Portraiture with Paul Wilkinson

Back in December 2016 i was lucky enough to be able to do a couple days work experience with award winning photographer Paul Wilkinson. As i study photography at University, this was a great opportunity for me to learn and also build relationships and contacts in the industry. The studio, located in a little village in Buckinghamshire called Haddenham, has a definite 70’s theme running through the narrow yet intricate two story building. The ground floor inhabits a viewing room and informal meeting room with a view of the award winning garden that surrounds the building; up the stairs you will find the work room where three dedicated team members organise and manage the business, and finally the studio is located at the end of the top floor; equipped with lighting, flashes, and backdrops, this makes for the perfect portrait studio set up.

Aside from being an exceptional photographer, Paul is also extremely charismatic, fun, and easy to work with; there wasn’t a moment that went past where he wasn’t making someone laugh or smile. This showed me how important it is to make your client feel at ease and to enjoy their time with the photographer. Building positive memories while you shoot is key to making people remember you and most importantly love your photos.

I learnt that light is your best tool. Of course photography would not work without light, but you have to know how to use it. When to use natural light and when to add in studio lights or flash, knowing how to subtly compliment the clients physique, and making sure that the overall composition reflects the needs of the client. While i was at the studio, Paul shot for a woman promoting her health and fitness business, he shot at the charity Hearing Dogs, and for a young couple who wanted keepsake snapshots. As well as never taking a break from his work, Paul has a wide range of clients who he is very dedicated to; every shoot is just as important as the last, and the energy levels continue throughout the day and into the evening.

At the end of my work experience, Paul and the team asked me to come back this July to help run a work placement week for GCSE students. Of course i was flattered to be asked to come back to work for them! The week consisted of teaching four students from a local school the basic skills about how to operate a camera manually, and about the business side of photography.

I was able to use my own knowledge of portraiture, lighting and composition to help the students. I enjoyed this even more than i thought i would. It reiterated how important it is to understand your camera and to know your manual settings inside out. At the beginning of the week the four students had a minimal knowledge of photography and by the end of the week, they were producing work that was of a standard far above their age range.

Paul and I kept going over simple tasks such as going out and focusing on different parts of the camera, like shutter speed, or depth of field. Once they were comfortable with that aspect, we then added in another, until they were able to balance all three components and produce technically great images.

The students saw how Paul operates on a day to day basis; shooting, editing, business and promotion. He was realistic about the pros and cons of the industy and we helped to fuel their creativity and drive throughout the week.

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