NEW LIFE; APPROVE OR DECLINE?

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“…if that is your view and you believe so strongly in it then don’t shout a completely different message on your website. That smacks of hypocrisy to me. Either you believe in something or you don’t.”

It’s June!  And we’re just days away from the longest day, and you know what that means, don’t you? That’s right. We’ll soon be boarding the slippery slide to shorter days as we make our way through summer and then autumn.

Can you believe it? We are half of the way through the year already.  And how’s 2018 shaped up for you so far? Good, bad, enlightening? I’m hoping it’s the former and perhaps even the latter.

As you know, it’s been a while since my last post in which I talked about the gigantic change in my life, and I’ve spent the past few months getting used to it. The plan was to take some time to focus on finishing INCUBUS, my latest supernatural thriller – due out this year (more about this later) and photography, but things haven’t quite turned out that way. As always, life took over, and I had no choice but to flow with the tide, and what started as a potential part-time activity has turned into a full-time endeavour.

Yes, the photographic assignments have been coming thick and fast and I’ve been making the most of each and every opportunity to capture thousands of images for use on multiple stock photography websites.  Yes, stock photographs. You know what I’m talking about, right?

No?

Don’t worry. You’re not alone. During my recent exploits, I’ve come across many who have no idea what exactly one of the most widely used resources of the media industry is nor what it’s for.

Allow me.

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SHUTTERSTOCKADOBE STOCK (yes, noticing a commonality?) and DREAMSTIME  are just some of the stock photography sites that I am a contributor to and that marketers and news agencies around the world join (via a  paid subscription or on demand) to download all sorts of photographs and videos depicting various life scenarios.  From Himalayan excursions to the lollypop lady (is she still in business?), one if not all of the leading stock photography sites will have a picture. And you, whether you’re looking for an image to spearhead a major media campaign or simply looking for a photo to stick on the flyer about the local car-boot (or yard) sale, will be able to find, download and use it under exclusive licence.  There’s no expense of securing a location, hiring of models, acquiring of wardrobe or paying a photographer and crew.  It’s all done for you by people like me and distributed via the aforementioned.

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BEHIND THE SAW MILL SHOOT: with new face George Hayes and my trusty assistant, Anna.

I’m a firm believer of every day being a school day.  No matter how old you are or how much you ‘think’ you know, there’s always so much more to learn out there. And I’ve learned, a lot! Not just how much the photography industry is changing (from hiring models to getting paid for your work) but also about humanity.  Over the past few months, I have met some amazing and not so amazing folk who have either helped or hindered each shoot, the results of which you’ve most likely seen on my previous blog post and social media pages.

You have, right?

Right?

But just in case you would like a refresher, I’ve included some images in this post but you can see more via the above stock photography links or on the PHOTOGRAPHY page.

The actual detail of my road to stock photographer will be published in a separate blog post. This was encouraged by the various sites that I’m currently working with who actively solicit guest photographer blog writers to support newcomers to the industry. So, if you’re curious about the nitty-gritty of my adventures or someone you know is interested in photography and taking up life behind the lens then stay tuned for a specific post all about the subject over the next week.

In the meantime, I can tell you that one of the things I like most about being a photographer (or in this case, STOCK photographer) is that every day is different. I can be shooting a vintage set one day and modern technology the next as I go about documenting life through imagery. That, and the fact that every day I learn something new not only about the industry but about people.

I noticed this back in March 2018 when trying to bring together a major photoshoot the idea of which I had a few years back when I was actually looking for stock photography for one of the blog posts on this site.

Years went by then, finally, in November 2017, I started testing various models until I shortlisted one couple. They had a great chemistry and I knew they were going to work well together. So, in my new role of stock photographer, I scheduled a shoot down in Cornwall. I booked the penthouse (I normally use for writing), bought suits, additional clothing, props, the models and, of course, the location. In this case, I needed the front of a church to use as a backdrop for exterior shots.

So, we approached the only church near where I was staying in Porthcurno. I chose this particular stone building nestled in a luscious green valley not only because of its proximity to the penthouse but also because their website shouted about the fact that they did not discriminate against anyone, that they welcomed all people from all walks of life. Eventually, we received a response but it was very specific in that it indeed welcomed the photoshoot in exchange for a donation provided that shoot didn’t feature a same-sex couple.  When questioned why their website stated something else, the reply was that was the feeling and that it was shared by all at the church, including the vicar who wrote her own detailed response as to why a photoshoot featuring a same-sex couple was not welcome.

Now, I could get into the whole discrimination thing, but I won’t. All I will say is that the church and its parishioners are naturally quite entitled to their view, however narrow-minded it may appear. But, if that is your view and you believe so strongly in it then don’t shout a completely different message on your website. That smacks of hypocrisy to me. Either you believe in something or you don’t.

And so, the shoot that I had spent a long time planning did not happen. Not because of the church mind you, but because one of the leading men messaged me the night before and stated that, due to a foot injury, he would be unable to show for the shoot the next day!

