Paul Wakefield at the Redfern Gallery

Having recently purchased Paul Wakefield’s new book The Landscape, I was pleased to hear that there would be an exhibition to accompany the release of the book.  The exhibition is currently on at The Redfern Gallery in London, and will be there until 26th of April 2014.

Copyright Paul Wakefield

Copyright Paul Wakefield

For those who aren’t aware of Paul Wakefield or the new book, let me first tell you a little about it.  It is an extremely high quality publication even before we consider its contents.  Pleasingly large in scale, the cloth bound book is fronted by a dramatic image of Rhum from the Isle of Skye, and if you are willing to front up the cash for the Collector’s Edition, comes in a clamshell presentation box and is accompanied by a beautiful signed and numbered print.

The book contains 80 full colour images, and these are of startling quality and complexity, with a wide variety of subjects and moods.  Paul’s images span a number of decades and continents, and whilst some leave me a little unsure of what it is that I’m supposed to be looking at and why I’d want to, many of them are so visually engrossing to me that I can almost feel as if I was there with Paul.

So when I had the opportunity to see these images printed large and on display in a gallery, I jumped at the chance.  As you might expect with an artist of Paul’s calibre, these images are not cheap to purchase, but they do in my view represent good value if presented correctly.  And unfortunately in this case I think the presentation of Paul’s images at the Redfern Gallery was a bit of a disappointment.  The downstairs room in which the images are displayed is quite small, and the prints are rather packed in, which gives an impression of the images being in a showroom, rather than an art gallery.  This is perhaps partly due to the images being on display in a commercial gallery rather than a typical art gallery, but the painted artworks that are upstairs in the gallery are given a bit more space and as such they feel more respected.  There are further aspects of presentation that were slightly flawed – a number of the frames had slight damage to them or had fingerprints or smudges on the glass.  I can’t help but think that if you’re trying to sell prints for £1300 or more, that you should make the effort to make them look as good as possible.

Copyright Paul Wakefield

Copyright Paul Wakefield

Don’t let this put you off though, if you’re in London with half an hour to spare.  The prints are gorgeous, and there are copies of the book there for you to thumb through if you wish.  The two together tell the tale of a very accomplished landscape photographer who has quietly travelled the world making images for himself alone, but who has now let us in on the secret.  I’m very pleased to have seen what he has to offer and am a proud owner of some of his work.


Architectural Legacy – Expo and the Olympic Games

It won’t surprise you to know that after almost a decade spent photographing the built environment, I am a big architectural fan boy.  Over the last couple of years I have visited two huge architectural projects in particular that have made me think about the legacy that we leave behind when the initial excitement about new buildings is over.  The recession that we still find ourselves in has had a great effect on architecture and construction not only in terms of how much new construction there is, but also its focus.  There seems to be a renewed focus now on sustainability and also on repurposing and reusing existing buildings.

The Beach Volleyball Pavilion at Horseguards Parade during London 2012

The Beach Volleyball Pavilion at Horseguards Parade during London 2012

Indeed the bid for the London 2012 Olympics was bolstered by the promise of many the buildings being repurposed or even reused elsewhere if they weren’t to continue in their current guise as sports venues going forward.  The London Olympic venues in the olympic park are now making their way back in to use, with  the Copper Box being used for boxing and other sports events, whilst the Velodrome and Zaha Hadid’s Aquatics Centre are due to open in the next few months for ongoing sports events and for public use.  As for many of the other venues, they were always designed to make use of existing facilities or to be temporary.  Eton Dorney, the venue of the rowing and some of the canoeing has been returned to its former state as a first class rowing lake; The beach volleyball arena and equestrian arena are both gone and London has returned to normal, but with the addition of some first class facilities for the general public to use.  Even the Olympic Stadium, often left as a bit of a millstone around the neck of the host city, will be repurposed (admittedly at the additional huge cost of about £200m)

The London 2012 Olympic Stadium

The London 2012 Olympic Stadium

But what about other host cities?  Both of the previous Olympic Games have left a legacy of decrepit abandoned venues that look like sets of post-apocalyptic movies, and are a stain on the host cities.  Even in Barcelona, where the Olympics in 1992 where widely credited for turning around the fortunes of the city and making it the success it is now, there are abandoned plazas, desolate softball grounds and a barely used Olympic stadium.  With the Queen Elizabeth Park being left as the legacy for our Olympics, it seems that London will be left with something unquestionably positive from the summer when it played host to the world’s sporting elite.  It will be interesting to see the fallout from the Winter Olympics in Sochi – It seems to me that the most expensive Olympics ever cannot deliver the long term recovery and regeneration of the region in the way that London 2012 did.

