Sir Stuart Rose, CEO Marks & Spencer
Warned that Sir Stuart was not a man to stand for having his time wasted, this took only 3 minutes to shoot and that made him very happy. In reality, it was an hour of set-up time with 2 assistants that made it possible to complete the shoot in such a short time
Sir Philip Green, CEO Arcadia
Not the most relaxed of men but certainly an interesting character; I had 15 minutes with him for this portrait which the Sunday Times were kind enough to describe as 'elegant' when they used it across five columns. Having met him a number of times previously, he asked me if I had a proper job yet - I replied that since I was CEO of my own company that made us equivalents, which was fine until he invited me to compare our turnovers...
The PR company for Kimberly-Clark wanted some shots to promote Kleenex products to industrial consumers. They're suggestion was that we photograph a pyramid of rolls of paper towels but I managed to persuade them that we could do better than that and this 'dirt's-eye-view' shot was the result. It took half a day in a studio to shoot a range of towels and I became their industrial cleaning products photographer of choice from then on - my mum would have been proud
London Underground Ltd
Spent a fun afternoon with the good people of LUL taking shots of people at work and got a rare chance to use my specialist 50mm f1.2 lens which blurs the backgrounds beautifully and allows shots to be taken without flash in very low light. These were used in staff communications and I was commissioned to shoot a number of sessions for them. Best of all of course was that I got to ride in the cab of a Tube train through the tunnels under London
The International Reinsurance Legacy Association (don’t ask) have a members’ conference in Brighton. As well as covering the event, I was asked to produce a wraparound image for the conference brochure on the theme of ‘Life, but not as we know it’. This might mean something specific in the world of insurance but I took it to be a call to make the familiar unfamiliar and the most appropriate choice was the pier. Images from two cameras mounted side by side were merged to produce high resolution extra-wide landscapes and I shot for four hours as the sun went down. Inspired by day to night photographer Stephen Wilkes, the landscapes were layered and selectively blended so that the final image went from night-to-day top to bottom on the front cover and day-to-night on the back. I’m happy to say that IRLA liked the image so much that they’ve used it on all sorts of conference branding ever since (I had to add the deckchairs in post-production as it was out of season)
Legal Advisors at The Oval
Why the Oval? Because my client, Partnerships Bulletin, had offices close to the cricket ground and I suggested that they ask (the alternative was in an office against a white wall). I'd shot at the Oval several times for a charity client and they've always been very friendly and accommodating and they agreed to let us use the stands free of charge. Location lighting can be tricky, especially in bright sunshine, but using several radio controlled flashes I could place the group with the sun behind them, avoiding both squinting and harsh light on the faces
Steptoe & Johnson
Lawfirm S&J have an unusual building in the City - it's curved and clad in highly reflective silver metal. They needed a shot of their head office for use in worldwide communications but it's a tricky building to photograph because there are very few places where you can get a decent view of it. Inevitably, the best place turned out to be in the middle of busy London Wall roadway and of course the bright sunshine reflected off the chrome right into the lens, blowing out the detail in the highlights. I used a technique called HDR (High Dynamic Range) to shoot three identical images of the scene at different exposures, one to capture highlights, one for shadows and one for midtones. Using some clever software, the three shots are blended to give an image with full detail everywhere, something that couldn't be done by any other practical method
I can't begin to count the number of awards ceremonies I've shot, from right back in the days of rushing the film to Joe's Basement for overnight processing, to today when I can process the pictures on site or deliver a set of camera-processed jpegs for instant use. The latest innovation is using flashguns with built-in radio receivers so that pictures look more natural - one off camera as the main light, the second on the camera to fill in shadows; as I tell everyone, 'If you look good, I look good!'
The magic of post-production - literally
Everyone wants to look good in photographs, that's only natural, but not everyone realises what help is available. I light portraits using large parabolic softboxes for flattering but directional light & plenty of reflectors to soften shadows but of course many people ask if I'll work magic on them with Photoshop. Let me tell you, we're way beyond Photoshop now; I have anthropic software which recognises faces and with a few tweaks of the sliders I can smooth skin, even up eyes, soften eyebags, erase crows feet (sorry, laughter lines), expand pupils, whiten eyes & teeth, change expressions & alter eye colour and after all that it's a simple matter to replace the background as well. I can even relight a portrait using the software so that a picture taken in the street with natural light can look as if it's been shot under studio lighting. This one of Nigel, a new partner at Baker Botts law firm, shows the before & after; he requested that signs of 'wear & tear' be minimised and that his smile be fuller so I've thinned his face, removed a few artefacts, adjusted his silhouette slightly and made his expression more friendly. I find that people are happiest with results that reflect how they think they look rather than how they actually do, particularly if it's to represent them for a long time. Send me a picture of yourself and I'll return you a new & improved version free of charge!
Photographers are believed to be fond of saying 'Light is my medium' - I don't, because then I'd be a pretentious arse - but without light you're stuck. I shot a round table meeting for Insurance Insider in a room with no windows, panelled in dark wood, lit by a couple of 60W desk lamps and couldn't use flash as it would be too distracting. A nice (expensive) wide aperture 200mm lens, a monopod and some fancy post-production and we have a set of pictures that look like they're cinematically lit.
