Photographing Princess Diana and the Royal Family, Part One

When I was fifteen years old and living in England (where my father had been transferred for work), the Queen of England drove through our town on a cold, grey afternoon. I brought along my Super-8 movie camera, and as her Rolls Royce slowly drove down Park Street, I ran alongside the car, stopping at gaps in the crowd to point my camera at the Queen, in the hopes of getting some good footage. In the end, I got one single frame of the Queen’s face, out of hundreds I shot. But I was hooked on the adrenaline rush.

Queen Elizabeth, London, 1986

Queen Elizabeth, London, 1986

A few years later, I was going to college in Chicago, returning home for the summer breaks. I couldn’t get a summer job and spent most of the time bored with nothing to do. But one day when I found out that Prince Charles and Princess Diana were going to be at a polo match a few miles away, I packed my camera bag and drove over to see them. Surprisingly, I was able to get some really nice, closeup pictures, and had fun doing it. I had finally found something to occupy my summer, and practice my photography at the same time.

Diana and Charles, Cardiff, Wales, 1987

Diana and Charles, Cardiff, Wales, 1987

Unlike ‘common’ celebrities, the royals were special. No matter what they did or how old they were, their ‘star power’ never faded. Musicians and movie stars come and go, and the vast majority are forgotten, but the royals are a part of British history. I knew if I got some good pictures, they would always be valuable and of interest.

That summer (1986) was significant in the life of the Royal Family. The Queen’s second son, Prince Andrew, was getting married to Sarah Ferguson, and news of the wedding was in the papers and on TV every day. I’d met a few fellow royal-watchers at other events, and together we made plans to scout out a good vantage point to see the wedding, and spent the night on the streets holding down our spot along the processional route.

The wedding of Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson, London, July 23 1986

The wedding of Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson, London, July 23 1986

I’ll save the details about shooting the wedding for a separate blog post, but suffice it to say that I got hooked on getting good photographs of the Royal Family– all of them, young and old, mega-famous and virtually unknown– as well as the celebrities and royal “culture” that followed their every move, and spent two whole summers and part of a third doing it.

The next summer (1987), I had an agreement to shoot for one of the most prestigious photo agencies in Britain; it was only months later that I found out my pictures were no good to them unless I sent them immediately after each event, which they neglected to tell me at the start of summer. The story has a happy ending now though, as I still have all my pictures, instead of them gathering dust in a London office.

Princess Diana, Kew Gardens, London, July 1987

Princess Diana, Kew Gardens, London, July 1987

I stopped photographing the royals when I finished college and stayed in the States permanently. I had taken thousands of photos of everyone from the Queen (35 times), Princess Diana (52 times), Princes William and Harry, Prince Charles, on down to Princess Michael, the Duke of Gloucester and Lady Marina Ogilvy (google them if you’re interested). On top of that, I was able to see and photograph events and people that most of us only see on television: I attended several international film premieres, photographed many of the leading celebrities of the late 1980’s, shot at Princess Anne’s home in Gloucestershire, watched Prince Charles play numerous games of polo (I still have a couple polo balls he used), stood with Prince Andrew as he watched his new wife ride in a steeplechase, and met Princess Diana twice. I also saw her marriage to Charles fall apart, and photographed their strained kisses and awkward body language on many occasions.

Princess Diana presenting Prince Charles with prize, Cartier Polo Tournament, Smith's Lawn, Berkshire, July 1988

Princess Diana presenting Prince Charles with prize, Cartier Polo Tournament, Smith’s Lawn, Berkshire, July 1988

In the end though, I learned a lot of valuable lessons about photography. Patience was a big one– sometimes it took 6-8 hours of waiting just to get my pictures, and twenty-four hours in the case of the wedding. But I also learned to expose film correctly or I’d end up with nothing to show for my efforts. As a photographer, it was good to cut my teeth on film; most photographers who have come up in the digital age rely on software to get the picture looking right after it’s been shot. It’s hard to imagine taking a picture now without looking at the LCD screen and checking your work right away, but back then, you just had to wait– usually days or weeks to see your pictures. I also learned to think fast while shooting. Unlike the professional press photographers, I didn’t have access to the press pens in the choice locations. But I learned to pre-visualize my photos and figured out where the best spots would be when the car would pull up and one of the royals would step out. And I learned to recognize their cars, their drivers, and their detectives (plainclothes policemen assigned to the royals), so that I could anticipate what was about to happen. All in all, the things I learned on the streets those summers were better than all the classroom lessons I learned in college, and I still use those skills in my job today.

