Monday, 11 February 2008

The live(s) of a jobbing snapper

Much of my work as a photographer involves versions on a theme. I specialise in working for political organisations either with a capital or a small p. So campaign events, conferences and individual candidate portfolios are nothing new for me. Each undoubtedly presents a challenge because I need to make sure my photos are never seen as being run of the mill, but I usually have a good idea of what will make the key image and I can position myself and advise my clients accordingly. So last week I was in Twickenham to take pictures of Brian Paddick with Police, meeting with young people and in the Polish deli. None of these were specifically set up as photo ops. They were all visits where Brian wanted to learn more about the lives and work of those he met and to get across the message of what he could do differently as a Liberal Democrat mayor. My task therefore is to get the great shot but to stay on the sidelines as much as possible. Much of the challenge is to find an interesting angle such as the one of Simon Hughes at last year's LGA conference (right)

This week presents two fairly unique challenges. Yesterday I was just outside London to take pictures of the 25th wedding anniversary of a friend. This sort of event again demands a reportage style. As with weddings, the photographer should never (in my opinion) be the centre of attention. I might ask people if they mind me taking their photo, but I don't want to interrupt a day which is designed to be (and was!) a fun social gathering for family and friends. I think I got the balance right with a great range of photos of most of the people there and just a few set up shots of the family themselves. Forgive me for not posting the pictures here but, I'm sure you will understand, it was a private event and the pictures are for their use only.

It did mean that I got to try out a new piece of kit (photographers love gadgets and there are always new things on the market). This was a fairly inexpensive items as these things go. It's a flash diffuser that looks like a miniature soft box and attaches directly to a common or garden flash gun with velcro. It softens the light, cuts the chance of red eye (I only got a single shot with that problem in the whole shoot) and provides a consistent level of lighting across a wide plane. Of course it also cuts the power of the flash gun and looks quite ungainly when attached but I was massively impressed by it. The cost was only about £25 from The Flash Centre in Bloomsbury.

Thursday sees another challenge. A friend has asked me to take marketing pictures of his garage which repairs vans and lorries. He warns me that it is big, dark and oily! So I've brought all the lighting I have and I'll spend the day experimenting to get the right shots. I think I have a special trick up my sleeve and may end up with a 1600cc Mini Cooper flash unit.

In between times, this week will be taken up with training work for Parli-training, a company I've been working for on a freelance basis for a while. I'm discussing policy making tomorrow and then speechwriting on Wednesday (I used to be part of Paddy Ashdown's team when he was Leader of the Lib Dems) and then on Friday I'm working with a group of press officers on how the political parties campaign in general elections.

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