Yep. You can imagine my mood.  Glorious location. Glorious wardrobe and one model down. I had to diversify with the remaining man, and fast. I did. Below, are just a few of the images from that shoot, which you may have seen previously. Now also favourite downloads from my collection (who knew that we were a nation of horse lovers). 😉

And, of course, not one to be beaten, I restarted my search for a replacement model (I never did believe the injury story but that most likely had something to do with the fact that the model in question also wasn’t very good at communicating, and that generally tells me that they aren’t particularly interested in the assignment).

In April, I started shortlisting potential replacements. In May, after a successful demo,  THE WEDDING (as the shoot had been dubbed) was cast. In May 2018 the shoot that I conceived over 2 years ago took place and was shot on location in Cambridgeshire.  Again, you probably will have seen some of the images on my Facebook page, but if you didn’t, here are just a few below.

THE WEDDING set of images have now become the most downloaded images from my collection.

And so, all’s well that ends well.

I’ve since gone on to conceive and shoot multiple themes. Including some WWII themes with a new face that almost didn’t happen.

I’m a firm believer in trusting one’s own instincts.  That’s because they’ve served me well over my lifetime, oh, and also because research tells us that gut instinct is generally the sum of multiple life factor experiences. Which means our brains will collate multiple life factor experiences similar to the one we’re currently facing and then presents us with a total average of similar experiences to enable us to make the right decision.  Which effectively means that when we get a ‘gut feeling’, it isn’t just a feeling at all but an unconscious analysis of all available data.

Is your mind blown yet?

Bottom line is, generally speaking, each time I didn’t listen to that ‘feeling’ I more than often ended up being disappointed.

This was so of another photoshoot I conceived, dubbed THE TRAVELLER. It’s the photo story of a man who is leaving home because he did something wrong. The photo journal follows his journey on a train, in taxis, in cafes and eventually leads to his hotel room where he contemplates life and the future.  The idea was/is to photo document the journey of this man with each of the images becoming a potential lifestyle stock photography image.  However, I had a very clear idea of what the protagonist should look like in my head.  And thus casting, as always, became an important factor. I trawled through literally hundreds of potential candidates. Even came close to hiring a few, but none were realised, until…

I came across a very thin portfolio of a young rugby player slash stunt performer who goes by the name of GEORGE HAYES. The few images that were in his online portfolio didn’t really tell me much about his versatility and so he failed to hold my attention for long. Yet, it was long enough for me to want to know (see) more. So, I challenged myself.  I told myself that if I invited him to a demo shoot and he was happy to make the journey from London to Cambridge then I would give him a chance.  What do you think happened?

He said no.

Just kidding. He agreed. So, I was committed. The demo shoot actually took place in the afternoon, as I was already booked to a photoshoot in the morning. And, to be perfectly honest, I was tired and wouldn’t have been too traumatised if the man didn’t show. Luckily for us, he did.

And, despite the initial blokey bravado that one would expect from a stunt performer / Rugger who was only just starting out in modelling and understandably wary of me and my motives for choosing him, I knew from the moment I looked at George through the viewfinder of my camera that he had all the potential to be THE TRAVELLER and more.

We’ve now worked on two major photoshoots together with multiple themes, and I can honestly say that George is a photographer’s dream. He takes direction really well, has a great sense of humour which really helps on a long day and is collaborative; doesn’t just stand and take direction but contributes with his own ideas too.

Given his impressive ability to adopt different roles, the plan is to work with George on multiple shoots in between his filming on sets around the world.  Here are a few of the images we’ve created so far. There are many more on the aforementioned and most other stock photography sites.

And so, my main reason for sharing this story with you is the fact that I almost didn’t give George a chance. His presentation was poor and busy me didn’t want to take the time to get to know this new person’s ability. I suppose, given past experiences, I didn’t want to take a chance, I was looking for a tried and tested package. And yet, had I not taken the chance, I wouldn’t have discovered this new untapped talent that is fast becoming another favourite download from my collections by users around the world.

The moral of that story; sometimes, no matter how busy life is, it will always pay to stop and take a step back for a different perspective.

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INCUBUS – my new supernatural thriller – has been postponed until 2019.

Which brings me to my next point. I know many of you were very excited when I announced that I was writing INCUBUS last year. Especially since it’s become clear to me that supernatural thrillers are a favourite with many of you. However, there are only so many hours in the day and conceptualising, booking, shooting, cataloguing, indexing and uploading images takes a lot of time.  And even then, each image must be reviewed by each of the site’s reviewers. It is then either APPROVED or DECLINED. I won’t even go into the variety of reasons why an image can be declined, that’s something I’ll be including in the appropriate post but, suffice to say, it can be very frustrating and time consuming to start the process all over again.

It’s a full-time job that you can imagine has taken me away from writing which, as you know, is my passion. But in order for a book to be the best that it can be before it reaches you, it needs an appropriate amount of time and attention. The same that I feel I cannot apply right now. This is why it’s only right and proper to postpone the completion of INCUBUS until next year by which time I am hoping to have generated a satisfactory online portfolio that will enable photography to work alongside writing and not instead of.

So, until then, remember, not everything or everyone is as they may first appear and that, sometimes, your ‘gut feeling’ may well be the best advice you’ll ever get.

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