Regular readers may remember the first parts of the “London Knowledge” that I posted a while ago. Having managed the previous “tips”, I squeezed out a further batch to make the century so here’s the final and complete collection. Read and learn (or at least nod with recognition…)

  • You can tell a long-term Billingham bag user by the fact they look as though they’re carrying one particularly heavy shopping bag, even when their hands are empty.
  • When filing a zoom-burst, the automatic punishment is to text your colleagues to alert them to your heinous photocrime. The allowable amount that you can file varies from once a year, to once in your whole career, depending on the employer.
  • It is important that news photographers stay in town until 6pm in case of the ever-present threat of the 5.59pm atrocity. The 6:01pm atrocity is unheard of and could never happen.
  • Despite it possibly being the future for us all, not many people aspire to shoot film like their favourite cameraman. Photography will always be cooler.
  • Being a professional photographer means that it will be assumed you know all about the latest point and shoot Sony cameras when your friends and relatives need a new camera for their holidays.
  • All accreditation, particularly festival wristbands, should be removed when leaving the site for the final time, due to a distinct danger of looking like a cock if wearing it on the bus three months later.
  • The length of time that you’ve been shooting professionally is directly proportional to the size of one of your photos in the paper that actually please you.
  • The chamois leather is an often-overlooked essential for every jobbing photographer.
  • Every photographer has an early project in their archives along the theme of “rusty locks and old painted doors”.
  • When a client asks for all your raw images from the shoot, ask them if they ask for all the spare ingredients after enjoying a delicious meal. If they don’t take your point from this subtle refusal, a monopod makes a great blunt instrument.

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  • You can tell a photographer who’s covered Downing Street jobs for a decent length of time by his comfortable use of the word “counterpart” in captions.
  • Press photography grants you seats that others would kill for, to events that you’d sometimes rather be a million miles away from.
  • That external drive on your desk is just an insecure archive until it’s duplicated at least once. A backup isn’t a backup if it’s the only one.
  • If you get the only frame and everyone uses it, it’s a great picture. This even applies if you only got it by accidentally dropping your camera as you ate your Big Mac, firing a frame of the subject by accident as they passed behind you.
  • If you’re accused of getting a shot out of focus, set the critic straight by explaining that you were merely “bracketing your focus”.
  • Union Jack umbrellas were originally designed to keep desperate news photographers happy.
  • Once you’ve gone RAW, you’ll never need more.
  • Street photography is more than just photos of people walking past the camera, converted into a heavy black and white. Using a retro-style digital camera or even film doesn’t gain any extra points either.
  • Save the selective colour for your Grandma. Any self-respecting picture editor will be dabbing the tears of laughter from their eyes if you put one in your portfolio.
  • What IS the very best way to respond to someone who calls you a pap on the street? SURELY there must be an intelligent retort other than the previously mentioned blunt instrument?

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  • There is no real need to take a camera, especially your Leica, to Focus.
  • When cleaning your lens with a cloth, it will invariably be the final wipe when the cloth slips and you smear a Dorito-grease covered finger across the front element.
  • The World Press Awards must be something to do with the Corby Trouser Press as the pictures that win every year rarely have anything to do with the images that we see in the daily newspapers.
  • Both of the major camera manufacturers’ products are pretty much the same in terms of quality, features and price so no, I can’t tell you “which one is best.”
  • When photographers are gathered together, conversation soon turns to their loved ones and, in particular, whether or not the new firmware has improved performance.
  • The fastest way to make money from your cameras is to sell them. (unknown origin)
  • The photojournalism festival in Perpignan does a great line in depressing monochrome care home pictures, angry people with machetes and dead soldiers in desolate locations, but really falls short when it comes to shots of kittens dressed as cowboys.
  • For those of you wanting to get into the industry, consider the fact that careercast.com listed photojournalist as being below “sheet metal worker” in a list of 200 careers in 2009 in relation to salary, working conditions, serious risk of injury or death, and poor employment prospects in the future. Nice.
  • Nothing ruins the line of a good suit more than a belt-pack and camera bag.
  • When working on the same job as paps, there is no point in thinking that common sense, reason or the need to actually get a good photograph is on the agenda. They will inevitably rush in as close as possible with their pre-f8-welded wide angles, ruining everyone else’s shot.

