Pretty Vacant


As I grew up with the original punk movement my collection wouldn’t be complete without a Sex Pistols lyric. The one that I’ve chosen was from the song that I liked the most. It’s full of energy and irony and even back then, I appreciated that!

The song opens with the line, “There’s no point in asking you’ll get no reply” after a great guitar/drum intro and it was this line that summed up the era really. No-one understood and we didn’t really care!

The shot was completed in Bristol with the lovely ‘April Blue’ who was perfect for the part. She knew of the graffiti wall just near her home and she carried the ‘look’ perfectly. All went well apart from a neighbour of hers who asked her if ‘April’ was OK and if she needed her to “call someone”! The irony was amusing given the massive piece of gaffa preventing a response. April ‘survived’ and the neighbour returned to her warm abode while we completed the shoot.

I finally chose this frame above many others taken as I loved April’s eyes. A suitably arrogant and defiant look was perfect for me. The only regret was missing her beautiful bright green Dr Marten’s!





As part of my ongoing photo Lyric Project I decided to arrange to shoot the lovely Layla-Leigh (model) in Bristol yesterday.

The lyric we were working with is from the Oasis song Little by little and is one that has always grabbed me. As usual with a brilliant lyric, it’s so simple as to be almost flippant and yet it is immensely profound.

“True perfection has to be imperfect…”

Six words that speak of experience, a jaded view of the world and by someone who has lost the naivety of life. The song itself is about life, of someone struggling to find its meaning and realising how futile it all is and ends with the line, “Why am I really here?”

However, as with much of this project, I have taken the one line and ignored the rest of the song. The six words having millions of meanings and endless ways of portraying their depth.

I chose to adopt a stance photographically that I hope challenges quite a lot of things.

Firstly, what is perfection? The corporate world constantly shoves a ‘vision’ they think is perfect and one we should all aim for. Advertising thrusts beauty, youthfulness and lifestyle down our throats constantly. The dream, the hope and the aspiration. Is it any wonder that many of us fall short of the ideals and then realise that hey, it isn’t so bad after all.

Beauty is a matter of opinion and subjectivity. We all know that it takes many forms and many judgements are made about our fellow man as a result.

This humble image, or in fact two images, aims to be as simple as the line in the song. It is a slight on the world of beauty (that I myself am a part of) and all that goes with it. I hope like the song itself, it means so much more…

Model: Layla-Leigh Hair & make-up: Layla-Leigh

Model: Layla-Leigh
Hair & make-up: Layla-Leigh

New Year, New Dawn


It is that time of year again when Christmas is already history, the presents are all opened and you wait around for the old year to fade out and the new one to be welcomed! We have had an absolute belter of a 2011 here at Ellis Imagery Ltd. It has been a real exploration of wit, guile and creativity. At times it has been totally frustrating and others thoroughly mesmerising.

So, not one to look back too hard, what does this new year of 2012 hold in store for us here? Well, I have had some amazing photographic books by some of the real masters (like Duffy) and to say I am excited about the coming 12 months is an understatement. There is so much to do and so little time to do it all. Also, money will be a hamperer as it always is.

Lets look at the year and see what it has in store. Well, there is always the Olympics and I would love to set a project around that. Not based on the Games themselves but on ordinary people, people like you and me, what do they mean to us? What hopes do we have about the games? How will it affect and effect our lives? Will you be touched? Mmmm…I will think on this one.

Personally there is quite a big day coming up in May, I get married to my fellow Director, love and inspiration. She is my constant in this wickedly erratic world and should I prepare for a project about the lead up and the aftermath of such a huge day in someone’s life?

Finally, I have a strong feeling that one of my many resolutions this year will be to work hard at some of these personal projects I want to pursue. My main one being to start and develop a theme that has been in my head for some time and this is the project titled “An Englishman’s Home….” It will be a study of how men look at their place of comfort and solace. A series of portraits depicting different styles, loves, cares, dreams and resignations. My biggest task will be to get the subjects themselves to trust me to take reportage images, not to show them in a negative light. The aim will not be to judge but to accurately record, kind of reportage mixed with a journalistic style. All hopefully beautifully shot with care and tenderness for the subjects and their private lives.

