creative photography & video

Welcome to the bigcheese blog

If I'm honest, the whole idea of writing & posting stuff on a regular basis terrifies me - I'm much more accomplished as an image maker than a writer so this may take some time to get moving, be patient and check back often as there'll be loads of "sneak peeks" behind the scenes! :-)

Aug 24
by spud

is it working?

oo eck, we've been very busy moving to a new studio! More blog news to follow soon!

S

x

Mar 1
by spud

WCC visit to BCHQ!

It’s certainly been an interesting start to the year (in a variety of ways!) and we rounded February off with a bunch of jolly students visiting from one our local FE colleges.

It was great to see their energy and enthusiasm for photography.

They listened politely to my ramblings on cameras, photographic theory & lighting and then we set to work with each student on some small “still life” sets for which they had conceived, designed and brought all the required props & background materials.

The day finished with a series of portraits for which one of the students sat as the “model” and another was responsible for hair and make-up.

Each of the girls will write up their experiences and thoughts of the concept, design and photography process as part of their assessments.

It’s encouraging to see so much talent coming along and feeding into the creative industries.

S

x

Dec 19
by spud

Merry Christmas & A Happy New Year to y'all

Go Nuts, but in a responsible way.

Be kind, be tolerant of strangers, love those around you and don't get hung up on just buying stuff.

Best wishes to you all.

S

x

Oct 6
by spud

Fanning the flames of product sales

2 minutes & 30 seconds on screen. Not a lot is it?.

The Grenadier Electric Firelighters are something of a Great British tradition, perhaps not quite up there with Roast Beef & Yorkshire Pud but the Grenadier has been designed, manufactured & assembled exclusively in the UK for almost 50 years!

Way back in 1956, The Clean Air Act was passed by UK Parliament as a direct response to London’s Great Smog of 1952. This introduced ‘smoke control areas’ into many of Britain’s towns & cities, where only smokeless fuels could be burnt.

Smokeless fuels were notoriously difficult to light & this challenge led directly to the development of the electric firelighter. Originally manufactured & distributed by the legendary Creda Company, the firelighter has been in continuous production in the UK ever since.

In 1989, ownership of the product passed to the current manufacturers – Grenadier Firelighters Ltd.

Julian Sillito, Director of Grenadier Firelighters explained “We know our firelighters are used in homes of all sizes as well as hotels and commercial premises across the UK & we regularly receive telephone calls from long-standing customers. The Grenadier Firelighter is a British design classic & we are still able to supply spare parts for all of our previous Grenadier models.”

Grenadier also manufacture and supply a variety of other products including the Ceramic Pizza Oven & Open Fire Pit which you see featured in the video.

Even a short video such as this involves a fair amount of work: scripting, storyboarding, scouting & organising suitable locations, "stills" photography, food preparation (including, in this instance, subsequently eating the food & drinking wine in the garden watching the sun setting over the Dee Estuary!), directing the voiceover artist, choosing music & of course, editing.

Hop over to www.grenadier.co.uk for more info on their range of excellent products.

Most importantly, keep warm, winter is on the way!

Jul 18
by spud

Keeping it simple?

One of the challenges of product photography is balancing the factual & descriptive against the creative.

This recent set of images for a large, North West based, printing company illustrate some of the demanding & technical issues of product photography.

Much of today's "high end", creative print work combines many design elements: spot varnish, embossing, specialist paper stocks, stitching, binding, folding (although not necessarily all in the same piece of work!)

Pick up a piece of quality print work (or any object for that matter) and your already overworked brain (or is that just me?) goes into overdrive assessing the feel, texture, colour, weight and shape. You turn the product around and immediately you are conscious of the subtle changes in light across the surface, the translucence of the pages, the roughness of the material and you understand the structure of the folds and how the whole design works.

Unfortunately, all of that comes crashing to the ground as soon as you try to take a photo of it!

A single image reduces all of that sensory input to a sort of "through the keyhole" view and much is lost.

The photographer's job is to "tease" out all of the nuance from the subject with: careful lighting to enhance or reduce texture, thoughtful layout and positioning, attention to colour, precise focus, wide dynamic range and of course, the final high resolution image. Once the technical requirements are fulfilled, it then falls to the photographer to enhance the overall visual appeal using light / shade, camera angles etc but without detracting from the actual point of the image i.e. the subject.

Phew! That's a lot to think about, it's time consuming and fiddly but that's what we "professional" photographers aim to do using our skills, experience and knowledge: display, inform and enhance.

Of course, you could just chuck the product onto your desk and snap it with your iPhone!

Have a great day!

Mar 24
by spud

What makes a "good picture"?

March was quite a busy month at Cheese HQ!

