Frequently Asked Questions
There are so many technical terms and opinions online. What does it all mean, and what is photography all about?
The average point-and-shoot used in automatic mode will apply technological advances to decide how to represent the scene - the focus, the light, the shadows, the colours, everything. You end up with a snapshot you can look at and think, “Yep, that’s what I saw in front of me.”
More advanced cameras (dare I say, ‘professional’, cameras) give you many more options, from control over depth of field and motion in full manual mode, to shooting in JPG or in RAW. The latter are file formats.
I shoot RAW, and I mostly shoot manual. It doesn’t make me better than someone who shoots JPG or in automatic mode, just different, and maybe with different goals. It’s my style. I like to be in charge of the aperture and the shutter speed, to get the look I want. And RAW files give me full control over the image. Depending on the lighting of your scene, the RAW image straight out of the camera can be quite dull and lifeless. That’s because it has not undergone processing. It’s now up to me where and how much I want to recover the shadows and the highlights. It’s up to me which colours to tweak or pop - or simply make sure are representative of the actual scene.
I have much more detail in the file, full control and the freedom to put my creative spin on it (if I want to). Even if it’s a documentary shot, it still gives me more leeway in making sure everything is as it should be.
At the time of writing, cameras are not able to produce the same dynamic range as the human eye. So we photographers have to give them a helping hand. It’s about having a vision for the image in your mind and using the camera as a tool to create it. Over time, you get to know what your camera is capable of - you know that if the shot is a bit dark but perfectly captured an emotion, a moment in time, it’s OK, because when you come to edit it, you can brighten it up enough without it becoming a mess. Obviously, the closest you can get in-camera the better, but in the real world, you have to adapt.
So, photography is light? Basically, yes. But practically speaking, it’s taking something that exists in the world and portraying it either faithfully or with a creative twist. It could be an object, a place, a person, a product, a business. Create, preserve, promote. The possibilities are endless.
On your pricing page, what’s the difference between a ‘standard edited image’, a ‘full retouch’ and a ‘creative edited image’?
I also include basic colour grading - i.e. accentuating, adding or removing certain colours to create that something extra.
A full retouch is an in-depth edit. It includes full skin retouching focusing on all the little details, smoothing where appropriate and dodging and burning to bring dimension to the image. That said, my approach is for a subtle, natural look. I only retouch temporary things like blemishes, blackheads, spots, patches and other distractions. I never alter your body - I’m an advocate for inclusive photography and body positivity! I ensure natural transition of tones (for example if the available light loses some detail in an area of skin, making it look grey, or if it was a windy day and you had small red patches from the cold).
Basically, I remove or blend away things that are amplified by that big ol’ lens in your face that, in real life, nobody would notice while talking to you, but once you’ve seen in the photo, you can’t unsee. That speck of dust glinting on the rim of your glasses, clusters of pimples, a full-on spot that just had to erupt on the day of the shoot, a hair straggling across your face, dirt on your shoe, etc.
It can also include some more in-depth colour work and finishing touches to make sure you have the spotlight. Brightening and darkening parts of the image, adding contrast to your hair, removing background distractions. All the little details that go into creating a show-stopping image. And obviously anything that you request!
Retouching can of course also apply to products and places to ensure the best aesthetics.
My creative image includes all of the above and beyond, requiring more time and more advanced skills. It might be a multiple exposure or a bokeh panorama (Brenizer method), requiring Photoshop work and significant time spent stitching multiple images together (not forgetting the more advanced techniques applied during the actual shoot).
Creative shots also encompass all other Photoshop work - adding backgrounds, special effects, fantasy elements, themed shots - taking it from a beautiful image to a work of art (but much less pretentiously than that sounds…).
In addition to editing, it also includes creative staging, storytelling and props. All the things that require more planning, more work and more time.
Lastly, we have the documentary style. This is for events where the job is to capture what happened. The edit is simpler, focusing only on correct exposure and skin tones. Cropping, straightening, sharpening, removal of any (easily removable) major distractions. But not much beyond that, because the purpose of the images is to document, not to artify, promote or advertise.