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  • Taking hot weather pictures was probably a lot easier in the days before pointing a camera at anyone under eighteen automatically made you a child-hungry paedophile.
  • If you drop a lens while in the company of other photographers and the inevitable “Ooooh” is heard from all around, you will invariably scoop it up quickly and put it straight into your bag as if it escaped perfectly unharmed, even if you’re left standing in a small pile of finely powdered optical glass.
  • Photographers who choose to become known only by one name deserve all the flak that they get. (See Zoriah and his “intimate” $4000 Haiti-based earthquake masterclasses.)
  • News photographers keep the British stepladder industry alive through a combination of forgetfulness and desperation.
  • For some reason, Canon and Nikon both give away huge bulky camera bags at events rather than something really useful like laptop shades or monopods. I know you shouldn’t look a gift-horse in the mouth but surely there won’t be that many photographers who travel to the venue with all of their gear in carrier bags on the off-chance that their gamble might pay off.
  • Having said that, ebay will always manage to find someone who wants to pay rather a lot of money for team sheets, programmes, press passes and, yes, camera bags.
  • Heart surgeons are nothing compared to the photographer who decides to clean the sensor in his/her brand new £4,500 camera for the first time.
  • Jolyan Turrall‘s law of “Subject Gravity” means that all photographers will end up 6 inches from the subject matter, even if the shoot started with everyone 20 feet away.
  • As soon as your local Council starts accepting a “photo credit” as a valid form of payment for your council tax, you can start giving away your pictures to all those people who enquire about using them without payment.
  • When using a busy urinal during the working day, turn off your cameras before squeezing in between the other users. This particularly applies if your camera has a fast motordrive and a delicate trigger action.

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  • If you actually prepare for the bad weather for once and get fully waterproofed up, by the time you arrive at the tube station in central London, you’ll emerge to blistering sunshine. The same also applies in reverse.
  • You will see the politician that you waited 10 hours outside the House of Commons for on a daily basis as soon as the story that involved him/her has passed.
  • A celebrity on the red carpet that points at an individual camera is incredibly irritating to forty six photographers and very pleasing to one.
  • The kid who got the blurry picture of the burning building on his 4mm ultra-wide angle camera phone never quite understands that the image isn’t worth a grand.
  • The first casualties of press photography are your lens caps.
  • A standard “Grip and Grin” photo inside Downing Street lasts around 10 seconds. When the press officer tells you “this will be a quick one”, be concerned.
  • The Met Police do actually have rules to follow, regarding the working relationship with photographers.
  • There are only so many times that you can manage to genuinely laugh when a passer-by “amusingly” offers to swap their Praktica sure-shot for your full-frame DSLR with 300mm f2.8 lens.
  • Nobody wears photographer vests (See also “Wanker jackets”).
  • Your friends and family don’t care about the 15-month project that you’re doing on inner city deprivation but will want to hear all about the 8 seconds that you spent photographing David Beckham at the launch of his new branded Thermos flask.

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  • Try to lead by example and make sure you wear deodorant when shooting London Fashion Week.
  • No matter how many times they’ve been shot, the Politico Top Trumps cards given away during party conference season are always a must.
  • Mentioning the name “Paul Delmar” is the press photographers equivalent to the masonic handshake.
  • When you’re slapping your laptop for only connecting at 7kb/s when wiring a job in the countryside, remember that it was only a few years ago when you’d have been high-fiving anyone close to you for getting such blistering speeds.
  • Nothing redresses the balance with PRs better than a full photographer walk-out.
  • The free photo recovery software that you get with your memory cards is no good to you uninstalled, sitting at the bottom of your desk drawer at home when things go wrong.
  • When shooting boxing, don’t assume that you’ll have the first round to get your settings adjusted.
  • When trying to board a plane with a very large camera kit as hand luggage, they may weigh your peli-case, but they won’t weigh your extra-pocketed jacket (but always consider “the wanker jacket”).
  • Nail your tight, bright and shite before you paint with light.
  • A photograph taken using Hipstamatic is not necessarily a great photograph. It is more than likely a very average picture of an old car, slathered in faux retro image filters. (See also “fashions and trends”)