Most notably, I was proud and privileged to be invited onto the judging panel for the "North West Professional Photography Awards 2016”.

The other two judges specialise in: social, wedding, portrait and fashion photography. That left just me as the alleged "expert" in advertising and commercial photography.

Clearly, I always feel a complete fraud being described as an expert in anything. However, over the years I've been fortunate enough to be on various regional awards judging panels and even, the National awards on a handful of occasions. Somehow the organisers are under the misapprehension that I might have learnt something from the past 30 years working as a photographer so, I’ll let it slip…

The big questions are: where does one start when assessing an image and what are the most important characteristics one should look for?

You could say that photography is a language, always shifting and playing with different meanings. Nuance & subtlety carefully shift emphasis but so can brute force and vibrancy. Ultimately, it's all about the context of what are we trying to convey and who we are hoping to communicate with.

Photography and the perception of what makes a "good" photograph also changes in a similar way to which language evolves (I recall my father-in-law grimacing when someone used the word "massive" to describe something that has no "mass" e.g. a massive sale or massive congratulations and yet the new context of the word has entered our collective psyche with barely a second thought)

Photographic styles follow cyclical fashion trends, like politicians, and today's penchant for blurry edge, shallow focus, crappy colour, hide any lack of photographic skill or judgement (anyone ever heard of Instagram?) will soon be replaced by the full focus, colour correction of yesteryear. Well, it's also possible that the rules of grammar will be back on the school curriculum...

Back in the real world, over the past few weeks we’ve been working with jewellery designers, injection moulding engineers and food manufacturers to name a few. Each group has a different take on “what makes a good picture”.

Most clients appreciate a well composed, well lit and “in focus” image as a baseline. However, the approach and the emphasis is often subtly different. Technical images, for example, are often intended to show precision and detail although food, at the opposite end of the scale, is often softer, more delicate, more friendly and inviting.

So, the answer to the question “what makes a good picture?” is…..

…..it depends!

Jan 23
by spud

What's your "New Year's Resolution?

Exercise more? Drink less alcohol? Drink more alcohol? Lose weight?

Well, it's not that we need to lose weight(!), but we have been pretty busy photographing a new range of very low calorie shakes, soups & snack bars.

Of course, a very low calorie diet is not everyone's cup of tea (literally!) but for some it's an invaluable aid for maintaining a proper balance of nutrients, calories & flavours.

Although a shake or a soup may not look like the most exciting meal, we think that we can make 150 calories per serving look pretty yummy with a combination of careful preparation, choice of appropriate props, attention to detail & of course, some nice lighting.

Professional food photography & cookery are the same in many ways, we think it's all about blending various elements together to achieve a finished product greater than the sum of the parts!

yum yum!
Jan 03
by spud

As the seas of time crash heavily against the shores of destiny...

...the smell of a "Cheese-y" holiday snap carries lightly on the breeze.

Christmas Day, 2015, near Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire. Not bad for a quick pic from an iPhone4!

As the old adage goes: Q. What's the best camera? A. The one you've got with you!

Anyhow, cliched though crashing waves may be, I shall claim it's a symbol heralding the start of a new year & the promise of unimaginable new opportunities! Happy New Year everyone!

x
Dec 22
by spud

With our very best wishes for Christmas & the New Year...

"Behind The Scenes" at the 2015 bigcheese Christmas card shoot!

We always try to shoot at least three or four "possibles" & then spend hours, days or even weeks*, often in the company of a bottle of red wine, agonising over the final choice....

This year: we went nuts (a selection of mixed nuts to be precise), baked a Christmas Cake (or at least, gathered all of the required ingredients together) and toyed with a kilo of sprouts.

However, our favourite was the extremely minimal "fork in sprout". We felt that similar thoughts might pop into most peoples mind at Christmas.

Although we've always loved producing our own, bespoke Christmas cards (after 28 years it's can be a bit tricky finding a fresh "twist"), I've often been surprised by the number of companies that don't use the opportunity to get a bit more personal with their Christmas greetings. If you like the idea, give us a shout & we'll put together something unique & personal to you or your company. It doesn't have to be as quirky or as challenging as some of our silly cards but we think it's a great way to engage with your friends & clients!

Meanwhile, loads of seasonal love 'n' big festive hugs to y'all x

PS: * not really "weeks" as you can probably tell!

x
Nov 30
by spud

Keep on Truckin'...

Here are some quick "phone camera" snaps of one of our biggest projects of 2015 & by biggest, I mean 40ft long!

We're so pleased & proud to have been involved with this right from the earliest possible stage of concept packaging designs through to food photography & design/artwork of the finished vehicle decals

Three new trailers featuring 6 designs will join the existing two already out & about touring the length & breadth of the country.

