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Andrew Billington Photographyon

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Adam & Renu

In the interests of SEO (Search Engine Optimization) I have been advised to link from YouTube in order for the Google spiders to find me. Apologies for the boring nature of this post but please enjoy seeing Lizzy's wedding in Oxford...
I'm shooting my last wedding of the year this Saturday in Exeter and am really looking forward to it (as long as the snows stay away). I'm also in the middle of a really interesting project with Creative Partnerships in Staffordshire (Partners in Creative Learning) working as part of two affinity groups in schools and documenting the process... more from this in the New Year. Have a happy Christmas one and all.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

And then the snows came....

Last weekend saw the start of some very wintery looking weddings. Snow came, windscreens were iced up but everyone was warm inside in front of some roaring fires and even the first Christmas decorations I've seen. Hot toddies replaced Pimms and fun fur wraps were dusted off for the occasion.
Here are the first images of the Winter Season - we even ventured outside for a couple of quick photos, then ran straight back inside for hot chocolate!

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

New School Project

A brief note about an interesting project I started yesterday. I'm working as part of two Affinity Groups in Primary Schools in Stoke-on-Trent to helps teachers and staff approach learning in a creative way. As well as joining in the sessions I am also documenting the work photographically - which kind of puts your head in two places but it's interesting being a part and apart from the group. The idea is to gather some reflective shots of the excercises and processes the groups go through and also add a practicing creative input to the sessions.
This is carrying through until May next year and I'm really looking forward to the future sessions....

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

An email to Andy Pickard

I was asked by another photographer Andy Pickard about post-production and photographer's personal style. He'd produced one of my shots in the style of Jeff Ascough and we really just had an exchange about taste, fashion and style. Here is my emailed response:

" Hi Andy,

It's a great idea to have a look at a lot of people's work and see what you like about it. You are right that I don't like to over process (it's taken me a while to get there as I used to do a fair bit) but that is to do with confidence and belief in what you shoot. Some images need more 'direction' in them in terms of guiding the viewers eye by dodging and burning but for me if you have to process it within an inch of it's life then the shot probably doesn't work.
I have started doing less and less recently - crop, colour balance, contrast, sharpen, dodge and burn if needed and add a vignette (strong or weak depending on what works for the shot). Black and white treatments are just a conversion in Lightroom (occasionally adding a bit of warmth by subtle split-toning). That's about it.
Don't get me wrong I love some of the images by Jerry Ghionis et al but it's not my style and I would say to a couple who wants that to get someone else. I'm still struggling to develop my style and identity, moving closer with every wedding, and it take a great deal of time to have the confidence to say to people 'This is what I do and how I do it. If that's what you want 'I'm your Man' if something else there are plenty of others who will do that for you'. I'm nearly getting there.
I like a lot of the processing I've seen on your portrait images - it looks very polished and professional - but I think it is about creating a continuity of work. It'll take time to develop a style that works for you, it's taking a long time for me. I also think it's not a fixed thing - you have to constantly develop and refine what you do based on outside influences. I go to galleries, I look at other photographers work, I look at advertising and fashion mags - but it's taken me a while to not keep jumping on the next 'big thing' and just do that all the time (see 'Off Camera Flash' or 'Cross Processing'). Know about them, practice them, see how they work, see when they work, use only if it will enhance what you are trying to say in your image...
I've had a fresh look at the image you worked on to get the 'Ascough' look. It's one that lends itself to that style of processing as you have to lose the centre of the photograph in order to connect the two subjects - I did this on the original I sent to you by burning you both and dodging the rest of the image, although not to an Ascough level. The image is weak in the sense that your best woman is quite prominent but in an awkward position and you both have head popping over your shoulders but I tried a subtle 'save'. Have a look at the image variations I've attached - I think they are subtler and work in different ways, it's how I would process that shot now.


Andy B "

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Looking forward to Winter Weddings!