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  • It’s good practice to get on with all the photographers you come across as it’s guaranteed that you’ll end up stuck on a doorstep for three days with the one you told to piss off.
  • Stand next to the loudest shouter at film premieres. (See “Ian West”)
  • Even if the object that we’ve been sent to shoot is stationary and there’s an hour available for pictures, photographers will instinctively end up scrambling into the room and monstering it.
  • If Nikon or Canon brought out a single pocket-sized camera that did everything, we’d still be inclined to carry the whole stockroom of Jacobs camera store on our backs most of the time.
  • Playing the age old game of “Where a photographer can and can’t take pictures” with the private security that work in office blocks and company headquarters is the modern equivalent of bear-baiting. As a vague hint, if you’re on the public pavement and you’re on the outside edge of any studded boundary markers on the ground, snap away. This may not apply if you’re doing a project on “The security systems of the MI5 building”.
  • Cameras may have been around since 1814 but every year, manufacturers manage to create exciting new ways to make photographers spend their wages.
  • Don’t expect to get eye-contact from the baked bean.
  • There’s only so much you can do with an old painting, a pair of white gloves and an auction house assistant. See also “For Sale” signs, burning gas hobs, petrol pumps and credit cards.
  • Fashions and trends are just as common in the world of photography as anywhere else. Lens babies, old film cameras, tilt & shifts and all-prime lens kits anyone?
  • Some photographers are just always in the right place. These people are known as gits.

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  • Freebies make the dullest job a little better. The only exception being the 128mb USB stick. I mean, come on…
  • Remember to take advantage of the incredible access that the job gives you. If you’re somewhere cool, get a picture for yourself. If you’re shooting someone you like, get a picture with them. You’ll only regret it if you don’t.
  • The general public has no idea. If you’re stood with a 5d over your shoulder with a 50mm lens on, you will be asked which television channel you’re filming for.
  • The most anticipated jobs are often the biggest let-down for quality images and vice-versa.
  • Never think that you’re a better photographer than anyone else as someone with a sure-shot will come along and spank you (photographically speaking).
  • There’s no point in being a photographer if your camera isn’t ready.
  • Photographers that smoke can make any overdue event happen by simply putting their camera down and lighting a cigarette.
  • Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium is the best stadium. This has nothing to do with any team preference and everything to do with the free wifi, three course meal before the match, personal editing areas with power points and free mini portions of fish and chips after the game. If only I didn’t have to shoot football to get in.
  • Legendary stories can be found in the bar during Party conference season, listening to incredible stories of Fleet Street photographer history from one of the old guard.
  • The moment you stop shooting to entertain and satisfy yourself, you might as well go and work in an office.

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  • Not much can compare to feeling the first hot rays from the sun as you leave Downing Street on a Summer’s day after an 8 hour stakeout.
  • No matter how sure you are of the job, the longer you wait for it to happen, the more likely you are to feel the need to frantically change your lens at the last moment.
  • The occurrences of Photoshop locking up and causing a system reboot is directly related to how urgently the pictures are needed by your picture desk. See also Laptop battery-life.
  • The habit of saving all of your newspaper cuttings grows less important as you realise that your house is beginning to resemble something from “Life of Grime“.
  • Working London photographers are walking encyclopaedias of where the nearest free toilets, wi-fi or shelter can be found at any time.
  • First three songs, no flash.
  • Every camera is designed to randomly refocus at the moment that the subject looks directly at you for the first time during the critical press conference.
  • Jacobs, not Jessops.
  • If you’re covering a story in a dodgy area of town, the first thing that the ever-so-friendly youth who comes over to chat will ask you is “how much is your gear worth?” The answer is always “..about £300. It’s all years old and knackered. Your phones probably got a better camera”, even if you’re actually holding both of your D5 bodies with a 400mm f2 lens on each.
  • The silhouette is the last bastion of the charlatan. (Edward Mulholland 2004)