Princess Diana, Brixton, London, July 1987

Princess Diana, Brixton, London, July 1987

Finally, I learned that the royals were just people too. Sure, they had fame and fortune and glamour, but in the end, it didn’t buy them real happiness, and I came to see them just as ordinary people leading extraordinary lives. But it was a golden age to follow them. A few years later, most of their marriages had broken up, and less than ten years later, Princess Diana was dead. Today, security is far tighter and in this digital age where everyone has a smart phone and photography is instant, things just aren’t the same. But I’ve still got all my pictures, and lots of great memories.

Princess Diana at James Bond film premiere, Leicester Square, London, June 1987

Princess Diana at James Bond film premiere, Leicester Square, London, June 1987

 

 

The Adventures of Mike’s Camera is the blog of freelance photographer, Mike Hudson. He is available for commercial photography assignments– marketing, corporate, editorial, annual reports, lifestyle, web page photography, and events. His clients have included many regional and national magazines and newspapers, several healthcare providers, colleges, hotels, architectural firms, small businesses and more. Visit MichaelHudsonPhotography.com to check out his portfolio or contact him via email.

 

Why Mike Hudson?

© David Hudson, All Rights Reserved

Yeah, why me? Why hire me to shoot your next marketing/ editorial project, when you can do it yourself for free, or hire someone for less money? There’s got to be a reason why. Well read on, my friend….

I started out as a photographer in 1989, after graduating from college with a degree in photography. That’s important, because it shows I’ve got experience, twenty-five years’ worth. And that’s one of the most important things to consider when looking for a photographer– their experience. It’s what teaches you to roll with the punches and still get the shot. You see, over the years I’ve had to deal with a lot of shoots that didn’t quite go the way they were planned– people who didn’t show up on time, subjects who complained abut being photographed, less-than-desirable weather, cars parked in front of buildings we had to photograph, uncooperative doctors who didn’t want to be photographed for marketing campaigns, a camera that suddenly stopped working in the middle of the shoot– the list is endless. Ask anyone who’s hired me and they’ll tell you I roll with whatever happens– with patience and without panicking. I’ve learned from experience how to deal with all kinds of unknowns and still get the picture.

Provena St Joseph Medical Center- Cardiology Doctors

Cardiology team with patient, for Emergency Department brochure

What does it cost to hire me? It all depends on what we’re shooting, and the degree of difficulty it requires to get you what you’re looking for. Like you, I make a living doing my job, and like you, I like to be paid for what I do! I don’t think I’m overpriced; on the contrary, I’m a pretty good value– most of my fees haven’t changed in almost ten years, and you’ll find I compare well to many other experienced commercial photographers– I try hard to stay affordable and be good value for money.

But maybe the better question to ask is, how much will we benefit from hiring you? In other words, what will be the return on our investment in hiring you? Please don’t hire me if you’ll lose money in the end! But hire me to help craft an image for your business– the image that your customers will see. In this day of social media and instant-everything, images are crucial to how you do business. When’s the last time you bypassed a business simply because they looked bland, or sloppy, or they just didn’t look like a quality place to do business with? It happens all the time! Businesses that succeed understand the importance of their image to their customers. Hire the cheapest photographer, and you’ll get second-rate photos. Hire me and I’ll work with you to get the best images possible. If you’re interested in having me work on your next project, email me some details, and I’ll get back to you with some pricing and how I work.

Chamber of Commerce Shoot

Chamber of Commerce Shoot

“We’ve got a camera in the office and Bob in IT knows how to use it.” That’s a tough one… do you just use Bob, or do you hire a professional? Again, it all depends on what you’re shooting. Maybe Bob’s a halfway decent amateur photographer, and it’s not a big project. Then use Bob, and save your budget for other things! But if it’s a little more involved, give me a call and tell me what you’re looking for. Chances are, I’ve got some experience in shooting what you’re after, as well as the right equipment to do it with. Using an amateur to shoot your next project may save money in the short term, but if you get below-par pictures, and have to re-shoot later, where have your savings gone? Do it right the first time.