What is ‘usage’, and why do I need an image licence?
Anyone who takes a photograph automatically owns the copyright to that photograph. Legally, that means nobody else can use it, reproduce it, alter it or make money from it without permission. In the case of the professional photographer, that photograph represents his or her livelihood. In addition to the skill required in-camera, hours of post-production and editing go into producing images that are more interesting, more captivating and sometimes more artistic - otherwise, the market is simply too saturated to survive.
Therefore, it is normally written into the contract that the photographs taken will remain the creative intellectual property of the photographer. He or she remains the holder of all the copyright and related rights.
Why? Well, firstly the price would have to be at least double in order to assign copyright. But, primarily, it’s not just a snapshot that anyone can take. It’s something that they have trained for and spent time and effort on producing, using their skills and creative style. Just like any other creative work. If you purchase a book, physically it is yours. You can enjoy it, you can do what you want with it on a personal level. But the content inside that book is not yours. It belongs to the author who created it. You wouldn’t tell people you wrote it yourself, you wouldn’t sell it as your own work, and you wouldn’t glue new pages inside it with your own story and misrepresent it to other people as the author’s work.
Therefore, to make prices accessible and to protect our work, the client or model receives images with terms and conditions for their use. For personal photographs, it’s all much easier - the licence is for your unlimited personal use. While you may not own the copyright to the work, the photo is of you. You shouldn’t alter it - if you paid an artist to paint a portrait of you, would you later take a highlighter pen and colour it all purple? However, the image is yours to reproduce wherever you want, on a personal level.
Beyond personal use, we then introduce editorial use, which is another non-commercial form of usage. This encompasses things like illustrating a news article, or posting an album online documenting an event.
Last but not least, whoever wants to use the photographer’s work for commercial purposes, i.e. to make money (whether directly through advertising or indirectly through promotion and marketing), pays for the right to use it commercially. Simple!
It would not be fair to charge everyone the same when they will be using the images differently. For example, someone who wants a personal photo shoot to post images on their Instagram should not have to pay the same as a company that wants to use images for advertising. And if the images are being used to make money, the photographer deserves to be compensated fairly like anyone else. Equally, a client who will only use the image for a week-long ad shouldn’t have to pay the same as one who is running a year-long publication. The solution? Different levels of licensing!
Can you explain in more detail the difference between personal, editorial and commercial use?
Personal use means using a photo for… personal purposes! In other words, it’s not editorial and it’s not commercial - it’s not being used to promote a professional activity, it’s not being used to sell anything, it’s not being used to make money in any way. It’s a beautiful shot of you that you’d like to post on social media, share with friends and family, hang on the wall - to preserve memories of special moments.
Editorial use means using a photo in a non-commercial way to illustrate an article or a blog, for example. When you read a newspaper and an article has a picture of what happened, that’s editorial. Personally, my basic licence included with the photos I deliver covers both personal and editorial use. I want to be the least restrictive possible - as long as you’re not using my work to make money, I think you as my client should have all of these possibilities.
Commercial use, for the sake of clarity, can be broken down into two subcategories:
Promotional use, which means using a photo commercially in the sense that it is promoting a business or some kind of professional activity. For example, a café that wants pictures of its space and team to post on Facebook. An actor or a model who needs images for a professional portfolio. A blogger or an influencer who has paid partnerships to promote a brand. A company that needs general images for its website, etc.
In other words, they are images that show potential customers or agencies what you have to offer, the reason why they should choose you and your services. It’s to earn money in the long term, but it’s not advertising or an image associated specifically with a product or a brand, or an event to sell tickets, for example.
Advertising means using a photo for an advertisement or to sell something specific - a product, a service, an event. These could be individual products for an online store, packaging materials; any kind of ad, be it in an online publication, on social media or in print, etc.
In this case, the licence is calculated using a scale based on the number and price of the products to be placed on the market; the number and price of tickets on sale; the period of use. Or it could be based on your media spend for advertising space (e.g. one-week small ad vs one-year full-page publication).
