Karen’s Training Day!


A few months ago many of you entered my Spring Project Competition and the winner was Karen O’Connor from Lincolnshire, who won a Personal Training Day. Read all about what happened and check out the video of our day together too!

Karen's winning picture on the theme "Yellow and Texture".

Karen’s winning picture on the theme “Yellow and Texture”.

I’ve written this blog from both our points of view, so that you can read what Karen had to say too.


Before the training I felt a mix of nerves and extreme excitement. I think Annabel is an inspirational photographer who comes across as down to earth. I’ve watched her videos, read her books and follow her blog. I was thinking, ‘what if she’s not as nice in reality?

When I saw Annabel walk towards the door, we waved and smiled and I knew everything was going to be just fine…

Whilst Annabel reviewed my photos I really liked her honesty. Suggestions of crops, convert to BW, alter the pose, and joy when she liked a photo. What I really liked was that Annabel gushed over most of my favourite wedding photos.”


As soon as I met her, I knew Karen would be a good photographer, before I even looked at her pictures! I can usually tell by the way people behave. If they can relate to you easily and are friendly and fun, then that’s the major part of being a good people photographer! The rest just follows. Give a genuinely nice, friendly people-person some tips and advice and they usually leap forward at quite a pace!

Karen takes great abstract and detail shots; she has a really good eye and is very creative. It helps that she is an art teacher, and has a background in being creative of course!


Karen’s wedding photos (below) show she clearly has a great way with people, and it’s obvious she can “see” a moment and take the shot. But like many photographers, once they are in control of the wedding rather than taking candid shots, they just need a few tips on how to position people for groups, and how to direct people to get the best out of them.



I feel confident and competent with a camera, and not afraid to try new things. I photograph weddings in a more contemporary documentary style – a style that I am happy with. However when it comes to photographing individuals I freeze. I see them as a model and not as a series of shapes and I rush because I lack confidence. I watch numerous videos on the Internet and feel that I know the theory of posing people, but it’s quite another thing in practice!


This is perfectly normal! Most photographers feel like this when they are first starting out. It’s great taking shots at weddings when you are not the main photographer, because you can shoot what you see without having to tell the person what to do. But when you are the main photographer and you are in control, it’s a different matter. You have to be able to do both. Learning to take good photos of people comes with experience, and confidence. I personally don’t believe in the “theory of posing people” – I like to work with people, look at them, see their “shapes”, and move them around until they look good. I don’t use set poses from training manuals – I position people in ways that have worked for me in the past but I always alter them to suit each particular client. And many times I position them in a completely different way – it all depends on what I am seeing in front of me (don’t worry – this will become more apparent later in the blog!).

So let’s start the shoot!

Karen originally told me she would like to learn about positioning women, and particularly for fashion type shots. So we took our volunteer model and fashion student, Sophia to a disused factory which had some great backgrounds to show off her own clothing collection. Sophia’s friend, Hannah, came along to shoot a video for us (thanks Hannah- great job!).

Check out all the fun we had, in this behind-the-scenes video!

Location 1: Outside disused building with interesting windows, stonework and fire escape.


On the shoot we had the most amazing girl, a fashion student who had designed and made her own clothes. Step by step Annabel posed her. If you’ve read Annabel’s books and watched her video blogs she always say that she ‘makes it up as she goes along’ and I learnt that this is actually true! This gave me the confidence to try out the step by step approach.


I started by showing Karen how to look at a background without the person in it – to see the shapes, make sure the light would be consistent (it was overcast so this was easy because the light was soft all over), and decide where we would place Sophia to work well with the background. We decided on this light background because the clothes were black, so we needed them to stand out.

Top Left: The chosen background where we placed Sophia, and then moved her around between and in front of the windows to create a selection of images. I then showed Karen how to move herself around Sophia and take shots from different angles to create variety.

Top Left: The chosen background where we placed Sophia, and then moved her around between and in front of the windows to create a selection of images. I then showed Karen how to move herself around Sophia and take shots from different angles to create variety.


I’ve realised I need to increase my confidence to move certain parts of the body into different positions and then change my mind if it’s not working! Take time to get the pose correct and the photo will follow. A great tip I gained was that it’s perfectly acceptable to get the pose and stay positioned for quite some time whilst I move around changing the angle of the camera. As the whole body of our model had been positioned, at first I felt that I had to photograph the whole body – then the light bulb lit – the position of the feet, legs, hips also affect the top half of the body and it’s ok to just photograph just the head and shoulders.


Location 2: Metal doors

Next we moved Sophia to the front of some metal doors, and asked her to walk towards us, whilst looking to her left. She did this several times and we took lots of photos, from all sorts of different angles, sometimes with the camera vertical, sometimes with it horizontal and often at an angle. We then asked Sophia to stand and swing round very quickly so her hair created great shapes around her.

Karen got some really great shots here – I love them!

Location 3: Inside the old factory building

Next we changed Sophia into another amazing dress – this one was slightly more revealing so we decided to shoot inside the factory to gain more privacy and make use of the fantastic light and backgrounds in there.

Luckily, someone had already created our background for us with some great graffiti on a rough plaster wall! This looked wonderful behind Sophia’s incredible creation.


Again we were using the shape of Sophia in her dress against the shapes of the background, and to emphasise the dress, we brought her forward from the background so it would go out of focus more at F2.8.  NOTE: She had to stand with her hands on her hips because she was actually holding the dress in position – she had made it for someone else and it was too big for her! But this actually enhanced the photo, because the triangular shape of her arm position echo’s the shape of the dress.

Location 4: Under the roof lights inside the factory

Finally, we asked Sophia to change into a different outfit, (which she hadn’t made herself) to do some more everyday photos, and show Karen some ways of positioning someone not necessarily for a fashion shoot, but for a normal photo shoot.



“One key point I shall take away is finding the right location. Pretty locations are not always the best. Gritty, run down, in need of renovation locations are really acceptable and actually enhance an image. I have to now search our local area for some similar sites.

I can’t wait to get out on my own and try these techniques. I just hope I can slow down and see the shapes that work on different people.

I absolutely loved my day with Annabel. I hope that one day I can be a successful and down to earth photographer like her. I am really pleased with my photos from the session… thank you so much!

A special note to those people who never enter photography competitions because they think they won’t win… think again… enter… I never thought I could win either!”


I love your photos too Karen, they are really, really good!

Thanks so much to Sophia for agreeing to be our model (on a very cold day, wearing very little!) and allowing us to use her fantastic creations. Thanks also to Hannah Brooks for her great video!


Karen was using the Canon 5D Mark 3 with my F2.8 70-200 lens and I was using the Fuji XT-1 and my iPhone.

Please leave your comments below because I am sure Karen would love to know what you all think!

Annabel x