Photo Live 2014 Review

Posted on: 8 Sep 2014
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A full day of photography you say? The chance to hear award winning photographers speak you say? The chance to see loads of incredible photographs you say? Well, this was exactly what Photo Live offered.

Saturday 6th of September saw many of the UK’s top photographers descend on London to share their knowledge and expertise with many budding photographers. The Photo Live conference had previously visited Leeds and Edinburgh in the past weeks and this was the final day. For a very reasonable price you could attend up to six presentations and if you got in quick – even a portfolio review!

The last few years I’ve attended the Royal Geographical Society’s ‘Travel Photography Live’ conference, so I was interested to see how ‘Photo Live’ would compare. Here’s what I thought:

Presentation 1: Timothy Allen, Around the World

Timothy Allen started his career as a news photographer and said that it was a great starting point for him as a photographer. Timothy has had a brilliant career and so many amazing opportunities that he showed through his photography.

Timothy Allen, Around the World

Timothy Allen, Around the World


He inspired me through his talk of travelling a bit like a nomad through lesser known areas of Nepal and Bhutan for some time. The BBC become interested in his work, so much that he ended up working for them for about 2 years on ‘Human Planet’, a job that he said was possibly the best in a lifetime.

Oh how one can dream of that sort of opportunity!

Timothy’s presentation was very much about showing his photographs and telling the stories behind them, which was a great way to kick off the day.

Presentation 2: Catherine Conner, Liberate Your Photography

Coming from a purely business and marketing standpoint, Catherine presented about how photographers should consider their marketing and ways to do this to improve their business.

Catherine Conner, Liberate Your Photography

Catherine Conner, Liberate Your Photography


I found it interesting, despite not being a wedding or commercial photographer myself. She gave valuable insights that could be useful for any business, such as:

  • Create a diary where you put your progress and good things at the front and mistakes at the back, so you can see where you’ve come from and what to avoid repeating in the future.
  • Design a business to attract the right clients.
  • Remember “even when you want to be timid and small playing it safe. Pause for a moment and imagine what you’re missing”.

That last point is a great one, for many walks of life. Whether it is a matter of pausing after taking a photograph and taking in the things around you, going to a meeting and actually saying something rather than fearing what people think, or taking that opportunity that you may have initially considered too difficult.

I hope that I can use some of her points in the coming months when I really thing about the future of my travel and wildlife photography.

Presentation 3: Andy Rouse, Wildlife photographer

Entertaining presenter and photographer, Andy Rouse, talked through some of his wildlife photography projects and how his work has changed over the years.

Ever since I returned from Africa, I’ve loved every bit of wildlife photography and seeing Andy’s work was fantastic. He made some excellent points, that many people probably take for granted like:

  • Try to avoid the horizon intersecting with the subject.
  • Play with the light, experiment with side light and shooting into the light.
  • Look at the space around subjects.
  • Don’t crop too close, consider direction of movement.
  • Consider doing projects each year, such as giving yourself a subject or technique and making a book out of it each year.

Portfolio Review with Andy Rouse

Andy also gave me a portfolio review of some of the photographs from my ‘Footprints through East Africa’ book I created awhile ago. It was nice to hear that some of my shots where shot pretty well, but just needed a bit more consideration in the white balance and a bit of Photoshop work to reduce some of the slightly over exposed bits. I can also consider some closer cropping of some animals too. Hopefully I can work on lighting and exposure a bit more in the coming months of my wildlife photography trips.

The review was incredibly short which was a pity (only 10 minutes) and in hindsight I probably should have shown Andy some shots that I wasn’t sure how I could improve on, but I’d gone in with the attitude that I’d like to know what a professional thought of my favourite shots – whether they were actually good or not.

Presentation 4: Timothy Allen, The Essentials of Travel Portraiture

I’d booked in for a second presentation by Timothy, to learn a bit more about taking travel portraits. He made it quite clear that getting to know people before taking out the camera is very important. Whether you can chat to them, share a meal or game, finding out more about them can give you ideas for the photographs, while putting them at ease.

Timothy also explained its worth investigating shots further, rather than just taking one and moving on. Consider if you can relocate your subject, for better light or a more suitable background. Between both Andy’s and Timothy’s talks I’ve started to finally see how much better shots can be when you try alternative light sources and light angles, having a shot where half the subject is dark, can actually make them stand out even more and create fantastic compositions. Setting the exposure on the subjects highlights using manual settings, you can come away with great shots. I don’t expect that to be easy, but I’m looking forward to experimenting!

Presentation 5: Adam Duckworth, Tips and Tricks for Editorial and Commercial Photography

Okay, there had to be one presentation that wasn’t quite up my alley and it was this one. However, I’m sure many people in the room found it useful. Unfortunately, the projector was horrible so Adam’s shots weren’t given a decent quality of presentation. He talked a lot about studio techniques and flash, reflectors etc. which I should have expected. I did my fair share of studio photography for a few years back in New Zealand and it’s really not my preferred type of photography. I enjoy taking natural looking shots outdoors more than indoor shots with flash.

Presentation 6: Chris Weston, Introduction to Time lapse Photography

Time Lapse Photography by Chris Weston

Time Lapse Photography by Chris Weston


Having dabbled in interval shooting a few months ago to try create some time lapse work, I was really keen to see Chris’s tips for pulling it all together. He provided some great tips and considerations like shooting RAW vs JPG when you have thousands of shots to process. He used QuickTime Player 7 to create a sequence live in front of the audience to show how easy it was, which was great to see. I can’t wait to try it out myself.

I’ve seen Chris speak at a few of the other conferences I’ve been to, so it was a great way to end the day, knowing his would be a good talk to see.

I was very disappointed to miss out on David Clapp’s presentation on ‘The Business of Selling – Making a Living from Travel and Landscapes’. If I could have seen two presentations in the entire program it would have been Chris’s and David’s (with Andy’s close behind), but unfortunately Chris and David’s were scheduled at the same time. I probably should have just skipped Presentation 5 tried to find one of them to talk to instead, but I didn’t want to appear to be rude. So, David – if you’re reading this I’d be very interested to hear about your presentation, if you have time to email me (pretty please)!

If you’re a buddying photographer, I’d highly recommend checking out conferences like Photo Live, they give a great overview of many different types of photography and insights. If you need any new camera kit, Wilkinson’s also had some great deals going – I only wish their small stands hadn’t been so busy overflowing with so many people!

I hope for years to come that I manage to find more of these sorts of conferences across the globe, as they are a great inspiration.

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