2016 was a shitshow in so many ways, but for me personally and professionally it was pretty great. Here's to 2017: may you be free of all that bullshit.
Your boy JD had a small story in ShortList magazine a couple of weeks ago. That's me, by the way. I'm your boy JD.
Ralph Jones wrote the words and posed for the pictures, in which Ralph telecommutes into the office for the day like he lives in the future. You know, just a normal guy who is here via satellite. That's him on the robot, the segway-looking thing with an iPad for a face. I'm still not entirely sure how they work. You control it from wherever on your phone, and it moves your iPad around on a pair of wheels that, amazingly, don't even fall over that often.
Comedy is difficult. These were supposed to be funny pictures before anything else; what's the most absurd workplace situation you can put a segway into? What's the most pointless use of this amazing future technology? Then it's all: how do you insert this thing into a scene like it's a person and light it like it's just another human being? Visual humour's a real challenge, as it turns out. Who knew?
Compositing isn't so difficult. Photoshop has a 3D workspace now; you just layer an image of Ralph's face vaguely where it should be in 3D space within the main image, make a selection of the iPad screen inside the housing, use that selection as a mask so the image fits inside the screen area, fine-tune the positioning, duplicate the background layer over everything and mask everything but the screen out and then make it a "lighten" layer so you retain the reflections on the screen in a semi-realistic fashion without washing the image out.
Earlier this week some friends and acquaintances of mine had their images featured in a Mail Online story about a wedding whose hashtag trended, briefly, on Twitter. In a sane and just world, this is awesome! This is great! This is how eyewitness journalism works! You put up a snapshot on Instagram, someone asks if they can publish that image as part of a larger news story or a feature and then you get paid for it.
Wait, no, not that last thing. Definitely not that last thing, and not always the second-to-last thing either. And if you're thinking, "hey, that sounds like some B.S.," then congratulations: you're a decent functioning human being!
Here's the thing about copyright: when you create something, even if it's just uploading a quick photograph to Instagram or Twitter or similar, you own that thing. You want proof? I've got proof.
You own all of the content and information you post on Facebook, and you can control how it is shared through your privacy and application settings. In addition:For content that is covered by intellectual property rights, like photos and videos (IP content), you specifically give us the following permission, subject to your privacy and application settings: you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook (IP License). This IP License ends when you delete your IP content or your account unless your content has been shared with others, and they have not deleted it.
You retain your rights to any Content you submit, post or display on or through the Services. By submitting, posting or displaying Content on or through the Services, you grant us a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free license (with the right to sublicense) to use, copy, reproduce, process, adapt, modify, publish, transmit, display and distribute such Content in any and all media or distribution methods (now known or later developed).You agree that this license includes the right for Twitter to provide, promote, and improve the Services and to make Content submitted to or through the Services available to other companies, organizations or individuals who partner with Twitter for the syndication, broadcast, distribution or publication of such Content on other media and services, subject to our terms and conditions for such Content use.Such additional uses by Twitter, or other companies, organizations or individuals who partner with Twitter, may be made with no compensation paid to you with respect to the Content that you submit, post, transmit or otherwise make available through the Services.
In plain English, this just means that you're allowing these services to use your content. They're still not amazing -- you're either opting in totally or you don't use the service at all, and that "transferable" gives me pause because without context this could probably be interpreted as "well, I asked Facebook if I could use the picture so it's fine." Which, with this wording, Facebook could do that and it would just be a "dick move."
Unfortunately, dick moves aren't really actionable.
A couple of real-life examples:
Late last year Amelia enjoyed a weird week as "the catfish girl"; basically, people were reposting her images without her permission, on their own Instagram accounts and modelling profiles, in order to... uh, actually, I don't understand what the end goal was here. It gets worse: her story appeared in massive publications like the Metro and the Mail (hey! these guys again!), again without her permission or consent.
None of those accounts got shut down by Instagram; in most cases, Amelia just yelled at the people behind the accounts enough that they just figured it wasn't worth the effort. This isn't a great outcome. Meanwhile, those articles are very much still up.
Then there's the story of Richard Prince, who's being sued for the most hilariously outlandish example of copyright infringement, like, this is something you'd put in a book and it would be edited out almost immediately. Look at the balls on this guy. That's other people's photos, other professional photographers' photos, screenshotted and sold for thousands of dollars.
There's an argument to be made here about appropriative art, especially given he's been doing this since the 70s, but this is my blog and I say Richard Prince is a giant, gaping asshole.
The line of reasoning goes -- and yeah, I've heard this from people trying to use my images with neither payment nor even a credit -- that if an image or whatever piece of content is on the internet, it's fine to use. I used to work for someone who thought pictures from Google Images was copyright-free.
PRO TIP: it's not.
If Richard Prince can get paid thousands of dollars for your Instagram pictures, and if someone can steal Amelia's selfies for some reason, you can definitely choose how and where your content gets used. If someone wants to use your photos, no matter where you put them up, you're well within your rights to ask to be paid for their usage.
Similarly, if you find them being used without your permission, you're well within your rights to ask that they be taken down, or you can go the patented "Jamie Drew, Professional Photographer, Part-Time Jackass" route and just send them an invoice. Here's the AOP's licensing calculator. Go nuts.
Last Friday I gave a talk at the Spotlight headquarters about headshots: you know, what you're looking for, what kind of thing to expect before/during/after your shoot, how everything works. You know. Thanks to everyone who came, apologies to everyone who couldn't understand my weird accent, thanks to Lindsay for answering the casting questions I couldn't. Nice to meet y'all.
Anyway, it was on a Friday night and not everybody lives in travelling distance of Leicester Square, so I'm just brain-dumping it all here for posterity. I'm always open for questions, as well. Fire 'em this way if you've got 'em.
I'll also apologise now for what might seem like aggressive self-promotion. I can only really speak to my own processes, because every photographer in any field has their own ways of working, and I've asked around a lot, but in the end it comes down to me and how I work.
What You're Looking For
First off: you're never looking for "just a simple, basic headshot;" you're looking for shots that show off your personality and range. You'd be surprised how many enquiries I get for these, and also how many emails I send to the tune of "yes but what does that actually mean on a practical level?"
Consider this: what kind of roles are you going for? What are you going to do with them? An acting headshot for your Spotlight CV is different from a comedian's photo that's going on a poster with five others', is different from an author portrait to go in the jacket of their new book. So you want to say something with your photograph. It's a visual marketing tool.
