December 2013 update: I'm no longer working as a photographer

In 2009, I launched a company that makes business software for photographers, and now that company is so successful that I've regretfully had to put my photography business on hold indefinitely. You can find out more about this change on my blog.

If you're looking for a photographer, I'm still in touch with many amazing photographers and would be delighted to recommend them to you if you contact me.

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Jökulsárlón iceberg

Posted in Miscellaneous at 15:05 on 13/12/2015

Earlier this year, I was lucky enough to be able to travel to Iceland on a photography tour led by David Ward, Joe Cornish, and Daniel Bergman. I'll be posting more pictures from the trip as I finish processing them and find time to write them up, but I thought I'd start with one of my favourite pictures from the trip.

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This is a small iceberg at Jökulsárlón, a large glacial lake on Iceland's South coast. I saw this image towards the end of the afternoon, and by this point I was feeling ready to call it a day. I was exhausted and feeling a bit down about my inability to see interesting pictures when everyone else on the tour seemed to be having enormous fun photographing lumps of ice, so I took myself off for a bit of a walk along the lake shore and eventually found the inspiration I so desperately needed in this wonderful specimen.

I love the contrast between the sharp, glowing edges of the ice and the softness of the water, which has been turned into a haze by a combination of rain and a a long exposure. More importantly, it perfectly captures the mood for me, which was all about finding beauty in a melancholy moment.

Light Blue 6 (AKA "What I did in 2015")

Posted in Light Blue Software at 12:00 on 24/11/2015

Today is a big day for me. My little software company is releasing its first major update in almost two years, Light Blue 6.

There's going to be lots of official company stuff going out to our customers over the next couple of weeks, but since this is my personal site and I haven't quite worked out what to do with it since I stopped working as a photographer I thought I'd experiment with sharing a few personal feelings about Light Blue 6. Hamish's thoughts will almost certainly vary from mine, and this probably requires some kind of "all opinions expressed are my own personal ramblings" disclaimer.

Hamish and I have been working on this update for most of the year, and it includes thousands of updates and changes. In our project management system, I can see that there were 492 individual cases that went into Light Blue 6, and most of those would have included several smaller changes. Talking about all of them would be ridiculous and boring, so I'm going to pick out the three new features that I'm most pleased with.

Where am I? And where have my records gone?

Working out how to let photographers use a database without them needing to either know or care that they're doing so is often challenging. Light Blue's database is the core of its functionality and, once you get beyond simple sample data or the very beginnings of a photography business with real data, at some point you're going to have to start doing more than simply presenting them with a list of all of their shoots, clients, etc.

We've seen time and again that the quick queries in Light Blue are enormously helpful for customers who get the concept of looking at a subset of their data. It's a concept that's easy to teach and users almost always instantly get it, but we occasionally get queries from new customers along the lines of "where did all of my data go?" that show that not everyone gets it straight away.

I'd been thinking about this for more than 18 months before we started work on Light Blue 6's redesign, and what I came up with was a clearer hierarchy that flows across the the app's main window. On the left edge, we have our list of sections. Click into one of those sections, and our use of colour clearly shows that the quick queries in the second column belong to that section. From there, the selected query is clearly linked to the current list of records.

The initial feedback from corridor testing and our beta testers has been really positive about this change, but the real test going to be when new customers get their hands on Light Blue 6 and whether we've managed to eliminate the confusion that the old design caused for some new customers.

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Online forms

Five years ago, Hamish and I set out to rebuild Light Blue from the ground up (which is something that software developers are told they must never, ever do). One of our key objectives was combining the power of desktop apps (i.e. you can work offline or with a crappy internet connection, and do clever things that are only possible if you've got all of your data stored locally) with the usefulness of web-based software (e.g. working across multiple computers or mobile devices, collaborating with other people in your company, working with other online services). Three years ago, we released that rewritten version as Light Blue 4, and it gave us a great foundation upon which we've been able to build new features that make it easier for photographers to run their businesses.

