I know that technically it’s not friday, but blogging I am, nonetheless! I am so excited because I had the enormous pleasure of doing a baby photo shoot last week of not one, but TWO beautiful babies and I absolutely loved it and couldn’t wait to tell the world all about it.

It is a very strange feeling that you get from a baby shoot. I am not sure if it happens to everyone, but when I entered the room that the mummies were in with their babies, I felt such an amazing sense honour to be allowed into their little mummy worlds of sleeping, eating, drinking tea, breast feeding and some more sleeping and eating.

The shoot itself took 4 hours. I knew it would take a long time, as most of the time in between was spent drinking tea and breastfeeding the babies, trying to coach them into going to sleep. To be honest, neither baby was at all interested in sleeping, which was actually quite funny and absolutely to be expected. After all, why would you want to go to sleep when a mad woman was busy trying to take photographs of you?

I didn’t get as many photographs of the newborn as I would have liked to have been able to give the mother, but sometimes things don’t always work out the way we want them to. I hope to revisit Baby Benjamin sometime in the near future.

It was only in March that I did my first baby photo shoot and yet I cannot believe all the things I have learnt in terms of photography and getting a shot right – in fact it is never in terms of technicality for me, but more in terms of what I think will look nice and being a tad braver each time I do it, in order to get some of the shots that I perhaps would not have thought of getting before. There are quite a few pregnant ladies around at the moment, and I am really looking forward to doing some snaps of my friends’ babies as they start to arrive. It is such a wonderful gift to be able to give people and I do so wish I had had a decent camera when my little girl was born, or even had the inclination to have had some photos taken of her. Most of the ones I took were on my phone. I must try and dig them out and see what they are like.

I really do feel so grateful to be able to do this and to make this my career. Woop! ;o)

I present you – Baby Benjamin and Baby Harrison:

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Why I love Google+

People ask me all the time ‘why I love Google Plus’… or rather why I even give it the time of day. It seems that some people still think that Google+ is not ‘quite there’ yet in terms of being ‘up there’ with the best of them… I have to say that I disagree. So, I will try and explain why me and google plus have quite simply double clicked.

I first used it when it was still in development BETA stage as I had had a gmail account forever and been using Picasa for many years to store my photos. Google has always been pretty self explanatory for me. In the same way that Macs or rather using Macs is a very intuitive experience, so it is with Google plus. Now, anyone who knows me knows that I really only take into account the ‘fluffy’ side of technology. I am not particularly bothered about whether Google does or does not have ownership over whether or not they can use my images. I don’t really care about whether google is a match for Facebook or whether Twitter will suffer from the growth of Google plus. To be perfectly honest, I am far too selfish and only really care about whether it works for me…(I do sound terribly selfish here!)

Initially I loved discovering what it was  all about. I started to put a few comments in and once I had worked out who I wanted to follow, I just started following all kinds of people frantically. As I am interested in photography, the majority of the people I follow are photographers, either amateur or professional – whatever that actually means ( a topic for another day). At least this is where I started. I also am interested in Social Media in general, so my next thing was to find other people interested in the same, some that were more qualified and more tech savvy than myself. As you start to follow interesting people, you also start to get a bit more experience and find out more about them from their actions. This is a very wide statement and one that I will come back to. What it really means is that the more you get to know the people you follow, the more you interact with them, the more you get to know what makes them tick.
Of course, this is the same on twitter… but is it? Can you really get to know people in 140 characters? I would say that in all the time I have been on twitter there is only one person that I can say that is true of and we are now real friends in real life and she is no longer on Twitter. I left Twitter for a while and then came back, purely for business purposes and now I just don’t feel the same way about most of  the twitter interactions that I have. Anyway, I digress slightly!

