Blog The Works of Photographer Paul Adshead

Paul Adshead
Apart from the odd hat (or five) the rest of my money is spent on making art. Not surprisingly a big chunk of that is on photography equipment and the various things that help me to make the crazy images I do.

I often get asked what gear I use or which camera is good for starting out in the world of photography. For this reason, I decided to become a featured creator on where I have curated some lists of items that I couldn't live without.

So if you're interested in the kind of stuff I have in my office or the weird photography books I love to read most you can check them out here...

Nun Details close up
If you missed my last post on Instagram I was showing just how much detail there was in my latest 150mp image 'The Rooftop'. The problem with social media is it can be tricky to show the world your large scale art through one postage stamp sized photo. (And you can't even zoom in!)

So I thought I'd pick out some of the details and share them here so you don't have to strain your eyes so much. I'm kind like that. I'm not going to go as far as to tell you what they all mean but the fact you are reading this blog means you're intelligent and probably have your own interpretations already.

Instead I thought I'd talk more generally about my work and how I'm a sucker for a detail. Those little extras which you wasn't expecting or didn't experience first time round. They always seem to enhance things, add additional depth or make you feel that more care & attention has gone into it than most.

This isn't just related to the art world. Details improve every walk of life from the fancy lining no one ever sees inside your blazer jacket to the way that song mentions an obscure movie reference from your favourite film. Those little extras in life are always an improvement and welcome addition.

In my work I incorporate props, locations and universal symbols to help explain the story and encourage the viewers imagination to soar. There is something magical about discovering a detail. Its almost like sharing a private joke with the creator and who doesn't love a private joke!

For me these ingredients are crucial tools in being able to tell the stories I want to in my work. In many ways a good image is like baking a cake. You wanna get the right balance of complimentary components mixed together to produce something which works on all levels.

I'm sure we've all eaten a cake which was lacking any real flavour or had too much of one ingredient and was hard to digest.

I think what I'm trying to say is don't feed people badly baked cakes. Think about every ingredient that you are going to add and most importantly try not to give anyone food poisoning...

Clown Shoes
Here's a big clue to the theme of my next shoot...

I'm sorry to disappoint you but the giant shoes are also a prop and not a new fashion accessory. (Although I think a lot of you who know me probably wouldn't flinch if you saw me wearing a pair!)

I haven't written much about my process leading up to a big shoot so I thought I'd share a few lines about what/why I do what I do.

The picture above was taken a few days ago at my buddies studio where he kindly let me paint a HUGE canvas with red stripes. Just a standard day in the office really! The paint went down well and I was pleasantly surprised with my ability to create straight lines as I'm usually terrible at those things. One unforeseen outcome was the fact it took 6 hours to paint and not my naive prediction of 2!

For me, these strange events are standard practise leading up to a shoot and I think a lot of people might be surprised at how many areas of the final image I am physically involved in.

In a nutshell I am involved in EVERY aspect!

Yes I have to admit I am a control freak have trouble letting go of things but I actually enjoy every part of the shoot from prop making to set building to location scouting etc. At times it can be difficult to articulate to others what I want and although I have a small team I trust explicitly for some roles I much prefer doing things myself. It can actually be quicker for me to do it than try and find someone who is both able and trustworthy to perform my strange requests.

I promise you I am not some tyrannical ringmaster! I am all for getting the right people in for the right job. I always hire stylists and make up artists as there are some things which are beyond my skill set. You might have also noticed that I don't feature in my own work as I know there are lots of wonderful actors/actresses who can do a MUCH better job. In addition I will only resort to making props if there is no other way of acquiring one. I won't spend a whole week making something which I can buy for a fraction of the cost. I'm not quite that tight-fisted!

I do appreciate there are times when it is better/faster to outsource. There are many obvious benefits to working in a team but I want to share with you why I think doing more than just operating the shutter on the camera and throwing up a few lights is highly benifitial.

What I have found over the years is how much these none photography roles have enhanced and inspired my work on so many levels. Even painting lines on a canvas gives you time to submerge yourself into the subject matter you are exploring. On a more practical note that visit to the costume hire store (which you may normally delegate out to a stylist) can take your work down a totally different path. After all, if you never step foot in the shop how will you ever find out about all those crazy unrelated props they have. Another example is that time you start building something in the studio and while you're at the hardware store getting supplies you notice some random plumbing part which inspires you to do some crazy sci-fi shoot next.

