Client Story: Christopher Swann’s new book, “Sea of Dreams”


I received the most beautiful book through the post today Its by Photographer Christopher Swann and called “Sea of Dreams”. It covers the subject of Whales, dolphins and wildlife of Baja California. 450 pages of superb photography, illustrations and insightful text. ISBN: 978-1-7396721-0-2.

Tipping the scales at well over 3.3KG (the limit of my scales!) it is superbly printed and has to be considered the most in depth and beautiful interpretation of its subjects.

My work on the project was to help translate the more problematic underwater RGB files that often struggle to appear their best when printed in CMYK. I used all the options in my specialist toolbox to bring out the true brilliance in the images. I also worked on selected topside images to enable them to print smoothly across double page spreads.

Swanny is a very modest man but his work seen through this book is simply superb. I am very fortunate to work with one of the very best marine life photographers in the world, we share a desire to translate life to the page and are prepared to go through some pains to acheive it.

Thank you Swanny!

AI Generated Images – ethics, copyright and fun.

I took the image on the left in the 1980s and submitted it to the Tony Stone Photo library (later Getty Images). The images on the right are generated on my computer using the Stable Diffusion program with the text string “big ben clockface high resolution golden light dark sky dslr medium format highly detailed”

The image on the left was captured on film on location in Parliament square, the images on the right were generated by a program that used an algorithm to process  such “real life images” and extract from them a sense of what the clock face is and without copying pixels recreate new images. I don’t know if my picture was one of the millions of web images processed in order to train the AI but I doubt that permission to use images in this way was granted by the photographers.

Getty Images announced that they will not represent images generated by AI on its sales platforms for this very reason, neither the source images were likely licensed and the output from these AI programs likely copyrightable. Getty clients are of course free to generate their own AI images but may run into trouble if their work then becomes public domain and a new message attached.

Some of the images generated were more like my photograph but they always came out kind of “strange”, not quite right. What I found more interesting was the mistakes (like the above images), the results of a fever dream or using a consciousness altering drug.

I’m reminded of a scene in the 1980 film “Fame”, in which the tutor (Shorofsky) and his student have this conversation:

Shorofsky : One man is not an orchestra.

Bruno Martelli : Who needs orchestras? You can do it all with a keyboard, an amp and enough power.

Shorofsky : You going to play all by yourself?

Bruno Martelli : You don’t need anybody else.

Shorofsky : That’s not music, Martelli. That’s masturbation.

What I think Shorofsky is getting at here is that a piece of classical music played by an orchestra is made up of humans responding to each other. Each player and their instrument are following and reacting with the conductor and others to create something unique and subtle, a synth can only play samples  and does not have this human dynamic.

I would equate ethical photography to playing in an orchestra, an individual photographer interacts with the scene in front of them, they respond to the subject and the subject to them, they move around a scene and frame to find the light and the moment that comes together to make the image meaningful.

Ethical photography depends on honesty, introduce or remove elements (either in real life or in photoshop) and suddenly that nature is tainted, introduce AI generated elements and the integrity is compromised completely.

The counter view:

Use the same synthesiser and create new kinds of music (Kraftwerk / Brian Eno) and suddenly something new and interesting is created. I like the way AI images give us a fresh take on things, I like the “mistakes” stable diffusion and other AI systems make. Is it Photography? – no, not in a million years. Does it have a use? perhaps!




Client story: BBC Frozen Planet II

Nice delivery through the post yesterday. My work on preparing the stills and video captures from the BBC Production of David Attenborough’s Frozen Planet II series had arrived in book form.

I worked on 171 images from still cameras and 67 video grabs to provide a consistent, natural and ethical set of images suitable for repro.
Having watched the first episode on BBC iPlayer last night ( I was pleased to see that the images in the book correlated well with the equally natural grading in the video source.

I watched the program on a recent Sony Bravia TV with HDR (High dynamic range) enabled, the pictures were stunning. Ink on paper offers only a tiny fraction of the dynamic range of HDR so when preparing the files I used my knowledge of the CMYK repro process to ensure that I made the best possible files for the book. You can find out more about the book here:

I first started work on BBC Wildlife books in 2011 when I worked on the original Frozen Planet book, quite a ride! The problem I solved was to make images from multiple sources more cohesive by correcting colour casts, tone and contrast, noise and sharpness issues on a per picture basis before conversion to CMYK. This resulted in much better and consistant repro than if corrections were done on the printing press. Adjusting images on press nearly always degrades other images on the same sheet and cannot fix colour within colour or sharpness and noise issues at all.