Secondly: that headshot needs to look like you because otherwise what's the point? Actually, more specifically, it needs to look like you right now. Get new ones every few years, or whenever you change up your hair or whatever else happens. Maybe your neck spontaneously got longer overnight and now you're more giraffe than human. I don't know your life.
A question that came up was that of "character" shots, where you literally dress up or bring props, and whether they're a good idea. The short answer is "no" -- it's a casting director's job to place you in roles that fit the actor and the production. It's tempting to show off your special skills, but since that's something these casting directors are going to search for via text, they're best left to your actual CV.
Plus, why would you want to box yourself in to a couple of kinds of roles?
What I mean when I say "range" is that subtle variation in your face. Use your face! You can get a lot of variation in that close-cropped 8x10" range.
Whatever the case, you need to be able to see your face. An actor's headshot needs to be bright and clear at a glance, and close enough to be able to see your features when that photograph is shrunk down onto your CV or sitting amongst a thousand photos on the floor.
Some Examples of Bad Headshots Which I Swear Are Intentional
I roped some of the Spotlight staff into sitting for some headshots of their own, each good or bad in their own way. These are the "intentionally bad" ones. Some of them are distracting, some badly lit, some you can't see their faces, one guy is hung over. Take a look at these photographs. Don't do what these people did.
I'm including myself the photographer in that "people," by the way. We'll get to that.
How To Find a Headshot Photographer You Really, Really, Really, Really, Really, Really Like
There's a few different ways to actually go about finding a photographer to take your new headshots. Off the top of my head:
- Spotlight have a Contacts handbook which contains, well, contacts, and a bunch of useful information.
- Ask around! Who do your friends and colleagues consistently recommend? Make sure you ask a few different people; what works for one person isn't necessarily going to work for you.
- If you're in a creative field then odds are you know at least one guy who bought a camera and is thinking about expanding their portfolio; if you've nothing to lose but a few hours of your time, then why not go for it? In the worst-case scenario, they're not great, but they might be, and you haven't spent any money.
- Google! Or Bing, I guess? Searching for "headshot photographer [your nearest city]" is usually a good bet.
- Plus, I mean, you're on the website of a very talented and handsome photographer right now. Just sayin'.
What you're looking for in a photographer's portfolio is variety. It's super easy to take flattering photographs of people; a headshot photographer needs to capture you and your personality, remember? And you want to stand out! Almost everyone has a headshot where they look amazing; that's essentially a baseline. Everyone looks great.
So look through their portfolios before anything else. Make a list. Find someone who does everything in the paragraph above, consistently, and then listen to your gut.
Okay, so you've looked through someone's portfolio and you think you've found your non-gender-specific guy. How much do they cost, you want to know?
The cheapest I've seen professional photographers charge for a headshot session was like £50; the most expensive I've personally seen was about £450 and I've heard tell of up to £600. My advice -- my admittedly biased advice -- is to either convince that friend with a camera to take your photographs or make this thing an investment. You're an actor, or at least in some kind of creative field, so you probably don't want to be doing this more than once every couple of years, right?
In these situations I like to cite Samuel Vimes's "Boots" theory:
...the thing was that good boots lasted for years and years. A man who could afford fifty dollars had a pair of boots that'd still be keeping his feet dry in ten years' time, while the poor man who could only afford cheap boots would have spent a hundred dollars on boots in the same time and would still have wet feet.
I also like to point out that I get a lot of business re-shooting photographs to fix the work of the previous, cheaper photographer. Professionals charge a solid chunk of money for the work they do, and that's for a reason.
Consider also: what do you get for the money? Some photographers charge a flat fee for everything -- for example, my rates include retouching and high-res files as standard -- and some photographers break it down further. Sometimes they'll have it there on their website, sometimes you'll need to email for a quote. It depends!
How many final photographs do you get? Standard wisdom says you should aim to have just three headshots on file; anything more is just noise. On the photographer's side of things, retouching an image properly takes so long. My own approach is for you to select 4-ish images for retouching. I'm not going to begrudge you a couple of extra, but I might begrudge you like 20.
Don't worry about how many photos get taken. Seriously, don't worry about it. I've been known to take anywhere between 70-500 pictures in a session. They can't all be winners, and trust me when I say you don't want to be the one sifting through them all. It's the most tedious part of the job and hell, someone's getting paid for it. They have the skills and the software to trawl quickly through the rough to find the diamonds.
What to Wear for Headshots
This goes back to the "it needs to look like you" point above, which I can't hammer on enough. Wear the clothes and make-up you might wear on an everyday basis to be comfortable; bring a couple of options of tops and you're sorted. If you're not sure on make-up, come au natural and ask!
That being said: stick to plain clothes; no patterns and no logos. Your face is the star of the show here! If you have a particular hairstyle you wear, don't worry about styling it differently to be fancy. Headshots aren't fancy photoshoots.
Make-up artists and stylists can usually be hired. It's an extra cost, but these people are superhuman. Again, ask about it ahead of time.
How Long Does It Take?
People shoot differently! Some people sit down bursting with energy and take the perfect headshots almost immediately; others take a couple of hours to get used to posing for the camera and "settle into themselves."
(I'm definitely of the second set.)
You might come across photographers who break it down thus: one price for a two-hour session, a little more for a three-hour session. Sometimes that takes wardrobe and hair changes into account, sometimes it doesn't.
I have a standard amount of time for every headshot session: I charge by the "half-day", which roughly means "a few hours." A morning, afternoon, or an evening. This also works as a minimum, because with pre- and post-production, every shoot evens out to a good few hours' worth of work, give or take. So you're here for the whole morning if you need it, but if you're the type to get bored after an hour, you can feel free to enjoy the rest of it! This also means you can go change your hair, outfits, as many times as you feel like you need to.
Plus, coming from a portraiture background, the "getting to know you" phase takes at least half an hour. I sit down with my clients for a coffee, chat about what they need, what they like, and watch for their natural tics and mannerisms. I find it saves time in the long run, and makes it feel less like an alien abduction.
You know, because you're going to have a lot of lights on you. Nobody likes to walk in to that. It's like... you know, when aliens abduct you. NEVER MIND.
If you don't absolutely know which kind of person you are, I'd advise going for the longest time you can afford. Again, this is an investment. Be there until you have the shots you're happy with.
