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Martin P Wilson

Benefits of shooting a photo essay

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As some of you may be aware I am aiming to move to a more journalistic approach to my photography in 2015. That is the sort of pictures and photographers that inspire me.

As a result I shot the first picture essay of my new regime - http://martinpwilson.com/d2d-slabsq . I have put it up on my new web site which is now in beta testing, so bear in mind it is a work in progress. I have several tweaks I know I need to do on it. But I thought I would share my findings of shooting a "story" for the first time in many years.

  • Editing is key - I shot over 400 pictures which came down to 350 after the glaringly obvious failures were deleted. Getting it down to under 30 (my target for an essay) was a real challenge and it would have been very easy to include similars. It has made me realise what editing really means.
  • Don't have too many preconceived ideas. I shot it with B&W enabled on my Fuji and I fully intended to publish it as such. But when I cam to edit I felt it worked much better in colour, so that's whats gone up. So the viewfinder and previews on camera were B&W.
  • It teaches you to see what is there, to really look at the world around you.
  • It refines technique because you are shooting so much, and thoughtfully, the camera becomes an extension of your mind. Technique starts to become second nature.
  • People seem far less concerned about cameras than shy street photographers (like me) think.
  • Be prepared to take photographs on a wide range of visitors cameras and phones. I probably took pictures for 6-8 people, suggestions about buying a camera to another and had extensive photography discussions with 2-3 more. So it is quite social.
  • I found it took me into "the zone" and time flew. I hardly thought about anything else. I was enjoying my photography more than I had done in a long time. It is clearly the sort of photography I should be doing.
  • Most of the time the Fuji X-T1 and 18-135mm was ideal although I struggled occasionally when I was photographing some BMX bike riders doing tricks. That was the only time I wished I had my dslr (but I would have struggled to carry the weight all day)
  • Eight hours shooting a street story is hard on the feet, good comfortable shoes are a prerequisite! I walked something like 7.5 miles and I was only working in a very small area!

I recommend shooting a "story" - whether it it will make money I don't know, and don't really care - I did it because I had to do it for me. I suspect if one lives one's passion it will come through and then uses it in a business-like way rewards of some sort will follow.

Now to the next one, I also have long term story or feature (potential book I hope) that I am arranhing access to shoot and hav e more short essays in mind, including extending the Dawn to Dusk theme.

Edited by Martin P Wilson
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Martin I really like the images on your website. A real street photographer at work. I wish I could emulate your ethos but am still a bit slow/shy when it comes to some of the types of images you have on the site, like children, I think we still need to be very careful in what we shoot.

 

By the way I used to live in Nottingham around 69 - 72/3 and see there has been some changes from your photos.

 

Allan

Edited by Allan Bell

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Thanks Allan,

 

At this time of year I actually wear a bright yellow jacket so I am hardly being sneaky. I am actually not a natural street photographer, I am very much out of my comfort zone. But the more I do it the more comfortable I get and I talk to people., althoughh I do often shoot when the subject is unaware - I don't want them posing. I have only once been challenged at all agressively and I was not actually photographing his children - 50+ yards away at the other side of a crowd and I hadn't even noticed them - I told him I wasn't and walked away. Only other time I was asked not to photograph someone's child was on a ride at Goose Fair at the height of the paranoia - I was actually shooting blurred rides.I Just acknowledged and confirmed I wasn't and that was good enough.

 

The challenge is to make it more of a story.

 

Nottingham has changed considerably since you were here, especially Slab Square - it is now a flat open space. Much more useful in 21st century than the old formal processionsal way. Many of my generation miss it; I don't. I think the new layout makes it much of a community space that actually gets used.

Edited by Martin P Wilson

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I'm not an expert on shooting a story but I like the direction you are taking and the passion it brings to your work. The results show in a very nicely curated collection of images. Those of the children are important to the story and tastefully done.

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Well done, Martin.  They look good, but more importantly, I think they've made you feel good!  Keep it up, I think you are right about following your passion and the opportunities will come.

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Excellent idea Martin. Many years ago when I lived in Cologne I used to wander around the city doing this sort of thing on a regular basis. They're still some of my favourite photos. That was in the days when no-one would bat an eyelid at having a camera pointed at them.

 

Alan

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Thanks.

 

As I implied I am not the most self-confident street shooter but I saw no resistance from anyone. I guess was also considerate in that I was not getting in people's faces with a 28mm lens. I was trying to be unobtrusive but not sneaky, I was always in plain sight and being 6ft tall with white hair and beard, wearing a bright yellow jacket I could hardly be anything else! I used a mirrorless with a biggish lens (18-135) so I was recognised as a serious photographer, I could probably have used my Canon 1Ds3 equally freely.

 

I was in an area with a lot of visitors, as well as local shoppers, so there was a lot pf photography going on - it could have made an essay in itself. So people may have been a bit more accepting. But I did speak to a fair few people about photography generally no one asked about what I was doing. Except the BMX cyclists - more to know where they could see the pictures, a question I am often asked.

 

As I said I suspect many of us photographers, myself included, are more sensiitive about street photography than many ordinary folk.

Edited by Martin P Wilson

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Very inspiring. I walk round slab square and find it uncomfortable taking people pictures. I end up being more sneaky,trying to make out I am taking something else which often draws comments from a passer by,

"why are you taking a picture of that"?. However walking round with my Fuji X-Pro 1 draws far less attention than my D700. I just need to break that uncomfortable feeling.

 

police-community-support-officer-patrolla-female-shopper-carrying-a-tesco-wine-sfemale-elderly-shopper-carrying-a-john-lan-elderly-senior-woman-pulling-a-shoppi

 

 

 

Regards

Craig

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JFDI! I took 400 pictures on Saturday over an eight hour period and as I said no one challenged me over taking pictures. But I still feel a bit uncomfortable.

