15 Apr 2016

What Makes a Good Press Photograph?

A good press shot has to be nice and clean, and doesn’t always necessarily need to have the client’s brand in shot, as some of the following images demonstrate. 

Over years of experience I’ve learned that some pictures just happen right in front of you, while some need to be created. Sometimes I only have a few minutes to ‘see’ or create a shot, for instance if I’m photographing Prince Charles I can’t very well ask him to repeat a certain handshake. Part of getting good press pictures is being able to think quickly – I’m sometimes moving between two or three jobs in the same couple of hours so spending more than 20 years as first a press photographer and then a commercial photographer was good basic training.


When I photographed the Santa Run at Central Square in Middlesbrough I was high above the crowd and asked them to come forward so I could crop in tight and create a close shot with lots of cheery red and white making the picture very appealing to the media, particularly at Christmas.

When Redcar and Cleveland Council asked me to photograph County Durham artist and former steel fabricator Ray Lonsdale at the official unveiling of his weathered steel installation at the new £3.5m South Bank Eco Village I was pleased to see a great picture opportunity as the ‘Blank Canvas’ piece was in the form of two men holding a slab of steel between them. The artwork made an ideal bench that, shot from low down, created a very pleasing shape against the sky. The picture had much more punch than a group of dignitaries lined up and obviously appealed to press including the Middlesbrough Evening Gazette and Darlington's Northern Echo, and also appeared across online media such as Flickr and Pinterest and even on Ray Lonsdale’s own Facebook page.  If you haven’t seen Ray’s work do look him up – he is receiving increasing artistic acclaim and he’s also the creator of the now iconic WWI ‘Tommy’ statue that stands in Seaham, County Durham.

The Middlesbrough Transporter Bridge over the River Tees is the longest working transporter bridge in the world, and this picture was taken at the opening of the new Tees Transporter Bridge Visitor Experience Project in November 2015. Artist Mackenzie Thorpe is very engaging subject, and usually attracts lots of interest from the media. First job was go up in the new glass viewing lift to get some shots of Mackenzie against some panoramic views, before descending to cover the official opening of the car barrier. My suggestion that he stood in front of the barrier and appeared to push it to form a frame for the picture worked well shot with a wide angle lens, and fitted with the ‘opening’ theme and the forward-thinking approach of Middlesbrough Council.

You might recognise Jason Bradbury from his time on the Channel 5 Gadget Show, and I took this cool photograph of him for the Tees Valley ‘Get your head into digital’ campaign launch in Middlesbrough. To create a fresh, original shot I asked Jason to take a selfie with his iPad and turn the screen towards me, so I could create a shot of the two halves of his face, one real and one on the screen.  Jason declared the results to be ‘awesome’ and liked my tweet about the picture, which was retweeted loads of times. 

To sum up what makes a good press picture I’d say it must tell a story in one shot, be different, get creative, and include some real energy. Sounds simple? I’ve been doing this job for two decades and I’m always learning something new every day!  

25 Mar 2016

Press Passes Giving You Access To All Areas.

In my years as a photographer with the Middlesbrough Gazette and then as a North East freelance commercial and PR photographer I must have amassed hundreds of press passes. These are the keys to the kingdom in terms of having unique access at sporting grounds, royal visits, arts events and music gigs where security is a key factor.

As you would expect, top of the tree when it comes to event security are those involving royal visits and I’ve probably photographed 20 royal visits to the region between Dumfries and Galloway down to Teesside in the last few years, including photographing the Duchess of Cambridge when she visited the Crime Reduction Initiative’s Recovery Service centre on William Street in Stockton on Tees. As well as capturing the Duchess talking to assembled guests this job involved moving into another area of the building to take some pictures of her chatting with service users in a private meeting away from the rest of the assembled guests, which was quite a privilege – it’s not very often that it’s just me and a senior member of the royal family in a room together but luckily having done this job for years I’m not over-awed by VIPs.

To get my press pass for a royal visit usually involves several conversations and meetings with various Kensington Palace staff, who require references, my passport and a host of other details before we even start planning the photoshoot.

