Oi! Tim! What’s the best photo you’ve ever taken?

I don’t much enjoy trying to answer that question (especially when it’s asked like that), but since it’s a question I get asked, well sometimes at least, I thought it might be an idea to do an article on it.

Probably the simplest answer is that I tend to like whichever was the best photo from my most recent assignment at the time of asking. I do tend to prefer more recent work, perhaps because with every brief, with each new location, there are challenges to be met and overcome and I still love to learn something new from each shoot. And maybe it’s that having a press background, I tend to see older work as having passed its sell-by date.

Of my press photography, I’d still say my favourites are my photo of Tony Blair campaigning in Oldham in 2001 and the portrait of Tony Benn in Bath. Those pictures seem to sum up the evangelical character of the former prime minister, while the other sums up the thoughtful, statesmanlike manner of Mr Benn. More recently, the unguarded shot of Richard Noble of the SSC Project pleased me in its informality and got a decent showing in Director magazine

news cutting bath chronicle 1992 election showing chris patten defeat

Capturing a historical moment has a certain buzz.

When I look at my recent commercial photography, I’m often drawn to the simple, relaxed corporate portraits, especially where I’ve captured something of the subject’s character, but I also have a fondness for the beekeeper portrait, which was not only tricky to light, but was tricky to shoot since I was in full protective gear and surrounded by bees at the time. The beekeeper was a decent chap too, and gave me some honey after the shoot. Of course, what’s important is how the photo looks, not what was involved in getting it to look that way, but each picture has an emotional attachment for the photographer, which is why we’re often the worst judges of our own work.

Looking at my gallery of public relations photography, I’d single out the portrait of the barbary lion, partly because he’s so handsome and also because everyone who sees that photo reacts with a “wow” or similar, which is always encouraging.

Apart from the lion, I’m quite fond of the PR photo which I took for the Organic Milk Suppliers Cooperative. The idea of making it look as though the fridges in the middle of a field might actually be working tickles me, and adds an extra dimension of interest to the shot.

portrait photo actress penelope keith

Actress Penelope Keith in mid-interview. Never published, but still a favourite.

There are many photos and assignments I’d rank as favourites, but going back beyond the last 12 years leads me to that period when I was a staff photographer, so don’t have the copyright in those shots, which means I can’t publish them here.

There’s the shoot I did in Norway with the Royal Marine Reservists, which included a striking shot of a marine bursting up through freezing lake water during a survival exercise, his shocked expression and the water droplets cascading from his hair making it almost uncomfortable to view the photo. Or the single frame I managed to get of HM The Queen arriving at Portsmouth Harbour train station on a drizzly night, simple headscarfe and clearly not expecting a photographer, though smiling all the same.

Delving even deeper into the past, I’ve featured here a couple of favourites from the very beginning of my career, when I freelanced for the Bath Chronicle. Now I think about it again, it isn’t just my recent work I’m happiest with. I think I have some pretty cracking older shots too…

How about you?

Whether you’re a professional or amateur, do you have a favourite of your own? Or perhaps there’s a photographer you admire, or a particular photo that sticks in your mind. Feel free to share your thoughts in the Comments section below.

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10 comments

  • Mary Williams May 26, 2010   Reply →

    Love the Tony Benn one….

    • Glass Eye May 26, 2010   Reply →

      Thank you, yes, many people like that one, and it’s been published a few times.

  • Valerie May 26, 2010   Reply →

    Great post! For me it’s not so much my work related shoots (I mostly do interiors and food/products). I love people/street & travel photography and every photo shoot/travel experience is special. Showing my work at various exhibit, blogging or seeing my work published is a great satisfaction too. It completes the experience.

    • Glass Eye May 26, 2010   Reply →

      Thank you, Valerie, I’m glad you enjoyed it 🙂

      You’re right, it’s often the un-published photos or the ones taken when not on commission that rate among our favourites. Much of my portfolio consists of pictures which were never published anywhere else because the client/newspaper chose other pictures from the same shoot for their own design or editorial requirements.

  • Gary Brindle May 26, 2010   Reply →

    My favourites are often aerial landscapes where I can include a natural or man made curve which leads the eye thru the image. My best air to air pic was of a vintage biplane airliner over a ploughed field seen from above, the pilot of the vintage plane did not co-operate with getting into postion so we did all the chasing and came back with fine results anyway.
    And this one
    http://www.renderosity.com/mod/gallery/index.php?image_id=1906992&user_id=387850&np&np

    • Glass Eye May 26, 2010   Reply →

      Oo! Dog fight for a photo! My worst aerial experience was shooting from the open side of a helicopter, then realising my harness was undone – d’oh! The pictures were good though.

  • Brian May 27, 2010   Reply →

    Fellow beekeeper, here and I love the photo.

    You don’t do pets or weddings.

    To me my bees are like pets.

    • Glass Eye May 28, 2010   Reply →

      Hi Brian, Thank you for the kind words. Especially appreciated as I can imagine a beekeeper might pick up on any anomalies in the shot that (as a non-beekeeper) I might have missed.

      I love bees. If you can get them to sit still on this sheepskin rug, we’ll get some very cute pet shots of them 🙂

  • Tom October 29, 2010   Reply →

    It’s true when you say that we’re often the worst judges of our own photography.

    I sometimes pick as my own favourites, the ones where I had certain obstacles to overcome even though the viewer doesn’t know or care about them.

    Does that make sense?

    • Glass Eye October 29, 2010   Reply →

      Hi Tom

      Yes, it makes sense, and that’s the point. Why should the viewer care that we waded through crocodile-infested waters or broke a leg to get the shot? All the viewer sees is the photo in front of them. If there’s a story of the photo, it should be about what’s in the photo, not about the photographer. That’s too introverted and not what photography should be about (in my humble view).

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