A notice popped up on my email saying something along the lines of ‘calling for images of cages!’. Way back in university I remember photographing some beautiful vintage birdcages so I decided to dig out my old hard drive and see what I could find – and oh boy did I find a treasure trove that I was not really prepared for. Unfortunately, I found no images of cages, but what I did find was really quite exciting and strangely cathartic.
There were a lot of images of my old photo work from studying at university. I mean, mostly there were just so many memories crammed into one dusty hard drive but I found access to images that I really thought were long gone and that I would never ever get back. Result!
Finding the Treasure
Amongst those images was a series from my very early uni projects (around 2011) and one of my only photographed on 35mm film. I can’t remember much about the brief now but I think it may have had something to do with constructing your own reality within a small series. While I look back and see I didn’t quite do what they asked for, they make for pretty awesome images still and I’m definitely going to add these to my images for potential book covers. Back then I remember having so many ideas for use of silhouette photography within portraiture and this was my first foray into the field.
Learning From Past Work
The lesson I learned from looking back on this old work was that photography can be fun and playful, and sometimes I really lose a sense of that. You can experiment and get strange but brilliant outcomes and just go with what you fancy. I’m definitely going to try and incorporate that more going forward.
So, here we are – these where taken in a studio on 35mm film which I then developed, scanned, printed etc. When I found them this week I also added a bit more magic to the colour, mostly inspired by the book cover idea.
Cirque De La Silhouette
Learn more about my uni photography experience here:
Choosing what degree to study is a big decision. A lot of us (in the UK anyway) will only be able to get student loans to study one degree, so it’s important to know what you are getting into. Here’s a little bit of background of what led me to my photography degree, and how I made the decision.
Side note: Also accompanied by my old photography work at the time.
I always found academic things at school fairly easy. I enjoyed learning so I didn’t find it difficult to pass my GCSEs. At the time I was torn between going into some sort of academic work and pursuing my love of acting – therefore the A Levels I chose where Drama, Psychology, English Literature – I wanted a ‘softer’ subject to choose as my fourth option so I landed on photography because I knew photoshop and enjoyed making things. As it turned out – this was not how it all panned out. Due to some health reasons I had to drop drama and psychology, meaning I was left with two a levels in English Literature and Photography. I loved both of these subjects by the end of it, but the biggest surprise was Photography. Initially taken as a fun fill in, it soon became something I was so fascinated by and loved creating. I was good at it, and I only wanted to create more.
After A Levels I had a decision to make – what could I do with 2 good a levels? At one point I had decided to go back to college to study sciences (sometimes I wish I had) but the one subject I knew I could succeed was photography – and I suppose that’s how I ended up applying and getting accepted into the University for the Creative Arts.
Making the Decision
Looking back it was quite a snap decision. I thought I had to go to university straight away, I didn’t have any kind of plan for the future and I chose a subject that I thought I would enjoy and be okay at. I think nowadays a lot of university decisions are made in this kind of situation. If I could do it all again, I think I would have taken a year out working to think about what I really wanted to do rather than rush into a degree, but that’s how it worked out.
Okay, on to the things I wish I had known before studying a degree in photography.
What I Wish I Had Known
1- Photography is a lone subject and 100% means you need to put in the effort to make it something. In a lot of other subjects (eg. english, illustration) you can work all evening on your projects to perfect them. In photography you have to go out there and get the shots at the right time / place / moment. Therefore to get on well in photography, you need to be a proactive and self motivated kind of person. You can’t leave things until the night before it’s due apart from that one time.
2 – There are quite a lot of theory lectures. At the end of the day, it’s studying a degree and there are essays and a dissertation. A lot of universities have a department to help if you’re struggling, but be prepared to learn all about post modernism, psychoanalysis, image punctums and the social and cultural effects of photography. There is reading list like with any course.
