Rip it up & Start Again

On Sunday I hit delete on my entire portfolio on the website and it felt strangely good! The site itself has been through many layouts and the latest one wasn't working great on smaller devices such as my 13 inch MacBook Pro, it was frustrating when I was trying to show anyone a shot from my book on it mid shoot and that's what got the ball rolling! But what started as me looking at different options actually brought to a head something that's been bugging me for a long time and that's my portfolio in general!

I've taken the design and layout to something cleaner and simpler again and just with a homepage slideshow of relevant work for now until I get the new portfolio together, leaving Timeless up as well as the blog. You can still access an archive of older work on my tumblr which has also been redesigned to fit the look of my main website and will be getting used more than it has been in the past.

It's not that it's bad, I don't suddenly hate it, I just feel it doesn't represent me anymore as an artist, I've changed, my style has moved on, some things I was once pursuing I no longer am or I'm shooting it in a different way to what I was two or three years ago. Things change, we grow creatively and though I'm still proud and happy with a particular image or story it doesn't necessarily mean it should stay in my book but I think because it's good work and because I know the work & time that went into that particular job or editorial I felt obliged to keep it in there, I've been too attached to it to let it go. It's not everything but it's a large majority of work that is over a year or 18 months old. It's weird to look back over the past few years, jobs, tests and editorials as a whole and see glimpses of the kind of style I'm producing now, it was there all along, bubbling under the surface in between shoots I thought I needed for my book or others wanted for their's and I just went along with.

I retouch less now as well, obviously there are commercial jobs that are clean and a client wants the perfection, for me if it's personal work I like the natural, I like the imperfections, everyone gets the odd spot and I'll get shot of that but I no longer dodge & burn so the skin is flawless, I don't want to see that an image has been retouched so if I no longer do that as a rule  (unless that's for a client and then I'll generally pass that onto a retoucher where possible) so then, does a photograph that has had that done because back then I though it had to be retouched to that level belong in my book anymore? Here's an example that illustrates the then and now and why I've been so brutal on my work...

Beauty image 2013

Beauty image 2013

Beauty image 2016

Beauty image 2016

Ok so image number one, which I still love, Stacey has great skin BUT I'd bet I spent an hour or probably more on retouching this shot. Image number two is a jewellery client job and I know this took me maybe 15 to 20 minutes, again Imogen has great skin but 3 years ago I'd have lightened all those dark areas in the skin for a perfectly even, flawless look & that would have ruined the shot! So as much as I love the first image I know it no longer has a place in my book but the attachment is still there so a comparison like this helps me to be brutally honest about it all. I also look at it and know I'd have probably lit that first one differently now. It's kind of a shame to ditch work you still like but I know I have to do it or I will never be happy with my portfolio.

Here's another example and again it's beauty, I can't imagine even thinking about shots in this style a few years ago, I ditched the flash for window light, very narrow depth of field to the point of barely in focus, not necessarily ideal for all clients for commercial purposes but that depends on the client, not everyone wants that traditional perfect beauty, the point is the change in style.

Anyway I think I've made my point, I don't blog as often as I'd like but then I don't see the point in writing random shit for the sake of it either, I write when the mood takes me, this was as much for me to spill out for myself as anything, to document it I guess but I know from reading other blogs that some things we're all going through or coming across so if this helps someone in a similar position then it was worth sitting up until nearly 3am rambling on about the thought process and rationalisation of what I did today.

Timeless: The lost project

Finally getting something out there about this project! Added this to the updated website today.

Timeless Teaser

Timeless is a project idea that was born a few years ago, a few tests were shot in the style that I wanted this project's direction to be (and it's a style that's influenced much of my work now) but work commitments never really allowed me to get this off the ground. I always envisaged this as being based on one model, a muse. We all have models that we just click with, favourites that we love to work with, finding one who shares your vision, one who can commit to an ongoing project is no easy task though so I put it on hold but kept a teaser preview online, as much as a reminder to myself not to let this idea go!

As the title suggests, my whole idea for the project is to create a collection of photographs that are timeless, something that will stand the test of time. Photographers and models are always selling a product, that's our job, for this I wanted it to be far removed from the commercial side of things. Timeless will be a celebration of female beauty, body, skin & form, fashion will play it's part but will be a minimal element with the emphasis on pieces that never go out of fashion. This project is about the collaboration and connection between model & photographer, not what designer or brand is featured.

Development is still ongoing but realistically I think I've made the right decision to take this beyond just a one model collaboration, though I'm sure there will be certain models that will make more than one appearance and end up with their own 'Timeless special'!

The format I'm hoping to take this is a blog initially then an exhibition and maybe a book. The blog I hope to have running by the end of the year or early 2016, in the meantime enjoy the new teaser!