Helping create premium books like this are one of the highlights of my work. I help amateurs and professionals, individuals and corporations. Each time I work I put in the same maximum effort to enable the client to get the most out of their work.

Can I help you? the chances are good, get in touch and lets start the conversation:

#ethical retouching #grading #colorgrading #colourgrading #stills #videograbs #repro #CMYK

The Photogaphy Show in Birmingam

I will be attending the show in Birmingam sometime between the dates 17-20 September 2022 at the NEC.

I will not be exhibiting but rather having a look around to see the latest technologies and guage the atmosphere of the photographic market and see if I can find any changes in how people enjoy and use their photography.

If you are a client attending or exhibiting let me know and I will stop for a chat, if you are not a client but would appreciate a short meeting then let me know also.

You can book tickets to the show here:

Alert: New QNAP ransomware threat

It has come to my attention that QNAP nases are under a new Deadbolt ransomware attack. It started on September 3rd and and affected one clients nas. I have taken precautionary measures on all other clients nases since.

Today I came across a QNAP notice (ostensably from yesterday) that pointed the finger to their Photo sharing app causing the vulnerability. I have updated this app on all client nases as part of my maintainance schedule.

You can read more here:

Screen redraw issues in Photoshop 23.5.0

A new version of Photoshop to download today. Not too busy so installed it to try out. Some useful speed improvements noted on painting masks etc but then came up against flickering images redraws and missing segments of images.
It would appear that Adobe are updating the drawing code to work better with multi core video cards. This is a pretty nice development but it looks to be an early version and Adobe themselves indicate that images may not display correctly.

Whilst they work it out I have gone into preferences (cmd or control K) and selected the Technology Previews tab and ticked the box named “Deactivate Native Canvas”. This fixed the redraw problem for me.

Im using a pretty serious mainstream graphics card (An RTX 3080Ti) so hopefully they will sort this quickly and so allow me to use the card more efficiently in future.

UPDATE: the earlier fix of unticking “Multithreaded compositing” in the Performance tab of Preferences also works but this new method fixes the problem and you can leave Multithreaded compositing ticked for extra performance.

Client Story: Disney Nature Polar Bears

Was a pleasure recently working on the stills (video and photo) for the newly launched Disney Nature production of “Polar Bears”.

One of my specialties is to grade and retouch video grabs in the same ethical way as stills images and there were some lovely images to work on for this project.

Of particular note is to keep the natural tones and definition in polar bear noses, sounds a little strange but its quite common for people to boost contrast and end up with black featureless noses when working on polar bear images. Perhaps a minor point to get picky about (!) but its best to represent nature in its glory rather than some compromised version (Im pleased to say the film colorist also retained natural detail also in the moving images)

You can read about the production here:

The film is available to Disney+ subscribers to watch now.

(Fun fact: I started working stills for Disney Natures film “Bears” in 2012 (film released in 2014). This was a film about a grizzly bear family in Alaska. In that instance I got a mention in the film credits at the end as “Stills colorist”, not 100% certain but I cannot see any other stills colorists listed in any other film credits!)

(Update, apparently they credited me on their production of “Penguins” also – thanks Disney Nature!)

Remote photography and workflow review

1:1 remote workshops: Spend some time with me

I have many years of experience in professional photography and imaging workflow and have worked with many of the big names in wildlife photography. I have been entrusted with the ethical grading and retouching of the the stills of major BBC wildlife documentaries as well as the careful work needed to bring Wildlife Photographer of the Year images to print.  If you want to move on to the next level of your work I can help.


The screen share, zoom, skype or messenger sessions can be up to 2 hours long, enough time for me to see a good range of your images and an understanding of your image workflow. I can hear how you work and help you through the things that might be holding you back.

The topics we can cover will be up to you but they might include:

   Selecting images (input and output)
   Using simple (not complex!) Metadata
   Importing and exporting images in a consistent way
   Making choices on colour and tone in Lightroom and Photoshop
   A truly ethical photographic workflow and how to make it work
   Reducing time in front of a computer
   Getting the most from your photography with a consistent workflow
   Sorting problems in Lightroom and Photoshop
   Perhaps you have a difficult image that needs some care and attention?

Whether you are a beginner amateur, intermediary or long standing professional photographer I can draw on my 35 years of experience of working on my own and other peoples images.

These friendly and confidential 1:1 sessions will enable you to get the insights of an industry professional into your work and could help you reduce the stress of your imaging workflow and identify any potential paths to better results.

I’m flexible with timing so arranging a suitable time and date for you or the person you nominate is easy. There is no expiration date for these sessions, as an ethical business my main concern is that you or your nominated person get real value from the session.

Link: Purchase this experience in the shop