Emma DF Photography

Emma DF Photography

I am a student studying BA (Hons) Photography at the University of Portsmouth.

Summer Work Experience - Company of Makers

Earlier this year I did some work experience with Steve Bomford and Rachel Owen for Company of Makers, a charity set up to help Veterans and their immediate family.  

The Company of Makers holds creative workshops where Veterans are encouraged to explore and share their experiences through the up-cycling of furniture.  The charity also aims to encourage a greater understanding between Veteran and civilian communities.

I was asked to help at the Southsea Show at the start of August, where both the Company of Makers and Shore Leave Haslar (another charity organisation helping Veterans) both had a stall.  Steve works a great deal with social media, to raise and promote what the Company of Makers does.   So the stalls at the Southsea show were a great opportunity to meet members of the public and talk about these two great charities. 

I was able to help out on the stalls, but I was also asked to take photographs for a pop-up exhibition for the #VeteranMeans, whereby members of the public are asked to write down in one word what veteran means to them.  This was a fantastic opportunity, photographically it was a great experience, taking portraits in different settings with different light challenges.  It was also just amazing being able to speak to people about the Company of Makers, and also sometimes heartwarming and touching seeing some of the responses.  

This is a news article, which shows the recognition that Company of Makers is receiving http://www.portsmouth.co.uk/news/project-s-work-in-portsmouth-area-sees-it-invited-to-number-10-1-6229801

This is a video featuring some of the #VeteranMeans taken earlier this summer at the DDay memorial events held in Southsea. https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=303468716489592

This is a link to Company of Makers blog, with videos and photographs  http://www.companyofmakers.org.uk/wordpress/photos-in-one-word-what-does-the-word-veteran-mean-to-you-2/

I’ve attached some images of the pop-up exhibition, and some of the photographs I took.  I am hoping to help out Company of Makers again in the future, and I am currently scheduled to be attending an event at the end of August for more #VeteranMeans. 

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Summer Work Experience - UOP Alumini

So I’ve had a pretty busy few weeks, and a jam packed few weeks ahead! I’ve not been able to spend anywhere near as much time as I would have liked taking photographs or catching up on some reading.  

I am in the process of selling our old home in Devon, which has been on and off, and is further complicated as we are a couple of hundred miles away. We are also moving from our current home in a couple of weeks time, so I have a lot of packing to do! which is not easy with two toddlers.  Plus we are in the throes of potty training! so a wee bit of stress all round! (Pun intended!)  

I cannot believe that the start of the year two is edging closer! With so much on, time is flying by.  

Anyway, enough about the humdrum, I’m blogging because I have been trying to get a bit more experience over the summer.  I started of working with the University Marketing and Communications Department.  I spent a few days photographing the graduate students in front of a University of Portsmouth sign, which were then uploaded onto the Alumini Facebook page.  It is a way of the university getting previous students to continue to engage with the university via social media:  https://www.facebook.com/uopalumni

It was an interesting and very warm few days! I got to work with a fellow first and second year over a period of two weeks. We were responsible for taking the photographs and then returning to the office to upload them and transfer them into the relevant files to be added to Facebook and also into a video, which was then played in the guildhall as the students graduated.   Attached are a couple of example photographs.

Painting. Again!

The summer is passing me by extremely quickly, and trying to find time to really get involved with any photography is proving difficult. So I’ve returned briefly to a tried and tested… messy play!

So my kids love to paint, and it has become a bit of a habit to photograph them whilst they are involved in this messy play.  I think they are becoming slightly less aware of the camera the more I photograph them painting.  I do love the bold bright colours that they use, but it also got me thinking about whether the images would have the same impact in black and white.  Colour v black and white is a subject that really could be explored at much greater depth, but I don’t have the time right now!

I have added a colour image to compare, I’m not sure which I prefer.  On the one hand I love the colour, and yet in black and white I can’t help but wander if it helps pull the attention away from the immediate colours of the paint, therefore enticing you to look at other finer details.  I could go on pondering… but unfortunately for the time being I have a few too many other things to be getting on with. 

On a personal note, looking back at when I first started photographing the girls painting, I cannot believe how much they have grown in such a short space of time! 

So after passing all my modules for the first year (yay!) I have carried on taking lots of photographs of my children however, I’ve not really had time to think about or do anything else.  Today, whilst I had a few minutes to myself and I was hanging out the washing, I realised firstly, I’ve not photographed anything other than my children for weeks.  Secondly that I’ve not taken very good care of my potted plants! However, I thought it might make an interesting set of photographs; looking at the muted tones, of the decaying, wilted plants. 

So there we have it, a spare five minutes, and a mental note to start watering the garden!

