I’ve been employed to do some group photographs for a couple of clients recently. There are challenges to groups, especially if you’re the sort of photographer, as I am, that aims to capture documentary-style candid shots and tends to avoid set-ups like the plague! One of my biggest influences is photographer Shirley Bakerwho insisted her photographs were never posed, saying that she shot around the people in her images. What’s more, in everyday life, I tend to find it easier to relate to one or two people at a time rather than large numbers. However, group shots can be fun and families, especially, love to have them for – but they take a little planning. Things to consider might be, can everyone be seen and lit, is there enough space, is it possible to create variety of heights? If not, how can these challenges be overcome?
A friend of mine sent me a picture he’d taken on a school trip. In it, you can see about 20 or so 11-year-olds sitting on a wall and the steps in front of a church. Plenty of space! They are separated into smaller groups. Sometimes hands and arms are linked. Other times, individuals lean nonchalantly against the wall. Various levels were achieved. It was taken on his phone on cloudy day so the lighting is even and just right for the shot. Different characters emerge from the various ways in which each child has been captured and yet they’re a clear collective. It’s a wonderful photograph because there is a freedom in it that can be tricky for paid photographers to capture. I must let my friend know how much I like that picture – he’d be pleased!
In preparation, as well as thinking about amateur shots I like, I have also been revisiting famous photographers. Of course, Annie Leibowitz springs to mind, and you can see her group work analysed here, which is helpful, although one risks being bogged down. While Leibowitz’s covers for Vanity Fair have become iconic and she’s definitely a good reference point, it’s important to recall that she shoots the whole picture over several days, capturing two or three subjects at a time, and then stitches them together with the rest of the crowd in Photoshop. I once read someone describe her style as fascistic… which isn’t quite what most families are after, although I can think of one or two corporate clients who might like that kind of thing. Either way, I think I prefer to look at Irving Penn’s groups shots. His photograph of famous New York cartoonists and another of famous photographers (all male, unfortunately) are great to study if you’re planning a group shot of your own.
I’ll have my work cut out for me at my next job where I’ll be required to capture about fifteen very large group shots in a relatively short space of time with minimal lighting! Let’s hope I’ll be channeling Irving Penn on the day, but I shan’t forget to recall the super shot my friend shared with me either. In the meantime, here’s one I took several years ago during a family shoot that I’ve always really liked.
Creating headshots that look informal and ‘un-corporate’, yet professional can be a challenge. However, both my client and I were really pleased with this image. I love that it was picked, as it captures a sense of playfulness in a way that most corporate headshots seem to miss out on. Of course, all this depends on what sort of business you’re promoting – a light touch might be completely wrong! Nevertheless, in this case, it was great to make the most of the window, a lovely reflection and a super smile.
Today is one of my photography days and it’s going to be a busy one. But I’m feeling pleased with myself, having finished off some vital admin this morning, and it’s not even half past 9! No rest for me though, as I must complete some editing for a recent job, and to end the day, I am looking forward to a shoot this afternoon with a lovely repeat client. In many ways, things might still feel tenuous out there, but businesses do seem to be picking up and I am definitely open! So do get in touch if you are planning to update your website and looking for new photography.
In the meantime, here is an image I look last week when I was off for a few days and we visited the coast – I’ll admit, I could have spent way more time down there!
When I recently changed my business name I wrote to all my previous clients to inform them. Happily, getting in touch with people again, and perhaps especially as we come out of a period of repeated lockdowns, led to a few bookings and here are the results of one of them. As I said in my previous blog, I love people-photography more than most other forms, and it was especially fun spending time with an old friend and client who needed new headshots for her job. She has yet to make her choices from a large selection of images, but here are a couple that sprung out while I was working on them.
If you’re re-entering the job market, starting a new business, or just fancy refreshing your profile images, do get in touch. Visit http://www.sarahfurniss.co.uk for more information.
I have been reading a book by an art critic, who, while conjuring up a thought experiment, contrives to remove all people from all photography. And at the end of a protracted passage where he eradicates everything he professes to be disinterested in in photography, he arrives at images of blank paper on a desk as the only worthwhile consideration. (In fact, the work he refers to ultimately is intriguing and intelligent, and has had a significant impact on the way I think about photography).
I have not mentioned the writer’s name, nor the photographer he highlights as worthy because, while they both matter in certain aspects of my life, what is critical here is that people photography, and in particular portrait photography, is my favourite kind. If I were to do the same thought exercise as the aforementioned critic, I’d get rid of landscapes and still life, and maybe even journalistic images with people running this way or that – and only ever take portraits; the sort where one person and I get together and spend a bit of time with my camera, and not much else. No props, no lights – just the ambient light, perhaps a stool, and the ‘field’ – the space between the subject and me. It will come as no surprise that I very much enjoyed photographing the young man below last week. I hope he also enjoyed the experience and I’m looking forward to more portrait shoots soon!
