Special Report: Photography - Life through a lens

Sue Parkhill and Nick Georghiou demonstrate that a photographer's existence isn't always as glamorous as it may seem, as they take us through the trials and tribulations of a working day.


Sue Parkhill was briefed by Grey London to create a print campaign for Nokia for Business promoting the Nokia E61 phone. The campaign called for the challenging re-creation of a sun-drenched, pool-side scene in London. The weather decided not to co-operate.

6.00am Wake up to check the weather. I listened the night before and have been checking with the Met Office - but I don't like what I'm hearing.

7.00am Check weather. Shower. Porridge.

7.45am Jamie, the producer, picks me up to go to the location. We talk about the weather. I am generally quite anti-sunshine, but not today. There are six shots in this campaign, but this one is going to be either a man or a woman in a swimming pool setting - it needs to look like somewhere you really want to be. In other words, it needs to look sunny!

8.45am Arrive at the location. Huge clouds are forming, just as all the weather experts have predicted. Assistants have already arrived with a barrage of HMI lights - we are going to need to make our own sun.

9.00am Props and wardrobe arrive. Lots of nice things to help make our London pool setting look a lot more like a resort than, well, a London pool setting.

9.30am Both models arrive. This is a worldwide campaign, and some countries want a woman in the pool, some want a man. So we have to do both.

10.30am We set up and see what looks best with the lights. Time is of the essence, so we really need to get on with shooting, especially as the weather could get worse. Nick, the art director, is very flexible about how this shot works, which means we can carry on trying for something that looks great, rather than pushing for something specific.

12.00pm It's getting colder and wetter. Despite all the props, we realise a tighter shot is going to look more convincing.

12.45pm Even though the water in the pool is warm, that is unfortunately of no help to our poor models when they are wet and out of the water, enjoying the "sun" and lounging on a lilo. They are both being very hardy and professional, and our South African guy is doing well, but at this stage, our bikini-clad girl is covered in goosebumps.

2.00pm We huddle inside to take shelter from a rainstorm and use the opportunity to have some lunch and regroup.

3.00pm Everyone is warmed up after lunch and, with our resolve strengthened, we carry on shooting the campaign between the downpours.

3.15pm Bikini girl is starting to shake from the cold, so I know we don't have long left to finish up.

5.00pm The sky is beginning to darken, the day is getting wetter and wetter and it hasn't been the easiest of shoots ... but I know we have something good. With the job done, we finish up for the day.


Nick Georghiou undertook an assignment for Saatchi & Saatchi, working on a campaign for the Toyota RAV4. Unlike Parkhill, who got rain she didn't want, Georghiou had to create pools of water to get the landscape the way he liked.

6.00am Coffee. Shower. More coffee. Check TV for weather forecast; look outside - it's damp!

6.45am Mike, our producer, asks me to help jump-start the lorry carrying the black RAV4.

7.00am Hotel chef fails to turn up for work, so we head out to the location. We have a hungry crew with lots of physical work ahead.

7.15am Get stuck in a grassy field. My go-anywhere Discovery 3 couldn't "go beyond" the second gate, let alone on to the marsh ahead, our intended location.

7.30am The RAV4 arrives, passes me and drives on to 8x4 sheets of plywood at the edge of the marsh. In rotation, boards are taken from the back of the car and put in front of the car, enabling it to be inched forward at a snail's pace across the marsh, without sinking.

8.00am Our local crew arrive, allowing us to introduce two more 8x4 boards into the rotation. Now we're really motoring!

9.30am The RAV4 is finally in position. I start to play with camera angles, lenses and shoot polaroids of each variation. The wind blowing the reeds is a real concern.

10.00am Noticed that the many pools of water I liked when Mike and I did the reccy the week before have disappeared. Need to find them again or recreate them!

10.30am Mark, our reed cutter, finds some old buckets. The crew ferry water from a nearby dyke to recreate the wetland.

11.30am Phil, our art director, thinks the reed perspective in the background might be too steep. Mark powers up his machine and nibbles away at the reed line until it looks OK. Too much, and we'd have to start again at a new location.

12.30pm Lisa, our client, arrives in perfect time to approve the angle of the car and the overall look before I start shooting the tests.

2.00pm Harvey, our runner, heads off on the hour-long drive to the lab with tests.

3.00pm Lighting has been like a giant soft box all day, which is fortuitously forgiving on the black RAV4, as it reflects everything it sees.

3.30pm Water is pooled in the foreground and I start to shoot for real.

5.00pm Lighting gone. We haul the equipment out of the marshes.

6.00pm Back at the hotel, I transfer digital reference shots on to my laptop and assemble the various elements to establish the feel I am looking for in the final image.

7.00pm Harvey's back. Film test looks good.

7.45pm Show it to Phil with proposed digital assembly/treatment. He's happy, so I'm happy.