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Photo Retouching Contentment, Bribing Children & Blending The Soul Of A Place

Creative Retouching Contentment, Bribing Children & Blending The Soul Of A Place

As well as being an advertising photographer I also offer high-end photo retouching services.

This means even when not working on an assignment I will often challenge to myself that even on a family holiday I return with at least one killer image that represents the place and my experience of it.
There was a time in my younger years where I would never relax when away and I’d be running around every day at dawn and dusk shooting like a man possessed.
Over the years my way of working has changed (to the relief of the wife) and I often feel the need of a more challenging and unique way of creating that requires a little more of a planned approach.

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This image (well some of it) was shot on the Costa Del Sol in Spain during one such family holiday. I had been out with my camera a few times during the week but mainly scouting for inspiration for the killer image.
Was struck me about the area was the amount of people out at both morning and night walking their dogs, running, cycling or on rollerblades simply enjoying the beautiful coast and its climate.
The coast was dotted with these striking looking lifeguard towers and clusters of exotic looking Palm trees along the beach that provided shade and a perch for the large colony of Parakeets.
Inspiration was gained and I decided I would venture out at daybreak later that week and capture some of these elements and create the image below titled Contentment.
The model is my youngest and cheapest child to bribe for a shoot Ava with my neighbours very photogenic dog Barney who were both captured upon my return home.

“Waiting” Blending Passions

Solving problems and getting work completed fast and to the highest quality is what Advertising Photography is all about and something I get huge satisfaction from. Saying that just because something is assigned  does not mean the same principles don’t apply to personal work it just means you are expressing your own creative ideas and solving your own problems to reach the final image.

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This image titled “Waiting’ blends my love of Greek Mythology together with my passion of the Sea which I’ve lived close to for a large part of my life. It’s a worry really as I’m very consious that many of my images contain the coast in them to the point that I have to avoid placing too many in my Book or on my Website, but you can’t choose what inspires you to create.

Here is a short video of how the images all came together in post production.

 

Scooters,Skinheads & Dodgy Snaps : Content Over Quality

 

As an advertising photographer when creating images I’m always looking for the highest quality, both in capture and when I’m photo retouching
However, just recently I have realised that sometimes image content rules over how sharp,well-exposed or even well lit an image is..who would have imagined that!

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A fresh-faced me with a camera at the ready and hair!

Nearly a year ago I lost my mother and as a result, I have found myself reminiscing a lot about my childhood and youth growing up in Somerset.
I decided a few weeks ago to open up my film archives which contain thousands of images spanning 15 or so years.

 

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Centek Commission.

A few months back I was assigned by Advertising Agency Bray Leino to spend a couple of days shooting on location for their client Centek. Centek  manufacture equipment for the oil drilling industry and I was briefed to capture their state of the art manufacturing process and people who help run it.The job was pretty full on as deadlines where fast approaching for a launch of a new factory and the images or at least some where needed for this. Myself one assistant and Art Director sucessfully finished the shoot with time to spare and I then spent the following day shooting samples of the products in the studio.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nocturnal Beach & Bangin Tunes ! Ibiza

Over the last few years it’s become an annual habit to take a late October holiday with the family to try and catch a last bit of sun before winter.
I have to admit I have grown to love the Balearic Islands with Ibiza being probably my favorite of the islands.

Cafe, Ibiza Spain
Another thing I have loved for many years despite probably being too old to be admitting it here is Trance music though I tend to enjoy listening to it on my iPhone or in my car rather than in any clubs (definitely too old for that !)
While scouting the island I had spotted this beach side Cafe and decided that one evening I would go set the camera up sit and enjoy the fading light while listening to some music.
The fading light (The Edge Of Darkness as I call it) was simply beautiful and provided me with a very magical evening doing what I love while listening to some bangin tunes …must remember not to embarrass the kids !!

Setting The Netting.

I was digging through my archives today to find an image to compliment a photography training video I was producing and I came across the image below.
Captured back in 2007 while on location in Cornwall it shows two gents I stumbled upon at dawn at Kennack Sands launching a small rowing boat and net. They where setting the net to catch Sand Eels to use as bait for their fishing trips and gave me some great images set against the slightly cloudy dawn light.

The image I initially picked was the panoramic  shown below composited from several frames shot at the same location. Six years on and I have to say I think I know prefer the image above out of the two..just shows how our tastes change over time.

 

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Swans Splashes & A Somerset School

A couple of weeks before Christmas I had a call from an agency called Ice House Design based in Bath.
They had a job for a client that was a private school called Kings Bruton School here in Somerset.
They needed a very particular image creating of a Swan taking off over water to fulfil use in several publications they where planning.
I was especially excited about this brief as I have been working on a personal project titled “Life In A Somerset Landscape” for nearly a year. The project involves photographing (and compositing) well known Somerset Landscapes with both people and animals within them so this job was a good fit for me on the back of this.


