EP144 Your Words May Trigger A Thousand Pictures

I am recording this having just spent the day running one of our workshops with some of the nicest people imaginable.  A top day (though I am now shattered!) at the end of a top month (January has been amazing) and who knows?  Maybe it’s the start of a top year.  Don’t want to tempt fate though…

This episode was triggered by a shoot I did last week, when just a few words seemed to change the course of a shoot.



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Episode Transcript

[00:00:00] Can you believe it? January has nearly gone. We are almost into February, the second month of only 12 in a year, and this has already been one of the best starts we’ve ever had to any year. I’m Paul, and this is a very optimistic Mastering Portrait Photography Podcast. Well, I’ll be honest, I did not see that coming.

[00:00:39] I think when we got to the end of last year, exhaustion took over, I crashed into Christmas, came out of it the other side, went into the convention, we’re having a ball, but I think I don’t know why I wasn’t expecting this year to be quite as lively as it has been, but it does seem to be that there is a ton of energy out there.

[00:00:59] Maybe, maybe I was expecting the general election to be early in the year, and so things tend to get a little bit quieter around elections or around referenda. But the phone is ringing like crazy, emails are coming in. This week we’ve had a handful of reveals and they’ve all been brilliant. The clients have loved the images, everything’s gone well.

[00:01:23] My bit of the puzzle is to create images, create an experience, send them away with memories and make sure they know what to expect when they come back for the sales, for the reveals. And they’ve gone really smoothly, which means I’ve done my bit properly, which makes me very happy because as you all know, a little bit chaotic at the best of times, uh, but it looks like my debriefs are working.

[00:01:43] I’m getting the point across to the client. We’re creating pictures that people love and I am having a ball. I did think I might feel a little flat after the success of the Society’s convention. It was such a good week. I know I spoke about it in the last podcast, but I’m still smiling at just how much fun we had, just how many people I met.

[00:02:06] The workshops were full. I spend a lot of time chatting photography, having interesting conversations, meeting interesting and funny people, and I think, I suppose, last week, I thought I might feel a little flat about it all, but that could not be further from the truth. If anything, I’m more energetic now than I have been for a long time, ignoring the fact that I’m also pretty exhausted and my eyes. I don’t know why, but my eyes have been tired today. You know, you get those days when I put my glasses on and within three minutes, I’ve got to take them off, even though everything is just slightly blurry because I don’t know why, it just makes my, it’s just been making my eyes tired today.

[00:02:46] Maybe I just need to go and get them sorted, but this has been the most successful January we’ve ever had. And sometimes everything goes like that. It’s just hectic, it’s full of stuff, all unexpected, but being busy is a good thing. I think? Isn’t it? Uh, I don’t know. Anyway, today we’ve just finished the first of this year’s workshops.

[00:03:11] This particular workshop was our From Shutter to Print workshop, uh, which steps through everything from picking up your camera all the way through to prepping your images ready for print. It’s a huge, if you think about it, that’s a huge field to cover. And of course, we try really hard to To tune it, we ask all of the delegates coming, we ask questions on what they’re looking for.

[00:03:35] So we try to make sure that everything we’re delivering is in line with what would be useful for them. And at this point of the day, it’s quarter to eight in the evening. I don’t know, a couple of hours ago when they left But they all look just slightly shattered, whether that’s just because I’ve thrown so much information at them, whether it’s just because it’s a Monday, a dark Monday in January, or a combination of the two, I’ve no idea.

[00:03:59] Of course, I’m always slightly nervous of whether I’ve done a good job of delivering the information that would be useful for them, but it certainly has been a blast. And it was Loretta today. I don’t know if I’ve ever talked about Loretta. Loretta was one of my clients. I photographed her wedding. Oh, it must be 10 years ago now.

