‘Brand’ is a School then the images have to be consistent and of a style that shows a believable and real location and the pupils and staff have to be those that the potential clients (i.e. Parents) can relate to and when meeting and viewing the school ,it is as and not a generic collection of images with no substance .

Here are some of the recent images shot for St Dominic’s ,Brewood .

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