Anyway, whatever your dreams and aspirations are for 2012 may the world grant you them and your god look kindly on us all and maybe at least reduce the amount of appalling violence and hate in the world.

Peace, love and dreams


Guy Garvey

Guy Garvey, Elbow, Cardiff

Olly Murs, Colston Hall, Bristol

Monique Gladding & Nick Robinson-Baker

Olympic Diving hopefuls, Monique Gladding and Nick Robinson-Baker

Shaftesbury Guitar Advert, Soho, London

Shaftesbury Avenue


These past couple of weeks since our return from holiday have totally flown by! I know, I know, everyone says that and it really isn’t interesting but when it happens to you it seems a bit weird.

So, in the world of a pro photography, what has been going on? Well, quite a lot actually. Processing has been the by-word of these weeks. It takes so much of your time and is so much fun, when you are in the right frame of mind. I have had two ‘strands’ to process to get to two different ends. One is straight, what I call, “medical” product shots. These show off the object/item as it truly is. A clinical shot, often/usually taken on a white background, colours as accurate as possible and designed to appear in a brochure/website showing off the item in a simple but beautiful way. High-key the books will call it. The other ‘strand’ is the “marketing” or “arty” shots, aimed at selling the product/object in an advert or other such collateral.

Both have their benefits and interests. For the medical shots I have been mostly shooting guitars and other musical instruments for web and leaflet reproduction. Whilst many think these images are relatively easy, they do need a lot of care and time taken with the lighting. Again, I split these type of shots into two. One is a pure brilliant white background and the other produces a white to light grey gentle gradient from left to right or vice versa. Nearly all are shot at around aperture of f8-f11 at 1/160th shutter speed, always at ISO100 and using tripod, mirror lock-up and a cable release. These last three are essential for crisp images despite what you hear about flash freezing the subject! Manual mode is the order of the day as it leaves everything flexible and easier to manage. Lighting is always awkward with shiny objects such as musical instruments so effort is required to ensure that reflections are in the right place and non intrusive. Medical shots can be shot on a white-ish background as nearly always the subject is ‘cut out’ and the background put back in either as pure white or a gentle fade. Care needs to be taken to use dark card on aspects and areas of the guitar (or subject) that you don’t wish to have white reflections on and this fiddling can take many precious hours. When aiming at a predominantly white background it is best to use high white studio vinyls and light both sides and maybe to the rear as well. I do use a product lighting cube also when necessary.

The processing of these shots can be very time consuming as you cut out the object carefully. Trust me, slap happy short cuts do not work and never look convincing in my opinion! The object then usually needs de-dusting using the spot heal and clone brushes as unless you are using a hermetically sealed environment, dust as always, remains a photographers enemy! Finally, you have to adjust the normal areas such as levels, saturation and odd elements of dodging, burning and sharpening.

The ad shots can be much more fun. The example below,  produced recently for Simon & Patrick guitars and due in the shops in a couple of weeks was produced after an inspired session with the client. I rushed home that day in order to capture the feel of what we had discussed. Others are more structurally planned but all should be free to allow some flexibility and licence to allow the idea of the look to breathe and develop. The majority of my current work develops almost daily and to my mind, the images become stronger and more attractive. The purpose of an advert in any location is to make the viewer stop and ponder, even if only for a fleeting moment. On the street, on the underground, in a magazine. If one of my images makes you hesitate and look again, I have achieved my goal with the imagery. Simple as that…

My next few days are designing and processing more images. We are re-launching a brand of instruments and have to design for online (website) and in-store promotions including light boxes, T-shirts and posters etc.

I have found enough time to watch an excellent performance by Noah and the Whale at Bristol Colston Hall, sadly without camera for once! We also have picked up Poppy our new VW T5 van that has gone through a full re-spray. She looks wonderful but the downside is that in order to protect the paint, we need to thoroughly wash and then fully polish the new paintwork, not once, but twice. Well, one down but man, these vans are large!

Oh and the title? Why, it is the name of the brand of guitar famous in the 60’s/70’s (and originally manufactured there) we are busy gearing up to relaunch.

Simon & Patrick acoustic guitar, taken at Westonbirt Arboretum, Gloucestershire.

Shaftesbury guitar 'medical' shot for web and brochure use

Take That!


