Richard Boll

My journey from Film to Digital Photography

Category Artists, Fine Art Photography, Photography career, Photography education

Producing black and white prints in a darkroom at school fuelled my passion for photography. As corny as it sounds, seeing the images appear and develop in the tray of developer is a magical and spellbinding experience.

Differences between Film & Digital

What I think can be missing when working with digital is the tactile, hands-on element you get working with photographic film. The process allows you to consider every element very carefully, particularly focus, exposure and composition. Learning how to load the film into tanks in complete darkness, mixing all the chemistry correctly and to the right temperature to develop the film and produce negatives, is a meditative and thoughtful process. Most professional photographers find that the process isn’t practical however in the commercial world. Digital is the way forward as it’s far more efficient than processing film, but I do miss the creative and unique element that’s not always carried over into digital photography.

With film, you might wait days, or even weeks if you’re travelling, before you find out how the images turned out. With digital, you can check the images that you produce immediately. The ability to do this is very convenient but you lose that element of extra concentration applied to shooting film that I think can be beneficial to the end result.

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My journey to digital photography

When I was studying photography in the late 90s, I was taught purely on film and then I went on to teach people on film myself. Digital was starting to become more prevalent whilst I was teaching and I started to demonstrate digital cameras to my students. In those days, we didn’t have significant digital printers like photography departments would have now. I was largely self-taught when it came to digital. When I became a commercial photographer, I opted to go digital straightaway. I invested £6k in my first camera, plus more for the lenses and lighting equipment. I taught myself about the different file types, researching as much as I could and studying Photoshop textbooks to bring me up to speed.

I still use techniques today that I picked up then. Especially the shortcuts, such as cropping an image to the right size, setting up DPI (dots per inch) correctly for a printed image, manipulating images i.e. dodging (taking light away) and burning (applying additional light),
adjusting and converting colour and contrast, etc. There are certain elements that translate from film to digital. For example, a lot of the language that’s used for Photoshop tools references darkroom principles and processes.

Advantages of digital photography

One of the advantages of digital is an efficient workflow, such as bulk processing of images. You can apply the same adjustments to 500 images in one go, for example, rather than changing every single one as you go along. Even if you were a skilled darkroom technician, it’d be hard to make every print identical. Whereas, once you have the digital file you can make multiple identical prints.

Storage archiving is another significant benefit of working with digital. Back in the day, you would have had several filing cabinets full of negatives that you’d have to create a system for, and it’d be difficult to go back and find a negative that you shot 20 years ago. Nowadays, if a client asks for a particular image, you can easily search a large drive and find the image that you want in seconds, rather than hours.

Another significant difference between film and digital is the cost attached to film. You’re very aware when you’re shooting film that it’s costing you money. Each exposure has the cost of not just the film but also the processing costs.
I’m certainly not taking away the huge advantages of digital, which I very much appreciate day to day in my working life. But processing film will always hold a special place for me. There may be an element of nostalgia but whenever I get the rare opportunity to produce black and white prints, I still feel the same excitement today that I had at school all those years ago.

Read more about How I started my career as a professional photographer.

UK Visual Artist Photographic Portraits 1 of 4: Gavin Turk – artist and sculptor, YBA and Saatchi ‘Sensation’ Exhibitor

Category Artists, Editorial Photography, Editorial Portrait, Environmental Portrait, Fine Art Photography, Gavin Turk, London, Portrait Photography

UK Visual Artist Portrait Series

When I initially developed an interest in photography and started learning about well-known artists and photographers, I appreciated seeing photographic portraits of them in my research. Even though I didn’t know who these people were at the time, an interesting portrait can tell a visual story and open a window into that person’s world. I found it very intriguing and was curious about why that person had been photographed in a particular way. I recently decided that I’d like to continue this rich photographic tradition by taking a series of photographs of well-known visual artists currently working in the UK.