[00:04:17] Um, and we’ve been friends ever since. She is a ball of energy and I absolutely love it when she’s in the studio because there is not a dull moment. There’s never a flat. Easy, calm couple of minutes. It’s just 100 miles an hour from when she arrives to when she goes. So today has been one of those days.

[00:04:39] So thank you to everybody who came on the workshop. And obviously, thank you to Loretta for modeling. And once again, best lunch. ever. The guys, there’s a delicatessen in our local town of Thame called What’s Cooking. I don’t know if a shout out to a small company in Thame is any good to them on a podcast that has photographers all over the world, but I’m going to give them a big shout because every time they do the food for us, it is a highlight of the day.

[00:05:06] I like to think the pictures I’ve created might be the highlight of the day. But no, no, I’m absolutely convinced that as everybody’s driving away, they’ll have been thinking that was a great lunch. We had beautiful food full of flavor, not your sandwich, not your average sandwiches that you get in packets or bowls of crisps.

[00:05:26] No, no, no. These are. Big plates of really beautiful vegetables and salads and a quiche and chicken and scotch eggs. It was absolutely incredible. So thank you to What’s Cooking in Tame for yet again. They’re our regular, they cater to our workshops all the time. I, when I set out with this thing. I wanted to deliver something that’s genuinely useful, but also something that people will enjoy coming to.

[00:05:52] And lunch, for me at least, is a big part of that. I’m always disappointed when I go somewhere and it’s a crappy lunch. You know, the edges of the sandwiches are curled. It’s like tea in Tearns. Those annoyingly sweet biscuits that you get. None of that. Mid afternoon, so the first part of the day, the first half of the day is all photography.

[00:06:13] And the second half of the day is all Uh, techniques and things in Photoshop and Lightroom. And midway through that, Sarah arrives with Millionaire’s Shortbread and tea and coffee and just lovely. And it just picks everybody up long enough for them to survive, survive me rabbiting on about Photoshop and Lightroom and retouching and layers and masks and curves and color profiles and LUTs and all of the things that are part of this thing.

[00:06:43] The mid afternoon snack is my highlight. I actually look forward to it. So I had this brilliant lunch. We’ve had beautiful people around, created amazing pictures, had a lot of fun. And mid afternoon, in comes a millionaire’s shortbread. Oh my days. Yes, please. Thank you very much. Uh, anyway, what did I actually learn today?

[00:07:00] One of the things that came up in the editing section , someone asked me, Um, why I choose the order that I do for making my edits. And I’ve never really thought about why in anything other than, well I, you know, the background I’ll do, I’ll do this, then I’ll do that, then I’ll get all the way up to the front layers, then I’ll do the retouching on skin, etc, etc, and any, you know, liquefying things.

[00:07:24] And actually when I thought about it, I stopped dead and I thought about it. I edit in the order of certainty that I won’t need to go back to it. Now, I’ve never really thought about it logically like that till today. Maybe I should have. I’ve done it instinctively.

[00:07:42] So there’s a thing called a desire line, or desire lines, and these are those paths that when you look at like a park, uh, like a park, particularly in a town, like a big expanse of green, or maybe in our village here we have, um, walk into the station, you go along the path, and the path dips into each of the cul de sacs.

[00:08:04] So the designers, the architects, or the town planners expect you to walk round the corner by about 20 feet, cross the road, Inside the cul de sac, and then come back out on the path, and on the corners of each of those cul de sacs, there’s green, there’s grass. But if you actually look, the grass is worn down because people have gone sod that and walking in a straight line.

[00:08:22] Similarly in a park, you’ll see where the planners and the architects and the designers wanted you to go, and then you’ll see where people actually go, and it’s never the same place. Well, there’s a name for it, they’re called desire lines. And the same is true in how you develop processes in your business.

[00:08:39] I’ve talked about this before, and the trick really is to do the same thing over and over and over and find your own desire line. So much as you sit and plan things, much as you sit and analyse and decide to do this after that and that before this, in the end, you’ll do what comes naturally. You’ll go and basically The straightest line you can, the path of least resistance.

