I Just Remembered How Fun Photography Is

Baileys - the smile maker.

Blinkers. Yes, those things they put on horses to keep them looking straight ahead. But I’m not talking about real blinkers, no: these are special, invisible, metaphorical blinkers. In particular, I’m talking about the ones that form around the eyes of a photographer once in a while. The more you learn, the less you experiment. It’s the process of going from a hobbyist to taking photos for a living, or indeed to just having the drive and need to improve. We all get it once in a while and it can be hard to shrug off, especially when we’re looking for a new subject or concept but feel bound by the rules. So how do we start afresh? How do we tear those blinkers off (no, stop clawing at the sides of your face – like I said, they’re metaphorical blinkers) and find a fresh new approach? This week, I think I found the answer: you have to remind yourself that photography is fun. 

Baileys - the smile maker.

At the moment, I’m undertaking a couple of portraiture projects. One of them was born of frustration, of sorts, at feeling like I had no ideas, or that anything I could think of only took a quick trip to google to discover that it had already been done. Of course it had: seeing as there are 7 billion people in the world (that’s right, I read the news), it’s quite likely that someone has had a similar idea to your incredible, totally original megaplan that just formed in your massive, omnipotent, glowing master brain. Any project I could think of seemed boring, limp, overdone, predictable, stiff, stupid, silly. The only photo work I was doing was commissioned stuff – stuff I’ve been doing for a while for which I have naturally developed a pattern. This is an inherently human problem: we are genetically programmed to recognise and find comfort in patterns, yet simultaneously, we get tired of repetition. We need variety, change, difference. This is why we are often warned about photography as a job, because we find that when it goes from a creative pastime to something we do as a matter of course or a process we repeat for cash, it becomes that other thing: it becomes work.

Just chillin'

You can imagine my delight, then, when I began this new photo project and the blinkers came flying off at speed at wild angles. Tragically, one of them flew headlong into a small boy. Thankfully this small boy is also metaphorical and represents creative inhibitions, so we can all relax. This long term project was coming along nicely, when I felt something at the sides of my face. That’s right, further blinkers, only these ones were flesh coloured and therefore harder to detect at first. I sat down and sighed heavily, like a man struggling with a tortured, extended metaphor. The subject was interesting, but I needed to mix up my approach also.

The company I am following for my project had an office party upon reaching a milestone, and I was invited. As I am both never one to turn down the opportunity to take photographs yet also never one to turn down the opportunity to party,
I found myself in something of a quandary. Then I came up with the solution: I would take my equipment, set it to an auto mode to make it at least a little foolproof, and then set them loose with it. Tonight, they would take photos of each other, in a relaxed environment where they were in control of everything. As I handed the camera over to the first willing participant, a wave of consternation laden questions passed over me. Will they be into it? What if they break the camera? Will this work, or will it just be a bunch of terrible, unusable snaps? Is this cheating? How far is too far when breaking the rules? Has the gin run out?

I have no idea what's happening here.

I was absolutely delighted to discover that almost everyone was not only willing but eager to have a go. In addition, they took greater care of my camera than I do, holding it with extreme care as if I had given them my newborn baby. I smiled as I watched the behaviour of those with the camera and how it differed from person to person. Some would try to be more stealthy in their approach, waiting to become unnoticed before firing off a few shots at distracted individuals. Others initially took the camera with some uncertainty, gingerly padding around wondering what to do. I would turn away and check back on them a few minutes later to find the same person sliding down the wall into a crouching position, snapping here, snapping there, rushing around the other side of the sofas to get that crucial shot they’d just spotted. Some would simply observe and record, whilst others would get their workmates to pose or dance or do something silly. It made me incredibly happy to see people enjoying photography, to see everyone take to it and have a go and the fun and enjoyment it was bringing them.

That’s when I had a somewhat simple yet important revelation – they were having fun with the camera. Because that’s one of the many things photography is: fun! Somewhere along the line, although I had never stopped loving what I do, I had forgotten to relax and have fun, instead of being intense and super concerned all the time when taking photos.

I also got a lot out of being on the other side of the camera. As a portrait photographer, it’s important to get a sense of how it feels to be the subject as well as the photographer. That sense of empathy can help you when it’s your turn to take photos again. I also realised that it can be easy to forget that someone is taking photos, and you get used to it more quickly than I thought. This is also useful to me, because where once I might have hesitated to shoot, because I wondered if the shot would be natural enough or if I was being overly conspicuous, it seems that often this would not have been the case.

This is Dave. He has lost.

What was even more rewarding was that the learning process did not stop there. When I uploaded the images to my machine the following day to look over them, I was initially picking out all the focusing problems, all the low lighting issues, the odd compositions with peoples’ head coming out of other peoples’ backs or not being quite right in the frame and the strange choice of angles. On my first pass through the images, I was thinking “hmmm, can’t really use that, can’t really use that, not sure about that”. On my second pass, I learned something – on at least a few images that I had supposedly looked over, I had missed some brilliant moments that made the photograph worth including, such as Dave losing at a game of Super Puzzle Fighter, his head in his hands, which was being matched by his onscreen avatar and accompanied by the word “LOSE” in big letters in the top right. It was a brilliant little image and, regardless of how much intention was behind it, it had recorded a whole story in one frame. Surely, this is the very essence of a great photograph. I had lost myself in the rule of thirds and exposure levels, looking purely at the technical and missing the artistic, the story being told in the image. It was an eye opener for me – a technically proficient image still lacks punch and excitement if there’s no story within it. It’s not that I didn’t know this, of course, but sometimes learning by experience is infinitely more valuable than learning something in theory.

