It was when Panikos was just fourteen that he began repairing cameras at home in Enfield, fascinated with the art form of photography; and later working in Finsbury Park repairing Russian cameras. But he could never have predicted that he would one day be named UK Photographer of the Year – surely that is the stuff that dreams are made of?
Fast forward to 2017 and Panikos was unable to be at the awards as he was photographing a wedding in Johannesburg at the time, but in typically modest fashion didn’t expect to be winning any prizes, despite knowing he had entered some strong images into the competition. It was only when his phone kept buzzing on the bedside, steadily informing him he had won in not only the animals section, and the classical portrait section, but had in fact scooped the big prize of the night and was UK Photographer of the Year, that the reality sunk in.
Understandably shocked, emotional and in his own words ‘dumbfounded’ with ever so slightly ‘leaking eyes’, he shared the news with his supportive wife Joanna and later with his six beautiful children.
Panikos specialises in a fine art style and has a diverse range of skills – being equally comfortable shooting a high-end fashion shoot, a family portrait, a wedding, or your pet cat, dog or tortoise. But what each of his lovingly crafted images has in common, is the stunningly lit, high quality style that you simply can’t begin to replicate at home.
When asked to describe just why photography is such an enormous passion, Panikos says:
“I enjoy it because I have the opportunity to create beautiful images that become part of a family’s history, I give my clients something that will last in the family for generations. That’s why I provide my images mainly on archival media, to ensure that prints & frames will last as long as possible. This is something very few photographers do. Probably the most enjoyable part is seeing people’s expressions when the look at their photos for the first time, they are very often moved to tears”
Here at the studio we are still getting over the absolutely brilliant news that our very own Panikos has been named UK Photographer of the Year, marking the end of what has been a fantastic year for the studios.
We’d love to take this chance to thank our wonderful customers for their support this year, without which none of this success would be possible, and look out for some very special celebratory offers all throughout 2018.
A family photo shoot captures a moment in time, creating beautiful images for you to look back on. So it’s important to make sure everyone looks their best and is happy with what they’re wearing. You want to look back on those images with fondness – the last thing you want is for them to cause your future selves to cringe!
Our clothes and accessories say a lot about who we are and I’m not suggesting you should choose an item or colour for the shoot that you wouldn’t normally wear. There are a few tips though that will help make sure you’ll be delighted with the images and that they’ll stand the test of time.
- Make sure you’re all comfortable in what you’re wearing. If something is too tight, or you feel self-conscious, you won’t relax and it will show in the photographs. For that reason it’s best to choose a favourite outfit; something you always feel good in.
- Dress as if you are all going for a relaxed family day out in smart, casual clothes.
- If you’re going to include family members other than you, your partner and children, talk to each other about what you’re going to wear. While you don’t have to wear completely coordinated or
uniform outfits, you do want to make sure nothing clashes or grabs too much attention.
- It’s a good idea to avoid clothes with very busy, loud patterns, or large logos. They don’t work well in photos and they date badly too.
- Encourage everyone to choose colours from a similar palette so nothing stands out too much. Your lovely faces should be the focus: not your clothes!
- Blue jeans and plain shirts or T-shirts work very well and you might want to bring along extra tops to give a bit of variety to the shots.
- Unless jewellery is your trademark, stick to something subtle or a single statement piece – again, nothing should detract from your faces or become the focal point.
- The best photos are always the ones in which people look happy and relaxed so wear your hair as you usually would. If you do want to try a new style, have it cut a few weeks before the shoot so you can get used to it. And ladies, the same goes for makeup!
Making those photos even more personal
A great way to make a photograph special is to bring along something that’s very personal to you. For example it could be related to a hobby, your favourite sport, a book that means something to you, or if you play a musical instrument – bring it along… within reason of course!
Bringing along baby
If your family group includes a young baby, try not to over-dress them so we can see more of them than their clothes. But if there’s an outfit you particularly like to see them in, do include it. It’s a good idea to bring a couple of changes of clothes too in case of little accidents.
Finally I ask all my clients to remove shoes and socks for the photos. Why? Well, it will make you all look so much more relaxed. It does mean you might want to have a pedicure before you visit my studio though! But don’t worry about being cold, the under floor heating will make sure you’re nice and warm.
These are just guidelines of course. The most important thing is that everyone in the group is relaxed and happy. That’s how I’ll get natural images that you’ll all treasure forever.
And don’t forget the four-legged furry family members! Click here to find out how to make sure they look their best too.