Work Experience Summary

I can’t quite believe that I have nearly completed my first year of study! it was little more than a year ago that I nervously submitted my application to study photography at Portsmouth University. It’s been amazing to have developed my skills and gain confidence as a photographer in such a relatively short time. I have really enjoyed discovering my creative self!

I have always believed that good communication skills are vital in any profession, and I think my past career experiences have been hugely beneficial.  I have made great use of my communication skills in recent work experiences; I’ve met some fascinating people, and networking never hurt anybody!  In future I think that I may consider contacting potential work experience contacts by phone, or face to face in the first instance, and then later by email.  As I feel that actually this would allow me to develop a rapport with someone, rather than an email from someone they don’t know. 

Time planning has always been an important part of my work during this first year at university, particularly as I have children, so efficient time management is something that I will continue to make use of as the course progresses. 

I believe my editing skills using photoshop are continually developing and I hope to be able to spend some more time developing my editing and IT skills further before next year commences.

I am looking forward to continuing and perhaps exploring new self led projects over the summer period.

Watch this space!

Childs Play

Painting and a bake off! All good messy fun!

Milk in this house is for mixing, baking, drinking and blowing bubbles!

I simply love photographing my children whilst they are playing, and it is something I will continue to try and capture.

Images © Emma Durrant-Fellows 2014 

Childs Play

I have continued to photograph my children whilst they play, particularly any messy play such as painting or play doh.  I love the bright brash colours that mix and swirl, sometimes losing the vibrancy as they turn into a sludgy brown mess.  I love that they are all unique, and yet I feel sad that perhaps as my children grow older they will no longer create or play in such a free and frenzied way. I find the images almost a metaphorical representation for the intricacies of my own family life with young children, my struggles with the daily chores and the day to day tasks, but also the joy in snatched moments of fun, freedom and exploration with my children, and my own struggles with creativity and imagination. 

Images © Emma Durrant-Fellows 2014

Pet Portrait.

So having been inspired by seeing a pet Chihuahua photographed as part of a family portrait whilst at a studio on work experience.  I decided to take some impromptu photographs of a friends St. Bernard dog whilst they were visiting recently.  It was fun! although I had some difficulty focusing on the eyes as they were amidst such dark hair, also had I given the matter some forethought I would have liked to have taken some photographs in a different setting.  Perhaps somewhere we could have achieved some full body or even action shots (albeit somewhat limited action being a giant breed!).  

Perhaps with a bit more planning on my part, and liaison with the owners, I would most certainly try pet portraits again!

Work Experience - Professional Studio, Family Portrait

http://www.venturephotography.com/photographers-studio/chichester/

I have been fortunate enough to have two days work experience in a Venture Photography studio, at their branch in Chichester.  Venture Photography is studio only based, and is predominately family and child centred which is an area I am keen to learn more about.  From my own personal experience of photographing my own family and other children, I have always leaned towards a natural setting, either in the home, or outside. 

When I first started contacting photographers and studios about work experience I did email Venture to try and arrange work experience, but as in many cases I did not get a reply.  However, some weeks later, Venture were advertising at my local supermarket and taking peoples details for follow up calls to arrange studio bookings.  I left my details as I am quite interested in having some family photographs taken, but I also mentioned that I was a photography student and would be looking for some work experience. I received a call from Ben, part of the telesales team, and whilst we arranged a booking, he also arranged for me to attend the studio to gain some work experience. 

On my first day, there were no studio bookings during the time I was there, so instead I was able to sit in on a ‘viewing’ and later see some of the administrative and creative processes.  In the first instance I sat in on a ‘viewing’, which is where a customer returns to look at the photographs that have been taken and decide what they want to order.  I sat in with Simon, who is a photographer and sales viewer at this branch.

One of the first things I noticed, was that the reception area and the viewing area were very well presented. Smart, welcoming, and obviously numerous examples on the walls of the various image styles, formats, sizes and frames available. 

The viewing is essentially a presentation, played on Ventures ‘in-house’ package, which is played along to music. Images from the studio session are shown, as well as examples of how images would look in a ‘collection’ or in different formats.   Once this has been viewed, the images can then be looked at individually and the family are encouraged to make a decision, based on a traffic light system of selection, no, possible, or yes.  The family I sat in with indeed found it difficult to whittle down the images, and in the first instance did not reject very many.  To help the selection further Simon then showed the family the images in groups according to their similarity for example; group family shots, followed by individual portraits of the children, couple shots etc… so that they could select favourites from each group. Once they had selected their favourites they then looked at building a ‘collection’ which is essentially one photograph, consisting of a variety of images from the shoot.  Venture offer numerous packages and images can be purchased, singularly, in groups, framed, non-framed, collections and albums.  It became apparent that this family wanted a ‘collection’ image. Simon spent some time showing them different collection formats and placing their chosen/favourite images.  In the end they opted for a 9 image collection, which gave them a variety of group family shots, group children shots and individual portraits.  They also opted for a digital frame, which meant that they would receive all of the images presented, although they are only viewable on the digital frame, and would not be of high enough quality to upload to a computer or to get printed. 

