The new season has a fresh, new approach to podcasting and I hope you can listen throughout. If you’d like to jump straight to my segment, skip forward to 00:54:51 minutes. I’m discussing my passion for photography, street photography, wedding photography, shooting video and a new hobby I started during lockdown which has led to an entirely new genre of photography for me! I would urge you to listen to the entire episode though as it’s very enjoyable and informative.
Part 2 will be published the following week and I will make sure to post about it. The entire episode is interesting with a fresh, new approach to podcasting and I hope you can listen throughout. If you’d like to jump straight to my segment, skip forward to 0:45 minutes. I’m discussing our new group exhibition called Unlocked as well as various aspects of being a photojournalist, what photography is for me, social media and also the pandemic. I would urge you to listen to the entire episode though as it’s enjoyable and informative.
I went to see Salvador in the cinema, in 1986 or 87.
If you haven’t seen it, it’s about photojournalists covering the civil war in Salvador. Highly recommend you watch it! Also, there’s a spoiler coming up, so if you’re going to see it, stop reading, now and return once you’ve seen the film!!
In the film, the main protagonist is a photojournalist played by James Woods. As he’s trying to leave El Salvador to get back to the States, he’s stopped at a check point and roughed up. He was trying to smuggle out films of the civil war and these ‘soldiers’ find the films and rip out the film from the cassette, ruining the pictures.
As this happens, I jumped out of my seat and screamed out ‘NO’! To say my friends were shocked (all non photographers) and the audience most concerned, would be an understatement. My eyes were filled with tears and my heart was pounding. I had been a hobbyist photographer for around two years and this was roughly two years before I started working as a photojournalist. Having dedicated every penny to buying film and every spare minute to reading about and looking at great photography, already brought a deep association with important, quality work.
As photographers, we have a very deep connection to our work. It’s part of us. Its not a job.
The Less Than Thoughtful Client
I had a client a year or two ago, really trying to low ball some work and massively over play the usage, well above the license agreed and paid for. The response during the ensuing discussions, was “its nothing personal, its just work”!
I’ve had clients, trying to con me into giving away copyright, accept very low pay for it, with the almost definite lies of more work in the future (Which never appears. A cheap or dishonest client never steps up and each time one of us accepts such a deal, it affects everyone else after us and for us, the client will never return. The entire industry takes another step towards ruin). Unprofessionalism and dishonesty, never right themselves. Every time we give in, we encourage and enforce this behaviour as being acceptable.
So the concept of a truly passionate, dedicated creative professional looking at their calling in life, be it photography, film making, music, poetry, writing and so on, being ‘just a job’, goes to show extreme ignorance in understanding what we do, how we think and how we are.
Long term partnerships nurture amazing work, which in turn makes the person booking the creative work look great and retain their client or job. Happy boss / client, happy middle person and happy creative.
The sad fact that more and more, only cutting corners seems to matter, even be a priority and quality of work is no longer an issue for these types of people, means that society’s appreciation of quality is diminishing. Quality and thought can be in a great advert. It can be an Instagram campaign. A Facebook sponsored post. A point of sale poster in a shop. The client pays, the middle person takes the biggest cut, the actual creative making the work, gets cheated.
A few years ago, I had a huge multi-national company trying to get me to work for free, as they felt paying for my vision, creativity, experience, time and skill, would pollute the purity of the work and this brand only wanted to work with truly passionate people who believe in the brand. My response to this person was in the form of a compliment; praising that they seemed extremely passionate and dedicated, so I was certain they must be working for free. Needless to say, this was met with astonished silence.
Just because someone can push a button and accepts being conned, does not make them a pianist, a writer or a photographer. No one who truly cares for their work, will disrespect their own creation and devalue it.
Some Advice For Young Photographers
If you’re new to the world of photography, my first piece of advice is to research and never agree to a fee or license on the spot. Most dishonest clients will try the line that they’re right up against the deadline etc. This is a pressurising technique. Promise of more work as there’s a low budget, is also a trick. When faced with such things, I always promise to do an amazing deal on the fifth booking. This type of client never comes back for a second booking, let alone a fifth, as they are purely out to take advantage.