Classic Car Club
This is Nigel, from the Classic Car Club; I shot him as part of a series of client portraits to my own brief for lawyers Silverman Sherliker; they exhibited the results and invited all their clients to the private view. I was determined not to shoot obvious pictures, hence the E-Type bonnet, and Nigel liked it so much he was kind enough to lend me a sports car for one of my redhead shoots. If you're a client, potential client or charity, do get in touch if you'd like to collaborate on a photographic exhibition - I've worked on several such joint ventures where no money changes hands and everyone benefits
J Walter Thompson
I've photographed a lot of portraits for JWT; needless to say, with them all being busy adland execs, no-one can spare more than a couple of minutes. This is a picture made out of almost nothing - shot in the reception area, it involves just a long lens, a coloured gel and an unusual viewpoint - if only it were always so simple
Omm Group directors
Talking of coloured gels, here's how they can make the ordinary extraordinary. Omm distribute office supplies and this was shot in their loading dock - I was left to my own devices for an hour to set up and used 6 lights and some coloured gels. The three directors were a little wary until they saw the shot on the back of the camera; once they were convinced, the shoot took 10 minutes
I can't begin to explain what it's like being surrounded by 10,000 hair stylists on the most exciting day of their year at Rush Live - for some of them it's the most exciting thing that's ever happened, EVER! I was there from rehearsal to preparation to show and captured it all as it happened in available light. Hats off to Rush, they're masters of their art and I hope I did them justice - if you can't do it in 2943 frames (edited down to 686) then something's far wrong...
When I had the opportunity to photograph Ryan Hayashi, the award-winning magician whose routine fooled Penn & Teller, I wanted the style of photography to reinforce the idea of illusion so multiple exposure seemed the way to go. This involved repeated, precise movements & great patience on his part but given his profession that really wasn't a problem for Ryan.
Conor Geoghegan, new senior associate with law firm Cannings Connolly, shot in the street behind their offices. Portable radio controlled lighting gives a studio look on location and a little added backlighting separates him from the background. All credit to Cannings for not going the usual route of a white background shot in the office as it gives their website a look which is distinct from other law firms
This is the Clinique concession at Marks & Spencer's flagship Marble Arch store, a tricky shoot look made to look simple. There's a huge brightness range from deep shadow to ultra-high lighting under the products and ordinarily something would have to be sacrificed, either shadow or highlight details. Using HDR, a multi-exposure compositing technique, full detail is preserved everywhere, something that wouldn't be possible otherwise (especially in a one hour slot at 8am). The other neat little trick used here is distortion correction; shooting with a wide-angle lens tends to curve straight edges and shooting at anything other than dead level makes the uprights tilt but both issues are easily fixed in Lightroom software so everything looks straight & true. Back in the days of film, this would need to have been shot on a 5x4 plate camera to correct perspective with a world of correction gels to even out the different coloured light sources; that kind of work would have been glacially slow & eye-wateringly expensive but, as we've moved on, I was done by 9am and Clinique had their shots by lunchtime.
This is a GI portable mix plant, basically a big rotating drum with flanges on the inside; if you're in the large-scale construction business it may be a fascinating piece of kit but the photographer's job is to make it interesting to those outside the business. I shot this on a 200mm lens to compress the perspective and persuaded a friendly Glencor engineer to stand inside to give a sense of scale - it really is a case of making something out of nothing.
Rokbak is a Volvo-owned company which makes articulated haulers for the construction industry. MD Paul Douglas has already been photographed standing on top of a hauler but the sheer size of the machine makes the picture more about the hauler than the man. I've tried to keep a sense of the scale of the vehicle (an RA40, hauler fans) while featuring Paul more appropriately given his position.
Paolo Zumaglini is VP of Doka, a supplier of formwork & scaffolding to the construction industry. Scaffolding is shiny & photogenic and used at height so it seemed appropriate to shoot him on a scaffolding tower and he graciously agreed (so long as I sent him some images to show his wife). I like to use feathered backlighting, as I've done here, because it helps makes people appear three-dimensional.
Michael Silberling is CEO of Metropolitan Gaming, owners of the Metropolitan Casino in Mayfair, among others. I was flattered to be asked for specially, in order to photograph the board of directors in the newly renovated casino and Mike was gracious enough to indulge me. He had some very definite ideas of how he liked to look, referring to a portrait on the company's website which he particularly liked, which was of him leaning forward on a desk and looking up; my view was that there was little point in my attempting to replicate that, so my portrait has him in the casino, surrounded by company logos, with just a hint of a gaming table - he's still looking up (always flattering) and his arms rest on both the roulette table & the casino-/company- branded chairs, hopefully suggesting his authority over both, while not being likely to be mistaken for a croupier.
To Brighton once again for the most important event in the legacy reinsurance calendar, the IRLA conference. Hats off to IRLA, who keep things fresh by adopting a different portrait style every year; this time I suggested Hollywood lighting in black & white (because everyone looks good in black & white) with a completely black background and to their credit they went for it.