Tuesday's Talented On-Line Find: Simon Aldred

© Simon Aldred
There are many talented photographers out there - and it's easier to discover talent thanks to the internet.

This past Saturday, I was conducting one of my Tough Love portfolio review sessions with photographer Simon Aldred in England. Like all of us, Simon had some okay shots - snapshots that perhaps could have been great shots with a little more attention to detail . . . in camera and in the digital darkroom.

Simon, however, also had a few pictures the really caught my eye - one being the photograph of his daughter, Grace, that opens this post. I love everything about the image. Mostly, the mood.

Simon on the photo: This is one of my favourite images and makes it all the more special as it is of my beautiful little girl. We were playing in the garden with the sun starting to set and I figured that creating a backlight with Grace's hair would be a nice effect. I waited until the sun clipped the top of the fence creating a lovely dispersed quality to the light. I was especially lucky to capture Grace in a thoughtful, whimsical moment which meant she wasn't swinging as fast as normal - helped with the shutter speed selection! Looking through the eye piece, I was sure that this would look better in monochrome and applied a simple effect in Lightroom. 

This was probably one of the first pictures that I actually "created" rather than just "took." Interestingly, the picture creates a real divide - some love it and others think that the sombre mood and crazy hair don't do Grace justice. I guess that's the beauty of photography.

I think Simon's photograph illustrates one of my favorite photo philosophies: Photograph what you love and you'll love your photographs.

Above, right, is another photograph I liked. I suggested, via a before-and-after screen grab, that a less saturated image would revel more detail in the model's sweater and produce a softer skin tone. Sending before-and-after screen grab really seems to help my students. Simon agreed. 

Simon on the photo: I recently attended a 1/2 day workshop bought through Groupon! My expectations for the session were pretty low given the price of entrance and wasn't really sure what to expect. The surprise was a shoot with a local model - my first with anyone other than friends or family. Given the size of the group, we had only enough time to take a 3-4 images each and I was determined to capture something different to everyone else. Whilst most other people were shooting with more classical portrait lenses, I opted for the 70-200 and zoomed in pretty tight wanting a real close up. 

Having never worked with a professional model before, I was unsure/anxious on direction and simply asked her to give me a more intense look and look straight into the lens. She made it all very easy from there! 

Interested in a Tough Love session? Check out the comments below from past participants. A little tough love can go a long way to becoming a better photographer. Info at Tough Love.

Explore the light,


Suzanne Chater said...
Okay, I took the plunge and just had one of these "Tough Love Portfolio Reviews" with Rick last night. I must say it was really worthwhile and I do highly recommend it. He was very kind and supportive, and also generous with his time and with useful tips and wise advice. And really there is no need to be apprehensive - I can assure you that he was not brutal at all and even criticim when given was delivered in a kind and constructive manner. I think I am quite insecure and lack confidence and I survived it, so I recommend just be brave and give it a go!

P.S. Thanks so much Rick - it was beneficial and I have lots to digest and work on now. I look forward to doing another one in the next few months!
Dougie Hoser said...
I also took the plunge and had a session with Rick last weekend. Based upon Rick's reputation for sharing and sincere interest in helping others to advance, I had high expectations, and I was certainly not disappointed. Rick has the essential skill of knowing how to tailor his level of feedback to the student's personal context -- experience, resources, interests, and, well, talent... He was very honest about positives and negatives, and I was delighted when he pointed out a number of shortcomings in my images that are obvious in hindsight, but serve as a reminder that EVERYBODY needs to have their images viewed by other sets of skilled eyes in order to progress.

His breadth and wide interest range allow Rick to comment on images from many different categories and styles (technically and artistically) and not to try to just push students into emulating his style, methods, and tastes.

Highly recommended, and a bargain for the price... I urge you to share both your best work AND the images that just don't quite work for reasons that you can't quite articulate.
Rick Sammon said...
This just in from Joseph Guitz:

The "Tough Love Portfolio Review" was well worth every penny. Not only did you let me ask you what I wanted, you also made sure I was comfortable with the answers you gave me. I would definitely have more sessions with Rick in order to be on the fast track to a more successful career in this field.

On the other hand I don't think he would make a great drinking buddy due to his passion for the art of photography.

P.S. - Thanks Rick for sharing your valuable experiences and knowledge in the beautiful field of photography.
Tom Baker said...
That's excellent Rick. I think I'll be taking you up on that. You certainly know how to make "tough love" palatable. If i want to hear how greta I am, I can go to Flickr :)
Rhonda Schor said...
Don't be afraid! As a novice photographer I wanted to learn what I was doing well, and where I could improve, and Rick let me know both! I learned so much that I am even more excited to shoot and develop my skills!

This was my first critical review, and I was beyond nervous! Rick put me right at ease, and offered recommendations that will immediately improve my work, and set me up for future success.

