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Calling all Mumsnet photographers

(30 Posts)
Marlipan Tue 12-Jun-07 18:06:55

I am seriously thinking of a career change and am researching setting up as a photographer. (Mainly portraits, mums and babies, etc.)Is there anyone out there who has already taken this step and would be willing to give any advice? (Apart from 'Don't do it!'perhaps)
Thanks

JackieNo Tue 12-Jun-07 18:08:32

I think hub2dee was thinking about it, but he's not around on MN very much any more. If you do a search on his name you might find something, though.

Marlipan Tue 12-Jun-07 18:19:31

Thank you JackieNo. I have actually seen a couple of old conversations when he talks about it, and was kind of hoping that he might be around. I think there are also a few other people doing it, so fingers crossed somebody will reply.

JackieNo Tue 12-Jun-07 19:29:02

Hope so.

AttilaTheMum Tue 12-Jun-07 19:33:14

I think Melbournemum (from the 'pray this little one holds on' thread does something like this.

AttilaTheMum Tue 12-Jun-07 19:33:42

)

Marlipan Tue 12-Jun-07 20:18:57

Thanks Jackie and Attila. I'm new to Mumsnet and this is the first thread I've ever started, so it's really nice to get a reply!

JackieNo Tue 12-Jun-07 22:33:31

Bumping again for you.

kinki Tue 12-Jun-07 23:02:38

Hi Marli. As we were saying last night, I'm thinking about it. I've always been interested in photography and my job is vaguely connected to it. Over the years my photos have improved, but I've had no formal training. I set up a studio in my dining room for most of my work. So far I've only done photos of family, friends and families of ds's schoolfriends, but its enough to build up a portfolio.

I don't really make money yet, just cover my costs and add a bit for time spent doing them. I get their permssion to include photos in my portfolio, and also accept favours in return for photos - last one I got a haircut. I price it all out as if I am charging, but with much lower prices, the plan being if I do launch myself it will be an easy transition. I suppose the biggest thing that is holding me up is getting VAT registered etc. I've lost a bit of momentum lately because I'm pregnant.

I do portrait photography, contempory in style, against a plain white or black background. I try not to stage my subjects, but rather snap them doing their own thing. So far, the feedback has been very positive. Everyone says they would be prepared to pay the prices I plan to use. As I was saying yesterday, when I do go 'live' I plan on advertising myself for photo restoration and manipulation as well. No idea how much I'd charge for that though.

How far have you got? Sorry I haven't got any really advice. I'm hoping someone will come along and tell us how to do it!

MarsLady Tue 12-Jun-07 23:16:20

He's not well at the moment the poor wee love!

TranquilaManana Tue 12-Jun-07 23:20:07

who isnt? hub? oh dear...

im another one lurking to see how its done. your style sounds lovely kinki.

jules99 Tue 12-Jun-07 23:32:32

quick MN question to those with photographic knowledge

i have taken a wonderful picture of a 2 pence piece hammered into an old fallen down tree (among 1000's of other 2 pence pieces) in the lakes recently,

it was taken on our first anniversary so i would love to make it special and keep it for years to come,

the lighting and the colour are perfect, i want to get it blown up on to canvas and hang it above my dinning room table,

thinking about a 4 ft by 3 ft canvas stretched on to a wooden frame,

any advice on where to get this done and the sort of costing involved?

thanks x

Marlipan Tue 12-Jun-07 23:50:16

Hi again Kinki. My situation is similar to yours in some ways, in that I've had no real formal training. I did do some photography in the dim and distant past when I was at college, but we didn't have a tutor for that subject, so my technical skills were rudimentary. Since then I have just done it for enjoyment, whilst working in a totally unrelated and non-creative technical job. I'm currently at a make-or-break point workwise, and am considering what else I might do.
I think I would still like photography if I was doing it for a living (although that is a bit of a concern) and am pretty confident that I could pick up the technical skills required. (I'm very envious of your proficiency with Photoshop - I always relied on the darkroom to rescue my pics, but I'm a long way from being able to do much more than the basics with Photoshop.) I'm way behind you in the portfolio stakes, but am starting to speak to people who I would like to take some pictures of and am moving in that direction. At the moment I'm trying to work out suitable backgrounds and lighting for use in our living room.