Light is one of the most important factors in photography: understanding how to use it well will make a huge difference to your images.
Hopefully it will be bright and sunny wherever you’re going on holiday, so you’ll need to know how to avoid unflattering shadows on your subjects’ faces. Midday sun in particular doesn’t provide the best lighting situation. If you’re taking photos of people, you’re likely to get shadows under their eyebrows, chin and nose – it’s called panda eyes here in the UK or racoon eyes in The States. And it’s not a good look!
To avoid it use your camera’s flash, if you are within 1-3 metres of your subject. Yes – flash in bright sunlight. It might seem odd but trust me, it works! The picture will look so much better and your family or friends will thank you for it! Here are two images of my daughter – the first one without flash and the second with. Notice how the shadows have softened in the second example.
Here’s the science. Shadows are around four times darker than the rest of the face. While your flash can’t overpower the sunlight, it’s just about bright enough to lift the shadows giving a much more pleasing image.
Another option is to turn your subjects so they have their back to the sun so the whole of their face is in shadow. This will give a rather lovely “halo” of light around their hair and body, the technical term for this is “rim light”- often used by professional photographers and videographers! Here is another photo of my daughter “rim lit” with the sun behind her:
When you shoot into the sun be careful you don’t get flare from the sun on your lens. If you do, simply put your hand above and in front of your camera, just like the sun visor in your car. But make sure your hand doesn’t appear at the top of the photo.
Discover Golden Hour
If you’re shooting scenery, whether in towns and villages, beach, sea or landscapes, remember the light is always better at dusk or dawn. It’s known as ‘Golden Hour’ which is preceded or followed by “Blue Hour” at dawn or dusk respectively. At either end of the day, the colours in the sky look fantastic, with wonderful rich hues and tones – particularly just after sunset.
Because the light levels are lower, there’s a risk you’ll get camera shake if you try to hand hold your camera. Use a tripod if you have one, but if you don’t, place your camera on something solid such as a wall or bench, or press up against the wall of a building to steady yourself. Turn the flash off and slowly squeeze the shutter while holding your breath. I took the sunset shot at the beginning of this post by placing the camera on a wall to make sure it was sharp and that the horizon was straight too.
Alternatively, you could use the self-timer so you don’t have to touch the shutter at all, which is how I took this shot, with the flash switched off.
Most hotels have lovely pool areas, which are usually lit at night. Use the same techniques to get some amazing, creative photos. I took the next photo of the pool, using the self-timer with the flash switched off.
Think about composition
If you’re photographing your family or friends on a beach, try to avoid plonking them in the middle of the photo and obscuring the beach and sea.
Firstly try to get the horizon line about a third of the way down from the top of the photo, and keep it level. Then place the people a third of the way in from the left or the right of the frame with their bodies facing the scene but their heads turned towards the camera. That way, you capture both your subjects and the beauty of the beachscape.
Photos that make a splash
In Part One, I talked about the advantage of underwater cameras.
They have custom settings just like bigger cameras, so if you’re going to actually use it under water do make sure you select the underwater setting. If you don’t your images will come out blue.
It’s also worth using these custom settings when taking night-time photos, shots of firework displays, landscapes, fast-moving subjects (sports mode) etc.
Cameras today are amazingly versatile with a vast array of features that allow you to be as creative as you want. So do make sure you pack your camera’s instruction manual to flip though when you’re flying to your destination?
If you’re taking pictures in clear water, such as in a swimming pool, you can use the flash if the subject is close, say around a metre or two away. However if there are particles in the water, such as dust or sand, you’ll get speckles all over the images because the flash will bounce off them.
Most of all, have a great holiday! I hope these tips will help you to create some wonderful memories.
The holiday season is upon us again and many of you will be heading for sunshine and golden beaches. So I thought I’d share some tips to make sure you capture some great images of your holiday.
And where better to start than with your camera gear itself?
Now is a good time to buy a new camera as prices have come down. That’s mainly because so many people are using their phones these days – and why not? Smartphones produce good quality images and there are some great apps to help you edit them.
But if you intend taking your camera to the beach, I strongly recommend you invest in an underwater camera – they’ve never been such good value. I’ve got a Canon Powershot D30, which costs around £200.
The Olympus TG4 is another good option. It’s a bit more expensive but it’s compact and has a lot of additional features.
I’d never take my DSLR to the beach – it’s far too risky. There’s too much moisture in the air but of course sand is the real danger. It can get on the sensor and into the lens, causing costly damage – even if you think you’re being careful.
