Fabulous photography part 1

I read that somewhere in China, there is a group of elite celebrities, who edit (photoshop or air-brush) every photograph that they post. Every aspect of their faces and bodies has been modified. You wouldn’t recognise these individuals if you met them in the flesh. To them, it is nothing short of criminal, if someone posts an unauthorised and unedited (and, by default, unflattering) photograph of their natural selves.

Can personal brands go to an extreme?

Is this attitude towards personal brands and perfection going too far? Probably, but I know few people who like looking at photographs of themselves. In fact, I know many people who won’t look at any photographs of themselves at all and, hate being photographed. Why is this?

We are squinting into the sun and our palms start to sweat. Our brain starts whirring “is my smile too much? Or do I look too serious?”

Unflattering photography

I have always been upset by unflattering photographs, whether they are portraits, holiday photos or for my passport. I am not photogenic. I don’t have the prerequisite symmetrical features for looking good in every photograph and most photographs make me look terrible. Like bad mirrors and bad lighting, bad photography damages your confidence and is terrible PR.

Who wants to be made into something they are not?

My now deceased mother-in-law, Heather (above, aged 90) refused to acknowledge any photographs of her older self, no matter how beautiful she looked. She simply didn’t like the way that she looked as an older person.

Perhaps when we want photographs of older people, we should use photographs taken when they were younger.

Christine Whittle (now 85) then aged 37 and straight out of Norman Hartnell.
By kind permission of Helen White.

Photographs that are really good stand the test of time.


I have been privileged to work with a number of talented photographers and to observe how they approach their subject. This week, I have asked professional photogaphers Mazz Image and Kate Waters to share their views on what it takes to create a great photograph.

Mazz Image

Several years ago, Oxford-based designer and portrait photographer, Mazz Image, created a series of portraits on behalf of biotech entrepreneur, Dr Sanjay Kakkar. Dr Kakkar needed some formal photographs for a new business venture. He was not happy at the prospect of being photographed, but Mazz managed to capture his personality perfectly. This photograph, below, has stood the test of time.

By kind permission of Mazz Image and Dr Sanjay Kakkar

Portrait photography is different from some genres of photography. It is creating a portrait with both photographer and subject working together. It can be difficult to create a good portrait if the energy doesn’t work between the two.

Mazz Image

Kate Waters Photography

Kate specialises in two genres of photography. The first, as Kate Waters, focusing on family and wedding photogaphy, capturing family occasions and weddings.

By kind permission of Kate Waters

The second, as Kate Gent, working for The Leprosy Mission England and Wales, creating photographs for fundraising initiatives in India, Nepal and other countries where The Leprosy Mission operates.

I believe it’s part of the photographer’s role to help the person in the photo feel relaxed. Despite how easy it might look, taking a great photo takes a lot subtle skills and planning. It involves checking the weather, scouting out the location, looking for the shade, observing where the light is coming from, giving positive feedback and best of all, capturing those tiny movements and smiles that capture the essence of the person in that moment.”

Kate Waters

Paralympian, Stef Reid MBE, agreed to travel to a leprosy hospital near Kathmandu in Nepal in support of a fundraising campaign for The Leprosy Mission. Tipping a wink to her earlier stint on MasterChef, she made momos one evening. Kate captured the fun.

Paralympian, Stef Reid MBE, “making momos” taken by Kate
for TLMEW’s “Heal Nepal” fundraising campaign, in Anandaban hospital, Kathamndu, Nepal
by kind permission of The Leprosy Mission

Good photographers are worth their weight in gold.

In our digital era, there is an even greater need for high quality photographs. Good photos are a prerequisite to any successful digital or print communications.


Next week I’m exploring the complex issue of taking photographs for fundraising purposes. Why is it complex? A remote or dangerous location or a challenging climate? Maybe, but the image, dignity and culture of a subject or beneficiary must be captured artfully, considerately and carefully, but not at the expense of telling the fundraising backstory.

I will be showcasing and the work and views of photographers Tom Bradley and Ruth Towell, whose work for NGOs often places them in complicated situations where compassion and great skill are required.

Published by katharine@kvhcom

KVHcom.com is all about creative communications. A creative approach means not just an attractive visual appearance, but engaging text and an innovative approach to any project.

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