Marlipan Wed 13-Jun-07 00:00:08

Hi Jules. Think other people on this thread may have more extensive knowledge of this, but I've seen this kind of thing offered by online print companies (just looked at Bonusprint). That site didn't seem to do them quite as large as you want, and I think the largest ones were about £150. Haven't yet worked out how to do a link and it's too late to try tonight! Will have another look tomorrow.

kinki Wed 13-Jun-07 09:34:57

Jules, I get a lot of my prints from bonusprint. They have good customer service and their results are consistant - one time I thought the colours weren't right, and they redid them for me at no cost. I haven't ordered a canvas from them, but prints, posters and photo cards have always been good.

Marli, the thought of rescuing pictures in a lab terrifies me, give me photoshop any day! I've been messing about with it for a few years, but it doesn't take long to get to grips with it. Its a case of 90% of the time I use about 10% of it, and could get by with just that. There are books around that take you through steps and projects, that could be worth investing in.

My portfolio started with just pictures of my ds. And as I did other people's pictures they would gradually replace the bulk of his, so now its quite big and varied. Mostly its of babies and children and a few family groups. Off out now, but will check in later.

Marlipan Wed 13-Jun-07 12:40:14

Hi Kinki, Don't be too in awe of my darkroom skills It was just a lot of dodging and burning and some heavy cropping... I am getting a bit further with Photoshop, but still can't get it to do black and white or toned prints like I want. I've just seen this guy's website http://www.chromasia.co.uk and aspire to his type of portraits - or any of the B&W portrait galleries I've seen online come to that. I know I will find out how to do it, but haven't yet found the right book or site yet.
I know a few mums and babies who I could haul in for a free photo session, and also someone who is an actress who wants some straightforward headshots, but I don't feel I'm quite at that stage yet. Firstly, I don't know much about lighting. I like natural light but feel something more might be called for for a professional pic. Do you use lights, reflectors, flash etc?
TranquilManana, glad to hear from you too. (I'm glad I'm not the only exlurker )
Jules, I'm assuming you've probably found the Bonusprint site by now, but let me know if you're still looking. I think I found some other sites which offered the same service, so it's worth a search, but I've only used Bonusprint for anything.

Marlipan Wed 13-Jun-07 12:41:19

Try again with the link, sorry http://www.chromasia.com

kinki Wed 13-Jun-07 13:05:35

I take all my pictures in colour and then use photoshop to make them black and white. Is that what you do? The easiest way is just go image, mode, grayscale. Remember when you have finished manipulating the image to convert it back to RGB colour (image, mode, RGB colour) (it will remain b/w) or else you may have problems getting it printed - a lot of processors only recognise RGB colours.

Doing it this way can leave the image a little flat or lacking in contrast unless the exposure is good. Another way is using the layers box (bottom right). From the original, click on channels and you'll see you're looking at red, green and blue channels together. Try clicking on just one of the colours, sometimes you get good b/w pics using just one channel. If it works (doesn't always) then go image, mode, grayscale, ok. Then image, mode, RGB colour again, so you can print. Do you use the other adjustment functions? The one I use ALL the time is the levels. You can get fantastic results just using that alone. In both b/w and colour.

I use Jessop's portaflash equipment (I'll find a link) for my lighting when I have my studio set up. Usually its 2 large light boxes towards the subject, and 2 spotlights on the backdrop and/or behind the subject. It seems to work quite well. When I get the time I'll make a profile and put a few pictures on.

Marlipan Wed 13-Jun-07 13:47:05

Fab, Kinki, that's very helpful. Will look at the Jessops website in a while. Thanks for the photoshop advice. I haven't tried the exact method you suggested, though I will have a go tonight, but it sounds like I'm on the right lines. (I think sometimes I do too much, or overadjust it, so it's probably just practice.) I will try getting some B&W images professionally printed, as I'm often disappointed with my efforts from my colour printer. Funnily enough I have just found a mini-tutorial on the website I mentioned so will have a look at that when I'm not supposed to be in charge of a 3yr old. Back to the real world and the washing up for now...

kinki Wed 13-Jun-07 14:37:09

Oh, I forgot to put in the important bit about b/w images. Once you've grayscaled it, you can then make it duotone (image, mode, duotone). One the duotone box, keep type as duotone, and ink 1 as black. For ink 2 click the second colourd box, it will take you to colour libraries. Scroll up and down the colour pallate for diffent tones to add to you picture. Some of them can make you picture come alive. When you've found one you like, click ok. Then if you want to fiddle, click on ink 2's first box and you can adjust the curves. You can do this for ink 1 too, this will adjust the contrast. When you're done, don't forget to put it back into rgb colours again.

