The single most important piece of photography advice I wish I’d known earlier.


Let that sink in.

It’s a bitch of a thing to come to terms with, but that moment when you do, is the moment that you will grow and become a better photographer.

If you wish to develop as a creative then you will have to accept this difficult premise.

If you think your work is great and you don’t need to improve then you’ve lost the battle. You haven’t lost the war though, I might add……you’re just gonna have to wake up and smell the coffee.

This mindset is known as the Dunning-Kruger effect, a real scientific phenomenon.

The Dunning-Kruger effect is a type of cognitive bias in which people believe that they are more capable than they really are. Essentially, low ability people do not possess the skills needed to recognize their own incompetence

Stupid people don’t know they‘re stupid


Poor self awareness and low cognitive ability leads them to overestimate their own capabilities.

As Charles Darwin wrote in his book The Descent of Man, “Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge.”

I’ve been guilty of this…….thinking my work is the dog’s danglers!

I put a photograph out there that I’m delighted with, for all to see……thinking it’s the best thing since sliced bread. Fortunately for me though, I’ve had my epiphany, as it were and when I look back at my work I have a rather deflating tendency to think it’s crap and that I can improve it. This is what I try to do with every single day…….improve, and learn something new. Every new photoshoot, every new edit, every new blog post!

I’m trying.

People say that I’m very trying!

I’m putting that attribute down to the curse of the creative mind and I’m standing by that!

People will blow smoke up your arse all day long if they want to use your services for free/for exposure… and friends encourage you (they’re your biggest fan club) but the false sense of security that this can bestow upon you can ultimately become detrimental to your development within the photography industry.

‘Don’t get high on your own supply’ (as the cool kids say.)

If you don’t believe me, ask for a portfolio review from an artist you respect and prepare to face the music. Don’t be disheartened by the critique. Instead take from it, learn from it and act on it.

Don’t get stuck in that rut of being able to do something and then being satisfied with just repeating it time and time again, never to move forward. Develop your skill set. Add new lighting or editing techniques to your repertoire. Perfect the ones that you already know, Your clients deserve it………….and so do you.

So hopefully you found this philosophical post motivational and that it inspires you to move forward.

Now excuse me whilst I go cry into my cornflakes and endeavour to become better at my craft.

Stay safe.


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Hallowe’en photoshoot ideas when you’re locked down in the middle of a global health pandemic!

There’s absolutely no doubt………and I mean none whatsoever that the Covid-19 health pandemic has caused incredible pain and suffering the whole world over. It’s also restricted what we can and can’t do in a massive way this Autumn or Fall. With Hallowe’en, Bonfire night and Christmas looming ever closer it’s looking like it’s going to be a huge casualty in terms of the fun things we and our kids are going to miss out on………….

………..or are we?

There’s a feeling here in the UK which borrows from an extremely desperate time in the Second World War. We call it the ‘Dunkirk Spirit’ (in reference to the British Expeditionary Force’s evacuation from Dunkirk) and if you’re unfamiliar with this idiom, it basically means an attitude of being very strong in a difficult situation and refusing to accept defeat.

“We shall never surrender…….”

Sorry, my interest in World War 2 is trying to hijack this post!

It looks like trick or treating might be off the agenda on October 31st here in the UK……it may not be advisable to do so with the current rising Coronavirus figures. So what are we going to do that’s safe instead? My kids absolutely love Hallowe’en……..always have done. Every year, when they’ve painted their faces and put on their costumes before we go out trick or treating, I set up a light (or two) and do a mini photoshoot before we head out for an evening of sugar fuelled spooky mayhem!

It may seem obvious but as a photographer, documenting these occasions has given me enormous pleasure and beautiful family memories to look back upon.

We made this image with the gridded beauty dish. We placed it to the right…..and I mean hard right. You can see the spill of light from right to left against the wall. Now I know you’re going to say the beauty dish should only be used front and centre and you’re right of course, but this is Hallowe’en, horror lighting…….and anything goes! This is a white wall shot by the way, the texture overlayed in Photoshop. Check out my easy to follow tutorial for this technique here…………

Two strip boxes with grids and the smoke machine for this shot…………it was made just before we headed out trick or treating. Take a few moments and make those memories. Trust me, you won’t be sorry.