The Photoshoot Itself
Before anything else make sure you get a contract. Read that contract! Make sure it makes sense to you! Ask every question you can think of! The contract protects you and the photographer and sets out your aims and goals in a legal fashion. Most times you won't ever need it, and hopefully you won't, but that one time you need it you want to have it.
Get a contract.
Before the Shoot
Make sure you're comfortable with the photographer. At the Headshot Clinic, someone asked if it was okay to request to meet a photographer for a coffee or something, and it is absolutely okay, but be aware that it's well within their rights to call that a billable hour. So it might need to be paid for.
I also recently had someone ask for photographic evidence that I am who I say I am, so she knew what to expect when she was coming down to London, and this struck me as a pretty good idea. Make sure you're meeting the person you think you're meeting. This is just good advice. Again: you shouldn't need to do this, it's a bad fucking day if you do, but whatever makes you comfortable, be comfortable.
You deserve to be comfortable.
Chances are you'll need to eat before you come, so make that a light one. I know, I'm a hungry man myself, but photoshoots are more draining than a lot of people expect. Bring snacks, as well. Nothing that gets in your teeth, but like, almonds or energy bars or something like that. You don't want to start getting tired right before you take the photo that's going to represent you for the next couple of years.
Also, I'm sure you won't, but don't go out drinking the night before. Dehydration does weird things to the human face, and they're all extremely noticeable. Make-up and Photoshop can only do so much.
During the Shoot
I show my clients the back of my camera as I go, but I've been reprimanded about this by other photographers. I don't quite understand why. It's a good visual aid, it keeps you in the loop, it gives both of us an opportunity to look at what we've got so far and say, nicely, "this isn't working," or "can we do more of this?" or "can we try something different?"
But I'm not representative of every photographer, and because I don't know who you are, dear reader, I don't know how you feel about seeing yourself in unedited photographs while they're being taken. Personally, I hate it. Whenever I end up in front of the camera I don't want to see it. I get too self-conscious to be any good any more. You might be the same!
Communication is key at all times, but especially now. Talk to your photographer. Ask questions. I promise you that you're not the most annoying client they've ever had.
After the Shoot
What's the "after" section of things like? How do your files get delivered? How long can you expect to wait until you have the photographs in your hands, be they virtual or literal?
Me, I'll send a link to a private Google Drive folder within a couple of days with a selection of maybe 20-30 photos. Like I said before, you don't want the images where the flash wasn't working for some reason, or the out-of-focus ones, or the ones where you're in the middle of a giant sneeze. If you'd like to see alternate versions, like "can I see another one like this but where I'm turned a little more to the left?", just ask. Always just ask. These selections are the ones I'm happy to point to and say "I TOOK THIS."
"ME. JAMIE DREW. LOOK HOW GREAT I AM."
You can and should send that link around to your friends, family, agents, colleagues, whoever. Get a second, third opinion. Narrow your choices down to three or four that you all love, that meet the requirements set out above, and then the fun stuff begins!
By which I mean you can just sit around for a couple of weeks if you want!
Meanwhile, your photographer gets to retouching.
What you're looking for in the editing phase is for your picture to -- yes, again -- look like you. But on a good day! Last week I was told that a client's photo "looked like me after a weekend in a Swiss spa."
I don't know what that means, exactly, but it sounds pretty good, right?
The photos above are actually the same photo with different retouching techniques applied to them. The first is super airbrushed and just kind of left there (this is the kind of thing you might expect from, say, Fiverr); the second was retouched using a whole bunch of different techniques, like local dodging and burning, frequency separation, noise reduction, sharpening via a custom luminosity mask...
Yeah, right? It's pretty in-depth. Boring if you're not me. The point is, Rory looks like Rory. As a portrait photographer (and that includes headshots), your aim is to show the world what was in your head at the moment you released the shutter. So anything that's not always there, generally -- spots, blemishes, weird cuts you got somehow -- is gone, no problems. It's because we don't see that stuff. It's not a thing to worry about.
Other Questions That Came Up
US vs UK style headshots
US style headshots, as a general rule, are a) landscape format and b) much wider than the close-cropped "head and shoulders" UK style, which means anything from hair-to-chest to full-body shots. They're also generally more environmental, so you'll find a good location and use it as part of the shoot as opposed to just a blurred-out backdrop. It's not something to worry about unless you're already getting a lot of work in America, honestly.
Indoor vs outdoor headshots
Indoors, you usually have complete control over the lighting, but you might not like the plain backdrop style, or the photographer just might not be up to it -- that's not a dig; studio lighting is a hard-earned skill.
Outdoors, you can change the scenery by moving a few feet, and natural light is pretty flattering to everyone. On the other hand, you've no control over the weather, so you might need to reschedule if it's raining that day (and perhaps need to pay a cancellation fee), or power through and risk having your hair everywhere. If you're not happy with the results, you might end up paying for a second shoot. There's also the issue of timing: midday sun is harsh and high and not particularly flattering or fun to shoot in for anyone unless they're the late Helmut Newton.
(If you've managed to hire the late Helmut Newton, fair play to you! I would definitely use my powers of necromancy for something more important, personally, but I'm not here to tell you how to use yours.)
In general, I'd recommend avoiding an outdoor shoot between October and February. And personally, I like indoor shots that aren't against a solid backdrop; if you're comfortable with it and the space is large enough for the lights, consider having your headshots taken in your own space! A shallow depth of field blurs everything out, but that little subtle difference can help you stand out, and since it's your own space there's a definite sense of "you" in there.
Remember, though, the setting isn't your selling point; your personality, your face is your selling point! For the purposes of headshots, anyway.
Colour vs Black and White
Sometimes a black and white shot stands out really well! But it is less of a thing now we're looking at images online. It comes down to your personal taste in the end, as well as whatever your friends, family, agent, etc., recommends.
Ask for both! A good black and white conversion doesn't take that long in the grand scheme of things. As always, be prepared to pay a little extra because although it's small against the scope of everything else it's still extra work on the photographer's part.
Special Headshot Offer
I actually have a promotion running until the 1st June; headshots for Spotlight members are £200, which includes like 4-6 retouched images and everything else. All you need to do is contact me using the offer code "hello, I am a Spotlight member and I would like some headshots."
I don't really have an offer code.
We moved into this place almost two years ago -- 20 months today, according to my landlady -- and we're moving out soon. Sometime between now and June. London property prices are more ridiculous than ever, the landlady wants to sell up and move to a house by the sea, and who can blame her? She's awesome. All the best to you, Tracie.