Some of the best creatives I have worked with are the ones that give you a brief but allow enough room for me to interpret it and go that little bit further with it.
Jack Owen the Creative Director at Ice House was one such creative, he provided a fairly tight brief but one that we both collaborated on and pushed further.
After several discussions and a few ideas thrown around we set off to start work on the project.
The first job was to find some suitable water to capture.I had several location in mind and most where on the Somerset Levels but my first location which was a local reservoir turned out to be perfect so much so in fact that the background was also used from the same images and not stripped in as I expected it would be.


My only problem at the location was the wildlife which insisted hanging around the camera despite me attempting to scare them off (the wildlife are pretty hard down ere in Zummerset ! ). I also had a Robin who kept pestering me wherever I walked or turned and by the end of the shoot I felt a little like Evan Almighty !

Back at the studio I decided to strip two images together to create the slightly wide background required from two frames I shot using a longish lens which had helped to create a nice soft perspective.

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Next I found a lovely sky in my archives that lent itself to the mood we wanted and promptly added this into the scene.

Bruton where the school is based has a lovely old Dovecote on a hill that we agreed would be a nice subtle addition to add to the scene.The plan was to go and shoot this in suitable weather but unfortunately the weather was not on our side so a stock image was sourced and then retouched for our needs.
Another element that I reluctantly had to source from a stock library was the Swan.This was partly down to the tight deadline and also the fact the image needed was quite particular.
It was extremely important that we sourced the correct image of a Swan taking off and that the lighting was a good match for our background.
The main problem I had after scouring through tons of images was that those that where a good match where often of poor technical quality but eventually we found a near perfect image.
The balance of the post production was to add the swan and most important of all perfecting the splashes in the water which where a vital element in the brief.

After a couple of minor adjustments the agency delivered the proof to the client whom I’m told where overjoyed by the finished image.My hat goes off to Ice House for a great brief and some beautiful design work and also to Kings Bruton the client for doing something quite brave and removed from their normal photography requirements.

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Graphic Design. Ice House Design, Bath – Graphic Design + Branding

Photography & Post Production Simon Plant

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Rolling In Dirt & Dollars At The Colosseum

Several years ago I did a fair amount of productions shooting for stock libraries including Corbis & Getty images.
These where mostly lifestyle shoots on location but also a few landscapes & travel images which for the most part where less salable & profitable ….mostly.

If there is one sure thing in photography it’s there is no sure thing or second guessing what the market will want.So when I took a trip to Rome back in 2005 with the family I did take my cameras (of course) but did not really expect to capture anything that my stock libraries might want as after all how many images must there already be of the eternal city.
With this in mind I decided I’d just follow what took my fancy and capture images for pure pleasure just for myself.

Rome is a little like Venice in terms of photographic opportunities (see my last post on Venice) around every corner except there are more cars and less water !
One of the must have locations I wanted to capture during this trip had to be the iconic Colosseum which posed two problems for me to overcome.
The first and easiest problem to solve was the sheer amount of tourists at the location.This was easily solved as images like these are often captured (at least by me) in the soft light of dawn. Being early spring this meant a 5am start which also meant the only people up and around was myself and street cleaners.
The more challenging problem which I spoke about in my last post was how to photograph the familiar in a fresh interesting way.Can you imagine how many times the Colosseum has been captured over the decades?

The light from the sunrise that morning was simply beautiful and made even more sweet as I had this magnificent and historic building all to myself well at least the exterior of it. As I explored the location It dawned on me (no pun intended) that shooting with Contre-jour light and a precise exposure would help reproduce the beauty I was experiencing.
What makes this image so successful (more on that in a moment) in my opinion was the fact I always explore my composition options, moving left-right up and down around the scene to find what gives me the strongest image.In this image I decided an ultra low angle lying on my stomach with a wide angle lens would provide a strong foreground with the sunlit cobbles.
Although I knew I had several strong images I was still unconvinced about submitting these to my Art Director at my stock library after all landscapes / travel images did not sell that well partly due to the vast amount already available but I decided to send them in anyway.
To my surprise the agency took a good selection of those I submitted including several of the Colosseum images but the best was to come.
The first month they appeared for sale the Colosseum image featured here sold for $25,000 to American Airlines for an advertising campaign they where producing and it continued selling for the following 18 months notching up some amazing sales.
The least financially beneficial sale it received but probably my proudest was when it appeared on the cover of the National Geographic.

National Geographic

So why did an image of one of the most famous and photographed land marks in the world gross in excess of $50,000 in sales when the market was saturated with images of it?
Well I think it’s very simple..It’s the familiar captured in an unfamiliar way. By lying on those dusty uncomfortable cobbles and using the beautiful dawn light the best way I could I had created an image that was pretty unique and fresh compared to anything else available at the time.

In my opinion to succeed in today’s commercial photography market it’s essential to be as unique in your image creation as possible to have any chance of standing out in the overcrowded market and that means understanding & developing your eye / visual style over many years.

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