Big, big thanks to Mo & Peter at Now Group Signs, Oswestry for their help, patience and tireless devotion to finishing the application in record time!

x
Oct 16
by spud

They seek him here, they seek him there...

We're so lucky to frequently find ourselves in some very interesting places.

An immense & exciting development in Cheshire, the Runcorn Energy from Waste Power Project “does what it says on the tin”.

Receiving a constant stream of combustible waste via road & rail, the Runcorn EfW not only reduces the amount of waste going to landfill but it converts it to electricity. Such a simple idea but incredibly difficult & complex to put into practise. Of course, the real challenge is how do we, y’know, the human race, minimise the amount of waste that we create in the first place. A sensible & sustainable approach is the only way forward.

Meanwhile, when you're a bit short of good looking power station engineers to photograph, then I just have to step into the breach. Obvs.

x
Aug 31
by spud

They say that variety is the spice of life...

Which other profession offers you the such a wonderful mix & variety of assignments? In the past few months we've worked with Chefs producing scientifically balanced, life enhancing recipes for babies & young children suffering from digestive disorders to delicious, delicate, cream & fondant filled cakes, pharmaceuticals, schoolkids, skateboards & sports people. Ironically, as ever, most of it held up with bits of lego! That's why I love my job!

x
Apr 20
by spud

Why I love my job....

How on Earth are all of these images related to each other? These pics are just a taste of the range & diversity of the subjects that we've photographed in the last few months. Assignments & products have been whizzing through at such a rate of knots I've had little time to stop. That's why I love my job!

x
Dec 22
by spud

A bit of fun in the kitchen....

Go on, roll up your sleeves and have a bit of fun in the kitchen, go get the recipe here

x
Nov 25
by spud

The living, breathing, heart & soul of mighty vessels

It's very easy, more so in this "digital age" to forget or not even contemplate, just what it takes to put many, even simple things, into our homes & shopping baskets.

Mighty ships plying their trade across vast swathes of bleak & often treacherous ocean. Below decks, giant diesel engines crank & turn for months on end. Nothing lasts forever of course & sooner or later, these wonderful machines are carefully pulled from their natural spaces & end up in places like this, awaiting renovation & repair or the simple indignity of being stripped down for spare parts.

Photography in these environments is always challenging, usually due to: poor or mixed lighting, the inability to move the items you're photographing, the scale of the subject & on this particular assignment - the cold! Taking a quick walk around on arrival & snapping a few pics with my iPhone (shown above!) helps me to identify interesting viewpoints. It also gives me a starting point to discuss with the art director & client what we shall need in order to achieve their final goal: items that need to be moved or tidied up, where we would like to position any people in the shots, what actions they will be carrying out etc etc.

Our client very specifically required that the company logo (on the engineers overalls) was clearly visible & an integral part of the composition to strongly brand all of the images throughout. Although apparently a simple requirement, it did involve careful consideration of how the engineers were interacting with the engines they were working on, precise positioning of subject, camera & lighting.

Additional lighting is essential to achieve the finished result although it's often a bit tricky running cables through a workshop such as this, not to mention balancing the illumination levels & colour temperature of all the conflicting ambient light sources.

Ultimately, we required nine individual images of engineers working so spent most of our day on this site and consumed a considerably of coffee, time & caffeine being vital ingredients to the success of most assignments.

x
Nov 23
by spud

Even I can't resist a pretty sky

Photographers eh? Suckers for a pretty sky, a hint of late sun and a glint of reflection. We are simple folk so please don't judge us harshly just because we "like a bit of colour" or think "that's a very interesting cloud formation". When asked "Which is the best camera?" most experienced photographers will tell you "The one you have with you". I wasn't carrying a camera with me on this walk but thankfully, I was able to borrow one from a friend and you know what, I'm glad I did! x
Nov 20
by spud

It's that time of year..

...when our thoughts turn to Christmas card production. It's fair to say that after 26 years of doing our own thing, there have been some "out takes" and plenty that ended up on the "cutting room" floor. This was one idea that never saw the light of day, thank goodness! x
Nov 04
by spud

When clients come to visit

It's still a buzz when a whole bunch of new products arrive for photography, with all the unwrapping it's like Christmas - apart from the bit where you give it all back to the customer the day after the shoot! x
Oct 24
by spud

Deja Vu

It's still a buzz when a whole bunch of new products arrive for photography, with all the unwrapping it's like Christmas - apart from the bit where you give it all back to the customer the day after the shoot! x
Oct 20
by spud

SWALK

It's a strange occurrence but, getting 10 letters from British Gas in the same mail delivery, does make one feel especially well loved & valued. Thanks BG x
Oct 14
by spud

I had a day out at Bodnant

I did warn you that this could get tedious.