It’s not just the royal visit organisers who prefer to have ‘invitation-only’ photographers covering their events. In 2005 I was really pleased to be selected by world famous news agency Reuters when they wanted a North East photographer to take pictures of the American artist Spencer Tunick and his naked people installation on the Newcastle and Gateshead banks of the Tyne. A chilly 3am start saw around 1700 volunteers stripping off for the camera and strolling around the streets in various poses directed by the artist. This was one of those occasions when the fewer photographers and bystanders around, the better.

At a celebrity or music event I’m often surrounded by other photographers of course, whether they are professionals or amateurs armed with camera phones, but my press pass gives me privileged access to all areas. I’ve covered gigs where I’ve looked out on audiences of around 10,000 people that are just a sea of camera flashes, most of which would generate grainy pictures of tiny figures on a dark stage, while I’ve been able to get close enough to the performers to get shots that have been used by all the major newspapers and news outlets the following day.   

Whether I need a specific press pass or not I always carry my British Press Photography Association card and my driving licence around. Together these make up some useful ID for a variety of occasions, particularly when I’m doing school photography or in environments where there are vulnerable people for instance.


Even though I’ve been doing this job for years I still get a real buzz from slinging my press pass round my neck and setting out to get something different, whether that’s a set of pictures covering a four-hour VIP visit or a handful of key shots that perfectly sum up an event and its atmosphere for my client.  

10 Dec 2015

Tees Valley 'Less Fuss By Bus' Campaign Photography

A recent North East commercial photography job saw me spend half a day on a bus doing photographs for Middlesbrough creative marketing agency The Creative Alchemist, who hired me to take the pictures for Local Motion and Connect Tees Valley’s ‘Less Fuss by Bus’ campaign the advantages of travelling by bus.

At our planning meeting we discussed the type and range of shots that were needed, and any restrictions such as not using easily identifiable landmarks, as the campaign was to cover Tees Valley and South Durham. We also looked at how the pictures would be used, as this has a big impact on what and how I shoot. In this case the agency wanted a flexible range of shots for potential use in everything from web banners and skyscrapers to print and large format for outdoor advertising, including the side of buses themselves.

Having agreed in advance that both night and day pictures were needed, on the day I turned up armed with greaseproof paper and masking tape to prevent light streaming through the bus windows, which could have made getting the right shots difficult and would definitely have spoiled the night time look we wanted. I carry light diffusers as part of my portable kit, but being someone who prefers a ‘belt and braces’ approach, as well as portable studio lights and a mobile power pack I turned up ready with all sorts of useful bits and pieces just in case.

Our stage was a brand new bus which had a permit to park all day in the centre of Middlesbrough.  With two clients present, the team from The  Creative Alchemist, several models from Tyne Tees Models plus yours truly, there was quite a crowd of us at the photoshoot, which lasted around 3-4 hours so we scheduled several breaks in to keep everyone fresh.


I went along with lots of ideas in my head for potential shots, but that’s the funny thing about being a professional photographer, you often arrive at a job and decide that while an idea done one way won’t work, approached in a different way it becomes a great shot. Over the years I’ve learned that every job evolves, it’s an integral part of the process.

The Models were Libby Hancock, Grace Bungoni (night), Craig Ord and Camillia Priest (daytime) who were all fantastic, accommodating team and fun to work with as we moved around both decks of the bus taking pictures from various spots. Thanks to everyone’s professionalism this was a really enjoyable and rewarding commission, and you may already have spotted the resulting pictures across the North East in the run up to Christmas 2015.





2 Dec 2015

SIRF Photo Coverage | Community Carnival to Fire Artists Cie Carabosse

I’m proud to live in Stockton and was delighted to be the North East commercial and PR photographer commissioned to cover SIRF, the Stockton International Riverside Festival this year.


Stockton SIRF Town Centre
Now in its 27th year, SIRF 2015 consisted of four days of circus, dance, music and street theatre, all designed to celebrate Stockton Council’s imaginative redevelopment of the town centre. Many of the eight events I covered took place around the stunning new water feature in the town’s central area, which is ideal for outdoor performances.

