Photoblog: For Photographers Archive

Helen Bartlett at The Photography Show - Canon and Light Blue

Posted in For Photographers at 07:25 on 16/03/2018


This morning I'm off to the NEC in Birmingham ready for The Photography Show, the main event in the UK photography calendar. Over four days, thousands of photographers will get together to look at the most recent kit, listen to inspirational speakers and catch up with their friends. I've been going for years and look forward to it each spring.

As always, I'll be spending the majority of the show on the Light Blue Software stand (A68), helping out my husband Tom who wrote the software, and his talented team to demonstrate the benefits of studio management to new users and answer questions from existing clients. It's always such fun to be on the stand, to see the familiar faces who always pop by to say hello and how much they love the program and also to meet new people and introduce them to this amazing piece of software which can transform their photography businesses.

I've been lucky enough to use Light Blue since I started my business, in fact I was the first ever user when Tom built the first system to run his wedding business and my portrait business and now, fourteen years on, I really don't know what I would do without it. I love how I can see all the details of all my clients at the click of a button. It's so fun when chatting to people to be able to check and say yes 'yes, it was back in 2009 we first met' as we look at old pictures and try to remember exactly when we took them. Many of my clients have been having family photography sessions annually since I started, having all the details of all the sessions to hand is brilliant.

As well as singing the praises of Light Blue, this year I will be hard at work on the Canon Stand, presenting my talk 'Great Family Photos and How to Take Them' on three occasions over the weekend.

I'm on Saturday at 10:30-11:20, Monday at 13:30-14:20 and Tuesday 15:30-16:20 and I hope to see some of you there.

It's so fun writing talks, I love the process of going back over my work and actually thinking through all the different elements, what it is I look for in a picture and also coming up with tips and tricks to help other photographers improve their work. It's been particularly fun writing for such a mixed audience, at the photography show we will have full time professionals who have been photographing for years but also keen amateurs who just want to improve their pictures of their own children. I'm hoping that there will be something for everyone in the talk and that the audience will leave full of enthusiasm for photographing the families in their lives.

It's going to be a busy few days and I can't wait. If you are at the show do come and say hello on the Light Blue stand or pop by Canon to hear me talk, it would be lovely to see you.

Street London 2017 - Some thoughts

Posted in For Photographers at 11:11 on 21/08/2017


I have just spent the weekend at Street London – a street photography symposium in East London and, as I drink my coffee I thought I needed to put some words down, organize my thoughts before getting back to the awaiting processing marathon.

I don’t practice street photography much, it’s a genre that interests me hugely but it’s a genre that requires time which I’m constantly short of. In recent years I’ve only managed to get out to ‘shoot the street’ maybe one day a year, it’s not enough to hone my eye for this different style of work.

However, I love street photography workshops and attend them where I can. I find it brings so much to my children’s portrait photography. The essence of street photography is being awake to the possibilities around you, working quickly within an ever changing environment, seeing a fleeting moment and constructing a composition around that moment with an eye to the action but also with impeccable technical skill. What photographer couldn’t learn from that?

This weekend has introduced me to some incredible practitioners, the work of Rammy Narula in particular left me spellbound and Fadi Boukaram recent American roadtrip Lebanon USA and the stories he told of kindness and welcome has given a ray of hope in a world that seems increasingly fragmented. We had the joy of seeing long term street photographers such as Melanie Einzig and Graciela Magnoni explain how their practice has developed over time and felt the passion that others such as Dimitris Makrygiannakis brought to their personal work. I name just a few, I learnt from each and every one.

The symposium also offered spotlight sessions where emerging photographers could share their work and there was a freshness to some of this work that I found truly inspiring – the work of Adam Maizey and James Catterson particularly appealed to me. Both such different photographers and both bringing a very distinct visual style to their work, it was lovely to see how they have developed their ideas to build coherent bodies of work and it will be fascinating to see how the projects develop with time. I particularly found it interesting to hear how James brings his experiences at work – designing video games – to an appreciation of architecture, of line and form into his street photography.

Discussing imagery and inspiration with my friend Kate over dinner after the symposium finished we were both struck by the importance of a wide knowledge of photography. It is so important to look deeply and with an analytical mind at work from many different genres. As with all creative arts we stand on shoulders of giants and the more knowledge we have the more our subconscious can assess approaches, can clarify ideas, can work with difficult conditions and create interesting and innovative compositions in the 1/500 of a second it takes to make a photograph. Without this store of ideas and information our work is limited. As you can’t be a writer without being a reader, you can’t grow as a photographer without looking at visual media, photographs, paintings, sculpture and cinema. Each element informs and instructs and if we are open to this we can grown our work and continue to develop our style whatever subject matter we photograph.

For a photographer who has been working for fourteen years in my chosen genre there were ideas flying about and inspiration coming from all directions that I will take time to process. I found myself thinking about bigger issues too – the ethics of street photography are a minefield that I’m glad I don’t need to deal with on a daily basis – my clients choosing to be photographed, images given not taken. Although whether street photos are ‘taken’ is another discussion and one that can vary so much from photographer to photographer, we all bring our own ideas, politics and personality to our work and while some images can be aggressive social statements other have a kindness and clear love for the human condition that is so beautiful to be heartbreaking. The question of gender also brought lively discussion; coming from a genre that is dominated by women photographers it was interesting to see that street photography still has some way to go to become more inclusive.