This time of the year I'm reading a lot of articles, tweets and blogs from photographers bemoaning the fact that the clocks have changed and days are darker and it makes shooting a wedding day hard. Yes we need light to shoot and I use available light for the majority of the time but when you dig down to it they seem to be complaining that they can't shoot weddings in the way they want to - posed shots in dappled sunlight, groups lit by the sun and plenty of time in the light to shoot. Embrace the situation - shoot in more innovative ways. The day is not just a collection of people that you pose in front of the lens. Make your theme the emotions of the day, the coming together of people to celebrate - a couple has chosen to marry later in the year (roaring fires, cuddling together, sheltering from rainy days) let's not pretend it's mid-summer! Wow! That was a bit of a rant but it obviously needed to come out! Anyway I've had a great Autumn so far - great weddings, interesting theatre, a holiday in Kos and a slideshow for a couple that went viral! (2,500 hits in 3 hours - see above) More soon...

Friday, 10 September 2010

Creating the Difference

I look at a lot of wedding photography - I'm interested in it from a professional point of view and also from a purely photographic, story-telling angle as well - and it's can be very hard to see something you love and not want to shoot that shot in your next wedding. But I don't think that that is the right way to approach shooting the day.
If I went to shoot a wedding with a specific list of images in my mind that I want to create I think I would fall into the trap of imposing that upon the day, not seeing what is in front of me and trying to photograph that in the most compelling and interesting way. I've looked at the images of Yevant or Jerry Ghionis and there are some fantastic, breath-taking images but I've also seen the way they work and the sheer scale of intervention and the amount of time the Bride and Groom are away from their guests is not how I want to shoot a day. It suits some couples for sure (maybe they don't like their families) but I'm trying to tell the human story of the day not give the couple a fashion shoot. But it is each to their own - each couple, each photographer has their own ideas and it's about the two finding each other and knowing that's the style of photography they want.
Don't get me wrong every photograph I see goes into the internal image bank and should feed my photography and hopefully I can draw from and develop great photography to suit the situation in front of me - rather than trying to bend the situation to suit someone else's ideas.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Don't Tell The Bride

A fresh series of 'Don't tell the Bride' started on BBC3 this week and I can't not watch it. I find myself slightly obsessed with the different choices that people make around their wedding day. 'Don't Tell The Bride' is perhaps slightly different because it is the joy in the poor choices of the groom-to-be that drives the show - I find myself having to shout at the TV 'Stop going to the pub and book a hairdresser!'. Why am I like this?
Four years ago I'd probably been to 3 weddings in my life and one was my own, then I started photographing them. I'm now totally fascinated by the day. They are a unique challenge for a photographer - the way I shoot I want to capture the day as it unfolds and not to disrupt the flow of the day - everything is happening in 360 degrees around you and you have to be aware at all times of the dramas and emotions that are playing out throughout the day. And it's capturing that unique story of the day that is where the interest and challenge lies for me. I don't want to create a generic set of 'wedding' images by manipulating the bride, groom and guests to recreate poses that look like everyone else's wedding album but to show the genuine emotions that playout through the day - it's the harder route (8-10 hours shooting) but the more satisfying.
I find every wedding day different. On the surface the structure of the day may be the same but the reasons behind choices or the relationships between people are all unique and specific to the couple whose day it is. Some weddings are loud, exuberant affairs; others quiet and subtle but I find the emotions are the same, just expressed in different ways - and it's that that makes me keep going back for more. 'This is the best day ever!' may be expressed between one couple as an enormous hug and squeeze, for another pair it might be something as subtle as holding each others little fingers - and it's my job to capture both different expressions of the same thing in an interesting and compelling way - that's why I'm obsessed with it.
Who wouldn't want to have the job of showing the joy and celebration as two people say they love each other. It's an honour.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Back to the Blog

Every week for the past 3 months my 'to do' list has included the word 'blog' - every week I've ignored it taunting me from the page. But not any more.
The past few weeks have been busy - theatre shoots, documentary work in schools and of course weddings. But that is no excuse - I should like to write, to share, to publish photos I'm proud of and have enjoyed taking; so I will.
I've included a small set today from a wedding I shot at the weekend that I'm working on at the moment: Frankie and Ian's wedding at Berkerley Castle in Gloucestershire. It was a fine day (contrary to the weather throughout the week) and a beautiful setting. Bridal preparations were at a local hotel and when I arrived there were already 9 women in a fairly small room all getting pampered and preened so I did what any polite person with a camera would do - started shooting. Chaos and excitement are great challenges to getting shots that start to tell the story especially in a confined space. But the room soon thinned out (once we had lost 2 hairdressers and the other bridesmaids went off to change) and it became very calm start to the day.
I won't go into huge detail on the rest of the day but the choices the couple had made for their day was lovely (lillies, great castle, fish and chips for the Wedding Breafast, a live band) and despite the registrar being 20 minutes late(!) no one freaked out and everything went off smoothly. I'm looking forward to finishing the edit this week and getting the shots to the couple whilst they are on honeymoon.