Gavin Turk

The first set of images in this series features Gavin Turk, a British-born, world-renowned international artist, and one of the Young British Artists (YBAs). The YBAs were a group of visual artists who were noted for shock tactics, use of throwaway materials, and often controversial works of art. They attracted considerable media coverage and dominated British art during the ‘Cool Britannia’ scene of the 90s.

Turk’s work deals with issues of authorship, authenticity, and identity. He has pioneered many forms of contemporary British sculpture now taken for granted, including the painted bronze, the waxwork, the recycled art-historical icon, and the use of rubbish in art. Spotted by the art collector Charles Saatchi, he was invited to take part in ‘Sensation’, the highly controversial contemporary art exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts (London) in 1997. Celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, this significant exhibition drew a lot of media attention at the time and showcased work by 42 different artists, including Tracey Emin and Damien Hirst.

On the day of the shoot, I spent around three hours at Gavin’s studio in East London. The original concept that I had for this visual artist series was to take a range of photographs with four distinct elements depicting images of the artist and their work: behind-the-scenes studio shots, details referencing their work and processes, the artist at work (where possible) and more formal photographic portraits.

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This image is a reference to Turk’s work on identity and the frequent use of signatures in his work and also mimics a project carried out by the photographer Gjon Mili, who photographed Picasso drawing in the air with a torch. The effect of this portrait was created by taking a long exposure of Gavin writing his name in the air with a torch and then firing a flash to expose the room in which the photograph was taken.

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This double portrait combines two photographic portraits taken in quick succession and references Turk’s artwork: ‘Portrait of something that I’ll never really see’ (1997), a self-portrait of the artist from the neck up with his eyes closed against a blank background.

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These photographs of the interior of Turk’s studio provide an insight into the artist’s work and his influences. I’d like to thank Gavin for being so open to my ideas and generous with his time on the day of the shoot. It was a particular pleasure for me both to meet him and to take portraits of him. It’s also been great to see some of the images I’ve taken being shared on the artists’ website and social media platforms.

Watch this space for features on 3 more visual artists, currently working in the UK that I’ve also photographed, namely Adam Chodzko, Gordon Cheung, and Jake Wood-Evans. Future plans include an exhibition of the complete series of portraits of visual artists working in the UK today.

Discover more about Gavin Turk and his work by visiting his website and read about the controversial 1997 ‘Sensation’ exhibition here. More of my photographic portraiture can be seen here.

 

How I started my career as a professional photographer.

Category Commercial Photography, Editorial Photography, Photography career, Photography education, Uncategorised

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I’ve always loved photography. It’s been a passion of mine since I was 16 years old. I knew then that I wanted to turn my hobby into a professional career. In 2005, I realised my dream and set up as a freelance commercial professional photographer. I often get asked for advice by budding photographers thinking about turning professional. Here, I share my personal journey and answer some of those questions.

Q: How did you get into photography?
I’ve had various cameras from an early age and always took pictures, but it was only a hobby at that stage. The turning point was meeting a teacher at school who was very passionate about photography. So much so, that he set up a darkroom in the school to give students the opportunity to find out what it was like to shoot film and produce prints. I started with black and white film, using a 35-mm SLR camera and I was hooked, especially producing prints in a darkroom. It’s a bit of a cliche, but to see the image appearing in the chemicals is spellbinding when you first start printing. Producing prints in the darkroom is something I really miss now because it’s just not practical for my commercial work. Digital is far more efficient, but I miss the certain unique elements of using film that are not always carried over into digital photography.

Q: Did you do any photography courses?
I started with a City and Guilds photography course that the teacher was running. He recognised there was sufficient enthusiasm in various students to set up an A-level and I progressed onto that course. It was a very good pathway into the rest of my education along with A-level Art. That combination set me up for my Art Foundation year, which then led on to a degree in photography.

Q: How did you transition from hobbyist to professional?
When I finished my degree at Edinburgh College of Art in 1999, I got a job as a Junior Technician at the college. I then progressed to a Senior Teaching Technician role. It was a great job because teaching the technical aspects of photography is very good for your own technical grounding and personal education. Whilst working there, I started to carry out small photographic jobs on the side. I picked up work for magazines shooting portraits, food, interiors, etc. When I left to become a full-time professional photographer, I already had a portfolio and that’s something I would encourage students to think about.