So what does this Hallowe’en hold for us?

Well, we’re definitely going to do a mini photoshoot for starters. We’re going to most likely stay home this year. Decorate the house. Watch a fun scary movie? Play some games and have a Hallowe’en fondue. Maybe the adults might indulge in a glass of seasonal grog! Dad doesn’t mind a glass of whisky if the truth be known………..

Whatever happens you can be sure we’re going to make the most of it, 2020 has been a testing year but we’re determined to have a good time. I hope you are too.

Be sure to share your Hallowe’en shots with me. I’d love to see them.

Stay safe.


Buy me a coffee at my ko-fi page.

The top five inexpensive pieces of gear that made the biggest impact on my photography………..

…………………and I’m not talking about the latest camera bodies or the fastest most expensive glass. We’re not even in the same ballpark actually………nowhere near.

Let’s break it down. Cameras and glass aside I’m sure we’ve all had those Eureka moments on our respective photographic journeys where we’ve come to realise ‘how did I ever manage before without this piece of kit?’ Call it an epiphany if you will, but each of these individual items I’m going to list below have had a huge impact on my creative process and really enabled me to grow as an artist.

None of this stuff is going to break the bank……….

First up and probably the single most simple but ultimately effective item on the list……..The tethering cable.

Tethering to the computer during a shoot has literally transformed the way I work. I WILL NEVER LOOK BACK. Forgive the caps but I can’t emphasise enough the value of shooting this way. Working in real time and being able to see the images on the big screen will allow you (and your creative team) to make live adjustments to hair, makeup, posing, lighting and anything else that may go unnoticed on the small LCD display on the back of the camera. My subjects have always appreciated being able to see the images as they are being shot and have the opportunity to see what is working for them and what isn’t, and adjust accordingly.

Type A to Mini-B USB 2.0 Cable is the specification for my Canon Cameras. I have a couple of cheap cables I purchased from Amazon for as little as £6 which do the job perfectly, but if you wanted to buy the industry standard then Tether Tools is the place for you.

So yeah……just in case you missed it……..the tethering cable is my number one most useful piece of kit. ‘Try it…….you’ll like it’ (as my mum used to say!)

Next up…………

The C Stand and Boom Arm.

Now light (as I’m sure you already know) works best either from above (it works for the sun) or from the side in a painterly Rembrandt style. I love to light from overhead, either with the beauty dish or an octabox and this beautiful, ugly bit of metal allows me to do just that……probably the best 90 quid I’ve ever spent on grip. I can boom my 22 inch metal beauty dish front and centre of my subject without fear of it dropping down and denting the floor (or my model!) It’s truly a great bit of kit and the boom arm itself also allows for better placement and manoeuvrability of other larger modifiers in the Rembrandt position too. All in all much better choice than a regular light stand, and a LOT more sturdy.

Third on my list…….Sheets of coloured cellophane.


These cost me £3.50 for a multicoloured selection. Use them to gel your flashes. Cheap as chips as they say here in England, and very effective.

If you have some coloured gels for your flashes then why not go a step further and add some smoke?

The humble fog machine ranks next as one of my most useful pieces of kit.

Instantly add atmosphere to your studio shots with one of these. Remember to backlight the smoke and have fun!

One tip when using the smoke machine though would be to use it near the end of the shoot……the room can get a little clogged up after a few blasts and you’ll find it increasingly hard to focus until the smoke dissipates, so use sparingly.

Finally, last but not least is my wonderful painterly style cloth backdrop from KateBackdrop.

It features in many of my images for good reason, as I absolutely love it.

I do love to shoot against a storm grey backdrop and blend textures in Photoshop as this gives me a lot of creative scope in post production, but this fantastic and cheap bit of cloth really allows me to get a finished look to my pictures that I really love. I’m sure I will purchase others from the range going forward but for now I’m very happy indeed with this one.

Here’s the link to it on Amazon.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my insights in this article and I’d absolutely love to hear about your own ‘go to’ pieces of kit that you simply can’t do without.