[00:09:00] It’s called a desire line, it has a proper name. So when I was thinking about it today, because one of the delegates asked, why do I do it in this order? And, what I actually do, is I start with the background. So I’ve got my background layer that’s come in from the raw file. I’ll duplicate that, because then I’ve always got an original, uh, layer to go back to.

[00:09:19] Then I usually clean up, so if it’s a studio shot, I’ll clean up the background. I’ll sort out anything to do with the background, because that isn’t going to change. It, there’s no real decisions to make there. I’m just going to do it, because Once it’s done, it’s done. I’ll never need to go back to it. Then, I might work on, uh, all of the elements of the image that, although they might be quite intensive Photoshopping, they definitely need to be done.

[00:09:45] So, for instance, if someone’s wearing a black outfit, as they were today, And there’s lots of little hairs and flecks of dust and things. They’re gonna need to be cleaned off. There’s no ifs, no buts, no wherefores, no decisions to be made. I’m just going to clean it. I’ll never need to go back to it because once it’s clean, it’s clean.

[00:10:03] And I can move on to the next stages. Then I’ve got a couple of decisions to make. Um, probably what I’m gonna do is do my skin work. So if it’s a face, I’m a portrait photographer, there’s nearly always a face. I’ll do some skin work. I might Photoshop around the edges of the hair, any stray hairs. And I might do things like, um, frequency separation and some retouching with some dodging and burning.

[00:10:27] Then once I’ve got clear of that, probably what I might think about doing is maybe putting in a texture on top of a background layer. But things like that I might change my mind about, so they’re right at the top of the stack. Um, then when I’ve got there If I need to do any liquefying or any puppet warping, this is the moment.

[00:10:44] It’s really late in the stages of photography. Why? Because I’m not certain at this stage, or I’m not 100 percent ever at this stage, quite what would be the right amount of that kind of work. Of all the things we do, I think it’s probably the most contentious. Changing someone’s body shape because I’ve posed them badly.

[00:11:07] It’s still an area where it’s a little bit vague as to how much is the right amount to do, particularly as someone who photographs all sorts of walks of life, all sorts of ages. I don’t want to be in that realm of, you know, everybody has to look a certain way. But equally, if I’ve posed someone not as optimally as I should have, maybe I’ll just fix that.

[00:11:27] But it’s going to happen really late in the edit. If later on, I’m really close to finishing an image at this point, so if I decide, well, I don’t know, maybe I shouldn’t have done that, I can go back and I don’t have to undo any of the rest of it. And then the final tiny little bit, probably to put a vignette on top, uh, if I, if I want to, and then maybe finish off with a black and white conversion, or something like Nik Color FX.

[00:11:52] So basically what I’m doing is I’m working all the way up from the bottom with all of the things that really, really, really, uh, are definitely going to be done no matter what, all the way to the things actually if I change my mind tomorrow, I won’t have to start again at the bottom of the layer stack.

[00:12:07] And I’ve never really thought about it like that. Um, so many of the processes in our studio are my own desire lines, but I’ve never thought about that one. So it’s kind of cool that at the end of a workshop I’ve learned something really good as well. So thank you to everyone who came. Really excited about this year’s workshops.

[00:12:24] All of them. They’re going to be brilliant. Particularly if they go like today. But the one, if I’m honest, that I am most looking forward to is the one we’re running on the 18th. So, uh, I’ve got about six, what’s that, six, eight weeks, uh, to think about it. Uh, it’s called at the moment, Ordinary to Extraordinary Studio Photography, probably because we were hunting around for a title for it.

[00:12:46] Sounds alarmingly like some of Gerry Guionis titles. Uh, but it could also have been called, I don’t know, the Storeroom Studio or Lighting Up in the Lounge. No, no, not lighting up. That makes it sounds like you’re smoking lighting in the lounge or maybe the basement backdrop. I don’t know, but whatever it is titled, it’s all about creating magic in small, awkward, tricky spaces, which is something I’ve had to do a lot of when I’m working in office buildings.