Having a good understanding of every part of the shoot is really important for me and has always added extra dimensions to what I am working on. For this reason the way I work will always be more hands on than most. I do encourage you to try some roles outside of your comfort zone as being able to see all sides of a shoot can be great for avoiding potential issues further down the line and a good place to find inspiration where you least expect it.

Who'd have thought that chance discovery of a soil pipe at the hardware store could be so rewarding...

Mountain Top BTS by Paul Adshead
Just wanted to share a little BTS of something I'm working on and briefly talk about the concept of luck.

For those that saw the above pic on social media will appreciate the task of trying to squeeze a 60MP panoramic into a square crop, it kills me every time!

I hope you enjoy this version which doesn't require a magnifying glass to look at it...

In life I try to keep an open mind about most things and that includes the concept of luck/fate.

On the day in question I was scouting for a location for something else and just happened to come across this cool spot.

I think most of you would agree my find was a bit of good luck. But what you haven't heard about is the 20 or so trips I made to similar places which have resulted in absolutely nothing.

Now I'm not about to write everything off in life and say it can all be explained with basic mathematics but I'm sure you can agree that purely from a numbers perspective the more times you do something (like randomly looking for a location) the better chance you'll have the desired outcome you want.

Personally I apply the numbers game to most things in life. It's a cliche but hard work always pays off. Or put another way: "Trying something many many MANY times increases the chances!"

So take that obvious bit of advice as you will but it's surprising how much of your life you can apply it to.

Keep an open mind and make sure the numbers are always in your favour...

***This advice probably doesn't apply to buying lottery tickets so please don't remortgage your house. Saying that if you do win money on the lottery this week (after reading my lucky blog post) you owe me half!

60MP Version here!

Blog Post Featuring Paul Adshead

Honoured to be interviewed by art historian & curator Rosa Berland for her blog.

Rosa started the feature with this wonderful quote:

"We have art in order not to die of the truth."  Friedrich Nietzsche

Which got me thinking about other great quotes which help describe this thing we call art. My personal favourite art quote is: "Art is the concealment of effort."  Which was reportedly said by Charlie Chaplin. This gives me great comfort when I'm working so hard behind the scenes and makes me feel less bad about not updating this blog as often as I could!!

Do you have any cool art related quotes you like? Drop me a line, I'd love to hear them!

You can find the full feature here. Even if you're sick of my ramblings it's still well worth checking out some of the other cool artists she has interviewed...

Skull Lapel Pins by Paul Adshead
Check out the new lapel pin badges which I had made to celebrate 10 years in the photography game.

In my mind: Skulls + Hats + Lightening Bolts = Awesome.

It's pretty much what you'd see if you could tune into my cluttered mind...

I really wanted to mark the occasion in some way and also wanted to show my appreciation to all the people who I feel have helped me over the years.

The badges work EXACTLY the same as Blue Peter badges & give you free entrance into most theme parks, castles and zoos.

For those who receive a badge and decide to visit their favourite zoo/castle; please make sure you take some money along with you.

You know, just in case they didn't get the memo about free entry...
Cast your memory back to the days of MySpace. Where Tom was in your Top 8 friends and the battery in your phone lasted a week without charging.

The reason I take you on this nostalgia trip is because that was the last time I ever worked in video.

Some of you might know that before I ever picked up a stills camera I made bad music videos and short films.

I fell out of love with video for many reasons but in the 8 or so year gap since retiring from film a lot has changed.

The technology has made it so much easier to create and distribute work. Most of you will have better cameras on your phone compared to what I used back then!

More important than that I feel my ability has improved. I'd like to think I have a much wider vocabulary to articulate exactly what I want using light, composition and colour.

So with that said I thought it was time to blow away the cobwebs from my clapperboard and find a suitable chair to scrawl director on the back.

Once I've had some time to digest this brief return to film I will report my findings.

