Special Selfie

October 7th, 2016

A few strands came together yesterday:

After ripping my oldest white paper background in half on-site on Wednesday, I needed to check out a couple of studio paper backgrounds that I’d been given by another photographer.

So I hoisted the stand and unrolled them to see what they were like.

First off, after you got through the inevitable dirty bit at the bottom, the white one was actually in better shape than my old one (and much more there).  Result.

Then there was a black one.  Never used black.  It’s a little bent but most of it is good.

I wanted to see how the black would look.  There’s no one around to model it.  We’ll do a self portrait then.

Cue the second thread: I’ve been thinking about a self-portrait for a while.  Wondering how I’d like to photograph myself.  It is a very challenging task for a number of reasons:

  1. No one really likes pictures of themselves.  No one normal anyway
  2. I do this a lot for other people.  I know too much.
  3. I know lots of ways to take a portrait and have considered the whys and wherefores of each option.
  4. I know how small things change the way we read a face in a still image.  I know the work I put in to get that right in other people.
  5. I think way too much about this kind of thing.
  6. With all of the above, I expect to be judged by my own self-portrait (maybe I’m actually judging myself)

So all in all, it’s just not happening.

I’ve had a few ideas but not really progressed them.

Moreover I’ve enjoyed looking (and secretly mocking) other photographers’ attempts to do their own job on themselves.  Mysteriously, the majority seem to involve hiding behind a camera: “I’m a photographer, I must have a camera in my image”.  It seems to be some kind of rule.  And some photographers love rules.

Buy Why?  Does the camera define you?  Why do you hide?  When you look at the profile images on LinkedIn, why so only the photographers include their tools?  You don’t see dentists holding drills.  It’s rare even to see musicians holding instruments – and those that do don’t hide behind them.  So what’s the story?  Is it a secret code?  Some even hold them like they are some kind of weapon!

To me it demonstrates a woeful lack of comprehension of exactly what it is a profile image does.  From the people who should know the most – but maybe it’s just me that thinks about this stuff.  Maybe the other guys just take the photo.

But the arrival of the black background and 15 minutes spare finally started me off.

Perhaps it’s the complete randomness that got me started:  I never shoot on black; I hardly ever use studio light.  I’d imagined my self-portrait to be completely typical of my best work (soft natural light, shallow focus, blurred contextual background, engaged expression) and this was the exact opposite.

Of course the wasn’t much time and the wireless remote release wouldn’t work (again) so it’s just a very simple start with a plan for future iterations (which is very me): black background, one light, prime lens, self timer.   I only took a couple and some were out of focus (because of the self-timer thing).

And I need a hair cut.

But it’s not bad – considering the subject matter.


First Holy Communion 2017

September 27th, 2016

Wow, First Holy Communion Sessions for 2017 are already booking up.

In particular we have very limited availability for 6th May 2017 and 20th May 2017 is practically full.  There are sessions available in the gallery for the other dates in May.

So give me a call if you have your Communion Date: 087 683 8511

Of course, you can still book a session for a different day – it’s lovely to come in on another day and spend a little more time on your photos.  The package pricing is the same.


Professional Profile Portfolios

August 18th, 2016


After many years of visiting Fota House and Gardens, I finally got to take photographs inside the house itself.

It was set up for a session to take a series of profile images for musician Sophie Creaner.  Sophie needs a range of images to provide to media and organisers of concerts to promote herself and concerts in which she’s playing.

So rather than setting up a shoot just for a particular concert, we shot a range of images with different styles and settings so she has something for every occassion.  We included headshots and I’ll end up delivering versions in black and white and panaoramic crops so that she has a lot of choice.

It was a great location for portraits and as usual Sophie was a pleasure to work with.

A Portfolio Session like this is a very cost-effective way of generating a stock of professional images for on-going promotional work.  Don’t leave it until you’re being asked by press or PR for an image for a deadline tomorrow: take the time to plan the setting and layout of your images to present yourself in the way your clients will react best to.


Analogue Love/Hate

March 29th, 2016

There’s been a resurgence of Arty/Retro/Hipster Love of film recently.  Starting I guess with the Lomo guys and I most recently found a more and more of this kind of stuff around the place.  I got the tour of Sample Studios recently and they even have a dark room (remember those?).

Now, I still own far more film cameras then I’m ever likely to use and every now and then hanker to pick them up, fire the shutter and even tempted to fire off some of my few remaining film rolls.

If only I had the time.

But recently the reality of my film days was brought back to me with a bump.

I recently started leafing through my archive of neagtives looking for a nostagic picture of Mrs Lamb in order to make her Birthday card.  Lots of really lovely old stuff in there and I took more time than I had available to look through those photos.

