“What lighting equipment should I have?”

It takes more than lighting equipment to make an image.

I recently left my teaching post as a photography lecturer, to concentrate on making images for financial service organisations. Last week, I got an email from a former student of mine that goes to the heart of what had been a series of thoughts about how I make images for clients of Financial Services Photography by Michael Wayne Plant.

The question was.

“Hi Michael,

It’s AXXXX from the “Developing a Photography Project” course.
How is your freelance photography going?
I’m going to start my portrait photography business. I’m planning to take portrait pictures for start-up companies, on location.
I would like ask you for your advice. What do you think what lighting equipment should I have?

Thank you.


Now, at first I thought how cheeky to be asking me this,  just as I’m re-establishing my own professional practice. But on reflection, I thought about it for a while and realised that what is to some is a simple question is actually quite complex. It goes to the heart of why it can be difficult being photographer. To give you an analogy it’s a bit like asking what car should I buy, because in asking this question, I do not know about budget, aesthetic preferences, taste, etc in other words what type of image do you want to make, what type of location, so on and so forth. I could have answered this was giving my former student list of equipment that they should rush out and buy, but that doesn’t really answer the question/s that are being asked by this question.

Now the reason why I am turning this into blog post on this website is that, it is something not that dissimilar to the process that I explored when deciding on what my aesthetic style I would use in my work. So let’s explore that process a little, so that you can understand the reasoning behind what we’re doing with our photography here for www.photofinance.org

The first part is what lighting equipment should I use? My answer is simple, whatever lighting equipment that will enable you to make the images that you have in your mind’s eye that will suit your clients (or potential clients) needs. That lighting equipment needs to be, reliable, dependable, easily usable, if you’re going to locations transportable and you have access to electricity or will you need to use battery power.

My solution to this question is quite simple, I have Sony battery-powered portable flash, which I can use on location with various light modifiers, however this may not reliable enough as it relies on batteries, especially when I’m photographing where I need to be able to make lots of images in a short space of time. Consequently, I need to work with lighting equipment that uses mains powered electricity. My solution to this was to buy a new monobloc studio light (like this Profoto studio light) that can go into a rolling camera case (like this by ThinkTank the added advantage is that I can also include my camera inside as well). The photographer also needs to think about what sort of lighting modifiers they will use. This is important because different types, will give different qualities to the light and some are more portable, others are quicker to set up and they all alter the light quality created by the studio lights.

For a professional photographer, some things should be important as an example; I think it is important to be efficient with your clients time, dependable with the images you’re making and these images need to be repeatable, when you’re working with multiple subjects. Often when you’re looking through photographers portfolio and you see something you like, you will want to be able to have something similar for your own image needs, so it is important that photographer can recreate the lighting and mood of the images in their portfolio or website. This consistency will only be achieved if they are working in similar ways each time. It helps if the photographer is familiar with lighting and is using similar lighting to be able to recreate with different participants and/or locations, images that reflect what they show in their portfolios.

The Second part is? Probably best answered by asking the question; What type of images do you want to make? for Financial Services Photography by Michael Wayne Plant my answer is simple, I aim to make images with the least amount of intrusion into the working environment, while respecting the security of the work place. I also aim to fulfil the image requirements of both my subject/s and the organisation/s for whom I’m photographing. I make editorial style portraits, because of my background in fashion, beauty, advertising and editorial photography. Because of my experience, I am able to direct my subjects, to enable them to relax within themselves, while in front of the camera. This for many people, especially someone not used to being in front of the camera, is actually the hardest part of being photographed. It is also in my opinion, the reason why so many people feel that, they are incapable of having a good photograph made them most of use do not know how to relax in front of the camera. We all have our own insecurities about some aspect of our physical appearance, it is a good photographer who seeks to understand what these are and to minimise them, within the photographic portrait. With experience of making portraiture, photographers develop strategies and techniques for working with subjects and overcoming insecurities that we all have to produce images, we can all be happy with.

At the moment the images that I have in the various portfolios on this website are still works in progress, as we develop connections within the financial services industry and create new images, we will be updating these portfolios.