Until then I hope you enjoy this little piece. I'd like to say a big thank you to Adam Gregory, Mike Laing, Lauren Branthwaite and everyone who had me in their Top 8...


Professional Photographer Magazine Clipping Featuring Paul Adshead

Believe it or not this is a blog post about a blog post!

I wouldn't normally put such things on here but both sites have some really cool content (not just mine!).

It's also a handy way to share things with my parents as I forget to tell them about a lot of the things I do. It also keeps them off my back when they call and ask me when I'm gonna get a proper job/have kids/get married etc!!

So without further ado you will find the Cooph Feature here and the Cray Magazine Feature here.

Special thanks to Rowynn Dumont and Al Saulso for asking me to be part of their sites.

Both of them edited out some of my best jokes so the articles are only about 75% funny but still totally worth a visit! ; )


Vintage Agfa Flexilette Camera
I recently inherited this camera which belonged to my Great Grandad.

Super honoured to be its new owner and plan on using it very soon.

As you can see from the picture I took above it's still in great condition. It also came with the most beautiful leather case.

I can't begin to express fully how much it means to own it.

I will write further about this camera and my Great Grandad when I've had chance to scan his 2000! slides...


Professional Photographer Magazine Clipping Featuring Paul Adshead

I was asked to be in Professional Photographer Magazine again but this time explaining the whole process of a typical shoot for me.

Towards the end of the article I wrote about a good friend and fellow photographer Mike Laing.

Mike is a very good sport and has occasionally dressed up and appeared as an extra in my shoots. Doctor, Journalist, Paparazzo, Jailer; he can do it all.

I went on to say how I promised to return this favour to Mike and how he had threaten to put me in a mankini.

Unfortunately this was left out of my article. The editors in their wisdom decided the thought of me in such an outfit was too much for their readers.

Maybe next time


Me on a Rooftop, behind the scences
This is me and my buddy Mark on a very dark rooftop after a shoot.

We are lit up just by the light off our iPhones!. (It was sooo dark up there, I kept tripping over that pole in the picture!)

For all those itching to recreate this masterpiece the camera was on a sturdy tripod with the settings:

ISO 1250 at f/1.4 for 1/2 a second.

So you won’t have to stay still too long but you are gonna need to find your own rooftop…

My New Logo
As you may have realised by now I have a bit of a thing for 50's Americana!

My new logo above is inspired by the art form known as Hobo Nickels and is the modification of coins for artistic purposes.

It got its name as it was popular amongst hobos who used to sculpt the coins with nothing more than an old nail.

These works are so beautiful and seemed a rather appropriate logo concept on many levels.
  • Instagram Pics by Paul Adshead
  • Instagram Pics by Paul Adshead
  • Instagram Pics by Paul Adshead
  • Instagram Pics by Paul Adshead
  • Instagram Pics by Paul Adshead
Yes it’s true I have finally joined Instagram.

The main reason for not joining earlier was the thought it would be too time consuming; but its a great source of inspiration and its nice to keep in contact with people.

Just don’t expect an onslaught of Selfies from me…

BJJStyle Magazine Tearsheet
My brother was being featured in a Brazilian Ju-Jitsu magazine and for one reason or another their photographer couldn’t do the shoot and the deadline was looming.

Enter stage left annoying older brother with his camera.

Lighting Set-up for Photoshoot
It was great working with my brother and even better that I helped him out.

I gotta say that his pictures are the coolest in the magazine but I guess I am a little bias…
The video above was made by BlackWhiteDenim during my American Diner shoot.

It was a nice surprise to see this video as I had no idea they were making it at the time!

If you're ever struggling to think of something to buy me for my birthday then look no further than the 'Flared Leather Skirt' featured in this shoot. Yours for only £580!

Framed Print of Adam Gregory
This was a print I made for my buddy Adam.

The image is mounted on to a piece of wooden board which I washed over with a crazy concoction to make it look even older. It even has authentic brush stokes and dirt worked into the piece!

The tricky part was finding a frame which suited the tone of the image but thankfully after I scoured various charity and antique shops I found the perfect frame.

I'm really pleased with how it came out and never tire of seeing my work in physical form.

I've told Adam to tell his kids the picture is his great great grandad...