Zaha Hadid's Aquatic Centre during London 2012

Zaha Hadid’s Aquatic Centre during London 2012



But it’s not just the Olympic Games that has a long term effect on the economic fortunes of an area.  The Olympics differ from most other worldwide sporting events, because usually it brings more development than, for example, the Football World Cup, which often only really results in the building or sprucing up of a few football stadia.  In terms of reviving an area though, it is the series of Expos or World’s Fairs that perhaps holds its own against the Olympics as a tool for regenerating an area.  But does it work?


In the summer of 2013 I visited the Spanish city of Zaragoza, the host of Expo 2008.  The Expo was set in a purpose built park, comprising a number of key architectural developments including the Water Tower and Zaha Hadid’s Bridge Pavillion.  The three-month event cost the Spanish taxpayer a reported 700 million euros to host and although it improved road and rail links to the city, it’s legacy on the ground is frankly pretty terrible.

Abandoned Pavilions in the Expo 2008 park

Abandoned Pavilions in the Expo 2008 park

When I visited the 62 acre site, I found that I was pretty much the only person there.  Of the many buildings on the site, some are derelict and open to the elements like the ones pictured to the left, whilst others are surrounded by metal fencing designed to keep people out – hardly a positive, long-lasting regeneration.

The many buildings destined to be the heart of the Zaragoza business district are empty, and have remained so since they were completed.  The only two buildings that I found that were in permanent use were the fresh water aquarium and one building that had been taken over by the local judiciary.

Zaha Hadid’s Bridge Pavilion does still seem to be used, but only really as a tourist attraction as far as I could tell.  The number of people in the images contained in this article should give you a good idea of the number of tourists I saw over the days I was there.  The whole area has become something reminiscent of the horror film 28 Days Later or in the early years of Chernobyl before nature came to reclaim it.


Zaha Hadid's Bridge Pavilion

Zaha Hadid’s Bridge Pavilion

Most upsetting to me was the Water Tower: a 76 metre high building in a water droplet shape, with a full height open central core, standing proud over the whole site and enjoying a 360 degree panoramic bar on the top floor with  views over the site and the city beyond.  Not that you can see any of these things though.  The skyscraper is another one of the buildings on the site that is closed, empty and decaying.

I hope that when the world-wide economy starts to recover and we need more space in which to work, that we will remain frugal and recolonise lost areas like this, refurbish them and return them to their former glories.  It’s just a shame that the reason for the decaying and abandoned sports facilities that are left in the wake of the Olympic Games is not because of the economic downturn, but because of a failure to plan for the future.


The New Birmingham Library and The City Beyond

A few months ago I was contacted in relation to an exciting project for the new Library of Birmingham and now that the library is open and the project is complete, it’s think it’s now safe to talk about it.

For me, to be involved with the largest library in Europe and one of the largest in the world is a great honour and I jumped at the chance to provide imagery to be used inside.

The design of the library itself is one that has polarized opinion in the city and further afield and I find it fitting that we have replaced one controversial library building with another.  Whether you happen to like the building or not, it’s difficult to deny that it is a spectacular space for a library and that it’s integration with the Rep Theatre should greatly benefit both institutions whilst also offering an enhanced service to the city.  The metallic edifice itself is certainly another landmark addition to the Birmingham skyline; a skyline that is becoming one of the more recognizable in Britain.

That skyline is what I was tasked with photographing for the new library, and so earlier this year I climbed with my camera and tripod to the very pinnacle of the new construction.  Access is restricted and unfortunately for me is via an exposed ladder and through a hatch on to the roof of the golden cylinder that houses the Shakespeare memorial reading room.  Once I was safely on the top though and secured with a safety line, I was treated to one of the best views of the city I have had to pleasure to experience.

