One of the shrewdest investments I’ve made in my photography training was a residential workshop with fashion photographer Bruce Smith, author of Pro Digital Fashion Photographyand Black and White.

Inspired by ground-breaking greats like Cecil BeatonNorman ParkinsonDavid BaileyHorst P. HorstIrving Penn and Richard Avedon, Bruce is a master of location, light and story-telling – and is especially known for his great directing rapport with models.

I booked his workshop as the ultimate ‘sink or swim’ experience – to stretch my skills to the limit and find out what I could really achieve under pressure, and in the company of other students who I suspected would have far more experience (and kit!) than me. (And they certainly did!)

Working with Bruce in a live shooting scenario at privately-owned stately home Prestwold Hall, with top designers, couture fashion pieces and a pro team of models, styling, make-up and hairwas a real eye-opener for me into the planning and mechanics of a successful commercial shoot.

Bruce is an expert in how to put together and manage a productive, creative team.  His 35 years of experience in the industry have taught him how to bring all the elements together and plan ahead, but then to think on the fly and solve problems quickly and efficiently when things (inevitably) do not go quite as expected.

I learned so much on this workshop – identifying all the gaps in my knowledge.  Finding my own weak spots helped me to gain hugely in confidence, as I knew what areas to work on in the future to help me improve.  The most important thing was to trust in myself and have faith in my ideas.

I proved to myself that it is definitely not all about the kit, when my shots were picked up and published by designers SparklewrenJacq Brill, and Chantal Mallet and selected by Belinda Chorley of Beyond Burlesque to feature in an ad in Brides Magazine.

It was so exhilarating yet nerve-wracking to be stretched, working alongside other photographers with so much more experience than me.  I have continued to be inspired by the meteoric career progress of fellow students including Brazilian-born glamour photographer Eveline Bueno, Brighton & Hove wedding photographer Vicky Lamburn and Kuwait-based beauty photographer and retoucher Adnan Kamal.

Bruce’s tips on idea generation, location scouting, shot-planning, set lighting, vibe creation, flow-posing and rapport-building come with me on every shoot I’ve done since.

Find out more about his unique workshops at the Bruce Smith Academy.

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