So – I follow the photographers mainly and artists and really no famous people at all, as they don’t do anything for me. I have no interest. What really interests me is the sense of community that Google plus has brought about. Community or a sense of belonging, is probably the hardest thing to ‘create’ – it is not something you simply say ‘I want to create a sense of community’ and then you just do it. It is something that happens organically, if it is to happen at all and this is where I think Google plus has succeeded or rather where the people who are using Google plus are of like minds. On many occasions there have been some incredible tales of community spirit. Google plus as a platform allows for lots of people to follow each other. It also allows for a lot of people to communicate and engage with each other – especially in the photography community as there is a lot of love and many +1’s that come about if you post a photo. If you join in with the daily photography schemes then you meet an inordinate amount of people who love what you love. For example tree tuesday (photos of trees), coffee thursday (you guessed it, coffee), and I think you get the general idea – Macro monday! As people engage they get to know each other, more about their own lives, their woes, their successes. This is where the community spirit is even greater than Twitter for example. There is a lady who is bed-bound with illness; C. Corey Fisk. She is a paraplegic and can no longer get out and see around her, but is confined to her own four walls. Someone set up the hashtag #howwasyourdaysweetie and encouraged everyone to send a photo or collection of photos during a special week to Corey so that she might be involved and see what everyone is doing – a day in the life of…so to speak. It was the most beautiful experience to be a part of. Currently the lovely Lee Daniels who is also a photographer, is suffering from cancer. The hashtag that has been set up for her by someone fabulous is the #happythoughtsforleedaniels. People can then send her great vibes as she strives to rid herself of the illness. I also love that her mother has insisted on taking a photo of her once a week to record the illness and her suffering, so that when she is on the other side of it she can look back and however bad life gets, she can see that it is on the up. I don’t see people like this anywhere else. I don’t get this sense of caring and belonging, anywhere else. Twitter is funny at times and don’t get me wrong, I have met some good people on there. Facebook on the other hand is largely full of my friends past and present, not people I don’t know. In fact I only have two people on my facebook account that I have never met. I don’t necessarily think that there is any competition between any of these streams of social media either, as I believe that they all serve very different purposes. I would however very much like ALL of the above in the same place, sharing with each other, posting on each of the time lines at the same time (only sometimes), so that I don’t have to faf around all the time when I want to tell all of my social media friends the same thing… my friends are not all on facebook or twitter or google, so it would be great to have a bit of open sharing and integration. I doubt however, that will happen. I am also unlikely to shift all of my attention from one (say Facebook) to the other (google) as I really like the different conversations I am having on each. I don’t always want my facebook friends on Google Plus and I certainly don’t want all the people I know virtually on Google Plus to go on my facebook – which is why they are great in themselves!

From a technical point of view, Google plus just works for me. I love the picasa google integration. I use picasa all the time, and even if I am using something like Adobe Lightroom I can still upload photos directly to Picasa (and Flickr and smugmug, which is fab!). The hangouts on Google plus can accomodate LOADS of people, even though I have yet to use them… am a bit shy… I love that my albums are easy share and easy view and quite simply I can spend hours and hours on google plus and learn things, read things, never get bored, laugh, cry, and just be.

I have completely forgotten to mention Pinterest of course, but Pinterest for me is too addictive and too much fun! I love Pinterest but it doesn’t give me the scope or the sense of community that I feel when I am on Google Plus.

There is an absolutely brilliant and succint article about Google Plus on the Marketing Professionals website which I have only just read. It is well worth a read, even if it does have the same title as this blog – randomly – perhaps I should change it or perhaps its just nice with all the love for google plus coming their way at the moment.

I don’t know if I have managed to convince anyone to have a look at G+ in more depth – I would suggest spending a couple of hours or a couple of days just having a look around and posting things and seeing what interests you. If you have time of an evening, sitting with your laptop, watching telly and having a nose around Google plus, then I really don’t think you will be disappointed at all. Of course, it is not for everyone, but you are never going to find as many likeminded people on Facebook or on twitter as you will on google plus as the platform is simply designed better; better for posting, better for knowledge sharing, more space and better for engaging as human beings whilst not being confined to 140 characters…

Let me know what you think, once you have given it a little time.

Have a wonderful weekend! I am off out to with my 50mm 1.8 canon to shoot some portraits this weekend… maybe… if the weather holds – if the storms come, as promised I shall me in wellies, with a plastic bag around my camera, a child slave to hold the umbrella and I shall be shooting the rain! Enjoy!


My first wedding – an insight into wedding photography and being prepared

I have been remiss! I admit it. There I was trying to do a blog on my photographic escapades once a week, and suddenly two weeks have passed. I am not that surprised about this of course, as time does tend to run away with me. I feel so stuck for time these days, with so many things going on. It’s difficult to know what should take priority. I write content for websites as well as do photography and at the moment I seem to be doing a lot of jobs for free. That is OK, I like bartering, but the problem is that they all seem to come in at once and all need finishing at once. I guess that is quite simply the nature of both photographic work as well as content writing. Perhaps it is the nature of all work.