Because underwater cameras are tightly sealed units, designed to withstand water, they also cope well with sandy beaches. Just wash the camera out in clean water when you leave. The same goes if you’ve taken your underwater camera into the sea. It’s important to rinse it through with clean water soon afterwards, to make sure it remains watertight.
If you do get sand on the lens, use an air blower rather than wiping it or you will rub grit into the lens and scratch it.
Of course underwater cameras aren’t just for the beach. Their compact size means they will fit into a pocket or handbag so you can use the same camera when you’re out in the evenings.
Keep it sealed
Here’s a tip if you don’t want to spend money on a new camera. Pop your camera into a zip lock plastic bag, along with a sachet of silica gel, when it’s not in use. The silica gel will soak up any moisture in the atmosphere. It’s particularly useful if you go somewhere hot and humid, as the moisture can cause fungus to grow on the lens elements, which will reduce the quality of your photos.
The same rules apply to your phone – sand and moisture can get inside and ruin the connectors and circuits so keep it wrapped up in your zip lock bag with silica gel. And beware! Even the latest ‘waterproof’ phones haven’t stood up to certain water tests, so don’t risk it!
Sun lotion is another potential enemy for cameras. Make sure you wash your hands thoroughly after applying it or you’ll end up with nasty greasy marks all over the lens, which will result in hazy washed out photos. If that does happen, give it a careful wipe with a soft cloth designed for the job.
Heat too can play havoc with your camera equipment so make sure you keep it somewhere cool. Avoid leaving it in the boot of your car – or worse, the rear parcel shelf – in blazing hot sun. It’s best to leave it at home and get a cheap camera for the beach.
And finally, remember to keep your camera batteries topped up – charge them every night!
The theme for the 2016 Pet Portrait Awards is ‘Man’s Best Friend’ but our relationship with our dogs runs deeper than friendship – they really are part of the family. I see that time and again when clients who visit my studio for family portrait shoots bring their dogs along too.
How it works
As you may already know, to enter this year’s Pet Portrait Awards, you’ll be asked to donate £10 to The Dogs’ Trust. The donation also entitles you to a free portrait session with the photographer of your choice. The package includes a private viewing session at which you can choose an image to enter into the awards. Click here to find out how to book a session with me and to see more of my images of loveable canines!
The various studios taking part up and down the country will judge the photos from these sessions. The winners will go forward into the national contest.
The closing date for entries is 1 October and the winners of the first round will be announced on 15th October. The second round winners will be announced on 22nd October.
But how do you prepare your canine friend for their photoshoot? Here are some tips to make sure your four-legged companion arrives at the studio looking their best and stays relaxed and happy throughout the session.
If you booked a portrait session with me, I bet a visit to your hair stylist would be high on your list of things to do before the shoot. It’s only natural you should want to look your best so why not apply that to your dog? Particularly when there’s a competition place at stake!
Apparently, the dog grooming industry isn’t regulated at the moment so you do need to make sure you find someone with a good reputation. It’s important your dog is comfortable with them too.
If you don’t already use a professional groomer, you could start by asking your vet if they have a list of salons in your area. The British Dog Groomers’ Association (BDGA) is also a good starting point. To gain BDGA accreditation, groomers have to pass written and practical tests. So you can be confident anyone on their list is working to a set of high standards and is skilled, knowledgeable and accountable.
Ask friends and relatives too – there’s nothing quite as strong as personal recommendation.
If you can, visit a few groomers before you decide.
Have a look around the salon – is it safe and secure? Make sure you’d feel comfortable leaving your dog there.
Groomers should have safety procedures as well as health and hygiene practices in place. Obviously they should know about canine anatomy and good handling techniques. They should also be able to monitor behaviour and be capable of administering first aid.
The experience should be as positive as possible for your dog so ask what methods they use to work with their canine clients. Ideally the answer should be ‘rewards-based’ methods i.e giving praise and suitable treats when necessary.
It’s important all dogs visiting salons should have up-to-date vaccinations to stop the spread of contagious diseases, so a reputable groomer should ask you for proof of vaccination.
Ask the groomer how many dogs they work with at any one time. The fewer the better of course because it suggests they won’t rush and will therefore do a good job. And because they won’t be cramming clients in, your dog won’t be stressed by having lots of other strange dogs around.
It goes without saying that you need to make the groomer aware if your dog has sensitive skin or if they don’t like certain parts of their body to be touched. Make sure you’re confident the groomer can accommodate them.