[00:13:17] When I’m working in other people’s homes, you never quite know what you’re going to get. And this whole workshop is dedicated to things like basements. Boardrooms, cellars, lounges, hallways, corridors, even store cupboards. I kid you not, I did a shoot the other week in a store cupboard. A big store cupboard, but a store cupboard.

[00:13:40] So at the moment I am coming up with ways to mimic what it’s like to work in these little spaces that are awkward, but still create gorgeous images. Now I’m really excited about it because one of the things about smaller spaces is you tend to get, assuming you can get your kit. In there, you tend to get lower contrast because the light pings around a little bit and you can get some really beautiful, gentle, effortless setups.

[00:14:06] Uh, so that is going to be an absolute blast. Cannot wait, uh, for that. Uh, how am I doing? What did I say I was doing last week? Oh yes, the MPP website. Still rebuilding it. It’s a long process. We are getting there, slowly but surely, we are getting there and it is taking shape. The content is nearly over. But I’ve still got to reorganise it all.

[00:14:29] And in the process of doing it, we’re reading everything. I’m reading every article, double checking to see if it’s still relevant. One or two of the things we’ve ported over that came from the book, and then went to the Mastering Portrait Photography website. Well, of course, the book was published in 2014.

[00:14:43] It’s 10 years old this year. And some of the information in there is now, frankly, outdated. Anything to do with cameras and lighting, things have moved on. Probably also the Photoshopping, although luckily, the small bits of Photoshopping I put in were basically about principles, not about specifics. So, you know, generative AI hadn’t even been thought of at that stage, nor had things like the removal tool, nor had actually quite a lot of the tooling in Photoshop or Lightroom.

[00:15:12] It just, the latest versions are worlds apart from what was going on in 2014, but equally, an awful lot of what’s on there is Totally relevant, totally pertinent, uh, to, uh, what’s going on. So, um, we are working on it. We will get there, trust me. When it’s done, we will sing it from the rooftops. Uh, but I’ll keep you up to date with how that is all going, uh, including my excitement, uh, for it.

[00:15:39] Um, this week’s Thought of the Week. And it’s a simple one. Well, they’re always simple ones. I mean, I’m not a complicated guy, not really. This week’s Thought of the Week is that you genuinely You genuinely have the power to make people feel amazing with words, just as you do with pictures, if not more so.

[00:15:59] Why do I say that? Well, two different clients this week, one in particular, he came, he was just a lovely guy. Uh, he made the claim right at the beginning of the session that he hadn’t really ever had a picture that he really liked of himself. And I’m looking at him thinking, I’m not quite sure why. I can’t see it visually, but maybe it’s the way he reacted to being in front of the camera.

[00:16:24] We’ve got shooting and all was going reasonably well, and then suddenly. Something about the way he looked and the way he moved reminded me of Vernon Kay. He’s from a different area of the country, one’s from the North, Vernon Kay’s from Bolton, I think, and my client’s from the South. Different heights, I think Vernon Kay’s about 6 foot 8 or something, ridiculous, 6 foot 2, I’ve no idea.

[00:16:46] But he’s tall and he was a model, my client, anything but. But, there were definitely similarities in the mannerisms, in the haircut, and if I got the light in a certain position and the angle was right, In the way he, it lit his face. And I’ve said this, and I’m laughing. And he didn’t know who Vernon Kaye was, which is a little bit sobering.

[00:17:08] Obviously, people who are younger, uh, maybe Vernon Kaye’s not on their radar just yet. But. As I talked it through, visibly, the guy grew in confidence. You could see his body language change, you could see him just come out of himself a little bit, and of course as he’s doing that, I’m getting better pictures because his confidence has grown.