Earlier this year, I took a new client up to Wandsworth Common to grab some natural outdoor headshots towards the end of the afternoon. It was still winter time, so the sunlight at that time of day was just great for the kind of thing we were were after.
We’re barely through the first week of the new year and I’ve not stopped since first thing Monday morning. I can’t claim ‘no rest for the wicked’ because I was lucky enough to have had a super break over Christmas (thanks to all who made that possible and no, that does not include the drone gremlins at Gatwick), which meant being more than happy to leap back in. It seems to be going well for now – yesterday after I finished off an edit and my clients told me they were very pleased with the results, they paid me half an hour after I sent the invoice. You don’t get that very often, do you? I was exceedingly grateful! I will certainly be popping a couple of these lovely faces up on my site and thought I’d share a sample here too. If you also fancy a fresh new look on your website or social media platforms for 2019, do get in touch for details about corporate headshots and profile pictures. In the meantime, I hope your holidays were everything you wanted and now that the twinkly lights and silver tinsel have gone back in the cupboard, that you’re also feeling ready to get on with ‘stuff’ again. (c)SJField2018
A few weeks ago I went with a family to a local park for a shoot. I tend to recommend families take their time when choosing which images they would like to enlarge and frame. Sometimes we need a little bit of a gap to see what’s going on in photographs, perhaps even more so when young children who are growing and changing all the time are concerned.
I aim to capture photographs which are full of life and was very pleased when a photographer friend described one of my images precisely in that way. Perhaps working nowadays on digital means we have greater opportunity to take risks, which we might not have been inclined to do back in the day when photographers worked with film. Some photographers see this as a problem – I see it as a brilliant plus. I don’t mean you should simply press the shutter down for ages and rapidly shoot as many frames as possible under all circumstances – apart from being an unhelpful strategy, there would be way too many frames to look back over when editing (in a world where we bombarded by images as it is!) Rather, you can try things out and experiment because the cost of a digital frame is not prohibitive. And so it’s not a problem to allow the kids to get involved in the creativity. Of course, you also need to pay attention to their energy levels and patience – but ultimately I want to take pictures that are teeming with life rather than stilted and posed, and that is my aim when working with families.
Here are a handful of images from a morning with a lovely family and two beautiful, very sweet children. This shoot was given as a Christmas present last year. Check out the link for more details, and find a discount available too for anyone who books before the 1st December.
I began 2018 with such an interesting job when I photographed a writer called Elaine Halligan, whose book will be published later this year.
Elaine is a parenting adviser in her day job but she has written about how she and her family had to navigate between society’s expectations of how a child ought to be and who her son actually is in reality. The book is called My Child’s Different and, according to her publisher, “tells the true story of her son Sam, who by the age of seven had been excluded from three schools and was later diagnosed with a whole host of labels, ranging from autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) to pathological demand avoidance (PDA) to severe dyslexia. He had become ‘the alphabet kid’. However, having never given up on the picture they had of who he could be, Sam’s parents took positive parenting courses and researched all kinds of different therapies to support him. They believed he was a good and capable person, and that belief in turn gave Sam his resilience, grit and an ability to bounce back in the face of adversity.” (Crown House Publishing, 2018) Elaine’s son, now a young adult, is doing brilliant things and is described as a “budding entrepreneur”.
It was lovely chatting with Elaine and hearing her story, and I was pleased to see a picture I took online so soon after our shoot.
When I was a child I was cast as Alice in Alice in Wonderland for the South African Broadcasting Corporation. It may have been my earliest professional acting job and I remember being terrified on the first day in the studio. An assistant walked me along the never-ending corridors, and I followed the whole time secretly wanting to cry with nerves. But when I reached the dressing room door I was absolutely delighted and excited to see my name on it, and I started to feel better about everything. If I allow my memory to take me back in time, I can smell the staleness of the wig which I had to wear and feel the stiffness of the dress and petticoats. I was dressed up and made to look just like the famous drawings. I have a mixture of feelings about that experience but I do remember being quite pleased when some money came my way a few weeks later and I was able to go and buy clothes with my very own hard-earned cash. I bought a big baggy red paisley patterned shirt, a neon pink one, and a pair of black brogues. I’m not sure if I also paid for the tightly fitting long black skirt, the sort that flared at the bottom, and the fishnet tights which I wore with the shirts, but nevertheless, I was really very pleased with the look. I’m pretty sure I also had a ridiculous fringe, which I spent hours straightening and shaped to sweep down in a diagonal, covering half my face. I was more than impressed with the final look! (I swear my mother wore those shirts for about two decades after I handed them over to her. Actually, after reading this she tells me three decades…)
I very much hope that Grace, the young actor in this headshot, receives lots of invitations to audition from casting directors as I know she works incredibly hard and has so many skills; I’m in awe! She can dance, play instruments, sing, act and finds time to do well at school too. I was never that able. Best wishes to Grace and I’m looking forward to seeing her name in lights one day.