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Silent Anger - Reveal Theatre Company

On Thursday I did the production photography for a new play that is touring through May called 'Silent Anger' by Reveal Theatre Company - a very powerful piece of theatre exploring race hatred in Britain today. 4 Actors, 2 Crates, 2 Projection Screens and one white floor. Very simple but very effective. I've attached a slideshow that gives a flavour of the play, have a peek; I tried in shooting the performance to create a sense of the 'look', style and dynamism within the play.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Honing Your Style

Epiphany! I've always had a very distinct idea of what I want to photograph and how I want it to look. However, I also like to read, research and get advice just to cover my own insecurities about what I want to do - it's just my nature. But the last wedding I photographed at the end of March I had the confidence to shoot what I wanted - not a bit of my stuff and the rest in the style of someone else or how I thought I 'ought' to shoot - and 'Hey Presto!' I ended up with the wedding day coverage I really wanted and was totally proud of.
I have a style - and that I think is really important.
There are a lot of photographers out there but I've always hedged my bets and shot how I think professionals should shoot with a bit of my own style thrown in. But 'NO!' have the confidence to shoot from your heart, the images you want to produce. I look at a lot of other photographers work - some I like, some I envy, some I'm amazed by - but the images that I 'love' are the ones that are shot with a unique style and perspective. That is what I have to have - and I'm now determined to persue it.
The images people always comments on and the ones I want to show of mine are the ones I put myself into, the ones that represent my style. That is what I'm shooting from now on. You have to cover all the bases on a job but I think I can still do that keeping my own personality in the image, not trying to create a pastiche of different photographers' appoaches to one subject.
Current definition of my style (it is sure to refine): Documentary realism with an editorial aestethic.
I need to put that in my pipe and smoke it!

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Moving Forward

Loads of new challenges ahead for this year. Apart from the constant challenge of wanting to create compelling and exciting images for everyone I work for I feel I have to start operating more effectively as a business. Target new clients, nurture existing ones and focus my thoughts on where I want to be and what I want to shoot.
It's all very well being a jack of all trades - loving shooting different opportunities and taking on each job as it is offered - but I really need to start to think where I am most effective. Fashion/Portraiture, Lifestyle shoots, Weddings or Theatre. Or can I shoot a combination of all of the above and let one compliment the other and create an ever evolving style of photography (oo-er!).
Time will tell but I shall blog more regularly about where I am moving as a photographer and hopefully be able to reflect that in the work I produce. A very serious post this one... more 'war stories' next time.

Friday, 12 February 2010

2010 - THE Year

First blog of the year and a firm wrap over the knuckles for not doing it sooner.
A lot is happening and I'm constantly trying to push the results of my photography to create better and more satisfying shots.
In the studio I've been trying some new set ups to get that slickly lit look that is all over – and I like it! Three light set ups seem to give the results I'm looking for – a beauty-dish or softbox keylight, 180 degree bare flash for highlights and a backdrop light to get that graduated look or add a splash of colour.
In the Theatre I've changed my technique slightly to get that 'defining moment'. Two cameras, one Canon 5D mk2 with a 24-70 f2.8 and a canon 1D mk3 with a 70-200 f2.8. Motor drives enabled on both. Move round the action, find the shot and fire off a few frames. Within those shots I try to get that exact moment of drama and interaction – and it appears to be working. I think working in theatre for 20 years has helped me anticipate the shot where all the drama, tension and story is contained.
Coming up in the next couple of months are some bridal shoots for Make-up Artist Daniella and another studio shoot for Jason Kester and the Believers (including some HD video of performances) and some extreme make-up fashion work. Can't wait!