looking back, steaming ahead

looking back, steaming ahead

The New Year is a time of reflection – really? Isn’t it more about moving forward? Well, yes. Actually, it’s both. My experience as a trainer over the last four years has laid the foundation for a programme of both well-established and brand new courses for 2015.

My very first studio workshop back in September 2010 was close to home, in Lincoln at Double Red Studio. Since then, the strong partnership forged with Saracen House Studio in Milton Keynes has resulted in many successful workshops and portfolio days; this will continue. To satisfy the needs of folk further north, in 2014 I forged a new alliance with Millwood Studios in Manchester, another fresh and well-appointed facility on the Appleton Photo Training circuit. Others in the pipeline include Orange Studios in North London and York Photo Studio.

Andrew Appleton Photography

The first studio workshop at Double Red.

Andrew Appleton Photography, London

Orange Studios the new home of Andrew Appleton Photography in London.

if it ain’t broke…

2014 took me all over the UK, across the channel to France and Italy and over to South Africa for a second year, training, presenting and meeting too many new and interesting people to mention. Many of you have become familiar faces on my courses, some travelling significant distances, which I take as a huge compliment. It means that the format works and I won’t be changing my approach. Unlike many others, my training courses are designed and structured specifically to educate. I am not a sprinkler of fairy dust! The idea is to provide you with the nuts and bolts: the information you need and a clear explanation of how to use it. When you’ve got all that, you can then try out your new skills in a professional environment with the kit, the models and the technical support that make it work for you. My Portfolio Builder Days provide the ideal opportunity to do just this.

Andrew Appleton Photography

Zara Watson on stage at the 2014 Photo Film Expo in Johannesburg.

Andrew Appleton Photography Portfolio Builder Days Pipewell HAll

The models for PBD1 at Pipewell Hall, left to right: Zara Watson, Fiona York, Artemis Fauna and Amber Tutton

new year, new tours

I am pretty excited about the things I have planned for 2015. Building on The Northern Tour last November with Zara Watson – Night Shooters and One2One tuition in locations from Newcastle to Edinburgh – this year, I will be touring the UK with model, Jen Brook. The first tour will deliver two 3 hour seminars;  the first is ‘Concept-to-Completion’. As the title suggests, it takes you through the entire process of a planned shoot, arming you with what you need to know to give your creative ideas the wings to fly. The second seminar on the tour, ‘Seeing Like a Camera’, will help you to explore the fundamental differences between how the human eye perceives the world and how the camera sees it. Two eyes and a brain v one lens and a sensor; there’s quite a difference. The irony is that you need to know how to operate this highly sophisticated digital device but at the same time you must learn how to compensate for its limitations. Exposure, dynamic range and composition are some of the aspects covered. The ultimate goal? To train you to make the image in your mind a reality on the back of your camera, online and in print.

Andrew Appleton Photography Concept to Completion

Jen Brook and Gemma Bortolozzo in an image that is discussed in ‘Concept to Completion’

dance photography

I am pleased to announce that I am teaming up this Spring with Australian professional dancer and choreographer, Angela Hamilton. Shooting dance well is one of the trickiest gigs and does not rely solely on learning how to light the subject, choice of lens, exposure, camera angles etc. although these are all things that you need to know and will learn on the workshop. That extra magic ingredient comes from gaining an insight into the nature of dance itself and how it should look to create the beautiful, fluid shapes you swoon over. Dance photographers are looking for the shot that just catches the moment and we are lucky enough to have a skilled practitioner in the shape of Angela to help you. I am taking the dance photography workshop to studios across the UK, kicking off with Orange Studios in London on 15th March.

new webcast

In July, I am working with Engage, Donal Doherty’s online training company, to bring you a really comprehensive Concept-to-Completion online workshop. It will take place over three days in front of a live studio audience. You can catch the initial, live broadcast free but the beauty of recording it for the web is that it’s available afterwards if you miss it. The advantage of delivering the training over three days is that you don’t only get to find out how to plan, organise and execute a shoot, you also get the added value of ‘being there’ as it happens with live demonstrations, warts and all. The timescale gives me the opportunity to drill down into every aspect of every stage, identifying and working through the challenges and opportunities as they crop up. I plan to make it a very immersive experience, with the help of the invited audience, so be prepared!