Cool Tunnel Found While Location Scouting
Location scouting is EXACTLY what kids call 'Exploring' and I'm the biggest kid going.

With a stick for a sword and my imaginary friend Herman as my sidekick I will never turn down the opportunity of an adventure.

Being nosey overly curious in the context of location scouting means if I see or hear about something abandoned, top secret or slightly dangerous I'll be there with my camera!

Cool Landscape Found While Location Scouting
I just wanted to share a couple of pictures from my last scout as it's a prime example of what can happen when you go into a situation with an open mind.

After scouring several OS Maps for a large body of water I found something which I thought would be perfect so headed down to check it out. Its always cool to go to new places and I implore people to do that. Its great for inspiration and even if you don't find what you are looking for you might find a few new options for other shoots.

Not only did I find the large body of water for my shoot I also found the cool outlet tunnel above AND a few other random places too.

So now I have a few new locations which I wasn't looking for in my arsenal and this happens all the time. I just file them away in my brain for another day.

It is vitally important though to revisit a location you have found just before a shoot as there have been times when certain buildings I have found have been demolished or if you visit a place at a different time of the year it can be drastically different.

The tunnel above is a perfect example of this as during the winter where I stood to take the photograph is probably under 10 foot of water and my camera isn't waterproof and more importantly my imaginary friend Herman isn't a strong swimmer...

Fancy Dress Zombie Costume
Once upon a time there was a fancy dress shop.

This shop was unlike other shops as no one knew it was there. In fact it was so well hidden that all the little boys and girls didn't know about it.

Except for this little boy...

I can't quite remember how I found this little gem but to get to this fancy dress shop isn't straight forward.

A bit like an old spy movie, first you go into ANOTHER shop, politely inform the shop keeper of your intentions THEN go unescorted into the back of their shop, up three flights of stairs where you are left to your own devices in an unmanned fancy dress shop. (Hence the photo above!)

I really really love this place and have spent many hours trying on hats etc. I was even once mistaken for working there!

I guess it serves me right for spending so much time up there taking selfies...

Behind The Scenes Video Shoot
8 years ago today I was shooting one of my last video pieces (I think at least one the people in the picture above knew this photo was happening).

It was great to randomly find this photo although it does make me feel old as this shoot feels like a lifetime ago.

I've got a feeling I'll be back experimenting with video at some point soon...

Professional Photographer Magazine TearSheet
This month I was approached by Professional Photographer Magazine, asking if they could use one of my images for a retouch feature.

It’s always nice seeing your work in print but this time it was with someone else doing the retouching. Handing over Raw files felt almost like going to the shops without your makeup on. (I’m guessing!) Even so I hope you can see that even the Raw doesn’t need too much work. Always better to get things right in camera. Saves you hours in front of the computer. Freeing up time to go to the shops… (With or without your makeup on)

Self Portrait at the Super Market

The ramble below is from a guest post I wrote for Quest PR:

All too many of us confuse the words ‘want’ and ‘need’.

I’m sure you can remember going to your parents begging them for the latest ‘must have’, hoping they’d say yes. The reality was that you survived when they said no, even if it did feel like the end of the world…

Of course the Tamagotchi was an exception to this rule – nevertheless a lot of us have brought into our adult life this mentality of ‘needing’ certain material goods to function.

As a photographer it’s all too easy to be swept up in the race for more megapixels and ever increasing ISO speeds but, really, photographically I already have everything I need to make a great picture.

And the thing is – so do you.

Unless someone has kindly printed this blog post out for you to read, then you’re probably part of the ever increasing majority that uses some form of technology on a daily basis. It therefore doesn’t take a great leap of faith to wager that you have a mobile phone and chances are it has a camera on it. That, my friends, is all you need to take a great picture, you really don’t need the latest camera with all those shiny bells and whistles on.

Photography isn’t about huge file sizes and expensive lenses. Photography is about a moment, a story, an emotion that you have frozen in time forever. Just remember that it’s the photographer that takes the picture and not the camera. For those who are camera snobs remember some of the greatest photographs in history were taken on the most primitive of cameras (the Box Brownie was essentially a box with a hole in the front!).

