First of all you have to define what a great image is, and that is subjective. What is good to me, may not be to you and vice versa.

Lots of people will say it’s about the composition, about the lighting. Or they might say you have to have the right kit.

To be fair all of these play a part.
For me a really great image has soul! It tells a story, it informs, it persuades.

Having an ‘eye’ for photography is key here. This tends to be something you either have or don’t have. Can it be learnt? Sometimes.

What do I mean by ‘having an eye’? I mean being able to see the image, in your mind before you start to compose it, to be able to imagine how you want people to feel when they see your image. Being able to see the light at play in the image in your mind’s eye before you even start to compose the scene. For me this is key to creating a really good image.

Really great images are created, they don’t just happen! Yes, we can all get lucky by being in the right place at the right time, although, quite often also that comes about from the experience and knowledge of the person holding the camera and knowing where they need to be when and what they are looking for.

Here’s how one of my Great Images came to be …

Here’s a good example of creating a great image. A couple of years ago while I was working with The Northumberland Spirit Company, I was shown their Firestorm Gin. It was named in honour of the old blacksmith’s forge in Rock, Northumberland. They wanted something that would showcase the gin and hook into the history.

One solution may have been to go off to visit an actual forge, but this was 2020 and we were about to go back into lockdown, and the budget didn’t really allow for this. So what then ….

Now I have a lot of props in the studio, but blacksmiths tools don’t figure anywhere in there.

But, deep in my mind I saw an old anvil, some tools, dirty gloves and a refreshing glass of gin being enjoyed in the forge at the end of a busy week. I could picture it clearly, including the lighting. So that’s what I decided to create ….  This looks exactly as I’d imagined it.

Cranberry G & T with Firestorm Gin from The Northumberland Spirit Company. Shot on burnt wood and leather with an anvil, horseshoes and tools.

Cranberry G & T with Firestorm Gin from The Northumberland Spirit Company. Shot on burnt wood and leather with an anvil, horseshoes and tools.

Building the ‘Great Image’

As I said earlier, great images don’t just appear from nowhere, they are almost always created, and it’s an art in itself.  That’s why prop stylists and food stylists and photographers exist and it’s why what we do is so valued.

Below you can see a peek behind the scenes as I built the image up and then the final image as I’d pictured it in my mind.  This one was a last test before the final shot above was taken.  It’s all about setting up the scene and then testing it out before hand, especially where food and drink is concerned as it doesn’t live long for the camera, so the scene must be ready and waiting for the food not the other way round.

Testing out the scene with items in place to check position and lighting for the image above.

Final scene built up and being tested to check light and make any last changes before the actual shot (seen just earlier) was taken.

A classic case of what you see, and what I see.

This is how the shot actually looked in the studio.  The light is harsh, there’s no atmosphere to it, and of course the drink isn’t there.  The colours don’t look like they could possibly work but of course this is what you see.  This isn’t what I see.  I know exactly what it’s going to look like and and every single item has been strategically placed to add to the scene but not to detract from the gin.  It’s all part of the story that I’m weaving to turn something that below looks pretty dire into something that is a great image.

Laying the 'Great Image' out, with an empty glass as placeholder, wooden board, leather, anvil, tools, gloves and of course the gin. All under bright lighting. Not looking quite the part yet, except in my head.

Laying the ‘Great Image’ out, with an empty glass as placeholder and under bright lighting. Not looking quite the part yet, except in my head.

Where did I get the anvil?

One thing I learnt early on was that I’d have to learn to ask for what I needed.  If you are more of a shy retiring wallflower (and yes I am all of that actually!), it’s very hard going.  Or it was, these days I’ve no fear about asking to use or borrow something.  The worst that can happen is that they’ll say no.  They make think I’m crazy but hey, that’s a title I’m happy to own.  It makes my work what it is, and my little bit of madness gets the images my clients love.

So back to the anvil … Where did it come from?

An anvil borrowed from my neighbour to use in the making of this great image.

An anvil borrowed from my neighbour to use in the making of this great image.

Easy! I went to see my neighbour, aka my alternative prop store! He has all kinds of things stashed away, a veritable Aladdin’s cave to me. “Do you happen to have an anvil, Richard?” says I. “How many would you like?” he answered!

Problem solved and I had a choice of three anvils.

Between Richard and my OH I gathered other tools and my OH had a super piece of leather that I laid out in the scene too and a pair of old well used gloves. I can imagine that the Blacksmith would have really welcomed that gin at the end of a long, hard, hot week.  Wouldn’t you?

Come and work or learn about great images with me!

Over the years, I’ve shot ice-cream under the stars, gin on the beach and wellies in a river amongst many other scenes and I’ve created sets specifically for a shoot, including a full on Christmas log fire with a garland, log basket and more.

Ideas and imagination are something I have in bucketfuls when it comes to photography. I can either create beautiful imagery for you or you can come and learn with me some of the secrets of taking images that get people talking.

Your choice, you know where to find me.

Here …

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