Train To Create

A little piece we did earlier this year for Train To Create, some nice footage and a bit of waffle from me!

Shoot Team Credits:

Model - Vera @Profile Models Make up/hair: Zoe Cornwell Styling: Becky Cordrey

Social media & online presence

I've badly neglected my blog in the past year, in fact my last post was August of 2014, not exactly regular by any standards! I've found it difficult to keep a blog updated as well as the usual social media platforms, what with that, shooting new work, jobs and the retouching that follows all that I barely have time to keep on top of emails, consequently it's always the blog that suffers rather than the likes of Facebook or Instagram! Well looking at my traffic on the website it actually dawned on me that my blog is probably more important that any Facebook post, the reach of Facebook now is beyond a joke, the way it's set up stifles the content to a minimal audience anyway so why bother when I can post here and build a new audience along with my current one. Take into that the fact that Facebook's newsfeed in general annoys the hell out of me anyway for a number of reasons and it's a bit of a no brainer to get off that sinking ship, sure I'll share from Instagram (until that too suffers a similar fate as FB!), for that I don't need to actually attend the Facebook party which is a real bonus, so although I can't delete my profile due to the contacts I have there and wish to keep I can at least channel my time and energy into something more worthwhile!

Social media in general is a tough thing to navigate, I mean where should you concentrate your efforts? tumblr is a great blogging platform but the jury is still out on that for me, I don't really do social media for 'likes' or reblogs of my work, I want it to be seen by a wide audience for sure but it's 'who' likes my work that's more important to me! My twitter has my biggest following, over 4000 followers, why I don't know, aside from Instagram shares I rarely use it, maybe I'm missing a trick there but I don't find the reach great there either, certainly interaction is minimal so again I fail to see the point of spending my time tweeting to try and promote my work, from a marketing point of view my efforts are better employed elsewhere. Linkedin is something I'm having another crack at as it's more business related, I'll do a post on that as I've only just completed my profile properly and begun adding the odd post of new images but my first post in a long, long time caught the eye of an agency so maybe that's something to keep updated. I've become very conscious of time and wasting it so I'm definitely beginning to look at ways of using my time more efficiently, bottom line is that after all I'd rather be actually out doing what I love than posting about it here, there and everywhere!

For the most part I think this new blog will likely be more image based, a bit of a photographic diary if you like. Not everything I shoot is a beauty or fashion story, not everything I shoot is intended to market me to potential clients so it doesn't necessarily have a place in my portfolio but I still want to share it, personal work is important, even simple test shoots are important, they're arguably some of my favourite's because they're very real and those personal shoots with no client, often no team are the ones I really miss when I get busy so I'm making an effort to shoot those more. Shooting with a purpose is so important with my beauty and commercial work and I love to shoot with a well thought out idea and direction but balancing that with shooting something raw and real with no other purpose than just to create a set of images you love is key, I don't like spending a minute more than needed on retouching, time in front of the Mac is time away from shooting!! I'll likely run a post on personal work and retouching vs raw work in the future but for now if you like my work, would like to see more of it, personal or otherwise then here is where you'll be seeing a majority of it with little tasters on Instagram etc.

Beauty on the beach

A taster of what we got up to yesterday on the beach. Ivane (Profile Models) and I have been planning to work together again for a while, this week it all came together and the weather was extra kind with a beautiful day of sunshine and high temperatures so we took a little road trip to a fairly secluded beach I know. Very happy with the results and we had a fun day, sometimes when you're working with a model you already know quite well it can make all the difference and we're hoping for more good weather so we can plan another trip in the same vein.

I travelled light again on this shoot, just the Fuji X-Pro 1 and two lenses, the more I shoot with the Fuji the more I fall in love with it!

 

make up Georgie Harris

make up Georgie Harris

It's a wrap, end of the day and all smiles, I was a bit windswept!

It's a wrap, end of the day and all smiles, I was a bit windswept!

Mirrorless Cameras - The Fuji X-Pro 1

I've read a lot of for and against for the new mirror less technology this year but having only jumped on board myself a few months ago I've held off on making any sort of post on my thoughts so far, I'm not going to do a review, that's been done far better than I could but having been asked by a few people I thought it was worth a post giving my personal experience with the lovely little camera.