While you’re studying, think about what happens next. Consider the equipment you own, because a lot of photography students finish their studies and realise that they’ve been relying on the equipment from that course. Some students don’t even own a camera, whereas other students, even though it can be challenging, save up to buy some of the camera and lighting equipment that they need before they graduate. When they leave, they’re ready to hit the ground running.
Having a findable website is really key. You’ll have your professional portfolio online and can get found for the right keywords. That’s how I started to get work.

Q: What advice would you give to your younger self?
I’d advise shooting some black and white film and using a darkroom to produce at least one black and white print. It’s central to the language and roots of photography. There’s an ethos attached to shooting film, that can get lost with shooting digitally.
For example, if you’re using a large format camera, you can only shoot one sheet of film at a time. It might take 20 minutes to take one photograph, potentially a great deal longer. It makes you think about every element more carefully including focus, exposure and composition.

When you take two hours or more to produce a print in a darkroom, it’s a more meditative thought process. I’m not saying that level of thought can’t be applied to digital photography, but when you’re shooting high numbers of images on a digital camera, it’s possible to end up shooting pictures without engaging your mind to the same extent as when shooting large format photographs. Even though I don’t shoot film throughout my working life, I still shoot film for personal projects. I still hold on to that element of extra consideration and thought that it requires. That’s why I would recommend people starting out to shoot some film and produce prints in a darkroom.

Q: What tips would you give to budding photographers?
I would encourage young photographers to hit the books and do a lot of research. I found that really beneficial to my work. During my time at Edinburgh College of Art, I spent a lot of time in the library, working my way through lots of different photographers’ monographs, getting to know their images, and also reading in these books about their work, whether it was an interview or theoretical assessment by art critics. I found all of that research really valuable.

Assisting a range of different photographers is a good thing to do because you will learn different things from different people. I believe that carrying out personal projects, as well as professional work is really important too.

I encourage students to remember that there are many different types of photography you can carry out. Most people see photography as commercial, fashion, or press, whereas there are dozens of photographic roles available. I’m an editorial and commercial photographer, but there’s a need for forensic, archival, medical, and museum photographers for example.

Q: What’s been your career highlight?
My highlight was the combination of winning the Taylor Wessing Photographic Prize in 2006, which led to a commission from the National Portrait Gallery to shoot a portrait photograph of Sir David Attenborough.

Q: What challenges have you had in your professional career?
The challenge of working as a freelance photographer is the consistency of work. You can have ups and downs with very busy periods followed by lulls. When it’s relatively quiet, I try to appreciate having that time. If you’re busy with commercial work all the time, you can’t work on personal projects and I feel that’s really important.

Q: What’s the worst advice you’ve ever been given?
I was given many reasons not to become a professional photographer, such as I’d never be able to afford the equipment or go on holiday because I’d lose all my clients. It was very negative and pessimistic advice that luckily, I didn’t pay any attention to. I’d always wanted to become a professional photographer and turn my passion into an enjoyable, rewarding career.

Read the full story of ‘The Day I Photographed Sir David Attenborough’.

 

Corporate headshot photography: Why every business needs fresh and up-to-date professional headshots

Category Corporate Portraiture, headshots, Location Photography, Portrait Photography

How professional headshots reflect and elevate your successful brand.

Professional, high-quality corporate headshot photography is a necessity for any successful, well-established company, to portray an authentic business image that suits your specific brand. These unique portraits should reflect the individual employee being shot and the overall values of the business.
Headshot photographs can be used in a variety of ways:
– They form the first impression of the business and its employees and can be used for marketing, not only on your website but also for LinkedIn profile pictures, press stories, business plans, annual reports, and presentations.
–  To help build a connection with your potential customers, as people are more likely to reach out and make enquiries if they can see the faces of the CEOs and employees behind that company.
– Brand headshots can help to represent certain values and qualities, such as warmth and sincerity, generally giving the impression of your staff being friendly and approachable.
– When new colleagues join and with more people working remotely, it’s a good way to build that connection internally and introduce new faces to the business

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Styles and approaches to headshot photography.