Our new online forms are a good example of that. Photographers can set up form templates in Light Blue, and either link to those forms from their own website or embed the form into an existing web page. When the form is filled in, they receive an email and it appears in Light Blue's Inbox, from where they can create a new enquiry without needing to re-enter any information.

So far, so good, but not much more helpful than what you could already achieve with the Light Blue API (although much easier for non-technical users to set up).

Where this gets really interesting is when you link a form to a shoot or online contract. This gives you a really elegant way of getting all of the information you need from your client: contact details, the names of anyone else involved in the shoot, a list of requests (e.g. group photos for a wedding), etc. Everything that your client enters can be used to update your database in just two clicks from the Inbox. No more sending printed or PDF booking forms to your clients, and no more manual typing in of information: a big win for photographers.

That's all very well, and would have been a great new feature if we left it at that. But many of our customers are lucky enough to have loyal clients who come back to them time and again, and the idea of making them type in all of their details every single time sounds horribly tedious: it would be like punishing your best clients. So what we've done is include all of the information the you already know about the shoot and your clients in the form when it's published, so all your client has to do is double-check the details they've given you and fill in the blanks.

That final detail is something I'm especially proud of: it turns a new feature that already makes life easier for photographers into one that also makes it easier for their clients to work with them. The feedback from our testers (and especially Helen, who doesn't seem to have had a client in the last two months who hasn't given her positive feedback about her new booking process) has been wonderful, and I'm very excited about getting this out there and changing more photography businesses for the better. Which leads me onto…

Online invoice payment

The final feature that I want to highlight is another that makes helps photographers by making it easier for their clients to work with them. When we released our online contract signing service in Light Blue 5.5, we made it possible to collect payment for a booking fee / session fee / retainer as part of the contract signing process. Clients could pay you by debit or credit card (via the wonderful Stripe, who make dealing with card payments simple and elegant for both businesses and their customers) or PayPal, the payment would pop up in Light Blue's Inbox and you could accept it directly from there.

In Light Blue 6, we've extended that to all invoices: any invoice can be published to a photographer's client portal, your client gets an email with a link to the invoice, and pays online. They don't have to fiddle around with setting up a new payee to make a bank transfer, or dig out that dusty chequebook. Again, it's all about providing tools that improve the way that both photographers and their clients work.

So that's my personal take on a few things that I'm particularly proud of. There's a busy schedule of newsletters and webinars that will be promoting Light Blue 6 over the coming weeks but, in the meantime, you can find a less personal take on the new release on our website.

Moving on

Posted in Miscellaneous at 14:14 on 07/11/2015

Well… two years without a blog post. That doesn't look good, does it? Let's fix that with a very quick recap of what I've been up to since then.

All the way back in 2009, I launched a new business that was indirectly related to my photography business. Light Blue Software grew out of a system that I wrote to run both my wedding photography business and Helen's children's photography business. So many things seemed to fall into place at the same time: I'd recently gone full-time as a photographer; lots of the other professional photographers I knew were (politely but repeatedly) hassling me to let them use my system; and I'd recently got to know Hamish, who turned out to be an ideal business partner in the way that his skills complemented mine.

The new venture went well, albeit starting off slowly: Hamish and I bootstrapped the company, reinvesting our profits and never needing to take any external funding. Somehow, we both managed to find time for both Light Blue Software and our other work, and my wedding photography business kept on growing.

Inevitably, there came a point when I had to decide: was I going to let Light Blue Software take over my working life, or was I going to carry on working as a photographer? Photographing weddings was very fulfilling work, both creatively and in terms of the lovely couples I was lucky enough to be working with, but creating a completely new business seemed like too good an opportunity to pass up.

It took a while to put a plan into place, but I started taking on less photography work and eventually stopped taking bookings altogether. Now that both Hamish and I are working full-time on it, Light Blue Software has been going from strength to strength.