"This place" is a small-ish ex-council flat, a one-bedroom thing in Brockley, the next up-and-coming suburb of London to which all of our creative-type friends moved because rent is, again, ridiculous, and the mile-or-so radius around Brockley Overground station is pretty much the last affordable place in this city. There's a lot of talk about a "housing crisis," which I don't think is true. There are enough homes -- Deptford, about mile and a half down the road, is full of huge new-build flats standing there empty -- but nobody can afford them. We have a rent crisis. Even this small Zone 2 flat has cost me and Janina £1000 a month, and that seems like the absolute minimum unless we want to move into a literal bedsit. It's a ridiculous city, but it's the only place in the UK where I can realistically do this job, so here we are.
Plus, I guess I love it here. Some days I don't know, but most of the time I love London.
I found our flat on Gumtree, fell in love with the brightly-coloured accent walls in each room. Landlady Tracie is a decorator by trade and a bohemian by nature, so there's a blue kitchen, a red living room, a chroma green bedroom, and a purple bathroom with a huge Godzilla: King of the Monsters! poster in it. (Okay, so the poster is mine) I fell in love with the view from the balcony, with the coffee shop around the corner, with the first barbershop to ever give me a half-decent haircut, with the beer garden down the road. Brockley is wonderful. Don't move here. It's getting trendy enough.
The living room, though? I saw the living room and gazed into the face of opportunity.
It's a box about 15ft by 12.5ft (187 square ft, or about 17 square metres). It's not the biggest, but it's wide open with hardwood floors and massive, South-facing windows on one end of it. Looking "down the barrel" of it, it's the perfect spot for a little home studio.
Like, okay, it's not a universal solution. I'll grant you that. It's good, mostly, for headshots, basic portraits, product shots, and the odd bit of mucking around. In this space specifically, you can get some full-body shots with a 50mm lens (or a 35 on a crop sensor). It works fantastically, and you don't have to hire a studio, which reduces your overheads on a per-shoot basis. The economics work out most of the time, but if you're shooting some fashion then yeah, hire a studio. That's really something you can charge to your clients, anyway.
Still, if you've got the space, I'd recommend it. You're going to be moving stuff around every time you shoot, so your floor space is going to be less than the absolute dimensions of the room, and if you're as clumsy as I am you're going to break at least three things per year, so don't get attached to your stuff.
I'm sure you have questions.
Is this expensive?
It can be expensive, or it can be not-expensive. My attitude is that you don't need expensive stuff. Again: don't get attached to your stuff. It ends up in heartbreak.
Do people care that it looks kind of ramshackle?
Not in my experience! The results speak for themselves, and my clients quite like that I have a wide selection of teas on offer.
If I make a home studio, am I going to piss off my girlfriend or my boyfriend or whatever my situation is?
I mean, yeah, probably. But you chose the photographer's life. You knew the risks going in.
Here's the basic stuff you'll need:
I like the stuff over at Creativity Backgrounds, who have a massive stock of colours and sizes. The stuff you're seeing here was shot against 1.35m x 11m paper backdrops; paper is cheaper, for one thing, and when you scuff it up on the floor -- and you will scuff it up on the floor -- you can just rip off that bit and keep on rollin'. Paper also stays flat without having to iron it, so that's something. If you need to carry it around, get a muslin thing you can fold up and shove in the back of your car. I don't have a car. I live in London. I'm not taking a big paper thing on the tube.
Get the widest backdrop you can get away with. Trust me on this. You can photoshop your way around a narrow backdrop pretty easily, but that's just extra work you have to do later. Also, your best choices are a white or a storm/slate/18% grey; don't get a black backdrop unless you're sure you want one. Black backdrops are the bane of my fucking existence, I swear. They're hard to light.
A Backdrop Stand
Oh, yeah, you'll need to put that up somehow. If you're just starting out and you want to get a foothold in studio photography, you might be fine looking around on eBay. I got my current stand for about £30 and it's lasted a couple of years, but it's going to fall apart soon. So if you like this way of working, spend some cash on it.
Also, advice from a 5'4" guy: get a stepladder so you can actually set it up.
Some Kind of Lighting Setup
You knew this already. Unless you're lucky enough to have floor-to-ceiling windows for natural light all year round, get some lighting equipment. Strobes, speedlights, tungsten, whatever works for you. Stands and lightboxes. Reflectors. If you're starting out, get one thing and learn to use it well before you spend all your money on lighting equipment, because you will never be satisfied with what you have. Trust me on this. There's always a new toy. I have my eye on a parabolic reflector that's literally as tall as I am.
I mean, okay, that's not that tall. I just said I'm 5'4". The point remains.
In my opinion, you only really need the one light, especially if you're starting off. Put that behind the biggest umbrella softbox you can find, you're in business. Then you can go further with it. This is kind of a big subject. I'll write it up as a blog post at some point. Generally speaking, if you can stretch your budget to it, a classic three-point setup will serve you well. One key light to illuminate your subject, a fill on the other side to reduce shadows and make stuff even (if you want it to be!), and a backlight to separate your subject from the background. This is "aesthetic choices" business, though. I can't tell you what to do. You've got to find your own voice, dear reader.
And Some Less Basic, But Incredibly Helpful Stuff You'll Want:
No, no, hear me out! This has proven to be weirdly essential. A lot of this job is meeting new people, and meeting new people can be awkward. Not always, not if you're lucky, but sometimes. Music is a great way to break up the silences, a good conversation topic, and the great universal connector of human beings. Get a small, inexpensive bluetooth speaker because everyone has smartphones now, and I like to put my subjects in charge of music. Bluetooth just means pretty much everyone who comes to your home studio can connect to the speaker. This practice largely came about because I'm old and I don't know what the kids are listening to nowadays, and because I want new stuff to hear all the time, but it helps give people a sense of being in charge.
Or you can make a playlist, I guess. I'm not your boss. Do what works.
Okay, so you can buy different backdrops and dedicate a corner to a bunch of paper rolls like I have, but your other option is to point a flash at your backdrop to illuminate that to a greater or lesser degree. Just shove it down and to the side, adjust it as needed. This is how you get an infinite white background, of which I'm not a fan. You can get big sets of coloured gels for like a tenner; stick one of those bad boys on your flash or light or whatever, illuminate the backdrop with that, and you've got an instant coloured backdrop you can change as many times as you like!
To be honest, I'm not a huge fan of this effect, personally (hence why I don't have any examples here) but it's an option available to you. Of course, you can always colour correct in PhotoShop afterwards, but again: that's more stuff to work around.