When producing corporate headshot photography, it’s common to shoot either against a completely neutral backdrop or to show the interior of an office space.
The advantage of using a white or grey coloured background is consistency and neat uniformity for each headshot. Every photograph, even if shoots are carried out six months apart, can look entirely uniform. It’s useful on a company page, to reflect the level of organisation and togetherness of a business. If shots are taken within an office interior, often the background will be made deliberately out of focus. You can still see the photograph is taken in an actual office, rather than against a backdrop paper. Your choice comes down to the nature of your company’s building and if it’ll suit the image you want to portray. It’s worth giving this some thought before you choose a particular style.
I’ve helped many clients in the past work out the best style of headshot photographs to suit their brand and company values. We’ve discussed various ideas and options that I’ve used previously and potential suitable locations and styles, to help make this important decision.

A professional photographer can make or break your corporate headshot photography.

Any photographer you commission will bring their own level of expertise, creativity and style to your brand headshots. Many companies that I’ve shot for have set style guides and dress codes, to ensure the same consistent approach is used by multiple photographers around the world. It doesn’t matter if the photos were taken in London, Mumbai or New York, every shot will have the same look, even if photographed on different continents by different photographers.
I photograph people using a wide range of set poses, which means I can shoot them efficiently in a fairly short space of time. Typically, I only get 15 minutes at a time (sometimes as little as 5 minutes) with each person. People don’t have hours to spend having their picture taken and my approach lets them get on with their working day.

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The old adage that everyone has a best side is absolutely true. Rather than spend a great deal of time trying to work this out, I shoot the same series of poses facing to the left and the right. By the time I’ve photographed the whole range, I’ll have about 60 images per person. I delete the off shots, for example, someone blinking, leaving around 40-50 shots to choose from. I prefer to use a portrait lens for headshots which has a particular focal length considered optimal for taking portrait photographs. Flash lighting is also an important element to consider. I always bring at least two professional flash lighting heads with modifiers, such as softboxes or umbrellas. These provide a flattering, soft light and in combination with other lights, create a visually pleasing aesthetic.
Once you’ve chosen your favourite shots, these images will then be optimised and refined digitally in Photoshop. Sometimes, retouching and fine-tuning is needed if people have creases in their shirts or stray hairs, for example. Unwanted objects in interior shots, such as fire exit signs and other distractions in the background can also be removed. The final headshots are as polished and refined as possible, providing a consistent look across a complete set of images.

In summary, successful and well-established businesses will be expected to have a regularly updated set of professional, fully optimised and consistent corporate headshot photography taken by an experienced, technically adept, professional portrait photographer.

Examples of headshot commissions that I’ve carried out for clients including Citibank, The Brunswick Group, Numis Bank, and Octopus Energy can be found here. If your own brand headshots need an update, please feel free to email me at richard@richardbollphotography.com or call +44(0)7812 908229.

 

Portrait Photography: The Day I Photographed Sir David Attenborough

Category Editorial Photography, Fine Art Photography, London, National Portrait Gallery, Portrait Photography

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Sir David Attenborough by Richard Boll/ Commissioned by The National Portrait Gallery, London

In 2007, I had the privilege of taking this photographic portrait of our nation’s favourite, Sir David Attenborough, in London. Of the photographs I took I chose this particular image for the final portrait as I think it captures the calm, thoughtful, and highly intelligent nature of his character. There’s a reflective, meditative element to the portrait that I hope represents him effectively. I’m proud to say that this portrait went on to form part of the permanent collection at the National Portrait Gallery, leaving a fantastic ongoing legacy for my work and professional photography career.
Although some time has passed since that day, I can still vividly remember how I felt at the time. It was an exciting and enjoyable shoot, as Sir David was someone I had always admired and respected. People often ask how I came to take the photograph in the first place and what it was like to meet Sir David.