Rick, thank you so much for the time you spent with me, and the fabulous "actionable" feedback!
Adam Allegro said...
Last night I had a Portfolio Review with Rick and all I can say is take advantage of this sweet, sweet opportunity now. For those concerned with the price, a dedicated hour with such a talanted and sincere photographer like Rick is literally priceless. I learned more in an hour with Rick than I have in the last year of shooting and stumbling around google looking for answers and advice. As far as the advice, he pointed out some very interesting things that no one "praising" my work has seen. His approach is very sincere and honest, and there is no need to be afraid. You literally have nothing to lose by trying it out. Additionally, his time is yours, and he will be happy to give you honest feedback on your blog, website, business side of the profession, etc... Take the plunge.
Peter Yovich said...
What a great way to get more ideas on how I can improve! I am definitely going to be budgeting for this!
parkylondon said...
I had my Tough Love session last night with Rick. I must admit to being pretty nervous about having someone who I consider to be truly great photographer going through my photographs.

I needn't have worried. There was plenty of critique with suggestions on how to improve, criticism where it was, frankly, deserved and some praise.

Oh my. I felt good to be praised. In fact, when you were being criticised it felt good too.

I have been given plenty of suggestions as to how I can improve my photography. I will practice those and I am sure I will be a better photographer.

Worth every penny and strongly recommended if you are serious about wanting to know how to be a better photographer.
Mark T said...
I've been following Rick's work for a while (podcasts and books) and always loved his talent and genuine style, so I decided to sign-up for a Portfolio Review - glad I did!

It was fun, informative and I learned a ton (about stuff that was right in front of my own nose - just wasn't seeing it!) Rick is a gracious and caring reviewer that balances the feedback just right. Don't let the "tough" part keep you away - highly recommended!
Kent said...
I got my tough love a couple weeks ago. It was money well spent. I'm in the process now if implementing Rick's suggestions regarding marketing and post processing of my photos. It really is invaluable to have an objective professional take a look at your portfolio. I'm sure my photography will improve as a result of his help. Thanks Rick!
Gerg said...
I am delighted with the photographer and his talent!!!
Scott Prokop said...
I want to thank you so much for your time. You always say "Explore the Light" but after 1 hour with you, I "See the light". I better understand where I want to take my photography career now.

Rick provided advice about my portfolio and business so that I can take my photography career to the next level.
Bud Branch said...
"A single conversation with a wise man is better than ten years of study." ~Chinese Proverb

So it is!

Rick, thanks for your generous session. I appreciate the feedback and detailed advice.

Enjoy your NM travels and keep posting! - Bud
Bob Decker said...
I started off my New Year with a session of "tough love" and I'm glad I did. Rick has a way of conveying criticism in a way that non-threatening and even humorous at times. The constructive criticism was exactly that: positive and helpful. He pointed out what was seriously wrong with some of my work and explained how I could make it better. He answered specific questions about marketing and gave some tips as well. Very, very much worth the time and money spent with him.
Chen Hau Hau said...
I just had a Tough Love session with Rick this afternoon. It's a very valuable session and at the end of the session, I was thirsting for more. Rick started with reviewing what I have in my portfolio and then he started tailoring his contents based on your skills and knowledge.

These are the highlights of the session:
- Rick focused on how to improve my photography with what I already know. He never forced his opinion on me and he pointed out what was working and what not based on his careful observation. And, coming from someone as experienced as him, I'd say that this is priceless.
- Rick gave me some pointers on how to improve my way of seeing things, as well as, what mistakes I had made so they can be avoided in the future.
- Close to the end of the session, he even showed me how to process my image better with Photoshop. Again, his suggestions were tailored to what he thinks I need best.

As a self-taught photographer, I learnt everything from reading books (including all of Rick's and practicing in the field). Working as a full-time consultant, I have always been extremely busy with works. When not working, I spend the rest of my time with my family and finally whatever free time I have left, I'd spend it on photography. I never had a chance to learn photography from anyone else. Spending an hour with Rick was extremely valuable and it had taken my photography to the next level. What I learnt today will make me a better artist.

Thanks for the valuable lesson, Rick. I appreciate the nice feedback you provided on some of my photos. Coming from you, it means a lot!

Unknown said...
I just completed a 1 on 1 Skype session with Rick - it was enormously helpful and I have already begun to implement changes to my web site www.kelvinlightcoloranddesign.com based on Rick's expert guidance. From some technical tips on how to polish my images, to some great suggestions on maximizing and marketing my brand, an hour with Rick has already given me a ton of value

Thanks Rick
Jason L. Eldridge said...
It has been a couple of months since the online critique with Rick. He was honest but not brutal. He pointed out some of the good things I did as well as what I needed to work on. We also spent a good bit of time discussing my website and use of social media. It was well worth every penny and every ounce of time.

If you are considering this you should certainly do it... If you think your work is either too good or not good enough you should do this as well.

He was friendly and open to any questions. I attended a 1 day workshop with him shortly after and I am happy to report that he is exactly the same in person.

Thanks Rick!!!!