Enough of that… what have I been doing, I hear you ask… Well, aside from the writing, I was lucky to have experienced my first ever wedding as a photographer. I can say that now that it is over and that most of the photos have been processed. I was not saying that at the time. To be honest, anyone who can shoot a wedding is to be highly commended in my book. Not only do some of these guys take the most amazing photos, but they seem to capture everything! I am full of admiration for them. I was second shooter for a friend of mine (who is a great photographer also based in the Taunton area), for the day, which suited me extremely well since it was my first wedding. To be honest, I think I prefer to be number two than number one, but time will tell. What did I like about it? what didn’t I like? Its easy really… I was using an external flash for the first time… I didn’t like not being prepared.Being prepared is the one thing you have to be for a wedding, and I was not in the slightest bit prepared. I really struggled with keeping the ISO low, as I tend to shoot with the ISO always being high… it feels safer to me. With a flash though, it was needed to be as high as the images would quite possibly blow out. I was also not able to get the Fstop setting as high as I wanted it (LOW…so confusing)… so a lot of the portrait style images that I like to take were not coming out with the blurry background that I like. It is actually just a matter of practising and since then I have read a fantastic blog post by a photographer that I now can’t remember, all about how to be prepared for a wedding. If only I had read that before. I absolutely think I was thrown head first into the wedding photography shoot and actually, learning on the job is no bad thing at all. I also had problems with my SD cards and my camera… I know that I will need a second camera for the next wedding or I just won’t feel comfortable at all. Imagine if one camera breaks! The fear of failure is so high, that actually anything you can do to make that fear seem a little less, has to be done. So that means, lots of different SD cards at the ready, a second camera, being prepared for rain, having an alternative and back up plan  in case of rain… even if that means 10 umbrellas at the ready! There is a lot to learn.

In terms of the photography itself and the subject matter, I also found out that I am personally very fond of close ups and  it being a wedding meant that I had to do quite a lot of full body shots. I struggled with getting the images that I wanted – or so I thought – at the time. One of the things that I thought I would hate was the posed photos at the end. Actually, these ones were great. I loved doing the family shots as I was getting all the in-between shots, before and after they were asked to stand and smile, and these have come out really well. I think if I was first shooter on these and having to direct the people in to place, I probably would not have enjoyed them as much. I also found that the posed photos at the beginning were the ones that were filling me with utter dread and they are still the ones that I am unsure about for the next wedding. This is all about confidence of course and nothing else. It is all about confidence. All of it. I consider myself quite creative, but because of the lack of practice and the lack of confidence, these parts of the wedding are the ones that worry me the most. I think I will have to practice on my 6 year old!

Was there anything I loved about it? As usual I loved meeting the people. I loved being a part of their very special day and I so enjoyed meeting all the members of their family and taking candids or snapshots of their friends enjoying themselves. I really loved that. I also really loved the learning process and I think that however painful a process of any kind might be, if it it teaches you something valuable then it has all been worthwhile.

I think that when you do something like a wedding, the adrenaline runs so high, for such a long time, that you well and truly come down to earth with a bump that evening or the next day. I felt like I was the worst photographer in the world, I had a crushing feeling of being incapable, of being a fraud, of selling myself as something that I really am not. I agonised over the technical aspects and wondered why on earth I even set myself up for the failure of this in the first place… needless to say, the next day was not a good day. However, a few days later, some post processing of the images, some good shots found, and I started to feel a bit happier about what I was ending up with. I am not saying that the images, all 240 of them are amazing… they are not. But, in between the OK’s, there are a few gorgeous ones lurking. I wish I could post them, but of course, the bride is the one who should see them first. She wants to do wine and nuts (haha, she meant nibbles but it came out ‘nuts’) to view the images before the boys get to see them. I can’t wait. I am actually quite proud of some of them, and I have to say, that at all times the bride and groom looked absolutely gorgeous.  Just stunning. A really wonderful couple and it was such a pleasure to be allowed to photograph them. What an honour.

I have post processed the images, but I have not retouched them… this is a recurring question with me… I don’t want to do too much retouching as I believe the day should be recorded as it was… not as we would like it to have been. Many will no doubt disagree as perhaps they think it is all about getting the right image… I am not sure about that. I think it is about recording memories… what do you think? There is no right or wrong answer here I think.

I shall leave you with that thought. I would highly value your opinion as a photographer or a bride that was or a bride to be.

Thanks for reading! My next post will be all about photographing water and puddles – we have had a lot lately!