OK so there is no doubt that the Fuji is a beauty, I love the look of film cameras over DSLR and this has that, although I wished it had some silver like the 100S but that's cosmetics!! I deliberated for ages over getting this, reading about them, looking at the work that others were producing with them, I love the look of film but the costs and wait for developing wasn't something I wanted to get back into and a photographer friend described the images out of the X-Pro as looking something between digital and medium format… I thought, right, now you have my attention, he was right, I couldn't agree more with that description. Now for total honesty here, on first couple of uses I seriously thought I'd made a huge mistake buying this thing, I could not nail focus, it wasn't responding the way I was used to, it all just felt so wrong BUT I wanted to love this camera and I kept playing around with it, the settings, the way I shot, I read others experiences, what worked for them and I tried things out and got more comfortable with the whole experience. First off, if you're reading this and having problems then forget for a moment that it's digital, get yourself in the mindset that you're shooting film, slow down, don't try and shoot at the same rate you would shoot a DSLR, you'll be majorly disappointed!! I wished I'd done that, I was so caught up in having my first new camera since my shiny new 5D MkII that I was running out half cocked as they say and lining myself up for a big fall… which I duly got!

Fast forward to now and I did fall in love with the Fuji and the exceptional glass that I purchased alongside it, has it replaced my Canon? No, but then I didn't really expect it to either, I wanted the Fuji for location work first and foremost and then as a day to day carry about, weekends away etc., what I actually got was much more because yes, I prefer it for natural light work over my Canon but I also prefer it in some scenarios for studio black and white work and as a result I am shooting far more personal work, still with models but in more of an old school film style which I absolutely love. The Fuji isn't perfect but then neither is my DSLR, it's slower, less forgiving of any camera shake, it's not going to give me that same pin sharp reliable image that my Canon does 99% of the time, when shooting models it's sharper close in than it is at a distance, now it could partly be me as well but I'm not being critical here, just giving my experience and you know what? I like that, it adds to that 'film look', the dynamic range in natural light destroys the Canon… look at this image in harsh sunlight, on the Canon I'd have had to recover the shadow areas to look like this…

model: Jen Bird

model: Jen Bird

…with the Fuji there was no need, there was far more detail in the shadows straight from camera, I shot in similar light with the Canon recently and the shadow areas were almost black in some shots. I've colour toned this image but the colour from the Fuji was very true to the colours in the real world, great saturation and tones throughout by just using auto white balance. Now this is in contrast to my colour experience under studio lit conditions with strobes, I struggle to get a good 

constant white balance even using a grey card, no biggie as in studio I have the Canon anyway but it would be nice to have that same near perfect colour I get under strobes from the Canon without correcting the RAW file in Capture One. Black and white on the other hand I really like the Fuji in studio when I know I want just black and white images, again I get that film look. The other downside in the studio is the lack of tethered shooting support but for what I shoot with it right now it's not a big deal, in the future if I wanted to shoot a client job then I'd likely be forced to use the Canon as clients generally want to see the results coming up on screen, though in the studio it's unlikely I'd use use the Fuji for a client job anyway… at least at this current time, though I know photographers such as Alex Lambrechts who have done so very successfully and clients are fine with untethered shoots.

So in conclusion, before this turns into War and Peace, here's some good and not so good things that I've found personally, bearing in mind that I'm still quite new to the X system and that overall I can definitely say that I will be keeping the camera and investing in the X system going forward! I may give the new X-T 1 a go but have a feeling I will wait for the next X camera, X-Pro 2????

What I love about the Fuji:

It looks like film

Beautiful in natural light giving great colour and tones

Compact

Awesome glass

Great black and white (which I shoot a lot!)

Amazing dynamic range

The design and look of the camera

Image preview in EVF after taking shot

Fuji themselves as a company and having met and remained in touch with Katie from Fuji UK I get the feeling that they actually give a crap about us as users and listen to the feedback

Not so good (but not enough to turn me off!)

Can miss focus more than DSLR (this could be user error too though)

No tethered shooting

Colours under studio flash not so good (in my experience)

A little slow compared to DSLR meaning I can sometimes miss a shot

Seems less sharp at distance compared to close in when shooting people, this is also a good thing at times though as I think it adds to the film look, sometimes I really don't want that pixel perfect sharpness anyway

Contrast detection AF only, this has been changed on the XT to a hybrid AF

No dedicated back button focus, though there is a work around of sorts that I've adopted but again I believe this is included now on the XT

So there you have it, my thoughts, my experiences and my opinions… for those that have said this is a photographer's camera, I wholeheartedly agree and understand that statement, it's a camera that has character, like film cameras before it, if you want to fire of frames like a machine gun and hope one or two are good then this is not the system for you, if you want to fall in love with the art again then get one! I'll close with some X-Pro shots from the past few months… enjoy!

Imogen Leaver @Nevs Models

Imogen Leaver @Nevs Models

Heather West @Nevs Models

Heather West @Nevs Models


Jasmin @Premier Models

Jasmin @Premier Models

Lottie @First

Lottie @First

Zoe Cornwell

Zoe Cornwell

 

All images ©Brian Rolfe 2014

Alex Lambrechts Fujifilm X Series Street Fashion


I was fortunate enough to be invited along to one of Alex Lambrechts street fashion workshops recently, having not long invested in the X-Pro 1 and Alex being one of the photographers I'd been following before I made the decision to get one I was grateful for the opportunity!