Do you provide a full model portfolio service (‘books’)?
My package THE MODEL is aimed at those who come to me already with an idea of what they want or need. I’m here to help them either produce that or collaborate to create images that help them stand out. The images might be for their website, social media or indeed to be added to an existing book.
If you’re an aspiring model looking to start creating your first portfolio book and don’t yet have a clear idea of the direction you’d like to take, I would recommend finding a specialist studio. They will be able to direct you and tell you what the agencies are looking for.
However, I do recognise that sometimes these might not be accessible based on your location or budget. So, if you’re willing to put in the work and can give me at least some input on what you need, I’m more than happy to help you build a shoot with me to get you those initial portfolio images. I can’t offer you the private studio experience with all the bells and whistles, but I have everything we need to get you started!
Why is it wrong to alter a photographer’s images?
Many people do not understand why it’s not OK to alter someone else’s images. It’s not about being precious or possessive. It’s not even just about the copyright. It’s about protecting a business.
The photographer has spent time and effort producing their photos. They are the result of his or her skill and creativity. If you disagree with the photographer’s vision, that does not give you the right to alter their work.
In the case of photos delivered to a client, if you feel the shoot did not go to plan, or you had a different vision for the final images that you did not communicate to the photographer, just talk to them about it. Yes, each photographer has their own creative vision, but the most important thing is that you come away with images that you’re happy with! If you want them to be a bit brighter, or if you’d like a happier or moodier look from the edit, a few small changes in the right places can make a world of difference. But, please, do not just start editing it yourself and misrepresent the photographer’s work.
Everyone deserves to have their work and their copyright respected - photographers are no different.
At the other end of the scale, perhaps you really love the images, but you want your head centred in the middle so you can make it your profile picture. All you have to do is ask! If you take an image that has been exported with the exact size for Facebook or Instagram, and you try to crop it and zoom in on your face, you’ll most likely end up with a blurry mess. There physically aren’t enough pixels to stretch it that far.
I would happily open up the full-resolution file and crop it for you, so you can have the image you want, and I can have my work represented properly.
If, however, you do go ahead and make a blurry mess, please for the love of all that’s holy, don’t put my name on it!
I think it’s also important to address the topic of theft here. On many occasions where I have covered an event, people see themselves and just steal the photos from my social media pages. There are three common problems that result from this theft and violation of copyright:
1. The photo has already been compressed once by Facebook or Instagram when I uploaded it. When you steal that file and post it yourself, it will have been compressed twice. That means you are posting a blurry, lower-quality version with my logo on it, and people will associate my name with bad work.
2. As explained above, the social media file is not large enough to crop or zoom and retain quality. So, when you take a group photo and put yourself slap-bang in the middle, it becomes a blurry mess. When you then tag ‘Photo by @bglvisuals’, again, to potential clients, it looks like I provide bad work.
3. When you take the file and cut off my logo (watermark)... well, that is just plain stealing and morally wrong. I mean, if a street artist drew a portrait of you and signed it, would you Tippex over the signature before hanging it on your wall?!
I know the digital world can be confusing, but the fact that an image appears online does not mean you can steal it. Even if you are in it. You have a right to be represented respectfully, and you have the right to request that the photo be removed from public view if you don’t like it. But, if you do like it, take a second to show your support. As I state in all my event albums, I would be more than happy to send you the file for you to post on your own social media!
The final and worst alteration of a photographer’s images is stealing an image to use it to promote your own business. Not only are you a thief, you now owe the photographer money. Just like you would have to pay a stock photography website. And when you take a watermarked image and deliberately remove the photographer’s logo so you can plaster your own trademark details over it, I mean... seriously? Not to mention the fact that none of the people or businesses shown in the photo have given their consent for commercial use of their face, body or logos. It seems crazy that I even have to say this because surely it’s obvious. But it’s happened to me a number of times already. It’s wrong, it’s disrespectful and, without trying to be dramatic, it’s illegal!