I then set about creating a single image that captured the skyline of the whole city, including as many of Birmingham’s iconic buildings as possible, from the Cube and the Symphony Hall, over to the Bullring and Birmingham Cathedral.

Birmingham Skyline from the roof of the New Library  of Birmingham

Birmingham Skyline from the roof of the New Library of Birmingham

This image is now on display in the Library of Birmingham for all to see in the lobby outside the Shakespeare Memorial Room on an interactive touch screen display and I’m delighted to have made my own contribution to this big step forward in city life.   The screen allows you to scroll around the view and find out about what you’re seeing by clicking on any of a number of hotspots.

Library of Birmingham Touch Screen Display

Library of Birmingham Touch Screen Display

On a technical level it was a challenge too, and so I’ll write a little here below, but if putting together panoramas isn’t your thing, then feel free to click away now.

The making of the Birmingham skyline panorama from the roof of the New Library of Birmingham

The making of the Birmingham skyline panorama from the roof of the New Library of Birmingham

For those that are still with me, the first rule of panorama club isn’t that you don’t talk about panorama club, but that you NEVER move your tripod whilst making a panorama.  If you move the tripod, the relationship between near and far objects changes and you get what is known as parallax errors.  When you come to stitch together your images at your computer afterwards, you will find that the images won’t stitch together properly as the edges of the two images are completely different and won’t match up.  In the case of the Library, the sheer size of the golden cylinder meant that I had no choice but to move the tripod for each shot, and the resulting panorama is the product of a number of hours in the digital darkroom carefully tweaking the image to make it work.

The normal route I follow for image stitching is to import the images in to Photoshop and do it there, and if you don’t move the camera, you’ll find that this is usually perfectly good enough, but if you have parallax errors, Photoshop simply isn’t able to cope.  This is where PTGui comes in – it stitches images in much the same way as photoshop, but it enables you to select two points in neighbouring images as being the same point, which helps the stitching, but also you can mask out certain areas of one image and specify that the programme uses the other instead.  This is a great help when you are coping with parallax problems.


Why Good Interior Photography is Key to Selling Your House.

As an architectural photographer, much of my work in Birmingham involves photographing the exteriors of commercial developments, but increasingly I am being involved in photographing interiors for residential properties as they approach the sales market.  Given the value of properties being sold these days, and the competition that is present in the residential market, it is perhaps surprising how people underestimate the value of good photography in advertising their homes for sale.

Most expensive residential property ever to go on sale in Birmingham for Hackett & James and Knight Frank

Most expensive residential property ever to go on sale in Birmingham for Hackett & James and Knight Frank

In trying to sell anything, it is important to understand your market, and all of the following questions should come to mind:  What are your buyers looking for?  How much are they willing to spend on it?  How do they find what they are looking for?  How can I maximise what a buyer will spend?  The housing market is no different in this respect, and the rewards for knowing the answers to these questions and how to react to that information can run in to the thousands of pounds.

Homebuyers these days are quite a sophisticated bunch.  They usually know what they want before they even start looking, and they certainly know how to find it:  At the time of writing, there were 399 properties for sale within one mile of my home in Birmingham.  Obviously, it’s very easy to narrow this search down to a smaller number according to a buyer’s budget, the number of bedrooms they need and so on, but after all that narrowing down, how does the buyer decide which properties they want to view, and therefore the shortlist from which they will buy?  The answer is the photographs.Even if the home you are selling is newly refurbished, has an expensive kitchen and bathroom or a well landscaped, mature garden, your potential buyer needs to see these things in all their glory on the internet or in an estate agent’s window to be convinced that they want to come to view what you have to sell.

Remodelled luxury kitchen for Homebuilding & Renovating Magazine

Remodelled luxury kitchen for Homebuilding & Renovating Magazine

Bright, well-composed and thorough interior photography can really show your property off, and encourage more viewings than your competition.

This probably isn’t news to you, and you may be questioning why a seller should spend money on professional photography when agents will take photographs of the property for free as part of the sales package.  I would answer by asking whether you think that an estate agent has spent time and money equipping themselves with the knowledge and technology to make your home look as good as it could, and whether you think that if their pictures will make your property stand out from the others they have in their window?  An estate agent is trying to sell your house as quickly as they can with the least amount of effort, along with the other 50 on their books.  A professional photographer’s aim would be to make your property look the best in the area, and one that should demand a premium.