Hospital Magazine (HealthSource) shoot

Hospital Magazine (HealthSource) shoot

Here’s a real-life case to illustrate my point. One of my clients is a big corporation serving the public. To save some money, they decided to shoot their own video updates from the CEO, sort of like the CEO’s newsletter to the customers and employees. I recently watched some of their videos and they’re really awful! Amateurish, bad lighting, muffled audio– the shots are poorly composed, and it’s obvious they shot them on a cheap camera. What does that tell you about their image? Right- they’re cheap! I’m only just starting to shoot video for some of my clients, so I’m not upset that they didn’t hire me for their videos, but they really should’ve considered their company’s image before they put these out for public consumption.

Radiologists

Finally, hire me because I’ll be on board with your project. Tell me what you’re after, and I’ll go all out to get you what you need. I’m easy-going, friendly and a hard worker, and I have the experience to get the job done right the first time.

I’ll let you in on a little secret since you’ve been good enough to read down to here. I shoot every job hoping I’ll have something new to add to my portfolio. I like great photography and I want great pictures for you and your business. If my pictures bring in more business for you, then I’m happy, you’re happy and we all succeed.

 

The Adventures of Mike’s Camera is the blog of freelance photographer, Mike Hudson. He is available for commercial photography assignments– marketing, corporate, editorial, annual reports, lifestyle, web page photography, and events. His clients have included many regional and national magazines and newspapers, several healthcare providers, colleges, hotels, architectural firms, small businesses and more. Visit MichaelHudsonPhotography.com to check out his portfolio or contact him via email.

 

What Camera Should I Buy?

What Camera Should I Buy???

As a professional photographer, I get a lot of questions about photography, but this is the big one. I get it all the time, from teenagers to retirees, executives, doctors and stay-at-home moms. And the answer varies for each person who asks, because of course, there is no perfect camera. Just like there’s no perfect car that fits everyone’s needs, the best camera for you depends on what you’re going to be using it for. So I always answer this with two more questions of my own- what will you use the camera for, and what’s your budget? So here goes– the beginner’s guide to buying a decent camera….

My original Canon 1D digital SLR. I used this camera from 2002 until 2004- my first digital camera. It's still a great camera, and takes better pictures than many cameras being made today.

My original Canon 1D digital SLR. I used this camera from 2002 until 2004- my first digital camera. It’s still a great camera, and takes better pictures than many cameras being made today.

There’re many different types of cameras. I’ll pass over phone cameras, as they’re primarily not for taking pictures, though they often do a good job for a basic, no frills camera. But here’re some of the things you can be looking out for:

MEGAPIXELS:

If you buy a camera today, the first thing you’ll probably notice is how many megapixels the camera has. Honestly, it really doesn’t matter much anymore. Megapixels are a measure of how many pixels are in the camera’s sensor– the part of the camera that records the picture to the memory card. In the old days (think mid-2000’s), digital cameras often didn’t have enough megapixels to record a picture as well as film could. The fewer the megapixels, the more pixellated your pictures could look, especially if tried to enlarge the picture or make some prints. But the more pixels you had, the better the output from the camera, and the less the pictures would have that ‘digital’ look. But in 2014, almost every camera has more than enough pixels to make a decent sized print. And if you only plan on looking at your pictures on your computer or on a tablet, you need even fewer pixels. You only need more if you plan on making very large prints, like over 16×20 inches. And let’s face it, few people will even make an 8×10 these days. On the other hand, if (like me) you do make very large prints (I’ve made many that were several feet wide), the more pixels the better. For most cameras though, anything over eight megapixels will be just fine.

Using my manual focus, manual exposure film camera, the Hasselblad 503CX, one of the best film cameras ever made.

Using my manual focus, manual exposure film camera, the Hasselblad 503CX, one of the finest film cameras ever made.