As for rates and what to charge, there are various licensing calculators, like fotoQuote or the AOP’s online usage calculator. These are complied from prices paid, for similar work and an agreement between clients and photographers. These are industry standard rates. You can use these as a basis to either quote directly from, or to negotiate near to figures. If your skill and work is unique, you can negotiate upwards, for example. There are also several photographer’s groups online, where advice can be garnered before making an agreement.
Copyright. This is yours by law. Its not the client’s. If a client wants a buyout, this can be arranged and negotiated. Never give this away for free. Ever.
Jargon that gets introduced into any conversation about working on a computer, ranging from moans about things taking too long to physically painful woes. As creatives though, we’re using computers in much more in-depth and involved ways. Photography, video, audio and so on, bring with them much more complex creation software, which moves us away from typing, some mouse usage or simple cut and paste shortcuts, into a myriad of easily confused and forgettable keyboard shortcuts, some involving a fair amount of finger dexterity. Add to this the operating of a cursor applying a brush or a cut on a timeline, and it’s very easy to start doing advanced level yoga with our fingers on a keyboard and mouse or probably even worse, trackpad.
Spending hours editing and processing a big assignment, or sometimes weeks editing long term projects, made me realise I had to find a better way of working. Around seven years ago, I bought a Contour Design ShuttlePRO V.2 and programmed it for use in Lightroom. This lived on the left side of my keyboard whilst a Wacom tablet lived on the right hand side. The concept was simple; program often used commands and key strokes into the unit, operate it with my left hand, whilst the right hand operated the Wacom pen. Much more efficient and also ergonomic.
The Shuttle Pro though wasn’t perfect. The keys stopped responding properly after a couple of years and I wanted something more designed for creative use, rather than as an office tool which could be re-purposed. Also, the software left much to be desired. At The Photography Show at the NEC around three years ago, I was walking past the Loupedeck stand and caught a demonstration of the Loupedeck+. At the same time, a colleague walked past, saw me watching the demo and told me he’d been using one for a while and loved it. I was sold. Passed over my credit card and walked away with it under my arm.
With both of these systems, I had to add printed labels onto the keys I had programmed. Otherwise it becomes too much of a head scratcher trying to remember (although given enough time, it does become muscle memory, but for the initial weeks and months, labels are definitely needed). I’d seen various, often gaming targeted, keyboard type devices with small OLED panels which could display labels, but non were suitable for my needs. Then came along another product from a company I had already trust in; the Loupedeck CT.
The company calls this unit a “precision editing console for creative professionals”, with “endless customisation”. Well, they’re not wrong! Whilst the Loupedeck+, which I’m still very fond of and do recommend, was primarily aimed at LightRoom users, the CT opens up many more applications, with the bonus of having customisable workspaces and pages of programmable keys with icons that show what they each do. No more printed or scribbled labels needed! Plus, having the added ability of having multiple pages, each touch key can take on multiple uses, so an ever changing set of labels on the touch screen, is a tremendous help indeed.
Before I get into my thoughts and experiences, I decided to make this a long term review, for two reasons. Firstly, the CT is as complex or as simple a product as you wish it to be. The Loupedeck CT software already comes with customisation for a variety of different photography, video, illustration applications as well as the OS itself. So, it’s good to go, straight out the box. Or, you can spend time with it and create your own customisation; from modifying the existing setup with the odd key here or there, to fully making up your own workspaces, buttons and so on, which if you want to do it properly, will take a little bit of time to design efficiently, so it suits you perfectly. The actual software is very user friendly and easy to customise. The second reason for making this a long term review, was a colleague told me he had read a report of build quality issues with the knobs on the Loupedeck CT. This did surprise me as the unit felt very well built and constructed as a premium piece of professional grade hardware. As a result of these points, especially the latter, I decided to use it for a while, in a full on professional environment, before writing up my review. The Loupdeck CT has sat on the left of my keyboard for months, whilst to the right of which is a small, Wacom Intuos Pro tablet (highly recommended). As a side note, these two peripherals work perfectly together and fulfil the same ethos of taking away physical strain and fatigue, whilst adding more precision at the same time. Add a quality twin monitor setup (my choice is Eizo CG monitors with built in calibration) and you’ll have a sweet setup that helps you fly through editing and gives you precision when processing.