Check they have insurance in place and ask for references too. A good groomer will most likely give you this information without you having to ask.
You’ll find more information about choosing a groomer on the RSPCA’s website.
Getting the best from the session
OK, so your dog is groomed and looking good. The next step is to make sure he or she is happy in the studio.
I’ve photographed lots of dogs so I know how to make your dog feel at ease as well as how to get them to respond well to the camera. I start by giving them time to settle into what is going to be a strange environment, full of new smells. I’ll make sure my lights are already set up so they don’t have to be moved around too much.
But there are a few things you can do to help me.
• Gaining trust is really important so I’ll ask you what your dog likes and what he or she doesn’t. Most dogs I’ve met love to have their ears tickled but yours might not!
• Bring some of your dog’s favourite treats so we can use them as incentives and rewards. You might want to bring a favourite toy too.
• I’ll ask you to position your dog where the light is best while I get myself into the right place for the best angle.
• Then I’ll need you to get your dog to look at you and to hold that position. If I’m getting a nice sparkle in the dog’s eyes and it looks like a good shot, I’ll take it right away.
• I’ll also want to take shots of them looking at me so I’ll ask you for the words and sounds your dog responds best to. Words like ‘cat’ or ‘sausages’ usually do the trick! Faint growling sounds work well too, but you know your dog best.
I’ll work as quickly as possible so your dog is never under any stress, but my goal is to get you a fabulous shot that you’ll love, and that could win you a place in the national 2016 Pet Portrait of the Year awards.
I was thrilled to be featured on the front cover of the May/June 2016 issue of the Master Photographers’ Association magazine.
And I was even more delighted when I opened the magazine to discover my work featured on six pages. I feel incredibly honoured so thank you very much guys!
It comes quickly after Creative Light – the Guild of Photographers’ online magazine – featured my work across two double-page spreads (pages 47-49).
I think a celebration is in order! So the first three people to register for the monthly prize draw on my website, before 6pm on Thursday 26th will get a photoshoot with me in my studio. The prize includes a 10”x8” print and is worth £150.
So get clicking!
2016 is turning out to be a very good year for me so far!
In March I made a submission to the Master Photographers Association (MPA) and was awarded an Associateship! According to the MPA’s website, Associate level ‘denotes a high level of craftsmanship and individual creativity.’ It’s a pretty rigorous process so I was delighted with the result.
The MPA is the UK’s leading photographic qualification body and is run by very experienced photographers exclusively for professionals working in the wedding, portrait and commercial sectors.
To be considered, I had to submit 20 images, printed to the highest possible standard, then mounted onto 20”x16” board. In addition, I had to send in a 40-page book comprising 20 photographs on a particular theme, together with supporting evidence about myself and my business. That included details of my workflow, how I work with clients, the insurances I have in place and other relevant information about my studio.
My submission was viewed by five anonymous judges who scored each of the images.
Yes, it was time consuming and it took commitment to put it all together but the effort just adds to the prestige of the award. I feel very proud to have been judged good enough to join an organisation so full of talent and professionalism.
Just as the news was sinking in, on Saturday 9 April I was awarded Master Craftsman status with the Guild of Photographers . I’d actually applied for Craftsman status but the judges voted to upgrade my application so it was great news all round!
And then on 15th April I was made an Associate of the Society of Wedding and Portrait Photographers (SWPP) on the strength of the same panel of images I submitted to the MPA and The Guild.
All this is great news for me of course but what does it mean for my clients? Well, it gives reassurance that my peers not only judge me worthy to join the ranks of these prestigious organisations, but also that I work in a professional manner and put my clients’ needs first.
These were just a few of the images in my panel of work, which is the type of imagery I produce regularly at my studio, I hope you like them!
Earlier this month I was lucky enough to be invited to Italy by my album supplier, Graphistudio, to visit their HQ in Arba and to take a tour of the factory. It fell around the same time as my wedding anniversary so, romantic that I am, I decided to take my wife, Joanna along and to extend the trip with a stay in Venice.
I use Graphistudio because of the exquisite and consistent quality of their albums across the range. From baby books to lifestyle and wedding albums I don’t think there’s anything to touch them. And from the reaction I get from my clients (some have been known to burst into tears of joy when they first see their album) I’d say my opinion is justified!