A Selection of Snacks and Drinks
Seriously, your subjects will thank you. Your future self will thank you. Don't get cheetos or croissants, nothing that gets dust on the hands or sticks in the teeth, but like, crisps and popcorn and stuff. Get a selection of tea and coffee. Not everybody drinks caffiene, and I know that's weird, but it's true. This isn't a technical consideration but a professional one. Treat your subjects well, dudettes and dudes.
Something portable, essentially, but big enough to be useful for touching up make-up and hair and whatnot. Keep it on hand so your subect can fix things themselves if need be. Unless you have a make-up artist and/or a stylist with you, in which case, they know best.
A Cool, Backless Seat
When I first moved in, I got this little wooden IKEA stepladder which works pretty well if you like the whole "oh, hello" vibe. The whole "I didn't see you there" vibe. But it's worth scouring second-hand furniture stores and, yes, the internet, for alternatives. I got this incredible industrial iron-and-wood adjustable stool for about £50 on eBay.
The "backless" part is important: the back of a chair is a distracting object. A normal dining chair can be a great prop, but you want the option of having it rather than having to work around it, you know?
On Taking Light Where You Can Get It
If you're lucky enough to have a place where you get a lot of natural light through the windows, then by all means use it. We get quite a bit, but we're quite limited by location; traditionally, London isn't a great place for sunshine, and we get about three hours' daylight in the winter. The photo of Katherine, above, was shot using the light from the window with a reflector to camera left. It works for what you need it to.
Use the background if you want to, but you can also just use the environment. There's something kind of nice about shooting a super-casual setup using what you have and what you can get your hands on, you know?
The Point Is:
You can shoot from basically anywhere, and a home studio is one way to do that. I've given you some ammunition to give to the people you live with, whoever they might be, and if they still need convincing give them my email address. Actually, please don't. You're on your own.
Also if you know of any nice flats up to let with massive rooms and a ton of natural light in the SE4 area, definitely let me know. I found one with a literal studio on one level recently and it was in our price range. Obviously it was already inhabited. So, if you live in that flat, know that I envy you.
My friend Carl Anka wrote an amazing piece about black barbershops for ShortList, which ran in the 4th February issue -- so, last week. If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram or one of the many, many social media things I use, you'll have seen me talking about it. It came out pretty well! Look at that full page shot!
We shot this right at the end of 2015, in Carl's usual place: Hair Force One down in Ilford. Everyone was so friendly. It's still weird, to me, as a genetically gruff Northern lad, that Southerners can be nice, let alone this nice.
Here's that full shot, plus some outtakes:
My friend Rosie has a new EP out, named Process. It came out right at the beginning of the year, so you might have seen me tweet about it (or even Facebook about it, since I'm back on that now). I shot the cover image for it, and then I designed the cover itself! It's a totally new area for me. I think it came out pretty well.
The background matter there is the same image that's being projected onto Rosie: it's a bunch of waveforms sampled from songs on her previous EP, Be Bold (which, ahem, I also took the photos for), layered on top of one another and messed around with in Photoshop. You know, glow effects, gaussian blurring, that kind of thing. Run, Don't Walk is a personal favourite.
You can listen to and/or download Process at rosiebans.com and I would very much recommend that you do.
Okay, one comment: click to embiggen.
Yes, I know I own a camera. Yes, I know it's my literal job to own one. But I've been looking for something I can just shove in my bag and not think about too much; a camera I can literally just point and shoot with, but which is dependable enough to take half-decent pictures. After some Googling (a lot of Googling), I found this horrific 90s beast:
The Fuji GA645 is a medium format rangefinder, which is a thing that shouldn't exist. It's huge! It's bulky! Just look at the fucking thing! The sheer amount of plastic in this thing could drown thirteen polar bears! And yet.
This thing, which I have not named yet, has a world-class lens on it -- albeit a fixed 60mm one, about the equivalent of a 35mm -- and near-perfect metering. It's completely automatic, which means I really don't have to worry about any of the technical stuff. This is good! I want to work on my composition and my connection with people. I haven't had the opportunity to shoot street photography for a while. You get 16 shots to a roll of 120 film (right now there's a roll of Portra 400 in there), which means every one of them has to count. It is perfect. It is exactly what I wanted. I love it more than I love most people.
I got my first two rolls back and I only fucked up maybe 40% of them, which is a pretty good ratio, honestly. I'm sharing some of them here. I try not to hate myself because I can't handhold down to 1/8th of a second. Who can do that?
I'd worked with A Door in a Wall earlier this year on their show The Life and Death of Paul Marrane before they invited me back to shoot An Appetite for Murder, which just completed its run around London Wall; our team didn't do great at the preview shows in either case, but it's a fantastic concept and a lot of fun, kind of like a real life version of a LucasArts adventure game I'm also not very good at. You know: puzzles to solve, characters to meet. That sort of thing. A good way to spend an evening, basically. Even if it's freezing.
I shoot theatre and live shows quite a bit; the A Door in a Wall games require a different approach. Here, I wanted to show off the angles of the area with a film noir-inspired set -- low-key, high contrast black-and-white photographs, in as many Dutch angles as you can stomach. Intense, mysterious character portraits using the available light around the area to illuminate the scenes. But at the same time, you don't want to spoil anything. I concentrated on the smaller aspects of things rather than big, wide shots: the decor, the designs, the participants.
As Jamie Drew, the worst actor in the world, a man who was once replaced in the role of "self," it's interesting to work with actors. How do they inhabit a role? How do they decide what to do with their voices and faces? It is literally a mystery.
I went way over the word limit on IndieGoGo so I had to post this here.
HA HA HA HA HA HA.
AN UPDATE?! FROM OPTIMUS?!
I KNOW, RIGHT?!!?
Look, we had some mishaps. We had some setbacks along the way in post-production. They're all incredibly boring. I'm bored thinking about them.
Essentially: there is a guy in Germany, somewhere, who has the masters for the soundtrack, and if you see him kick him in the back of the knee and tell him Jamie sent you. Then explain who I am. And also why you're doing this, I guess, so he knows what he did.
He disappeared off the face of the Earth with our masters and the masters of other folks, is what I am saying to you. We got scammed a little bit. It seems like a weird and convoluted scam -- if you're recording anyway why not just give people their masters and build, I don't know, a reputable business for yourself? -- but I'm not the criminal mastermind here. I don't know how to run a scam.