On the back of a set of photographs I made of the interiors of a Birmingham property, that property featured on the front page of the local property newspaper, was featured in the estate agent’s window and got more than three times the viewings of other similar properties in the same road with the same estate agent.  What marked this property out for extra interest was the images.  The extra publicity cost nothing.

So if you could increase the number of viewings, the number of potential buyers, the likelihood of two buyers bidding against each other to secure the home of their dreams and have the potential for a selling price thousands higher, or a much earlier sale, how much would you expect to pay for such a potentially valuable service?  I’ll tell you.  It could be as little as £200.  If you could sell your home three months earlier for a higher price, I think you would agree that this would be money well spent.


Is Adobe Creative Cloud Bad For Photographers?

Well, yes. And no. As usual it depends on your perspective, what your current and future usage of Photoshop is likely to be, what other services you may need from Adobe and how you organise your photographic library.

Screen Shot 2013-06-06 at 14.29.39


If you don’t know what all this talk of Creative Cloud is actually about, let me explain: In the past Adobe has usually updated its suite of software every year and half or so, providing better performance, more refined capability and new tools to help creatives in their work. The cost of the whole suite of software ran in to several thousands of pounds for each full incarnation, and even photographers who chose to purchase Photoshop on its own would be left with a hole in their wallet to the tune of over £600, or £900 if they needed the extended version capable of 3D modelling. Of course, upgrade versions were available at usually greater than 50% reduction, but this still amounts to significant annual investment to keep you up to date.

The age of almost annual product refreshes are however gone and a new subscription model is now upon us, and this has raised eyebrows far and wide. The bottom line though is that in order to get a full copy of Photoshop after the current iteration (CS6), you will have no option but to sign up for a subscription costing anything from £18 per month for a single application (or £9 if you are able to upgrade from a previous version of the software) up to £47 per month for the full suite of applications (£27 for existing customers). Whilst this commitment is small change compared to the previous up front cost, it does have one crucial drawback: once you stop paying your subscription, your software will no longer work.

Screen Shot 2013-06-06 at 14.43.34

So what do you get for your money under the new system? Although the need for continuing subscriptions may indicate that you effectively get nothing for your money (and I do have sympathy for this view), it doesn’t tell the whole story. Becoming a subscriber effectively adds you to the list if customers who would buy the updated versions every time they were released, but crucially without the cost of the initial purchase. As the new Photoshop CC is essentially the same software as Photoshop CS6 Extended (The super duper version), the subscription cost is roughly equal to the previous quasi-annual upgrade cost, and you are allowed access to this price whether you have purchased the software before or not. So for someone purchasing Photoshop for the first time, and who intends to keep it up to date for the foreseeable future, there is practically no ongoing cost difference at all.

Furthermore, as long as you are a subscriber, you will always have access to the most up to date version of the software you subscribe to, and Adobe are suggesting that features will be added as they are ready, rather than being bundled in to big releases, which should mean that the updates are more regular.

A single app subscription with an annual commitment costs £17.58 per month at the moment, and at this rate, it will take over three years for your running total to equal the initial outlay you would need to make with the old system of purchasing stand alone products. As a comparison to the old system, this would be the equivalent of an annual upgrade for free after your initial purchase before you have to pay the same as those who upgrade each time.

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Despite the very vocal backlash from irate consumers, this may actually be a great thing for Adobe in the long run, and it may actually encourage a whole raft of new customers who until now have chosen to use alternative software, or have decided that they should use Photoshop illegally without paying for it, as there is no initial outlay. I would imagine that somebody out there will be able to get around the requirements for the software to check your subscription out with Adobe at some point, so the die hard software pirates needn’t panic just yet, but for those that were reluctantly using without paying because of the astronomical initial outlay may just feel the relief and jump right in.

This annual expenditure on software is actually expected if you rely on Adobe’s software for the success of your business, as I do, and so the change in the system doesn’t make much of a difference to me except that I no longer have to keep track of any serial numbers, don’t need to manage updates as they are now much simplified and I don’t need to find an upgrade fee in the budget at any point as the cost gets lumped in with the monthly outgoings.