Arts events photography is a challenging job. It’s a big responsibility to capture the spirit and energy of an event, and use pictures to get across what the artist or company wants to convey.  


Many of the performances took place in the evenings so I was coping with different light conditions and working to bring detail into the pictures.  To add to the pressure I was working to tight deadlines, particularly in the evenings with a 9.20pm cut off for newspapers such as the Middlesbrough Gazette and Darlington Northern Echo, and had nine destinations to get the pictures over to, so there was not a moment to spare.





The SIRF Community Carnival used giant puppets and featured drummers, brass bands and dancers to tell the colourful story of how Stockton became a festival town. There were around 20 groups drawn from all sections of the community, travelling in a two-mile procession down Church Road to Stockton High Street before ending on Stockton Riverside so it was a big job to track them and make sure I didn’t miss any of the groups out.  




The festival proper was launched when the Instant Light circus troupe arrived in Stockton by boat. The troupe led the audience along the Riverside to see BoO, an astonishing trapeze show by French company CirkVOST who used hundreds of bamboo poles in their show. 


These are just a few of the performances I covered: Pelat by Joan Catala: described by its creators as ‘a proposal that erases the boundaries between dance, circus, theater, and performance’, this act involved the artist using a huge piece of wood the size of a telegraph pole. He danced around it, played with it and balanced on it, to gasps of admiration from the crowd. This was a real performance with elements of surprise, humour and even danger at every move, and the crowds loved it, particularly the finale, which saw him put his trust in the crowd as they supported the pole while he balanced on the end of it high in the air. 




451 by Periplum: this open air spectacular created by an immersive theatre company was a real feast for the senses. Depicting a scary world where books and free thinking are banned, it is inspired by Ray Bradbury’s 1953 dystopian novel Fahrenheit 451. Night time photography capturing huge ladders, smoke and flames plus some amazing pyrotechnics was all part of the challenge for me, and produced some stunning pictures.


Flycycle and Submercycle by Pif Paf: this performance was a great hit with the children, involving imaginative stories and special journeys to Dum Dum land on fantastical cycle-like constructions that the children could try out for themselves.



Love Struck by Ballet Lorent: another evening performance, this told the story of love and romance between John Walker, inventor of the friction match and the beautiful circus performer Vesta. It had the audience spellbound, and thanks to picnic chairs, rugs and refreshments everyone ignored the slight chill of the North East evening. 



French fire artists Cie Carabosse: this spectacle of fire, light and music took place in the garden around the disused Trinity church, where artists had transformed the space into a fire garden. I wasn’t the only person to be fascinated by the way lights had been arranged inside Tshirts and hung in the trees, and flaming plant pots hung inside an orb to create a dandelion clock effect. 

Although there was a lot of fire around, the area had been made totally safe so people could get up close and enjoy the spectacle.  I used a tripod camera and remote flash to light up the trees, and one of my favourite installations involved tangles of fine wire wool hung on chains and set alight. Great fun to photograph, these shots were well-used by local newspapers.


The street theatre, dance and music celebration that is SIRF has been called ‘The world’s best international festival of outdoor art’ by the Chief Executive of Arts Council England and I wouldn’t argue with that. Check out the website at www.sirf.co.uk to read more about the performances and see some of my pictures.



12 Nov 2015

Knee Operation leads to Healthcare Photography for Nuffield Health Tees Hospital

It’s not often a knee operation leads to a north east advertising photography job but that’s exactly how a recent two-day session photographing the Nuffield Health Tees Hospital in Stockton came about.

Following my operation (wear and tear and too much running around with heavy camera equipment in my press and sports photography days, if anyone is interested) I had used social media to praise the care I’d had there. The hospital’s marketing contact checked out my website at www.davecharnleyphotography.com and got in touch to discuss me adding to the hospital’s image library with a series of new advertising pictures that can be used for marketing and advertising purposes, some photography also for the website and brochures.  




It was important that the new pictures fitted in with Nuffield’s corporate style, which is fresh and clean and sits perfectly with my own style of documentary photography and a big emphasis on natural light to keep pictures real. 