Brexit and Post-Brexit anxiety

You might ask why start a new business venture in a time of uncertainty and the current post Brexit time most certainly has become a time of uncertainty and anxiety within British culture. We are currently sitting here not knowing what our government will do and for that matter what the EU itself will negotiate will be able to negotiate. This is definitely leading to a state anxiety for both companies and people. I myself am from elsewhere, having lived in the UK since 1991 I feel like a Londoner. It probably helps that I have a British passport and my ancestors came from the East End, but I still grew up on the other side of the planet. Which made me an economic migrant, so have great sympathy for people who are feeling insecure about this current political climate surrounding the result of the Brexit vote. Now back to the original point my article, why start a new business venture that is me working as photographer within the financial services sector with so much uncertainty in the air. My answer is quite simple, we are always going to need quality photographs and as companies and people for that matter feel threatened images become more important. They have a way of showing what is actually happening, showing what is and sometimes what is not. I feel that it is a good time to go into the business financial services as a photographer because companies working in this area are going to need more images. To reassure, to build brands, to create links from themselves to their clients. This is why for me, I think it’s an exciting time to begin something new and fresh.

Photography has the power to show what is happening, to reassure people and to show what things look like. With my experience having worked across a number of genres previously i.e. advertising, architecture (both interior and exterior), documentary, events, fashion editorial, portraiture, and even street photography all of these combined have given me a unique perspective on how images are made and used. Each area has added something to my repertoire of skills and enabled me to grow as a photographer. This is the experience, that I intend to bring to working within financial services, with my photography.

As a photographer, being able to combine all these skills will enable me to bring something new to what has been done within the corporate photography of financial services companies. This is primarily why, I am beginning this new photography venture at this point in time. Brexit, will only intensify the need for great communications, with clients, to reassure them that financial services companies, will find a way to service their needs. That is why, I’m establishing www.photofinance.org this time.

What to look for when hiring a photographer

Why is often hard to choose a photographer, you have a brochure, portrait or an event and you need photographs to share with the world. Our Social Media is always hungry for new images you have to choose a photographer. So what do you look for when you’re looking to hire a photographer? Do you choose on price? You choose on the style of photography? Do you choose on the personality of the photographer? What is it that makes you select one photographer over another and what should you be looking for in making that selection. That is the subject of today’s online article.

I’ve been photographer for a few years now and often I would ask my clients why did they choose me over someone else and often I would get differing answers to what I thought would be a simple question. So if you’re looking to hire a photographer what you need to consider? let’s start with the basics, you need images, you need a photographer, you want photographer who won’t let you down, who can provide you images on time and within your budget to a quality would like. What could be so hard was this? Well this is where it gets a bit trickier, I’ve often had people ring me up and ask how much for a photograph or how much you charge. This is a bit like me ringing up the car dealer and going can I get a car, the first thing they ask is what do I want: two-door, four-door, petrol, diesel, electric and quite a few more questions before they can give me even an idea of how much might cost. In many ways is no different with the photographer we just don’t know what you want, and sometimes you don’t even know what you need which is why we  photographers end up asking lots questions. Because, we’re trying to find out what you really need, and also want to spend. Yet quite often, what you’ve got to spend is not necessarily what it should cost make kind of images you might need. There is always room for negotiation (both up and down) depending on your requirements.

Photographers themselves actually have problems with negotiating fees or prices as they would rather more often than not be a photographer than a businessperson. After all, If they wanted to be a business person, they probably wouldn’t have got into photography.

So to the main point of the article: What to look for when hiring a photographer.

Look at their portfolio, do the photographs they are showing reflect the type of work that you need. This so simple and yet it does occasionally get over looked.

Do they have a specialism, is the photographer concentrating on an area of work that you need. Because, one of the reasons why you want a photographer, is not just that they can make photographs. It is also very helpful if they have knowledge about the industry you work in, because this insider knowledge, is very helpful in knowing what kind of photographs are needed by you, their potential client. The way that digital has affected photographers, is that they now should specialise to attract a more global audience and this should be reflected in both the marketing and their portfolio. That is why this website exists, as it is my interest in global capitalism and financial services industry, that attracts me to work with people in this industry.

Price is only one aspect of hiring a photographer, they bring knowledge of image based techniques and some can be very expensive and others relatively cheap by comparison, for what appears to be a similar product or service. Sometimes you have tight budget and other times you might be apt to be more flexible and this will depend on your image requirements. Photographers invariably charge the usage, if you have a global advertising campaign this is going to cost more, than if you have a small local brochure for a limited market. However, the amount of work going into both type of photo sessions, quite probably is not going to be not that different.

There is more, so I have decided that I am going to make this a multi post story. Look out for more in the near future.