Now I can’t promise that every picture you take from here on now will be amazing but the fact that you’ve read this far tells me you have patience and, more importantly, an opinion. So listen to that opinion, take lots of pictures and don’t be afraid to fail.

I’m not suggesting you transform yourself into annoying uncle Tony who turns paparazzo at every social gathering – just become more visually curious and document what you find interesting in life. One thing I can guarantee is the more pictures you take the more pleased you will be with the results.

Skull, Moth and Photobooth taken with an iPhone

iPhone Photography By Paul Adshead

Every photo is a decision and the more decisions you make (sometimes rightly, sometimes wrongly) the better you’ll understand what goes into a good image. If in the last 12 months the grand total of pictures on your phone is less than, say, 90 you can hardly be surprised that you’re not as happy with your pictures as you’d like to be. After all, 90 images in a year equals 1 photograph every 4 days! Do you think a musician or athlete could get away with so little practice?

Lastly, to those who hide behind the excuse of waiting for that amazing new camera please give my ideas a try. If you feel that way about equipment I guarantee that when you have that new camera you’ll find something else you ‘need’ before you can start.

So what are you waiting for? Your camera is probably within reach right now. Why not make a start?

I’m off to the Apple store as I need the new iPhone. Have you seen the amazing images you can get from it?

Just kidding! I’ve got more important things to do, like feed my Tamagotchi…


People at an American Diner 1950's'

Q) You have a very interesting photographic style. Its very cinematic, your photos remind me of a film still – capturing a moment in a story. They often seem full with tension and heavy with dialogue. Is storytelling something you connect with?

Absolutely, telling stories and being exposed to narrative is one of the many ways we make sense of the world. I personally think anything creative that tells a story has much more depth to it than those which don’t.

For me it’s getting the balance right between how much you tell the viewer and how much you leave for them to infer. I think people connect more to work when they can attach their own ideas and feeling to it.

The cinematic feel to my work partly stems from my days as a music video director. The ability to tell a story in 3 minutes to music was something I learnt and later transferred over to my photography work.

Although now I only have one frame to fit all the information in…

Q) Can you give us an insight into the process you take to capture your shot?

My inspiration comes from all manner of places and for this reason the start of the process can vary from shot to shot.

Sometimes a prop or an outfit will be the starting point while other times the look of a model is enough to get the cogs turning.

In the case of this shoot it was the great venue which was the starting point.

From there I worked in one of the many narratives I’ve wanted to explore and then found a model which could tell that story.

After that I begin to think about outfits, hair and make up, props, extras and lighting. All of which will help compliment the idea.

I don’t think too hard about poses etc. I think it’s best to see what works on the day. Having too much planned out before a shoot can leave you a little ridged and that could lead to you missing a great shot.

Its enough for me to have the narrative and a rough idea of how things will look in my head. At most I might sketch out a few badly draw stickmen but the rest of the process happens on the day.

Q) How would you describe your style aesthetic? What is the ethos behind your work?

When trying to explain my style to people I usually say it’s dark cinematic with a documentary feel thrown in for good measure.

I’m just as happy using lots of lights to create a setting for my characters as I am using ready made places and ambient light. My ethos has always been do/use whatever it takes to get the shot…

Q) Who are your photography heroes – please provide an example photo, one or two that has inspired or influenced your work and tell us why?

I get inspiration from everywhere, from everyday life to films to books to paintings.

In regards to photographers some of my most favourite images are from the staff photographers at Life Magazine. The narratives, lighting and compositions of some of their pictures are truly sublime.

I have no problem with mentioning some of their work in the same breath as a painting from the Pre-Raphaelites.

Painting by Sir John Everett Millais - Ophelia

Sir John Everett Millais -Ophelia

Bill Eppridge - Slain Robert Kennedy

Bill Eppridge - Slain Robert Kennedy

Q) Nighthawks is a 1942 painting by Edward Hopper that portrays people sitting in a downtown diner late at night. This was mentioned by you in our first conversation. Was this an influence to your style for the Pin-up shoot?

Even before I knew about Pin-up bowling alley if you would have asked me what came to mind when I thought about an American 50’s diner then the painting by Edward Hopper would sum it up perfectly.