TYPES of CAMERAS:

Point and shoot cameras are great– they’re usually pocket-sized, come with fixed lenses (meaning you can’t change them), and take good snapshots. They’re great for carrying around in a handbag, jacket pocket or for leaving in a backpack. They’re unobtrusive if you’re hoping to take ‘stealth’ pictures, or to get shots of your kids or friends at a moment’s notice. The drawback though is that a lot of smart phones take almost as good a picture, so if you already have a decent camera phone, there’s probably no point in getting a point and shoot. The exception to this is the underwater, or action, camera. I have a small point and shoot that can take pictures and HD video down to forty feet underwater, as well as handle being dropped from up to six feet high– not that I’ve tested this out! Since I don’t own a camera phone, my point and shot is a great camera for going almost anywhere.

Using my Canon 5D Mk 2 SLR in Maine. Picture taken with my Panasonic Lumix [underwater] point and shoot camera.

Using my Canon 5D Mk 2 SLR in Maine. Picture taken with my Panasonic Lumix [underwater] point and shoot camera.

SLR cameras- if you’re wanting to get into serious photography, you really need an SLR (which stands for single lens reflex)–  basically a camera that has interchangeable lenses, and a viewfinder you look through, not just a screen on the back of the camera. Why’s this important? Because it’s much easier to compose your pictures when you look through a viewfinder and see your scene framed by a black border and no distractions. You’re also more likely to be able to hold the camera steady when you’re holding it up to your eye, and not extending your hands out, grasping the camera and looking at the LCD screen. But the real benefit of an SLR is the ability to change lenses, according to what you’re photographing, and the option to shoot in manual mode. Got a kid playing soccer? Then switch to a longer telephoto lens to fill the frame. Shooting a landscape? Then put on a wide angle lens and include everything from the rocks in the foreground to the distant mountains. Another benefit is SLRs will shoot pictures either as single shots, or rapid fire (measured in fps, or frames per second). My sports camera shoots at a blazing 10fps, enough to capture all the action.

Shooting in Wistmans Wood (Devon, England) with an infrared converted Canon 5D Mk2 SLR camera. I've rented this camera twice. Essentially it has been converted from a normal camera to be sensitive to infrared light. The artistic possibilities are endless.

Shooting in Wistmans Wood (Devon, England) with an infrared converted Canon 5D Mk2 SLR camera. I’ve rented this camera twice. Essentially it’s been converted from a normal camera to be sensitive to infrared light. The artistic possibilities are endless (click on this picture to see what I was shooting that day).

Finally, the best part about SLRs… along with the Auto settings, most will have a Manual setting, where you can do all the settings yourself. If that sounds too scary, remember you’re shooting digital, where you can make mistakes and learn from them, without the cost of wasted film. So, when you get your new camera, read the manual (no one else does, but you should), and learn how to shoot manually. By learning how to control your camera, only then can you truly get the images you want, every time.

RECOMMENDATIONS:

So what do I recommend? The camera manufacturers aren’t paying me to say this- I have no sponsors, so here are my honest answers to a friend who wrote a while back asking for advice. Keep in mind he was looking for an inexpensive starter camera, not the latest, most advanced camera.

Hey Mike – OK – let’s say between $200 – $250 for the camera. Is that feasible? Am I aiming to high or too low? Can I get a reasonably good camera for less? My wife will be taking photos of the family – she likes nature shots also, animals, and scenery. Also – she says that she’s into learning about the intricacies of taking photos – I bought her a book about the specific Minolta that I bought her, but I haven’t really seen her do anything but point and shoot. So what I’m saying is that I probably have to balance her intentions (an all bells and whistles camera) with reality (one button point and shoot). I know that the big thing is the telephoto lens – she’s been talking about that for years – she wants to be able to go on hikes and be able to zoom in on animals in the forest. I hope that this gives you enough info to go on. Thanks for your help.

And my response:

$250 is on the low side. If she wants a camera with the ability to change lenses, you’re looking at a starting price of about $500. The telephoto lens would be extra on top of that. I’ve been shooting with Canon cameras since high school so I know them best, but Nikons are also good quality. Sony’s only recently gotten in on the game with a couple new cameras too, so I’d say anything from Canon, Nikon, Sony or Olympus are probably going to be pretty good. Here’re some options with thoughts on each (btw, I purchase a lot of my gear from camera stores in NYC- Adorama is very reputable and often has the best prices, so all these links are from their store) …
In London for the Royal Wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, April 28-29, 2011. I mainly used my Canon 1D Mk4 SLR, capable of shooting action at 10fps, and able to shoot HD video. Built like a tank. It's heavy camera, but the build quality is the best of any Canon I've owned for the last thirty years.