I’ll end with beginners

Recognising that some people haven’t yet discovered the joy of photography, I have designed a 6 week course for beginners to be rolled out across the country. The schedule begins in February and delivery is set to take place in three studios initially, expanding to other locations later in the year.

Useful links



Jen Brook Blog


The Christmas Party & 2014 Awards.

The Christmas Party & 2014 Awards.

Was it just over a week ago that I was on my way back up the M1 from the Christmas Party festivities? Hard to believe but yes. The time has flown but there have been plenty of images posted to remind us of a really very jolly evening which ended (so my wife reminded me) at almost four in the morning.

Image courtesy of Dave Kai Piper.

I’ve been trying to recall my favourite part – and I went steady on the alcohol so there’s no problem remembering – but, even so, I’m not sure I can single out a particular moment. The food was great and so was the company. The disco was well …pretty loud and suitably cheesy. It certainly got people dancing so job done. For me, it was most of all a chance to chat to people – and not all shop talk but a social catch-up too – and relax after a year that has been rather full-on.

I have to just mention the Awards Ceremony of course. Prior to the event, Andrew Griffiths and I scratched our heads to think of categories which would stimulate the creative juices. To assist with this weighty decision, we punted round for suggestions from photographers and models including, naturally, the Saracen House fraternity. After some time on the Messenger hotline, we came to a decision on the final four classes: Best Behind the Scenes, Best Test Shot, Best Photobomb and Best Selfie. The images we received sparked off some superb responses which were variously interesting, entertaining, humorous and revealing (some were all four). Undaunted, Andrew and I put on our judges’ hats (or wigs?) to reach the final decision and lavish prizes were distributed to the applause of the other partygoers.

We thought it only fair to share the winning images with you here.

1.(timer selfie)we_finished_the_shoot_at_last-Laura.Cope.and.francesca.schembre (1)

Behind the Scenes, Runner Up – Laura Cope

Behind the Scenes, Winner – Richard Cork, London Olympics 2012

Best Photobomb, Runner Up – Richard Cork and Bob the cat.

Best Photobomb, Winner – Laura Cope

Best Test Shot, Runner Up – Steve Jones

Best Test Shot, Winner – Mick Stow

Best Selfie, Runner Up – Henry Ransby

Best Selfie, Winner – Dave Welbelove

Special Award, Art Nude Selfie – Dave Wellbelove

Thanks to everyone that took part. See you next year :)

From Italy to Paris – Guest Blog by Helen Lesley

I’m suffering from withdrawal after the glorious (if tiring) road trip and workshop in Italy. As well as a wagon load of washing and dry cleaning, I also brought back ten words in Italian, so I now profess to be practically bilingual. Although… come to think of it, my French is even better so perhaps I should say trilingual. Luckily, I will have the opportunity to brush up on the Francais next week ☺ on Andrew’s Paris Fashion Workshop!

The language of style is universal and my brief for Paris has given me scope to make the most of it so I am rubbing my little hands together in glee.

’Fashion’ is a word open to a number of interpretations and it helps, of course, to have three fabulous models: Amber Tutton, Gemma Huh and Zara Watson. When Andrew first mentioned the workshop, I started to think of how I would go about putting a collection together and this is kind of how my though process developed…

Over the course of the three days in Paris, says Andrew, photographers on the course will have three workshops and four extended opportunities to shoot for their portfolios, including one night shoot. I nod encouragingly/enthusiastically. He outlines the historical and picturesque locations he has planned, drawing partly on ideas from his previous shoots and workshops in the city – Montmartre, The Eiffel Tower, the banks of the Seine and Notre Dame. Now I can visualise the backdrops for the outfits and the models who will be wearing them.

I always try to put myself in the shoes of the students doing the workshop. They have come to learn new skills and polish up their existing camera craft but you can do that anywhere. So, accepting that Paris adds atmosphere, ambiance and that all-important contextual element, my job is to try and add a frisson of excitement through the creative styling and wardrobe decisions I make. And don’t forget that models take their cues from what they are wearing; it influences pose, expression and attitude. I muse over whether we need classic, romantic, funky, sensual, rockin’…? At this point, I add feedback and past experiences from other shoots to the pot. I always like to hear what people thought of a dress, a hairstyle or an overall look.

Getting closer to some concrete decisions. It takes a while.