And, I mean, this is all on top of what I can only truly describe as a "motherfucker of a year," work-wise. While that's nice and a freelancer can't really complain about the amount of work he's been getting -- which, again, a motherfucker of an amount -- it does mean I got dragged away from working on this ten-minute film for months at a time. Then I literally exhausted myself. No, I don't mean "figuratively." I have to take multivitamins now, you know? Like I'm 70 years old. I passed out during that Cumberbatch production of Hamlet; I thought maybe I was anaemic; but my blood tests came back normal; and it's like, "Jamie Drew, when was the last time you had a day off?"
To which, I don't know. Like, two years? Three? I've been living a weekend-less existence since 2007. Without checking, I couldn't tell you what day it is right now.
One of our bit players, John, literally got cancer in this time period as well. You probably know this already; he's raised, what, £85k for Anthony Nolan? Just a huge, ridiculous, wonderful amount. And there was a moment there, back when that all kicked off, where I was on my way home from the shop and I had this thought that I might need to get a new mix because what if I had to put in an "in memory of" slide in the credits. Then I had a little breakdown because at this moment the key to my front door wouldn't work and I spent ten minutes yelling at this bunch of inanimate fucking objects for being a piece of shit, collectively, why does nothing work, why do awful things happen to good people, etc.
I think I had some emotions to work through, there.
Full disclosure: I also played a shitton of Dishonored.
We're like a couple of weeks away from being done, tops. You'll get a link when there's a link. Optimus is still a thing that's happening. It needs grading, and a DCP needs assembling, but that's about it. I'm aiming for "the end of next week," but give me a nudge if you don't have anything by March 2017. It's happening. It's coming your way.
We had a screening back in June for the cast, crew, and some of our backers. While I'm too close to make a judgement call on whether this film is any good or not, I've been told it's "great" by more than one person. Let that be our review for now.
I mean, honestly, I have no idea. At this point Optimus is a series of shapes, sounds, and visual effects that won't work properly sometimes for absolutely no fucking reason whatsoever.
Here's what I know: it's a film, it's about 12 minutes long, and it's a film featuring a bunch of amazing people who worked very hard to be good at what they do for long periods of time, both in front of and behind the camera. It's got a great soundtrack, a scrappy bluesy thing recorded in Mike's bedroom because some guy stole it, which is kind of a great story? It's got robot sounds that I asked Adam to replace after our first go because the first ones were cute and hilarious and ended up stealing every scene to that scene's detriment. It's got my friends, and they're still my friends even though I spent days, weeks, months, yelling at them.
That's all I know, and that's kind of enough for me.
I've been trying to get out of my creative comfort zone lately. A lot of what I do is straight editorial-style portraits, but recently my friend Jo has been doing these wonderful boudoir shoots, and while I don't think that exact sort of thing is my style, particularly, I've never really shot anything intended to be "sexy," you know? I don't know why I put that in quote marks. The point is: you've got to expand your horizons.
First up we have Rachael, who works for Buzzfeed and got talking about Front magazine while I was asking her Very Serious Questions for a film I'm working on. Rather than go down the serene/complex road boudoir photography traditionally treads, we thought it would be fun t do something more, well... fun. She made a Spotify playlist of mid-2000s pop-punk and bounced on our friend's bed for a while.
That's the creative process, dudes. That's how we do in the biz.
This second set I've had in mind for a while and I convinced Lia to do it ages ago (you know Lia? Yeah, you know Lia). But she's always on holiday, so we only got around to it last week. Lia is a beautiful woman whom I've seen devour a 12-inch pizza in seconds. Like, literal seconds. Like she was shotgunning it. "Could you do that in front of a camera?" I asked her.
"What kind of pizza?" she asked.
And of course we took this more traditional portrait on the couch because sometimes you have to do what you're best at.
So, what did we learn? We learned that pizza is nice, and Fall Out Boy's first album totally holds up. We learned that it's fun to muck around with your friends, and maybe that's an attitude and ethos to bring into professional work, going forward.
I mean, it's not like I'm the most professional photographer in the first instance, but still.
There's more of this kind of thing coming up in the future! I've actually managed to convince a few male friends to pose for me in similar shoots. I mean, I say "convince," I mean "they were all in before I finished asking the question." May you all have friends like these, readers. It's a pretty good life.
The eagle-eyed amongst you will notice there's a food & drinks section in my photography portfolio now. There on the left. You see it? Okay, hover over the word "photography." There you go.
You can see more at the Manhattans Project's website, and if you're ever in the mood to buy your most favourite and most handsomest photographer a drink, you know where to go.
My friend Kit Lovelace runs an evening called Romantic Misadventures every month or so, always on a Monday and usually in a room above the Black Heart in Camden, which is a nice place that serves Camden Hells! That's really all you need in a pub.
Sometimes I write things -- I used to be a writer before I decided taking photographs was way, way more fun -- and sometimes I read those things aloud for audiences. The other day I read the story of my worst birthday, my 16th birthday, and Kit recorded it. Now it's on Soundcloud and embedded below:
Full disclosure: I'm not the best public speaker in the world. I have verbal dyspraxia and it's come back with a vengeance recently; sometimes I talk too fast for you the listener and for me the speaker, and I trip over my words.
Also, my friend Duncan tells me that I do a "sexy voice" when I give talks. Another friend, Joel, compares my public speaking voice to "a drunk Elvis." I was fine with "sexy voice," Joel, but thanks.
My friends Harry Harris and Anna McIvor are off to Ireland for a joint tour next month. If you're in Ireland, I can recommend them both highly. A Jamie Drew recommendation doesn't come lightly, you know. Oh no.
For this shoot, Harry made a vegetarian lasagne which, despite the addition of aubergine -- which vegetable remains to this day the worst thing you can put in your mouth -- was fantastic, raising the bar for shoot meals in the future. I'm going to put that in my contract: "catering must match or exceed the vegetarian lasagne Harry made that one time."
Anyway, here's an outtake; I'm not sure why they didn't go with this one, but people are entitled to do what they like with the photos we take.
I liked my first therapist a lot. We were from the same Northern county, we were roughly the same age, our first conversation was about Devil, a recent M. Night Shyamalan film about five people in a lift, one of them being the devil, which I'd seen the night before to ease my first-day-at-therapy nerves. It was stupid. Our weekly sessions were right after lunch, so once or twice she finished up a sandwich while we went through the preliminaries, the office smelling pleasantly of canned tuna and cucumbers. Eleanor was good, although she was only a few months out of her Masters. In the end, our eight-week course of therapy didn't take. It isn't Eleanor's fault. It isn't really anybody's fault, although it took a while for me to admit that.