Most of all the weekend brought together so many passionate photographers of all levels and stylistic approaches into a space where we could talk, share ideas and images and enjoy an excellent beer or a rhubarb gin. Photography is such a small work and such a friendly one where support is more important than competition. Many thanks go to the organisers, to Nick Turpin and Jason Reed and to my friend Martin Usbourne of Hoxton Mini Press for putting together such a great event.

For the many photographers out there who read my blog and have thought, when seeing events like the London Street Photography Symposium advertised, can I go to that, I’m not really a street photographer I say, go for it. It doesn’t matter if you shoot the street or photograph families, we all have much to give, we all have tons to learn and the more we meet and chat, the more we learn from each other the better we make our work and the more fun we will have working in photography, this incredible art form we are lucky enough to call home.

I’ve put a couple of street photographs up to illustrate this blog – I didn’t take them this weekend but always good to stay ‘on genre’ to the words ☺




Speaking at the Societies Convention in 2018

Posted in For Photographers at 15:20 on 15/07/2017

Over the years I have taught a variety of seminars and workshops for professional and aspiring professional family photographers - travelling all over the UK and including a number of events at the prestigious Apple Store in London - I love to help the next generation of photographers to learn and hone their craft. The past few years I haven’t offered any teaching or mentoring but I am pleased to announce that I will be speaking on the subject of Finding your Style in Family Photography at the Societies convention in January 2018

The The Society of Wedding and Portrait Photography annual convention, held at the Hilton Hotel in Edgware in Central London is the largest gathering of social photographers in Europe and their annual trade show and convention is a must do event for everyone in the social photography world.

My talk, sponsored by the fantastic Light Blue Software, will be taking place on the Sunday afternoon and is one to put in your diary, it will be lovely to see lots of you there.

Why my clients love Light Blue version 6

Posted in For Photographers at 16:15 on 27/11/2015

Today on the blog I want to share a little something about my business, particularly about the incredible piece of software that I use to keep everything going – Light Blue – and how this makes things so much better both for me and for my clients.

I’m lucky enough to have been the first ever user of Light Blue. My incredibly talented husband wrote the first version for us to run our respective wedding and portrait businesses on back in 2003. I have every client in it from my very first professional shoot – it’s wonderful to track clients over the years, who is still with me from those early days and all the different pictures I have taken and they have chosen over the years.

Since then Light Blue has grown. Tom has ceased to be a wedding photographer and now works full time on the business, along with his business partner Hamish. Launched to the wider world in 2009 Light Blue has gone from strength to strength and is now the market leader for photography business software in the UK. I’m very proud.

But wait you say, why are you blogging about this? I’m blogging to share a bit about the new version, Light Blue 6, which came out this week and how incredibly useful this has been for me and my clients.

I’ve been using the beta version for a couple of months now and have been able to fully test lots of the different features. My absolute favourite – and the feature my clients are raving about – is the new online contract, forms, and payment system.

When a client books in, I can send them an email with a link to a booking form and contract (and the contracts can be adjusted on a case-by-case basis if necessary, which can be important when working with celebrity clients who require confidentiality clauses). They can sign this contract online – no more printing things out, or struggling to find a printer. No more hunting for a stamp and then realizing the contract has been forgotten lost under a pile of Postman Pat books and toy trains. My clients are busy people, and removing the need for a printed paper contract has met with universal approval.

We have a booking form attached to the contract, where clients fill in all the information I need for their shoots – their address and contact details, names and dates of birth of the children so I know what to expect when I arrive (as all photographers know the equipment you bring to a newborn session can be quite different to that you need for photographing teenagers on water skis). I discover the names of other people who will be there so I can learn these beforehand, and clients are able to fill me in with anything else they think I should know. It’s lovely to be prepared!

The best thing about these forms though is if it’s a repeat client – and I’m lucky enough that I see a lot of my clients regularly, particularly at this time of year – Light Blue is clever enough to populate the forms with the information I already have so that my clients don’t have to type everything in again but can simply add in the details for new baby’s or changes of address. When the form has been filled in, at a touch of a button the information is sucked into Light Blue, attached to my shoot and I’m ready to go.

The last part of this trio of wonder is online payment. Using Stripe (a card processing service that’s really easy to set up and use) clients can type in their card details and they are done. No more logging into PayPal or setting up a new payee on online banking. No more hassle of sending a cheque or remembering to bring cash on the day. In a matter of minutes everything is done, the shoot is booked in, I have all the information and we are good to go. This is brilliant for both me and my clients.

Here’s a real life scenario to explain just how wonderful this is. Recently I went on holiday to Iceland (which was amazing!). Arriving back at the hotel after a long day photographing icebergs, I had an email from a client wanting to book a shoot on a particular day, perfect! I was able to send the contract, booking form and payment information from Light Blue and by the time I had returned from the bar with a cold pint of beer (and before my memory card had downloaded my pictures from the day!) I had notification to see that the contract was signed, the information ready for importing and the shoot paid for. The client had also had an email thanking them. This, to me, is priceless: I could enjoy my holiday while running the business without any effort at all.

Since I’ve been using Light Blue 6, not a shoot has gone by when a client hasn’t commented on the ease of use of the new booking system. Repeat clients are thrilled with how quick and easy it is to get everything sorted out, and new clients say how simple the process way for them. Todays’ client has been so impressed she has asked for the details of Light Blue as she might like to use it for her own small business, even though she’s not a photographer – you can’t get better feedback than that!

So this post is for my photographer friends out there – if you are thinking of upgrading to Light Blue 6 then do so, it’s incredible. For my lovely clients, thank you for your wonderful feedback and I’m so pleased that these systems are making life easier for you.