I then spent time in the back office, where on this particular day there were three members of staff answering phone calls and editing photo shoots.  All the staff present worked in both the studio and the office editing, depending on the diary bookings for the day. They worked on Windows PC, and used photoshop for editing purposes, and then their own ‘in-house’ package to place images into example collections, or to vary the sizes and formats according to potential frame sizes.   I was asked to do some basic editing from a group family studio session. This consisted of adjusting curves, in particular for the white background images, they then had inbuilt settings which were allocated to the function keys, which made adjustments to contrast, sharpness etc.., this was simply a case of pressing F2, F3, F4.  The image then had to be flattened, and the dodge/burn tool was used to make sure the background was all white and any of the studio, such as edge of the background or lighting was painted out.  I then saved the images so that they could be cropped and edited further later.  Whilst I was doing this I was able to talk to the staff about the processes.  I was interested to learn that more often than not people edit each others shoots, often because there are so many to work through.  I imagined that the photographer that had taken the photographs would want to edit their own work, however this was not the case.  

I asked about timings given for studio sessions and for the editing process, and I was informed that it is suggested it should take about an hour to perform the editing from a photo shoot, an hour for a studio session, and one hour and twenty minutes for a viewing session.  I asked if if was always possible to perform all of the editing in an hour and was told that it was not always the case, and can depend on the number of photographs taken.  There are a defined set of images that a photographer has to try and take with a family; obviously group photos, photos of the parents on their own, photos of siblings in groups, singular portraits, and then these are taken with slightly different compositions e.g. close-ups, upper body, and full length. I presume this is done, to ensure a good number of consistent images are obtained. Obviously if it is just a ‘couple’ or a ‘baby’  only session then the photographer may not follow such a set criteria of objectives. It also seems that the telesales are quite important, obviously not only for setting up the initial appointments, but also for getting clients to think about the kind of shoot that they want, as they encourage people to bring in props or changes of clothing.

Once the edits are completed on photoshop a number of edited images are selected for viewing by the customer and these are placed into a slide/presentation show.  There is usually a mix of formats, and also some in colour or black and white to demonstrate the different possibilities available. An introduction screen is created which basically says ‘welcome back’ and is then personalised with the families names, which I imagine is done to make the customer feel that theirs is a personal experience.  I asked how many images are presented, and was told between 30 and 40, but certainly no more than 40.  Ultimately, the presentations are clearly geared towards selling when it comes to the viewings.  I think that it can be quite an expensive experience for some families, especially those that have been lured into the photo shoot by way of a special offer, indeed Venture even offer various payment plans to make their products more financially available and accessible to families by enabling them to spread the cost.  I suspect that on many occasion this also perhaps encourages customers to spend more than perhaps they intended to. From what I could gather the photographers are not paid by commission, so although they receive training in how to perform and conduct a ‘viewing’ session, there is no financial incentive, which I think is perhaps a good thing. Certainly the viewing that I sat in on, there was no ‘hard’ sell, but in fairness perhaps the photographs spoke for themselves.  A lot of business is found through advertising special offers, or discount sites such as Groupon, many of the bookings are made under special offers.  This basically gets the clients through the door, and whilst some may only want to take the initial single photograph offered as part of a deal, I have no doubt that many do go on to order additional photographs and collections.  

On my second day with Venture I was able to sit in on two studio sessions. This meant I have been able to see a complete cycle of the processes involved.  The studio room itself was an enclosed space, with the walls, ceiling and floor painted white, creating an infinity cove.  There were four flash units in total and the camera used was a Canon 1ds mkII.  

Jody was the photographer for the first session and it was for a family of four; mum, dad and two young children, one aged two and one just four months old.  Before heading into the studio Jody let the family have a look through some display books, demonstrating the various styles of photographs, and asked them to pick out any that they particularly liked.  Venture advertise four main styles; ‘signature’, ‘mononchrome’, ‘digital’ and ‘statement’.  Signature has the white background and seems to be the one most commonly opted for, particularly for group family shots.  Once the family had selected some images that they liked Jody asked, what is was about the images that they liked to try and get a feel as to what the family wanted to capture in their session. 