The updates have been slow recently due to literally no time at all and a gruelling schedule of fun and excitement!

Thursday last week involved a wake-up call at 4.30am followed by a gentle drive to Bristol Airport to catch the 7.05am flight to Newcastle. Plans went very well apart from a small car accident on the way to the airport with much damage occurring to the car that ran into us and virtually none on the back of the Saab 93 we were in!

We were headed north to witness the ‘pre-show’ event of the massive Take That Progress tour. We were to be guests of Musical Director Mike Stevens at this exclusive and amazing final ‘dress rehearsal’ for the whole show at the Stadium of Light in Sunderland.

Having successfully checked into our hotel, we made our way by taxi to the Stadium. We nervously queued with hundreds of other people slightly uncertain whether we would be actually on the list or not. Our wait was a cold and breezy one but ultimately successful. We were allowed entry and had to promptly hand over to security our mobile phones and my camera gear! We were also asked to sign a Confidentiality Agreement making sure we divulged nothing about the show before it opened and that we took no images or recorded anything. We then made our way up to the Sunderland Hospitality Suite. Beers at £4.10 a pint meant we were in for an expensive evening!

After an hour or so we were asked to make our way down into the Stadium itself. We walked along a short corridor, through some double doors and then up some steps to enter the arena high up and about where the halfway line would normally be. The sight that greeted us was, well… totally awe inspiring. The sheer scale of the stage and set was the first thing that grabbed you. Then the intricacy of the different elements of the whole set-up. Looking at it, taking it all in, you just had a great feeling that this was going to be a special and amazing show.

We made our way down to pitch level and to the 3-400 or so seats that were laid out either side of the large cat-walk jutting out far into the middle of the ‘pitch’. Within minutes the Pet Shop Boys opened their set with all the familiar faves of years gone by. They were slick, well honed and fun to watch and listen to. The show as much a visual one as it was aural. Those of us present all politely applauded and cheered but our noise was mostly lost in the scale of the vast stadium.  We felt a little pathetic stood there with an enormous stage, gigantic venue surrounding us and a massive sound but only a very small number of us trying to be heard over the huge silence.

Another hour and the main event started. The four ‘remaining’ members of Take That took to the stage and we all cheered and sang along to their recent hits. Then in flew Robbie! Wow- what a showman and what a mini set. Incredible and jaw dropping. I will not spoil the whole show and experience in any way for any future attendee but we were left thinking after eight or so songs, what on earth can they do to trump this? There was still 3/4 of the show to go! Well, believe you me, they do trump it and they do leave you knowing that you have witnessed something truly, truly special. As I mentioned on my Facebook page “Oh wow! Just wow! Totally utterly amazingly fantastically incredible! I am speechless. Totally speechless. Wow. See it whatever it takes”. And that is it really, just make sure you see it. These things do not happen very often, this is the largest Stadium tour in Europe EVER. You MUST make every effort to go and see this show, you will remember it and it will live with you for a very, very long time. See you at Wembley in a few weeks time.

My evening was made complete by managing to grab a (meaningful) handshake with both Howard and Jason as they made their way off stage at the end of the whole gig.

We hotfooted it away from the Stadium back to the Quay at Newcastle and specifically to an upmarket Hotel to hook up with our host. Mike was fascinating to listen to post the event explaining the whole concept of the show and the way it came about. He was pretty pleased with the sound and the musical side but told us there were a few ‘production’ issues along the way. After all, isn’t that what dress rehearsals are designed to iron out anyway?

At stupid o’clock we made our way back to our hotel and then got up at 4.45am to make sure we caught our (ultimately delayed grrr…) flight back to Bristol. Knackered but delighted and hoping against hope that we get the Press passes for Wembley that we so desire and need for some lovely tasty icing on our Godin project cake!

Take That

Take That in Sunderland with "Om"

The Week That Was


OK, some weeks are good and some are bad when running your own business. Well, this has to be classed as a good one in the short history of Ellis Imagery Ltd. Where to start? Well there was the gig in Bristol to shoot Rene and Olly Murs. While we didn’t really get the shots we wanted of Rene and his lovely Godin we did (as always) enjoy the shoot itself.

