Especially when you work just by yourself, there is nothing more important than investing in training to help keep the mind sharp and freshen up the workflow. In August, I had the pleasure to learn from the incredibly talented Sujata Setia from But Natural Photography.
When I decided to attend a workshop this autumn, I did not have to think long about who I wanted this to be with. I have been an admirer of Sujata’s work for a while. Her edits are out of this world. Portraying life with her daughter Aayat and their dog Mustang she has mastered the kind of narrative or story-telling photography that I envision for my own work.
Sujata travels all over the world for her workshops but for this one we were invited to her comfort of her own home down south. I packed the boyfriend, booked a spa hotel nearby and made a weekend out of this. However, things don’t always go according to plan: Sujata had somehow found a week in her busy schedule to take her family on holiday in Italy but bad weather meant she got stuck in Venice. The workshop had to be rescheduled to start Sunday afternoon instead of in the morning. The expected finish was now to be at 11pm. Of course, Sujata gave us the opportunity to rebook on to a later date or refund. However, it left me in an awkward position: I was already in Kent and had spent money on petrol and the hotel but I did not see myself being able to drive all the way home this late. Sujata promptly offered me to spend the night at hers so I could drive back in the morning. I gladly took her up on this offer and was welcomed by her family with open arms (and fed extremely well I should add).
The workshop included a comprehensive training that of course focussed on photography and editing but also touched on many other aspects that come with running a successful photography business. At this point, however, I will not bore you with the specifics, other than I picked up a lot of useful tips and tricks that I will integrate into my workflow in the future. The exciting part of the day was of course the photoshoot. Sujata’s work is all about the connection between children and animals so she organised four stunning models for us: Lexia and Siena were going to pose with Yoda the cat and Coco the dog.
The first location was literally just a patch of grass down Sujata’s driveway. I forgot to take a picture on my phone but it is an excellent example of how some grass or bushes that people drive by without noticing can become the most stunning of locations.
By the time we went to the second location – an alley behind Sujata’s house - we were losing the light quickly. I can’t say I’m happy with the result I got from this lovely set up as it’s not of the quality that I would give to a client. I’m sure I made a number of mistakes with this image and my gear wasn’t helping. My beloved camera has a lot of strengths but shooting in low light isn’t one of them. Furthermore, I was shooting with a brand-new lens. It was emergency replacement for one that had broken and I had not been able to calibrate it to the camera prior to the workshop, which means my focus was often off.
I have decided to share an image of the last set up nonetheless because it shows how much can be salvaged in thorough post processing. While I would not blow this image up on a canvas, it’s fine for social media sharing. The final product is a composite of five different images because I was often only able to get one part of the image right: Sometimes the girl wasn’t looking, sometimes the dog just wanted to go home and occasionally another workshop participant was in the way (using the lens with the longest focal length meant I was always at the back of the party!)
Needless to say, but usually my straight-out-of-camera image would be much closer to the final product that it is the case here. This shows that post-processing in an integral part of photography and explains why so many photographers – myself included – do not give out RAW files.
These images will not go into my portfolio because the choice of models, styling and posing were not my own choices but Sujata’s. However, I could not resist sharing them with you and I will be looking to integrate what I have learned into my future shoots.