Joe and The National Portrait Gallery Photographic Prize

It was a lovely, sunny day on Brighton seafront. I spotted Joe, taking his dog for a walk along the promenade past my flat. I thought he looked like a very cool and interesting character and Iasked if I could take some portraits of him. Joe was very happy for his portrait to be taken and gave me a few minutes of his time. We’ve kept in touch and maintained a positive connection over the years since the photograph was taken. I entered this portrait of ‘Joe’ into the prestigious Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize, awarded annually by the National Portrait Gallery. The competition celebrates and promotes the very best in contemporary portrait photography. It was very exciting to be awarded first prize in the competition. I knew I’d been shortlisted but only found out that I’d won on the evening of the prize-giving.

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Prize-winning photographic portrait of Joe on Brighton seafront

Britain’s Greatest Living Cultural Icon

After winning the portrait prize, the National Portrait Gallery arranged a special opportunity for me, to take a photo of the winner of a public vote for ‘Britain’s Greatest Living Cultural Icon’. 10 British icons including the likes of David Bowie and Sir Paul McCartney were shortlisted. The public voted overwhelmingly for Sir David Attenborough, and I’m pleased to say that I also voted for him. Thankfully, he agreed to be photographed after the result of the poll was announced. On the day of the shoot, he was extremely polite and very generous with his time. He patiently allowed me to take several portraits against a couple of different backgrounds.
I’m incredibly proud of the final image and people respond well to it, recognising what I was trying to capture of Sir David’s character and legendary status. There was never any guarantee that the portrait would be accepted for the permanent collection at the National Portrait Gallery which makes me particularly proud that it was sufficiently well-received to be accepted, ensuring a great ongoing legacy for my work.

Sir David Attenborough awarded Knight Grand Cross

Sir David Attenborough needs no introduction, enjoying a very distinguished broadcasting career, spanning the last 60 years when he
first joined the BBC.

Best known for writing and presenting his many acclaimed television documentaries exploring the natural world, including Life on Earth, The Living Planet, and The Blue Planet, he received his first knighthood in 1985 from the Queen.
In recent news, Sir David, now 96 years old, received a ‘second’ knighthood, the even more prestigious Knight Grand Cross from Prince Charles. Attenborough is one of only 120 people with this honour, which was awarded for his services to television broadcasting and
conservation. Let me end with some final words from Sir David himself, “I just wish the world was twice as big and half of it was still unexplored”.

Click here if you’d like to read more about Attenborough and his career, and more of my portrait photography can be seen here. Signed, archival-quality prints of the portrait can be purchased here.

Sill life photography: Bespoke shoemakers John Lobb showcase their 170-year history with inspirational wooden last photographs

Category Editorial Photography, Fine Art Photography, London, Product Photography

For over 170 years, John Lobb have been hand crafting bespoke, exquisite, and elegant footwear and leather goods. The world-renowned family-run business spans five generations, receiving its first Royal Warrant in 1863. The firm still produces unique and bespoke handmade shoes to this day one pair at a time. Today, they’re loved for what they’ve always stood for: the celebration of the unique and the original.

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At the heart of their process is a pair of unique hand-carved, sculpted wooden lasts, custom-made to the precise form of the customer’s feet. If you walk into their shop for some custom shoes, their master craftsman will draw around your feet to produce the wooden last. They can then continue making shoes to your exact specification using this bespoke last.
Every pair of shoes produced for a customer of John Lobb goes through a 50 hour, 190 step process. Their experienced fitters will discuss the endless possibilities that only truly bespoke footwear can provide. Every single element is carefully considered, resulting in a creation that is truly unique.

