Training with Stu!

Natural LightOn Weds 23rd April I attended a 1-2-1 mentoring day with the fabulous Stu Cooper.  I’d been put in touch with Stu via the National Photographic Society mentoring scheme. They looked at my style of images and suggested Stu as someone who works with a similar style.

Stu runs a wedding and portrait photography business from Chandlers Ford in Hampshire. His style is very natural, using all natural light and he also still uses medium format film in addition to the mainstay digital SLRs. He tends to favour a film style of image. He is a long established professional photographer with many years experience of both running full time professional photographic business and also training and mentoring other photographers.

Before we set up the training day, Stu called me at home and we had a nice chat about where I am in business, where I want to be, what my style is and what I’d like to get out of the training.  This was so Stu could set up the day and tailor it to my needs. He asked me to bring some of my images when I came over.

So the day came and I drove down to Chandlers Ford. Stu was very welcoming, gave me a cup of tea and then it was straight to work. He started off with an informal chat about my website, how he thought I could improve my “brand image”, then set the scene for what else I wanted to get out of the training. He then had a look over my images that I’d brought with me to show him. In all he was quite happy with them, just one or two pointers here and there, mostly on post processing. Certainly I think my post processing has come on quite a lot  just in the last few months and it shows in the images I brought, however it’s not quite consistent yet, and he says consistency is important to establish your own style, and your own “brand” on the photography.

Natural LightWe had a general chat about pricing, products, sales etc and I learned some great tips from him there. He gave me some great suppliers that I could work with to improve my product range and the quality of framed images for my customers.

Then it was time to drag his lovely wife and  cute little girl out to a local manor house for some shooting. The setting was gorgeous, I already had quite a good idea what to do and where to set up shots but it was great to have the confirmation from Stu that what I had been doing was pretty much right. Interestingly, I’ve had training with natural light photographers before but all of them used a handheld reflector at some stage. Stu doesn’t really like reflectors and doesn’t use them. It was really interesting the subtle little things you can do with positioning to get round things like “panda eyes” and hard shadows.  Also there are ways to create more directional light just using the surroundings some of which I knew about, some were at the fringes of my brain and others were new to me.

I had taken all my lenses and my D800 with me but what did I use … my little Nikon V1 with it’s newly acquired 32mm F1.2 lens (superb little lens that!). I was just going to shoot one or two on it but in the end I shot the entire outdoor session on the little camera! Stu was shooting on his Nikon DF which I also took a shine to but I think there was some reciprocal respect being shown to the little V1 too.  The only time I switched to the D800 was when we went indoors and Stu showed me how he uses flagged bounced flash for indoor shots. I shot one frame there, one frame only!

Natural LightAfter the outdoor session we had a quick lunch, all the time talking cameras and photography.
After which Stu showed me how he would usually post process images from a portrait session. It is always interesting seeing how someone else works in Lightroom and Photoshop as there’s so many different ways of doing the same thing. I picked up a few extra tips there too.

Natural Light It was a great day training with Stu. I now feel much more confident that what I do is good enough to be a high end product, and I shouldn’t feel scared to market it as one. I acquired some new skills but most importantly a clearer idea of what I should be aiming for. In this game you never stop learning,and Stu encouraged me to continue what I’ve started recently which is doing many more creative shoots, indulging in more creative ideas as they help to grow skills and it’s all practise and experience.

I’ve already been inspired to take some time to sort my website out a bit, slim it down to my core activity and make it much clearer what it is I actually do… next stop working on the quality print products to do the pictures the most justice.

Many thanks Stu!