[00:17:30] It’s paying dividends just having someone in front of me who feels better about themselves. Now don’t get me wrong, you cannot tell someone they look like Robert Redford if they don’t. That’s not what I’m saying. But in finding really good positives Things about someone, not only that you like, but things that you can verbalize, whether it’s something to do with a glint in their eye, whether it’s something to do with their clothing.

[00:17:54] In this instance, it was someone he looks a little bit like. And with a shoot, particularly with headshots where it could be corporate, it could be an author, it could be a musician or an artist, I don’t necessarily know who’s coming in or how confident they are. or what we’re going to do. Sometimes I do, but not that often.

[00:18:16] And so I will nearly always in my head figure out an actor or a public figure who has a media presence. Obviously not, hopefully someone who’s nice, not a Donald Trump or a Liz Truss. Uh, to, to, and what I’ll do is it’s with that personality is I’ll figure out what would their agent have asked of them for photos.

[00:18:40] What would be in their portfolio, their lookbook? What would be on the inside sleeve of an author’s bio? If they were in a BBC or an ITV or a Netflix drama, what would the cover shot look like? Because the thing about actors, in particular, the thing about actors, is they reflect Every day Life.. So you get actors from all sorts of backgrounds and skill sets.

[00:19:06] You get every ethnicity, you get every gender, you get every identity, you get attitudes, you get heights, you get everything. Because actors have to represent the world in which we’re all familiar. So you get as many different types of actor. As you do people on the planet. And if you can find an actor that is close enough, close enough to the person you have in front of you, and then work out in your head quickly, what might the film they’re in be?

[00:19:37] What might a book they’ve published be? What would a cover look like? What would the poster image on Netflix or Amazon or Maybe in an agent book or maybe on a, on a music album cover. I don’t know. I’m making this up as I go along, but if you can picture it, if you can find it, if you can drag it out of your imagination and your history, two things.

[00:20:01] Firstly, you can say to the client, Oh man, you remind me of X. And that’s a very helpful thing to do because the client will grow in confidence, but secondly , so do you. Because you’re now shooting with something in mind that you might not have had when the shoot started. You might have, but you might not have.

[00:20:21] For me, I love that moment when I open the door and suddenly I’ve got to figure out what shots are going to look good. How am I going to do this? What’s I’m going to look at their clothing, get them to talk me through their clothing and step through all of the things we’re going to do with that. I love that energy and that positivity as we drive the shoot forward.

[00:20:39] And I’m not kidding, not only did my client feel better, but so did I because I was now producing better pictures because my client was reacting to the camera in a way that could really only result in beautiful images.

[00:20:54] Please do, when you’re working, think of ways of making your client feel a million bucks. And language is every bit as important as what you do with your lights and your camera with Photoshop. Now that’s a proper time to know, a proper point to end. As always, if you’re interested in our workshops, just Google Paul Wilkinson Photography Workshops, or head over to Paul Wilkinson Photography and look for the coaching section.

[00:21:20] Please do give us a like, a wave, a review. Uh, some five stars maybe that’d be really nice, uh, on iTunes or wherever you get your podcast. If you wanna subscribe to the podcast, please do so on your, on your, uh, podcast Player of Choice so that every time I record one, it’ll drop as if by magic, straight into the list of things to listen.

[00:21:41] Like I said last week, I’m gonna try and keep this as a weekly podcast, this time round. Shorter episodes, but far more. Of them. As always, if you have, uh, any questions at all, you can reach me onPaul@paulwilkinsonphotography.co.uk. We’ve had some really lovely emails this week from people. Thank you to everyone who’s emailed in, uh, to say they’re enjoying the podcast.

[00:22:03] Uh, so you can reach me atPaul@paulwilkinsonphotography.co.uk. And until next time, however your week is going, however, your January is ending, your February starting, or if you’re just listening to the back catalog, whatever it is you’re up to, whatever else. Be kind to yourself. Take care.

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