The customer service is second to none and that was extended to Joanna and me from the moment we stepped off the plane. And to make our anniversary even more special, they gave us accommodation in the castle they own, Castillio Ceconi, which is 30 minutes drive away from the factory, in the foothills of the Dolomites.
The factory was just as impressive as I’d imagined and seeing the love and care that goes into the production of their albums gave me even more confidence in the product. The company has just invested in one of the most advanced printers in the world the Canon Dream Lab, and the quality it produces is phenomenal.
Leaving the castle behind was difficult of course but Venice was everything we’d hoped for. It’s a photographer’s dream. There are photo opportunities around every corner – breathtaking architecture, romantic canals with their famous gondoliers, mysterious alleyways and of course the culture this charming city on water is renowned for. It really is quite remarkable – I’ve never experienced anywhere quite like it before.
But light is everything with photography and sadly, it was pretty flat all the time we were there, apart from one sunny but cold afternoon. Still, I got some decent images and it’s a good excuse to go back which I’d gladly do in a heartbeat!
These were just a few of my favourites from the trip, I hope you enjoyed them!
Well it’s been a long time since my last post, something I’ll have to work on for sure. It has been a very eventful time here over the last few months. I’ve relocated offices and now have a much better workplace that is self contained and far enough away from the everyday interruptions of my old “home office”.
In the last few months I’ve been able to add to my collection of landscape photographs with a journey to some truly awe inspiring parts of the USA, including the Grand Canyon and the Slot Canyons around Page in Arizona. As soon as I had returned from my travels, I had to prepare for the first round of competitions for the year with the London and Essex Professional Photography group, which is recognised by the MPA and the BIPP.
It went very well with some truly wonderful images from a number of great photographers we have in the region, which happens to be the best attended professional photographers group in the country. I was very happy to have won the Pictorial/Fine art category with this image, which was also deemed good enough to get me the overall Photographer of the Year Award for the second year running!
I was also quite flattered to have got 1st, 2nd and 3rd in the Beauty and Fashion category also for the second year running. Here are the successful images, top one came 3rd and the bottom one was the winner:
I was quite touched to have got and image of my dad, who is now 84 years of age who I photographed working on one of the last pairs of shoes he ever repaired, as unfortunately he is now suffering from the debilitating effects of Parkinson’s disease, and is unable to work any longer. He started working for the world renowned shoe makers John Lobb of St James’s Street SW1 when he was 67 years old, at that time he said he was the youngest shoemaker in the company, and he had to be shown their unique way of making shoes – totally by hand, without any machinery touching the shoes. He had been working with them up until early last year. In his old age he became a master craftsman! This image came 3rd in the Portrait category.
Another very moving image was of the Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery at Point Loma, San Diego CA. I visited this striking memorial venue with my cousin Andreas, who now lives in San Diego. It is particularly poignant looking at the sad loss of life we see as a result of war. The many hundreds if not thousands of tombstones in the undulating landscape, has an orderly beauty about it that is really quite strange. The day we visited was peculiar in many ways. It started off a beautiful sun drenched day, and as the day wore on, it began to get misty and quite dark for mid afternoon. As we arrived, the mist began rolling in off the Pacific ocean, giving mood to the landscape around the graves, turning everything almost monochromatic, indeed the way I remember the scene there in my mind, is in sepia tone – just like the photograph below!
If you’d like to see all the winning images from this years Regional Competition please go to the groups Facebook page, it’s well worth a look there are some great images. Hopefully this link should work: https://www.facebook.com/londonandessexgroup?fref=ts
Last Sunday 14th October 2012, I attended the Master Photography Awards at The Gateshead Hilton in Newcastle. I had seven entries that made it into the finals and I was a finalist in the Landscape category with the following image, taken in Jasper, Canada, I was very pleased with myself! So now I’m allowed to use the text: Award of Excellence Landscape & Travel category 2012 Master Photography Diamond Jubilee Awards. This was the image:
However the best was yet to come. The “Events” category came up towards the end of the presentation. I was elated to see that my image taken at the London Fashion Weekend was the winner! This had already won a Gold award a few months ago, but this was my highest photographic honour to date!
And here I am receiving the Award:
Just in case you wondered, I’m the handsome bloke in the middle! So now I can officially add the following text to my documents: 2012 Master Photography Diamond Jubilee Awards Functions & Social Events Category Winner. That is a bit of a mouthful, but I’ll settle for that!
There were some quite incredible images that were presented with Awards, and it really is an honour for me to be among the winners. So, now that I have a taste for this sort of success, I think I’ll go for more next year!