The narrative and lighting evokes so much, it is a great example of how to give the viewer part of the story and yet let leaves them enough space to attach their own thoughts to it.

This is something I strive to do in my own work.

The decision to set the shoot at night is unquestionably a nod to Hoppers painting but as I have already mentioned it is in the shadows of the night where the most interesting stories can be found…


Cd Artwork, Doll in Flower Pot
This was the artwork idea I dreamt up for the talented singer/songwriter Priscilla Ahn.

The title of the album and also the brief was ‘When You Grow Up’ which when you hear the tittle track evokes all sorts of summery playful nostalgia.

After playing with a few ideas I decided to go with what you can see above. The doll in the plant pot is obviously playful yet mischievous (the kind of thing I would have done to my little sister’s doll) but it was also a conscious play on the title: ‘When You Grow Up’ which suggests you could possibly grow a doll from a plant pot.

Maybe you can, but the deadline was tight so I just bought one off eBay…

Sadly the day of the shoot was raining but it was bright so that would be ok. Inside I planned to light it in a way which suggested summer so the light was hard with hints of orange and yellow.

This was how the natural light looked and shows really how much my lights were actually doing:

Unlit Flower Pot BTS

Another version was one with just the head showing. The doll bared an uncanny resemblance to Priscilla thanks to eBay.

Cd Artwork, Doll in Flower Pot

I’m not sure why I’m owning up to this but the whole artwork idea I’m sure in part was influenced by the fact that I had a doll as a small boy (yes you read correctly I was only 4!).

Having no older sisters I think I inherited it from an older cousin as when I got her I recall that she was rather played with and had hardly any hair.

The funny thing about this story is that one day I pulled one of the dolls legs off and inside the leg was a smaller baby doll!

I’ll leave the rest of that story for my psychiatrist another day…


The Coolest Snowman Ever! Thumbs up


What started out as a good deed for my elderly neighbours turned into me making a new friend.

We had lots of snow this particular winter so I thought it would be neighbourly to clear the paths and drives.

Once finished I marvelled at the huge mound of snow that was crying out to be used for something.

I imagined that my elderly neighbours were not overly keen on snowball fights so I thought I’d make a snowman instead.

Paths clear and the coolest snowman for miles sat at my front door. I waited for them to return and congratulate me on my afternoons procrastination/good deed.

However my neighbours never saw my handy work as they went away for a month!

Oh well, at least I have this cool pic.

Please note the authentic hat and coal eyes that I just had laying around. For those that know me this won't come as a surprise…

Pile of Christmas Cards, Santa Tied up
It’s that time of year again when we can not contain our excitement for that very special delivery from you know who…

Yes folks, it’s time once again for my annual Christmas card!


Priest Artwork Dark
Here is some of my artwork inspired by photographs of mine.

Long before I ever picked up a camera I used to be a painter.

This is my attempt to dip my toe back into the game with some digital pieces.

At some point I will venture into my mum's loft and share some of my work with you.

Thats if the moths haven't eaten it...

Popart Artwork Woman with Lollypop

The guys from The Howler Terror Club contacted me and asked if they could licence one of my images for their current collection.

Now before you all rush to the shops to buy one I think its only for sale in Indonesia!

The is a video test I did for Instagram. I wanted to explore ways of using movement and sound with a still image.

It fascinates me how sound can alter the way you perceive something quite dramatically.

I've never forgotten a phase my old lecturer used to say: "If you trick the ears the eyes will follow."

I guess thats why I try to sound the way I do! ; )
I had the absolute privilege of being photographed by Tony Richards ( for an event at the John Rylands Library in Manchester.

Whats cool about Tony's work is the techniques he uses to make his pictures. Tony has a really old large format camera and exposes the images onto light sensitive plates of glass just like they did in the 1800's.

What you can see in the video is my piece of glass developing right in front of our eyes.

I was so chuffed to be part of the event and to see the whole wet plate technique Tony uses.

I think I was born in the wrong era...


Dead Mouse Left by a Cat
This was lovingly placed at the front door by Figaro.

I was looking after my brother's cat while he was in America and this gesture was left the very first day I was cat sitting.

I like to think Figaro realised his owner wasn’t around and so decided to make a contribution in regards to meals…