Even in Finder, the OS controls make it a very useful tool to have. I have LightRoom and Photoshop programmed on two launch keys. One tap and the software I need starts up. Even something like the Calculator becomes easier to use; tap the Calculator button and the CT itself turns into a calculator keypad. You even get a snazzy analogue clock in the centre of the main control dial. The Launchpad, Siri, a new Finder window or System Preferences are all one button touch away.
Getting back to the customisation aspect, the best piece of advice I can give is to live with the CT as is for a while. Use it extensively and get a feel for how the unit works. Soon, you will organically start to realise what’s missing for your own particular needs. We all have our way of working with the software we use. Our own individual quirks or specific workflow needs. Its this extra time spent, that’s time well spent, as it will not only get you used to the various touchscreen and hardware controls, but will help you mentally map what you would like to customise and add, for your unique workflow needs.
If you do a lot of work on location or a lot of travelling, one huge bonus the CT has over the Loupedeck+ is that its size makes it travel friendly. You can even get a travel case for it. A strange addition, until I thought it through, is that it has 8Gb of onboard memory, which just shows up as a removable drive, when the CT is plugged in to your computer. This is perfect for keeping any custom settings backed onto, the driver software, along with any other custom presets you may have for other software, meaning that you could just plug the CT into any machine and have it set up for your custom needs, within minutes. Fully self contained, on location tool.
So, almost five months on, I have sat down to type out my thoughts. To address the second point first, the one of build quality, I haven’t had a single issue with neither the hardware, nor the software. Every dial, button and touchscreen interface has worked flawlessly since I first plugged it in, around the middle of November 2020. In this time frame, I’ve gone through at least 10,000 pictures (assignments, personal shoots, competition edits, putting together talks and presentations, as well as putting together images for my new forthcoming website. Just as my Loupedeck+ never gave me a single issue, the Loupedeck CT has just worked and blended invisibly into the background, letting me work efficiently and without fuss. For me, this is always the mark of a good piece of equipment or software; something that empowers you to work well, without making itself apparent and just fading into the background. I’ve even gone through a major OS change, going from Mac OS Catalina to Mac OS Big Sur on my 2013 Mac Pro, without issue. Incidentally, Windows is also supported, although I’ve not tested the unit on a Windows machine.
There are two main things the Loupedeck CT allows you to do; work with efficiency and work with much better control over the tools you use within your chosen applications.
The added control comes with having tactile knobs (which have gentle clicks as they are turned) to turn when changing controls such as exposure, contrast, colour temperature and so on. You have so much more fine control on making either small tweaks, or turning the knob at speed and making large changes to the onscreen slider. It allows you to do all of this whilst keeping your cursor where it belongs, on the image itself and not constantly moving in a frenzy between processing controls, brushing and so on. The second huge boost for control is having the main control dial allowing you to change brush size and feathering size, again without needing to move the curser off your photograph and onto the processing modules to the right. This lets you brush on precise masks when working, giving you much more control and also allowing you to do this efficiently and not constantly taking the cursor or your concentration off the area you’re working on. It helps you keep a flow, which is not only much more efficient, but much less irksome and creatively rewarding, during long editing sessions. Creativity should flow, unhindered.
After much procrastination, I realised the company’s own settings for LightRoom Classic, generally suited me just fine. I used the pages in the control set as they were, but with use, started to change out some of the buttons for ones which suited me. On a page like the Presets, I removed all the existing presets and instead added all of my custom raw presets, which were already saved in LightRoom. The Loupedeck software interface is a joy to use and very simple. Just drag and drop. That’s it. The Loupedeck CT is updated live as you make changes, so as soon as you switch to your software, you’ll see the remapping and relabelling has already been done; you’re good to go. Very elegant and very simple. The possibilities are also pretty endless, so if you have extremely specialised needs, you can customise to your heart’s content.
