Monday, 13 January 2014

15 minutes to make the most of The Houses of Parliament

Nickly Morgan MP for Top Sante - 1761
Sometimes throwing any plans you had out of the window at the start of a shoot can result in the best photos. Its not always what I would recommend doing, but can sometimes work out great. Many of my jobs are pushed for time. Often the more important the person that I am photographing the less time I normally am given with them. A usual shoot for me goes like this: I arrive over an hour early, scout, find various options, get my camera settings tested with my assistant standing in for my talent, put up any lights and props that need putting in place and then wait patiently for the person I am photographing to arrive. This way even if we only have 5 minutes together I can still make beautifully lit and well planned photos.

Sometimes though, I decide to scrap my preparation completely when something else pops into my mind. Like when I went to the Houses of Parliament for Top Sante magazine to photograph Nicky Morgan MP. All had been arranged beforehand, I knew that we would not have long, in fact I knew that we would only have 30 minutes to set up and then shoot as we couldn't get access to our location without a permit. Nicky would bring the permit with her when she arrived, so we needed to set up with her standing and waiting. Normally you can persuade people to let you in early, but the friendly policemen in the Houses of Parliament could not be persuaded - probably a good thing to be honest.

So my plan was such: I'll do my best to scout out locations from the wrong side of the fence and prepare as much as possible from there. I even got my light set up, tested and ready to move the moment she arrived. But I wasn't happy to settle with something that wasn't the best that I could find. So as soon as Nicky arrived (unfortunately later than planned giving us only 15 minutes with her) I ran off around the location trying to find a better spot to photograph in (and yes I did actually run). A split second decision later and I had chosen to drop all my plans and do something completely different. There was an awesome tree that showed the amazing Palace of Westminster in the background and I just had to shoot there. So I moved my team, my lighting equipment, and Nicky to that spot for the first shot. I only found out later that I had been taking photos too near the wall and had set off automated alarms in another part of the building. Whoops.

Nicky was totally great, we had a good chat and she was completely unfazed by the situation. So we got the shot in the bag almost straight away. This left us a bit of extra time. in my head this means "time for more shots". So we headed to a nearby corridor where Nicky to strode up and down with the sunlight bursting through the gaps in the walls. It was nice, but not quite right. So I had a pause for a rethink. My thoughts: "This is a very busy and powerful woman, she must do a lot of walking around between meetings." So with about one minute to go I asked Nicky to do just that, or something a bit like that - I thought we would try another unplanned idea. Nicky walked back and forth over the cobbles of New Palace Yard making sure that any cars that were driving around it weren't going to run her over. I crouched and walked backwards in front of her in what is fast becoming my trademark uncomfortable position for taking photos. One of the last frames from the shoot was the image that Top Sante chose.

My take home message: always plan well, but more importantly be prepared to drop your plan at a moments notice if something better comes along.


Huge thanks to the Top Sante team who worked so efficiently on the shoot and were great fun all day.

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