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  • Anyone accepting a job on any picture desk automatically has their sense of time/distance awareness removed.
  • The photographer’s life is one constant rollercoaster of going from having the photographic Midas touch to feeling like an Amateur Photographer also-ran. This is rarely a reflection on your actual abilities. Dem’s da breaks.
  • There’s a very good reason that PR photography pays so well.
  • 250th/sec, f8, 1/4 power, manually focused to a metre and 45 degrees to the glass.
  • If you decide to pad out your filed images from a job with a few of lesser quality, they’re the ones that’ll be all over the papers the next day with your name in a larger than normal font.
  • Opposite number 10, Downing Street and the road outside the Old Bailey are the coldest places on Earth.
  • However long you’ve been doing it, there’s nothing like seeing a stranger really studying one of your published pictures in the paper.
  • “Only fools rush in” could have been written about digital camera purchasers. When firmware version 1.2 comes out, they might have finally managed to get rid of the “freak-out during operation” glitch.
  • No matter how distinctive the person you’re all waiting for is, the collective of photographers will get more and more random with their choices of “possibles” to hose down as time goes on.
  • If all else fails, just whack it on f1.4 and make art.

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20 Responses to “The complete alternative London “Knowledge””

  1. My liege! I can just visualise you on your pix soap box reading this out to the masses! I especially loved the comment about the client and raw images! If I had some ££££ for everytime that happened… :-)

    Posted by akin
  2. Brilliant and almost all of them hold true outside London…..
    In fact I believe once we master space and time travel and make contact with alien races scientists will come to realise
    “If you decide to pad out your filed images from a job with a few of lesser quality, they’re the ones that’ll be all over the papers the next day with your name in a larger than normal font.” Is actually a law of physics that is a universal constant.

    Posted by Paul David Drabble
  3. You forgot to mention that even if the subject you are doorstepping has been dead for six months the desk will still tell you to “stick with it”..

    Posted by Eddie Mulholland
  4. Excellent!

    Many (e.g. the busy urinal theorem) hold true for the serious amateur photographer as well.

    Posted by GFH
  5. great observations. thanks

    Posted by david berman
  6. That is comfortably one of the best things I have ever read.

    Personal favourite: midas touch to amateur photographer… happens to me bi-weekly!

    Posted by Fraser Stephen
  7. AMAZING…..

    I think i love you;)

    Lee

    Posted by Lee Allen
  8. @akin – Someday, everyone will realise that I have all the answers…

    @Paul – haha! Maybe I should publish this as a science paper instead!

    @Eddie – Ooooh, that’s a belter. Glad you added it here though. Shame you didn’t suggest that sooner as it would definitely be in the 100!

    @GFH – The urinal tip met some puzzled looks from some people but was thankfully balanced out by very clear recognition from others. ;)

    @David – No problem. Thanks for reading!

    @Fraser – Excellent. Thanks for posting, bud. I’ve been toying with this final list for months so it’s good to know it was worthwhile!

    @Lee – Understandable.

    Posted by tabascokid
  9. genius…….

    Posted by kieran
  10. Great stuff Leon :) So, consequently, I had to copy and paste
    the link to a Canadian News Photography forum I belong to :)

    Cheers,

    Jack

    Posted by Jack Simpson
  11. @Kieran – An oft-misused phrase but I’ll let you off on this occasion. ;)

    @Ian – Cheers!

    @Jack – Excellent! Thanks Jack (and hello to all you Canadian photo-types…)

    Posted by tabascokid
  12. back at ya Leon :D

    Jack

    Posted by Jack Simpson
  13. An instant classic, You’ve got everything in. amazing! Cheered me up no end. I love the last one.

    Posted by paul thurlow
  14. It’s Briliant and bookmarked!!

    More more more.

    Posted by James
  15. @Paul – Thanks very much! You wouldn’t believe the amount of draughts I wrote… :)

    @James – Cheers James. I’m not sure my brain could handle thinking more up. Glad it was worth it though!

    Posted by tabascokid
  16. love this…

    Posted by wannabe git
  17. Good stuff.! Never let knowing the location free toilets be underestimated.

    Posted by Tim
  18. Very funny, all be it all true as far as I can see .
    Sadly :-)

    Posted by Ray Fothergill
  19. @Wannabe Git – Cheers!

    @Tim – I’d put it as one of the most vital things to learn.

    @Ray – It’s all swings and roundabouts. The lows are easily cancelled out by the highs!

    Posted by tabascokid

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