CAMERA CLUB: Taking a look back at days gone by

Left Ralph Arnold Nicholson, father of Arnold, father of Dorothy.Left Ralph Arnold Nicholson, father of Arnold, father of Dorothy.
Left Ralph Arnold Nicholson, father of Arnold, father of Dorothy.
Is documentary photography your thing? Or perhaps you like still life. Maybe landscapes bake your biscuit, but then again it could be architectural shots, or portraits, or perhaps you love getting candid photos of your children playing.

As a professional I had to master all these things and more. Many wedding couples want documentary style photos while others want portraits.

A magazine editor may ask for landscape images. Product photography is still life and I am asked for studio portraits and group shots too.

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Then, I am called on to shoot real estate images; many estate agents cannot take appealing photos! Ever more people ask me for video recordings too.

Furthermore, I also shoot for enjoyment and that is usually wildlife, street photography and long exposure seascapes.

Additionally, I must consistently reproduce my photographic style both in shooting and post-production, so my clients know what they are buying.

Of course, some photographers specialise in one genre of photography. For example, when engaging a documentary wedding photographer, you cannot expect fine art portraits like Rankin’s or Magic Owen’s.

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In my spare time I’m gradually restoring family photos dating back to the mid-1800s when photography was vastly different. Cameras were imposing machines lacking manoeuvrability.

Thus, many of today’s photographic genres were unachievable back then.

Those old photographs both imitated the contemporary style of portrait paintings and suited the slow cumbersome technology. Portraits and group shots were entirely staged. Each frame was carefully composed with the subjects perfectly positioned. Exposures were long and any movement would show unwantedly in the picture.

Consequently, faces invariably held serious expressions; try standing perfectly still with a fixed grin for twenty seconds. Besides, the frowns also hid the bad dentistry. Like fashion photography today, I suspect those meticulously arranged photographs didn’t reflect the true characters of the subjects.

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Technology still leaps forward. Over the last few years, miniaturisation resulted in professional photographers no longer needing use huge, back-breaking DSLRs.

I was in a webinar with royal press and portrait photographer Joe Sené, who also shoots high-end weddings. Shortly afterwards, I attended another webinar with top wedding photographer John Nassari. Both now use the same versatile, diminutive Olympus Micro Four Thirds cameras that I use. So too do the superb wildlife photographers Tesni Ward and David Tipling.

I love the portability of my equipment. On many shoots I take a camera with one lens and one spare battery in my pocket. For long exposures I’ll have a tripod and an ND filter. Maybe I’ll take a flash. There is no necessity for a huge bag filled with heavy lenses.