Nice guy, the team from Fuji were lovely and a small friendly group of us had a good day out learning more about the Fuji mirrorless system and getting some shots on the streets of Soho with Jasmin @Premier. The guys at Fuji have since put together this blog post and video about the day so I thought I'd share...

http://fujifilmblog.wordpress.com/2014/06/19/alex-lambrechts-fujifilm-x-series-street-fashion-workshop/

I'll be following up more about the X-system in future posts as I use it more, I was pretty late to make the jump after following reviews etc. since before the X-Pro 1 came out and the new model was out around the same time as I invested in the X-Pro, for now let's just say I'm not regretting the decision to get one, if you're thinking about an X-System yourself but not too sure still then look out for my future posts, it won't be a technical review, more a little about my experience with it, the kind of info that I'd have liked when I was looking at first.





All images ©Brian Rolfe 2014

Online portfolios & websites


Been ages since I posted, it's been a busy Summer but I thought this might help someone in a similar position to myself.

It's never been more important to have a strong online presence, social media, flickr, behance etc. but the most important is the website, your online portfolio, it's your shop window! I've jumped from online portfolio providers to building my own and back again, this year with my Adobe Creative Cloud subscription I suddenly had access to all these new toys so gave Muse a go, built a website I liked, designed the way I wanted it to look and function and put it out there in May, now at that time I came up on page one on a google search for London beauty and fashion photographers... now I'm around 7 pages down or more, I'd spent so much time on the design, the content and how it all looked that I omitted to sort out proper page titles and basic SEO... massive fail, talk about shoot myself in the foot! A few weeks ago I set to putting this right and update the new site, this is when I realised though I had a nice looking site etc. it was taking me an age to add new content! Those nice rollovers for each new story I'd shot needed to be built from scratch every time, a new page made, images sized, more SEO... I could have shot new work, spent time on marketing, even seen a bit more of my wife for a change!! The SEO cock up aside I knew going the bespoke route was a mistake, the designer in me coming out again I guess but that's when I stopped the update I was working on and set to finding an online portfolio provider.

Now I'd previously been a viewbook user so I headed there first as I knew they were pretty good, I was expecting big things but was a bit shocked to find that they were still working on the new V3 platform, one of my prime reasons for leaving them in the first place was that I wanted more design options, that ruled them out despite the fact that viewbook works well on it's current version. I looked at Photoshelter, good but pricey, Dripbook was a similar story having been with them for a brief period I never even looked again this time, I found a couple with templates I liked that could be bent around a bit to look roughly how I'd like, one of these was Squarespace, price was about average with an annual option saving 20% on the monthly price, I signed up for the trial period and adapted a template to something I was quite keen on, it ticked alot of boxes... it was easy to edit, easy to update, SEO was straight forward enough and a big one for me was that it was a dynamic site as in it resized to the browser somewhat. It was a horizontal scroll but with a click through which I preferred to actually scrolling. Well my trial at an end I took the plunge and signed up for a year, a couple of days passed and I went back in to put it all together properly, it dawned on me that it was too busy still, while there was only one image actually fully viewable at a time the faded out shots either side were distracting to my eye and here is where the penny dropped for me and kind of the whole point of this post, the design was taking over... again... I was back to what I was trying to avoid all over again, I needed simplicity, suddenly it was blindingly obvious where I'd gone wrong time and again!! I'm a photographer not a web designer, the photographs should be the whole focus of the site, the design should be functional but almost invisible!

I found a different template that's plain, the images resize to the browser, the navigation is tucked away so the images take up 90% of the browser, my logo is there but not distracting and there's only one or two images on screen at once and there's a nice feature to switch to a thumbnail view... perfect! Well not perfect but it's about as close as I've got in the last 6/7 years.

New and simplified www.brianrolfe.com big on images but simple and understated design


Now I'm not writing this for the guys at Squarespace, yes I'm happy with my choice but this is the kind of thing I wish I'd read somewhere years ago. My advice if you're looking for that perfect platform to showcase your work, firstly there isn't one perfect platform, no template does exactly what you want or tick every box, you need to make compromises, find a template/provider that you like and ask yourself if you can live without that one or two things it doesn't do, for me I was unsure about the side navigation but it's growing on me, remember what I said about design, it's your portfolio, your work that's important, not how nice the design is, nobody is coming to look at the design of your website, they are there to see your art, your photography, they want to get around your site easily and view your work, that's it, as long as they can do that and have a way to contact you then that website has done it's job and you can get back to creating more & living your life... not web designing!!