Here's what happened: I was training as a speech therapist, maybe two weeks away from the end of my final placement in the Whittington Hospital -- the one up in Archway with the black cat standing guard over the A&E entrance -- and so about two weeks away from the end of the postgrad course I'd been enrolled in for the past two years. I'd been living in London on half of minimum wage for all that time. I'd stopped eating meat because I couldn't afford it, I'd learned to love lentil soup; graduating was going to be fucking sweet. I might even be able to afford spaghetti on special occasions.
The short version of "what happened", the one I give out at parties, is: "it didn't work out." This is the long version.
My 11:45 appointment is with a 50-ish-year-old man recovering from a mild-to-minor head injury that damaged the language centres of his brain, amongst other things. Relatively speaking, he's doing quite well at this time; my job today is to run through a basic communication test to see how well he can communicate and how well he can understand other people when they talk to him. It's a test I've done enough times that I've spent an evening at home making up a standard form to save time. I don't know why my chest hurts. I don't know why I can't breathe. Why do I feel like I'm drowning?
The patient was discharged two days later. His linguistic facilities were already on the mend by the time I saw him, although he needed to come back to the Whittington for a bit of physiotherapy. Wear your bike helmet, kids.
Me, though? I ignore the stabbing throbbing pain in my chest and go about my usual business: write up the results in the patient's file, grab my flask of lentil soup from the staff room, go see my 12:15 in Oncology. There is a snag, though, in that I've apparently forgotten how to read. As in, I don't know what these words on this piece of paper say. As in, I think I wrote some words, but more likely I made some incomprehensible squiggles and closed the manila folder. In the staffroom, I mention this to my supervisor. She hauls me down past the big black cat to the Accident & Emergency waiting room.
The details are tedious, apart from when the first doctor who sees me, a second-generation Chinese dude with a fantastic Cockney accent, peers over his glasses and asks me if I've "been smoking some waccy baccy" and I fail to lie. "Once," I said, "I got bored of The Blues Brothers. I thought that was impossible."
"I fell asleep and woke up and it was still going."
It's probably not related. What happened upstairs wasn't anythingnew, particularly; just the tail-end of what that first doctor offhandedly describes as a two-year-long panic attack. Sure, in hindsight it's obvious, even clichéd -- an estimated one in five of us have some kind of anxiety and/or depression, but at the time I thought it was generic stress. I was in a class of 120, and more than a couple of us had already dropped out with stress-related issues. Postgraduate training as a speech therapist is a four-year course condensed into two, and your student loans don't even stretch that far. "It happens to everyone", you say to your increasingly worried friends and family. "It's not a thing."
So when you think something's wrong you shove it aside and ignore it. Everybody has something, you say to yourself at 4am. You stare at a wall for a month. You stop sleeping, or you sleep too much. You haven't been outside this week. You haven't eaten in a couple of days, or you haven't stopped eating. Everybody else, you think, is having the same problems. You suck it up.
And then, I don't know, you have a mental breakdown and don't go back to university ever again or leave the flat for a month. Everything changes, down to and including your sense of identity. Before this you were a well-known and loved cocktail bartender notorious for entertaining your guests to the point of taking home triple-figure tips, and an endearingly terrible stand-up comic on Newcastle's small and insular circuit. Before this you were described by a coworker as "a cocky motherfucker," but in a nice way. Before this you could answer the phone, read your emails, talk to people without sweating through your clothes, drag yourself out of bed and away from Parks and Recreation long enough to shower a couple times a week. You tryreally hard not to see the 2009-2011 period as a complete waste of time and money but no matter how much you learned or how much you grew as a person or how many fantastic people you met or how many young kids' lives are demonstrably improved thanks to the work you did with them it's so hard to hang onto those concrete things because now your brain is working against you like a duplicitous first mate on board the Good Ship You. You cry a lot and fail out of CBT interventions like everything else in your life until you wake up and it's a year later and you're unemployed and everything spirals further, ever further downwards.
A couple of years of anti-anxiety medication and therapy later, I'm largely fine. I'm not the same as I was pre-2009, but that's the nature of the thing. I have fears, irrational thoughts. They're not as bad these days, but they spiral out of control pretty quickly: recently I'm worried that my aching joints are more than just a side-effect of the medication. Unchecked, this train of thought leads me down a Google hole of "how much are wheelchairs" and "what burrito places have ramp access".
Money, work, friends, family, my health both physical and mental, the fear that I'll be found out as a fraud and abandoned -- these are the worries. They're largely irrational and I know this intellectually, but when you're awake all night on New Year's Eve wondering how much you could get for your pancreas to pay off your student debts there's only so much you can do for yourself on a logical level. The anxiety and fear is a part of you now, and this is what's hard to get across to the lucky four in five who haven't experienced it: the sheer game-changing scale of it all.
One day, a few months after everything spiralled out of control, I had an interview at a new restaurant in the centre of London. It was a group interview. The recruiter liked me but told me to be "less nervous."
Now, what I should have done is make a fart noise in his face and marched out of there with my middle finger triumphantly aloft, but the economy was in the toilet and I needed the job, so I just went outside afterwards and had a panic attack in the middle of Oxford Street.
Coping strategies are context-bound and pretty much work for you and you alone, so you have to make your own, cobble them together from what you know relaxes you, what brings you back down from the mast. Therapy can teach you the self-reflection you need to work all that out, medication can regulate your brain chemistry, other people don't like either of them and can kind of sweat it out by running or meditating or whatever, and that's fine too. You do you.
Me, I got fired from an exhausting job that was making me nervous and depressed again and so then I went and made up a new job that I love and which somehow I make a living from and which has brought me into contact with good people who both understand and give a shit and those are the people you want to know. I can't recommend this for anybody else, not least because the economy is still in the toilet and frankly I'm surprised every day that it worked out at all, but it's an option.
Talking helps. Visibility helps. It's good to know you're not alone in having a brain that works against you, which is why the blog, which is why all the awareness days and weeks. A good quarter of you reading this are likely to come up against some form of mental illness in the future if you haven't already.
So I guess the one piece of advice I'm qualified to give is this: talk to someone, all right? Take care of yourself.