I still haven't worked out what I want to do with this site now that I'm not actively running a photography business. I don't want to abandon it entirely, especially because I want to maintain a home for all of the work on my blog, and also because I'm currently able to pass photography enquiries that I receive onto some great photographers that I've got to know over the years. I also keep on fantasising about resurrecting my photography business, even if it's highly unlikely that I'll ever find the time to do that.

While I'm still working that out, I'm going to try to post on here at least semi-regularly. If nothing else, I've got some pictures from a recent trip to Iceland to share, and I hope that putting them on here will help me to continue rediscovering the joy of being an amateur photographer again!

Kelly & Jack's autumn wedding at Girton College, Cambridge

Posted in Wedding Photography at 09:00 on 08/11/2013

Kelly & Jack's wedding was the second autumnal wedding that I've photographed at Girton College, and it was great to be back in the lovely college buildings and grounds. Kelly & jack got married in the college chapel and then made use of the college's extensive buildings for their wedding reception and candlelit dinner. Girton's main hall is spectacular, even by Cambridge college standards, with an absolutely vast ceiling.

Here's a selection of my favourite pictures from Kelly & Jack's wedding at Girton College.

Girton College wedding photos

Girton College wedding photos

Girton College wedding photos

Girton College wedding photos

Girton College wedding photos

Girton College wedding photos

Girton College wedding photos

Girton College wedding photos

Girton College wedding photos

Girton College wedding photos

Girton College wedding photos

Girton College wedding photos

Girton College wedding photos

Girton College wedding photos

Girton College wedding photos

Girton College wedding photos

Girton College wedding photos

Girton College wedding photos

Girton College wedding photos

Girton College wedding photos

Girton College wedding photos

Girton College wedding photos

Girton College wedding photos

Girton College wedding photos

Girton College wedding photos

Girton College wedding photos

Girton College wedding photos

Girton College wedding photos

Girton College wedding photos

Girton College wedding photos

Girton College wedding photos

Girton College wedding photos

Girton College wedding photos

2013 Cambridge Film Festival round up

Posted in Commercial and PR at 13:09 on 01/10/2013

This year's Cambridge Film Festival is the ninth that I've photographed, and it's great to have been invited back to photograph it for every festival since 2005. Last week, I posted some pictures from the Stephen Hawking documentary that opened the festival, but I've been a bit slack about blogging my work during the festival itself this year. Instead, I've been posting pictures regularly to my Twitter stream, but now it's time for a round-up of the highlights from the 2013 Cambridge Film Festival!

Most of my work at the Cambridge Film Festival is focussed on photographing the various filmmakers and other guests who come to Cambridge to present their films, but I'm going to start my round-up of the festival with something a bit different: a set of pictures of the people who make the festival possible, the staff and volunteers who run it. Whether they're working behind the scenes, front of house or hosting Q&A sessions with filmmakers, they're a vital part of the festival a big part of the spirit of the festival that makes me come back every year.

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And now onto the events themselves! The reliably brilliant Neil Brand took a break from his busy schedule of BBC programmes to provide a live soundtrack to Nosferatu as well as a programme of silent movies for the younger members of the festival audience.

Neil Brand

Neil Brand

Neil Brand

Director Kevin MacDonald came to Cambridge to present his new film, How I Live Now, on the closing night of the festival:

Kevin MacDonald, How I Live Now

Kevin MacDonald, How I Live Now

Kevin MacDonald, How I Live Now

The closing night of the festival also featured director Sophie Fiennes, who was there to answer questions about The Pervert's Guide To Ideology:

Sophie Fiennes

This is already threatening to become a titanic blog post, so I'm going to rattle through the rest of these highlights very quickly!

Si-O-Se Pol:

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Dummy Jim:

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The Lebanese Rocket Society & Particle Fever:

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Growing Pain:

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Mushrooming:

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For Those In Peril:

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Google & The World Brain:

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The Redemption of the Fish:

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Back to the Garden:

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Shakespeare: The Hidden Truth:

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Sieniawka:

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Sofia's Last Ambulance:

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The Man Whose Mind Exploded:

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Honour:

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The Forgotten Kingdom:

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A World Not Ours:

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