In London for the Royal Wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, April 28-29, 2011. I mainly used my Canon 1D Mk4 SLR, capable of shooting action at 10fps, and able to shoot HD video. Built like a tank. It’s a heavy camera, but the build quality is the best of any Canon I’ve owned for the last thirty years.

 

The Adventures of Mike’s Camera is the blog of freelance photographer, Mike Hudson. He is available for commercial photography assignments– marketing, corporate, editorial, annual reports, lifestyle, web page photography, and events. His clients have included many regional and national magazines and newspapers, several healthcare providers, colleges, hotels, architectural firms, small businesses and more. Visit MichaelHudsonPhotography.com to check out his portfolio or contact him via email.

 

Photographing Display Cases- one of the most complex jobs I’ve done

The Assignment:

Photograph three large, long display cases, each twenty feet wide, with minimal distortion and no glare, so the images can be used in interactive touch-screen monitors next to each case. Sounded like a simple job; just how hard could it be?

How I Made it Work:

Back in November I got a call from the Media Resources department at Wheaton College. They had some new display cases showcasing the college’s archeology collection (mostly pottery from the Middle East), and needed photos to be viewed on an interactive monitor  next to the displays, where visitors can touch the screen to find out more information about the items in the cases.

Wheaton College: Archaeology display cases for interactive displays

Before: Nine vertical images made up the composite photo of the first case

Wheaton College: Archaeology display cases for interactive displays

After: The final image

At first, I thought it would be a pretty easy shoot; just take some pictures of the displays and I’d be done. But when I turned up to do the shoot, I realized it was going to be anything but simple. In the end, it turned into one of the most complex shoots I’ve ever done. Read on to see why it was so much work….

Each of the three display cases were about twenty feet long, with glass in front and glass in back. So the first thing I noticed was that there were going to be a lot of reflections, and reflections of reflections… like shooting into a mirror. Behind the cases were classrooms- with lights on- so we needed to hang something behind them to separate the pottery from the background. I’d brought some black velvet cloth with me to put behind the cases, but in the end, we needed many large pieces of cloth, each about ten feet wide and eight feet tall, clamped securely to large light stands (I think we used about forty clamps or clothes pegs all together). We didn’t have enough cloth to extend the entire length of each case, so we would have to shoot each one in several sections.

Wheaton College: Archaeology display cases for interactive displays

Before: Eleven images made up the second display case, all shot horizontally; only the middle portion of each image could be used.

The finished photograph

After: The finished photograph

Oh, and the glass was so reflective that we had to stretch black cloth behind me too, to avoid reflections off the walls behind me. And to top it off, I had to line up each shot, then set the camera’s timer and step away, so I wouldn’t be reflected in the glass either. Then we’d slide all the dark cloths down a little and shoot another frame.

It would’ve been easy to just take a single picture of each case, but then the perspective would be wrong– the items on the left would’ve appeared to be jutting out to the left, and the same thing on the right side. Adding to the complications, we were shooting in a hallway, so we couldn’t back up far enough to shoot with any of my wide angle lenses. In the end, I shot each case with a 50mm or 35mm lens, multiple times, and stitched the picture together manually in Photoshop.

Wheaton College: Archaeology display cases for interactive displays

Before: The final case- eleven images shot horizontally at 35mm.

The third and final display case

After: The third and final display case

It took two shoots to finish the job, and several hours of post production (i.e. computer time)  compositing images and removing reflections to make the displays look the way they “really” do, but in the end, the client got just what they were looking for, and that’s all that really matters.

 

The Adventures of Mike’s Camera is the blog of freelance photographer, Mike Hudson. He is available for commercial photography assignments– marketing, corporate, editorial, annual reports, lifestyle, web page photography, and events. His clients have included many regional and national magazines and newspapers, several healthcare providers, colleges, hotels, architectural firms, small businesses and more. Visit MichaelHudsonPhotography.com to check out his portfolio or contact him via email.