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Not only are these wooden lasts beautiful sculptural objects in their own right lending themselves perfectly as the focus for still life photography, but they are also historical artifacts of a unique and fascinating legacy. Since 1849, John Lobb has nurtured an impressive range of famous clients over the years from royalty to household celebrities.
I first became aware of the collection of lasts from their historically significant customers whilst on a shoot for a magazine. I thought that the lasts would make a great subject for a photographic project and approached the owners of John Lobb to ask if I could begin photographing them. I was consequently granted exclusive access to shoot the collection of famous people’s wooden lasts.

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Corporate portrait photography in London for Numis Investment Bank and The Brunswick Group

Category Corporate Photography, Corporate Portraiture, Environmental Portrait, headshots, Location, London

In September of 2021, I was commissioned by the creative agency The Brunswick Group to take corporate portraits of key members of staff at the investment bank Numis. The images were produced over a two-day shoot in various locations in their London offices. Each portrait required the location to be scouted and compositions discussed in advance with an art director from The Brunswick Group.

Numis is an innovative and dynamic investment bank with offices in New York and London. They’re proud to have the largest client base by number of corporates in the United Kingdom, and through combining their leading component services such as equity sales, M&A solutions, and trading and debt advisory, they operate at the forefront of the industry.

More of my corporate portraiture can be seen here.

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Studio furniture photography of the CROP outdoor seating range for Allermuir

Category Advertising, Editorial Photography, Furniture Photography, Product Photography, Studio Photography

The CROP range of outdoor furniture was designed for Allermuir by Benjamin Hubert of Layer. The design was named after the rolling fields of crops in the British countryside; represented in the parallel lines in the chair’s designs. The range is distinguished by its stackable steel rod frame, with robot-welded wires forming the seat and backrests. The line took 12 months to develop and comes in the wake of a challenging year.

“This connection with the natural world allows the collection to sit sensitively in an outdoor context, relating each piece to its surroundings through a shared visual rhythm,” explains Allermuir. “This relationship between the product and the great outdoors is enhanced by the dynamic interplay of light and shadow produced as the sun moves across the linear graphic structure.”

It was a privilege to be asked to produce a range of new photographs for Allermuir to capture the originality and elegance of the furniture. I carried out the studio product photography in the summer of 2021, and the well-received images have been used for a huge range of editorial applications. The images ranged from still life product photography of the chairs, as well as some photographs that were more lifestyle in nature. More of my product and furniture photography can be seen here.

Art directors: Abigayle Clayton-Grimshaw, Matt Ousby, Katie Anderson and Andy Barker.
Assistant: Scott Hobson-Jones

 

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Studio furniture photography of Circo chair and Play Storage for The Senator Group

Category Advertising, Advertising Photography, Commercial Photography, Editorial Photography, Furniture Photography, Product Photography, Studio Furniture Photography, Studio Photography

It’s always a pleasure to be commissioned as a product photographer to produce original images of new and innovative designs. The Senator Group has an ethos of innovation underpinned by beauty; a concept that is clear and present in all of the designs that they offer. I was commissioned to take studio furniture photography of two new furniture designs for The Senator Group that included the Circo chair (designed by Justus Kolberg) and Play Storage (designed by Senator’s in-house team). The product photography produced had editorial and advertising potential that creatively expressed the qualities of the designs. More of my product and furniture photography can be seen here.

Art directors: Edward Jonson and Carla Birtwistle
Assistant: Scott Hobson-Jones

 

 

 

Lifestyle Photography for Wizzard Advertising Agency in London

Category Advertising, Advertising Photography, Commercial Photography, Environmental Portrait, Lifestyle, lifestyle Photography, Location, Location Photography, London

I was recently commissioned as a lifestyle photographer by the London advertising agency Wizzard. The taxi company has taken the risks posed by Covid-19 very seriously and is taking significant measures to protect their customers in London. I was asked by Wizzard to source models for the lifestyle photography and suggest suitable locations in London. The models were then selected and the shoot was carried out in a relatively quiet square in Pimlico in London. Due to the prevalent risks posed by Covid-19 everyone on the shoot was observing social distancing and wearing PPE. More of my lifestyle photography can be seen here.

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