Now I have some ideas, I ferret around in my wardrobe department for a bit and emerge with possibles. I dig about in the jewellery and throw a few hats, bags and belts around. By this time, more than one room is in use and cats are under strict instruction to avoid certain areas. I often have half an outfit and need to beg, borrow, shop or phone a friend to complete it. I am constantly shopping for future shoots so you can imagine my happy dance when I turn up something I had bought on spec ages ago and had forgotten about. Fortunately, every model I have ever met also has a master’s degree in shopping so, if I’m stuck for an item, they will kindly oblige. Even Andrew, the little rascal, has been known to buy the odd item (as long as it does not involve leaving his computer).

Am I ever going to get to the point? What are our three lovely models going to be wearing this September in Paris? Well, their hair colour and styles are conveniently redhead (long), blonde (shoulder length) and brunette (short) so each has a very different look. Already fabulous! Each day will be devoted to a different fashion style: Casual, Contemporary and Vintage with evening gowns all lined up for the night shoot. Personally, I can’t wait!

Styled by Helen Lesley

Gemma Huh styled by Helen Lesley

Styled by Helen Lesley

Zara Watson styled by Helen Lesley

Styled by Helen Lesley

Amber Tutton styled by Helen Lesley

The stylist view of our big Portfolio Builder Day

A guest blog by Helen Lesley MUA.


Zara – photo Courtesy of Colin Halford

“I’ve got an interesting job for you,” said Andrew, leaning back in his chair. I had been half listening to him up to that point but now I turned and gave him my full attention.

“Hmm?” I waited.

“Four models in period costume to match four classic and vintage cars dating back to 1931.”

Excited? Of course I was! It sounded like fun. It would take more than a delve through the wardrobe department, although I could think of one or two vintage pieces that would love to come out for a bit of a jaunt. I listened, hungry for more information.

WindmillArt secret location… old country house… courtyard garden… orchard… Cadillac… Studebaker… Bentley… Chevrolet Corvette… cream tea, courtesy of Saracen House (not just a studio but purveyors of fab grub)! It all sounded very intriguing and I couldn’t wait to get started. I’ve been involved in many different types of styling with Andrew over the years but this was possibly the most demanding so far in terms of the number of models and changes involved. Hey ho, I love a challenge and immediately began researching the cars and the eras so that I could be as accurate as possible.

The four models Andrew had in mind were all perfect – Zara Watson, Jen Brook, Faith Obae and Raphaella Macnamara. It was essential that each model was able to do her hair and make-up to a high standard as, although I am a qualified MUA, I wouldn’t have much time on the day for lips, grips and the like. Even without all that, I knew I had my work cut out so how lucky did I feel when Andrew said that Elizabeth Keates had agreed to help me! With her theatrical background, I knew she would be a master (mistress?) of the ‘Quick Change’. She also proved to be a wizard (a witch? No, that doesn’t work) with hair.

My quest for vintage clothes took me far and wide but, oddly enough, some of the pieces I used were almost under my nose in the market town if Louth. Riverhead Theatre has a magical wardrobe department where I spent a happy hour or two, emerging triumphant. My lovely like-minded friend, Pam, lent me some original frocks, hats and shoes dating from the ‘30s to the 40s. I sourced an original 1940s’ tea dress and feather hat in exceptional condition from The Frockery. The gorgeous red ball gown (I think Raphaella might have been tempted to pop this in her handbag if it hadn’t been so big!) also came from this little shop of treasures, as did the ‘20s style dress and jacket worn so elegantly by Zara. The wedding gowns were kindly loaned by The Bridal Boutique of Louth and Jen looked radiant in them. Faith’s attire had to reflect the 1990s; so recent it sounds easy. Not so. I ferreted about in my own photographic/theatrical wardrobe for most of her costumes and accessories and it was quite a while before I was satisfied. I particularly loved the cream two piece trouser suit and she said she felt like Diana Ross in the beaded cocktail dress. Everybody happy ☺.

I am a self-confessed control freak where costume is concerned, whether for the stage or the camera so I try to make sure everyone looks the part on the day. Communication beforehand is just as important though and all the models came well-prepared with the make-up and bits and bobs I had asked them to bring. This makes things so much easier but, of course, there were some things that I had planned to do on the day. One of these things was Zara’s hair which needed 20s’ styling and it transformed her into a latter-day diva. Liz is a whizz (no, I think that’s wiz) with hair and when I pointed to Raphaella and said, “A victory roll would look great with the suit”, she just did it. Marvellous!

