Over 5 days in January 2018, we took part in the convention of the Societies of Photographers in London. The convention included competitions, training seminars and workshops, a trade show and a wonderful chance to meet up with other photographers of all styles.

We studied the seminar programme carefully as there were many interesting topics. some we went to together: others appealed to one or other of us. We spent up to 6 hours a day in seminars or workshops. Topics we studied included lighting; shooting “Pin-Up” style pictures; art nude; photo manipulation in Photoshop and a chance to watch experts like Trevor Yerbury in action. We came away with lots of useful knowledge and ideas. We learned some new techniques – lighting, posing, equipment, studio setups, Photoshop techniques and more. We had lots of reminders and reinforcement of things we already know. This, too, helps.

Let us share a few notes that made a special impression.

First, a note on “professionalism”. Most seminars were directed at the professional photographers in the audience and a couple of the presenters included a reminder of what they thought “professionalism” meant. They agreed it was not a privilege to act as a prima donna but a duty to serve the client. They were, of course, thinking of the situation where the professional is the photographer and the person paying for the photographs was the one in front of the camera. As hobby photographers paying models we are conscious that the roles are reversed but we still expect to behave properly with models. Although the seminars reminded us that in our relationship the professional duties rest on the model, we want them to enjoy themselves shooting with us too.

Keeping with the problems of the professional, we heard a lot – and a few conflicting views – about wedding photography. And we should quickly add that we have a few friends we have met in photography who specialise in that genre and they are lovely people. There was one man who regarded wedding photographers as the “lowest denominator” compared to his preference of events and portraits for business promotion. Yet the more we talked to people, the more apparent it was that wedding photographers face great challenges. They can not control the location or the timing. The weather may turn against them. Few of the people they are shooting will give them priority. Few know how to pose. And often they will be expected to produce their results to very short deadlines. Yet many create imaginative photo-stories way beyond what we were given 30 years ago. A final thought on the subject comes from the last presenter we listened to. He spends most of his time as a trainer but shoots 5 or 6 weddings a year. He said he would make far more money if he stuck to wedding photography. The conflict between what you enjoy and what keeps a roof over your head occurs in all walks of life.

Next, a reminder from an “art nude” seminar of the opinion of Michaelangelo:-

“What spirit is so empty and blind, that it can not recognise the fact that the foot is more noble than the shoe, and skin more beautiful than the garment with which it is clothed”.

And finally, the most valuable lessons were the reminders to work on our own individual style and look. As photographers, we should study the work of the great masters of the past to find what is possible and what fires us up. We should find our own style and identity and work on it. As hobby photographers, we are lucky that we do not have to maintain a fixed style – or a fixed output – for paying customers and another side of that is that we can produce what pleases us without being forced to find what pays the bills. We had already been giving a lot of thought to the future direction of our photography, and things will continue to develop.

We left the convention more knowledgeable and more inspired.

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