My friend Sarah has taken up special effects make-up and prosthetics recently, so I spent the day having her remove my eye. Why, you ask? Well, it's because I look fucking great with one eye. I don't know why this is. It's just a thing we all have to live with.
Right? I found this out at Sarah's time traveller-themed birthday a few years ago, when I wore an eyepatch. The photos have since been lost to the Great Hard Drive Crash of 2012, but luckily for you I will wear an eyepatch at any given opportunity. Here I am drinking in my bedroom, where the light was good:
Here I am on my way to a Hallowe'en party dressed as Grunkle Stan from Gravity Falls:
You're welcome, internet.
Sarah also turned Norma into a burn victim. Norma also looks good. It takes less for Norma to look good, though, so she isn't the focus of this blog post. Nevertheless:
So I've been working with London's quidditch team, the Unspeakables over the last few months, putting together a long-term photo documentary project about this new sport and the culture that's sprung up around it.
"What is quidditch?" I've been asked, a lot, from several different angles, including people I've pitched to for funding. People who don't usually email back. Incredulous people. People who didn't read Harry Potter, apparently. I've actually not read all the Harry Potters. That seems not to matter. It's a separate entity now. "Wait, so someone made that into a real thing?"
They did! Two guys in Vermont formulated the rules of what's properly called "muggle quidditch" in 2005 and we're up to the eighth iteration of said rules right now. Which includes a gender balance rule to include no more than four players of one (self-identified) gender per team on the playing field at any given time.
I don't like to talk about projects before they're finished, but EQC seems like a good place to take a breather, call it the end of "Phase One" of the project, and see what I've got so far, what kind of narratives emerge, and how best to proceed with it from here. Honestly, it's mostly been a lot of fun. I can't thank the Unspeakables enough for letting me come to their Saturday training sessions and asking dumb questions.
And because you're obviously wondering, the rules are outlined on the muggle quidditch Wikipedia page, but it's a game best learned up close. It's sort of like rugby with broomsticks: full contact, incredibly full-on, and pretty dangerous. I'll be playing a match soon; I'll make sure to upload some photos of the damage.
There are more photos from EQC 2015 on the Unspeakables' Facebook page.
Every year, Sci-Fi London host a 48-hour filmmaking challenge, in which, unsurprisingly, teams are challenged to write, produce, edit, and submit a short film over a single weekend. And Jamie Drew is no chicken no sir.
Jamie Drew is no stranger to 48-hour challenges. Jamie Drew will rise to whatever the fuck you want to challenge him to. He can eat more Twiglets than you can. He will prove it. You're in trouble now. You shouldn't have challenged him to a Twiglet-eating competition.
So, we chose a name by mashing a phone and seeing what autocorrect thought we said -- hello, good ship Sleepy Barfly -- and rose to the challenge. Sharan produced and directed; James and Raj wrote the script; Sarah stepped up to do some make-up and prosthetics; I became director of photography for the weekend; we dragged Top 30 Funniest Woman On Twitter and soon-to-be-seen-in-Optimus Lia into it to perform for our pleasure.
"Like, 10pm," we said. "You'll be finished at 10pm, latest. Don't worry about it." We did not finish at 10pm.
Here is the short we did. As is standard, we got a line -- something about evolution, I don't remember, I didn't sleep; a prop -- a jigsaw piece; and a Title -- You Are What You Eat. We made a film about a small-scale alien invasion. I don't know why the preview frame looks so weird, colour-wise. It's not that colour in the final film. That is going to eat at me forever.
On Low-Low-Low Budget Cinematography
If you're interested (i.e. if you're me), we lit You Are What You Eat with two household lamps, which we named Hero One -- a German lantern wrapped mostly in tin foil -- and Hero Two -- a floor lamp lined with more tin foil -- as well as a couple of smartphones, an iPad, and my small LED video light.
"Why did you do this, Jamie?" I imagine you're asking right now. Well, the only rental house that could deliver on time wouldn't take our insurance. Or, "technical limitations can boost creativity." Whatever makes me sound smartest. Your choice.
Here Are Some Behind-The-Scenes Photos
One of my favourite parts of pre-production is making mood boards, which out of everything I do in this ridiculous job I made up somehow feels the least like actual work. Not that any of the rest of it feels like actual work; I feel kind of bad when I say "I've been swamped" to people who go to an office every day and have titles they didn't make up for themselves.*
Making a mood board consists of the following steps:
- Sit down with a cup of tea
- Make sure your wi-fi works
- Look at pictures that are sort of like what you want to do
- Put those pictures into a single Photoshop file (Optional, for the lazy)
- Send them along to your team
I understand that from the outside, this does not look like real work. I understand that to the untrained eye this looks like I regularly spend an evening scrolling through Tumblr, and Flickr, and the gigabytes of miscellanea stored in a folder on a computer marked "FUEL."
Anyway, a couple of months ago I accidentally found a way to streamline the process. I have this mutant power, you see, wherein I form a kind of "entropy field" around myself that breaks everything I come across that's more complex than a Game Boy. My friend Carl wouldn't let me near his computer for years because every time I sat down at it, Windows would crash. I keep losing that "FUEL" folder every time a laptop breaks down for no apparent reason.
So I made a Tumblr to keep it all in.
Now, of course, I can just direct people to it, vaguely waving my hand in its direction when someone asks if I have any ideas for this shoot. "Of course I have ideas," I say, implicitly. "I stole them from a bunch of different people. That's how creativity works."
(A piece of advice: never, ever tell anyone that this is how creativity works. If anyone asks, tell them you're inspired by the world around you; by its people; by your mentors, who are your friends and family and the pack of wolves that raised you. Never tell anyone the secrets. Never pull back the curtain. It is too late for me, but you can do better than I have.)
(And maybe it is how creativity works! Who knows? Smarter people than you or I have tried to unpick this whole "art" thing, and we're still no closer, really, to figuring it out on a generic level. "Maybe it's built-in," the smarter people say, "fuck, we don't know.")
*A couple of years ago I got a call from my friend Leanne, who is a speech therapist. She was applying for a new job which required a reference from somebody who held one of a selection of pre-approved occupations. And although she obviously knows a lot of people in the healthcare business, none of them could do it, and so Leanne offered me a pint in exchange for my good word. This because "professional photographer" was on the list, whereas "actual speech therapist" for some reason was not. "This is riduculous," I said. "I literally made up this job. One day I said to somebody, 'hey, I'm a professional photographer now' and it was true." Anyway, thank you for the pint, Leanne.