If you’re feeling burnt out with your photography or you feel like you’re treading water, it’s probably because you’ve forgotten how to have fun. Don’t allow the technical to overwhelm you. Remember, photography is part science, part art, and wholly fun.

Thanks to Gareth Dutton for this. You should completely check out his work, too!


Improving your post-event sales with PicsCliq

PicsCliq Logo

If photography is your job, the world of wedding photography can be tricky to break into, especially if you’re looking for it to be your main source of income. Maybe you’re great at shooting the stuff but have no idea how to get decent sales from what you produce. All those wedding guests are potential customers: if only you could interest them all in a getting a print of their own. Basically, we’re talking about post-event sales and how PicsCliq can help boost those sales.

So, how do you get the most out of your post-event sales? Now I don’t do weddings but, as far as I know, barricading the church door and only letting people out once they’ve bought a print is frowned upon and considered “a bit unprofessional”. A big frustration of many event and wedding photographers is that they find it hard to connect with their potential customer base once they leave the venue.

This is where PicsCliq comes in. PicsCliq is, essentially, a service designed to drive sales for your work following an event by taking advantage of social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. A service like Facebook is handy for increasing awareness of the images because, it can be safely assumed, a large chunk of the attendees of the wedding will have an interest in looking at the wedding photos put up by the happy couple. The downside of Facebook is that once a photographer uploads their work, it’s hard to control how and where it is used.

My wedding portrait of a (sickeningly photogenic) chum of mine.

PicsCliq integrates with Facebook, filling in what is missing from uploading on your own: control of the images and, most importantly, sales options for those who are viewing the image. This is the gap that PicsCliq is looking to fill, allowing you to take proper advantage of the exposure social media can offer you. PicsCliq refer to themselves as a “full service solution”, as they handle everything, from the initial generation of traffic, right through to the printing, packaging and shipping of the work.

It’s free to sign up and upload your images to PicsCliq and they only make money if they actually generate sales for you, so it’s certainly worth a punt.

Personally, I think this is ideal for new professionals looking to start making money from photography. Although PicsCliq are currently focusing on weddings, they do plan to expand into all kinds of events in the near future.

Go and find out more at

Krome: outsourcing your editing

Far more vibrant than I would have expected

We’ve reviewed all sorts of editing suites here on Small Aperture: free ones, cheap ones, and not-so-cheap ones. Some won our affections whilst others left us hyper-ventilating with frustration. But they were all aimed at people who have the time, the inclination, and the skill to edit their own pictures. What if you don’t have any of these things?

What if you’re a bit like my mother? The camera only comes out on holiday or at special events. You take okay pictures that with a bit of tweaking could be good, or even really good. But honestly, you don’t know what you’re doing when it comes to editing and really, you can’t be bothered.

Step forward Krome.

It’s a paid-for editing service. You upload and organise your images, and someone who does know what they’re doing crops them, fiddles with the contrast, corrects the colour, and does anything else that might make an average snap look like a decent photo. If they don’t think that an image needs any help, or if it’s beyond help, they won’t touch it and you won’t get charged. You can choose from a one-off service, which costs up to 25c a picture, or a monthly subscription that starts from 12.5c a picture.

But is it worth it?

I uploaded 11 of my photos and let my assigned editor loose on them. (And of course I gave them an edit myself, for comparison purposes.) Twenty-four hours later, when they were ready, how did things look? Well, some results surprised me, some also disappointed me, and others pleased me. I won’t take you through all 11; I’ll show you three examples.

The disappointments

Oddly, all three images that I would have sent back to be re-edited (which is free) were portraits. This one happens to be of my brother.

Original, unedited:

My brother, composing

Edited by Krome, and in my opinion over-sharpened:

Over-sharpened by Krome?

Edited by me, and sent black and white:

Josh, in black and white

The surprises

A few images came back and surprised me. They were by no means bad edits. They just weren’t how I envisaged they’d come back. If nothing else, it shows you a different creative vision. And I suppose for people who want creative control over their pictures, this is where Krome falls down, even if you can leave notes on each photo for your editor. She or he isn’t in your head. But, if creative control isn’t top of your agenda, and editing is just about having a better picture, what does it matter?


It's a dahlia. I think it looks as if it came from outer space

Edited by Krome, and far more vibrant than I expected:

Far more vibrant than I would have expected

Edited by me, and more muted:

A muted version of the alien dahlia

The thumbs-up

Some photos came back looking almost identical to my edited versions of them. I couldn’t really ask for better than that.


This is Incy Wincy. She took up residence by the dining room of the Small Aperture mansion in the autumn.

Edited by Krome:

Incy Wincy, edited by Krome

Edited by me:

Incy Wincy, me-style

The verdict?

For me, editing photos is part of the package of practising the craft of photography. Sometimes it frustrates me, sometimes it delights me, sometimes I surprise myself with it. But it is an important part of my creative enterprise, of me making my photos look as I think they should look. So Krome isn’t for me.

But, I reckon that Krome could supply a service for people who don’t really know what they’re doing with editing tools, and perhaps aren’t really that bothered, they just want their photos to look better. It’s pretty simple to use – although you do have to download a special image uploader, which struck me a little odd – and if you don’t like the edits made to a picture, you can send it back.

If you’re not convinced about people outsourcing their editing, think of this way: I pay people to do jobs that I can’t do well, or can’t be bothered doing. For some people, the job that they can’t be bothered to do, or aren’t very good at, is editing photos. So there’s Krome.