 

Being sneaky makes you look as though you have something to hide. It probably causes more questions than it avoids.

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Dawn to Dusk?

 

i see only broad daylight

 

 

km

 

You are not the first to mention it. I started with an idea but it looks different now I have edited it - I was using the term very loosely! I did start shooting before sunrise but the light went very flat before sunset ( I didn't want to use flash), and I ran out of steam. I probably need to retitle it!

Edited by Martin P Wilson

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Just a suggestion, but if you are both in Nottingham and have that backdrop, maybe its an idea to go on a wee tangent and meet up and use each other as subject matter.

 

I did this with a friend a few years ago. I thought up the scenario's. We both provided the props, (he has a car, I dont) and we went to the KNSM-eiland and worked through the list. Some worked, some didn;t but it has proved quite a successful collaberation even with the 50% I give him. BTW neither of us are catwalk models, in fact we could excel in our everydayness. The photos I took of him he is hardly recognisable as they were mainly abstract. With the images MR'd then they are worth more too.

 

Interesting  thought. Need to ponder it and think how it fits with where I want to take my photography. Craig, any thoughts, perhaps discuss over a coffee sometime? Pprobably best to pm me.

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I like the fact that you were prepared to take pictures of children, Martin. Well done - we cannot let this paranoia eliminate them from our documentary photography.

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Thanks for sharing your thoughts about the shooting a "story" Martin , it is really valuable information. Other then that I really enjoyed your work, great website by the way.

Cheers

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Martin - I was just about to reply to your reply to me, when we were rudely cut off.  If Alamy are so worried about losing contribs to other agencies, perhaps they should get round a table with some of them, rather than hitting the panic button.  The problem isn't going to go away.

 

I don't want to suggest a volte-face, but some of what you have here is core Alamy work.  Real life, the everyday, relationships, signs, shops, emotions - isn't that what buyers are looking for?  If, for my sins, I could only sell my work through Alamy, this is precisely where I would pitch my tent.

 

Thanks, 'nuff said.

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Real life might be the core of Alamy editorial licenses but there's a whole market out there of proper released work on showcase. The success of that we rarely hear about on the forum. Getting back to the real world aspect, and it's hard to fit into because there's a ton of it on here. It's really down to how well you sit in the search results even if you're keywording is up to scratch. 

 

Shooting stock editorial, as in signs, blurry folk walking into Jobcentres and banks and stuff like that is all well and good, but the media seem to just like using the same pics over and over again. 

 

I think the biggest barriers to success in this industry is ourselves. Stuck in a comfortable rut of a shooting style when it's not working could be our downfall. Breaking the norm could well save our sanity as well as help our sales. 

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Paul, I agree about getting out of the comfort zone. That was the decision I took back in the autumn and I am still working on it. I agree but there is still a need to think commercially and be business-like while keeping one's passion in mind. I had lost any interest in shooting routine stock (it was just work) and with it not even making any money it was time to change.

 

I believe focus and enthusiasm will show through. It will create a niche, let's face it most of us don't need a very big niche of our own to make an adequate income. Then it comes down to being able to reach your customers.

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I see marketing in photography much like standing in a room with a thousand others all talking over your head. There's always someone talking louder than someone else. I just try and find the gaps when people need to breathe lol 

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I like the analogy Paul.

 

I find when I get myself into gear and write query letters (photography and writing) I actually have a pretty good success rate, I just don't do enough. That is mainly because I would prefer the reach of a library or an agency to tap markets I cannot and generate a relatively passive income. But for much of my newer work it may well be the only way to reach its market - no library really seems to sell picture stories, words and pictures feature packages seem even more difficult to find a syndication service for (unless celebrity or cute). I guess it is about separating the standalone images from the stories and use different sales channels; Alamy et al for the first and direct for the latter.

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I like the analogy Paul.

 

I find when I get myself into gear and write query letters (photography and writing) I actually have a pretty good success rate, I just don't do enough. That is mainly because I would prefer the reach of a library or an agency to tap markets I cannot and generate a relatively passive income. But for much of my newer work it may well be the only way to reach its market - no library really seems to sell picture stories, words and pictures feature packages seem even more difficult to find a syndication service for (unless celebrity or cute). I guess it is about separating the standalone images from the stories and use different sales channels; Alamy et al for the first and direct for the latter.

 

There are news picture agencies that accept complete stories with images, but there is often no pay for the text. Then there are online publications that will pay for stories but expect accompanying images for free. I've never had any luck at all with syndication services, even in print days. It's a very frustrating environment for freelance writer/photographers right now. Having said this, it sounds as if you have some good ideas (don't mean to sound totally pessimistic).

Edited by John Mitchell

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John, that is pretty much what I have found so far. I guess if the article is just linked extended captions then I may be OK (sort of) with picture payment only if the price and terms is right. I have been offered some very greedy terms by publishers in the recent past. (effectively a buy out for peanuts).

 

I am working on the basis that there is always a niche somewwhere - just hope I am not being too MIcawberish!

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John, that is pretty much what I have found so far. I guess if the article is just linked extended captions then I may be OK (sort of) with picture payment only if the price and terms is right. I have been offered some very greedy terms by publishers in the recent past. (effectively a buy out for peanuts).

 

I am working on the basis that there is always a niche somewwhere - just hope I am not being too MIcawberish!

 

Yes, there is a minefield of awful, rights-grabbing contracts out there. However, "Nothing ventured, nothing gained" (Chaucer?) as the saying goes.

 

Glad to hear that I'm not the only Dickens character on the forum. B)

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