In use, the hardware gives you the physical buttons, dials and touchscreen buttons, as mentioned. You also have two segments on the screen which label the six smaller dials, so one instantly knows what they are mapped to do. Swiping this same screen, takes us to the next page, which different dial operations and touchscreen buttons.
The CT also has an amazing main dial, in the lower portion of the unit, positioned centrally. This offers super precise control to change values or movement. The genius part though, is that it also has a circular display in its centre, which displays a plethora of functions, depending on what software, module or page one is on. Did I mention this is a touchscreen too?!
As for the touchscreen’s virtual buttons, to keep with the tactile nature of the unit, each press has a haptic feedback alongside a generated sound, so in use, one is assured of having pressed the button.
This is an extremely useful design. If for example when in the Develop module, one press on the touchscreen button ‘Basic Panel Wheel’, brings up on the circular touchscreen, all the processing sliders, in the same order as they appear in LightRoom. You can swipe up or down, from one to the next and if you decide to make a change, you just turn the main dial clockwise or counterclockwise. Then swipe to the next and so on. Elegant, fast, simple and precise, without taking your concentration away from the photograph, rather than having to constantly look to the onscreen slider and move your cursor there to change a value and have your eyes darting back and forth as you change a value and then look to see the change on your picture.
So, as well as cutting down on physical fatigue of hand and digit, it also helps hugely reduce eye strain, as one doesn’t have to constantly keep looking at various panels, sliders and the image itself. Whilst a quick edit now and again won’t result in much fatigue, add a large shoot with several hundred pictures and this fatigue quickly adds up. Now multiply that by a couple of times a week and in no time, you can have either have fatigue and eye strain, or you can choose to just have precisely edited and processed work, done comfortably.
So, is it all good news?
Well, the unit is expensive. The cost reflects the build quality and its ability. Whether it’s good value or not, will probably entirely depend on if one realises it’s true worth or not. Anyone who has ever used a similar product to aid in faster, smoother and less fatiguing workflow, will immediately realise its extra abilities and see its value. Those who are still struggling with just their trackpad and cramp, may need to research this a little more. I remember many years ago, well before Loupedeck was around, forward thinking colleagues were getting musical MIDI interfaces and programming them to move sliders in LightRoom. No where near as elegant, but it was the start of realising that we needed a better solution for longer editing sessions.
With use, familiarity kicks in and muscle memory begins to form, allowing very fast use, switching from Library tool sets to Develop tool sets, swiping to get to secondary pages of control dials and touchscreen buttons and so on. Being a tremendously capable and thus complex machine, does mean to get the most benefit, one just has to spend a little time with the CT. As mentioned, it works straight out the box; simple. The more time spent though, the more you realise just how much it can do. So whilst the learning curve is not steep at all, exploration and mastery of just how capable it is, will take a couple of weeks of use. My advice would be to just dive in and get started. It comes together quickly enough.
I found that without really noticing, I’d transitioned from looking and hunting for a function I wanted, to just doing it. I’d liken it to learning to ride a bicycle or drive a car; suddenly everything just comes together and rather than thinking, you’re just doing.
Based on how well my Loupedeck+ has performed over the last two years I’ve used it and based on the build quality of the CT, which feels much more substantial and solid than the Loupedeck+, I have no hesitation in thinking that the CT will be a good investment as a piece of professional grade, daily use equipment, which will last many years.
Taking into account just how customisable it is, means that the software with which we use it, in my case mainly Adobe LightRoom Classic, the unit will adapt to changes or new controls introduced during updates to these programs. Remember how Adobe brought out the Texture control? Brilliant tool, but the Loupedeck+ couldn’t physically have a labelled slider, so had a programmable dial reprogrammed instead. With the CT though, as it’s so highly customisable, I don’t foresee any such issues. It will just adapt, with keys and dials just remapped to accommodate, along with a nice graphical label showing exactly what’s what.
