Stockholm Syndrome (a self portrait)

Stockholm Syndrome self portrait 2015-3-4

I’ve been on a bit of a sabbatical from my portfolio for the last year or so. A devastating bereavement shook my world and for a while all I could do was get my head down and work. Methodically, consistently, straight down the line. Now I’ve reached another crossroads in my life where I’m emerging from my cocoon once more. Only time will tell whether I’ll be a butterfly or a moth.


5 Test Shoot Annoyances

Testing… testing…

Test shoots are great, on the whole, but they do tend to come with more headaches than standard paid photo shoots. I’ve compiled a list of the 5 things that annoy me the most when it comes to test shoots. Let me know yours in the comments:

  1. Being pestered for images – pestering comes in lots of clever disguises, from the not-so-subtle social media tag (“shoot was ace, can’t wait to see the photos!”), to receiving texts/emails every other day (“how’s the editing going?”, “just wondering how the images are coming along”), and everything in between. Pestering won’t get your images done any faster. Like most photographers, I fit my test shoots in between my paid work. I want to have nice new images for my portfolio as much as the next person, but earning money has to be my priority, always.
  2. People who try to dress up a free shoot as a test shoot – I love my job, and I’d gladly do it for free if I was in a financial position to be able to do so, but until I win the lottery I absolutely will not shoot your catalogue, look book or social media campaign for free. As a business owner, you should have a budget for marketing & advertising as essentials in running your business. If you’re selling products online you need good quality images to do so, so be prepared to pay your photographer (and your shoots would be tax deductible, it makes no sense not to?)
  3. Ungratefulness – when I’ve worked really hard on a set of images, spending every spare moment on them, sometimes when I send them off to the team instead of “thanks very much”, I get “are there any more to come?” For me at least it takes me on average about 30 minutes to retouch a photo, but sometimes up to 2 hours on a single image. If I’ve sent you 12 photos that’s an average of 6 hours’ work for me, on top of the prep and on set time.
  4. Sneak previews/behind the scenes – we get it, you’ve been in a studio/on a set. Photography is my job, I find peoples BTS photos as boring as the average Joe would find photos of the inside of a call centre. It also pisses me right off when I’ve taken the time to organise a photo shoot and everyone who was there is posting crappy Instagram photos of the makeup, outfits and location. Fashion photography is supposed to be aspirational – you’re kind of ruining that by posting those photos of a shop’s-backroom-come-makeshift-studio/makeup-less models eating Gregg’s pasties.
  5. Bringing your mates along – okay, this only ever happens with non-professionals, but bringing your friend/boyfriend to a shoot is completely unnecessary. Just because it’s a Saturday and not being paid in cash money doesn’t mean that you’re not working. You wouldn’t take your mate in to your office job, to sit by your desk taking selfies, asking your co-workers how much their PC was worth and if they’d ever met anyone from TOWIE, so don’t take them to photo shoots.


Share a shoot – Spring fashion in the woods


Here is a shoot I did in April this year with model Anna Fizzy and makeup artist Rebecca Powell. The idea came about from two sources of inspiration; the woods where we shot – I’d passed them every day on my commute to work and noticed the beautiful light coming through the trees in the morning. Then there was the orange eye shadow. I went through a bit of an orange phase after buying a nail varnish and went orange-makeup mad on Pinterest (I know, #girlproblems!)

Becky and I talked it over on one of our tea-fueled afternoons spent watching ANTM, and soon after Fizzy came to visit. Fizzy is such a great model in that she’s just so versatile. She can switch from soft beauty to edgy fashion at the flick of a switch; no matter how vague my directions, she just “gets” it.

Here are some of the photos from our shoot.




I back-lit the images using available (sun) light, with a reflector providing a little fill where needed. I used a wide aperture to create the bokeh and soften the overall feel of the images. Although this was primarily a beauty shoot, we styled it between us using quite neutral garments to compliment the makeup, such as the black jumpsuit with accents of orange and gold. Becky chose a vivid shade of orange for Anna’s eyes and kept her base and lips neutral, adding drama in the brows (Becky’s signature move!)

Shooting your portfolio on a tight budget


To shoot a decent portfolio as a new photographer, all you really need is a camera and your imagination. Sure, if you’re shooting for Vogue, you might require a team of 20 and an all-inclusive stay at a 5* resort in some far away land, but for the upcoming photographer trying to get noticed, what you really need to show off is your talent, your creativity, and not your bank balance!

A lot of my portfolio was shot in my living room, in corridors, in parks and in woods. Pretty much anywhere with enough space to stand a model in! My main camera is 8 years old and sometimes I even shoot on my mobile phone – nobody ever questions the size of my lenses or much I spent on my camera body, because really none of that matters. Your clients probably won’t know much about photography or equipment, they’ll just need to know what you can deliver whatever they’ve asked for.

I’m going to talk about some of the images that I’ve made with very little budget, and how I achieved them.

This photo of Abbey (below) shot for Jon Kinsey Salon, was taken in a tiny corner in the attic of the salon. I used a brollied speedlight and wireless trigger to give a soft, flattering light effect and edited the boiler out of the final image using Photoshop.

ISO 100 f5.6 1/00 sec


This photograph (below) was taken for a client shoot – the client was a group of fashion students with a minimal budget. They wanted a “tropical” theme, and without the means to get the whole team on a flight to the rainforest, we had to think outside the box. This shoot took place in the Winter Gardens in Sheffield city centre, on a busy lunchtime with office workers eating their lunches around. It just goes to show, you don’t need a huge budget to create something visually exciting.


ISO 320 f3.8 1/80 sec using available light and a reflector.



ISO 200 f5.6 1/60/sec using available light and speedlight/wireless trigger (bounced from gold reflector)

This image of Kat (above) was taken on a test shoot with stylist Hollie Race. Hollie styled and art directed the shoot, and we shot in a quirky café/bar in York. I love shooting in quirky locations such as this. I’ve always found that people are willing to help you out if you’re looking for a place to shoot on little or no budget, but it goes a long way if you:

  • Ask politely
  • Shoot when it’s convenient for the owner/management (eg we shot here at 7am whilst the staff were cleaning and left by the time any customers arrived)
  • Send them photos from the shoot to use on their social media profiles
  • Don’t disrupt their business

I’ve always found that having less equipment meant less boundaries. When your resources are limited, you tend to rely on your imagination more, which can only be a good thing. Obviously now I am working for paying clients I need to make sure I have a plan B, in case something unexpected happens on the shoot, but I’m much more relaxed from knowing that there are always other options (no matter how much it rains or whether the generator catches fire (true story) or any other act of God forces us to abandon plan A!)

Don't believe everything you read on the internet…