Case Study: Local NHS photography project

Sometimes I get a brief which sets a tone and style, but still leaves me plenty of room for creativity. This is always very rewarding work, but carries with it that extra frisson of responsibility – what if my pictures aren’t what the client envisaged? What if I stray off-piste? And in today’s example, working with NHS Bath And North East Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group (NHS BANES CCG for short) I knew I had to get each shoot right first time as public money has to be spent very wisely.

NHS BANES CCG needed fresh images for their annual review and new website. In the past they’d used stock imagery quite heavily, but there was a recognition that people engage better with pictures which are clearly not posed by stock models. Also, as useful as stock images can be for some applications, they can’t reflect all the subtle uniqueness of a local health service, and so I was approached with a view to getting the ball rolling on a new image library which their designers and PR managers could draw on as required.

I was sent to cover various events and illustrate different services within the CCG, but apart from an expressed wish to see light, engaging images with backgrounds knocked out of focus to emphasise the people, I was pretty much left to cover these sessions using a combination of set-up poses and fly-on-the-wall techniques.

Probably my favourite of all the photo sessions was the morning I spent with the Singing for the Brain group, who meet weekly and give those with dementia and their carers a chance to socialise and stimulate their memories through singing and fun activities. Capturing the pleasure on the faces of people as they met for tea and cake, and then when they got into the singing session, was really up-lifting.

The team I worked with were very pleased with what I turned in and I’ll be gradually adding to their library in the year ahead, so I’m looking forward to finding out even more about what the CCG does, meeting the people who run the services, the people who benefit from them and creating pictures which encapsulate the whole story.

Case Study: Dental Laboratory

Judging by the number of photo shoots I’ve undertaken for dental practices over the last few years it’s become obvious that like most businesses, dentists have also come to realise that fresh, illustrative images really help to bring a website together.

When JSL dental laboratory first made contact with me to arrange photography for their new website, I could be forgiven for thinking they were another dentist, but JSL are a dental laboratory, not a dental practice. That is to say, they make the crowns, bridges, ceramic teeth, implants and so on which dentists use to make our smiles beautiful again.

JSL’s laboratory in The Circus in Bath is a tight space to work because it’s a fully-equipped lab, which meant my my main challenge was getting good angles on people and equipment as well as finding the space to place an off-camera flash when needed, but having gone over the required shots with marketing coordinator Joanna Lye we worked out the order the photos could happen in (bearing in mind it’s also an extremely busy dental lab with dental technicians Julian and Britta completing the team).

With this, as with all such commissions, my job wasn’t just to photograph a variety of people and things, but also to consider different dimensions to give the web designer the widest choice for their page grids. With a combination of portraits, team shots, technicians-at-work and details, there was a good selection of images by the end of the half-day session and you can see the finished JSL site here and a selection of screen grabs below.

Tweaked Fees

Those of you familiar with my pricing structure will be aware that it’s based around the gallery delivery service, whereby I upload photos to the client’s gallery and the client gets to download what they need, when they need it. They can request access for their colleagues or designers – anyone who requires access can have it, but the gallery always remains secure to the client.

This service has been running incredibly well, but it occurred to me that the most basic package, Gallery Essential, was basically a waste of space on my website. Nobody used it because it was designed back when the economy was going in reverse. The idea was a business could get photos taken and held in the gallery for a very basic fee and then they would just buy individual images as and when they needed them and budget allowed.

Screen grab of Tim Gander's photography fee structure.

A new structure to help more clients

However, it became clear to me that most businesses want at least a basic set of images back from a shoot for immediate use and were always willing to upgrade to either Gallery 30 (now renamed Gallery Standard) or more commonly to Gallery Unlimited, which is by far the most popular package.

The other issue this presented was that it left me no obvious place on my website in which to inform potential clients that a package was available for shoots lasting just an hour or two. I hope I’ve fixed this now by replacing Gallery Essential with Gallery Starter, which gives a client up to two hours on-site for £250 and with unlimited image downloads.

The reason I don’t limit the number of image downloads on this most basic fee is because a typical two-hour shoot will be booked for covering a small to medium PR event or a short portrait session. The numbers of images taken by the end of this kind of shoot shouldn’t result in an unreasonable amount of post-shoot editing time, which is built into all my fees.

I still have limits on the Gallery Standard package because in half-day and full-day shoots the image numbers climb rapidly, and really these larger packages are aimed at different requirements.

In addition to the new Gallery Starter I’ve increased the number of image downloads included in Gallery Standard, and yet most clients will still want the sheer simplicity of Gallery Unlimited. It’ll be interesting to see how these changes work, but if you have any (sensible) suggestions, I’ll be happy to consider them. You know where to find me!

high-level photographer

This week I thought I’d talk about what I’ve got coming up because it’s rather big. Next week, the first week in July, I’m taking on quite a challenge. For the first time ever I’ll be photographing the Summer Graduation ceremonies for University of Bath.