Amongst them I found a couple of images from my Student Days that I’d had half a mind to scan up so having dusted off the film scanner I ran them through.

Lovely shots (OK I might do more with the location now) but holy cow just how much crap is on that negative!!!

We’re talking, scratches, damaged emulation, dust, drying marks – plus substaintial grain issues.  All that nostaglia about the details of the baths: the signage, the tiling, the scoreboards is now masked with crap.   Now this was probably a home-cooked negative so much of the responsibility is mine.  But I had no better luck with most labs.

Going digital was the first time I got full control over my end-to-end workflow.  Aside from the ability to chimp, the flexibility and speed of digital.  I finally got the quality of finish I was looking for.

Here’s the final, cleaned up image (there’s probably more that could be done with this).   For anyone interested in the original scan it’s available here.

The Loughborough Colleges 25yd Pool, circa 1991

The Loughborough Colleges 25yd Pool, circa 1991

Incentives (Draft 2)

March 24th, 2016

I knew this would be a difficult subject to address.  Draft 1 kinda turned into a rant so it’s consigned to the WordPress ‘permanent draft’ folder.

So let’s start again.

My objective for all my family photo sessions is that everyone enjoys it.  It’s simple really: if we can make sure that the whole experience is a very positive one then the photos will reflect that.  As much as possible is done to make that happen – choosing a good location, timing etc – and from the moment we meet it should be obvious that this isn’t something that anyone needs to get stressed about: we’re just going to go out into the Park and take some photos.

I find that kids react to their environment.  If everyone is cool and easy-going they’ll relax and be themselves.  They’ll start playing and I’ll be able to watch them, encourage them, they’ll start to trust me and take some really lovely pictures of them.

It’s easy to go in to a photo session with expectations of how it’ll be.  In reality you might not have done this before. I think some parents worry that they might not get the images they expect.  Remember that all my work is shot with ‘normal’ people.  The pics on the web site are kids just like yours.

I’ve done this before.  You’re in good hands. I understand that kids need some time to get used to me, the camera and having their photos taken.  They need time to feel comfortable, reassurance that they’re not going to get into trouble for doing or not doing something so they can relax and play.

So don’t panic.  Relax and enjoy your kids and let me handle the photos. Don’t ask the kids to ‘smile’ or ‘be good’ because those terms mean nothing in the context of the photo session.

It’s not uncommon before or during a session for some parents to get so worried that their kids won’t ‘smile’ or ‘be good’ that they offer a reward for doing just that.  I have found that overall that’s not helpful – mostly because it’s too easy to get wrong.  Kids can become so focussed on the reward that it upsets the session.

Equally they can be so unmoved by the reward that they are impervious to it’s charms and parents are tempted to escalate the incentive (or even turn to punishments).  In this case we’re now fighting and the chance of pictures of a relaxed kid smiling are reduced.

I’ll try to illustrate:

Dad: Now you be good for the man
Kid: ????
Dad: Smile now
Kid pulls weird grin
Dad: Not that smile, your real smile
Kids weird grin just gets weirder
Dad: If you give me a big, real smile I’ll give you a treat
Kid just tries harder at the really big weird grin
Dad: No, that’s not it
Kid is now upset because they failed and won’t get the treat
Dad: Just smile for Daddy
A cycle of weird grins, Dad gets frusrated, Kids gets sadder cos Dad’s not happy. Eventually Dad notices Kid is sad and gives the treat to make it better.  Kid thinks he did good and it’s all over.  Until:

Dad: so where’s my smile?
Round we go again – Kid not sure what he did last time for the treat so goes through grinning-crying routine again.

But we still don’t have a photo.

Now these are hypothetical.  In reality, most Dads are Messers at heart (for their own kids at least) and when they realise they you’re giving them the best excuse ever to just kick back and enjoy their family we get what we came for.

So, in summary:

  1. Relax
  2. Treat the session as just a normal thing to do
  3. Don’t offer incentives or negative repercussions for behaviour
  4. You can reward once we’re done but don’t mention it during the session
  5. If your kids aren’t smiling then say or do something that will make them smile or laugh (just make sure I’m ready to photograph the reaction)
  6. Follow my lead for helping me get a good reaction from them

Halloween Revisited

March 23rd, 2016

Our Halloween Dress Up raised a mighty €700 for our two chosen Charities: Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital Crumin and the Ronald McDonald House.

Time has flown since last October’s Halloween Dress up and I just realised I didn’t get to post a follow-up as we ran through a very busy December and January.

A big Thank You to everyone who called by and took part.  We had great fun as always!!!


First Holy Communions

January 19th, 2016

We’re starting to get a steady flow of enquires for First Holy Communion photographs so I’ve updated details of Communion Sessions on the web site.