The day – and even the weather – was lovely. Next stop: Italy. I have put together the wardrobe for the road trip and the Light, Colour and Passion three-day workshop. Quite different and, this time, it’s the whole kit an’caboodle: make-up, hair and wardrobe styling for a range of different shots from fashion to lifestyle. Gemma Bortolozzo and Zara Watson are the perfect complement and both lots of fun to work with. On the back burner, I have the Paris Fashion workshop bubbling away because I will have to hit the ground running when I get back. Zara Watson, Amber Tutton and Gemma Huh to model. Wow! Can’t wait!

Raphaella - photo courtesy of Steve Price

Raphaella – photo courtesy of Steve Price

Behind the Scenes photos courtesy of Andrew Griffiths.


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An interview with Jannine Timms

The first of an occasional series of interviews by Helen Appleton.

When Jannine Timms signed up for the newsletter in January, she was hoping to win the £600 worth of training. She thought it was a bit odd that she hadn’t received an email back. It meant she couldn’t confirm. “I wonder if it’s gone into my junk mail?” she thought. What a good job she checked!

Are you a professional or an amateur photographer?

I’ve been a professional photographer for two and a half years now. Before that, I classed myself as a “Happy Snapper” but nice comments about pictures of my little boy gave me the confidence to do some of my friends’ children too. They were very happy with them but I felt by then that I wanted to improve. I progressed from a compact to a 450D and began doing some of my own research too. I was determined to teach myself. That was the start of it really.


Which courses have you done with Andrew Appleton this year?

I have actually done four workshops and a portfolio builder day. I realised that I was getting a lot out of the sessions so I didn’t mind topping up the original prize value. Andrew trains us personally in small groups, the models are experienced and the venues are all great. I did the four full-day courses over a five month period in total, February to June.


Which workshop did you do first?

The Portrait Workshop in February. I didn’t have a problem with soft skills but then Zara Watson made connecting and directing so easy anyway. She’s amazing! Andrew explained that the other major aim of the day was to gain a greater understanding of how to shape a face with light and to choose the right angle for the subject. I was really proud of the images I took that day. I had been on workshops with other trainers where some of the things went over my head and I was a bit disappointed that I hadn’t learnt more about the technical aspect of what we were doing. Andrew’s workshops are different and I came away with a real understanding of the process that day. I like to think that the portraits and headshots I have taken since then are proof of this.


How did you feel about the Portfolio Builder Day?

It was at Pipewell Hall and everything about the day was perfect – the grounds, the lighting, the models – everything. We got to shoot the four models (Zara Watson, Fiona York, Amber Tutton and Artemis) in very different locations inside and out and I got some lovely images for my port. It also gave me a chance to put into practice some of the things I had learnt on the Portrait Workshop. I really enjoyed the day and got a lot out of it.


So, what did you try next?

I booked on the Mastering Speedlights Workshop in April. We were taught how to use them with ambient light, exposing the model correctly. What I like about Andrew’s training is that you never walk away thinking “What?” He explains a concept well and seems to know when you don’t quite get something so he goes back over it. Really valuable. I booked on the Creative Speedlights Workshop as a result.


Where did you go from there?

I did the Boudoir Workshop at Saracen House. It reinforced all the technical skills I learnt on previous sessions with Andrew but aspects of posing, expression and styling were taught, as well as the soft skills. I think being female, friendly and approachable helps. In my business, I shoot ladies who are size 8-18 and can empathise with how women feel about their bodies and how they want to look. They can’t look fabulous unless you get everything right. Boudoir is definitely part of what I do so the session was very useful.


Which of the sessions did you enjoy the most?

Difficult. The Portfolio Day was amazing and I got loads of really varied images… But no, it’s got to be the Boudoir Workshop at Saracen. Gemma Bortolozzo is a superb model and such a lovely person – plus I just loved working with the Arri lighting set-up.


Which workshop was the most beneficial for you as a professional photographer?

It has to be Speedlights. My technical understanding is so much better now, thanks to the variety of things I learnt in the sessions with Andrew. Yes, from both professional and a creative perspectives, the Speedlights courses have definitely helped me to grow the most.