Thanks for reading and please do drop by and connect with me on social media.

Stay safe.


I’m a fine art portrait photographer based in Tamworth, Staffordshire. Specialising in creative and styled portraiture, fitness photography, headshots, family portraits and personal branding for you, for actors, for athletes and for business professionals alike.

The Ring Mistress | Portrait Photoshoot Featuring Tegan Including Speed Edit YouTube Video

In today’s instalment I’m going to offer you an insight into this themed photoshoot featuring Tegan, which I’m delighted to say has been both well received and also published.

My approach to such a session is usually one of careful advance planning. Now for me, I have to have a structured shoot plan made and agreed upon in advance of the shoot. Your model or subject will be able to hit the ground running on shoot day if you are both on the same page in terms of styling, make-up and even posing. I go so far as to even discuss lighting setups and planned backdrops with my subject in advance of the shoot. What’s the best way to do this I hear you ask? Well for me it’s a no-brainer………Pinterest!

Sharing a Pinterest board with your subject/client/model and adding them as a collaborator is also a great way of embracing and incorporating their input into the session. It works… me!

My usual shoot process on a project like this would be to take three themed ideas. We would discuss and develop those ideas in advance and decide on an order of priority. The most basic idea usually forms the warm-up set for me. I use it to tweak lighting and get a feel for which backdrop I might use. In this case I’m using a very inexpensive cloth backdrop by KateBackdrop which has been worth it’s weight in gold to me. I love the painterly feel of it. Check out their range here…………

It just seems to complement the styling and theme so well so I was very happy with my choice here.

Incidentally my previous post deals with adding texture and colour to grey paper studio backgrounds. This might prove to be extremely useful for matching and complementing a background to your subject/model’s styling via the means of post production.

Please find the article and tutorial here………..

The two strongest themes I usually reserve for the main body of the shoot. The strongest of which I usually like to submit for a magazine publication.

So Tegan styled the Ring Mistress beautifully in my opinion. The addition of the whip made for a nice prop and we borrowed a pair of my Wife’s gloves to finish it off. I’m sure you’ll agree she looks fantastic.

Maybe you’d be surprised to hear that this shoot was completed in an extremely small room at my home with my shooting position being located across the hall in another room and shooting through two doorways back towards Tegan?! The smaller the space you have, the more creative you’re going to have to be……..thrive on the challenge though and it will help you to hone your craft at a vast rate of knots.

Hopefully this article has given you some food for thought and some inspiring photoshoot ideas, but before I sign off I’ll leave you with this speed-edit video from this set.

If you are interested in any of the steps I’ve taken to achieve this look then please do reach out and connect with me on social media.

Thanks for reading.

Stay safe.


I’m a fine art portrait photographer based in Tamworth, Staffordshire. Specialising in creative and styled portraiture, fitness photography, headshots, family portraits and personal branding for you, for actors, for athletes and for business professionals alike.

Buy me a coffee at my ko-fi page.

How to easily add texture to your backgrounds in Photoshop.

One of my absolute favourite techniques for adding some extra artistic punch to my images is to add a texture to the background. I’ve been using this technique since I first started using Photoshop because it’s simple, effective and offers endless creative possibilities for transforming your studio images.

There are many free to download textures available online and I can also highly recommend the Adobe Paper Texture Pro Plugin for Photoshop, which is also a free download.

John **YouTube link in description**

Please click on my video above for an easy to follow tutorial containing two easy methods of adding texture to your backgrounds. I’ve added in some bonus colour grading tips in there too so please do watch the video through to the end and if you find it useful I’d love it if you subscribed to my YouTube Channel.

The sky really is the limit with this technique and I’d love to see your results, so please do connect with me via any of the social media links at the head of my page.

So what are you waiting for? Time to get stuck into creating some textured backgrounds and stay tuned for more Photoshop editing tips coming soon.

Stay safe.


I’m a fine art portrait photographer based in Tamworth, Staffordshire. Specialising in creative and styled portraiture, fitness photography, headshots, family portraits and personal branding for you, for actors, for athletes and for business professionals alike.

Buy me a coffee at my ko-fi page.