There are two key pages: the first talks about what services we offer for First Communions; the second is details of the Communion Print Packages.

Eddies in the Space-Time Continuum

November 12th, 2015

Excuse the Hitchhikers reference but on Friday I got a real last minute request to help capture an office fit-out.

A lot of work was planned for the weekend and they were thinking a timelapse would be cool.  But the carpet was going in in an hour or so.

I’ve done a few of these but nothing for three days long.  Theoretically once you solve power and storage issues then it should be OK – as long as you get the Maths right.  So I grabbed everything and we went for it.  But you never quite know with these things and there’s no way to check it as you go (and no way to do it again if there’s a problem).

It turned out really well, no unforseen problems.  This is the first cut of the timelapse.  I edited it down a bit more and adjusted some of the colouring for the client but it is pretty cool…

Halloween Dress Up for Crumlin 2015

October 21st, 2015

Our fourth Annual Halloween Dress Up for Crumlin is on this Friday. 23rd October.

We’ll be here from 10:30 to 4pm with the Den all set up for anyone who wants to call in for a Free Photo.

So bring the kids in their Halloween Fancy Dress.  We can take some photos with the pumpkins and our cuddly pet spider and they’ll all get a print.  There’s no charge for the photos or the prints but we’ll be collecting for Crumlin Children’s Hospital and the Ronald McDonald House.


Preparing for your Family Photo Session

October 5th, 2015

So we’ve booked the session, decided where to go and now you’re wondering what you need to do before we meet for the photo session.

I’ll contact you shortly before the session to confirm the booking.  I’d normally leave that until a day or so before the actual session so we can get a more reliable look at the weather forecast in case there’s anything nasty definitely headed our way.  All being well you’ll get a text or a call from me to confirm time and place (but if at anytime you want to check, just give me a buzz).

Similarly if someone’s sick or something else comes up just call me and we can re-schedule the session.  I want to get the best images and that’s not going to happen if someone – especially a young child – is suffering with something.



Lots of girls want to choose their own clothes – it’s part of who they are

The most common question I get asked about is clothing.  There’s no absolute rules here but there are a few things to bare in mind:

  • Everyone needs to be comfortable and free to play.  So warm but not too snugged up, layers they can take off if they’re hot and something handy to put on if it gets cold.
  • Cute hats are generally good – especially if they’re used to them – but try to avoid anything that will hide their faces in the pictures: hats with a brim, scalves, body warmers with high necks etc.
  • Nothing too precious.  They need to be able to play freely without you or them worrying about getting a bit dirty.
  • While the ‘white shirt / t-shirt’ image is popular in the US, it can be quite hard on most Irish kids’ complexions – especially at this time of year.  It’s also going to be the first thing to show dirt (and it may be too cool in Autumn as well).
  • In general remember that we’re here to get pictures of you all and your faces are what we’re most interested in.  So avoid anything that’s going to compete with your expressions visually: heavily branded clothes, tops with characters on them (especially faces), very distracting patterns etc.
  • Brightly coloured clothing can work well in the forest but make sure it’s not too much (or clashing).  Again, the problem comes when the colours take away from the kids expressions.


Body warmer are handy but watch out for high necks that will hide their chins

Body warmers are handy but watch out for high necks that will hide their chins

For most people the session is about the whole family but there are parents who don’t want to come into the photos.  That’s a bit of shame but it’s OK.  Even so you might be asked to support your children getting up onto a tree or something or just holding their hand at some point so even if you don’t want to do a full family photo, make sure that you’re wearing something you don’t mind being photographed in (even if it’s your back or your arm).


Mom and Dad need to get in on the act too!


This is generally not something you think about before the session but getting this wrong in the middle of the day can make things harder than perhaps they need to be.  It’s often occurred to me that I should have talked to parents about incentives before the session because they have an significant impact on childrens’ behaviour (for good or for bad).

There’s actually quite a lot of psycology in taking pictures.  Offering a reward for ‘good behaviour’ with small kids can be hard to get right (and easy to get wrong).  It tends to work once or twice for a short period and you never quite plan for what happens next.

In fact, this is a big subject and I’m going to need a separate post but suffice it to say here that you should think more about positive re-enforcements (“how nice this is going to be”) and distractions (“what’s over there?”) than offering a reward for ‘being good’.  I’ll be doing my best to make the whole session fun and hopefully they’ll be happy and playful without the promise of a reward.


You know your own kids.  If they don’t eat between meals, they’ll be fine.  If they snack then yes, bring food. Something small, clean, easy / quick to eat and not too sugary.  Bite-sized snacks that aren’t rewards are ideal.