Tuesday meant a meeting with a contact I have had for some time and the time flew by as we discussed an interesting and VERY exciting internet proposition. We will be spending some time building a coherent business plan that could lead to something very big and different. Time will tell as they say. The afternoon was spent in South Wales speaking quickly with another exciting contact about a new marketing proposition. It is very early days with this but it could end up being a cool way of advertising some top kit!

Wednesday was, well, how do you say….OK, a bit of a wash out. We went to London and the Excel Centre to discover the joy that is the London International Wine Fair with a very influential wine buyer. He needed our significant input on the various offerings and we really needed to be thorough in our work. It has to be said that never have I seen so many stands with so many bottles of wine waiting for people like me to obligingly taste it! My friend and Performance Director of UK Diving Kim White assisted me in this difficult and stretching task and we made it back later in the day with a very satisfactory list under our belts. Although not wine, we also are convinced that “Thunder Vodka” an extremely tasty toffee flavoured vodka will be a total sensation with vanilla ice-cream. Seriously, hunt it down and enjoy….

We learned yesterday that we are almost certainly going to have to travel up to Newcastle next week to photograph the Musical Director of Take That at the band’s pre-stadium tour small gig on the Thursday before they open at the Stadium of Light in Sunderland. We also got confirmation that we are likely to be photographing the James guitarist at Hyde Park in June when they support The Killers. Both of these gigs will be part of the Godin Guitar project.

Last night was spent preparing to shoot the beautiful and elegantly bone-structured Claire Richardson and see if we can do justice to her and her new man’s amazingly good looks during a shoot at home over the bank-holiday weekend.

This morning we arranged another visit down to the sumptuous Old Rectory Hotel in North Devon to shoot the amazingly gorgeous gardens and the equally gorgeous Huw and Sam on Monday, lets just hope for more lovely bright weather.

During the week we also had confirmed four new shoots and one ongoing project shoot for various clients and agencies. The whole scene and summer is starting to shape up nicely and our work continues to evolve and grow in its appeal. Keep visiting the Ellis Imagery site and watch this blog for further exciting updates and interesting little snippets!

Now, back to the processing and uploading of images to website…..

Olly Murs

Olly Murs performing at the Colston Hall, Bristol

Two Big Days!


Olly Murs performing last night at the Colston Hall, Bristol

Yesterday was somewhat slow to get going following the big build up I had given the Olly Murs gig at the Colston Hall, Bristol. We had left for the venue in plenty of time as we wanted to hook up with our hero Rene Woollard. However, due to a ‘bonding’ go-kart session for the band and crew we were disappointed to learn that we couldn’t get to meet up. The sound check was a no goer as well which was awkward as we were then not sure of the set up for the gig itself. As it turned out the gig was interestingly an all seater affair and the ‘pit’ was simply a case of treading on the front row patron’s toes and annoying the hell out of them. They weren’t to be annoyed for too long however as our Press Pass allowed us a rather miserly 2 songs shooting only which equated for exactly 8 minutes of shooting time. This is barely enough time to get your bearings let alone grab any  meaningful images for client Godin! As it turned out we were to be slightly disappointed again as the object of our desire was again poorly lit and difficult to do justice to. I think we may need to grab Rene for a meaningful studio session in the not too distant future.

The only other memorable thing about the gig was that I had never really been to a ‘teeny’ gig before other than Avril Lavigne at the MEN in Manchester but never had I heard such awful screaming. We ended up in front of the huge PA stack and even that was drowned out by the hideous noise emanating from the audience. I guess the Band and Olly have their in-ear monitors in and therefore are protected to some degree but man, that is not a good sound!

Today was spent in two business meetings, one in Bristol and the other in South Wales. The first has a very exciting potential attached to it and I truly hope to be able to report on that in the near future. The second was a slight cock-up (not sure who was responsible) but no harm done and a good chat was had anyway with a further meeting booked for next week with the potential for another exciting project to be launched shortly.

Tomorrow has a bit of fun attached to it as we are heading up to London to visit the International Wine Fair at the Excel which will of course be all in the interests of research and assessment and nothing whatsoever to do with photography!

One final note is that we hope to be involved in some way with a big charity event at the Royal Albert Hall with the very worthy cause that is the Sunflower Jam, featuring Deep Purple. More details will follow but for now check out the website here