Sometimes, the most gratifying results can be matters of pure chance and improvisation. For example, when Hannah - after gamely agreeing to perch precariously on some steps in King's Cross - looked up and grinned:
Or when I suddenly remembered that the inside of the BFI (the old National Film Theatre) sported the same colour scheme as H's other outfit. It must've known we were coming...
One of the characteristics I like to bring to portraits if I can, is some kind of signature element that makes them more meaningful to the person kind enough to model for them. Recently, I photographed Ellie for the first time. E is an expert and enthusiast on all things German (including fluency in the language), as well as being a fellow music obsessive. I also needed to bear in mind that the weather on the day we'd arranged to meet was due to be absolutely shocking. So I came up with a route that meant we could shoot entirely under shelter, and also build in my increasing fascination with using station tunnels and architecture as atmospheric but somehow non-specific backdrops.
For maximum flexibility, I suggested E wear black. This meant that we were able to match the colours of the German flag by finding a convenient South West Train...
...and reflect Ellie's musical side by taking some shots at the Royal Albert Hall.
While getting from location to location, we improvised almost all of the pictures at station stops along the way. The shot directly below was taken at Waterloo, and beneath that, one of my absolute favourites from the session, at South Kensington. E had really got into her stride by this time, and simply walked out to the middle of the tunnel, turned to the camera and said 'How about this?'. *Click*.
I was overjoyed when Paula and Andy agreed to be photographed. It's great taking portraits of a couple because you can benefit from the interaction between people who are totally relaxed with each other. I also knew that Andy's very English demeanour contrasted with Paula's Brazilian features would be a particularly photogenic combination, and suggested that for some of the photos we went almost for a kind of movie-poster feel. They really rose to the challenge! - witness Paula's expert femme fatale below. I made sure to capture a softer version, too.
I wanted to give each of them their spell in the limelight, so took some individual shots as well...
But there was a lot of fun to be had putting together the double portraits, which involved me thinking harder than ever about the composition. One key principle I kept in mind was that both Andy and Paula are tall - and I tried to get away where possible from the temptation to take 'standing side-by-side' pictures and use angles and the location to vary their height and posture:
Finally, my most recent pictures have been for an actual commission (although, I hasten to add, still very much on an amateur footing). Two friends of mine, Bob and Katy, have formed a band, The Disappointment Choir (find them here and here), and asked me to take some pictures for them. This would be interesting, because it would involve certain elements I wasn't used to: I needed to remember to take some 'square' pictures (for use in download or CD inlay artwork); I had to ensure there were more serious (versus 'cheerful') photos than usual; again, there were two people, but this time not a couple. However, the DC actually gave me quite a relaxed brief and complete freedom over the locations. As you'll see, they arrived with a distinctive look; I found them, among other things, a leafy bench, a piano and a spooky tunnel.