3 – You get to use some pretty awesome state of the art equipment for free. Use it as much as you can! It’s amazing. I spent hours in the dark rooms, shot on a digital Hasselblad and huge old film cameras, rented a big studio whenever I wanted and had the run of a huge library full of the best books. All the computers there had the full Adobe Creative Suite too. Oh man, I did not take enough advantage of that and I MISS it now.
4 – You will probably leave doing a completely different form of photography than you started. I went in all photoshop heavy and over edited and came out wanting to make meaningful documentaries. It’s all part of the process. You learn a lot, and it changes how you work.
5 – They probably won’t teach you much about digital technical skills. I’m not sure if this was just the uni I went to, but we had next to no training on cameras, lighting and studios. These where the things we were expected to already know, or if we didn’t, to find a book about it.
6 – A lot of universities (definitely UCA) focus a lot on analogue film photography. It’s fun, but be prepared for that.
7 – Different lecturers will have different opinions and mark your work very differently. It’s frustrating and subjective but that’s just art. I once was doing a documentary project and my tutor told me to remove an image because it stood out as being too different. In the next tutorial, a different tutor told me I should 100% KEEP it. So, who knows. I also had a tutor once who would talk about Martin Parr forever. (PS: I really like Martin Parr’s work it just became a bit of an in joke)
8 – When you leave there are no jobs. Okay, so there might be the lucky few who fall into something salaried, but a lot of photography work is freelance or personal projects. A degree in photography is not a ‘fast track’ to earning a lot of money as a photographer. Afterwards, you’re on your own with how you choose to apply the skills to your life. Out of the people I’m still facebook friends with, only a very small handful are still pursuing photography. A few people have gone on to related skills like design or marketing, but I think most have left photography behind.
9 – It can be really expensive. The equipment side of things is sorted (and amazing) but like with any art subject, projects are self funded. If you want to photograph a series abroad then you need to fund that, or if you want to creative a2 framed prints you need to fund that too. There is a lot to be done to keep the costs down, but it can get expensive. When you study analogue film, which for me was compulsory, the cost of dark room paper and buying film is a lot.
Overall, I’m happy with the knowledge and experience I got out of studying a photography degree. There are some times that I wish I had studied something with a more linear career path in the sciences, but there are also some times that all I want to do is photography. It’s hard to know right now. I’m still finding my path.
I hope this has been useful to anyone who’s thinking of taking their study of photography further, please feel free to ask if you have any questions and I will help if I can.
As someone who relies on external hard drives for everything, I knew that one day I’d be writing a post like this. At some point, technology fails, and I count myself as super lucky that this is the first time ever I have had a hard drive fail on me. I just plugged it in one day, and along with some very questionable noises coming from it, it never showed up again.
Luckily, I was pretty much prepared for it to happen after hearing about horror stories from a lot of other photographers. All of my work for clients is safe and the only things I lost were a few personal photos and a few random files. I am very lucky, and I’m glad I took the basic measures to get things backed up. HOWEVER, this has given me warning for the future – I think there comes a (usually disastrous) moment in everyone’s life where they see the need to back things up, and this just happens to be mine. If you haven’t taken to back up or protect your files, then please let this little post be a reminder to do that. Share it far and wide to get the message to everyone one there.
1 – Create a ‘Mirror’ hard drive which doubles up your current hard drive.
There are various softwares that can do this for you, or you can always do it manually by copying photos to both whenever you import.
5 – Don’t wipe your memory cards for important jobs
A more expensive way of doing things and not necessary for everyday things – but if you have that Really Important Job™ it might be worth adding the cost of new memory cards that you never delete from or reformat.
6 – Don’t store things directly on your computer if you can help it.
Working off of backed up hard drives and online storage is generally more reliable.
Previously, I was probably utilising 3 of these methods on a consistent basis which is how I was able to get over this pretty unscathed. However, I’m still going to try and go through some data recovery to get back anything that I lost. It’s expensive though, and can be so easily prevented.