I’ve seen lots of health sector companies use stock shots in their marketing and while they can be effective, I honestly believe real pictures work better, particularly when it comes to people making a big decision about which healthcare provider to choose.


The shoot was broken up into two days so I would be able to access all areas of this busy hospital, which operates on a tight schedule. After discussing the shots list with my client and adding in some thoughts and suggestions of my own, I was able to access all areas, photographing everything from equipment, treatment areas and the comfortable, well-equipped patient rooms through to some signage and branding, and even the convenient car park set in the leafy surroundings of Norton.


We also included lots of pictures of key staff, both in real working situations and through portrait shots that can be used across brochures, the website and social media, capturing a natural look that sums up the professionalism and cheerful attitude that made them a pleasure to work with. 


Working unobtrusively and with formal patient permission of course we also captured a range of photos showing patients booking in at reception, being assessed by the doctors, receiving physio and other treatments and sampling the beautiful food.


Having been a patient at the hospital it was interesting to see it from the other side, and I was pleased that my client was as happy with the results of the job as I am with my revitalised knee.

23 Sep 2015

North Yorkshire Industrial Photographer | Lotte Chemicals in Wilton

I was pleased that clients DTW agency in North Yorkshire chose me for some industrial photography near Redcar recently.


Industrial Photographer at Wilton Redcar
The job involved an Industrial photography shoot at Lotte Chemicals on the Wilton International Site. Wilton is just 10 minutes from Middlesbrough and is a major process industries complex where security and safety is paramount.  As an experienced commercial and industrial photographer I’ve visited Wilton many times so I’m familiar with the detailed safety and security arrangements that every visitor must comply with, and arrived 30 minutes early to go through the briefing.


North Yorkshire Industrial Photographer
Chemical plant photography means being around volatile substances so I also had my camera equipment, including a portable, foldable flash kit, gas tested for safety.
The job brief included taking pictures of the directors and senior staff, the operation itself and a series of shots to celebrate the company’s commitment to young apprentices, and help it recruit more young people. Lotte Chemicals is a long-standing supporter of apprenticeship schemes, being named North East Medium Employer of the Year 2011, and counted among the Top 100 Apprenticeship Employers of that year.  

I arrived at the job kitted up with a range of different lenses and lights. I’ve got the lighting and equipment to accommodate any type of job, including a high powered lighting kit that can light up a large factory floor, gymnasium or school hall.


Chemical plant product shots



Industrial portraits in Wilton, Teesside
Although I carry a range of lights so I’m ready for any conditions, I prefer to shoot using a mix of natural light and reflectors to keep the images real, over the years I’ve found this always gives the best results.

With the help of people who kindly held reflectors and the flash for me, I was escorted around the plant so I could get a series of shots of apprentices at work in a live environment, studying plans, putting kit away in the lockers and operating machinery and equipment.
A branded pop up banner provided some colour and contrast to the clean white environment. A photographer’s job is to tell the story, and I always like to include some branding and interiors shots to help to explain what a business is about, and give the people shots some room to breathe.


Industrial portraits in Redcar
The shiny steel pipework outside gave me a chance to bounce light off it, and in some cases use reflections to frame shots.  Inside, the factory floor colour palette was great, with the blue of the machines contrasting with the pipes. And where I needed a splash of colour, a bright yellow hard hat worked a treat.

Lotte’s meeting rooms presented a light, clean background against which to photograph senior figures in the business. Corporate portrait photography is not always about getting the subject to face the camera square on and smile, if a company’s PR agency is issuing sober news, they need pictures that reflect the tone of the story so I was careful to get some serious as well as smiling shots.


chemical plant management portraits in the north east.



Industrial portraiture in Teesside
Switching to the close up product shots was fascinating work. I used the back of a whiteboard as a base on which to arrange differently shaped glass containers and some products in the form of tiny  white beads. A member of staff wearing a hint of pink nail polish was happy to act as my hand model, adding some colour contrast to the pictures.


The client was very happy with the three sessions, which generated a good set of pictures flexible enough for a wide range of uses, and I’m looking forward to seeing the photos being used in the media, marketing material and across the internet.