This event would normally be covered by the university’s in-house photographer Nic, but he recently broke his collar bone in a cycling accident so I’ve been asked to step in to cover the work he’d normally be doing this time of year. It’s been a busy few weeks taking pictures for the university, but next week will be Intense with a capital I.

Up to four graduation ceremonies a day for three days, including formal portraits of honorary graduates, the procession from Guildhall to Bath Abbey, the presentations inside the abbey and the students and their families celebrating outside after their ceremony. Then I go and do it all again, plus editing and delivering rush shots at the end of each day and editing all the images at the end of the week. I’ll be ready for a lie-down by the end, that’s for sure.

And even before the event I’ve had planning and briefing meetings and today I took a recce to the abbey to see the layout for the ceremonies and also to check out a high vantage point for an alternative shot of the students piling out of the abbey after the procession, which is how this week’s blog photo came about.

After seeing inside the abbey, I was shown up a very dark, winding, narrow spiral staircase (approximate age, 500 years) and onto a balcony above the main entrance to see if the vantage point would work. The lighting and weather on the day will determine if this is going to work out, but in the meantime, here’s a shot I took this morning looking up Abbey Churchyard with the entrance to The Pump Rooms to the left.

A high-level view of Bath Abbey Churchyard, taken from above the abbey door on a sunny day.

A super view across Abbey Churchyard, which will be packed with students and their families next week

I think I might POP!

This is one of those “apropos of nothing in particular” sort of posts where I just update you on what’s been going on lately. It will also explain why I didn’t post last week, and why this week’s post is late. I apologise for both failings.

To say things have been busy would be an understatement. I’ve been incredibly hectic with work for University of Bath since their lovely and wonderful staff photographer Nic broke his collarbone in a cycling accident (or did I sabotage his brakes as one client suggested?) Of course I wish Nic a rapid recovery, especially as having broken my own clavicle a few years ago, I know just how ruddy painful it is.

I found out about Nic’s mishap while I was working for two clients in London a couple of weeks ago, and since then it’s been full-on with assignments in London (again), Gloucester, Bath and even Chard in Somerset; not somewhere I get called to regularly, but work is work and the session was a fun little PR piece.

Architectural detail of a grey building in London with wavy walls

Weird architecture in London caught my eye


In amongst all the professional fun and games I’ve been finding a little time to take photos for fun. While in London I got to stroll about with my Fuji X20 one evening and came up with this shot.

Perhaps even more exciting was when I discovered a classic 1980’s camera, a Konica Pop, in a Frome charity shop and snapped it up for the princely sum of £15. I popped a roll of black and white film through to see what it could do and I have to say I’m impressed! Not that I’ll be using it for client work. It’s a bit hit-and-miss, but I’m sure I’ll be using it for more fun stuff soon.

You’ll have to be patient for that though because the coming weeks don’t look like they’re going to let up much. I’m going to have to beg your forbearance if my blog posts are occasionally late too, but at least you’ll know it’s because I’m busy rather than that I might be ignoring you. I could never do that.

Tree and wood-slatted wall at University of Bath

A detail of University of Bath campus taken on the Konica Pop

Storming Good Coverage

Newspapers love a good “bad weather” story, and the St Jude storm this week was a gift to editors who could fill their print and web pages with a broad mix of images from agencies, readers and possibly one or two “courtesy of the internet” accidentally-stolen shots too.

Thankfully, rumours that Sir Paul McCartney is to re-write Hey Jude and perform it live on the roof of Buckingham Palace to raise money for those who lost patio chairs in the storm have proved to be unfounded.

Unfortunately for you, the storm does give me the opportunity to regurgitate some crusty old newspaper cuttings from my early career when I was part of The Bath Chronicle’s Storm Watch team in 1990. Indeed, everyone talks about the 1987 storm, but the 1990 storm also brought down trees and caused umbrellas to be inverted. Looking at these old pics, I realise I wasn’t exactly lead photographer being sent to cover the full devastation, but it’s still fun seeing some odd little scraps of time again. Enjoy!

A day in her life, a lifetime for me


My first published photo (click to enlarge)

As far as I recall, this is the first photo I ever had published in a newspaper. Perhaps a little weird that I still have the cutting, but I have a few books of cuttings dating back… well, to this first one.

This particular shot was taken for a competition and book, though I don’t believe it made the final cut, which was obviously a shame. I do recall that I’d heard about the competition and didn’t have anything to enter, but I was obviously on the lookout for something.

Although the date is missing from the cutting, it would have been around 1987. At that time I was working at London Camera Exchange in Bath, right next to the abbey.

I was probably cleaning cameras and shelving when I spotted this girl going to the fountain for a drink and I must have reacted incredibly quickly because I know I pulled a camera from the display, loaded a film and a telephoto lens and took the photo through the shop window knowing that if I went outside to take it the moment would have passed.

Perhaps the failure to be included in the book scarred me for life because I’ve not entered many, if any, photographic competitions since, but seeing my photo in print gave me a thrill which set me on the path to becoming a professional photographer. I may not have won the competition, but I wonder now if I would have become a photographer if this frame hadn’t been printed. That being the case, I’m going to say I did win. I just didn’t know it at the time.