The run up to Christmas is one of my favourite times of the year, but last year, I started it way too early. I was looking for signs of Christmas in September, was thrilled by the odd bit of tinsel in October, decorated for Christmas early November and by the time Christmas actually came around… I was pretty bored of it. I was looking at the tree thinking ‘I am bored of you. Can I have my house back now?’ by early December.
THEREFORE, this year I am trying to wait just a little bit longer. It’s a bit like being a kid in a sweet shop really. When you move out and have your own house as an adult you’ve suddenly got no-one else to say to you ‘HEY, LET’S WAIT!’ and your mind is firmly on *f it, I am an adult and I will DECORATE FOR CHRISTMAS WHENEVER I WANT*. But it’s safe to say, I have learned my lesson now. Sometimes just waiting a teensy little bit can make it all the more magical when the time comes around. If you decorate early for Christmas I am not judging at all, in fact, I’m probably jealously looking at your festive house on social media and longing to decorate my own.
However – this year, there will be no Christmas decor or trees until 1st December, hopefully that will keep the magic alive for a little bit longer this year.
The only little sneaky bit of sneakyness that may have possibly snuck in is these fairy lights, but to be fair they’ve been around all year – I’ve just…moved them slightly. BUT it inspired me to set my camera up and photograph a little self portrait.
Hello and happy belated Halloween! A friend of mine very kindly got me this huge amazing pumpkin from her family’s patch and I needed to do something with it this Halloween. This was pretty fun to make and upload. Halloween isn’t usually my thing – I love all the cute spooky decorations, and I can get on board with the dressing up, but actual scary things are not my cup of tea. Do you celebrate Halloween – if so, how? Jas x
Looking at my well-used and 6 year old Canon 6D with a cracked screen and missing the odd dial or two, I realised it was probably the right time to look into updating my photography kit. I always thought that doing so would be completely impossible with my finances, but then I discovered you could buy things on finance and it was like a choir of angels shining down on me and saying ‘what goodies would you like to play with?’. I looked into switching to a Sony mirrorless camera A LOT. I got a lot of different opinions, and the new A7iii sounds pretty amazing. However, in the end I decided to get another faithful Canon 6D as I love it a lot, and frankly, it was a third of the price too. BUT because I saved (ish) on my camera body, a part of me whispered ‘…but…. I could get a new lens?’.
Ever since I bought the Sigma 35mm ART f1.4 a few years ago, it hasn’t really left my camera. I completely fell in love with it, and after all this time I’m still so impressed with it. However, shooting only at 35mm has it’s limits. As it’s a little wide angle, I found shooting full body portraits and portraits from a distance a bit of a struggle. Not impossible, but I’d lose a bit of sharpness and the distortion from the lens would start to get quite obvious. I follow the amazing photographer Rekha Garton, and she recommended a 100mm lens. I thought – wow 100mm? My immediate thoughts where: a) I bet that shoots beautiful un-distorted portraits b) I also bet I’ll have to stand REALLY far back compared to my 35mm and c) I could take a macro picture of a bug, y’know, if I ever wanted too.
If I was going to spend the money on a new lens, the least I could do was get something that was vastly different to my 35mm so that I could try something new, but also had a few more options and strings to my bow. And so, the Canon 100mm f2.8 IS was added to my basket and arrived at my door. It was like an early Christmas day.
The first few pictures I took where… yes, okay, they where of a flower. With the 35mm, you have to stand quite far back to focus, but with this lens you can get right up and personal with the macro. I said ‘look how close up I can get 😲’ quite a few times, I’m pretty sure.
It’s so different from my 35mm. I love the photojournalistic feel of those images, and this lens is going to take some getting used to. However, all in all, I’m really happy with it.
I took it out for a bit of a spin photographing myself at the park. It’s SO. SHARP. My full body portraits look so different but in a great way.
This morning I took my fiance out to do something similar too…
It’s going to take some getting used to, but I’m really looking forward to seeing what I can create with it. New kit is inspiring! Everytime I take an image I’m excited about what result I will get.
What’s your favourite lens? Let me know in the comments, I’d love to hear.