Once in the studio, Jody obviously had in her mind to take certain images so that a complete ‘set’ could be taken. The family also brought in a change of clothes for the children, and also toys, musical instruments and books.  Although Jody had set ideas in mind, I could also see that she had to go with the flow, particularly with the young children.  There were moments where the toddler didn’t want to do what was suggested, or was getting bored and fidgety.  So its clear you have to be quite adaptable.  At one point they were looking for a book for the little girl to pose with, but as she was pulling all the toys and books out of the huge bag her mum had brought along, I suggested that in itself, might make for a good picture, so Jody took some images of the little girl rummaging around in the bag throwing toys around. Usually it would just be the photographer in the studio along with the family, sometimes they have large extended families in for photographs and I can imagine it would feel quite crowded at times.  I was able to help out by dashing in and moving props quickly and also holding the 4 month hold baby when needed!  The session was supposed to take an hour but we did overrun slightly, as I think Jody felt she still wanted to get capture some key images.  It was quite difficult getting images of the two children together, as the toddler was a bit reluctant, and obviously with the baby being so young, care had to be taken when placing the children close together, towards the end the baby became a bit upset.  I think an hour is probably about the right amount of time for a family, although it perhaps doesn’t seem very long, especially with outfit changes, I think it gives enough time to get customers settled and relaxed, and then it stops just before it becomes too overwhelming for young children.  I could see from this session that it defiantly required thinking on your feet, especially in a limited time frame. I know from my own experience toddlers are not always compliant with instructions or even willing to pose for photographs.  

The second studio session started a bit late as the family shoot overran slightly.  This time I worked with Babs and she was photographing a couple with their Chihuahua dog. The couple had been customers of Venture before, but this was the first time that they had included their pet dog.  Venture offer family portraits with pets, or even just pet portraits, I can only imagine how much more chaotic that would make a photo shoot, having to contend with young children and animals! Fortunately, in this instance it was a couple and one very small dog. I did take a few photographs this time; the camera and lighting is basically all set up to go, so all I had to do other than move around was literally press the shutter button.  It was interesting watching the shoot progress as you could visible see both the dog and its owners relax more as time went on.  As with the children, I think the photographer has to basically go with the flow in terms of what the dog will and will not do.  Also, I noticed that Babs was very good at directing the customers in how to sit or stand, there were moments where they were a bit awkward with a pose, but with a bit of direction they looked more comfortable. The session was completed on time, and the couple seemed more than happy with how the session had progressed and were looking forward to returning for a viewing. Once a studio session is finished the clients book a returning date for a viewing.  The images are loaded straight onto the computer system into a customer file, ready for editing before the arranged viewing date. 

Overall, I found it a really interesting experience seeing the processes from a professional studio that specialises in family photography.  Although I think there are elements of sales involved with a chain such as this, I suppose if you go to a studio such as Venture, then as a client I think you know what you can expect, you know exactly what type of photographs you will receive.  From the clients I met, it certainly seems that they returned because they knew exactly what they could expect, and retaining customers is certainly key to many successful businesses. I would have liked to have had some work experience in a smaller independent studio, so that I could compare the processes, but unfortunately, the ones that I contacted either said no, or just didn’t reply. Venture obviously specialise in studio family photography, whereas many of the smaller independent photographers that I contacted for potential work experience, offer a multitude of services, both within a studio environment and elsewhere. 

It was a really interesting couple of days, and I am exceptionally grateful to the staff at Venture Chichester for accommodating me in their work place.  Although I can certainly see the appeal in this type of family portrait, and indeed will be attending at some point in the future for my own family unit to be photographed, when it comes to photographs of my children I think my heart and my photography preferences will always lean towards a natural environment.

Work Experience - Child Portraits

I have always loved photographing my own children, particularly in a natural environment.  Therefore I wanted to see if I could capture other peoples children in a fun outdoors environment.  I arranged two separate portrait sessions, one with a nine year old, and one with brothers who are two and three. 

Many of the photographers that I looked at for work experience photograph children and families, some focused on studio work and others outdoors or in the home environment. I particularly like the work of Phil Babb http://www.philbabb.com, Naomi Lloyd http://www.naomilloyd.co.uk and Kimberley Garrod http://kimberleygarrod.co.uk all though the latter is mostly studio portraits, unfortunately none of these were able to accommodate a student for work experience.   My previous research into family again helped me in this subject area, I recalled work by Dennis Dehart as being relevant.  Particularly the ‘At Play’ series which is based outdoors, letting children play however they wish. 

http://dennisdehartcom.fatcow.com/photography/sample-page/at-play/ 

In both instances I obviously liaised with the children’s parent/s to establish what they would like from the images, and in both cases we went for outdoors and for the images to be as natural as possible.  Both were immensely rewarding and I was pleased with the resulting images, yet both also had challenges; the older child was much easier to direct, but also wanted to mostly wear a cap throughout, which was fine, but I did ask for him to remove it for some photographs as I noticed it had a tendency to put a fold in his earlobe.  With the younger sibling boys, it was relatively easy to capture singular portraits even though they were ready to dash off at any second, however, it was quite hard to take a portrait of them together!

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Images © Emma Durrant-Fellows 2014