Homeless Portrait

The other week I was taking public relations pictures for a hotel in Bath. Their staff were volunteering to help at a local soup kitchen for the homeless, and they wanted shots of the volunteers and organisers preparing to hand out the food. I was told by a volunteer from the local church that was involved, I should avoid taking pictures of any homeless people as it might upset them. I’ll be honest, I felt a little patronized as I think by now I know what to do in delicate situations, but I got on with arranging the shots I needed. It was so dark, it would have been impossible to take pictures without flash so I was only ever going to take pre-arranged photos. The PR photos went well, and I used a small portable lighting system to try to make things look brighter and more inviting, and as I finished I turned around to find a man going by the name Squirrel sitting behind me. He was hoping to have his photo taken too, so I included him in some shots. Then his girlfriend, Hayley, came over. All she wanted was a nice photo of her and Squirrel together, and it was a pleasure to oblige. I did ask if they would mind me blogging the photo and they were fine about it, so here it is. Squirrel and Hayley, eating out together.

“Squirrel” and Hayley, Bath soup kitchen.

For people who eat

One area of commercial photography I seem to have been getting involved with more frequently over the past year has been on-location food photography.

Food photography is a highly specialized area and if a client is going to go the whole hog (pun intended) they’ll be looking at very high fees for a top-end photographer, plus assistant, food stylist, studio hire, props, editing and post-production.

As for my work, I know my level and I know what I can do for a client. When they approach me I measure their expectations and requirements against their budget and if I believe I can offer what they need, I’ll take on the task. If they’re looking for something very high-end, I’ll recommend them to a food photography specialist. However, there are many instances where quality is required, but it’s clear we’re not shooting for The Ritz brochure and that’s where I can help.

This is the same approach I took when I was recommended to Caroline Jones of newly-launched online food magazine Local Morsels, which champions local food producers, growers, retailers, chefs and restaurant owners in the Bath and Bradford on Avon area.

I was recommended to Caroline by web designer Andrew Eberlin. Caroline and I met over coffee, discussed her requirements and I designed a fee and licence structure which suits her requirements perfectly.

The first batch of images, shot for the inaugural issue, were taken at locations in Bradford on Avon, using my portable studio lighting setup. The work was fun to do and I’m looking forward to the next session, which is already booked for later this month.

In the meantime, here’s a small selection of images from the first edition. If you’re the kind of person who eats, why not bookmark the Local Morsels website and learn more about locally produced food? Try not to drool on your keyboard though.

Pumpkin soup in a bowl on a place setting

The challenge – to create a warm light effect, and get the shot before the sparkler fizzled out

Apples in a pan with raisins and cinnamon sticks

The challenge – balancing cinnamon sticks

easy jose coffee beans in a bag with grinder

The challenge – foil pack reflections can be tricky

Christmas cake with slice removed

The challenge – making the cake look as moist in a photo as it was in real life




TIGA Feats

Last week I was at the annual TIGA Games Industry Awards to photograph the gathered great and good and the award winners in particular.

TIGA is the non-profit trade association which represents the digital games industry in the UK, and this year’s awards were presented at The Assembly Rooms in Bath, a historic venue contrasting with the relatively new art of game design.

I’ve covered a few events at the Assembly Rooms over the years, and though it’s a lovely building it’s always quite tricky to deal with the very low-level, yellow lighting in the Great Octagon (see this post on a similar recent challenge), where delegates gather for drinks prior to being seated in the main ballroom which, depending on what the lighting guys have set up, will be a whole new challenge.

Normally I’ll use on-camera flash of some sort for the drinks reception, and then portable studio lights directed at the stage to cover the dais and awards presentations up on the stage, but this time I decided to use available light for the drinks bit, and hand-held flash for the awards as I had to be super-quick for the presentations. The client didn’t want the photography to hold up proceeedings. There were a lot of awards being presented, and I needed to be nimble to get a shot from each one – the studio lights can slow me down as they don’t always charge back up fast enough to be ready for the next photo.

In between covering the flavour of the evening and the awards on the stage, I was also nipping backstage to send images out from my laptop in order that social media coverage could have pictures live on the night.

A pretty long night and tiring too, but great fun and an interesting insight into the gaming industry. I’ll be back at The Assembly Rooms before the month is out to cover the Regen SW Green Energy Awards. I can’t wait to see what the lighting engineers do this time…

In the meantime, here’s a small selection of images from the night:

TIGA delegates chat, drink, network in the Great Octagon, Bath Assembly Rooms

Delegates mingle and drink prior to dinner and the awards

Screen showing TIGA awards twitter activity

Social media was broadcast live to the room

Delegates at dinner enjoying the awards presentations and speeches

Capturing the fun of the evening

Actor and voice artist Corey Johnson comperes the evening

Compere Corey Johnson, actor and games voice artist, keeps proceedings flowing

TIGA gaming industry award winners receive their prize

Awards are presented, speeches are made