I've given up using my home printer. I use bonusprint mostly, but if I'm in a hurry or if its just a few I might even pop into Tesco (not as happy with their consistancy though). Just a thought, if your printer isn't giving you good results for b/w prints, could it be that your pictures aren't in rgb mode? IME it's been very hard and time consuming to ensure colour profiles of the monitor and home printer are matched. I can't get my head round it, so I've given up trying.

Marlipan Wed 13-Jun-07 17:09:32

Thanks again Kinki. I have actually tried duotone, but wasn't happy with my results. One thing I haven't yet done is adjusted the colour profiles - I think Photoshop has been bleating about that when I start up. I know that you can get something to line up your monitor too, but it seemed a bit OTT for an amateur. Will try sending stuff to Bonusprint for a confidence boost perhaps. I knew nothing about the RGB mode (think it's something I skipped in the books as sounding very dull) so that is a great tip.
Lastly, one of the other things I was thinking might be saleable was tailored Photoshop training for amateur photographers - I've got a way to go, but you might be ideal for it.

Marlipan Wed 13-Jun-07 21:02:50

Also, does anyone know how much people make working as a photographer in this kind of field? I've seen £15 to £20K mentioned for full-time working. Any advances on this?
Kinki, can you not start without being VAT registered if that's what's stopping you. (Apart from the pregnancy, that is )I was under the (rather vague) impression that it was only necessary when you made more than a certain amount.

Marlipan Thu 14-Jun-07 13:25:55

Think this conversation's reached a natural end , but just wanted to say a big thank you to Kinki for all the help. I went back to some of my shots last night and tried out the monochrome and duotone effects again and was MUCH happier with the results. Can't wait to get them printed.

kinki Sat 16-Jun-07 00:17:59

sorry marli, not been around much for a couple of days, been a bit poorly. I think I'll have to be properly registered because I have another job. I wouldn't want to complicate or comprimise things with that one. I'm very flattered about your comment re photoshop. There's plenty I don't know and some more that I struggle with. For example I can't get my head around 'curves'. So I don't usually bother with them.

I've no idea how much you'd make working part time. The way I'm planning going ahead is as follows:

- Free sitting
- I print off 'proofs' as 7x5s, in an album - as many that are good
- Client gets to peruse proofs.
- Buying options - client can buy proofs as seen for a fixed price, depending on how many there are, but am thinking of about £1 a print.
- client can purchase individual prints ranging from £4 for 6x4, £5 for 7x5, £16 for 10x8 etc. I'll offer discounts for several orders eg for 2-4 10x8s charge £15, for 5+ then £14 each, that kind of thing.
- am thinking about selling a disk with all prints on, plus copyright for a fixed price so that the client can do their own printing, not sure how much for. Maybe about £150 or £200.
- after pysical overheads, I'm expecting (or rather hoping) for about £80-100 profit for each photo shoot. That obviously doesn't take into account the amount of time spent doing all the work.

The little bit of research I've done, this seems feasible. The prices are attracting interest because its cheaper than studios. Though I know I'm not cheaper than the photographers in say Mothercare, Boots or TJ Hughes. But then you only get one print. I always stress that there is no obligation to buy. But people always have.

I was going to tell you about my lighting: I use two of these lights with these light boxes on tripods. Plus two lamps like these pointing at backdrop or behind subject. I have 2 more tripods with a pole to support my backdrops - bought a white one from ebay, and made a black one out of plain cotton. I got some fake white and black fur that I put on the floor.

I can't access my other computer at the mo for some pictures, but I have a couple of shots on this laptop of my dses that I'll have a go at putting on my profile. Probably won't keep them there for long though.

By the way, which camera do you use? (don't go just yet!)

kinki Sat 16-Jun-07 00:57:12

In case anyone is interested and just while its in my head here's a useful tip for snapping babies.

I was given a bumbo for my lo. Tbh, I never found it much use day to day. But it is really useful for taking photos of young babies. I drape my fake fur rug (not really a rug, bought it from a fabric shop) or you could use any material, sheet even, over the bumbo, stick baby in and snap away. Get down low so you are shooting horizontally, and not downwards. If the baby leans backwards, either prop up the back of the bumbo or shoot slightly pointing down. My bumbo is now a useful part of my photography kit. The 4th photo in my profile was taken like this.

Does anyone else have any useful tips they want to share?

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