So how does this leave the recreational users, the occasional users and the professional that is comfortable with a much slower upgrade process? Well, up the creek without a paddle, and as a result, I suspect that it’s mostly this group that has been at the heart of the objection to Adobe’s new strategy. Unfortunately, if you are in this group, I think it very unlikely that Adobe will pay much attention to what you have to say as they (quite rightly) are more interested in what their regular customers with big budgets want. Infrequent users and updaters can’t be profitable customers for Adobe, and I would imagine that they account for a small portion of their overall customer base.

There is some light at the end of the tunnel though. Adobe has recognised that Photographers are a significant portion of their customer base, and that they don’t need the bells and whistles that come with Photoshop CC (It is basically the old Photoshop Extended). They have committed to look at a solution tailored specifically for photographers that will presumably involve a version of Photoshop with reduced functionality bundled somehow with Lightroom.  Hopefully there will be an offering closer to the old non Extended version of photoshop that can come in at a reduced cost.  There may not be much mileage in this though, because running parallel but different versions of the same software is expensive and it may not be in Adobe’s best interest to provide this option.

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I would expect that any photography-based option would be at a reduced cost, but I wouldn’t expect them to step away from the subscription model for one simple reason: Lightroom. Lightroom as a stand-alone product that can be purchased with a perpetual licence fills a key niche for Adobe, and that is the budding amateur who needs basic editing as well as file handling, but doesn’t need the feature-rich environment of Photoshop. If you need more, then they’ll happily take your money for their subscription service safe in the knowledge that you’ll pay it, however grudgingly.

The best solution for most photographers would, I think, be a version of Lightroom that included Photoshop’s better tools for retouching and patching, as well as adjustment layers and masks. This would rule out the need for Photoshop at all in many cases for my work, and probably for most of yours too. Don’t hold your breath though – Adobe wouldn’t be wise to give us those features for free when they know we’ll still pay for them.
So, if you’re a low intensity user, or an infrequent upgrader and determined not to subscribe, what can you do? Well there are three options: You can go and spend £660 on Photoshop CS6 and then hang on until you feel it’s unusable and then join the Creative Cloud; You can learn to make do with Lightroom, which is so close to being the only piece of software you’d need, or you can find another piece of software altogether and look back tearfully at what Photoshop used to do for you.

What’s not in doubt is that this is a good move to Adobe themselves, it can be a great route in for new customers, it’ll either be good or won’t make a difference for ongoing customers and although some will be left unhappy behind, they aren’t the customers that Adobe derive most of their profit from anyway, so I doubt their absence will be noticed.
As for me, I’m now fully signed up and am trying to work out how I’m going to spend the £660 I’ve saved!


Architectural Photographer goes back to school (sort of)

As one of the best known architectural photographers in the West Midlands, Paul was recently asked to photograph over 20 newly built or refurbished schools in Birmingham – a project with a combined value of £332m and also involving some of the country’s foremost architects.  The end client is one of the world’s largest construction companies, and Paul was really excited by the project:

“I often complete projects that are several days in length, but being commissioned to photograph such a large number of individual properties and to create a consistent body of work that would initially be used in a single publication was a challenge I was delighted to accept.”

“We had many challenges throughout the project, be it construction schedules dragging, weather issues or even awards ceremonies preventing access, we still managed to create a great set of images on time and under budget.”

“The images were to showcase the quality of the finish and the care taken in construction, and also the strength of the interior and architectural design.  Some of the schools were newly built, whilst others were refurbishment of existing buildings.  What was clear was that the pupils at the schools would experience significant improvements in facilities across the board and it was our job to show that in images.  I wish it could have gone on forever!”

The diversity of work in this project was a great representation of Paul’s varied experience.  Paul is equally at home working as a construction photographer, working in full PPE on large complicated construction sites, though to intricate architectural photography and broader lifestyle photography work showing mixed-use buildings.

The images were commissioned to make up a portfolio book for the construction company to use when tendering for new work, but has since been used for publication in the national press and for decorative artwork in the company’s national headquarters.

