Month: September 2014

Teenage Photography Workshops – Mid Term Break

Nick Cavanagh : Qualified European Photographer

When I was 15 I knew I wanted to have a career in Photography.  I’d taken some pretty good images and I decided to take them down to the local photography studio and use them to introduce myself and possibly get a Saturday job there. The images I took down with me included some strong portraits as well as a long exposure of the traffic on my street at night. I wrote a covering letter and walked down to the studio; as I got to the door I panicked and couldn’t actually bring myself to go inside and ask to speak to the owner.

Instead I just left them on the doormat outside the studio convincing myself that they would be found and I would get a  phone-call.  No call ever came and I never saw those images again.  Sniff…

I’m not sure what would have happened if I’d have gone in,  I hope the owner would have seen my eager nature and given me some advice to help improve, possibly guiding my career path with regards to education.  None of that happened for me and that’s why I’m introducing some day long photography workshops aimed at 13-16 yr olds in Kenmare.  The workshops will be limited to 6 people per day and I will be running two separate days during Mid Term Break.  We’ll spend some time talking about photography, basic camera skills and then the afternoon we will spend some time outdoors with some environmental portraiture as a group.  There will be plenty of opportunity to discuss career ideas as well as an informal day of photography tuition.

The main focus of the days will be “How to make every picture count”.


Pentax K1000 My first'serious' camera bought in 1984.
Pentax K1000 My first ‘serious’ camera bought in 1984.

A camera that you feel comfortable using, a DSLR or older film SLR camera would be ideal. Please don’t go out and buy one especially for the day. If you don’t own an SLR I have 2 that can be borrowed on a first come first served basis.

If you know someone in your family who enjoys photography, the chances are they have an older model of a camera that they might possibly let you borrow for a while.  We are not interested in mega pixel counts or equipment bragging, a standard kit lens will do just fine.

If you do not have access to a DSLR but would still like to come along , that is fine. You can come along with any camera, however please note that a lot of the content on the day will involve  manual camera settings that you may not  be able to try for yourself.


We will be outside for some of the day, so anticipate rain and wind but hope for dry.

We will be working from the Resource Room opposite St Patrick’s Church on Bell Heights.  Mobile phones will be switched off for the day , but an emergency contact number will be available should family need to be in contact with you. We will begin at 10am and finish at 4pm- having an hour for lunch in town which will also double up as a mini-photographic assignment.


The workshop will cost €20 per person. Payable at the time of booking, if you need to cancel a full refund is available. Please note that the earlier you cancel the better as it may allow someone else the opportunity to come along.  If you’d like to know more or your parents would like to know more, please contact me via email on this contact form.

The School Photographer Pt 1

This article is aimed at photographers thinking about schools photography.  It might be a little technical in parts, but should be of interest to Parents and School teachers also.

There's always one!
There’s always one!

If you have been following my twitter feed this week you’ll know that I sent out a small package to every school in County Kerry. The mailshot was intended to introduce my work as a schools photographer and hopefully arrange some sessions with schools I’ve never worked with before.

I know some working photographers get a bit snooty about school’s portraiture, I’m not sure why to be honest. I really enjoy it and I wanted to spend a little time explaining why it’s good for my business.

I’m blessed with a wife who is really good at planning and detail, this is particularly handy because I’m -how shall we say? – a little more creative. She’s convinced me over the years that getting the process right removes all kinds of complications. This has opened doors that I probably would never have knocked on.

Schools photography can be a minefield of complications, for one you are dealing with teachers. Teachers have little desire to entertain photographers and why should they?  School is about education, and ‘the photographer’ just drops in and gives them an annual headache or two.

For me, the photography process has to recognise that impressing the school staff with a smooth process is the most important challenge. Why?

  • Repeat Business : In photography if you don’t get invited back, mark it down as a failure
  • Teachers are the connection between you and the parents:
  • Teachers are really good at networking. All it needs is one of them to update their Facebook status “we had THE best schools photographer”  and you are away.  Conversely…. : (

Setup & Equipment:

Whilst you may think that ‘volume’ photography is about pace, it’s a mistake to rush. Set up is the key.

School Photography Kerry
Siblings : Always Popular.

Take your time at the beginning before the first child to get your lighting and exposure right.  Shoot tethered so you can quality check each image. I use Adobe Lightroom for this, but I know there are specialist schools software packages.

Crop Ratio

If your camera gives you the option to change crop ratios then make the most of the feature. I had an American school of 1000 students recently who required a 4 x 5 ratio for their yearbook, whereas in Europe I always shoot in 2 x 3. Changing the ratio in camera saved me a massive amount of time cropping each image in Lightroom afterwards.

Two images per child should then be enough. I only take a third if I know one of the two didn’t work.

If you have done this you should be confident enough to shoot in the JPEG format.  I’m a creature of habit as well as being naturally overly cautious so I ignore my own advice and shoot in RAW format. (This means I have to carry a lot of data cards). RAW format is probably totally unnecessary, but it gives me peace of mind if nothing else.

I have 4 different coloured backcloths in circulation, selecting the correct one for each school depends on skin colours and uniform colours. I also try and alternate with schools I have done previously so last years portrait isn’t almost identical.  For me the highest quality cloths are provided by Colourscape in Stalybridge (NW England).

Children with glasses:

School Photographer Kerry
No reflection in the glasses.

Their glasses are such a pain right?  Wrong. As a photographer you need to be able to deal with the reflections.  If you give the child the option to remove their glasses because it’s easier for you then it’s time for you to look at a different genre.  It’s not a hard skill to learn, if you can’t be bothered that’s your problem not theirs.
I view siblings portraits with more than one pair of glasses as like getting a 7 letter word in Scrabble.  With experience you should be able to do it with no reflections, but it still makes you feel really good when you manage it !

Note: There are some children who approach who are clearly reluctant to be wearing their glasses and look like they hope you will give them the option to remove them.  That’s absolutely fine, the child needs to be comfortable.


I don’t offer the contemporary style posing that some photographers are marketing. The classic pose in uniform is what parents expect to see. Retro and Contemporary posing may have it’s place, but the place isn’t within the school environment.

To be contd next week .

Part Two : Pricing, Products and Parents.

I’m opening this page up for comments, if you have a question as a Photographer, Teacher or Parent. Please feel free to ask.


Follow up on Associateship Panel

Around a month ago I posted a brief article discussing my approach to a portfolio assessment review with the BIPP. I wanted to go public then before I knew whether my work met the standard I was aiming for.
I understand why no-one wants to be seen to fail but I was (nervously) trying to make the point that ongoing development is as much about failure as it is about success.  I’d gained my Licentiate in 2013 and my Associateship was the level I thought reflected the level of my work.

It would seem a bit safe and pretentious writing that after the event so I thought I’d put my money where my mouth was. Anyroad, my work did meet the standard and I’m still over the moon.  Relief? Confirmation?  I don’t know where the emotion stems, maybe even vindication against self doubt?!

If you are interested there are plenty of blogs about the path to qualification.   Here’s one from Lindsay Dobson discussing her Fellowship.

If you are considering hiring a photographer, looking to see whether the photographer is committed to ongoing development is a good indicator as to both their output and their professionalism.   There are obviously many excellent image makers who have no qualifications, but there are enough qualified photographers around to give you a start.