Weighting up all these variables, including the price of the unit, I conclude that it will be an investment very well made. Cutting out fatigue, cramps or strain, whilst allowing a faster workflow with more precise control over processing, makes it a great product. It’s a no brainer in reality. So, whilst an expensive peripheral, my experience is that it’s not overpriced and considering the workflow and health gains, it’s actually of good value.
Working efficiently and without fuss. Our tools should never get in the way of our creativity, which must flow unhindered. The Loupedeck CT has done just that. Let me work without being aware of it.
I had an idea for this post several years ago, but kept putting it off as I constantly thought that users, especially new users, will soon catch on and this post would be redundant. Well, as I keep seeing the same major mistake over and over again, thought it best to write a helpful, short post.
Firstly, if you’re on Instagram purely to look at photographs and won’t be posting anything, or have no interest in building up a network with followers, friends, possible clients or colleagues, this post won’t apply. If you do want to build up a following and network, then please read on.
The major mistake many new users to Instagram make is not setting up their page properly first. Some rough text, a nickname, no real picture of themselves, no photos of their work and then they’ll set out to start following a load of people.
This first step, is a great opportunity to have some of these people follow you back, so before you follow a single person, please follow the list below.
1) Use your real name, in full.
2) Use a real photograph of yourself.
3) Use the biography area wisely, so it’s clear who you are and what you do.
4) Post around 6 photographs, before following anyone.
5) Put a link to your website, Flickr, blog or Twitter. This gives people the opportunity to get to know you a little better and will attract followers or clients, depending on your objectives.
6) Don’t set up as a private account, thinking later you’ll switch to open. As you follow people, they won’t follow you back if your account is private (unless you’re closely acquainted).
These simple steps will ensure that when you pop up as a new follower, it’s clear that your account is real and who you are. I’ve had people I personally know follow me and then comment on not getting a follow back. Well, with an online nickname, no real photograph of themselves, none of their work posted, it’s impossible to know who you are! These people, never get a follow back from me.
With each picture, write out a simple, accurate caption, explaining what’s happening in the shot and where it it. A few proper hashtags (#) and tags (@), will bring up your post when users are searching for these and the tags will allow brands whom you want to see your work, have a higher probability of seeing it. You should be wary of spelling anyway, but especially with tags and hashtags, otherwise you post will not show up when searched for.
As a safety measure, I always put a watermark on my work before publishing. I personally use either Lightroom Classic from my Mac, or Snapseed on my iPhone for this. This cuts down on honest misunderstandings if someone inadvertently tries to steal you work, but most importantly, gives you evidence of intent of theft, if the perpetrator of this theft, has then cloned out the watermark (which leaves traces).
Wonderful to see the UK’s biggest show on photography persevere through having to be cancelled earlier this year due to the pandemic and return in this COVID 19 friendly, virtual form.
The Photography Show will be on this coming Sunday and Monday, September 20th and 21st. So, get some of your favourite snacks and drinks in stock, plump up the cushions on your favourite chair, fire up your computer or smart device and settle in to all things photographic.
Registration is free, so visit The Photography Show and register. There are a host of talks by some very talented friends and colleagues, as well as talks by the various camera and other equipment manufacturers.
21-Sep-2020 16:45– 17:15. Shooting an international campaign
I’m delighted to be presenting on one of the Main Stages this year. My presentation will be on “Shooting an international campaign“, on the Connect stage. I was thrilled to have been commissioned by Panasonic Lumix Japan to shoot the international launch campaign for the yet unannounced Lumix S Pro 24-70mm f2.8 lens. During my talk I’ll be sharing various aspects of how I prepared for and worked on the campaign, sharing my images as well as a behind the scenes video of me shooting one aspect of the project. I’m most thankful that Lumix UK have supported my presentations and will be hosting a live Q&A shortly afterwards.
21-Sep-2020 12:20– 12:50. Eyewitness: A global movement to preserve memory through the printed image
I’ll also be one of the photographers from the Eyewitness collective who will be part of a panel talk about the importance of having prints and why we’ve joined together as a global collective of concerned photographers, sharing our thoughts about the physical manifestation of the image and why we feel it’s crucial for us as individuals, as a society and also us as photographers; professional and enthusiast.