A large part of any construction brief is to design and build something not only fit for purpose, but that also makes the user feel good when they are there.  Architectural photography needs to show all of those aspects in one two dimensional image, and needs to help the viewer experience the building just by looking at the print.

Clients buy what they see, and if all they see is a flat, uninspiring print, that’s the experience they have of the building.  The client for this project understood how important it was to get a specialist architectural photographer in Birmingham, and the results hopefully show that they made the right choice!


Birmingham Photographer in a Hustle…

For the final couple of series of the BBC drama “Hustle”, the production company brought filming up to Birmingham, and a number of locations around the city were used for the exterior shots and some of the interiors. Some of these locations are very well known, like Brindley Place, The Novotel on Broad Street, and the Birmingham Museum of Art. Other locations are not so well known, but they have played major roles in the show, and if you are a building geek like Paul, it’s great to try to work out where they are.

Paul didn’t need to try very hard to work out two of the locations that featured in the final series though, as Paul had been hired to photograph them for their owners! Being one of the best known architectural photographers in Birmingham has its perks.

Edgbaston mansion is the first location to make an appearance

The location that kicked off the whole of the final series was a very grand mansion, where a spoiled girl and her mother were suckered in to the heroes’ plan.

Dedicated followers of Paul’s work will recognise this as the recently completed mansion in Edgbaston that Paul photographed for property developer Hackett & James.


Paul was particularly pleased to see this location being used:

“When we photographed this property last year, it was just in the process of being finished and we could see that it was something unique and new to the Birmingham market.

Beautiful symmetry

Being an architectural photographer in Birmingham enables me to work on a huge variety of buildings, from warehouses to huge office developments and from individual apartments to wonderful homes like this one, but I don’t think I have ever seen anything this grand.

Paul's version of the Edgbaston mansion

Hackett & James specialise in first class property builds, and this shows in the quality of the design and build of this home.  We spent three days here, photographing the property on its own and then with models to show the home in use.  It was a tiring time, but it was a huge honour to be asked to provide the images.”

The other location that Paul knows well featured in episode 4 of the final series.

John Barrowman and Raquel Cassidy getting greedy

In this episode, we visit the home of the Deville’s on a number of occasions, and the converted church made a real impression.

Located in Edgbaston, the church is separated in to a number of apartments, two of which have a fabulous rose window dominating the main living area along with the original roof beams which are visible along the full length of the space.

“I was already aware of this building when it came on to Hustle, but hadn’t been inside at that point.  A few months after the show, one of my clients asked me to photograph a property for them, and I was delighted to learn that it was in this development.

St James' Church, Edgbaston

Fleet Milne Residental are a firm of letting agents in Birmingham, and they provide letting and sales services to the great and the good of the city.  They have been a loyal customer to me for many years, and I’m always delighted to work in their properties.  This has got to be one of the highlights though.  If only I had the budget, I’d snatch this up right away!”

Hustle has finished filming, and we won’t see the characters again, but the properties are still there and still showing what Birmingham and its architecture have to offer.

Oh, and if you’re quick, the converted church apartment is still up for sale at the time of writing…. contact FleetMilne for details…



How an architectural photographer keeps his eye in

The British summer isn't all bad - the rain soaked pavements can give a lovely perspective

One of the fundamentals of architectural photographer is light, and specifically the light on bright, blue, sunny days.

Unfortunately for Paul, living in the UK, days like that aren’t all that common.  On days when the weather is completely against him, Paul likes to get out with the camera and make images for himself, images that make him look harder and make him find viewpoints that not everyone would see.

The architecture of Birmingham is mostly hidden behind modern retail units, but there are still some traditional gems to be found amongst the conversions.

“It’s really important to me to make sure that I don’t just make the same images over and over again.  It’s quite easy to repeat the same compositions and types of shots if you aren’t careful to constantly stretch yourself to see things that you haven’t seen before.

I have never found Birmingham all that easy to photograph, probably because I have spent so much time here and don’t find as much of it intrinsically interesting as other cities that I don’t visit as much.  That’s why I try to get out with the camera when I am not able to work and make fresh images of the city.  It’s tough, but I think if I can make new pictures of this city all the time, it will be easier to make great images for my clients.”

Birmingham in the rain still has plenty of colour


As well as exploring new viewpoints and angles, Paul also experiments with different styles and techniques.

Most of Paul’s clients need high colour images, but Paul likes to make black and white images when nobody’s looking.

Paul often creates artwork for his clients to hang on their walls, and as well as the good practice his time spent photographing outside his commissioned work gives him, it provides the raw material for his art.

“Being an architectural photographer in Birmingham is great because of the steady supply of buildings that need photographing, but there isn’t the tradition of really great modern architecture that some other cities in the UK have.  As a result you have to be a bit more creative when trying to make anything more than a simply descriptive image.  I love to use black and white to do this, as it immediately shows the viewer something they haven’t seen before, but also it helps to make really dramatic, moody images.”

All the images in this article were taken on one summer’s day in Birmingham.  You can see more of Paul’s architectural images of birmingham in the galleries on this website.

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Portrait of a Personal Trainer

Birmingham Photographer Paul Arthur and Jay Wheeler

As part of his work with The Club and Spa at the Cube, Paul has been working with the gym staff and the personal trainers on their own personal projects.  The head personal trainer at The Club and Spa, Jay Wheeler, is ex-military and is currently in training to run from London all the way to Birmingham, whilst raising money for the charity Help for Heroes.

To help publicise the event, we were asked to make some images with Jay to show the kind of training that he has been doing as part of his preparations for the day, as well as some tongue in cheek images of him after the training.  The brief from Jay was simple:

Make me look absolutely massive!

Paul had a great time with Jay:

Jay and I had an awesome morning making this latest set of images.  He’s a poser at heart, so unlike most people, I didn’t have to try too hard to convince him to try out my ideas.  He was in his element, running around like a hyper kid who has had a few too many sweets.  Although I’m primarily an architectural photographer, I love the challenge of portrait photography, especially when it’s for such a good cause.

We set the lighting up in the gym at The Club and Spa and made a set of images, some of which were descriptive, and some of which were for show.  I particularly like the gritty, grainy images after his training session, and we deliberately chose a dramatic lighting setup for them.

This is just the sort of work I love doing!  It presents an artistic and technical challenge, but we also had a huge amount of fun on the shoot.  Jay is a great guy to work with and has got more enthusiasm than he knows what to do with.

Jay was really pleased with the images, and hopefully they’ll help him to raise lots of money for Help for Heroes.

One of the set of images we completed last month was featured in today’s Birmingham Mail, and hopefully this will help Jay to raise as much as possible.

Please take a look at Jay’s fundraising website, and do what you can to support him and the worthwhile charity Help for Heroes.


Choosing an architectural photographer…

In the same way that architecture is more than just building materials, architectural photography is more than simply the mechanics of exposure, focus and composition.  It requires someone with an understanding of the aesthetics of the genre, someone who is a craftsman, who pays attention to detail, and who knows how to make your building look its best.

The first thing that you must do in choosing an architectural or interior photographer is choose a specialist.  There are many talented photographers out there, but unless they specialise in architecture, they don’t have the right skills, equipment or style for the job.  Tiger Woods may be great with a golf ball, but you wouldn’t want him on your favourite football team, would you?

Once you find  specialist in architectural photography, don’t just stop looking.  Interior photography and architectural photography are all about understanding light, line, form and texture, and using those things to show what a building has to offer.  The images should grab the viewer and show them what it is like to experience a building, and to make them imagine what it would be like to be there themselves.  Architectural photography should be art – it should speak to you and hold your interest like the very best art photographs.  Your architectural photographer needs to understand that and if they can’t create art on their own, they’re not going to be able to do that with your building.

Of course, all this arty farty nonsense counts for nothing if your photographer doesn’t approach your building with professionalism, doesn’t deliver on time and doesn’t understand the commercial importance or sensitivity of the images he produces, so you’ll want someone who has a broad knowledge of business and who can mix with business people at the highest levels.

The right photographer for you is a pretty rare beast then: a photographer, an artist, a businessman, an economist, a confident, an adviser, a technician, and most of all a professional.

Don’t panic though, there are a few of us around, it’s just a case of making sure you get one of the ones who can deliver what you need, rather than one of the many others who can deliver other things that you don’t need.